Category Archives: Double Takes

Brief notes on quick displays of design in a movie or TV show.

American Psycho, Foreign Collector

Patrick Bateman's living room in "American Psycho."

I was inspired by Flavorwire’s recent article titled, 15 Apartments on Film That We Wished We Owned, written by Colette McIntyre.  It covered some of my favorite apartments and homes in movies as well, and I could happily write a post for each one of them (and who knows, I may!), but the first one I thought I would tackle is “Patrick Bateman’s minimalist bachelor pad,” as Ms. McIntyre called it, in American Psycho from 2000.

A view of Patrick Bateman's living room from the other direction.

When it’s not covered in plastic sheeting …(yikes!) we get to see the furniture, from all over the world, that makes up his house.  To the left of his sliding glass doors, we see a chair from Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House, in Helensburgh, Scotland.

The Hill House chair, 1904, in its original setting of The Hill House master bedroom.

I love the contrast between the master bedroom of The Hill House, with its stenciled walls, and stylized floral motifs, and Patrick Bateman’s cold, plain, white living room.  It shows what an iconic piece the Hill House chair really is; it can stand alone as a piece of design.

The two black leather side chairs and matching ottomans were designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1929 for the German Pavilion for the International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain.  The Barcelona chair’s original aesthetic matches much more closely the aethetic of Patrick Bateman, but they were still seen in a much warmer environment, with golden marble and rich woods.

The Barcelona chairs and ottomans in situ, 1929.

The third piece of famous design in Bateman’s living room is the coffee table.  It was designed by Italian designer, Paolo Piva, c. 1980 for B&B Italia, and is called the Alana coffee table.  From what I’ve been able to find, Piva seems to give his pieces human names.  He was born in 1950, and his designs were most popular in the 1980s.  The time in which he was designing is especially interesting in relation to American Psycho, because while the movie was made in 2000, it was set in the 1980s.

Alana coffee table, c. 1980 by Paolo Piva.

Bateman’s furniture tastes cover many countries and many time periods, but it is the Alana coffee table that would have been brand new when he purchased it.

Gideon Ponte was the production designer for American Psycho and Jeanne Develle, the set decorator.  The American 1980s is not my area of expertise in decorative arts, and I wonder if the Hill House chair and Barcelona chairs would have been readily available for purchase at the time, and also if they would have been seen as the status symbols that they are now, and as I’m sure Patrick Bateman meant for them to be.

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Talk to Her …and sit in this chair.

Here’s a quick one.  After writing a previous post on Pedro Almodóvar, I decided I needed to see all his films.  My latest one is Talk to Her (Hable con ella), and just like the others before it I was intrigued, amazed, shocked and delighted.  His story telling, the look of the film and his actors are all superb.  So, it was truly an added bonus to see another famous chair in this movie.

View of Alicia's father's office.

This chair was designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1956 for the Herman Miller furniture company.

Eames Lounge (670) and Ottoman (671), 1956

And now that I’ve noticed this chair once, I must notice it somewhere at least once a week.  It’s in movies, on TV, in print advertisements.  It even appeared in a Cole Haan ad on the side bar of my email.

Advertisement for Cole Haan featuring the Eames Lounge chair

You might also notice a famous table in the scene from Talk to Her.  It is Eileen Gray’s chromed steel side table from 1927.  Built for the E 1027 house in the South of France, these tables were likely inspired by the chromed tubular steel furniture of the Bauhaus.

Side table designed by Eileen Gray in 1927 for her E 1027 house (built between 1926 and 1929). It was originally meant to be a bedside table.

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The Brothers Bloom meets The Bauhaus

About two months ago I saw a great movie called The Brothers Bloom and of course, out of no where, BOOM!, design.  I was happy to spot a dining table surrounded by Bauhaus style chairs.

The dining table and chairs in the movie

My first thoughts turned to Marcel Breuer.  The design of the dining room chairs reminded me of his Wassily chair.

As a student and a teacher at The Bauhaus in Germany in the 1920s Breuer helped to invent tubular steel furniture.  His most famous and well-recognized piece is the Wassily Chair, originally named the Type B3 Steel Club Chair.  The chair was later named for Wassily Kandinsky, who admired the chair and had one made for his own home, by the designer and fellow Bauhaus artist, Breuer.

And while the chair is most often seen in black leather, I’ve shown it here in white because it is most similar to the chairs seen in the movie.

Director's style chair, (This is a modern interpretation.)

But, after more investigation and reading, I learned about Mart Stam, a Dutch Bauhhous designer from the same time as Marcel Breuer.  From what I have found, they both developed tubular steel chairs around the same time period, but it seems Breuer usually gets the credit.

And since The Brothers Bloom was all about the underdog or the over-looked getting his due credit, I’m going to give Stam the credit on this one.

Mart Stam's cantilever chairs

Even as exact replicas of his Cantilever Chai S34 are sold today, they are billed as Breuer style chairs.  (See the cream colored Director’s Chair above – it’s sold as a “Breuer Director Style Chair.”)  To be fair, Stam and Breuer’s chairs are VERY similar.

