A Downton Abbey interiors supplier is set to see her business boom. Maria Hopwood, 62, is the CEO of upholstery business Deckchair Stripes, the Chester-based upholstery business that has supplied the lawn furniture for ITV’s Downton Abbey in new scenes for series four.
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora and Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley relax in the garden in series 1
‘After years of French-influenced neutral designs, Britain was just ready for the bright stripes,’ says Hopwood.
The company sells fuss-free ready-made deckchairs, as well as striped material for re-upholstering chairs. So why not up-cycle like the Edwardians and give faded garden furniture a Downton update for next year?
From Edwardian times until the 1960s, British hardware shops stocked up on heavy cotton lengths for the annual national ritual of sprucing up old deckchairs ready for the summer.
While the British channel is sending national treasures Jim Carter, Dame Maggie Smith and Michelle Dockery to America to market the hit drama in the U.S., Hopwood is set to launch a States-based website in a few weeks’ time herself.
‘What we have attempted to do is to bring back the retro stripe in all its full English glory, but to give it a modern twist and offering interior fabrics, trimmings and accessories for beach, home and garden,’ says Ms Hopwood.
The trained teacher quit a job in finance to open an antiques shop, but it was on a trip to India six years ago that she got inspired to delve into upholstery.
She spotted the stripy material that is now the brand’s signature on a 2007 trip to the subcontinent. She was so taken by the fabric that she filled her cases with it and brought as much back to British shores as she could carry.
Last year, the company turned over £450,000 and her Deckchair Stripes have featured in the film Nanny McPhee and Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. They’ve also been used by the Historic Caravan Club, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the English National Ballet.
The business hopes to ‘bring back the retro stripe in all its full English glory but to give it a modern twist’.
While Ms Hopwood was hoping to raffle off the deckchairs supplied to Downton Abbey, the production team have kept them.
Episodes featuring the bright and bold, circus stripe furniture will air towards the end of series four, in about a month’s time.
Downton Abbey mania hits the High Street
And now it will be possible to emulate the make-up of The Dowager Countess of Grantham, and even smell like Lord Grantham, thanks to a new line of Downton Abbey-themed beauty products being launched by Marks & Spencer form October 12 in 250 stores and online. The range includes soap, nail polish, lip gloss, lotion and scented candles.
The items are whimsically packaged and inscribed with quotations from the series, including the advice offered by Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess of Grantham in the first episode: ‘No one wants to kiss a girl in black.’
The Downton Abbey Fragranced Candle (£8.50) and the three-shade Lip Gloss collection (£9.50)
‘I’d expect no less’: Downton Abbey Signature Soaps (£6)
Downton merchandising in the U.S. and Canada is handled by Knockout Licensing, which has struck deals for a jewellery range from Danbury Mint and Downton-themed Christmas ornaments from Kurt Adler – both going on sale later this year.
It also has a licensing agreement with figurine manufacturer Bradford Exchange, raising fans’ hopes for a range of Downton dolls – Scheming Thomas and Admirable Bates, perhaps.
North American fans also can soon drink Downton Abbey wine, marketed by Wines That Rock, the California company behind Rolling Stones’ 40 Licks Merlot and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon.
‘No one wants to kiss a girl in black’: Downton Abbey Lip Balm Duo (£5)