Sunday, October 25, 2015

Under the Influence -- The Night We Never Met

We talk a lot about inspiration here at Blackbird, Inc.  Both of us are kind of like sponges, soaking up everything we see and read and experience -- and we tend to hang on to random bits and pieces, tucking them away into our brains to be pulled out and combined with other ideas whenever we need them.  We don't always immediately remember where the inspiration comes from, whether it was a movie we saw once years ago or a book we read a few months ago.  So we've decided to start a new feature on the blog, called Under the Influence, to try to catalog and pinpoint the things that have shaped our uniquely different (yet somehow, strangely coordinating and cooperative) personal aesthetics.

We're going to start with a movie that is not the movie that triggered the idea for these posts.  We'll talk about that one later -- I haven't re-watched the whole thing yet, and I wanted to reacquaint myself with it before I wrote about it.  But that movie got me to thinking about this movie (I can't explain that jump of logic), and I haven't seen this movie since -- oh man, who knows how long!  But I somehow found that it was coming on television and decided to record it.  I'm so glad I did.


I'm sure most people would just think of it as a throwaway romantic comedy.  Especially since it's from 1993, an era that people haven't really started to appreciate again.  But I absolutely love it in the way that I love all 90s-era romantic comedies.  I was 15 when it came out, but I didn't see it until a few years later on VHS.  It has a lovable Matthew Broderick as Sam, a hipster-foodie (way before it was cool to be one), who works at a Manhattan Dean and Deluca as the cheese guy.  He almost doesn't meet, but then does meet and fall in love with Ellen, played by Annabella Sciorra, a dental hygienist in an unhappy marriage.  The story is too complex to get into here, and well, that's not what we're here to talk about anyway.  I love the story, but the apartment and the way the characters live in the apartment are what's important right now.   

Dean and Deluca screenshot
Hipster-foodie Sam
They meet and don't realize who they are!

This apartment is gorgeous.  Tall windows with tons of natural light.  Double front doors with lots of dark wood and heavy moldings.  A vintage style kitchen with glass bottle cabinet doors and an old range and oven.  The basic plot is that they are sharing this rent controlled apartment with another guy, and they each get the place for two nights a week.  Sam and Ellen fall in love without meeting, through their shared love for this apartment and the freedom it gives them to be themselves.  Sam has lots of roommates at his real apartment, and this place is a quiet place he can cook, read, and relax.  Ellen wants somewhere to get away from her loveless marriage and garish apartment in Queens.  She wants to learn to paint, and experience the excitement of the city.

The apartment's stoop

Sam and Ellen both furnish their side of the apartment (the other side is a travesty of black leather and electronic equipment, courtesy of the yuppie frat boy third roommate) with their most precious items -- Sam's grandmother's quilt, Ellen's art supplies, his toolbox with antique tools...and you can tell that they are meant for each other because it all just blends.  Ellen's home is full of bright colors and contemporary furniture, and Sam's apartment is a pigsty.  But when they create their own space in the time-share apartment, you can see an eclectic mix of vintage and worn pieces that have a soothing, subdued color palette.  When they are allowed to be true to themselves, they take joy in the small things -- Sam makes a wooden planter box for Ellen's herbs, prompting her to sew long curtain panels for the windows.  They begin to take pride in the apartment, figuring out who they really are through something as simple as furnishing a space.


I think this is when we really start to see this idea happening of mixing vintage and industrial items in interiors, and especially this renewed love of vintage architecture.  If you put this on a timeline, then you realize that "Friends" started airing in 1994, and I think without a doubt, Monica and Rachel's apartment is a separate character on that show.  And why was that?  Because it made it cool again to have a hodgepodge style with a mix of new, vintage, and found furniture and decor.  It was an old apartment with strange architectural quirks, and every piece was placed exactly where it was for a reason -- it told a story without saying a word.  This movie was kind of on the cusp of that, and I think this interior still stands the test of time.  Whereas the "Friends" apartment was super bright and vibrant, this apartment is all about understated comfort and enjoying the history behind the items.  Even more so when you compare Sam and Ellen's space with the other homes in the film -- Brian's black leather bachelor pad just through the archway, Ellen's bright modern mess in Queens, and Sam's filthy tenement apartment.


Even though the film came out in 1993 (22 years ago!), the pieces they picked are timeless.  I didn't realize until I watched it again how much this affected my design sense at the time.  And although my tastes have grown and changed since I was 17 or 18, this aesthetic is still pretty much at the core of my own personal style.  If I had this apartment, I would pick pretty much the same things.  It's hard to get good screenshots of the movie, so below is a collage I assembled with the movie as inspiration.  Links to all the items used in the collage are on our Pinterest page called Under the Influence, found here.  If you get a chance to watch it, do!  It's available to rent on Amazon.


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