Have you ever been inspired by a designer item and dreamt about the lifestyle and touches of opulence and wealth?
Even if you have not seen a single moment of Downton Abbey you are likely aware that it shows the differences between the upstairs family and the downstairs help. The show is inspiring everything, from clothing to travel to a renewed interest in manners. And certainly inspiring some of us to want to incorporate the look of this lifestyle into our own homes. Well, this is how to add Downton Abbey-inspired touches to your home — but don’t worry, I’m not going to advocate adding wood paneling and miles of lawns! Rather, I’ll share how to add touches of the show’s character to your life, in livable ways.
In keeping with the upper/lower theme of the show I’ll also share two ways to do it: splashing out versus on the cheap. Not long ago I created a high/low project where I compared expensive items with well-priced, accessible replacements for a fraction of the cost. Here are my sMARt dÌ©cor tips to inspire you to turn back time focusing on the regal touches that embrace classic early 20th century interiors, known for sophistication, high style, and traditional standards. Or, as I like to think of it, whether you are manor-born or a commoner you can get the look without spending the family fortune.
Silver Serving Tray
Almost everything was passed on trays — mail, tea, lunch, you name it. We may not have a butler or a staff to serve us, but that does not mean we cannot serve up great style. Large or small, a silver tray — whether plated or solid — makes for a regal touch in your home. I love to offer champagne or even coffee on a wonderful silver tray. The experience is lifted when one is served from a tray rather than just being handed an item. Being a collector of trays you know this is already a “÷must have’ in my home.
Crystal objects were routinely part of a home’s decoration — vases, bowls, lamps, and more. Today they not only offer a dramatic impact in your home, but even from afar they instantly impart a sense of a moneyed lifestyle. In today’s home, a vase is the most practical item. There are many deals to be found and all you need is one. Flowers are not even necessary as their beauty many times trumps the flowers they hold.
A Tea Set
It would be highly unusual for a good home to have only one tea service, as rules often demanded different types for different occasions. Porcelain might be fine for breakfast and afternoon, but the best — silver — was brought out for formal dinners. (Along with all the other silver, it was kept under lock and key by the butler.) Today, afternoon tea is still a wonderful and simple way to entertain. But a silver tea service can be expensive. Today, mass-produced sets in silver-plate are found in more quantity. But to experience a good cup of tea the set does not have to be fancy, just efficient enough to keep your tea hot. Fine bone china, hard porcelain or even ceramic will do the job. Of course, the prettier they are the easier it is to leave them on display. You can find great deals; sets including four cups, saucers, a teapot, and a sugar and creamer can start under one hundred dollars.
After Dinner Drinks/Glasses
While not every home at the time served cocktails before dinner, after dinner it was routine for a glass of something spirited. There is no disputing that the idea evokes a sense of glamor and sophistication. Having a cocktail at days’ end with your spouse or friends is a great way to end the day and begin the evening. It is especially nice when you make it from your own bar. Even if you choose to consume something other than alcohol, serving it from a well-stocked bar is civilized, gracious and elevates the experience — and it all starts with the glasses. Holding a snifter or a hardball glass feels very different than a dainty wine glass or water goblet. Cocktail glasses — including dessert and cordial glasses — are easy to buy as a set, and offers great savings to individual retail prices.
Candelabra and/or Candlesticks
Even after converting to electricity, homes continued the tradition of candlelit dinners. There is still no better way to up the ante of a dinner party than using candlelight. And you have many choices to do this with great style. Candelabra is simply the term that refers to a pair or more of decorative candlesticks, each having several arms for holding candles. Definitely, an aristocratic way to display and present the light extravagantly. Solid silver — unless a family heirloom — is usually out of reach. But deals are to be found in silver-plated reproductions. You will enjoy using them during parties or dinners, either as part of your overall ambiance or as a centerpiece.
Being reliant on e-mail and texting is not as modern as we think — written correspondence was standard and expected. Imagine getting two (or more) mail deliveries a day! One of the best ways to correspond with people is still on fabulous cardstock, preprinted with your name and address. But if customized paper is not an option, any lovely stationery will do. Letter writing has become a lost art thanks to the internet, however, there is no better way to get your Downton on than sitting down and writing a letter.
Small Decorative Boxes
Trinkets, “objets,” bric-a-brac, you name it: decorative pieces were popular before the turn of the century, and the style was influenced by decorative trends. One constant were decorative boxes. Today, decorative can also be functional. Boxes come in a vast array of styles and materials to choose from, but to pull in the Downton look, opt for wood — especially inlaid wood — or metal. They are a perfect way to store bills, calling cards, matches or even candy. These designer boxes range from the elaborate hand carved wood to the simple tin. You need not break the bank to incorporate something small and beautiful into your home. Place on a coffee table, a piano, on a desk or even a hallway table. Affordable, very desirable and collectible.
Bedside Water Carafe and Glass Set
Once the servants had gone to bed what happened when someone wanted a glass of water? All bedrooms had a water carafe, of course. A matching pitcher and drinking glass are perfect for any bedside today and serve the same purpose. The bedside carafe provides that much-wanted, cool drink without ever leaving your cozy bed. Perfect for guest room and children’s rooms, too. This is one companion you don’t want to have your guest go to bed without.
The kitchen is the heart of any home — whether it’s a cottage or a manor. Copper pots and pans were standard and cherished. I think of this item as a tribute to those who often slave in the kitchen preparing the meals — they too should have wonderful things to touch and work with! There is a valid argument for choosing copper: pots made from stainless steel, iron, aluminum, have different heat transfer rates while cooking, while copper pots have been found to have the highest heat transfer rate; too many cooks, that in itself is a luxury worth splurging on. One copper pot can break the budget, but there are deals to be found if you’re willing to take your time to build your collection. Copper is enormously decorative, too, but does need cleaning — less often if you actually use them!
Feel you are ready to add practical touches of the show’s style to your life? Ponder these ideas and maybe come up with some of your own. I know my friends at HomeGoods allowed me to find amazing deals and were very inspiring.
Don’t forget, other important ways to “÷get down with Abbey’ are to embrace good manners, take the time to have conversations with friends, correspond by mail as much as possible, and dine with your family regularly. Those are all affordable for any class. We may not have the deep aristocratic funds of yesteryear, but we do have the resources to create the same look and feel.
And there you have it.