Having recently moved to my own place, I now have a new excuse opportunity to indulge my interest in all things home décor-related! Admittedly, most of my tastes have come from costume dramas because those were the films I was obsessed with in my formative years, though I also have a penchant for Japanese and Scandinavian minimalism (who doesn’t, though? 😂). Sticking with the former category, I wanted to share three movies with interior design I absolutely love. These are all films based on classic literature.

Steampunk: Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

Have I mentioned this is my favorite film of all time? It’s dated, and a terrible adaptation on many levels, but I adore the aesthetic, the actors, and the music. This movie is a whole mood. I can’t get over the set design for the Nautilus submarine: it combines the elegance of Victorian-industrial with bold, mid-century color-contrast between the ocean blue and the red upholstery. So cool.


Late Victorian: Sherlock Holmes (1984–1994)

The Sherlock Holmes series with Jeremy Brett is, by far, the most accurate adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. Though they were working on a TV budget, the series features some wonderful sets that match very closely the illustrations by Sidney Paget. They managed to make the late Victorian era look fairly “livable”; this series feels more like going back in time than watching a costume drama. I really like the tea set they used here, Mason’s Mandalay Blue, which instead of reflecting the austere nature of Holmes reflects the warm hospitality of Mrs. Hudson, as it should. 🙂


Edwardian: Howards End (2018)

This spring I watched E.M. Forster’s Howards End starring Matthew Macfadyen and Hayley Atwell. I didn’t like the second half of the story, but the sets and costumes were serious eye candy. Never have I wanted orange walls so badly!!

26 thoughts on “Interior Designs from Classic Literature – Victorian, Edwardian, Steampunk

  1. memories! i loved the first two movies/series also… J. Brett WAS Sherlock! i still remember Kirk Douglas fighting the giant squid; James Mason was an ideal Nemo… never seen HE, or read it tho; one of the unavoidable gaps in my reading history… great pictures, tx!

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  2. Loved the 1954 movie 20000 Leagues Under The Sea! It’s also incidentally one of my favorite books along with Lighthouse At The End Of The World! Congratulations on your new place, I hope all is going swimmingly 🙂
    Dean

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    1. Thanks! It’s been going well so far. 😀
      Also I think you are the first person I’ve met online who’s also read Lighthouse, except maybe Mudpuddle (?). It’s a great story!

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  3. You are so right that Jeremy Brett was the definitive Holmes. I really enjoyed the series.

    Also, like you, I always noticed the interior of the sets. They can use some wonderful color combinations sometimes.

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  4. Ooooh! They are sumptuous interiors. I don’t mind the orange walls either. Two of our boys painted the walls in their bedrooms a lovely red, and two used a disgusting shade of blue which has taken so many coats of other paint to colour over. I think you’d have to have the right sort of building for some of those. We’ve painted all our downstairs rooms white just because we don’t get a lot of light coming. It works even if it’s not very interesting. I also like the outfit the woman in the last photo is wearing!

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    1. I love her outfit, too! And that’s a great point about lighting…it makes such a difference in the actual wall color. I used to have this red in my old bedroom, but it only worked because there was a lot of natural light and some white walls to balance it out as well: https://www.myperfectcolor.com/paint/413924-dutch-boy-db603-2-pepperberry

      The one downside of where I’m renting is that painting is not allowed (or at least, not without painting it back later, which I’m not up for). So I’m working with golden-sand walls, coincidentally pretty close to Sherlock Holmes’s in these pictures. 😀 In my future house, I’d totally consider orange, haha.

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      1. Nice. At one stage, maybe 20 yrs ago, Heritage colours were very popular here. The Pepperberry would possibly be classed as Heritage. It’s a bit of a pain not being able to paint in rental properties or even to hang a picture. When I was renting years ago the landlord was happy for us to paint the place as long as we paid for it, which we did as it was so ugly the way it was.

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    1. Will do!! 🙂 Have you seen or liked the Emma Thompson adaptation of Howards End? I found this version so frustrating, but I don’t know if it’s the book itself or just this film. It was entertaining, though.

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  5. I’ve not seen any of these, Sherlock Holmes is on the list (its the classic one after all), but I think I need to add 20,000 Leagues Under the sea. I love this idea. I don’t know if I note the design enough in movies, at least positively, I do know I liked details about 2015 Cinderella, but that whole movie’s aesthetic is me, I’m determined to have wedding dress like hers.

    This is awesome, you could make it a series if you have other movies in mind. I was watching I think The Sorry Girls do a pirate bedroom, not Pirates of Caribbean inspired per se, but definitely reminiscent. Not my style but still super fun. Now, I want to go down a movie design rabbit hole.

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    1. Yes, the Cinderella designs were beautiful!
      A series is a fun idea. 🙂 Speaking of rabbit holes, I was thinking this evening of Alice Through the Looking Glass, which was a film a lot of people disliked (I was in the minority I guess). Anyways, it has some spectacular sets and costumes.

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  6. Too bad there is not a ‘Love’ button beside the ‘Like’ button for this post…. Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was the BEST! I thought that I was the only one who watched movies/shows more than once to appreciate the background designs!

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  7. Hi Marian, I arrived here via your YouTube videos.

    20,000 Leagues Under The Sea has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid! I consider it one of my favorite sci-fi films (along with 2001), even though it may not really fit into that category well. So many great actors as well – it was my introduction to James Mason (who I’d recognize later in North By Northwest), Kirk Douglas, Peter Lorre. Also made me want to read more of the children’s editions of Jules Verne books (also prompted by an offhand remark by Doc in Back to the Future III).

    Disney has released the movie on Blu Ray, but through some sort of fan club subscription. But I hope it will be available to the public eventually!

    Incidentally, if you ever find yourself in Tokyo, go out of your way to see DisneySea, which has an entire area inspired by the film. A whole section of the park is supposed to be the island of Volcania, with a lagoon in the middle, with none other than the Nautilus docked inside! I didn’t get to go inside, but I saw it up close, and from there it’s wonderful to hear its distinctive ambient operating noise. There’s also a ride that’s loosely based on submarines, but it seemed like it was kind of cheesy, and I didn’t have a chance to ride it.

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    1. Hi David, nice to hear from you again. 🙂 Yes, my obsession with this movie started in childhood as well. My siblings and I used to reenact scenes on home video… very goofy but fun!

      I’d heard about the Tokyo exhibit – I will definitely want to see it when I get to Tokyo someday. I wish Disney would have created the same thing here in the states; I think a lot of people would enjoy it, since steampunk has reemerged in pop culture.

      Incidentally I think there was going to be a movie remake of this story, but I haven’t heard anything about it recently.

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  8. What an informative post! I love Edwardian: Howards End (2018) so much, every scene is so aesthetically pleasing. Fashion and interior design were also well brought together. The orange wall – blue door combination is so stunning I can’t take my eyes off them!

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