COTE DE TEXAS: BEHIND THE SCENES ON A SOUNDSTAGE

BEHIND THE SCENES ON A SOUNDSTAGE

 When you watch a movie or a TV show, you rarely think about the set design, unless it’s something fabulous like Something’s Gotta Give – the movie that influenced interiors for years.   Most sets aren’t that noteworthy.

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But…but…

Now that my new favorite show Outlander is in Season II – in Paris,  18th century Paris, no less,  the sets are fabulous and drool worthy.  But, although the setting is Paris, most  scenes are filmed at castles and gardens in Scotland and England – locations that are substitutes for Paris, such as Wilton House was.  The exterior scenes were filmed in Prague, not Paris.  Not one scene was filmed in Paris – at all.


The majority of the scenes take place on the soundstage that is located in Cumbernauld, Scotland.  Certainly not Paris. It’s hard to imagine how a soundstage in Scotland can become 18th Century Paris, but it does. 


Recently Starz published pictures of the soundstage showing how the different sets were created.   Since one of the most exquisites sets is Claire & Jamie Fraser’s Paris Mansion – I thought I would show you how the soundstage set goes from this:

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The empty soundstage in Cumbernauld, Scotland – this soundstage then becomes  Jamie & Claire’s Parisian house:

 image Yes.  That huge, empty soundstage becomes this set – which is so beautiful that when Caitriona Balfe who plays Claire first saw the set, said she wanted to move in here, for good.

Besides Starz releasing behind-the-scenes photos of the sets, they also showed the working models – something I wish they had done on Season One!


The Production Designer is Jon Gary Steele, who is incredibly talented and the Set Decorator is Gina Cromwell. What’s the difference between the two?   Steele designs the sets themselves – he’s the “architect” – while the Set Decorator actually does the interior design.  She shops for the furniture and accessories, just like any decorator would do. I’ve never really understood the difference before between those two, until I saw the working models and drawings – and realized that the Production Designer is probably an architect, or at least has drafting  experience.

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This is the to-scale model of Jamie & Claire’s apartment in Paris.  Jon Gary Steele drew the plans by hand and then had the model made, which is, in turn, used by many of the other departments.   In this plan, there is the 1) Exterior Courtyard 2) Winding Staircase and 3) Two Rooms:   Living Room & Bedroom/Dining Rooms.  The Exterior Courtyard is between the two rooms.  Surrounding it all is a large hall that is completely wallpapered in a tapestry!

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This view of the model shows the Exterior Courtyard – in the middle.  The room on the left is the living room.  At the right is the bedroom/dining room.   You can see that the hall behind the rooms has its own tapestry wallpaper – laid out TO SCALE!

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A model of the winding staircase with a to-scale actress to be sure it all is correctly proportioned.  Behind the stairs is a large oval oeil de boeuf window, which is typically 18th century.

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The set is starting to be built.   The rooms are all upstairs so that their French Doors will overlook the courtyard, as they would in real life.
This is the FOURTH soundstage that Starz/Outlander has built in Cumbernauld, Scotland for this series.  Just imagine for a minute the amount of business this one show has brought to this quiet region.

   Cumbernauld, a new Scotland town of 50,000 – was just recently developed in the 1950s as an offshoot of Glasgow.  Once Outlander is canceled (NO!!!) then other movie productions can rent out the soundstage.  Cumbernauld is hoping to become a destination for film, just as Hollywood is, and then Vancouver became, and on and on.

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The building of the apartment continues.   In the center – is the Exterior Courtyard which is located on the ground floor.  The apartment is on the second floor, which allows the French Doors to look down onto the courtyard.


Realize, also, that the apartment is just one of four main sets built on these soundstages:  The Apothecary, The Brothel, and Louise’s Apartment are also built from scratch.


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And the scaffolding goes up to build the winding staircase with the oval window.

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A peek at the staircase.  This will be where many important scenes will take place.

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The two rooms of the apartment – with the exterior courtyard below.  Those are the windows where the French doors will be.

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Inside looking out the French doors with their Juliet balconies, overlooking the courtyard.  The walls are painted a French blue/green with gilt moldings.

