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How Netflix designed the magnificent interiors of ‘Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story’

The highly anticipated prequel Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story has arrived on Netflix, and with it comes a masterclass in set design. From the sumptuous historic interiors, eye-candy costumes and dazzling jewels to locations that read like a who’s who of British stately homes, it’s what we’ve come to expect from the series franchise. As showrunner Shonda Rhimes says: “I wanted to convey a sense of lushness and luxury, and what it was like to live in a time where…if you were of a certain class, anything was available to you.”

Set during the design-rich Georgian and Regency eras, the story centres around the marriage and subsequent reign of the young 17-year-old Queen Charlotte and her husband King George III (played by India Amarteifio and Corey Mylchreest as their younger selves). Actors Golda Rosheuvel as the older Queen Charlotte, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Danbury and family matriarch Lady Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell) reprise their roles from the original Bridgerton series as the show’s storyline is depicted in a before-and-after format.

Hugh Sachs as Brimsley and Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte in Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story in Effect Magazine
Production designer David Ingram oversaw the lavish sets on Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. Pictured: Hugh Sachs as Brimsley and Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte (Photo: Liam Daniel/Netflix)

Masterfully designed by Australian-born and London-based production designer David Ingram, the task was daunting. Some 600-plus sets needed to be designed, from a soundstage at Shinfield Studios to the grandeur of the country’s most pedigreed estates. Blenheim Palace doubling as Buckingham Palace (referred to in the script as Buckingham House) and the 17th-century estate Belton House that became the couple’s palatial digs at Kew Palace are just a few of the locations ready for their cinematic close-up.

“It was my first time to work in the UK, and it was a fantastic opportunity to come in on such a great project and be introduced to all these fantastic stately homes not as a visitor,” Ingram tells Effect. “I bought a lot of books of the period on stately homes, and at the end of the day, I just let it filter through.”

India Amarteifio as Young Queen Charlotte and Corey Mylchreest as Young King George in Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story (Photo: Liam Daniel/Netflix)

Covering the two time periods of Georgian England and the original Bridgerton’s Regency dictated the style of the sets. “The Georgian style is very reflective of the character of King George,” says the designer. “We used strong lines, clean and bold, which George expressed to the public eye, and a lot of architecture to present him as our strong character. For the Regency styles, there is a strong celebration of colour.” Expressing the characters through colour was both a design and a narrative tool – Charlotte receives a gold palette indicating the resilience in her solitude and marriage, and the King’s decor is characterised by strong, rich golds and reds and eventually, a more subdued palette of warm brown and walnut as his mental capacity declines.

The Georgian style is very reflective of the character of King George. We used strong lines, clean and bold, and a lot of architecture to present him as our strong character.

David Ingram, production designer, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

Spanning the eras of 1714 to 1830, Georgian style is characterised by symmetry and the use of classical motifs such as Doric and Corinthian columns that translates to gilt moulding, regal royal blue walls, damask draperies, and a bold red colour scheme for the Queen’s bedroom. Designed with a replica of her actual bed and dressing table at Buckingham Palace, the designers added four mattresses for height. In contrast, Regency style (1811 to 1820) is more opulent, with a focus on plasterwork, stucco and curved lines. Taking design cues from the porcelain line, the Wedgewood Blue colour scheme for the Bridgerton family from the original is recreated, illustrated by rooms filled with mahogany and rosewood, colour and pattern, and swag and jabot window treatments.

Queen Charlotte’s bedroom was designed with a replica of her actual bed and dressing table at Buckingham Palace. The designers added four mattresses to match the typical height of beds of the period (Photo: Liam Daniel/Netflix)

Since a large number of productions film in the UK and certain items were unavailable at the prop houses, set decorator Kevin Downey sourced furnishings from antique houses and flea markets, while many items were made bespoke, and others were restored. “When George and Charlotte bathe in Episode 3, you may have noticed the bath was a sight to behold,” says Downey of the scene-stealing tub. “We found it in a very dilapidated state, restored the timbers, lined the inside with pleated linen and picked out the carved swans in gold leaf.” The set decorator describes the end result – appropriately – as looking “fit for a king and queen.”

Resourcefulness and adaptability are no small parts of the design process. For the finale ball sequence, Downey and his team designed a deconstructed ballroom on the grounds of Blenheim Palace, complete with floral displays, chandeliers, canapes and performers. “When we saw the space at the tech scout, we notice there was a sundial right in the middle of where we were putting the dancefloor,” says Downey. “We were not allowed to remove it, so we built a plinth to cover it and designed a massive revolving statue of David holding the world on his shoulders to sit on top. It looks truly magnificent as a centrepiece.” 

And while accuracy is an integral part of designing a period show, it’s not always possible to fully create an iconic setting such as Buckingham Palace in the 1700s. “We tried to be period-perfect but did have to take some liberties as we were shooting at Blenheim and there is not a direct translation to Buckingham Palace,” notes Ingram. “I love architecture, history, and architectural details, and there is a certain line you can cross for the emotional journey of the characters.”

We found it in a very dilapidated state, restored the timbers, lined the inside with pleated linen and picked out the carved swans in gold leaf.

Kevin Downey, set decorator, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

Taking a page from history, it is rumoured that Queen Charlotte was an interior design aficionado, an avid botanist and gardener, and introduced the tradition of Christmas trees to England. In later years, she was a vital part of the designs at Frogmore House (more recently used for the wedding reception of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex).

India Amarteifio and Sam Clemmett in a reproduction of Buckingham Palace (referred to in the show as ‘Buckingham House’) at Blenheim (Photo: Liam Daniel/Netflix)

Key sets include the opulent glittering balls, the Queen’s coronation, a royal funeral, and one of the standouts – King George’s observatory at Kew Palace (constructed on a soundstage). A devotee of astronomy, the King commissioned an observatory in 1769 with architect Sir William Chambers that housed a towering reflecting telescope. “Beautiful and simple in its design, we made up our own look,” Ingram details. “Since the best plaster in the world is in the UK, we designed statues and moulds. The telescope was the central piece where he could look at (the planet) Venus,” which becomes a metaphor for his character looking for love. Design elements include architectural models, measuring tools, and paintings of animals and nature.

And not all successful set design is about interiors – exterior components such as landscaping and the lavish food scenes also need designing. For the Buckingham orangery scenes, Belton House featured not only a real-life orangery but gave the designers a chance to plant an actual vegetable garden filled with tomatoes, carrots, kale, onions and potatoes – useful in depicting the “Farmer George” side of the King.

Part entertainment and part history lesson (with some fictional liberties added), the result is a small show with a large production value, offering viewers the ultimate escape into a world of elegance and refinement.

Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is available for streaming on Netflix

Read more: Interior Designers I Interiors |  Design | Production Design