Stepping into Wes Anderson's design universe


The Grand Budapest HotelWes Anderson is an American movie director, whose films are known for their distinctive visual and narrative style.

Many of his fans must have dreamed, at least once, about living in Gwyneth’s brownstone bedroom in The Royal Tenenbaums, with its so-retro princess phone and 1970s lighted mirror, or spending summers in residence at Moonrise Kingdom’s New England cottage. Not even to mention The Grand Budapest Hotel, where even who weighs the work itself too much radical-chic might highly consider to check in.

Focusing on Anderson’s peculiar aesthetic-design taste, you would be probably struck by an intense desire to move right into one of the director’s magical movie sets reading the coffee-table hardcover books The Wes Anderson Collection and its spin-off The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel, both by Matt Zoller Seitz.

This New York Times bestsellers are obviously showcases of Anderson’s pop-culture inspirations, from Hitchcock and Star Wars to Jacques Cousteau and the French New Wave, but they also capture and meticulously reflect the spirit of Wes Anderson's works – melancholy, playful, wise, and wonderfully unique – and are enriched with 400 original illustrations, production images and hand-drawn storyboards of all his movies, from Bottle Rocket to Rushmore, from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou to The Darjeeling Limited and Fantastic Mr. Fox

That said and going back to design, one thing is to be inspired by some of Anderson’s films’ spaces and quite another to actually deck out your apartment to mirror them. Is it even possible, the question is, to bring that style of quirkiness into your home without feeling like you're an extra on a Hollywood set? According to Kris Moran, a set decorator and prop master, yes.

On Moonrise Kingdom,” Moran says, “we actually didn’t really decorate at all. What we did was pick functional objects that counted — from the perfect tent to brass ship lamps. If you are buying a stapler, for instance, don’t just buy any stapler: buy one that sparks your interest. Maybe it reminds you of your grandmother’s stapler, or it’s so tiny it's funny. If you are drawn to an object, trust that feeling”. Even something as minor as a toothbrush can be an opportunity to bring design into your life: “if you see a toothbrush in one of our movies, know that I shopped it to death,” she says. 

Humor is a great element in design too. It makes people feel immediately comfortable” Moran keeps explaining. “In The Royal Tenenbaums, for instance, a salon-style wall of children’s drawings in gold frames gets an extra comedic jolt by being hung together with a mounted boar’s head”.
Deepening the subject, “the most interesting interiors don’t feel like they were purchased all at once. For that reason, even though Wes’ films are usually set in a specific period, I like to mix it up and combine furniture from more than one decade”.

Second Seitz’s book, The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel, explains how "Anderson didn’t just tell a story-within-a-story about murder, purple-suited lobby boys, and prison breaks, but he also created an entire universe. The fictional Eastern European land called Zubrowka has its own original architecture, money, fashions, and government documents. And all this was, for the most part, built by hand, without much computer manipulation, at a time when many big-name Hollywood directors can't pull themselves away from the CGI".

In The Grand Budapest Hotel, "Wes prefers to do things in an analog or handmade way whenever he can," Seitz says. "It’s one thing that makes him so unique. He’s got the sensibility of a graphic illustrator. No other major American filmmaker is working in that vein".

It's this loyalty to old-fashioned methods instead of slavery to technology's convenience that lends the production design of The Grand Budapest Hotel its idiosyncratic charm and ultimately makes the film more believable: everything in a Wes Anderson movie is intentional," Seitz concludes. "He’s like Stanley Kubrick with a smiley face".