When I’m not in my Austin interior design firm, you can probably find me curled up on the sofa in my den watching a movie. If you’ve been keeping up with the blog, you know I like to play a show or movie in the background while I work long into the night. The Devil Wears Prada is one that is constantly in rotation. While some may find movies distracting, I find them inspiring. And honestly, with amazing set designs, how could you not be inspired? TV and movie sets are carefully designed to tell a story or reveal details about the characters, and in many cases, the set takes on its own role in the narrative. I like to employ the same strategy as set designers in my designs — telling a story and transporting the inhabitants into a new world removed from the chaos that lies beyond its walls.
I think we all have a few TV and movie interiors we’d love to live in. I know I do! So, I’m sharing some of my personal favorites, covering four decades of the silver screen.
Quiet on Set: Four Decades of TV and Movie Interiors
The sets of these movies get into the bones and continue to inspire me and my work. It is heartening to see sets this detailed and lovely, reminding me that I absolutely adore Hollywood for all they do for design and their care in creating spaces that tell stories!
1950s: Bell, Book and Candle
Bell, Book and Candle was way before my time, but it captured my imagination from the first watch. At one point, I owned it on VHS and watched it every year. Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart star in this witchy romcom, in which the main characters undergo more supernatural personal changes than the average love story. Novak, a secretly practicing witch, runs and lives in the back of her ethnological art store in Greenwich Village. Her taste is eclectic, pairing streamlined mid-century furnishings alongside a baroque-inspired fireplace mantel and worldly art. By the end, she completely shifts her business model to lovely sea shells and paints her apartment walls a brighter, sweeter green — signifying she’s turned from her dark ways and found the light (and love). It’s stunning to watch, and her taste is utterly impeccable. Not to mention, Stewart’s Manhattan office is equally fantastic! The floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, grasscloth wallpaper, and antique desk make the Mad Men set seem like a bore. The ideas of living in this Greenwich shop or taking the subway to this office high in the skyline are both equally romantic and magical. This movie captivated audiences and went on to inspire another classic: Bewitched.
Bewitched is another witchy tale set a few years later in the 60s. Also before my time, but it’s such a classic they’re still playing reruns. It’s a sitcom about a beautiful witch, Samantha, who marries an ordinary mortal, Darrin, who vows to give up the craft in favor of a life as a typical suburban housewife. Don’t worry. She can’t keep the promise, which makes for some charmingly funny moments. The set changes through the seasons, as do our own homes, but the style is always rooted in the classic mid-century ranch style. It’s complete with a brick fireplace wall, cane-back dining room chairs, green shag carpeting, a kitchen with a shuttered passthrough, and avocado green appliances. I love the subtle set changes, which remind us that our homes are always works in progress.
1970s: An Unmarried Woman
I stumbled across An Unmarried Woman in my adult years, well after it premiered at the movies. This 70s rom-com follows the story of Erica Benton, played by Jill Clayburgh, who works part-time at a SoHo art gallery and lives in a dreamy Upper East Side apartment with her husband and teenage daughter. However, the New York dream is interrupted when she finds out her husband is having an affair, and she’s left to figure out what her new life and dating look like. The apartment is a chic 70s dream space, encompassing everything I love. I could live in it now! It’s modern and paired down but relatable and comfortable at the same time. It’s so easy to picture yourself lying on the sofa looking out onto the streets of New York. What a triumph as a set!
1980s: Sixteen Candles
Now we’re in my era. John Hughes’s Sixteen Candles is an 80s classic. Molly Ringwald stars as the classic teenage trope whose sister is getting married, and to her dismay, this causes everyone to overlook her birthday. Of course, she gets the guy and the cake in the end. This movie reminds me of the homes of my friends growing up. The walls are adorned with wallpaper, every surface is cluttered with stuff, and the kitchen is a little dated but completely functional. I, for one, adore the 80s floral patterns used throughout, which are coming back in style. While the family is clearly affluent, it still feels like a relatable, normal home. That’s what I love about it. This home reminds me to embrace imperfection, pattern, and the family chaos that resides within every home.
Lights, Camera, Action!
Bravo to these shows and movies for inspiring us in little and big ways! While I unfortunately can’t jump into the screen and live in these spaces myself, they continue to inform my work as I focus on creating personalized, storied, and livable interiors.
That’s a wrap!
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.