Tag Archives: England

Traveling with a Decorator – Europe Day 1

Kings Cross St. Pancras Station, London

M. and I (hereby renamed M&M) are on a tour of Europe. We once designed theater projects together in College and now work in two different design fields. This is our account of the trip.

Day 1: We arrived in London late on Tuesday night and headed to our hotel, a nondescript little hole in the wall on a row of similarly tiny hotels next to Kings Cross St. Pancras Station. Upon waking the next morning to a rather dreary, rainy day I promptly blew up my hair-dryer (but managed not to light the room on fire or blow out the electricity so I count it as a win). Appealing to the better natures of the hotel staff I managed to wrangle a new hair-dryer and proceeded with M. in tow to meet my old flatmates, C&C, in Kensington.

We headed to The Muffin Man for a delightful tea with scones & jam. It was a great traditional place with cozy seating and a great tea selection.

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Tea and Scones from The Muffin Man – Photo by Olivier De Man

Then we hailed a black cab and headed over to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The V&A is by far one of my favorite museums, and houses everything from clothes and costumes, to marble statues, old tiles, pottery, stained glass etc. It’s huge and we hardly had enough time to begin but we gave it a go anyway. C&C led us through the Cast Room which I discovered back in 2004 during my study abroad years. One sections was being remodeled but the other was just as I remembered it. Then, we headed to the theater exhibit rooms (filled with costumes and set models) and the stained glass rooms (which were beautifully laid out).

Before we had even begun to take it all in it was time to head off. We bid a cheerful goodbye to C&C and went back to the hotel to grab our bags and catch the train to Paris! The train was exceptionally fast and not too crowded (4:30 on a Wednesday isn’t the most popular time for travel) so we were able to spread out a bit. By 11pm we were happily tucked into bed at our Friend’s apartment in the 16th and passed out. It was quite the start to our Europe Adventure.


Motley Design/International Women’s Day

Yesterday was International Woman’s Day. I spent Tuesday knee-deep in drops at Julliard, but while I was there I was thinking about the leaps and bounds that women have made in the theater industry in the past 100 years. This industry is still a man’s world (Last year was the first time a woman has EVER won an Academy Award for Best Director) but it was even more so in the 1930’s when a group of British women got together to form Motley Design and set the standard for theater design to come.

Masked Ball at Sadler's Wells Theater opened 1965

The Motley Group was made up of the Margaret Harris and Sophia Harris and Elizabeth Montgomery, they designed sets and costumes from 1932 to 1976 and had shows in the West End, Broadway, as well as at the English National Opera and at the Met Opera.  They designed more than — shows, won two Tony’s and were nominated 7 other times. They also founded two schools in the UK one at the Old Vic and the Motley School of Design which continues to this day.

“The Motley Group was highly innovative in designing sets and costumes that suggested the mood, architecture, and styles of the original setting of the play, but was not the rote duplication that had been done so many times before. They wanted to create an atmosphere that was artistic, in addition to having an air of authenticity. Motley set the standard for how Shakespearean productions should be staged” University of Illinois


Many of their designs and images are now on file at the University of Illinois and can be found here. I hope you find them as inspirational as I have.