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‘Downton Abbey’ Style Comes to Modern American Homes

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By Debbie Arrington

English_castle(MCT)—My anglophile roots are showing, but I’m not alone. Like millions of Americans, I love “Downton Abbey.”

It’s not just the complicated upstairs/downstairs drama of romance and relationships in early 20th century England that has me hooked. I adore the house.

Don’t get me wrong; I could never live that way—in a Jacobean castle with masses of help and endless protocol. But I’m fascinated by Edwardian style. Everything seems to glitter or shine; no wonder this was the gilded age.

As I view “Downton Abbey” episodes, I want to touch the textiles, the endless yards of brocades and lace. The furnishings seem so sumptuous, as if the silk can spill out of the TV screen. With so much gleaming oak and mahogany, I can almost smell the Old English furniture polish.

While watching scenes, I particularly gravitate to the wall colors, saturated hues in a rainbow of jewel tones. I admit, “Downton Abbey” influenced the soft mint-almost-jade I painted our hall bathroom; it matches the green wallpaper of Lady Cora’s drawing room.

Creators of the internationally acclaimed TV series used Highclere Castle — the real-life mansion and 1,000-acre estate in Hampshire, England — as the set of “Downton Abbey,” which started its fourth season Sunday on PBS. The set designers pretty much used the castle’s opulent rooms as they found them, full of priceless art and antiques.

But that look — that sparkling, rich and royal spectacle of interior design — has fueled an appetite for Edwardian elegance among us Yankee folk. So, expect a coast-to-coast roll-out of “Downton Abbey” products (and inspirations) in the new season.

Knockout Licensing, the company charged with partnering the “Downton Abbey” brand with appropriate products, has plans for abbey-inspired furniture, bedding, kitchen accessories, lighting, timepieces, tableware and formal attire. It also has licensed a rose collection.

Kelly-Moore Paints, for example, put together a list of suggested colors that match the abbey’s rooms.

Mary Lawlor, Kelly-Moore’s manager of color marketing and a fan of the series, studied individual rooms to come up with a “Downton Abbey” palette to help with requests. Like me, customers don’t necessarily want to live like a lord, but they like his abbey’s color scheme. And depending on how they’re used, these colors can feel quite modern.

“The style and décor of the most loved show, ‘Downton Abbey,’ are the influencers of (these) colors to inspire that look in today’s home,” Lawlor says. “Rich deep reds, wood-toned browns, refreshing pastels and creams grounded by utilitarian grays — each inspired by the amazing settings portrayed on the show.”

Take Cora’s drawing room (the same one that inspired my green bathroom). “Influenced by the refreshing pastels and creams of the drawing room, a pale green-aqua is further softened with the use of pale rose, classic ivory and gold gilding,” says Lawlor. She boiled down those colors to Kelly-Moore’s Somona Sky (green), Cupid (pink) and Summer Sandcastle (off white).

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