Downton Abbey. Masterpiece Theatre at its finest with gorgeous costumes, lengthy dinners, immaculate grounds, and beautiful interiors – what’s not to love about Downton Abbey?!
While thousands upon thousands are tuning their TV sets to indulge in the show each Sunday evening, I too am one of them. Happily one of them, but not just because I enjoy the show, but because it reminds me so much of a life that has long since been almost forgotten. A time when ladies and gentleman dressed for dinner and dinners would sometimes include dancing afterwards. A time when hats were placed upon heads, gloves onto hands and all items removed happily upon entering an establishment. A time when a dressing table was truly used as it implies – a beautiful piece of furniture where a lady would sit and ready herself for an evening out. Or perhaps it was the time when a sunny garden room, awash in silk draperies and antique wicker, would be complete with a sterling tea set ready to greet afternoon company.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Scotland with a group of dear friends. We have traveled extensively as a group before, but this particular trip has remained in our minds and hearts as one that will never be forgotten. It is essentially, our own version of Downton Abbey.
What started with a conversation with a charming couple who walked into the shop, turned into a pleasant wash of memories involving Charleston, a lovely place where they currently live and a city that I lived in decades ago. Stories were told, places remembered and laughter was shared. Eventually, our conversation led to discovering that this couple owned an old manor house in Scotland and occasionally placed it upon the rental market. Naturally, I just had to ask if they were still renting it! A year and a half later, John and I, along with our friends descended upon the home for a glorious week-long stay. It was truly memorable – and it was truly my Downton Abbey moment!
The house sits on 28 acres of generation-owned Scotland land and pasture. As you pull into the driveway and notice the charming and seemingly endless gardens, you are amazed at the shear history simply by the front façade of the home. Stepping inside, you become immediately transformed into a distant place in time – a place rich in history and covered in tapestries and beautiful furnishings. A place where the smells of firewood and fresh flowers in crystal vases envelop you and you find yourself caught up in the magnitude of who resided here, the stories that were told during weekend house parties, the daily tasks that were carried out, and of course, the drama that occasionally unfolded.
We were met by the staff, two lovely local ladies, Maggie and Violet, and ushered into our ensuite rooms. As we spent our days trolling the countryside, visiting the quaint towns and of course taking in a round of golf or two, it was a welcome respite from the technology of today. In the evening, the staff readied the house for dinner by lighting the fires, setting the dining room and preparing the meal. After dressing for dinner, we would convene in the drawing room for drinks before the ladies “rang the gong” announcing dinner! Each night, we were treated to three courses of delicious Scottish cuisine, followed by gathering in one of the drawing rooms for after dinner conversation, drinks and merriment.
Seeing Downton Abbey reminds me so much of my time in Scotland. Not only has the show captured the grandeur and refinement of the past, it has also shown us the beauty of timeless pieces – English sideboards, gilded French console tables and settees, Chippendale chairs, decorative accessories, the list goes on – that have stood the test of time. These truly unique pieces, that when placed appropriately, can blend today with almost any kind of modern style. And yes, while we here at King’s House Antiques also love those drum shaded lamps, painted chests and chevron pillows of today, we are so very grateful for the timeless beauties that gave us the foundation for decorating and design that continues today.
So thank you Downton Abbey for bringing back a lovely place in time. Thank you for showing us the beauty and craftsmanship of these remarkable pieces of furniture we have today. And thank you for gently reminding us that good manners and etiquette will always be prevalent. As for me, I’m off to go and dig out all of my silver and start to polish!