For the Sharma-related mood boards, Cromwell hunted for images of fabrics from old magazines and books, including floral wallpaper and breezy pink silk curtains.
She also took advantage of public domain art for the walls. “We used copyright-free Dutch paintings and we had to manipulate them to add racial diversity into the pictures because that’s our world in Bridgerton,” Cromwell says.
That attention to detail was key to the vision of the show. “Dutch masters created beautiful paintings, but to reflect the ancestors of Lady Danbury, we had to fabricate the art—we had to update it.”
Staying true to the vision was key when it came to the Bridgerton designs, Cromwell says. In the run-up to the new season, her team’s mood boards were always clean and minimal, only including the key elements. Still, the thesis for each space shined through in the final version. “It’s amazing to us how the sets end up looking like the mood boards,” she says.
Cromwell and her team furnished the sets while shooting during lockdown, so much of the furniture and accessories was bought on antiques websites. “I don’t know if we would have done that if we had the option to go to antique markets,” she points out. Dimensions, in particular, proved tricky when ordering pieces remotely. “Sometimes when you order things online, they arrive on a tiny scale. We had a whole collection of hilariously small things we always ended up using somewhere, like the nursery.”
But long before putting the finishing details into a room, Cromwell recommends sticking to the key elements on a mood board. Whether you use photographs, illustrations, or even Polaroids snapped in furniture stores or prop houses, she says, planning is critical. Her advice is to think long and hard about the pieces you select. “Don’t pull it out of thin air,” she says. “Stick to the key elements.” And be ruthless with your editing: “Reject the things you don’t think you’ll use, be clear about what you want, make sure you decide clearly which look you’re going for.”
Bringing a crystal clear idea to a client will help you in the long run. And the Bridgerton set decorator is currently putting that advice to work—for herself. “Right now, I’m making my own garden in a 300-year-old cottage, and I do have a Pinterest,” she says. “I’m collecting images there, but I still print it out before putting it all together, as you can over-collect, and you have to refine it.”
Bottom line: Be prepared with a cohesive vision, especially while working with a client—whether that person is an Emmy-winning director or yourself. Pointing to her own cottage in development, she laughs that a physical mood board “will help me explain to my husband what I want.”