Trade secrets! From Set Decoration to Interior Design

Please join us tomorrow at the D&D for a talk:  “From Set and Screen to Living Room: The Set Decorator and the Interior Designer.”  I will be on a panel discussion with Cathy Whitlock,  film historian, designer Marshall Watson (his line at Lewis Mittman has graced the sets of the new Katie Couric show). and Ann Maine, editor in chief of Traditional Home, will be the moderator.  For more information and the address, click here.

Design*Sponge Interview

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge.  We talked about set decoration, interior design , and of course, wallpaper!

The radio station, Heritage Radio, where we did the interview was really great – in the back of the super popular Brooklyn restaurant Roberta’s Pizza.  Check out Heritage Radio’s great programming here.   I hope you enjoy the interview!!

My Home in Madame Figaro

Madame Figaro (Japan) ran a really fun photo series called “Creators in their Homes” and they asked me to be involved.   I love the shots they took of our home – they are real and reflect how we live.  They did not send any stylists, just one photographer with a camera and two lights.  At first this whole concept made me really nervous, I felt like my apartment should look more like it would if it were going to be in a shelter magazine.  But, after speaking with the editor and writer, I understood that that was not the point.  The intention of the series was to show how people who create live- and what their spaces they create really look like, in every day life.

I love the pictures because: the mirror over my mantel was bought for $40 at a flea market and I had it silver leafed – then hung it over Miranda Priestly’s desk in Devil Wears Prada, my husband’s mess of analog stereo equipment sits next to my sons Fischer Price record player, one of my favorite pieces of art by Boston artist Isabel Riley pops off the white wall with its candy colors, my son’s toys are (barely) tucked away, like usual, and there is also a small picture of his nursery – a brief moment in time (decorating wise) that will never be the same again.

The Selby runs a very similarly themed photo essay on their fantastic and wildly popular website.  Here are a few pictures I loved from  a feature they ran on Angelika Taschen.

from The Selby

Read and see more at


Cathy Whitlock lecture at the Park Ave Armory Art and Antique Dealers League Show

Cathy Whitlock will be speaking at the Art and Antique Dealers League Show at the Park Avenue Armory this Friday, May 4th from 3-4pm.  Her lecture will cover a century of cinematic set decoration, featuring highlights from every decade of Hollywood history. A slide presentation will show photographs, behind-the-scene images and designer sketches of sets from Top Hat, The Fountainhead, Gone With the Wind, The Age of Innocence, Something’s Gotta Give-and many more!

I am really looking forward to the lecture –  although I have been a big fan of the book since it was published,  I have not had the opportunity to hear Cathy speak in person!  I admit, I might be partial – the book features a film that I was the set decorator for: Devil Wears Prada.

Cathy Whitlock’s book Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction (Harper Collins, November, 2010) represents the marriage of her two passions-design and cinema. She is also a contributing writer for Traditional Home magazine and The Huffington Post, and features editor for Array Magazine. Cathy writes the blog Cinema Style, which chronicles trends and inspirations in film, reaches 70 countries, was named one of the Top Ten Best Design Blogs of 2010 by Fox News. A graduate of Parsons School of Design and a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, Cathy has more than 24 years of experience in the interior design industry and has had practices in New York, Chicago, Memphis and Nashville.

Vintage Wallpaper Design Resources

As readers of our blog already know, we love wallpaper. There is definitely a wallpaper moment happening in the design world right now. I am just finishing a great project decorating the sets of a Roland Emmerich TV pilot and got to have a bit of fun with the colors and patterns. I was looking for something chic and original for the main characters apartment and nothing new seemed quite right – so I looked back for inspiration. Vintage wallpaper designs with gorgeous patterns, interesting color combinations, geometrics and damasks were just what I needed.

vintage wallpaper patterns

Vintage Wallpaper at Secondhand Rose

One of the sources I love for vintage papers is Secondhand Rose, a NYC business that has been in operation for 45 years. Below are some of the papers that they have in stock now.

vintage wallpaper from Secondhand Rose

vintage wallpaper from Secondhand Rose

Vintage wallpaper from Secondhand Rose

vintage wallpaper from Secondhand Rose

vintage wallpaper from Secondhand Rose

Vintage Wallpaper at Gracie

Gracie, a family run business in New York City since 1898, has a stock of rare and vintage papers as well.  They are incredibly beautiful.  They also produce new hand painted wallpaper murals and carry antiques and custom lacquer furniture. I was curious how Gracie began their wallpaper business and found the following info on their website.

“During the 1930’s, a friend of Mr. Gracie’s, a textile trader, returned from a visit to China with a roll of exquisite hand painted wallpapers that he had discovered in Beijing. Mr. Gracie was immediately enthusiastic, and felt that he had a market for this product. A relationship was established with the studio that produced the wallpaper and continued until the Chinese revolution in 1949, when the studio was relocated to Taiwan under new management. Decades later, the studio was returned to Mainland China, Gracie’s studio in the orient have been managed by the same Chinese family for fifty years. Hand painted wallpapers are Gracie’s signature product line.”

vintage wallpaper from Gracie

vintage wallpaper from Gracie

I have just received 2 panels of custom Gracie paper that I am having framed for a client. Stay tuned for pictures of this amazing artwork we are creating! We based our design on the panel above but reworked it with our own colors and scale.

