How To Decorate Your Home Like Downton Abbey

When the first season of "Downton Abbey" came on air in 2012, few people predicted that it would become so popular. But with fascinating characters, lavish décor and costumes, and a sense of reliving a past lost not too long ago, "Downton Abbey" quickly became a television sensation. The show features the story of the Granthams, an aristocratic family living during the first decades of the 20th century. The plot follows not only the noble family, but also their servants and the community around them, as per IMDb.

Not everyone has centuries of family heirlooms to decorate their multi-level, ancestral homes. But we can certainly take inspiration from the multitude of rooms, styles, and decorative elements from the lush décor. Indeed, when the show peaked in popularity in 2015 and 2016, there was a renewed interest in late Victorian and early 20th century décor, per Architectural Digest. Whether you prefer the traditional style or a more modern take on it, "Downton Abbey" contains plenty of ideas that you can replicate in your own home.

Impress visitors with your lobby

The lobby of "Downton Abbey" is meant to impress guests right from the start. With its neo-Gothic architecture, as described by Encyclopedia Britannica, the stately dark wood staircase, and the red carpet all the way down, it's hard not to hold your breath for just a minute as you take it all in. A large statue brings the eye up towards the windows and makes a statement about the wealth and status of the family.

Of course, you may not own a Gothic Revival-style ancestral home, but that does not stop you from taking ideas for your own lobby. A large statement piece of art right in front of the stairway might do the trick, as shown in Architectural Digest. You can also consider putting a red carpet down the staircase to feel like a star every time you walk down for breakfast. Use dark wood for the staircase itself to add drama against a paler wall.

Use sweet pastels

Cora's personal drawing room is a pastel feast for the eyes, with soft hunter green wallpaper, golden and beige mouldings, and soft peach seating. This is where Cora would receive her personal guests, such as the Dowager Countess, during the day. Traditionally, drawing rooms were meant for women to withdraw after dinner while the men finished with cigars, scotch, and conversation. After an interval, the men would eventually rejoin the women in the drawing room, as discussed by author Robert Kerr in his 1865 book "The Gentleman's House." 

Think of a drawing room as the modern living room, where people can sit down in a less formal setting for conversation. When there are no guests, it's also a space where you can relax and enjoy your favorite hobbies: watching "Downton Abbey," perhaps? In any case, to imitate the style of Cora's personal drawing room, choose a pastel palette, lots of soft, upholstered seating, and golden accents everywhere. Do not be afraid to mix and match the color of the seating — as you can see, Cora uses both peach and beige chairs.

Dare a dramatic red

A large home means being able to have many different décor styles. And compared to Cora's personal drawing room, this other drawing room is very dramatic. Featuring a red damask wallpaper with dark wood upholstered chairs, this drawing room may also be more pleasing to the men in the house. Indeed, many dramatic scenes happen in that room, in line with its color choice.

Red is not as tricky to work with as people think. Apartment Therapy provides many different ideas on how to work with dramatic red: Try it in monochrome (such as our "Downtown Abbey" décor here), use it an accent color, or tone it down by using a more orange shade of red. Colors and decorative elements that go well with red include black, dark wood, earth tones, and green. If you don't want to commit to a large red wall, consider choosing a few accessories in red that will pop up against a more neutral background.

Hang family portraits

If you pay attention while watching "Downton Abbey," you'll notice that many rooms have large portraits and artwork, many of which are of ancestors of the Crawley family. Aristocratic families would hang these portraits and art as a testament to their rank, and the most illustrious ancestors would have a center place in important spaces like the dining room or the lobby, according to Reviews in History

You may not have large family paintings hanging in your home from generations past, but you may have family photos that you want to display in your home. There are many different ways to do so, as Architectural Digest suggests. Consider a mix of sizes like in the "Downton Abbey" dining room, and fill a wall with them. For the traditional feel of an ancestral British home, choose more gilded, traditional frame styles for your most important portraits. Many artists can also transform your photos into custom paintings, if you have the budget. 

Focus the décor on your fireplace

"Downton Abbey" features many fantastic fireplaces, according to Thornhill Galleries. This one, in Cora's bedroom, is smaller and understated, but other fireplaces throughout the home have a more dramatic flair. What you will also notice as you watch the show is that the seating is often arranged near and around the fireplace. Before electric heating, the fireplace was the main source of warmth, and so people learned how to decorate with the fireplace as a focus for comfort. 

If you are lucky enough to have a working fireplace nowadays, there are many ways you can use it as your focal point, just like they do in "Downton Abbey;" you can do that instead of arranging the furniture around the television. Install an ornate stone mantelpiece for that grand, stately feel — marble is an excellent choice here. Use the mantelpiece to hold family heirlooms and other small decorate elements, just as in the image above. 

Spread statement rugs in the right places

In large, old homes such as Highclere Castle (the real name of the manor use as the setting for "Downton Abbey"), the floors were mostly made of stone and wood, which means they would be cold in the winter, according to Victorian Era. To avoid chilly feet, there would be rugs laid down to add comfort and warmth. In this scene with the Crawley family in the library, you can see a large rug spread across several seating areas. The colors of the rug are also reflected in the seating shades and drapes. You can easily see how the large statement rug pulls the entire library together.

While you may not have a library or living room as large as this one (one can only dream!), there are many ways you can use a rug to bring a room together, as Elle Decor shows. A large rug that covers most of the floor would make a grand statement, but smaller rugs can also be helpful in putting the finish touch to a Downton-inspired design.

