www.networkshe.com81breakfast room all had to be made from scratch following historical references, so we had to make things like salt dough pies.But sometimes things don't always turn out like you hope. I researched period wedding cakes and I must admit I was really disappointed because they pretty much look like a huge flat pastie.Beyond the need to make the rooms at Tredegar House true to its history the National Trust wanted Venita to make the experience of visiting the attraction an interactive one, to bring it and its past to life.Venita says: "I love history and if there's one thing I'd love to be able to do it would be to travel back in time and experience spaces When I design a set for television it need only live for the length of the filming, when it is only ever used by a handful of actors and crew, but everything I designed for Tredegar House needed longevity. My brief from the Trust was that they wanted visitors to be able to walk through the rooms, pick up and touch things, be part of things, so everything had to be robust, but still retain that wow factor."The key to making her designs work is to find the right materials, props and artisans capable of recreating something from her imagination."You can't just send out for certain props, and they come back just as you wanted, she explains, "the food for the wedding The Grade 1, 17th century former mansion home of the flamboyant Morgan family had been previously converted into a school, then an occasional attraction by the local council, and had lost much of its original furnishings but none of its grandeur."I remember walking out of my first meeting with the National Trust at Tredegar House and thinking, 'oh my God what a fantastic project'," she recalls."And it was like a surge of adrenalin and creative thought all at once - just immense excitement and extreme terror encapsulated in the same moment. I suppose that's what makes you feel alive.I love history and if there's one thing I'd love to be able to do it would be to travel back in time and experience spaces as they were"So I went off and had a mad week of exhilaration and trauma, which is the only way I can explain it. Trauma spurs you on to do the research, then you find out something exciting, exhilarating, that draws you in, then you think that might be too risky, so the trauma starts all over again - it's a real rollercoaster ride."Six days of intense research and creativity was enough for Venita to find the outline plan, that convinced the charity that she was the right person to make the restoration house a magical place to visit. But that was only the beginning of Venita's challenge."On one hand you can say this job was a bit like doing a period drama without cameras and lights to consider," she says."But on television you can do things, use a trick of the eye; a bit of black drape, a bit of smoke, lighting, and a quick move of the hand and people can assume things. Obviously with Tredegar House I couldn't trick the eye I had to make the spaces look like true 17th century rooms.
82Network She I Autumn/Winter 2012I knew what I wanted to do when I was eight or ten watching television at home. But, when you lived in Mountain Ash, then you weren't someone who went away and became a production manager for TV.I was just a young woman who grew up in a mining village and wanted to do creative things.Creativity is her currency and she says it was only very recently that she truly understood her gift."I'd always assumed everyone is creative, I don't understand it when people don't see something that is just screaming at me - but I don't realise I'm thinking creatively, to me I'm just thinking."She is fortunate to have such a deep well of creativity as she is in such demand."One day I could be doing a period drama, then a contemporary drama, then a children's drama, then I could be designing a sports set, or a new news set for the studio or I could be designing stages for Cardiff Singer of the World. I might be designing palaces one minute, then a garden shed to be blown up the next."And all of it she sees in her mind's eye, and all of it makes her feel just an inch tall when it comes true.wedding breakfast room where Venita has branches festooned with flowers and ribbons cascading from the ceiling.as they were. I think the National Trust is amazing in how it keeps historic places alive and vibrant - bringing history forward so you can experience it in the present."Venita brought authentic games into the rooms for visitors to play and get involved with, but perhaps the piece that had most visitors talking on the house's opening weekend was the Gilt Room day-bed."I wanted to create a piece of furniture people could sit on to admire the grandeur of the room, and when I looked around I thought I actually really like the painting on the ceiling, maybe that should get as much of a viewing as everything else around. So I made a representation of a day bed for people to come in and sit on, or lie to enjoy the room and its atmosphere."Her attention to detail throughout her designed rooms at Tredegar House never fails to draw visitors in, and inspire them to pick up touch and feel something that can take them back in time. Nowhere is this more evident than in the glamour of the lavish wedding breakfast room where 17th century love notes adorn the upholstery and placecards as momento mori name the guests due at the feast. The whole sense of the room is that any minute the guests will start to arrive and take their places. There is also more than a hint of theatre in the It was like a surge of adrenalin and creative thought all at once - just immense excitement and extreme terror encapsulated in the same momentShe explains: "I wanted to bring the ceiling down to make the room more intimate so I began looking at visual references to 17th century theatre and how they managed their stages and that's where the idea came from to hang flowers from the ceiling. It really changes the feel of the room and has huge psychological effect on the space."Her enthusiasm for the house and her designs is obvious but as she says more than once, "I think I've got the best job in the world.