By now, you’ve no doubt heard the chatter of Netflix’s new hit series, Bridgerton. The period drama, which is set in 19th century London, has taken off like a rocket due to its Gossip Girl-esque juicy storylines, jaw-dropping costumes, and eye-popping visuals. From its gorgeous filming locations and set designs to its beautiful props and extravagant floral displays, the series is basically a work of art, much of which has been the handiwork of the production designer, Will Hughes-Jones.
As the show's aesthetic guru, Hughes-Jones has helped showrunners Shonda Rhimes, Chris Van Dusen and Betsy Beers bring Bridgerton to life in a truly unique way, mixing historical elements with fresh, modern details in order to create the grandiose backdrops that have captivated its audience. “These guys don’t mess about,” he joked of his producers in a recent telephone interview with Brides.
Neither does Hughes-Jones. Everything—from the lovely wisteria you see covering the front of the Bridgerton mansion, which took two days to hang on three separate occasions, to the breathtaking Catalina staircase Hughes-Jones constructed for the Featherington home (“I now understand why people don’t build them anymore,” he laughed), has been handcrafted by the creative and his team to the delight of viewers the world over. eBay reported a 300% increase in sales for wisteria alone after the show's debut!
Even the rain you saw actors Phoebe Dynevor (Daphne Bridgerton) and Rége-Jean Page (Simon Bassett) dancing in for the season finale was facilitated by the production designer. “We ended up building that in the studio [with a] rain rig over the top of the whole set,” Hughes-Jones revealed. “We shot it in January, and it was just about freezing outside, and Daphne is there in the flimsiest dress—we had to make sure that the rain was hot.”
And those stunning fireworks that were shooting off above the cast’s heads during the inaugural episode? All real. “That was a really exciting thing to do. It was the first time in our shooting period we’d done something really big,” Hughes-Jones recalled.
I think the thing about it is they didn’t want to make a big statement.
Needless to say, with so many over-the-top moments, many fans expected a wedding for the ages for the show’s main characters, Simon Bassett and Daphne Bridgerton. And yet, the two were married in a simple, elegant-yet-understated ceremony with just a few cast members in attendance. “I think the thing about it is they didn’t want to make a big statement,” Hughes-Jones says. Chris was very keen that it should feel like that.”
The absence of opulence didn’t make the couple’s big day any less special, however. In fact, as Hughes-Jones points out, it made for “a much more intimate moment. We wanted to create that beautiful floral world in a much more subtle way."
We wanted to create that beautiful floral world in a much more subtle way.
The small, close feel of the couple’s nuptials was in line with the microweddings that many brides and brides-to-be have turned to in recent months amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “My niece actually got married in a COVID wedding a couple of weeks ago,” Hughes-Jones told us. “Obviously, weddings go into the evening, [so we implemented some] festive lighting,” he said. “I think it really just makes the whole place come alive if you’re having to do it in a tent…with 10 of your nearest and dearest.”
His other pro tip for creating memorable décor with limited resources? Eye-catching flowers, of course! "It just brings it alive [and is] not an expensive thing to do," he reasoned. "Even if you go off into the countryside [and] take some wildflowers from the hedgerow."
As for Simon and Daphne's fictional reception, which took place in the stark lobby of the Bridgerton’s fictional home, it was equally minimalist, with simple table linens and bouquets. The one extravagance? A massive wedding cake centerpiece that Hughes-Jones called "a marvel” at 4.5-foot tall. In addition to its impressive height, the confection-like creation (it contained no actual cake) was extremely detailed, right down to the Bridgerton crest icing and the Hastings crest found within the cake.
It's that sort of detailing that has made the show's production such a success. In one scene, the flowers, which were largely artificial, had to be hand-painted Alice in Wonderland style to match the blue hue of the cast's wardrobe. “Because the show takes place in the debutante season, which is a three or four week period in the early spring, we [had] to maintain spring for the better part of nine months,” Hughes-Jones revealed. “We had to use a lot of artificial and a lot of silk florals. … We had a situation where [we] weren’t 100 percent happy with the color of the roses [and had] to repaint them all.”
The result was a plethora of “white, very sort of flowing” florals draped over the balconies and pews of St. Mary’s church, where the ceremony was filmed in Twickenham, London, accompanied by white rose petals, which were strewn about the aisle.
Equal attention was paid to the real flowers used on the show: Florist Helen Burn worked to make sure that the suitors who came to call upon the ladies were unique to their characters. "A lot of thought went into the florals," quipped Hughes-Jones.
We'll say! Catch Bridgerton streaming on Netflix now.