Interior Designs from Classic Literature – Victorian, Edwardian, Steampunk

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!!

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Darkest Hour (2017)

I have started sharing movie reviews (of films not related to classic literature) on my personal blog. Here’s the latest one, on Darkest Hour (2017).

gifted w/ thought

Darkest Hour follows the early days of Winston Churchill’s appointment as prime minister, following after Neville Chamberlain’s resignation in 1940. Britain’s position on the continent is fragile and a German invasion seems imminent when Churchill takes office. Eccentric and often drunk, he must maintain a delicate balance in the political parties, as well as gain the support of King George VI, while making decisions that mean life or death for the common man and Britain as a whole.

Though the beginning was a bit awkward, overall I really enjoyed this film. The pace and script remind me of a play; instead of giving us a sweeping overview, it simply focuses on Churchill (vividly portrayed by Gary Oldman), his wife Clementine, and his secretary Elizabeth (Lily James, who played Rose in Downton Abbey), as well as the various political figures in Churchill’s circle. His speeches play a large role in…

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Howards End (2020) – Mini-Rant About Character Arcs and the Meaning of Self

My family and I just finished watching Howards End (2020), a 4-part TV series based on the novel by E. M. Forster. I haven’t read the book – I disliked A Passage to India and A Room with a View – so I don’t know if it’s a good adaptation. From what I could tell, it was a beautifully produced and tastefully filmed series, with lovely costumes and first-rate performances by Matthew Macfadyen (aka Arthur Clennam from Little Dorrit) and Hayley Atwell (Mansfield Park). Fans of costume dramas will definitely relish the lush English countryside and sensitive character portrayals.

HOWEVER.

I hated the story. HATED IT. I officially give up on Forster.

Howards End in a Nutshell (spoiler free)

Howards End follows the lives of the Schlegel siblings – Margaret, Helen, and “Tibby” – after they meet the enigmatic Wilcox family on a trip to Germany. The Wilcoxes live on a beautiful property called Howards End, which Helen first goes to visit on her own. They are a pretty conservative family: Mr. Wilcox taking a pragmatic view of the world that doesn’t concern itself too much with social works and Mrs. Wilcox having no part in the feminist ideals espoused by Helen. In spite of their differences, Mrs. Wilcox and Margaret form an unlikely friendship, which has far-reaching consequences after disaster strikes both families.

Without giving too much away – the gist of the story is that, by the end of massive circumstantial and manufactured ordeals, nearly every character in the movie does a complete 180 in their core principles and values. (The ending is horribly tidy as a result.) The characters’ actions were, from what I could tell, all for the sake of staving off loneliness. It bothered me greatly – and I do not think this is what a character arc should be. Am I wrong?

Who Are We, Though?

Lately I’ve had several great discussions with fellow readers and family on the nature of self, identity, and what it means to be “you.” What metaphysical and/or physical elements constitute a person? Is there anything about us that is unchangeable throughout our lives?

Now obviously a person’s values can change as they get older and mature. It’s likely cause for concern if someone doesn’t change at all. But how much of that is part of our unique identity? Or is none of it?

So the alternative is that the essence of ourselves exists, somehow, outside of our principles and values. But if that is true, then we can’t be held personally, morally responsible for anything, right? That can’t be right, because “a tree is known by its fruit.” What we do is an extension of ourselves. If we do something (or as especially, don’t do something) on principle, it is a reflection of ourselves.

I don’t know what to think, TBH.

So…

Bringing it back to Howards End, I feel like Forster committed a literary crime by cutting his characters’ feet out from under them Because Reasons and then making them do things they wouldn’t have done before Because Everyone Abandoned Me. In other words, I think a character arc should end up on higher ground, not some inverse parallel universe.

On the other hand, maybe that is the point? Maybe our principles and values are only as good as the support we get from the collective. But in that case, I would say they aren’t principles and values at all if you don’t live by them personally (and if they aren’t ever tested).

So maybe the characters of Howards End are just a bunch of spineless people spitting out platitudes. WHY would I want to read or watch a story about people that are like that?!!

Anyways… I try to keep my reviews fairly positive but this show left me Upset as you can see. Let me know your thoughts on Howards End and/or this topic. No worries, I got my rant out of my system and won’t argue. 😆