Updated: Jun 3, 2020
Little known fact... I studied film in college & nearly minored in the subject. University of Oregon actually did not offer a film degree when I attended college there. However my final year of college, they introduced a film studies certificate. I was one class credit away from receiving the certificate, but after 5 years of school, I was ready to graduate with or without that that piece of paper.
However, I took just about every film class that I could while in school. Even in High School, I was fascinated by productions both on & off the screen. Options at my small town high school were very limited, but I settled for "Video Productions" class & every theater/drama class or production I could get involved with at the time. The set design & costume design were more than half the fun!
Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoy the art of on-screen productions in all manifestations. Yet, even though I studied film as an "art" and I may have been somewhat of a "film snob" back in the day (it's called mise en scene, okay ;) ), I can enjoy a campy popcorn movie just as much as anyone else. However, there is always something deeply satisfying about watching a movie or TV show that ticks all the boxes. Both entertaining & thoughtful, count me in! Both well written & well acted, yes please! Excellent directing & beautiful cinematography, heck yeah! And of course, both beautiful set design & beautiful costume design, the holy grail!
Which brings me to my top five (and truly there are more than just five so this was tough). Stick around to see my honorable mentions at the bottom because it was really tough to narrow this list down! Anyhow, this list is a tribute to not only my favorite on-screen interiors, but also examples of productions that tick all those boxes I was talking about!
1. Jojo Rabbit
Jojo Rabbit has to be my favorite movie from last year. This movie really has it all; well written script, great acting, a plot that is simultaneously humorous, thought-provoking & tragic, and of course super fantastic design!
The prewar - Art Deco & Art Nouveau furnishings all layer so beautifully. Patterns, colors & accessories mix delightfully well; giving the home an authentic/lived-in yet stylish look.
I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn't seen it yet (ahem, why not it's so great!), but let's just say that Jojo's home is a main fixture of the movie. Especially the daughter's room upstairs. This attic room had to be one of my main motivations for choosing this movie. The period-perfect wallpaper panels perfectly contrast the gorgeous handpainted nature scenes and that green velvet bed...come on now!
And of course, because this is pretty much a perfect movie, the costume design isn't too bad either! Sure, it's pretty much impossible to make Scarjo look bad, but the period attire is spot on!
Now this is an unconventional pick, but come on this is a great movie!
Tim Burton films tend to be wonderfully over-the-top and this movie is no exception. It takes place in a bucolic Connecticut village (actually filmed in Vermont) and the Victorian farm house on a hill is a main feature in the film.
You've most likely seen this modern classic, but if not (*spoiler alert*) a young couple lives in the home, which they've decked out in extremely traditional decor, complete with matchy-matchy wallpaper, dark wood paneling (gorgeous really), shaker style benches (lovely) and his-and-hers wing-back chairs. As the line from the movie goes, "Ugh, deliver me from L.L. Bean."
After a tragic accident, the couple become ghosts living in the house and a new family from New York City moves in. One of the new residents is a "artist" and brings in her interior designer friend to transform the home into a 80's post-modern art piece.
The whole house is so fantastically over-the-top, but come on, some of the features are pretty cool!
How about this cobalt blue kitchen with glass brick island?!
And this exterior "room" with a view. So cool!
Even though the "before" and "after" in this home are very extreme. I always felt like they should have mixed and matched the best of the two styles at the end to create a harmonious home. Like, when Winona Ryder levitates through the house to "Shake Senora", how great would it be to see pops of traditional & post-modern happily living side-by-side!?!
3. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
If you've seen this show, then I'm sure you'll agree that this is a fun one to watch! Set in the late 1950's the set design and costume is just as entertaining as the script about this hilarious family living in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. From their lavishly appointed apartments, to their trip to Paris or summer home in the Catskills, this TV series is truly a delight to watch.
Upper West Side
I love how the set designers really nailed classic mid-century decor. The layers of floral wallpaper, chintz fabric & period-perfect pastels is spot on!
When summertime rolls around, (of course) Midge and her parents flee the city for the scenic Steiner's Resort in the Catskills. The laid-back summer retreat style, complete with rattan furniture, country florals & classic americana is picture perfect for the upper crust summer resort vibes so popular at the time.
And of course, interior design isn't the thing that makes this show fun to watch, the costume design is also amazing! If you haven't seen this show yet, what are you waiting for, it's a delight!
4. Blade Runner
Blade Runner is a 1982 science fiction film loosely based on Phillip K. Dick's post-apocalyptic novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. It's also one of the most visually stunning and underrated films of all time! This neo-noir tale takes place in a Dystopian future Los Angeles (year 2019) and was filmed at some amazing locations around the city.
Filming of some of Deckard's apartment (played by Harrison Ford) was filmed at the historic Ennis House built by Frank Lloyd Wright. While the exterior and a few interior shots were filmed on location, most of the interior was actually built on a sound stage using tiles molded from the original Ennis house stonework. Frank Lloyd Wright's design was influenced by Mayan temples and the resulting mix of South American, Asian & neo-noir futuristic decor is pretty fantastic!
Much of the look & feel of Blade Runner can be attributed to artist Syd Mead, billed as "Visual Futurist" in the credits. His sketches of a dark & moody city of the future greatly influenced the final design of the Ridley Scott film.
And of course, the costume design in this film is also fantastic. Sticking with the neo-noiresque feel of the movie, Replicant Rachel's costumes are wonderfully reminiscent of Joan Crawford meets 1980's Dynasty. So classic!
5. Moulin Rouge!
One of my favorite movies of all time is also wonderfully over-the-top in both set & costume design. This unique & tragic musical extravaganza is set in the famous Moulin Rouge night club in the Montmartre District of Paris, year 1900.
Baz Luhrmann wrote, produced and directed this film and if you've seen some of his other films (Romeo + Juliet, Great Gatsby), then you know that he goes all-in on design, story & music/dancing! Having grown up watching musicals (before my film studies days), everything about this movie is right up my alley.
The Elephant Medley Scene
Baz Luhrmann has revealed that Moulin Rouge! was inspired by his love of Bollywood and he incorporated that style into the movie (comedy, romance, tragedy & of course dancing)! Evidence of Bollywood influence can be seen throughout the film and the Elephant scene is no exception. Satine's (Nicole Kidman) chambers are reminiscent of a grand Indian palace, which also speaks to the Bohemian love of the exotic. Her room is wonderfully ornate with rich red velvets & glitzy gold trellis work. So beautiful!
In reality, the historic Elephant at the Moulin Rouge was an opium den where men could pay a franc & climb a spiral staircase up the leg into the belly to be entertained by belly dancers. (Crazy, right?)
The Moulin Rouge
The interior of the Moulin Rouge, both when it's a club & later when it's converted to a theater to perform "Spectacular, Spectacular" are also wonderfully ornate & period appropriate for turn-of-the-century Paris. Beautiful hand-painted murals & sumptuously draped fabrics fill the space! The entire movie was shot in Sydney where they recreated the Moulin Rouge & Montmartre. Amazing!
And of course, the costumes aren't too shabby either :)!
The Sound of Music
What do you think? Did I mention any of your favorite on-screen interiors? What are your favorites?