Elizabeth Gilbert’s New York Times best seller- Eat Pray Love – stirs the senses literally and, with the release of the film, visually. One of America’s favorite Hollywood stars, Julia Roberts, plays Liz, the main character, who travels on a journey of self-discovery and the nature of pure happiness. Fans of the book went to the movies this summer to see the much talked about novel come to life on the big screen. Fans weren’t disappointed with the cinematography either. What’s not to love about the sensuality of Italian cuisine, mystery of India or the landscape of Bali? If you’re not sure, seek out this film and be inspired.
It’s not uncommon to be inspired by films, even when it comes to home decor. Remember the gorgeous Hampton beach house in “Something’s Gotta Give” with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson? The look of the aged shingles, beefy white exterior trim, and wrap-around porch exude classic American style. Inside this iconic setting, the soothing blue and cream upholstery, dhurrie rugs, soapstone countertops in the fabulous kitchen, dark wood flooring and accessories inspired by the sea practically upstage the stellar performances of the film’s actors. Not only did I leave the theater satisfied with a wonderful story, I was inspired by the set design and I know those experiences cement my own personal appreciation for American design.
The same experience came to me after watching “Eat Pray Love”. The colors from each country featured in the film – Italy, India and Bali – struck me to my core. The aged brick and stone of the pathways and palazzos remind viewers of the history and awe of that region. Crisp white table cloths with place settings of fresh pasta and crimson sauce tell a story of simplicity. The thread of the film’s message begins, and so does the mind wander to the beauty and balance of simply placed furnishings and decor: an antique iron bistro set with a small vase or plant atop; a single large urn positioned in a corner of a room; rooms with linens and upholstery in shades of cream and white become the backdrop for the personalities of those who inhabit them. Elegance is created with the restraint to add “more”.
Back to the movie: Liz travels from Italy to an ashram in India to seek the divine. In India the pungent colors of natural pigments smile against the sandy hues and warm skin tones. The mystery of God and place in the universe stir believers and seekers here. While in India Liz comes to a new mindfulness through prayer and the friendship of those also seeking peace at the ashram. The set design from this segment develops the mood of the film perfectly. The bright colors seen in the local bazaar, the opulence of a traditional marriage ceremony, and heavily decorated altars adorned with candles, incense and fruit all convey a joyful message. Combining magentas, oranges, purples and greens creates an appealing yet eclectic, folkloric style. Seeing color used in a non-traditional (read – typical American style) breeds new ideas of how to transfer that “mood” to our own homes. We exit a theater (hopefully) entertained, but – perhaps also -subconsciously influenced by the images presented to us by the filmmakers.
Finally, the scenes of “Eat Pray Love” in Bali are of the quintessential island retreat variety. The palm-thatched, over-water huts with gauze-laden open air rooms serve as romantic shelter for the film’s characters. This look inspires ideas for weekend getaways and/or master bedroom updates. The island-casual living represented in “Eat Love Pray” resurrect a need to shed the layers of a scheduled lifestyle. These realizations are welcome benefits beyond the screenplay. Whether reading a novel or watching a Hollywood blockbuster, we can take images with us into our own lives.
What movie or television sets have inspired you? Two relatively new sitcoms, Parenthood and Modern Family, have noticeable set designs representing comfortable suburban living. If you happen to catch the season openers this week, take notice of the living environments.
One of my favorites sets of all times is the home featured in the film “It’s Complicated” with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. It’s no surprise that “It’s Complicated” and “Something’s Gotta Give” were both written and directed by Nancy Meyer. Meyer’s attention to set design has been key to making her characters connect with their audience; there is something striking about how and where her characters live. In “It’s Complicated”, Santa Barbara is the incredible fantasy residential location of the film. Meryl’s character, Jane, lives in a desirable, Spanish-style ranch home. How about that kitchen? Fabulous! Remember Steve Martin played the architect/love interest? Am I the only one who wished the storyline continued so we could have seen the completed remodel! Part Two, Ms. Meyers. Part Two! Please?!
Needless to say, the set designs of some films can inspire us with our own home’s decor. The design aesthetic is the backdrop to a story, but in actuality it gives much insight and depth to the characters. Do you remember watching a movie and thinking about the setting beyond the exit doors of the theater? Have you ever taken a style from a film and incorporated it into your own home or a room design? Whether you’ve done this deliberately or not, one thing is for sure – distinctive style is something that can be identified and/or we’d like to be identified with. Connecting with design styles vis-a-vis a feature film such as “Eat Pray Love” or “It’s Complicated”, for example, can help us discover what design elements makes us content where we live.
Thanks for reading my latest blog entry, and if you aren’t free-subscribing already please register for my Welcome Home Blog here. Credit for Title Photo for “Eat Pray Love” goes to Universal Pictures. To read more about my interior design consulting work go to The Design Partner and follow me on Twitter.