Period drama 'Bridgerton' promises to be visual feast for décor lovers
Regency England has been reimagined in this racy Netflix series, writes Leana Schoeman
This year has been filled with many firsts, some more challenging than others, but some almost good enough to make up for it all. One of those has to be the first collaboration between Shondaland and Netflix: a wonderful new show called Bridgerton that hits SA screens on Christmas Day.
This period drama series is based on the best-selling novels by Julia Quinn, which are set in the Recency era, and promises to reinvent our notions of what early 1800s England must have been like.
With their skilful use of colour and light, the show's production team has made this world come to life and given it a vibrant, bold and sexy look and feel — another first for the familiar period drama genre, which is often perceived as being dull and dreary.
“I've always seen Bridgerton as a chance to create a show that bridges history and fiction,” says its creator Chris Van Dusen.
“I wanted to create a period show that I hadn't seen before, one that reimagines this thrilling time of excess, decadence, beauty and glamour, known as the Regency era.
“I'm excited for audiences to see how we turned a traditional genre on its head, as we approach many aspects from this time differently — whether through our costumes and music, or the way we explore issues of gender, sexuality and race.”
I had the privilege of entering the magical world of Bridgerton earlier this year with a London set visit and I'm excited that I can finally share my experience.
SETTING THE SCENE
On our arrival at a massive warehouse space on the outskirts of the city, we were welcomed with a fast-paced set tour.
The show's award-winning production designer Will Hughes-Jones navigated us through the various sets created to reflect or “keep up with” the locations they've been shooting at in recent months — almost 100 in all.
The most memorable set we entered was the “Bridgerton morning room”, which forms part of the home of the family to which the series owes its name, and mimics the sort of space and scale only seen in grand palaces.
The clever use of colour and light is one of the first things I notice, with simulated soft daylight flooding into the room. The pastel palette is light and almost sparkly, giving it a heightened reality as opposed to the stuffy and dark aesthetic of the locales typically featured in classic period dramas.
SPACES THAT SAY IT ALL
Along with the Bridgerton household, the Featherington residence is where most of the action is set.
The two are differentiated by the skilful use of distinctive colour palettes that accurately reflect the characters of the people who call them home. The palettes become each family's visual signature and allow viewers to instantly recognise in which house a specific scene is taking place.
The Bridgerton household has a more demure and old-money feel to it, which is accomplished with the use of rich pastels.
In contrast, the Featherington household is more opulent and colourful. The use of punchy acid tones and gold accents created a sense of new money and the notion that the Featherington's flaunt their riches a little more than their muted neighbours.
Reference to the definitive aesthetic of Dutch designer Thomas Hope, one of the most influential designers of the Regency period, played a big role in the creation of these spaces, and Hughes-Jones and his team paid attention to even the smallest details.
To ensure accuracy, nothing was overlooked — even simple things like fireplaces needed to be in working order. The piano in the morning room needed to be authentic to the period — and the one they managed to find required restoration to its original sound. Most of the furniture was custom-built and each carpet designed and tailor-made to fit the scale of the rooms.
The generous use of food and flowers is another décor element that illustrates the indulgent and luxurious qualities of the Regency era.
CLOTHES MAKETH THE CHARACTER
It's not surprising that multi award-winning costume designer Ellen Mirojnick was the first person to be appointed to the Bridgerton team — costume design forms an integral part of the show's overall aesthetic.
Again the skilful use of distinctive colour palettes helps to visually differentiate the Bridgerton and Featherington families — and these characters from those in traditional prim and proper period dramas.
All in all Mirojnick and her extensive team have reimagined Regency fashion in a way that's fresh, young, aspirational and relevant.
THE PLOT THICKENS
Bridgerton has been described as Pride and Prejudice meets Gossip Girl, and I think that's an accurate take.
The mysterious narrator, Lady Whistledown, played by Julie Andrews, navigates the viewer through the competitive and enchanting world of Regency London's high society, which is brought to life by a well-chosen cast.
Daring, sexy and fast-paced are just a few words that come to mind, and I believe it will knock your socks off.
• Bridgerton will be released on Netflix on December 25.