Stunning homes and interiors from <br> ‘A Single Man’ are snubbed by Oscar


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The ballots are in and ... the members of the academy failed to nominate ‘A Single Man’ for art direction.

The directorial debut by fashion designer Tom Ford generated much buzz -- and an Oscar nod for star Colin Firth. But the art direction -- by the ‘Mad Men’ team of production designer Dan Bishop and set decorator Amy Wells -- is what makes the film a must-see for California design fans.


Set in the mid-1960s, the drama unfolds in Santa Monica but was filmed primarily in two locations to the east. One is a lushly landscaped Pasadena residence that in the film is owned by Charley (Julianne Moore), above. It is decorated in an ultra-feminine cream-and-pink Midcentury Hollywood Regency scheme with a Moroccan accent.

Far different is the austere monochromatic modern home of George (Firth), filmed in the iconic Schaffer residence, a 1949 redwood design by John Lautner, right. The two-bedroom house in Glendale (also featured in the film ‘Happy Endings’) is for sale for just under $1.5 million.

Designed with pivoting glass doors, the open-plan house posed some logistical problems -- like creating a bedroom. The historic house, which is one of Lautner’s earlier works, could not be altered. Says Wells: ‘It was Dan’s brilliant idea to bring in cut-to-fit pressure-mounted panels to cover windows and create the walls of the room.’

Drained of color in much the same way George has been drained of life by sorrow, the house and decor is based on a palette of natural wood tones, with beige and ivory accessories. In George’s bedroom, below, Wells added period-appropriate details such as ceramic and wood lamps, an abstract sculpture and a modernist relief wall hanging.

Charley’s boudoir, below, could not be more of a counterpoint. Oversize silver lamps flank a North African mirror made from inlaid bone and wood at her vanity. The mirror hangs on an ornately carved wooden screen painted in Hollywood Regency white. The table is draped in a coral-and-white botanical print that coordinates with ikat pattern curtains. The wall-to-wall carpet is the palest of pinks. The vanity slipper chair with cabriolet legs is upholstered in a flokati, Wells says.

Both domestic sets, and others, deepened the audience’s understanding of the characters and their actions. In a field dominated by sci-fi flicks and period pieces, the academy overlooked the subtlety and intricate details of ‘A Single Man.’ But the film will be enshrined in the memory of designers and home owners for its smart, sophisticated style, not for any trip down the red carpet.


-- David A. Keeps

Photo credits: Stills from ‘A Single Man’ by Eduard Grau / Weinstein Co.; Schaffer house photo from