Downton Detroit

On the edge of your wing chair waiting for Season 4 of PBS’ Downton Abbey? Enjoy these previews of Downton design right in our own backyard.


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The Downton-esque Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester Hills was built in the 1920s by Matilda Dodge Wilson and her husband, Alfred G. Wilson. The  Holiday Walk tours run through Dec. 23. Photograph By Jeffrey Bennett

Lady Mary and Lord Gran-tham become part of many of our families come Downton time — the season when Downton Abbey, the wildly popular PBS Masterpiece drama filmed at Highclere Castle in England, finds us gathered in front of the television on Sunday evenings. For an hour a week, we get to absorb life at the manor — all the intriguing upstairs and downstairs turmoil, and how it intertwines. Last year, Season 3’s seven episodes reached 24 million viewers. And many of those (an average of 65,000 per episode) are in metro Detroit. At 9 p.m. Jan. 5, throngs of area residents will once again tune in to WTVS Detroit Public Television for some honest-to-goodness elegant escapism.

Downton Abbey has something for everyone: fashion, jewels, a beautiful setting, and history,” says Susanne Simpson, Masterpiece senior series producer. Simpson, a Birmingham native who attended Birmingham Groves High School and the University of Michigan, says design devotees are especially captivated by the home’s interiors. “The saloon is magnificent,” enthuses Elisabeth Meda, a Grosse Pointe Woods-based interior designer. (The saloon is physically and socially the heart of the house.) “The high ceilings, natural light, and the gold-leaf details, along with the mix of styles … it is a beautiful space.”

Metro Detroit fans connect on many levels, says Rich Homberg, president and CEO of Detroit Public Television — including the fact that there is a lot of fascinating architecture and history here which echoes that seen on the show. On a tour of Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester Hills, for example, you may sense that Mr. Carson, Downton’s butler, is just in the next room, where he’s waiting to greet you. “And is there anyplace that is more Downton than Cranbrook House and Gardens?” Homberg asks.

On the following pages, discover more Downton, Detroit-style, in a Pewabic Tile bathroom in the most recent Junior League of Detroit Designers’ Show House, built in Grosse Pointe Shores in 1925 by Oscar Webber, nephew of Joseph L. Hudson. We also put the Downton microscope on an ultra-plush master suite designed by a local interior designer. And do browse our Downton gallery of goods, if you’re looking to create your own manor house looks.

Downton Design 101: Downton Abbey depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era around 1912 and beyond. The grandeur and opulence of interior design in homes from this era represented wealth and status. Think rich colors, brighter rooms than in the past, wood paneling, and lots of stone. You can tour the setting of Downton Abbey at Highclere Castle in Hampshire, England. Visit Season 4 begins at 9 p.m. Jan. 5 in metro Detroit on WTVS Detroit Public Television.

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