Thursday, February 28, 2013

Downton Abbey House Tour

Oh Downton Abbey, what is there not to love?  It is like the Triple Crown of TV shows with equal parts delectable drama, gorgeous clothes, and an amazing setting. I know I'm not alone in spending as much time admiring the magnificent house as the antics of the Crawley family.  The location that has taken the world by storm is Highclere Castle - a real English country house where the shows are actually filmed.  

Highclere Castle is a Gothic revival style home lived in by the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and his family.  Highclere has been in the Carnarvon family since 1679.  The magnificent 1000-acre gardens were designed by Capability Brown in the 1770s while the house was extensively remodeled for the 3rd Earl by Sir Charles Barry in 1839–1842, after he had finished designing the Houses of Parliament.  

I love going on tours of country houses and since an actual tour isn't possible for me living in Canada (although the house is open to the public) I thought a virtual tour would be fun. Want to join me for a tour?

Let's get oriented on the floor plan. Do you see the orange arrow - that's the front entrance.  We'll start there.

Highclere Castle was faced in Bath stone when it was remodeled in the mid 1800s.  You can see the beautiful honey-coloured stone surrounding the front entrance.

The entrance hall, which leads through to the saloon, is decorated with a Gothic fan-vaulted ceiling and a geometric parquet floor.

The saloon is a double-height Gothic style room that is the heart of the house.  It was built in the 1860s and features gorgeous stone carvings, a minstrel gallery, and a vaulted ceiling.  The walls of the lower level of the saloon are decorated with embossed leather wall coverings (circa 1680) that were brought back from Cordoba, Spain in the 19th century.  

The grand staircase is located in the great tower at the centre of the house.  The magnificent oak staircase which was built in 1862 took almost a full year to carve and install.  

The dining room is decorated with soft yellow walls and curtains and a large Victorian table that can seat up to thirty people. The room is dominated by Van Dyck's enormous portrait of King Charles I.  

The long masculine library features mahogany carvings on the walls, gilded bookshelves, red curtains, and a magnificent collection of over 5650 books, some dating to the 16th century.  The design of the library is unusual in that it is actually two rooms with an opening between them divided by tall gilded columns.  The library was designed by Sir Charles Barry and was based on the Reform Club Library in London.  

In the photo below you can see Napoleon's chair used when he signed his abdication. The chair was made for Napoleon and the Carnarvons have a sketch of him sitting in it. The chair and desk date from 1803 and were brought from Napoleon's house in St. Helena where he was exiled.

I didn't recognize the music room from the TV show and I'm guessing they don't use it very often because it is a smaller room and may be difficult to film in.  I did find one publicity shot of the three Crawley daughters taken in there though. The music room has a baroque painted ceiling dating from the 1730s and the walls are hung in 16th century Italian embroidered tapestries.

The drawing room was decorated in a rococo revival style by Lady Almina, wife of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, in 1895. Lady Almina was given bolts of green French silk by her father Alfred de Rothschild and she used the beautiful fabric to cover the walls.

I'm guessing the colours are most accurate in this last photo.

And if you want to recreate the drawing room in your own home you will find a great post here with more photos and purchasing suggestions.

I couldn't find any photos from Downton Abbey filmed in the smoking room - again likely because of its smaller size.  The smoking room is adorned with many fine paintings from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

And that takes us to the end of our tour of the ground floor (I'll leave the upstairs for another post).  The lower level with the kitchen and servant's work rooms are actually a set and are not filmed at Highclere Castle.  

If you want to read more about Highclere Castle you can go to the official Highclere Castle website (here), or read this thoroughly researched post on Jane Austen's World (here with other interesting posts on the same website), or this interesting Daily Mail article (here), or watch the video clips below.

I can't wait to see more of the series and you can bet that I will have my eyes peeled for views of the interior of Highclere Castle.  Do you have a favourite room?  I love the drawing room with the beautiful green fabric on the walls, the gold decorations around the ceiling, and the chandelier.
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Linked to Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now

Monday, February 25, 2013

Button Easter Egg

Has spring/Easter fever hit you yet?  I finally caught the bug this past weekend. The mantel and sideboard still had remnants of faux snow balls and pinecones and Valentine's day items hanging around so it was time to change things up. 

I decided I needed to whip up something new for Easter this year - I guess you could say that crafting fever hit at the same time as spring fever.  I checked out Pinterest for inspiration and after considering many different projects I finally settled on making this button Easter egg (made by Kyla from Funky Polkadot Giraffe and posted on Craftaholics Anonymous in a guest post).

The funny thing was that upon closer inspection of the inspiration button egg, I realized that it was a printable Easter egg and no real buttons were involved in making it.  I must confess that real buttons were harmed in the making of my Easter egg - yes sir, I glued their little plastic backsides to the wall (well cardboard anyway).   

I bet you have a little collection of buttons like I do - you know those extra ones that come attached to shirts and jackets in case you need a replacement.  Well over the years my little box has become well stocked.  I rarely use the spare buttons so I thought they might like to come out and play.  You can tell I've had some of the buttons for years because if you look closely one of the buttons I used is an Oshkosh button.  I don't know what kids wear these days, but I remember the cutest overalls made by Oshkosh when our kiddos were young. (wistful sigh)

To make the egg I drew a template and then arranged the buttons on it so I could play with the layout before committing. When I was happy with the arrangement I drew a faint outline of the egg onto the blue cardboard and then spread tacky glue onto the area and transferred the buttons over.  Tacky glue dries quickly, but leaves enough time for a bit of sliding around to make everything fit. I put a few books on top while it dried to help prevent the cardboard from warping.

I chose the rich blue cardboard because I wanted to highlight the gorgeous royal blue door in a photograph that my friend Kat gave to me.  The photo was taken in Strasbourg France and is one of those ancient doors that you only seem to find in Europe.  I fell in love with the rich royal blue colour and decided to decorate the entire mantel around it.  

By the way I must tell you about Kat - if you don't already know her that is. She's an incredibly talented photographer and has recently opened a shop to sell her pictures.  She takes beautiful nature shots, including many bird photos and landscape photos, as well as pictures from her travels like her recent trips to France and Germany.  You can see more of her works (and order your own gorgeous blue French door photograph) at her website Low Tide High Style.  I would encourage you to pop on over and have a look - you won't be disappointed.

You can see in the picture below how the photos are framed. They come to you from Kat's shop already stretched around a frame so you can hang them up as they are or just stand them on a mantel or dresser leaning against the wall.  

As I was changing things up on the mantel I realized I needed some dyed eggs in rich blue colours to tie the whole springtastic display together.  So I did what any sensible person would do - I hard-boiled a few eggs and dyed them several different shades of blue (along with dying my fingers blue)


I brought in a few other blue items to help carry the colour across the mantel. 

And I added some rustic/natural elements like the wooden candlestick (seen above), my son's mead bottle, the little clay bowl that I was given in Bangladesh, and some forsythia twigs that I am forcing (in the photo below).

And there you have it - a true blue Easter mantel!

I'm joining up with the Pinterest Challenge that is happening at the following blogs:

I'm guessing there will be a whole lot of pinning, a whole lot of inspiration, and a whole lot of fun at these blogs starting on Wednesday, February 27th.  

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Also linked to Tweak it Tuesday at Cozy Little House,
Budget Decorating Party at Creative Cain Cabin,
Tutorials and Tips Link Party at Home Stories A to Z,
Totally Tuesday at Madcap Frenzy,
WOW Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style,
Spring Mantel: Countdown to Spring Party at Domestically Speaking