Lady Edith, Lady Sybil and Lady Mary. The addictive PBS series Downton Abbey has sparked a revival of Edwardian style in dresses, accessories, interior design and Aubusson rugs.
The fictional Crawley sisters dressed for a Vogue Magazine feature article.
Youngest daughter Lady Sybil shows off her new evening outfit and takes a turn on the fabulous gold and red Aubusson rug in the drawing room.
The actual drawing room in Highclere castle was decorated in the late Victorian era. For Downton Abbey, the red oriental rug was replaced by the gold Aubusson rug to reflect the Edwardian preference for lighter colors and a more relaxed elegance. The rest of the room was left unchanged including the brilliant white doors, paneling, ceiling and the soft green wall covering as they are consistent with Edwardian fashion.
The drama in Downton Abbey begins in 1912 and reflects the fashions of the Edwardian era (1901 to 1911). In public the Edwardians were pompous and formal, yet their interiors were relaxed, airy and light. This is in sharp contrast to the Victorians who preceded them. The Victorian’s dark colors were replaced by lighter colors such as warm golds, pale greens, cream and brilliant whites.
The drawing room with the gold Aubusson rug is the center of family life in Downton Abbey. The Edwardian’s relaxed living style gradually led to a change in terminology and what had been called the drawing room began to be called the living room.
Lady Cora: “Are we to be friends then?”
Lady Grantham: “We are allies, my dear, which can be a good deal more effective.”
Edwardian windows were larger than those of the Victorians. Glass was now being produced in larger sizes and had also become less costly. Air and light were now considered desirable for good health.
Cora: “I might send her (referring to daughter Mary, after the scandal involving Mr. Pamuk) over to visit my aunt. She could get to know New York.”
Lady Grantham: “Oh, I don’t think things are quite that desperate.”
Between filming: Mr. Carson, the butler relaxes on a round Aubusson rug. The Edwardians had a mania for cleanliness and disliked anything that gathered dust. Wall to wall carpeting was out and Aubusson rugs and Axminster rugs were in. Dust could be shaken out of rugs by taking them outside and beating them with large sticks (the vacuum cleaner had been invented in 1876, but was not yet in wide use).
There goes the Aubusson rug!
Lady Grantham on the sudden passing of the dashing Mr. Pamuk: “Last night! He looked so well. Of course it would happen to a foreigner. No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house.”
Lady Cora: “I hate to go behind Robert’s back.”
Lady Grantham: “That is a scruple no successful wife can afford.”
Lady Grantham: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”
Mrs. Crawley: “I take that as a compliment.”
Lady Grantham: “I must’ve said it wrong.”
Why are we so fascinated by Downton Abbey and it’s interiors? Series author and creator Julian Fellowes explains he chose Highclere Castle because he wanted a house “which spectacularly testified to the confidence and soaring optimism of the Edwardian period.” Perhaps the recent economic uncertainties have made us yearn for a reassuring sense of comfort and security which the Edwardian country house certainly evokes.
By the same token we are drawn to Aubusson rugs and antiques because they signify heritage, a sense of history and a time of civility in both public and private life.
The soft golds, ivory and aqua greens and graceful scrolls of the Giselle Aubusson rug signified the peak of elegance.