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The crown moldings are gilded, along with pilasters.

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Real wood flooring – in a Chevron Pattern.  (Notice, this is not Herringbone.  In Chevron the points meet flush.  In herringbone, the points are staggered:)

Personally, I wish they had chosen to use the Versailles Pattern.  After all, this is 18th century France – and they are hanging out with the King of France at Versailles!  But maybe Versailles Parquet was just TOO expensive to replicate.

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The Set Decorator has shown up with fabric to test against the wall color.  How many times have we all done this!!?!

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The Hallway:  the tapestry was painted on canvas.  Amazing!   Since it was on canvas, it will be able to be used again on another set.

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The arch in the Exterior Courtyard is built – the arch is where the carriages drive through.  Above is the apartment, overlooking the courtyard.

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And, here we go!  Claire is in her carriage in the streets of Paris!  Just don’t tell her she is actually in Prague.  Caitriona said when she heard Season 2 was in 18th Century Paris – she was so excited, until she found out they weren’t going to Paris but were going to be filming in Prague and Cumbernauld.  Major disappointment – although everyone ended up loving Prague.

 The Courtyard:

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Now, this is Hollywood magic.  Claire’s carriage is seen in Prague – going through the arches to her apartment.  And then…..

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Viola!  Her carriages goes through the arch in Prague, and ends up at the Courtyard on Cumbernauld, Scotland’s soundstage.

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The soundstage Courtyard.  Not quite 18th century cobblestones, but they are a good substitute.

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The courtyard.  That’s the front door to the apartment.  I just wish the stone was a bit more cream than beige.  That’s more in keeping with 18th century Paris.


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Claire, in her apartment, looking at the courtyard from her Juliet balcony.  I love this “Dior” dress. 

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Every detail is thought of:  park benches, fountains, lanterns.

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The front door with brass hardware and antique French lanterns.


 The Entry Hall:

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The entry hall – with its stone floor.  The door opens to a niche with a beautiful vase. At the left is a sconce and a bust.

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And here – Claire returns home;  her butler lets her in.   She’s not accustomed to such luxury!  Just a month ago she was struggling in the freezing Scotland, and now she is a Lady Of Leisure in Paris, which makes for much conflict.

 The Stairs:

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The staircase, with its beautiful gilded and scrolled banister, stone steps, and stone walls.  A large crystal chandelier lights the space – with candles, of course.

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The view from the upstairs landing.

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And in an iconic scene from the book and the series, the Red Dress! 


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Jamie’s a little concerned that her dress is much too low for the King of France – they are on their way to Versailles (Wilton House, of course, is where the Versailles scenes were filmed.)  But, the King is actually quite taken with Claire and her décolletage.

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This looks like a painting to me – Claire and her maid hurry down the stairs.

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Stairs in Versailles.  Could this have been an inspiration for Jamie & Claire’s apartment?  The curved stone walls are similar, the iron work is similar – especially the gilt accents.


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Or was the famous house museum Musée Nissim de Camondo the influencer?  The gilt and iron banister, the stone steps, the winding stairs, the oval window, even the pedestal and urn looks like Jamie and Claire’s apartment. 

The Halls:

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Upstairs – the halls with the tapestry.  This is the curved hall behind the stairs.


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The halls are furnished with consoles and chairs and crystal chandeliers. 

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And the door to the Living Room.

 The Living Room:

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The Living Room:  French furniture is covered in blue cut velvet.  Covering the floor is a rug (which was actually hand painted on a white rug!)   Antique mirrors pick up all the candlelight and reflect it back to other mirrors in the room.

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I’m sure that isn’t a working fireplace – but it certainly looks real!   Not sure why there is a Queen Anne table in the room?!?!?


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Love the antique chinoiserie screens.
 

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Across the room are the three windows with Juliet balconies that overlook the Courtyard.

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And how does the Living Room look on the screen?  In this view you can see the daybed that is between the two doors, along with the tapestries in the hall.  When seen on the screen, the rooms are much darker, more mysterious, with romantic candlelight.