Soften your bedroom with fabrics

All the bedrooms in "Downton Abbey" feature large, stately beds. Cora's bed in particular is interesting because she is, of course, the lady of the house. But it's not only the bed that works well in this bedroom; with a fabric headboard and lots of fabric hangings elsewhere in the room, Cora sleeps in a soft cocoon of comfort. Notice also the fabric decorative hanging right behind her, which brings the attention up and towards the four-post bed frame with a hanging canopy. 

According to Better Homes & Gardens, Edwardian bedrooms used the bed as a focal point. Nothing was too large or dramatic! A four-post bed frame was often the choice, but other styles, such as upholstered headboards and fabric hangings on the wall behind it did just as well. To imitate the style, focus your bedroom on a statement bed frame and use lots of drapes and fabrics to bring an atmosphere of soft comfort to your space.

Choose a floral patterned wallpaper

Mary's bedroom on "Downton Abbey" is much more dramatic than her mother's. With a red and white patterned wallpaper and opulent damask drapes matching the seating, her décor style is definitely bold, just like her character. Notice the understated rug that gives all the attention to the walls, and the similar floral pattern between the damask drapes and the wallpaper. She chose gold as an accent color, which can be seen in the minimal art frames. 

According to Bradbury and Bradbury, Victorian wallpapers existed in several different styles. The bold floral pattern featured in Mary's room was certainly not uncommon, and can still be found today with a little research. And according to Elle Decor, contrast floral wallpaper is fashionable again, so that's one more reason to choose a late-Victorian or Edwardian-inspired style for your bedroom. When using such a wallpaper, it's better to understate other decorative elements to avoid saturating the room with too much visual contrast, so keep the rest of your room simple. 

Upholster your seating

When watching "Downton Abbey," try to see if you can find a single "naked" (meaning not upholstered) chair outside of the servants' quarters. Chances are you will not be able to, as all the seating for the noble family is covered, at least partially, with fabric, even in the dining room. Upholstered chairs and seating offer a feel of comfort and softness that all guests at the Abbey can appreciate.

If you wish to imitate the style at home, consider switching your seating to upholstered chairs, or perhaps even doing custom upholstery on those you already have. For the fabric style, use a damask or other monochrome style, as can be seen in the above photo. The chairs themselves always seem to blend with the décor and leave other architectural elements to take center stage. HGTV has the instructions to upholster your chairs on your own, or you can hire a professional. 

Look for monochrome wallpaper

Yes, Mary's bedroom again! After she marries and has a child, Mary moves to a different bedroom with a different décor style, as per IMDb. Although we still find a floral pattern that's similar to that of her previous room, this one is more subtle and understated. The green-on-green damask monochrome still adds dramatic flair, but not as much as the red and white pattern we saw earlier. In this room, the mantelpiece is the focus, and the hunter green makes the pale marble pop quite a lot.

To reproduce this style in your own bedroom, choose a color that you want to feature, and then a damask pattern that you like. Damask can come in many different styles and colors, from very traditional to super modern. Vogue reports that damask has come back on trend, so don't be afraid to use it in your bedroom or living room. When you use damask, be careful not to superimpose other patterns on top of it. It's great, however, as a backdrop to architectural features you want to bring more attention to.

Invest in marble tile

Marble is a very old architectural material, and one that brings a sense of wealth, dignity, and of course luxury to any home, as per Delta Marble. In "Downton Abbey," you can see marble tile on the first floor, as in this image from the 2019 movie. This tile is also featured in the Abbey's ballroom, to show just how important this natural stone was to the décor of the home.

For those concerned about the potential cost of installing a marble tile floor, don't worry: You can buy flooring that looks like marble tile for a fraction of the cost. Natural stone tile (and look-alikes) was a big trend in 2021, and is expected to continue going forward (via Forbes). You can try this black and white checkerboard style — an undying classic — or try something a little more contemporary, but still grand and stately, for an updated look inspired by "Downton Abbey".

Express yourself with artistic mouldings

One thing we haven't paid attention to yet are the baseboard and crown mouldings all over the Abbey in "Downton Abbey." In the above image, we can see clearly the high baseboard moulding gilded with gold accents. The soft beige is the perfect contrast to the pale hunter green damask wallpaper, and golden details add a level of refinement.

In many Victorian houses, these baseboard and crown trims still exist and are maintained as architectural features of the home — just as they have been at Highclere Castle, the setting for "Downton Abbey". According to This Old House, A well-chosen crown molding draws the eye up and adds drama and architectural value to any room. Another article by Metrie describes the different types of baseboard trim and which styles they go well with. If you want a décor inspired by "Downton Abbey," adding trim to your rooms is essential.

Add candles everywhere

The Crawley family uses candlesticks at dinner on "Downton Abbey." Lit candles are romantic, dramatic, and of course very traditional. Formal dinner settings with candlesticks reminds us of when dinner was a dressed-up affair, even in the middle of the week. The candles draw the eye upwards as well, reminding us to take a good look at all the beautiful family paintings hanging on the walls. You may also notice that even though there is electric lighting, the family still uses candlelight during formal nighttime meals.

If you want to bring the glamour of a "Downton Abbey" dinner to your home, you can't miss with candelabras and candles. You can buy many different types of candle holders, or even make your own thanks to this guide from Home BNC. Whether you use tall white candles or smaller tea lights, adding candlelight in your dining room will make it feel immediately more romantic. Choose a style that fits your home — even if you don't have a Victorian house, you can still bring a Victorian feel by using candlelight, even in places where electric lighting is in use.