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Julie Latsko is counting down the days to ‘Downton Abbey’

Julie Latsko

Julie Latsko

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Updated: February 1, 2013 11:51AM

The wait is almost over, my fellow “Downton Abbey” fanatics: Season 3 will begin on Jan. 6, 2013, via our local PBS station. The Brits didn’t have to wait as long as we did because the show premiered there in September to a record audience.

This visual treat will not disappoint, I assure you — since I’ve had a sneak peek.

Since its premiere in 2010, critics have praised the show as “an instant classic” that is “compulsively watchable,” and I agree. In 2011, Guinness World Records recognized the show as having the “highest critical review ratings for a TV show,” and it has been honored with Emmy and Golden Globe awards.

Yes, the show has everything from family scandals to world war to financial ruin, all of which keeps us entertained. However, the real star of the show is not Maggie Smith (who plays Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham) but rather the sprawling Edwardian mansion where the aristocratic Crawley family and their beloved servants live.

This soap opera, which opened in 1912 at Downton Abbey (the next season takes us through the year 1920), is actually filmed in Highclere Castle, located in Hampshire, England. Highclere sits on 1,000 acres and has been the seat of a real English aristocratic family, the Carnarvons, since the 17th century. The beautiful interiors have captured almost as many fans as the love story between cousins Lady Mary Crawley and Matthew Crawley.

The sets have been meticulously designed to accurately reflect the Edwardian period, which in turn has spawned great interest in English interiors and British decorating. Television shows that become cult classics have often inspired fashion and home décor — and “Downton Abbey” will prove to be no different.

The era of “Downton Abbey” was a fashionable time, inspired by the monarchy of King Edward VII. The Edwardian look is considered less ostentatious and less conservative then the Victorian period. Edwardian-inspired décor makes use of mahogany and wicker furnishings, accented with light fabrics in rich hues. You will also see loads of silver frames and beautiful flowers in every nook and cranny.

Now, you don’t have to be part of the Crawley or Carnarvon family to enjoy “Downton Abbey” inspired-interiors. There are countless Facebook and Pinterest pages dedicated to helping you design your own “Downton Abbey” interior. And regardless of your budget, you will soon be able to get the look and feel of an English country manor home because the show has been licensed for new products, which will include everything from home furnishings to kitchenware to apparel.

So next time the chafing dish being used by Mr. Carson (the butler) catches your eye, take comfort in knowing it’ll only be a matter of time before you can create your own Edwardian fantasy at home.

Julie Latsko donated her fee for writing this column to the Chicago Children’s Museum.

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