The set design for the HBO movie Grey Gardens is quite lovely. It captures the essence of Hamptons style perfectly. The great summer houses, called cottages, that were built in the early 1900's and many of which still stand today, evoke a gracious lifestyle that is captivating.
Being summer houses, the homes were furnished in a more casual way, often reflecting the "fun" side of the socially prominent and wealthy people who inhabited them. These houses were places to let your hair down, to relax, to play.
The Beale ladies who owned Grey Gardens were two such people. Their summer cottage in East Hampton was their play house.
Production Designer Kalina Ivanov depicts this with lovely attention to detail. There is another interview with her HERE and is well worth the read.
As you look around this living room, you see such a wonderful collection of art objects like the little sculpture of the torso, the faded oriental carpets, the precious little side tables, the plant placed in a bird cage, odd little decor touches that are very feminine and very bohemian, very much like the ladies of this house.
The wall paper used throughout the house is oriental in feeling, hand painted perhaps. The floral draperies are very much like the type used in English country houses, very Colefax and Fowler if you will.
What's so hard to imagine is how the house got to the squalor those ladies lived in. Like when was the first empty cat food can thrown in a corner, and who threw it there, and why didn't anyone pick it up and put it in the trash? Where did the furniture go? Did they have to sell their lovely things to survive? How do you go from wearing lovely clothes and jewels, from being so beautifully groomed, to becoming those unkempt tragedies? How many years did it take for a house to die?
And all those cats! The day I pulled into the driveway on my bicycle, and listened to the house to tell me if anything alive was in it, I did not see one of those cats! It was only after Edie spoke to me, did they start to appear from every corner, almost as if summoned by this magic good witch. She really did look like she stepped out of an enchanted forest in a Grimm fairy tale.
I love the lipstick red Chinoiserie dining room chairs, again a great pop of bohemian pizazz.
It is so heart wrenching to see the house as imagined by Kalina Ivanov for the movie. Filmed mainly in Toronto, she says creating the outdoor sets of the house was a huge accomplishment. There aren't many existing old photos that depict the house as it was in its happy days, still intact, perhaps as intact as the minds of the women who lived there were then. So Kalina used her imagination, creating a charming and layered feminine and bohemian atmosphere.
Each detail is lovingly attended to. There are signs of lives lived, of pretty things accumulated, but without overt ostentatious displays of wealth: Hamptons Style - or at least as it was before the influx of newly created wealthy people of the last twenty years to this once exclusive playground.
My favorite rooms in the set design, are the bedrooms (there are 14 of them at Grey Gardens!). These are the rooms every woman could live in. The colors, the wallpaper, the bedding, the lamps, the rugs - its all so charming.
I wonder if this is meant to be Little Edie's bedroom.
Maybe it's meant to be the mother's room, Big Edie's room,
Again, the hand painted wallpaper is exquisite without screaming a rich girl lives here. I love the detail of the kimono hanging.
The headboard is posh, and I am just loving the draperies again.
The sweet tufted headboard never showed up again in the photos taken of Big Edie as she took to her bed in the squalor.
Here's another bedroom. Maybe this is meant to be Little Edie's. It has a younger feeling.
I love the art deco bed, again something a little fashion forward for its time, something an artistic person would purchase for an otherwise traditional home. The Chinese lantern and poster to the right of it are very bohemian touches, as are the colors of the pillows on the bed. The skirted side table is lovely.
The needlepoint chair is spectacular! And I love peeking into the wardrobe.
Little Edie may have lived in a demented house near the end of her time at Grey Gardens, but she still kept up with the social graces of writing notes, making little presents for people, and also of getting notes from people.
Here's a note she got from Jackie along with a clipping telling how mad Jackie was when Edie sold the house to Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee.
It just confuses me that the whole Bouvier clan neglected those ladies.
Lee Radziwell was interviewed somewhere recently, maybe Vogue, about this movie coming out. She said she loved and accepted the two Edies, was not ashamed of them. But I still don't understand why they didn't provide basic housekeeping for them.