Get the look: from the minimalism of Wallander to Mad Men chic
Taking interiors inspiration from the small screen is easier than ever before, says Kate Watson-Smyth
Wednesday 03 March 2010
Much has been made of the gorgeous clothes and perfect styling of Mad Men, but for many viewers it's the interiors which are the real stars; Don Draper's double-headed desk lamp, Pete's office sofa and Betty's padded velvet headboard are all the subject of desperate online pleas from frustrated amateur designers keen to recreate the look.
Then there is Wallander, another current series gripping keen interior design fans by its look as much as its acting and plot lines. This famously morose Swedish detective never sleeps in his bed if he can nod off in his incredibly stylish leather chair with a glass of wine, and his police station is decorated with mosaics that wouldn't look out of place on the cover of glossy magazine Elle Deco.
The makers of both programmes have paid huge attention to the details, and suddenly uncluttered, simple furniture in muted colours with sleek lines feels totally right for now. So what is this style and, more importantly, where can we get it?
Wallander is a homage to the mid-century modern style that was led by the Scandinavians and is still going strong today – a perfect marriage of form and function with objects made from natural materials in colours that reflect the sometimes harsh environment outside.
The look of Mad Men is a faithful representation of the American take on Scandinavian style, says David Tatham, an expert on the design of this period, adding that both shows are spot-on for detail. "Wallander has an understated cool that represents Scandinavian design," he says. "It's not just a stylised look for the programme: people really do live like that. It's about beautiful things that are not flashy but simple. Mad Men, on the other hand, is very stylised and represents the American take on modern Danish design. Of course, the US had its own designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, but they were interpreting that style."
In an interview with Interior Design, Amy Wells, set designer for Mad Men and fashion designer Tom Ford's A Single Man, set in 1962, explained how she got the look: "I've gone through nearly every early decorating magazine and book, such as Fifties Furniture, from 2005, Creative Home Decorating, The Doubleday Book of Interior Decorating and Encyclopedia of Styles, and Inside Today's Home, the last three from the 1950s and 1960s.
"We go with period colours with different saturations from today; for example, the Sterling Cooper office has a lot of medium blue and muted green. Palettes complement each actor. The complexion of Don Draper (Jon Hamm), for instance, looks good against blue. Betty Draper (January Jones) is very blonde, so we surround her with more contrast, like the French blue grass-cloth walls of the Draper house living room or the tan-black plaid wallpaper in the kitchen. Since Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) is a redhead, we're careful what we put her against, steering clear of pinks and oranges."
This isn't as strange as it might sound. The Georgians would decorate to reflect well on the hostess's looks. Says Tatham: "For those who like beautiful design and have the sensibility for an unfussy, cool home, the Wallander style is achievable and, in my opinion, timeless. Likewise it is possible to fill your home with 1960s furniture and lighting and get that stylised look of Mad Men. You don't even need to buy the originals as there is a lot of furniture inspired by the Danish Modern interior like G-Plan and Ercol, both widely available."
If you prefer to buy new then look out for clean lines. Sofas have legs and are not the mass of cushions we are used to lounging on today. Try Habitat's Ella sofa, and John Lewis stocks Robin Day chairs.
If you're shopping for the original Scandi look then be nice to the bank manager as the big names – Jacobsen, Saarinen and Henningsen – are classics and don't come cheap.
But if you don't want to be retro, there's a new generation of Scandinavians producing the future classics. Look out for Muuto, Iittala and Normann Copenhagen. Newhouse textiles has a wonderful range of fabrics and kitchenware inspired by Swedish designers – check out the herring table mats – and visit 95percentdanish.com for wall stickers, cushions and other accessories, not forgetting Skandium, where you can buy chairs, kitchenware and lighting. Design House Stockholm is another good place – they will ship to this country. And don't forget flat pack: read Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for a comprehensive list of Ikea furniture to be inspired in a more affordable way.
Mad Men, Wednesday 10pm, BBC4; Wallander, Saturday 9pm, BBC4
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