Tag Archives: set design

A Visit to Highclere Castle (Also Known as Downton Abbey)

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If you love Downton Abbey, chances are good that you are a major fan of the Crawley family’s incredible home. (Truth be told, the Pottery Barn editors tune in equally for the home decor inspiration as much as we do for the plot twists and Lady Grantham one-liners.)

The series is filmed on location at  Highclere Castle, the home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, who are friends with Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey. In fact, Fellowes had Highclere Castle in mind as he wrote the series. We can imagine why — the castle is absolutely stunning.


While Downton Abbey fans are happily ensconced in the third season, it will end all too soon, leaving us longing for more tales of Downton and its family. For those of us looking to fill that gap until Season 4, we’d love to suggest the book Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, written by the 8th Countess of Carnarvon. The book explores the life and adventures of her predecessor, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess. Lady Almina’s life story is fascinating, and she was known for her generosity. This generosity extended to her decision to convert Highclere Castle into a Hospital in September 1914 (sounds like the television series, doesn’t it?) as well as funding her husband’s archeological pursuits: he discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun with Howard Carter.


Highclere Castle has been Carnarvon family’s home since 1679. Designed by leading Victorian architect Sir Charles Barry, the home is filled with incredible furniture, paintings, tapestries and sculpture.


And while a vist to the castle is exciting enough, the idea of getting married at Highclere Castle has us positively thrilled. The saloon, pictured below, which lies in the heart of Highclere Castle, is licensed for civil ceremonies Brides can prepare for their wedding in a bedroom in Highclere Castle.  Imagine walking down the aisle from the gallery above the guests and then down the oak staircase (as Lady Edith and Lady Mary did in the series).



For those of us not planning a wedding, a simple visit to the castle is thrilling enough. You can visit the House and Grounds  during the Easter  holiday and in the summer. It’s also open during bank holidays as well as open for certain special events. Pre-booked tickets for the summer opening will be available starting this month.



All photos used by permission and copyright Highclere Enterprises LLP 2013


Anna Karenina’s Luxe, Lavish Style

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Opening November 16th, Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina is lavishly brought to the screen by director Joe Wright and writer Tom Stoppard. With leading performances by Keira Knightley and Jude Law, Anna Karenina‘s incredible sets and luxurious costume designs help to bring this masterpiece to life

Director Joe Wright struck upon the unique notion that “the action would be taking place within a beautiful decaying theatre, which in itself would be omnipresent, a metaphor for Russian society of the time as it rotted from the inside.” Production designer Sarah Greenwood and set decorator Katie Spencer visited locations, including the condemned Alexandra Palace theatre in London, before deciding to build the entire set from scratch.

Other film locations include the Karenin home, the Oblonsky house, an ice rink, a ball, an opera, a society soirée, and a horse race, as well as snowy landscapes and the train station.

Echoing the film’s elaborate sets are the costumes, which were based on late 19th century imperial Russian designs as well as 1950s European haute couture.

For the Moscow train station scenes, filming was conducted at Didcot Railway Centre in Oxfordshire. To re-create the look of the ice, fog and snow the special effects department relied on materials including paint, paper and paraffin wax.

The look of the film  reflects and heightens the artifice that defined 1870s Russian society. From the costumes to the conversations to the inspired set designs, Anna Karenina promises to be an absolutely memorable visual feast of a film.


Inspired by the look of the film? Here are our suggestions for capturing a bit of the theatrical magic of Anna Karenina  at your home.

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Source: Photos courtesy Focus Features