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Before a dinner party, Jamie is in his gorgeous hand embroidered vest.  Even his injured hand becomes a work of art – he wears a fingerless leather type of glove/bandage.  Don’t even ask about the boots he wears!!!

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And the living room –before the dining party.


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Late at night, Claire in her pretty silk robe.

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The day bed with the two doors leading to the halls with the tapestries.  Of course the day bed becomes the site of an important scene between Jamie and Claire. 


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Here is the Louvre’s 18th Century Decorative Arts collection.  Designed by Jacques Garcia and opened three years ago, I think this may be where the Outlander designers got their inspiration from.   It looks remarkably similar to the color scheme and decorative elements used in Jamie & Claire’s Paris Apartment.

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Another view of the Louvre.  The mirrors are similar to those in the Outlander living room.  Here, the parquet is Versailles patterned, of course.  The are similar niches and gilt moldings in both rooms.

 image Was this the day bed at the Musée Nissim de Camondo that was an inspiration for Jon Gary Steele?  While I love these colors, the creams and pinks – the richer and deeper colors are needed for the Outlander sets, as most action takes place at night and with candlelight.   The deeper colors like the navy and purples show up better than the whites and grays would.  But isn’t this a beautiful room?  

Going to Paris?  Be sure to stop and visit this house!!

Steele explains his choice of the apartment’s color scheme:  “We went with taupe-gray walls throughout the whole apartment because we didn’t want it to be jarring when characters walked from one room to another.  But Paris was the most opulent place in the world at that time, so the colors I used are deep, dark, and rich.”

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Claire looking for Jamie, as usual,  walking the halls to the bedroom. 

The Bedroom/Dining Room:

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The fireplace in the bedroom/dining room.  I love the oval paintings.

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The bedroom is made to turn into the dining room with a few changes.  Here, the canopy bed is set between two French armoires.  The biggest change in the sets is that the bedroom has purple velvet walls while the dining room has damask wallpaper in the framed moldings.

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The room looks very romantic in candlelight.  I love the two paintings that flank the beautiful bedroom doors.

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Another view of the bedroom with the purple velvet walls.

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Claire in her blue and purple bedroom, chasing after Jamie, as usual. 

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The couple talk to their unborn baby girl, Faith.  This bed is a bit too Victorian for the era.  I’m surprised they chose it.

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Were these bedrooms at Versailles an inspiration for the Outlander bedroom?  A canopy bed, rich damask walls, crystal chandelier – maybe.

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And through the magic of Hollywood – the bedroom becomes the dining room.  The purple velvet is removed from the walls.   Instead, damask wallpaper is installed inside the molding sections.

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The staff get ready for the dinner party.

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The table is beautifully set with crystal wine glasses custom made for Outlander.

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It’s a large party for their first one in Paris!

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This civilized behavior didn’t last too long, of course.

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The prettiest view with the hall behind the dining room with the tapestries on view, and the shimmering crystal chandeliers.

 Louise’s Apartment:

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For Louise de Rohan’s apartment, the decor and style was similar to Jamie & Claire’s apartment, but the walls are burgundy.  The star of these scenes were the costumes.  Young Mary’s dress, in the center, is beautiful, especially the sleeves.

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I think they may have reworked Jamie and Claire’s living room set for this apartment.  The size is similar and there is the same nook.  In Claire’s apartment, the day bed was in the nook.  Here – there is a monkey cage instead.

 Next, the crew visited the Drummond Castle Gardens – aka The Versailles Gardens:

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Drummond Castle and Tower in 1803, before the present gardens were rebuilt.

One of the prettiest locations was Drummond Castle in Perthshire, Scotland.  The castle is known for its gardens – and most amazing, the gardens themselves are a “Listed Building” – Protected Category A, which is the highest given, while the castle’s mansion and tower are listed as Grade B only.   The castle grounds consists of the tower and mansion originally rom the 15th and 17th centuries, respectively, but both were rebuilt during Victorian times.   The gardens were designed in 1630 but they were rebuilt in the 19th century.

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The gates, installed in 1788, lead to Drummond Gardens. 

