Those Historical Interiors on HBO's The Gilded Age

Sun, Feb 20, 2022

Are you watching The Gilded Age on HBO? I am, and it feels very old school to wait in anticipation each week for a new episode (usually I find TV shows years late and binge all at once). The actors are phenomenal, especially Christine Baranski, whose character, an arch and witty matriarch, seems custom-made for the actor.

An ornate bedroom set design for The Gilded Age, historical drama

But can we talk about those interiors? The Gilded Age is set in New York during the late 19th century, a time when capitalism was being invented and self-made millionaires were a new thing.

This is the period when those huge mansions were built in Newport, Rhode Island as “summer cottages."

And when Biltmore, a chateau-style palace of nearly 180,000 square feet, was built by a Vanderbilt heir in Asheville, North Carolina. The Russells, one of two main families in the show (Mr. and Mrs. Russell are played by Carrie Coon and Morgan Spector, both amazing in those roles), are based on the Vanderbilts.

With such a grand historical backdrop for the show, the set design was going to be critical. Designer Bob Shaw turned to historical resources and even an architectural historian to hit the right notes. He also sourced wallpaper and fabrics from a New York manufacturer that specializes in historic designs.

Part of the plot revolves around the Russells’ grand Manhattan ballroom. The ballroom scenes were actually filmed in the music room at The Breakers, a Vanderbilt mansion in Newport. Other Newport mansions were used for filming too.

Production also filmed right in the heart of Manhattan, in Gramercy Park, dropping imported cobblestone and other purpose-built features to take the neighborhood back 150 years. People in the area during filming snapped some crazy photos of the scenes and shared them on Instagram. 



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