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Lynda Reeves On Nancy Meyers' Movies

Why I love It's Complicated and other Nancy Meyers' films.

Nancy Meyers’ movies are famous for their great interiors. Before I even knew her name, I was savouring those moments in her comedies when the heart-pounding house was revealed and so cleverly woven into the plot.

In Father of the Bride II (set Decoration by Ric McElvin), it was the dreamy nursery addition that Franck (Martin Short) built for the Banks’ new baby. So perfect that tightwad Steve Martin wrote the cheque without a peep.

In What Women Want (set decoration by Rosemary Brandenburg), it was Helen Hunt’s perfect uptown girl townhouse with its graceful mouldings and french doors. Even empty, it had great bones to covet.

In The Holiday (set decoration by Cindy Carr, David Smith and Al Hobbs), it was Cameron Diaz’s quintessential L.A. house with its sensational kitchen, media room and pool. It had the latest technology that Kate Winslet’s English cottage — with all its charm — would never have.

Remember how Diaz’s perfect bedroom went into sleep mode with one push of a bedside button?

Then, there was the house in Something's Gotta Give (set decoration by Beth Rubino), the most talked-about interior from any movie ever. Could there be a more perfect beach house for a successful New York playwright with great taste — or for any of us, for that matter?

I remember being stuck on a plane when Ms. Meyers’ latest film, It's Complicated (set decoration also by Beth Rubino), opened in my city. I was so disappointed: it meant I had to wait an entire week before I could see her latest dream house come to life.

The day after I got home I rushed to the theatre, filled with excitement. Well, diehard House & Home readers, I know you’ve seen the movie by now. So, let’s discuss Meryl Streep’s Santa Barbara cottage.

As in all Nancy Meyers movies, the house is yet another character in the film. In It’s Complicated, Streep’s longawaited kitchen reno is the matchmaker that brings her together with a gentle architect played by Steve Martin.

Her house is less picture-perfect than, say, Diane Keaton’s Hamptons beach house. This one is funky, eclectic and homey. The open, unfitted kitchen-dining room is friendly with a farmhouse vibe and clearly belongs to a serious cook who loves to feed her flock. The palette of the whole house is dreamy creamy with accent hits of orange in every room.

It’s that casual imperfection that viewers liked best. I sent out a Tweet asking for feedback on the house. It was unanimous. “Fabulous! A little shabby, and all the better for it” was the collective response.

In every Nancy Meyers movie, there is always one piece of furniture or an accessory that I need to source the minute I see it. The bergere chair in the bedroom of Diane Keaton’s Hamptons house was my first introduction to Oly and their wonderful trad line (olystudio.com). Ditto the wide blue-and-white striped dhurrie in her living room (Elte or Y&Co in Toronto and Montreal can order it). In It’s Complicated, it’s the black armchairs with burnt orange seats around the dining room table. Please help if you know the source. My bet is that they’re antiques.

Streep’s living room and bedroom are cosy: worn out, but still great. The broad porch is romantic and beckoning, and the kitchen garden is perfection. But it’s the kitchen itself that reveals the most about its owner. It’s no surprise when we discover that Streep’s Jane is the proprietor of the town’s gourmet bakery-café. It feels like her house: plentiful and welcoming. Incidentally, the kitchen’s pendant lights are the same ones we used in the 2009 Princess Margaret Showhouse. Proof positive that home trends really are “in the wind”: we pick up their scent no matter where we live.

Ms. Meyers’ heroines usually love to cook and entertain. Remember Diane Keaton’s gourmet baby food businessin Baby Boom (Set decoration by Lisa Fischer), another movie written and produced by Meyers? And remember how she fed Jack Nicholson a lobster and pasta feast in Something’s Gotta Give, and how a great brisket and a relaxed dinner party thrown by Kate Winslet helped her nab Jack Black in The Holiday?

Meyers and her set designers understand that we want to see her characters in aspirational yet casual interiors. We enjoy seeing design trends from decorating magazines come to life on the big screen. We want her to exaggerate the perfection of each detail so we can almost taste those yummy rooms.

If we wanted reality, we’d visit our neighbours. But this is Hollywood, after all. We want perfection! What’s so complicated about that?

This column appeared in the April 2010 issue. Get more thoughts and inspiration from Lynda in her blogs.

Photographer: 

It's Complicated still courtesy of Melinda Sue Gordon, Universal Pictures.

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