The original family lost the estate in 1750 after Culloden because of their involvement in the Jacobite Rebellion of both 1715 and 1745.   Their lands were returned in 1788 – at which time these gates were installed – announcing the victorious return of the Drummond family.

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The mile long road to Drummond Castle & Gardens is lined with beech trees.

It’s significant that Outlander chose this garden to film as the family has always had very strong Jacobite ties.  One Earl of Perth was captured by King James VII and fled to France for protection of the Jacobite court there, just as Jamie and Claire Fraser later did.  After Culloden, the state seized the castle and it was later sold back to the Drummond family.   The Drummond rebuilt the formal gardens in 1830.  The gardens were so spectacular that Queen Victoria herself came to see them in 1842.

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The approach to the terraced gardens with the tower on the left and the mansion on the right.   The gardens are laid out – two staircase flights below the mansion.


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A view of the tower and mansion gives you an idea of exactly how high the house sits above its gardens.


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The garden in full bloom – they are laid out in a Renaissance pattern.


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Early morning, late spring!  Gorgeous!!!


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The bridge was once the only way to reach the castle.
 

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And here are the Outlander stars, just loitering around in their finery.    The Drummond Garden was used for photographing many of the more outstanding costumes.

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King Louis of France in his gold pantsuit.

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Bonnie Prince Charles – the Scottish pretender to the throne – in front of the stone steps to the mansion and tower. 

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The three friends:  Louise, Mary, and Claire.

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Louise – her dress could not be more luscious.

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Sweet Mary.

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A good view of the box garden with heather.

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The amount of clothing made for this season is mind boggling.  All the designing, the embroidering, the sewing.

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Claire in the box garden.

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The show stopper – the red dress.   Actually, there are two versions.   This top is closed – while the other version is open.

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I love the two round circles of box with the statues inside.  You can judge just how large the garden is by how tiny the people look. 





 Going to Scotland?  Visit the Drummond Gardens HERE.

  Finally, one other location is notable.  In Prague, Outlander filmed several important scenes at the Strahov Monastery which houses two of the world’s most beautiful libraries.

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The Strahov Monastery was founded in 1143 and as you can imagine has had a long history of building and rebuilding after wars and fires and plagues through the centuries.   The older Theological Hall library was built in 1670 and the newer library, the Philosophical Hall, was built in 1779.

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Vltava River – the monastery and other antique buildings overlook the river.


    The monastery survived until the Communists took it over in 1950.  They were overthrown in 1989 and the church and the libraries are now restored.

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Since Outlander was filming Outdoor Locations in Prague, they used the Philosophical Hall as a stand in for Versailles Library where Jamie and the Minister of Finance play chess over several days.

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The older library, the Theological Hall.   This is so beautiful.  I especially love the masses of large globes in the room which are part of a large collection of 17th century astronomical globes.

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From the opposite side – another view.  Stunning!

Be sure to notice the ceiling, which is thickly encrusted in baroque stuccowork with painted cartouches.


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The Philosophical Hall – where Outlander filmed.


Visitors are not allowed into the actual library halls – it was found that the humidity from their breath! was harming the ceiling frescoes.  All that you are allowed to do is look at the halls through the door’s windows.  But, the two libraries are available to rent out for weddings and receptions, and for movies, too!  No wonder Jon Gary Steele said filming here was a “logistical nightmare!!!!”


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And the view of the other side of the room.   Notice there is a landing/balcony that rings the room.   The library was built this tall to fit the walnut shelves that were rescued from another monastery in South Bohemia.  To get to the second level, there are hidden spiral staircases in the corners.

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Jamie playing chess in the library.  Notice that the designer placed Jamie right in front of the standing bookcase, the beautiful piece of furniture in the room.  I doubt that was an accident.

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Of course Claire pays a visit or two to the library, here wearing her special stone that turns colors if she is poisoned.

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Not sure if all the chairs and tables were rented in Prague or if Outlander brought them with them?

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Too bad she wasn’t wearing her special necklace here because she drinks something that poisons her.   Be sure to notice the shelves – how the carvings jut about from the bookcases.

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Outside the library is The Hall of Natural Curiosities that includes grotesquely shriveled remains of sea creatures which were once passed off by sailors as “sea monsters.”   It looks like they have quite a collection of reptiles too.

