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Whether you love or hate a period drama on your TV screen, it’s hard to escape all of the talk and excitement of the arrival of Bridgertons third season, and the recently confirmed third Downton Abbey movie.


Even if they are not to your taste, have you ever wondered how the sets of period dramas are crafted and inspired by the era the production is set in? With sophisticated costumes, makeup and dramatic plot lines, it's easy to overlook the antique furniture and accessories in the background.

Research and Authenticity 

Set designers play a pivotal role in capturing the essence of a particular period or era in film and TV series. Extensive research into historical context is imperative, as furniture styles evolve just like clothing and jewellery. Selecting the appropriate furniture not only enhances aesthetics but also ensures authenticity, crucial for history enthusiasts whose immersion hinges on accuracy.


Some of the features that you can see across furniture produced in the different eras:


Georgian furniture was often made with mahogany wood over walnut, Georgian furniture is known for its refined proportions, varied outlines and scalloped shell-adorned leg, accentuated with brass nail trims and castors.


Regency furniture vastly used mahogany, but expeditions to new countries and continents led to the discovery of new types of wood, such as ebony, rosewood and zebrawood being used. The furniture was embellished with gilding and inlay with brass. 


Victorian furniture used dark woods such as mahogany, rosewood and walnut. Victorian furniture encapsulates elegance and wealth, with decorative carvings of flowers, leaves, and vines, upholstered with luxurious fabrics. 


Edwardian furniture departed from Victorian norms, embracing lighter colours and compact designs to suit smaller homes and changing clothing fashion. Ornate details like inlays, carved legs and brass mounts rose in popularity, as did electric lighting, seen in lamps with fabrics or glass shades.

Sourcing props for period drama set design

After researching the era and what kind of furniture is needed, set designers get to work sourcing the props, often using antiques for that sought-after authenticity. The set design includes props of larger pieces including wardrobes, tables and sofas, and smaller items like jewellery boxes, paintings, vases and books. 


Items may be hired or purchased outright, with set designers frequently visiting antique dealers or auction houses to find pieces that can be repurposed across different productions.

A final thought on bringing history to life with antiques in period dramas

In the world of period dramas, sets are full of character as much as the actors themselves. Behind the glamour and drama, set designers spend hours curating authentic sets with antiques to transport viewers to times gone by. 


From the exquisite ballrooms to quaint drawing rooms, each piece of furniture enriches the narrative with depth and authenticity.


The next time that you’re watching a period TV series or movie, be sure to take a moment to observe the set and see what treasures are hidden within the scene.