Movie-inspired interior design ideas

No matter how good the acting, directing and cinematography, a shoddy set can ruin the believability and credibility of even the best film. Yet when cinema’s art directors and set decorators do their jobs well, their hard work goes largely unnoticed by the movie-going public. Pay homage to these unsung artists with an interior design inspired by the sets of your favorite film — designed by the best in show business.

And the nominees are …

Having nightmares of Star Wars figurines and movie poster-covered walls? Film-inspired interiors don’t have to be filled with kitschy memorabilia. While you may feature a memento or two from your favorite flick, the best movie-inspired interiors look as natural and realistic as the best film sets.

Instead of filling your home with Hollywood tchotchkes, model your interiors after the work of the best art directors and set decorators in the business. If you’re not sure which flick to pick, try channeling the genius of those designers who were Academy Award for art direction nominees and winners over the past 80 years. Here are two examples of how to find interior design inspiration from both classic and current films.

Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)

Art direction: Cedric Gibbons

Interior design style: urban/athletic

Somebody Up There Likes Me

This 1956 biopic stars Paul Newman as real-life Italian-American boxer Rocky Graziano, with sets designed by the legendary Cedric Gibbons. This acclaimed art director not only designed iconic sets like those in the Wizard of Oz (1939), he holds the award record, with 39 nomination and 11 wins. Somebody Up There Likes Me was Gibbons’ last nomination, and he won for his noir-ish depiction of the gritty urban streets of 1940s New York and the gangster-style gyms where the bookie-backed boxers trained.

Exposed brick is the best base for this urban-athletic design style, but if you don’t have this eye-catching architectural feature in your home, you can fake it with some faux brick paneling or wallpaper. If brick isn’t your thing, recreated the worn walls found in the film with a paint treatment that adds some textural depth, like a Venetian plaster finish.

Capture the gritty, urban look of the film by blending industrial furniture like this galvanized steel table from Urban Archeology with the pieces that emulate the masculine 1940s New York style, like this brown leather club chair, available at Amazon. Finish off the urban look with athletic and sporting equipment accessories like prints of fight posters featuring the real Rocky Graziano.

Get the look:

  • Stuccoed brick wallpaper (Lowe’s, $50 a roll)
  • Venetian plaster paint finish (Behr, $35 a gallon)
  • Galvanized steel table (Urban Archeology [PDF], $2,700)
  • Marena leather club chair (Amazon, $500)
  • Rocky Graziano fight poster print (Amazon, $6)
  • Antique dumbbells (Ruby Lane, $195)

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Art direction: Robert Stromberg

Interior design style: graphic fantasy

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

Watch just five minutes of any Tim Burton film and you’ll see an aesthetic seemingly more suited for a child’s bedroom (or maybe the psych ward) — yet these wild designs can easily translate fantastical fantasy-style interior design suitable for any room in your home. This holds especially true of the twisted fairy-tale world created by Robert Stromberg for Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland.

Stromberg melds the organic, graphic floral shapes of Art Nouveau with bolder hues and graphic patterns to add a touch of edgy fantasy. Bring this look home by beginning with a bold wall color like Benjamin Moore’s Largo Teal, or opt for a graphic yet natural wallpaper, like tree branches in an unexpected hue. To achieve a graphic look without the expense and trouble of hanging wallpaper, consider painting a harlequin pattern on one wall as a focal point.

Add to the twisted whimsy with quirky furniture pieces that feature odd angles, like Vincent Leman‘s quirky shelves and cabinets or perhaps some oddly shaped chairs or couches inspired by the work of artist Lila Jang. Bring the whimsy back to reality with Art Nouveau-style lamps reminiscent of these one-of-a-kind uber-expensive lamps by Tiffany & Co.

An Alice in Wonderland-inspired room can pay homage to the film without being too literal by incorporating some of the film’s iconic objects as decor accessories. Hang a row of vintage hats on your focal wall as an art piece and display funky teapots like these from Artful Home, in honor of the Mad Hatter’s tea party.

Get the look:

More on interior design

Playing with paint
The return of wallpaper
4 Tips for mixing traditional and modern decor


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