It was the season the world had been waiting for. As if excitement around The Crown wasn’t palpable enough, Diana’s entrance would set it ablaze. Instagram feeds were a sea of sartorial throwbacks, from the pre-Charles cardigans to the revenge LBD and, of course, that cycling shorts and sweater combo. We’ve dissected her wardrobe, mused on her make-up (blue liner, say no more) and analysed her poise and prose. But never really her interiors, something that the show, for the first time, has given us a delicious insight into.
“The sets serve as supporting characters, giving visual cues about characters that might not be in the script,” says Bafta-nominated set decorator Alison Harvey. And while we've seen countless photographs of staterooms with their gilded ceilings and glittering chandeliers, a glimpse into royal sleeping quarters feels considerably more intimate.
“The most eighties we get is in Diana’s bedroom in Earls Court, in the flat she shares with three friends,” says Harvey. There are salmon pink walls, Laura Ashley upholstery and curtains, rattan accessories and Marcel Breuer Cesca chairs. With little to no direct references of the flat — there are no images, bar an unverified one of her flatmates standing beside a piano with some chintzy yellow curtains — set decorator Sophie Coombes could, within reason, run with it and have fun. “The main thing was for it to feel fun and innocent, as the place she spent time in before marriage”.
As for the Duran Duran, Sting and Abba posters, well, she was a British teenager in the 1980s after all, and her Duran Duran fandom was well known. Sources close to the Palace say Diana did indeed roller skate to “Girls on Film” with a walkman, hence the band playing at her memorial concert in 2007.
Having studied her apartment in Kensington Palace, Coombes says they could “safely assume she liked a pretty powder coloured palette.” They also gleaned that she had a passion for contemporary design, which was in stark contrast to Charles’ “classical traditionalism,” says Harvey – something that would inevitably feed into their friction.
“It was so fun to do a normal, fresh middle-class flat and not a stately home,” says Coombes. Regardless of size, however, “British aristocrats do, as you would imagine, dress their homes a certain way. There are pairs of lamps, throws and chairs with bullion fringing on, and headboards to match curtains. On side tables sit monogrammed napkins and hankies”.
Harvey and Coombes looked to designers who were prevalent at the time. Laura Ashley was a big inspiration for Diana, so too, were Colefax and Fowler, with their busy floral wallpapers and fabrics, as well as Geoffrey Bennison and Robert Kime. The accuracy of their work is of course, crucial to the show’s credibility. “We do months and months of granular research”, Coombes says, dipping into back issues of Architectural Digest, as well as watching YouTube videos and reading books.
“We're always on the hunt for bits of information that allow us to add another layer of detail to sets,” says Harvey, noting that it was Thatcher’s biography that gave her an insight into the Prime Minister’s tipple of choice, and therefore, what spirits belonged on her drinks trolley. For Princess Margaret’s birthday, tropical flower arrangements in Matilda Goad’s giant ceramic shells, nodded to the Princess’ many trips to Mustique.
Perhaps by pure coincidence, Diana’s interiors tastes are currently our interiors tastes. Chintz, vintage and antiques are all we care for right now. Why? “Everyone’s tired of minimalism,” says Harvey, so it’s back to trims, trinkets and fuddy duddy detail. Looks like she's not only our style icon, but our interiors icon, too.
Marcel Breuer’s cult Cesca chairs, as seen in Diana’s apartment are - luckily - still readily available today.
One half of the design duo Colefax and Fowler, Lady Sibyl Colefax was friends with the Royals and is a large source of inspiration for Harvey. Peruse her book for endless inspiration.
Nightcap? This Edwardian era set is starry and standout.
The size and scope of your lounge might not compare to Clarence House, but at least your soft furnishings can bear resemblance.
Something on which to hold your ivory handled letter opener, a magnifying glass and a hair pin, should you be so inclined.
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