When I'm watching a movie, I pay as much attention to what is taking place behind the actors as what they are saying to each other. I'll watch a mediocre film over and over if the set design has captured my imagination. This is the first in what I hope will be many posts on inspiring film sets. Not satisfied to appreciate the handiwork of talented designers and cinematographers, I will focus on specific elements of the eye candy on screen and suggest places to buy similar items or pieces that invoke the general aesthetic of a space.
The first film on my agenda is Penelope. This is a modern day fable about an affluent girl living with a family curse that has saddled her with a pig snout (played as beautifully as possible by Christina Ricci). Penelope spends her childhood hidden away in her room, but prejudice and heartache find her there nonetheless. So she ventures out into the world in hopes of making peace with her fate. Along the way she discovers her own worth and the love of a man named Johnny (James McAvoy). There are two spaces that beg to be given the microscope treatment: Penelope's bedroom--which operates more like an apartment because she spends so much of her time in it--and Johnny's loft.
Given her overwhelming solitude, Penelope has created a small wonderland of her own that reflects her passions. She dreams of becoming a horticulturist, which is evident from this army of terrariums on porcelain pedestals and the black paper butterflies on the wall. Because she never leaves the house, she must handcraft all of her artifacts of nature.
Her room is her backyard and playground. Saturated greens and reds accompany her throughout the film--a nod both to her longing for the outdoors and to the overall mood of the film that location manager Pat Karam calls "Victorian Gothic".
A framed chalkboard captures Penelope's thoughts and sketches. It is one of the elements of her childhood room that remains. What doesn't seem to make the cut into her adult room is an extraordinary industrial desk that is propped on vintage wallpaper printer rolls. Covered as it is in art supplies, I imagine the young Penelope spread out on her hardwood floors with the creative project of the moment and its accompanying supplies camouflaging the floor around her.
Here are a few items from Etsy and beyond that channel some of the fun and whimsy of Penelope's living space.
The Masses Guest Book Butterfly Pack from Jaime Mancilla.
Lovebirds Made-to-Order Birdcage Chandelier from Meggancolleen.
Bell Jar Dome from The Wallflower Company.
Vintage Chalkboard Long White Frame from Revived Vintage.
Tree Swing made of Reclaimed Wood from Peg and Awl.
Vintage Wood and Brass Wallpaper Roll Lamps from Shandell's as seen on Rural Intelligence (left). I made and sold one myself last August at The West End Garage in Cape May (right).
When Penelope leaves the stifling comfort of home and makes her place in the world, she carries her own unique aesthetic with her into her new life as a horticulturist and school teacher.
Terrariums and black cutout paper garlands are perfectly suited to Penelope's classroom. Her school books are color coordinated just as her own books are at home.
A Vintage Pedestal Steel Tanker Desk and Chair from Daily Memorandum would be right at home at her school.
Johnny's loft is a stark contrast to the warmth of Penelope's digs. As a formerly successful musician who has gambled away much of his earnings, his apartment suggests a once thriving creative space that has been slowly stripped of its furnishings so that only a few choice pieces remain.
A few of the standouts: Tripod spotlight lamps, a vintage leather car seat sofa, a simple wood folding tray table and vintage metal lockers with old suitcases stored on top.
Photographer's Tripod Floor Lamp at Pottery Barn.
Industrial Metal School Locker from Hudson Goods.
Antique Striped Luggage Set from Bright Wall Vintage.
Butler's Tray on Stand from Ernest Johnson Antiques.