In 2008 I asked several designers and tastemakers to talk about styles of furniture that make great investments. At the time, we didn't know the stock market would take such a dive toward the end of the year or how many jobs would be lost in 2009. So the original question, "Which pieces do you think you could be content with and not feel the itch to replace for years and years?" has become more timely.
Some of the most favored pieces included camelback sofas, gateleg tables, 18th-century-style chairs, Bennison linen (or similar fabric), classic cabinets and/or secretaries. Well, over the weekend I was looking at production designer Sarah Greenwood's work on 2005's Pride and Prejudice, and I spotted those very same pieces in the Bennet family's house, Longbourn (Groombridge Place was used for filming).
Based on a few of Focus Feature's published production notes for P & P, it sounds like Greenwood's assignment was to visually convey that the Bennet daughters are far less affluent and financially secure than Mr. Darcy or the Bingleys, even though, to a modern audience, the Bennets live rather comfortably. Hence a pair of camelback sofas are covered in unmatched, imperfectly fitting slipcovers and the pillows on both are nicely smushed. In general the Bennet interiors lean toward the rustic (albeit opulent rustic) with that tattered-around-the-edges feel.
Mr. Bingley's Netherfield is furnished with neoclassical, Adam-esque pieces -- styles that were the height of fashion at the time -- while Longbourn is filled with earlier 18th-century styles: Queen Anne, Early Georgian. Instead of delicate painted furniture, the Bennets have stained-wood chairs and tables with cabriole legs, and heavier cabinets (at least one seen on screen appears Japanned).
There is one element that I never thought much about when I first saw the movie: the patchwork linens on Lizzy Bennet's bed. In the November House Beautiful, Jennifer Boles, aka The Peak of Chic, writes about the return of patchwork, so this time I looked at the mix of luxurious crewelwork bed hangings and humble patched quilt from a fresh perspective. Even if you're not a big Jane Austen fan, take a look at the film; the director and designer really made good use of Groombridge Place. Apartment Therapy has also covered the sets, and Linda Merrill has discussed the BBC version.
All images are screen grabs from Focus Feature's 2005 film, Pride and Prejudice. Click to see details.