Set Pieces: The Smurfs’ New York digs

This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

Neil Patrick Harris rocks. His latest film, ‘The Smurfs,’ took in an estimated $35.6 million at the box office over the weekend and almost edged out ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ -- not bad for a story about little blue folks set loose in New York CIty.

Despite a chorus of bad reviews, including a spanking by Times critic Betsy Sharkey, the Smurfs had enough charm to attract Harry Pottered-out kids. For adults, however, the cool Manhattan apartment sets might have held the most appeal.


Much of the action takes place in the retro-boho home of blues-loving marketing man Patrick Winslow (Harris, above) and mother-to-be Grace Winslow (Jayma Mays), a furniture refurbisher. (Mays, who plays guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury on ‘Glee,’ is pictured at right on the set with Harris and director Raja Gosnell.)

The exteriors were shot on location in the East Village at a six-story Classical Revival brick building with Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge views, production designer Bill Boes said in an email.

‘We came up with the idea that perhaps in the 1960s the building once housed many artists and musicians and had a crazy history of artistic renovations, leaving a patchwork of mismatched cabinets and vibrant colored linoleum tile in the kitchen,’ he said.

Set decorator Regina Graves took this cue in creating the look of the other rooms, including a bathroom that dated to 1912 and was outfitted with tiles from Subway Ceramics and a pull-chain toilet from Historic Houseparts.

‘We wanted the apartment to feel a little cluttered but lived in and well loved,’ Graves said. ‘We did this using multiple layers of old, new and found items. Grace and Patrick are a quintessential New York couple that goes to thrift stores and flea markets on the weekends and aren’t embarrassed to bring home that great metal step stool they found on the sidewalk ready for the trash.’

The kitchen gets its old-timey feeling with patterned Portuguese wall tiles from Solar Antique Tiles and a floor made from Azrock Cortina Grande tiles in orange and yellow. The butcher block is antique, and the island was made from IKEA’s Norden table painted yellow. The pedestal dining table with a cast iron base was purchased at Olde Engine Works Market Place in Stroudsburg, Penn. ‘It was in the café section of the antique center and not for sale,’ Graves said. ‘I actually begged the owner of the antique market and purchased another table to replace that one.’

Keep reading to see the Winslows’ boudoir and learn how the living room got Smurfed ...

The Winslows sleep in a CB2 bed with John Robshaw bedding. The photographs by Abbey Randell were found at Art for Film.
The Winslow living room has a mix of contemporary pieces including a Petrie sofa from Crate & Barrel and a striped rug from the ABC Carpet outlet in the Bronx. The coffee table is vintage. ‘We wanted to portray the living room as partially Grace’s studio, filled with paints and tools for her craft of painting furniture,’ Boes said. ‘Grace’s feminine touches make the Smurfs see a familiarity with their own homeland and feel at ease.’

Later in the film, the apartment gets Smurfed when -- spoiler alert -- the magic seeds that Clumsy planted on the fire escape grow into the apartment, covering the walls in flowers and foliage. The pillows on the sofa are made from Judy Ross fabrics.

For an easy way to follow future ‘Set Pieces,’ join our Facebook page dedicated to home design.

-- David A. Keeps

Photo credits: Sony Pictures Animation, Regina Graves


Judges’ chairs on ‘X Factor,’ ‘America’s Got Talent’

The new sets of ‘True Blood’

1930s London in ‘Upstairs Downstairs’

1930s California in ‘Mildred Pierce’