Marcel Breuer's cantilever chair

So can we agree to disagree?  I say Stam.  But they are from the same school: Bauhaus, and they are from the same time period: the late 1920s.  Maybe they helped each other?  The difference seems to me, to be in the arm rests.

Another piece of furniture I noticed in that flash of a dining room scene was the table.  Not that I recognized it, but I had to look into it after the chairs revealed so much.  I could very easily be wrong here, but I’m going to guess this table is from Design Within Reach.

Dining room table "inspired by" Marcel Breuer

DWR describes the table on their website as having, “the angular beauty of …the strict architecture of Marcel Breuer’s seminal work and the clean geometry of Le Corbusier’s ‘equipment for living.'”  I mean, it is a movie set after all and they probably are using modern reproductions, so I’m just going to go with the flow and say this isn’t a piece of historical design, but a modern one that works beautifully.

Even if it is only on screen for 17 seconds.

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Sleepless in Seattle & the vague term of Egg Chair

I remember watching Sleepless in Seattle when it came out in 1993 and thinking Jonah had the coolest chair I’d ever seen – and that was it.

The chair in Jonah's bedroom in the movie

But now, watching it again as an adult and as a follower of design, I had to find out more about it.

Jonah's egg chair

I started by researching “egg chairs” and soon discovered that term opened up a whole can of worms, or, rather, a whole timeline of chairs!  His chair is the most recent in a long design lineage of chairs.  Jonah’s chair, originally known as the Alpha Stereo Chair, was designed by Lee West (dates unknown) and was made for Krypton Furniture.  It is now called the ModPod Egg Chair and they can now be purchased from a company called inmod.

Inmod's Mod Pod Egg Chair

But the story behind this “egg chair,” I think, begins in 1957, with Arne Jacobsen’s design of the first named Egg Chair.

Arne Jacobsen's Egg Chair, 1957 (This picture is of Design Within Reach's reproduction.)

Jonah’s egg chair has arm rests that are reminiscent of an Eames design.

The Eames' Molded Plastic Armchair, 1948 (This picture is of DWR's modern reproduction.)

Also from 1948, and also featuring a similar arm rest design is the Womb chair, designed by Eero Saarinen.

Eero Saarinen's Womb chair, 1948 (This picture is of DWR's modern reproduction.)

The final design component I noticed on Jonah’s chair was the base.  This great swivelling base that makes the whole scene in the movie as he and Jessica spin the chair around using only the tips of their toes that touch the ground.  This base must have been inspired by Eero Saarinen as well, in his Tulip Armchair from 1956.

Eero Saarinen's Tulip chair, 1956 (This picture is of DWR's modern reproduction.)

And finally, there is another egg chair …not like Jonah’s and not like the original by Jacobsen, but one from 1968 designed by Henrik Thor-Larsen.  It was first shown at a Scandinavian furniture fair in 1968 and became a quick classic – and let’s face it, shape-wise, it is the most deserving of the name, Egg Chair.

The Ovalia Egg Chair, 1968 (These are modern reproductions.)

The chair was manufactured from 1968 to 1978 and has been so popular that the company re-released it in 2008.

The egg chair, not to be confused with the ball or globe chair, by Eero Aarnio from the early 1960s, is a term that encompasses more chair history than I would have ever thought of in 1993 when I just wanted Jonah’s cool chair.

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Mackintosh in Spain

I went to see Pedro Almodóvar’s latest movie in the cinema, Broken Embraces (Los Abrazos Rotas), this past weekend.  Besides being amazed by his ability to tell a story and Penelope Cruz’s beauty, it delights me to report I spotted two chairs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh!

The Hill House Chair, as seen in the master bedroom, Helensburgh, Scotland

The chair, as seen in the image above,was designed to go in the master bedroom of The Hill House, built for Walter Blackie and his family in 1903.  Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed the chair and the house.  Walter Blackie was a book publisher in Glasgow, Scotland.  Many of the books he published were fairy tales.  So, The Hill House, very fittingly, has a subtle theme of roses and Sleeping Beauty.  The lattice-shape of the back of the chair fits both in dimension and theme the stencils on the walls of roses growing on trellises.

Ernesto Martel and Lena in their dining room

The Hill House Chair, as seen in the movie with red seat

I was unable to find a still from the movie that included the Hill House Chair.  It was the customary black, however, it had a red upholstered seat.  There are two in Ernesto Martel’s dining room and they are visible in the scene pictured above.

This is my first post in my new category of “Double Takes” where I plan to document quick views of famous design in movies and not get into the history, philosophy or interpretation of it all.

Although I do have to say, besides having a chair meant for a bedroom in a dining room, there is an interesting layer here with the theme of this chair.  As this chair was meant to evoke the feeling of a trellis where Sleeping Beauty’s roses might grow around her and cage her in with their thorns, so does Ernesto Martel to Lena in Broken Embraces.1

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