Decor Fit for a Vampire Feb 7, 2014 15:12:50 GMT -5
Post by Graveyardbride on Feb 7, 2014 15:12:50 GMT -5
Lessons in Gothic decor from the set of ‘Dracula’
Like rich colors and the ornate? The series has led to the creation of some of television’s most opulent interiors.
It was probably the last thing on Lady Jayne’s mind as her lover, Alexander Grayson – aka Count Dracula – kissed her neck, but a lot of thought went into the bedroom decor around them. The lavish set on which the actors Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Victoria Smurfit were being filmed was as carefully decorated and furnished as any prime property.
Many have been ogling the sumptuous sets of NBC's new series, Dracula. Featuring hand-painted silk wallpapers by Griffin and Wong, the elaborate, big-budget sets are a visual feast. Moving away from the typical dark, Gothic sets we usually associate with Vlad, this more modern take on Dracula blends design elements from several different eras – art deco, Hollywood Regency and Victorian – in his home, Carfax Manor.
The wallpapers are an international effort. Working closely with art director Jo Riddell, Griffin and Wong’s Douglas Bray coordinated the effort from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The measurements came from Hollywood. Master craftspeople hand-painted the wallpapers in China, then shipped them to the show’s sets in Budapest, where Italian painters finished off the elaborate trimwork to coordinate with the silk wallpapers. The chinoiserie motifs and rich colors lighten the menacing tone of the legend with touches of whimsy, gilt and joy.
The story takes place in Victorian-era London, but the sets are in Budapest. The art director chose Griffin and Wong’s Summer Palace wallpaper as a big part of the inspiration for the grand room above. Incorporating colors provided by the production design team, the chinoiserie wallpaper accentuates the rich colors of the trimwork.
Hand-painted silk wallpaper is one of the greatest Chinese exports. While it all but disappeared during the cultural revolution, the trade is experiencing a renewal as the popularity of these papers spreads. The center of the industry is in Suzhou, China, where master craftspeople, members of the Suzhou Silk Workers Craftsman Guild, hand-paint the silk papers. After being cured and finished, the silk is then applied onto a robust wallpaper backing of the highest commercial grade.
Lighting was a big consideration when planning the sets; Dracula has to hide his aversion to sunlight and is also bringing new electric scientific innovations to London and Carfax Manor. “A lot of the design has to do with playing with shadow and light,” Bray says. “The paper is full of copper pigments and has an antiqued effect. The silk’s quality and texture plays with the light in ways a printed paper cannot.” Rather than presenting the usual dark, dank Gothic Castle Dracula, production designer Rob Harris and art director Jo Riddell added some whimsy to Dracula’s surroundings. Elements in the silk paper, like large birds and flowers, add dashes of joy and glamour to the sets. They also help form a more dashing and glamorous Dracula character, who is posing as an American entrepreneur in this take on the story. A team of Italian painters worked in tandem, painstakingly matching the trim colors and gilded elements on the woodwork. In addition, they painted the vignettes in the box trim molding, using the wallpaper as a base. “This transitions the wallpaper’s patterns through the rest of the set,” Bray adds.
The designers at Griffin and Wong are used to customizing their papers for clients in terms of colors and composition. (“It's okay to cut off flowers, but you don’t want to cut an animal in half during placement,” Bray says.) But this was a very large-scale, carefully calibrated project, much bigger than any project they had ever completed. They were provided very precise CAD drawings of the elevations, including measurements down to the centimeter. The designs were laid out and then hand-painted in China on 3-foot-wide rolls of silk. “There was no room for error and if the director changed the dimensions, we had to redo them,” he explains. They wound up shipping 100 rolls from China to the sets in Budapest via FedEx and Bray insists following the tracking for the three-day delivery was the most stressful part of the project. “Chinese New Year was about to begin and we got everything done just in time,” he says. After the rolls were packed and shipped to Budapest, he crossed his fingers and checked on the tracking for three days straight.
Over the second-story archways is another Griffin and Wong design, Baltazar. This paper combines a Renaissance evening-sky effect and a bevy of fantastic birds soaring toward the ceiling.
In the room shown above, there wasn’t time to produce the rolls before shooting, so Italian painters used stencils inspired by Griffin and Wong’s Versailles silk paper. The gold leaf work combined with the crystal lights and mirrors creates a sumptuous black room that’s more French palace than typical vampire castle.
“It was a thrill to work on such an exciting project with film-quality sets,” Bray says.
Dracula airs on NBC Fridays at 10 p.m.
Sources: Becky Harris, Houzz, and Carol Lewis, The Times, February 7, 2014.