Slideshow: Secrets from the Set of Mr. Selfridge
When Mr. Selfridge's season 2 production designer Sonja Klaus signed on, there was no shortage of lush and challenging projects to entice her, as she described to MASTERPIECE in April, 2014. In behind the scenes slides and commentary, get the inside scoop from the designer who had to think big like Harry Selfridge and creatively like Agnes Towler, from Tomb Raider to Toulouse-Lautrec, to bring Selfridges and other season 2 locations to life.
Selfridges: Under Renovation!
Because the exterior of the Selfridges store is not "pack struck," or dismantled to be easily reassembled, production designer Sonja Klaus had to redesign and rebuild it on location Kent's historic Chatham Dockyard.
The Selfridges Storefront
Klaus redrew the exterior and changed part of Duke Street, which runs down the side.
This Old House: Harry's Home Redesign
Reimagining the Selfridge residence five years after the first series, it made sense to Klaus that Harry would keep up with the styles and the fashions of the time since he was in the retail and décor business.
Klaus made many changes to Harry's house, from adding a huge fireplace to changing the location of the dining room, so that it could be serviced logically from the kitchen. She changed all the wallpapers, lighting, and furniture, and completely redid Rose's bedroom, knocking through a wall to create a dressing room.
Designer Dumpster Diving
Klaus often uses fabrics she's collected on travels and other projects, and got Rose's bedspread from a piece she'd saved from her work as set decorator on the Russell Crowe film Gladiator. When the production ended and the bedspread was thrown out, Klaus rescued it from a dumpster and kept it beautifully preserved for years. She reluctantly let the fabric go when her drapesman, Mike, asked to use it in Mr. Selfridge Season 2. But then he went after another treasured fabric: Leftovers of a beautiful silk she'd bought for the Angelina Jolie film Tomb Raider. When they reupholstered Rose's bed with the fabric, Klaus, who'd held onto the fabric for a over decade, sighed, "Oh, that was my dream home, that piece." Mike quipped, "Never mind, this can be your dream home!"
Down the Rabbit Hole: Delphine's
Klaus knew she wanted to make Delphine's mysterious and disorienting. Was Delphine's on the first floor? The second floor? A basement? "When you go inside, you're disorientated as a punter, so you're not sure...there's lots of rooms and corridors and it's a meandering sort of thing, a rabbit warren of spaces. It was important to have that feeling so that you feel like you were possibly going up, but going down, across, over a building maybe, into another building and down again."
Who is Delphine?
Klaus wanted to make the club as mysterious as the character herself. Asking herself "Who is Delphine?" Klaus joked, "The back story is that she does fake passports and she's a money swindler…She can't just run a nightclub and have had a couple of husbands. Oh, no, no, she's much more intense than that." To that end, she wanted Delphine's to work in the day as well. "You kind of wanted it to work daytime as one thing and not quite to have that grubby, dirty, kind of after-party feeling. You want to know that maybe she could have someone over there for a cup of coffee. Because that's how she was as a character, I think. There was some sort of elegance about her."
Faded Grandeur: Peacocks & Poppy
For colors and fabrics, Klaus turned to the Edwardian period and the sense of "faded grandeur" she was trying to capture, with the blues and greens of peacocks, poppy, and terra cottas with gold and greens. She explains "It's always very important when you're doing a period thing that you need to make sure that people are going back with you, that you're not pretending to do period. So you tend to look at art. It's difficult to look at photographs, because most of them are black and white. And so you look at artists. [The] tendency is to go to Toulouse-Lautrec, in that direction. I looked at [late 19th century British painters] Alma Tadema and Lord Leighton because they used the colors then that were popular then, and it gives it that sense of period."
The Flexible Floorplan
The Selfridges shop floor was constantly struck (dismantled) and revamped to serve as a different department in the store. The ground floor also was the Palm Court and Ladies Fashion.
Champagne Dreams! The Palm Court
Klaus made substantial changes to the Palm Court restaurant, adding a champagne bar in the entranceway and building an outdoor terrace. But she was most proud of the semicircular booth seating she installed because from the other side of the wall, where the ladies' fashions department was, it appeared as though the booths were changing rooms for the ladies. She explains, "In actual fact, it was me being clever, because I was disguising the fact that they were actually the other side of the booths in the Palm Court!"
Making Scents: The Perfume Counter
Klaus and her team launched Selfridge's perfume department by remembering scents that their mothers and grandmothers wore: Yardly, Guerlin, Floris, Shalimar, Caron, Penhaligon's and more. After researching which ones were right for 1914, they approached the companies and were surprised to receive many valuable bottles from the perfume houses' archives. The French house, Caron, lent large crystal and 24-karat gold urns. Customers used to bring their own perfume bottles and the undiluted perfume was decanted into them at the counter.
Other historic companies like Yardley, Bronnley sent archival boxes of soaps and bottles. Penhaligon's particularly delighted Klaus, who said that once she'd seen their great big bottle, "you don't just want the small ones. You think, I want one of those!"
In Good Hands
Finding enough historically accurate inventory to stock the gloves in the accessories department was a challenge made easier by a generous loan from the British company Dent and Sons (founded in 1777). Dents sent 180 pairs of women's leather gloves and the jointed hand glove forms on which to display them. Other gloves, which had been bought in auctions for Season 1, had to be steamed and pressed flat to appear brand new.