Posted by: marymarthatours | March 18, 2013

Downton Abbey Kitchen in Miniature, Part 1

Highclere, Mike Searle, ccasa2.0

Highclere Castle

Like thousands of TV viewers, I am a huge fan of the Masterpiece Theatre series “Downton Abbey”.  I have eagerly followed the saga of the ups and downs of the Crawley Family and their servants which is set in Yorkshire, England, in the early 20th century.  The house used in the filming is Highclere Castle, the real family home of Lord and Lady Carnavon, near Newbury in Hampshire.  The “upstairs” scenes are filmed in the gorgeous entry hall, saloon, dining room, library, and music room at Highclere.  But the “downstairs” scenes, which include the kitchen, the servants’ hall, and the servants’ bedrooms, are filmed in London at Ealing Studio using sets created to reflect the period.

The ornate upstairs rooms are way beyond my abilities as a miniaturist, but recreating the kitchen in miniature was a challenge that I was up for.  I was excited about the prospect of designing and building the kitchen, with its Victorian cupboards, work table, and cooker.  And the prospect of shopping for all that copper cookware, the kitchen utensils, and food at next month’s Chicago International Miniature Show has me saving every penny.

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Downton Abbey Kitchen set

To get started on my project, I scoured the internet for information and photographs of the kitchen set.  I also got the book, “The World of Downton Abbey” from my local library.  With the help of these resources, I created a detailed floor plan of the kitchen, estimating the measurements as best I could.

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For my 1” scale roombox (1” = 1’ in full scale), I chose 3/8”plywood.  I used a double thickness for the back wall so that I could recess the windows as they are on the set.  I had to build the windows from scratch and found a great technique to create the frosted look.  I coated both sides of a sheet of medium weight clear plastic with ivory Gallery Glass Window Color, applying it with a small roller for even coverage.  Once the window “glass” was done, I build the frames and mounted the windows.

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I next turned my attention to the huge Victorian Aga stove that sits in an alcove at one end of the kitchen.  No one carries a stove that’s big enough, so I purchased three stoves from Graham Barlow at the Miniature Scene in York, England.  A bit of kitbashing took care of removing the burners so I could glue one of the small stoves on top of the other and add a flat top to the larger stove.  Then I painted everything black and glued the whole unit together.  I’m very pleased with the way it turned out.

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DSCN4232The cabinets for this kitchen are fake, just like the set – no opening doors or drawers.  I just patterned them after the photos that I had seen.  The color was a bit of a challenge, as every photo looked a little different.  I started by staining them, then decided they’d look better painted.  After painting, I sanded off bits to give them a distressed look, then added another thin coat of stain and a matte finish.

The floor was fun.  I learned a new technique for doing slate tiles from the Minworks blog.  It’s as simple as applying a thin coat of lightweight spackle to Bristol board.  Once it’s dry, you cut the appropriate size pieces.  Instead of painting afterward, I added grey paint to the spackle and applied several washes of “dirty water” to the finished tiles followed by gloss varnish.

I still need to figure out how to create the terra cotta sinks, but here is how it all looks so far.  I’ll add an update as the project progress.

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(by Mary)

Photo credits:  Highclere Castle – copyright Michael Searles and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license 2.0;  Downton Abbey kitchen photo from “The World of Downton Abbey” (Jessica Fellows, St. Martin’s Press, 2011);  all other photos copyright Mary Wallace. 

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Responses

  1. Oh my goodness Mary … such dedication you have given to your DA mini-kitchen! Love all the details, which really makes it “real” to the viewer. Thanks for sharing the tips and the blog link and looking forward to the finished project. Have fun shopping in Chicago!
    Joanne

  2. Just lovely Mary. Have fun in Chicago. I hope you find something at the show for the terra cotta sinks, or perhaps some modeling clay and stain with which to make them.

  3. Mary, your work is so impressive. You are moving forward in time. First Barley Hall, now the DA kitchen. I am guessing that a Mackintoch room will be next. Keep creating, Martha

  4. Astonishing detail. Truly wonderful.


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