Monday, March 21, 2011

Inspiration: Set Design

One of the great things about having returned home to the family seat is that everyone is a season ticket holder to all the cultural attractions in town, and sometimes I get called on as a seat warmer if someone can't attend a show. Recently, I got to see The Winter's Tale at the renowned Guthrie theater with my Dad when my Mom was out of town. To be honest, neither of us loved the show--it's not my favorite Shakespeare, not even in my top ten, plus the adaptation set the action in the 1950s and 1970s, and I think if you want to modernize Shakespeare you have to ave a really sound reason. But something stayed with me.

[photos: T. Charles Erickson]

Alexander Dodge's set design was beautiful. Simple yet highly dramatic, versatile enough to capture the range of mood, from convivial to dark to silly to transcendent. There was a time when I dreamed of being a costume or set designer (or window designer at ABC carpet and home in New York), because I love a good dose of fantasy in my furniture; prefer it, in fact, to the reality of seating arrangements and kid-proof fabric. So I kind of hate to admit it, but I found myself preoccupied through much of the play with how to achieve the effect of those floors. Those over scale blue, black, and grey-washed parquet floors.

Wouldn't this be a gorgeous way to highlight the parquetry in an old home if the wood was not in great shape? I've seen similar washes of tone and color on wide plank floors, but love the grid effect from the parquet. I was also inspired by those huge center doors (top photo), which were silver leafed. You could see the outlines of the squares from the leaf application, and I loved the sense of the hand-made and, of course, the glamor of the reflective surface.

In the second act, the huge chandeliers are tied up in fabric to a quite glamorous effect--you can see them here, in the set designer's portfolio (Go to Theatre, Winter's Tale, images 9 and 10--sorry, its in flash and I've been unable to grab it or link directly to it). There are so many spray-painted thrift store chandeliers out there, I love the idea of instead swathing that has a good shape but a bad finish in tulle or something equally gossamer and ethereal and tying it up at the bottom. In the play, this signifies mourning. In real life, I don't know: depressing, or artful?

Sometimes I feel like everything in interior design starts to look the same, with so many designers looking to the same magazines and blogs and books for inspiration. While I feel slightly guilty for thinking DIY while watching Shakespeare, mostly I walked away thrilled to find inspiration in new places, and to take a cue from a different kind of artist.

I'm curious: what unusual sources have provided inspiration for your home?

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