Now I want to design a nursery with the cute elephant and inchworm pattern from Secondhand Rose and a powder room with one of the rich chinoiserie papers. The paper is all limited quantities so when it’s gone it’s gone!

vintage wallpaper

Sleep like Samantha in Sex and the City

People often ask me if decorating someone’s home is very different from decorating a set for a film.  The answer is yes – and no.  Every client is different just like every film set is different.

Devil Wears Prada

Big and Carrie’s closet Sex and the City 2

Some clients want to see, touch and sit on every piece of furniture I am going to bring into their home.  Some will give an approval to the design concept and simply ask that their house is finished by a certain date. There are positives to working both ways, it is really about what makes the client the most comfortable and creating a space that the client really feels is their own and wants to spend time in.

SATC 2 foyer

Decorating for a film is similar. I have worked with some directors who need to see a presentation of every single thing that will be on the set.   have also worked on sets where actors dictated some of the key elements of their sets and some that even give an actor complete “set approval”. Sometimes, the production designer and myself will show the interested parties a very basic “mood board” so they get a feel of the set and then I am off and running.

Decorating both Sex and the City films was an incredible experience.  There was an amazing level of trust and appreciation between the Director, Production Designer, Actors and Myself. While there was a great deal of autonomy in the creative endeavor, there were a few instances where the actors would ask us to look at something in particular that they felt was appropriate for their interior.  They knew their characters so well that I was always interested in seeing what they had in mind.

Kim Cattrall is a big fan of D. Porthault bed linens, as am I. When she first asked us to consider them for her bedroom, I was not sure if the brand made sense with her character.  However, after looking through some of the patterns (and printed sheets is what they are famous for), I changed my mind. Tigre turquoise was a perfect fit for Samantha and got tons of attention from all the SATC fans!

Tigre in turquoise

If you want to read more about Porthault’s lines and history, check out an earlier blog post Lisa wrote here.  And now for the good news – D. Porthault is holding their semi annual sale!  From January 16th until February 4th you can save 40-80%!!  You can shop in person in New York City or on their website.

invitation to sale


Also, check out Stylebeat for the details on more great winter sales going on now. Marisa, a former editor at several interior design magazines, has a great eye and a great blog. She has highlighted some of her favorite pieces from these sales. Happy Shopping!


Lonny Magazine Interviews Marks & Frantz!

The new issue of Lonny Magazine is out and we are in it!  Michelle Adams, Editor-in-Chief of Lonny Magazine, discusses the Access to Design program at the NYDC with us.  Watch the video  here.  And enjoy the rest of the magazine too – we will!

Cinema Style

Cinema Style (a blog that I love) had a great post yesterday:  When Worlds Collide: Fashion and Film.   The post discusses how the influence of celebrity can affect our purchasing choices.  Specifically, moving beyond celebrity endorsements, how celebrity partnerships and inspirations actually may guide this market. Check out the article and while you are there  take the time to look around.  There are a lot of excellent posts to read if you are interested in film design.

At Marks & Frantz we are always interested in these intersecting worlds and try to foster these collaborations in our own work as much as possible.  Our redesign of the Top of the Strand, the rooftop bar at the Strand Hotel in New York City, was a creative partnership with Trina Turk for Schumacher and the set decoration for the films Sex and the City and Devil Wears Prada were chock full of fashion/design/furniture crossovers.





Where Fashion meets Furnishings

Early this Spring I had the opportunity to decorate a new TV pilot for HBO called Spring/Fall.  The show is set in New York City against the backdrop of the fashion world and centers around the relationship of two designers – played by Tea Leoni and Hope Davis.

A big part of my job on a TV show or film is to help define characters by creating what their environments look like.  In the case of Spring/Fall this was an interesting task since the premise of the show is all about style and design.  To increase the dramatic tension between the main characters, their very different styles needed to be evident in the decoration of their homes just as much as in their dialogue or wardrobe.

Needless to say, the quest to create original and beautiful sets for the show turned up many, many new sources and products.  I thought it might be fun to share some of them.  Here is one great new find:  Batik Carpets from Odegard.

Odegard’s Batik Kelim designs are hand woven in China in private homes within a cottage industry.  They are flat weaves that are tie-dyed by hand, producing a distinct texture and unique design.  The tie-dye process creates abstract and ethereal motifs.  They are really original and beautiful.  Just what we were looking for for Spring/Fall!


20 Unforgettable American Movie Interiors

Sex and the City 2 was included in Cathy Whitlock’s list of unforgettable movie interiors on Apartment Therapy.  Very exciting for us!  The list is a great conversation starter as well.  Bring it up at your next cocktail party and let the film/design debates begin!! Read the post here.


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