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Stepford's lively, dollhouse look

June 24, 2004|David A. Keeps; Abra Deering Norton

Critics may have carped that this month's remake of "The Stepford Wives" was as riveting as watching paint dry. For those grappling with choosing a wall color, however, it was worth the ticket price just to see how the interior sets for the suburban Utopia satire achieved perfection.

The film, set in fictional Stepford, Conn., departs from the traditional color schemes associated with old money. Not much hunter green or Ralph Lauren red, but plenty of daffodil yellow and foliage green.

To complement star Nicole Kidman's coloring, a soft blue was paired with elaborate architectural trim painted in white, creating an environment that looked like a Wedgwood vase.

To project the "the feel-good dollhouse world," in which powerful women are turned into sexy robotic housewives, production designer Jack De Govia looked directly to the source. "We did consult the Martha Stewart palette because they are based on natural colors and floral colors," De Govia says.

Additionally, the veteran designer achieved the color-saturated look seen in 1960s films and the French import "Amelie" by avoiding any surface finishes that would indicate texture or age.

"The fixtures, furniture, brass, silk, all exist in this glowing universe. We were trying to create a world of perfection, so there was always a conscious decision not to make choices that necessarily reflected good taste."

But as a Stepford wife might gush, gosh-darn if they didn't. The secret, De Govia reveals, was that New York scenic painter Steve Tobol mixed custom colors for all the sets, keeping the tones pure by using strong pigments even for pale shades.

To find the right shade for your home, De Govia recommends researching colors in art, advertising or the garden. Or you could just find the shade with a name that fits your mood.

The color chips pictured at left are, from the top, Zen Mist from Glidden's Relaxed and Cozy collection; Heavenly Blue from Sears Easy Living; and Warm Welcome from Dutch Boy's Dimension, a name that must've been coined by a color consultant in Stepford.

-- David A. Keeps

Who can forget the 1970s, when wall-to-wall shag carpeting came in colors so bright they could blind. A new multicolored shag by ESR Custom Rugs is more muted but still otherworldly. Its color-tipped, ultra-long shag looks like some sort of sea anemone. Get out the rake. This stuff is longer than your lawn.

ESR owner Simon Ashual came up with the new style after being inspired by historically reproduced rugs he saw on a trip to Belgium. The wool was pressed together, a felted yarn put inside a heavier yarn, and his Core Yarn Collection was born. The unique two-color, two-yarn process creates a different color inside a two-inch loop of yarn. ESR's ultra shag ColorCore Yarn carpets are made from 100% New Zealand wool and are hand-tufted. The Core Yarn Collection comes in 12 coral-like colors (from ultra marine to ginger to fuchsia). The ultra shag can also be customized in color, shape and design. The carpeting can be used as an area rug or wall-to-wall to complete a room. The Core Yarn Collection is $34 per square foot.

In California, the Core Yarn Collection is available at Amari Design Resources in Del Mar, (619) 992-9322. Visit for more information.

-- Abra Deering Norton

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