Yes, I love Downton Abbey! It is the best thing that has happened to my retinas.
When I watch the show, not only do I totally de-stress, but I get transported to a place where all colors are vibrant, decor is grand and characters are beautiful and fab at all times.
It is kind of odd, that with my esthetic, always gearing toward the mod and mid century, I find such joy in period pieces such as this…how very intriguing, I should say! Yet, some of my favorite movies of all time take place in similar grand settings, The Remains of the Day, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility. There is just something about those movies that portray that old world of Etiquette and tradition, all done of course with beautiful set design, lighting and costume.
Now with Downton, I find myself getting lost in the color of the walls, the grandeur of the rooms and the relaxed air of doing nothing but having witty discussions around “tea time”.
In real life I now see these rooms in their scale only at museums or on tours of the estates here on the North Shore of Long Island, a still-life photo of what once was. But in these shows I get to see how dynamic it all was, the busyness of the house staff, the endless entertaining lifestyle of the upper crusts, the drama behind the beauty.
I forgot to mention that I grew up in an estate in Old Westbury, a much smaller Downton.
My dad was a gardener and we lived on the grounds of Groton Place, a great estate that belonged to the Winthrop family. It was a 120 acre property with a main house, stables, a barn and cottages for the chauffeur, horse trainer, head groundsman, gardener and a few other homes that were rented out. There were the tennis courts, of course, pool, horse fields, gas pump station, dog kennels, a rose garden and a small cottage for the kids to play in that was the doll’s house.
So I grew up riding a scooter around the property, exploring the woods, playing in abandoned sheds, seeing a world that was once grand but was now left neglected by an aging heir who no longer had the need or desire to maintain such a large estate. The stables were empty, full of bees and mice and a bit scary to wander in, the barn was desolate and the grain tower locked up. The 6 car garage only had two cars in it. I was only able to see the inside of the house when Mr. Winthrop was out and the maid would let me in and give me the tour, but only of the main floor, never the rooms upstairs. There were paintings of old English ancestors wearing fashionable wigs of the time.
I could see that this place must have once been busy with a huge staff, fully decorated and and cared for. Now it smelled musty, and awaited a new wealthy young owner to take over or it would go the way other estates had vanished, with contracting firms buying the land, dividing it and making ugly McMansions on it.
Luckily for Groton Place, it was bought by a couple who had kids and a love of horses. The new family completely renovated the stables, the barn and pretty much every part of the house. Soon after their arrival the house was opened in a Designer’s showcase. This time I was able to see the house at it’s best!
I was lucky enough that by the time I was 29 years old and getting married, my parents were still working and living at Groton Place. So I asked the new family to have my wedding at the grounds of the estate and they agreed. The ceremony was on the field near the vegetable garden and the party was on the courtyard of the stables. I couldn’t have asked for a more special place and better party.
Things definitely have a way of coming around in life!