Bridgerton Is a Bright Twist on Regency Style
The latest addition to the classic costume drama genre is a visual feast for the eyes complete with opulent furnishings, sumptuous vintage costumes, and even the requisite English Cocker Spaniel or two. But Shondaland and Netflix’s Bridgerton, which premieres on December 25, also features a distinctively contemporary twist. Inspired by best-selling author Julia Quinn’s novels, the romantic and often scandalous eight-episode series follows two competing families in early 1800s London, the old-moneyed pillars of society—the Bridgertons—and the ostentatious nouveau riche Featheringtons. The story centers around the fate of their daughters, who search for love in the competitive marriage market, and the burgeoning romance between Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and perennial bachelor Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page).
British production designer Will Hughes-Jones first looked to Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 period drama Barry Lyndon and Sophia Coppola’s 2006 version of Marie Antoinette for reference. “I watched all sorts of weird and wonderful things but kept coming back to Barry Lyndon. It is quite a dark film, but it had just the sort of detail I related to with this piece,” he tells AD. Coppola’s colorful eye-candy film took a completely different direction, of course. “I also studied that film quite religiously as there is so much synergy between the sets and the costumes,” he says.
For the Bridgerton estate, the exterior was filmed at a red-brick Georgian mansion in South London known as Ranger’s House. “The building was over 100 years old, and the whole idea of clean lines was a difficult thing to pull off,” says Hughes-Jones, “so we built the majority of the interior rooms on a soundstage.” The Regency interiors represent the styles of the period, from soft blue medallion patterned fabric and swag and jabot draperies to marquetry tables and chairs with ebonized wood. Hughes-Jones and his set decorator Gina Cromwell had almost all of the furniture and vast draperies treatments completely built from scratch for the 250-plus sets. Due to the large number of items needed, improvisation was often necessary. “We had our graphic designer create a vinyl print to use on top of the console tables, and it looks just like marble and marquetry,” he says.
The color Wedgewood Blue (synonymous with the English fine china and porcelain line that was popular during the Regency period) comprised the color palette for the Bridgertons, appearing in the interior color schemes and the Empire-style gowns for the female characters. Details are of the utmost importance, and both families have their own insignia that adorns the costumes, hair ornaments, and the interiors. The Bridgerton symbol is a bee, while the Featheringtons employ a butterfly motif.