Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Era of Elegance: Capturing the Aura of 'Downton Abbey'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Era of Elegance: Capturing the Aura of 'Downton Abbey'

Article excerpt

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Americans like their Brits to be snobs, rich and veddy, veddy proper -- or at least they like their PBS British costume dramas that way.

"Downton Abbey" has been delivering the goods for two seasons.Ardent fans of the highly popular, Emmy Award-winning drama must wait until darkest winter for Season 3 to begin, Jan. 6, 2013, to be exact.

The new season has been airing in the U.K. since September, so desperate American fans can find spoilers on the Internet. But who wants to sacrifice the fun of watching Shirley MacLaine and Maggie Smith face off? Or to forgo the magic of Matthew and Lady Mary Crawley's wedding set against the backdrop of the biggest character in the show, Downton Abbey itself, also known as Highclere Castle in Hampshire, England?

Like the last huge PBS success teeming with great rooms and the vagaries of the British class system -- "Brideshead Revisited" in 1982 -- "Downton Abbey" features a magnificent house that influences the destinies of every character. Their roles, aristocrat or servant, are played out in the rooms where they live -- "upstairs" boudoirs and opulent sitting rooms or "downstairs" scullery, pantries and starkly furnished bedrooms. Habitation determines the clothes they wear as well: velvet evening gown and serious diamonds or crisp white shirt and simple black uniform.

As viewers, it is hard not to want a bit of the glamour of the aristocrats and the drama of the servants to rub off on us. While waiting to feed our addiction for "Downton," we may hanker for a change from the relentlessly casual style of America, where entertaining often means little more than a flaming fire pit on the patio and plenty of craft beer on hand (not that that isn't fun, too) American fans will be able to imitate this marvelously styled fantasy of British life when a company called Knockout Licensing launches multiple brands that seek to replicate to look of "Downton" in North America: bedding and bath, home furnishings and decor, housewares, kitchenware and apparel.

Who knows what Knockout will offer? Perhaps replicas of hunting prints, worn Oriental rugs, faded cabbage-rose chintzes, Staffordshire dogs, Blue Willow china and leather-bound books -- the tried-and-true elements of English country house design. These details can be lovely, even in an American house with a two-door garage and the total square footage of the drawing room and dining room of a real country house in the British Isles.

Meanwhile, why not incorporate a touch of "Downton's" elegance into your 21st century life? Plan a dinner party that takes the formality quotient up a notch. If nothing else, the preparations can help pass the time until the show returns. If you have a DVR, you could have people over on the Sunday night that Season 3 begins and have a leisurely "Downton-esque" dinner before you watch. …

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