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Setting a scene, with help from DVDs

Even design pros can find inspiration in feature-film homes.

December 06, 2007|Jake Townsend and David A. Keeps

MAYBE it was the Pop palette of "Marie Antoinette," or the dreamy kitchen in "Something's Gotta Give." Homes featured in films have long inspired designs that make their way into the real world. We asked pros from various fields -- architecture, interiors, furniture and more -- to pick movies that continue to inspire and would make a fine stocking stuffer for any design enthusiast. Here are some of their suggestions:

"How to Murder Your Wife" (1965)

One of my favorite movies, any time of year. Jack Lemmon's character's Manhattan town house is the ultimate ode to the modern gentleman. It is no time capsule: Photographs of it could run in any contemporary magazine, and no one would suspect that it was designed more than 40 years ago. (Well, the clunky TV on its rolling cart might give it away.)

The scale of the house is spectacular, including a double-height garret suite that Lemmon's character uses as his studio. There are many classical elements: black and white tiles in the oval foyer, a graciously curving staircase, extensive moldings, ebonized floors. The juxtapositions are striking -- old master portraits and modern abstracts, Knoll and Biedermeier furniture, leather Chesterfield sofas and fur pillows. Fornasetti-style doors lead to the master bathroom, and the galley kitchen and pantry could have been by Boffi or Bulthaup.

A.J. Bernard, interior designer


"Rosemary's Baby" (1968) and "The Shining" (1980)

I'm afraid my answers are a bit dark. "Rosemary's Baby" is one of my favorites -- and so stylish. The apartment decorated by Mia Farrow's character in the Dakota building in New York City is so Domino Girl. She does a whole yellow and gray scheme that I have found to be so inspirational. There's an insouciance about the way she created the decor for that apartment. My Woodhouse furniture collection was inspired by Rosemary Woodhouse in "Rosemary's Baby" -- she is so '60s WASP.

My other favorite is "The Shining." The Overlook Hotel is incredibly chic. It's this odd combination of lodge style meets David Hicks. I could look at the carpets in the hallways forever.

Jonathan Adler, potter, interior and furniture designer, retailer


"The Ice Storm" (1997)

Set in Watergate-era New Canaan, Conn., this smart and disturbing portrayal of two families focuses on the dysfunction that seeps through the veneer of the perfect American suburban life. The film is a complete catalog of design style of the period, and the families' perfectly calibrated taste warms the otherwise chilly lives they lead. Their immaculately decorated glass and clapboard boxes, warmed up with floating built-ins displaying blown glass (a kind of ice, no?), remind you of the impending ice storm, the overriding metaphor for unrest in the American dream. This movie is the disquieting expose of just what might go on inside the "perfect house" the day after the shelter magazine's photo shoot.

Matthew Bremer, principal of Architecture in Formation, New York


"Out of Africa" (1985)

Meryl Streep's character's home resembles the classic elegance of a European influenced retreat in the middle of a troubled time in the Kenyan highlands. This stacked-stone home with large limestone fireplaces and a comfortable terrace furnished in classic Colonial wicker and bamboo set the scene for afternoon napping and listening to the phonograph. Layers of white linens and silks, rich antiques, heavy French doors with sidelights and transoms, dark wood floors and classic slip-covered sofas and chairs remind the viewer that elegance and sophistication can exist in any environment.

Barclay Butera, interior designer and retailer


"The Omen" (1976)

The original, not the remake, is incredibly creepy but is so beautifully styled. The scene that stands out is when Damien's mother is watering the geraniums at the edge of a balcony overlooking an atrium in their grand country manor. Damien comes racing down the hall on his tricycle and pushes his mother over the edge. The striking red of the hanging geraniums juxtaposed against the muted colors of the house is beautiful. The interior feels upper-crust in a way that people just don't live any more.

Tim Clarke, interior designer and retailer

-- Jake Townsend and David A. Keeps

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