I was standing on a rooftop in central London on the last day of filming a crucial scene for Sherlock when I got a call offering me the role of production designer on the new series of Upstairs Downstairs BUT - I had to start the following day!

This was my introduction to the rollercoaster ride that was to take over my life for the next five months.

We pick up the story of 165 Eaton Place in September 1938 which is a great era for design - the height of art deco.

Returning to 165 Eaton Place

As the production designer, I was very keen to utilise this in our distinction between 'Upstairs' and 'Downstairs' - the opulence and crisp elegant lines of art deco as opposed to the rougher, more textured world of the working classes.

The interior of the house is all a set and is spread between three studios at BBC Wales' new facility down in Cardiff Bay (next door to Casualty and Pobol y Cwm).

We've added a couple of extra rooms to the interior set this year and one of those is a dining room.

I enjoyed designing it as we were able to introduce some very contemporary shapes and patterns into the set. Look out for the pair of doors leading into the dining room and the floor inside.

We designed and made these ourselves - without seeming too Changing Rooms, they're all paint effect and MDF!!

The main hall is in a larger studio than the rest to allow for it to be two storeys, which helps sell the idea of it being a real house. You can follow the actors from the dining room across the hall and up the stairs to the landing and drawing room.

The decorating of these sets correctly is very important.

We must make sure that the patterns and colours look good on camera, so we co-ordinate with the costume department to make sure that the actors' outfits are complementary to the scenery and don't blend into the background.

The cost of redecorating a room could be the difference between coming in on or over budget.

Therefore I have to discuss options and themes beforehand - with the producer, director, director of photography and costume. I have to admit that I tend to get my own way most of the time!

Harry Spargo (Neil Jackson) and one of the vintage cars

Interior design is only one aspect of the job however, and as much as I like my wallpapers, we also have cars, planes, trains and buses to source as well as all the props.

I have a very good team helping me with all these as it would be an impossible task on your own - the organising of the vehicles alone is a monumental task.

The cars, for example, are mostly privately owned and are brought to set by the owners or drivers on their behalf. Due to their age some are trailered if they need to travel very far.

The aeroplane we sourced from Duxford Air Museum, who were, as always, very helpful.

It's also a big task sourcing the dressing props (what we use to make the sets look real) and action props, which are used by the actors and often described in the script which means we have to source or reproduce. We hire some, trawl round antiques markets for others, and eBay is also a good resource.

We even have some made especially - look for the special gasproof pram! It was based on a real one but there were only a few very sketchy photos that survive of it, which were sourced from the internet and some old newsreel.

Downstairs: Anne Reid as Mrs Thackeray

There is also all the food and flowers. The end products of Mrs Thackeray's work in the kitchen need to both look good enough to serve at a royal dinner party and be authentic for the period.

Because of this a specialist TV and film food economist was hired in.

She would pre-prepare some of the food and then it would be finished in a specially-made food preparation area just outside the studio so that we could serve it piping hot straight to set!

To support her expert work, we also depended on the culinary skills of our very own Hannah Nicholson (my set decorator) who also did most of the flower arranging as well as a myriad of other things!

It was a very challenging project but with a great team behind me I think we managed to achieve something beautiful - I hope you agree.

Arwel Wyn Jones is the production designer on Upstairs Downstairs.

Upstairs Downstairs returns to BBC One and BBC One HD on Sunday, 19 February at 9.30pm. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • Comment number 28. Posted by Jennifer Pitt

    on 29 Apr 2012 17:11

    Hi Arwel,

    I thought your set design was beautiful.

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  • Comment number 27. Posted by Roger Hart

    on 20 Apr 2012 16:44

    Arwel:

    Can you share with me the registration number of the green and black Morris 8 convertible used in the last episode of Season 2? It's identical to one my father used to own and I never saw another one like it.

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  • Comment number 26. Posted by Fiona Wickham - BBC TV blog editor

    on 2 Apr 2012 13:46

    Hello tillinder #25 – thank you for noticing and commenting here! I forwarded your message to the Upstairs Downstairs production team and you’re absolutely right. Apologies for the typo on Michael's name - they are working on correcting it now.

  • Comment number 25. Posted by tillinder

    on 25 Mar 2012 20:35

    Anyone else spotted the typo at the end of the opening credits for episodes where "Micheal Landes" features?

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  • Comment number 24. Posted by goodhen

    on 21 Mar 2012 23:27

    I have fallen in love with the white kitchen cabinet from Mrs Thackeray's nephew's house from episode 2. Can anyone tell me more about the style and whether it was made for the episode or sourced? Thanks.

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  • Comment number 23. Posted by junetopham

    on 20 Mar 2012 16:08

    My comment relates to episode 3 when the Women's League of Health and Beauty was introduced. I have to say that your version of it was not the League as I knew it. Far too 'jolly hockey sticks' and a gym mistress teacher. Also the uniform was incorrect - no sleeves, the pants too long and no gym shoes. I was an early post war member but had magazines from pre-war. The ethos of classes for everybody was fine and very popular. The style of movement was smooth and swinging, based on dance, both greek and ballet, swedish thythmics and yoga and the music was both classical and modern. Having been an enthusiastic League member for many years, I felt your version was almost an insult. Sorry - but I am enjoying the rest. junetopham

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  • Comment number 22. Posted by Lisa

    on 19 Mar 2012 22:21

    Just a note about the 5th episode in which Miss Whisset has a copy of Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie. There is a slight problem with that, as it was not released until June 1939 so unless there has been a crossover with Doctor Who and his Tardis I cannot see how she would possibly have this book as it is 1938. It really is a crime to get things wrong like that.

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  • Comment number 21. Posted by Cemo55

    on 11 Mar 2012 22:44

    I am a real fan of Art Deco and period dramas and I am loving this bit of escapism on a Sunday evening after a week of studying most evenings and working as a social worker during the day. Some aspects or details may not be accurate but in the grand scheme of things there really are far more important things to be complaining or worrying about! So carry on being creative Arwel.

    My original reason for visiting the site was to see if I could find out about the wallpaper used in the series - specifically the chinoiserie paper in the master bedroom and the other was shown in week 3 in a bedroom and was a jade colour with gold stylised leaves.

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  • Comment number 20. Posted by steve

    on 9 Mar 2012 14:09

    In a recent episode of upstairs downstairs a poor monkey suffered a cardiac arrest after being gassed in a childs gas protection pram! The head butler ws seen to carry out CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) to the monkey on the kitchen table . There is no way this procedure would have been known about at the time, it was first introduced in the USA in 1954. CPR would never have been carried out in 1938. Obviously his st johns ambulance training was way ahead of its time!

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  • Comment number 19. Posted by holly

    on 5 Mar 2012 17:06

    I love Sundays because of this programme, and I adore the costumes, hair and sets - well done to all those involved. In last nights episode Dr Blanche went to stay with Emilia Fox's character, and in her bedroom was the most beautiful monochrome large scale wallpaper over the fireplace. It was like an oversize toile with birds and flowers. Is it available to buy?

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