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Architecture In Films, A ‘New Home Ec’ Series

The beach house kitchen from Something's Gotta Give

One of my most favorite things to do when we’re watching a movie is barely pay attention to the plot, and instead get all worked up over the interior design of the set pieces. My husband just loves it when I ask constantly, ‘Wait–what’s going on?’ because instead of listening to the dialogue in that important scene I was obsessing over the settee in the living room and wondering, ‘Where on earth did the set designer source that?!’

Last week Architectural Digest had a fantastic online slideshow featuring some of the best architecture in film. It set my mind to turning! I think these days, we have a term for that type of thing (which I have been informed is not PC for Babble). I mean, you know what I mean. Yes? I shall call it instead . . . Housey Movies. I know, not very catchy.

But Housey Movies is my very favorite genre of movie! Movies with distractingly beautiful homes! And now that I think more on the subject, I believe there is “Purposeful Housey Movies” (like Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday, for example), and then there’s “Accidental Housey Movies” (like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, where suddenly you realize that the Weasley’s house is freaking amazing).

After the jump, a few of the classic movies selected by Architectural Digest as must-see movies starring architecture (as well as background info on the set design), and an introduction to my new “Housey Movies” series, right here on The New Home Ec, courtesy of yours truly and my Netflix account.

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  • THE THIN MAN (1934) 1 of 8
    THE THIN MAN (1934)
    From Architectural Digest: "The pale apartment of dapper detective Nick Charles (William Powell) and his heiress wife, Nora (Myrna Loy), is a template for sleek, sophisticated mid-century modern decor. Ironically, however, the sets--the work of MGM supervising art director Cedric Gibbons, with David Townsend and Edwin B. Willis--were streamlined due to budget constraints, not a devotion to style."
  • BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’s (1961) 2 of 8
    BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY's (1961)
    From Architectural Digest: "In this dramatization of Truman Capote's novella, set decorators Sam Comer and Ray Moyer gave Patricia Neal's socialite character a luxurious apartment that looks like a pastry--swathed in aquamarine fabrics and accented by white upholstery and white statues."
  • THE GRADUATE (1967) 3 of 8
    THE GRADUATE (1967)
    From Architectural Digest: "Dustin Hoffman plays Ben Braddock, a university graduate who gets trapped in affair with the lusty wife (Anne Bancroft) of his father's law partner as well as in a series of cloyingly smart mid-'60s interiors. Most were created on soundstages by set designer George R. Nelson, though several Southern California landmarks were used for exteriors, including the Ambassador Hotel."
  • INTERIORS (1978) 4 of 8
    INTERIORS (1978)
    From Architectural Digest: "Woody Allen's portrait of a dysfunctional family headed by a control-freak interior decorator named Eve (Geraldine Page) is largely set in a house awash in a color that production designer Mel Bourne called 'muted clay beige.' The details that went into the sets' achingly good taste reflect Page's character and her obsessive personality. For example, all the windows were reglazed with meticulous lines of putty, Bourne explained, because that's what Eve would have done."
  • BLADE RUNNER (1982) 5 of 8
    BLADE RUNNER (1982)
    From Architectural Digest: "Director Ridley Scott took film noir into the future in this darkly entertaining science-fiction thriller, depicting 2019 Los Angeles as one large, rainy Times Square. Harrison Ford's handsome apartment, meanwhile, became the masculine ideal imprinted on every razor commercial for the following decade."
  • THE REMAINS OF THE DAY (1993) 6 of 8
    THE REMAINS OF THE DAY (1993)
    From Architectural Digest: "Outside, the aristocratic English country house in Merchant Ivory's affecting masterpiece about downstairs life, is Dyrham Park, a magnificent Baroque mansion in Gloucestershire. Inside, it is, among other majestic homes, Badminton House, the seat of the dukes of Beaufort. So every scene is chockablock with rare antiques, stunning statuary, and masses of gilt-wood frames."
  • SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE (2003) 7 of 8
    SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE (2003)
    From Architectural Digest: "Nancy Myers's romantic comedy stars Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, and an elegantly relaxed beach house in the Hamptons, with interiors by production designer Jon Huntman and set decorator Beth Rubino. The house's spacious windowed kitchen--with all white cabinets and soapstone-look countertops--was a huge hit with audiences and ended up influencing scores of renovations around the country."
  • THE GHOST WRITER (2010) 8 of 8
    THE GHOST WRITER (2010)
    From Architectural Digest: "A ruggedly sophisticated stony bunker on the New England coast--the actual location used was an island in the Baltic Sea--is director Roman Polanski's metaphor for a former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) who harbors dangerous secrets. The interiors of the house were created by set designer Albrecht Konrad, who had them constructed at a Berlin film studio."

For the rest, please go to Must-See Movies Starring Architecture And Design.

Once a week or so, I’ll be watching some of my favorite Housey Movies and then featuring them here for discussion. Spotlighting set choices, paint colors, cabinetry and finishes, room by room, and maybe analyzing what that design says about the characters, and, when I can, some behind-the-scenes info. Maybe even sources and tips so you can recreate the look yourself! Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Okay, but there’s gotta be a better name for this than Housey Movies. Got any suggestions? And while we’re at it–any requests? What’s your favorite Housey Movie?

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