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Choosing design and decor can get pretty stressful for some people. If that doesn’t kill ya, the decor work itself might be the deathblow.

Not really, but design-phobic types think stuff like that. They can call to mind the early Tom Hanks comedy, The Money Pit, in which he and Shelley Long are almost consumed whole by debts incurred during their disastrous fixer-upper renos.

Decor is like most things in life — it’s best done when you’ve done your homework. Fortunately, when it comes to things like decorating a room, some homework can be done with your feet up and a good movie playing.

Set design: a key source of inspiration

More people should watch movies for the set design. It’s critical! It sets the mood in so many ways. We get our head into the movie by visually seeing what the characters’ lives and tastes include.

As I write this, the news is filled with sad tributes on the death of HR Giger, the set designer for the famously terrifying movie Alien. It’s an ultimate example of how the design and decor so dramatically impacts our experience of the film, and it won him a 1979 Oscar and shaped how we see science-fiction.

Architectural Digest did a list of classic and foreign movies one can turn on even if they’re just looking at set decor and architecture. Because who can’t love a white shag carpet like in The Graduate? Or a bathtub sofa like in Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

There are so many great movies you can turn to when you’re looking for inspiration. When watching movies, it’s easy to fall in love with the cast and the story, but the spaces are something inspiring too. Here are just a few movie sets that speak to me.

You’ve Got Mail

The home I’m in now is one I chose just a few weeks after seeing this classic again. Meg Ryan, shuffling through her NYC character apartment, sick and blowing her nose non-stop. All the wood trim, the nice windows, gorgeous floors. I just wanted to yell “How can you be miserable?! Look at the architectural details!” Who needs love when you’ve got a great apartment?

A Single Man

If you think the lean, vintage ‘60s decor in this movie evokes a certain Mad Men-esque charm, then you’ve got a good eye. It’s the same production team. There’s a lot to love about ‘60s style, and so much of it can be effortlessly updated by picking contemporary wall colors or fabrics. It’s a great jumping-off point to watch a film like this for all the different furniture lines and patterns it can turn you on with.

Something’s Gotta Give

With an interior created entirely on a soundstage, making a perfect home was a mission for this film’s crew. The design is stunning, and maybe it’s not a real house, but it’s an amazing vision. With all the woodwork, details, subway tiles, and everything else, it’s a perfect time and place in American interiors. A home like that isn’t just a home, it’s a lifestyle choice. The movie’s designer, Nancy Meyers, answers questions for Elle here.

The Kids Are All Right

This indie comedy was a movie I loved, and the home is one that’s move-in-ready for someone like me. Comfortable, airy California living with just the right amount of knickknacks and clutter to say a human really lives there. It’s simple, casual, but perfect for spaces meant to serve as a real home.

And so many more

There are so many movies and shows that I love the look and feel of, from little indie movies that remind me of my college years to big sweeping epics that hold the homes I wish I could live in when I’m all grown up.

I’m partial to the look in all kinds of movies shot in the American South, from Fried Green Tomatoes and Forrest Gump to The Help and so many others. You might find yourself gravitating to the same kind of genre films because you too like the era, style, and place in which it is set.

When so much time and scheming goes into making movies look the way they do in the places they’re set in, it makes sense to look at how and why the design comes together. Maybe it’s something that can translate to the life you’d like to have around you. Maybe it’s a kind of idyllic, wistful feel that can make your life feel a little bit more magical with a sprinkle of that Hollywood style.

Your favorite movies, and sets

What movies or TV shows inspire you?

Which movie decor styles do you wish you could use in your own spaces?

Tell us about it in the comments section of this post.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.