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This library has a wonderful history – and there are so many interesting stories about their book collections.  This bookshelf is an absolute stunner.   And how amazing is it that back in the 18th century, this beautiful room full of bookshelves were moved here from another city and they fit perfectly.  Amazing.


Visiting Prague, stop by the libraries HERE.


But what is really amazing to me, is by watching a TV Series – how much you actually learn about architecture and historical sites like castles such as Wilton House and gardens such as Drummond.    When writing a simple blog story about a film location, and instead you fall, like Alice in Wonderland, down the Hole, and end up learning about a beautiful library in Prague, of all places!

I hope you have enjoyed taking the journey with me!!!

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A story about Paris?  Here is a sale of things from Paris flea markets.  HERE.

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You can’t talk about Paris without thinking of Chanel.  Vintage Chanel sale HERE











15 comments :

  1. Well, now I'll have to watch the show -this is all AMAZING!

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  2. Wow, thank you for all the work in this post! Loved every single frame of it.

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  3. Thank you so much for this in-depth look at my current obsession, Outlander! What a wonderful way to start off my week!

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  4. Joni, You do the most in-depth posts. You really should be hired as an editor of a large publication. I am not following Outlander, but I want to second your suggestion of visiting Musee Nissim de Camondo which I think is Paris's best small museum. It is a contrast between beauty and tragedy. This Jewish family was murdered by the Natzi's. I have taken hundreds of photos of Camondo and even use the staircase photo on the cover of my furniture product catalog. Another small museum in Paris that is great is Jacquemart Andre. Can't wait to go back to Paris to revisit these small museums.

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  5. One of your best posts, ever! The attention to detail is truly impressive.
    And thanks to Cote de Texas, this household has become addicted to Outlander.

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  6. Another education! I learn so much here. I have to read the posts several times, which is more of a commitment than you can imagine--Internet is S-L-O-W in the fin fond de France rurale. But I pick up different details each time.

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  7. Absolutely fascinating! Thank you so much for taking us down your rabbit hole!

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  8. Magnificent research, but I look forward to more posts on less "outlander" style, and more approachable design.

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  9. Set designers...the unsung HEROES!! Fabulous....anyone want to paint a rug??!!?? This was totally wonderful..thanx!! franki

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  10. Bravo Joni! Another great post of my favorite obsession show, Outlander! Fascinating the detail they put into just a few minutes of onscreen time. Love all of their work!
    Thanks,
    Sarah

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  11. OMG -- I want to LIVE in that garden but that's after I live in that library.

    Joni, you're killing me with these posts. I'm going out now to buy a Powerball ticket so when I win a gazillion dollars I can have a garden AND library just like the ones you've shown!!

    Gina from The Midwest

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  12. Another amazing post! I started watching Outlander after season 1 because of your fascinating background on the show. It is a truly outstanding show. The amount of effort that goes into making a period piece like this is truly monumental. I have learned so much from reading your blog :) Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. Michelle - from Houston also!

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  13. I want to support "swedecollection's" comment about the Musée Nissim de Camondo. Truly one of the most memorable places I have visited in Paris. While my sisters and I were touring the "house," we looked out a window and noticed a very elegantly dressed woman and a gentleman leaving the building. We happened to be standing next to the guestbook and read their signatures, which identified them as a count and countess! I am a huge "Outlander" fan dating back to the day I plucked the first volume from the "new arrivals' shelf at my library. And I am now a huge fan of you! Thank you SO much for these blog posts! Fascinating! Any chance you will write more about the amazing architectural/decorative wonders of Prague?

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  14. Joni,
    Are you reading this blog http://www.terrydresbach.com/louise/#comments by terry...costume designer. It has great detail about the creation of the many fabulous outfits. And on the starz site you can find the actual scripts with some annotations. The sets are wonderful, and remember they must allow for serious tv lighting and cameras. The music composer also is good to look up to see his reasoning for music choice. He uses a theme written by one of the real historical characters for that person. Can't recall the link, but it is out there. Loved you take on it all in your blog.

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