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Why Top Hollywood Directors Are Turning To Hotel Design

From David Lynch to Francis Ford Coppola and Wes Anderson, filmmakers are going beyond movie sets to design hotels, bars and nightclubs.

The Wes-Anderson-inspired Bar Luce in Milan
The Wes-Anderson-inspired Bar Luce in Milan
Marie Godfrain

PARIS — With tiger-striped poufs, curtains of crimson velour and marble sinks, the new Faena Hotel in Miami Beach looks like it's been plucked from a movie set.

It could have been.

The hotel was designed by Baz Luhrmann, the celebrated director of films such as Moulin Rouge, who injected the space with the kind of flamboyance his movies are known for.

Indeed, it was another Luhrmann film — The Great Gatsby — that got him the job. Hotelier Alan Faena called on Luhrmann and his wife, Catherine Martin, an Academy Award-winning costume and set designer, to work on his hotel after watching the movie.

"They contributed to building this fantasy and developing the narrative that sets the tone for the hotel," said Faena.

Luhrmann is not the first director to take on this type of interior design project. Before him, David Lynch, the feted director of surrealist films, dreamed up the Parisian nightclub Silencio. Last year, Wes Anderson, another director known for his distinctive visual style, infused Bar Luce, a drinking spot in the Prada Foundation's complex in Milan, with a vintage yet timeless atmosphere.

"It's no coincidence that directors are jumping into the wild world of decorating with hotels, bars and other watering holes," says French director Matthieu Delaporte. "These are places for a quick escape, they are bubbles outside of real life."

Francis Ford Coppola, another renowned director, was looking to relive the lush jungle vibe of Apocalypse Now when he stumbled upon the Blancaneaux Lodge surrounded by rainforest in the Central American nation of Belize. Coppola later opened Turtle Inn, also in Belize, and more recently La Lancha in Guatemala, which he furnished using only material from local markets.

A relationship with space

Though directors have taken to interior decorating, Delaporte thinks it's unlikely they would take on mainstream projects. "These filmmakers are not about to start working on train stations, for example, because the type of design involved in that is highly functional and requires specialized training," he noted. "For filmmakers, the atmosphere is crucial because it shapes the way a moviegoer will approach their work."

Delaporte says the move from film to decorating is far from absurd. "The concept of a setting and structure are equally vital to both fields," he said. "To be a director is to conceptualize a space."

Director Alejandro Landes, known for his film Porfirio, relied on his noted attention to detail when he set to work on his home Casa Bahia in Florida, recently completing its architectural and interior design. From the structure of the building to the beds, and right down to the cups holding toothbrushes, Landes sketched out all the plans.

"I took on this project the way a director dives into making a movie, from the screenplay to the actors' hairstyles," he said.

The rectangular openings of various sizes strategically placed for the most spectacular ocean views are the most striking element of the vast space. "In films as well as in architecture, my surroundings are what inspire me. Depending on the structural constraints, I decide what to show or hide and how I want to play with lighting," he explained. "A movie and a house are built the same way, the creative process is similar."

And it's not just interior decor that filmmakers are delving into. When porcelain manufacturer Bernardaud, based in Limoges, France, asked David Lynch, Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), and Marco Brambilla (Demolition Man), to create a series of plates featuring stories from their cinematic works, the trio came up with interesting designs.

Lynch drew his view of man while Schnabel focused on an Indian monument. Brambilla sketched The Last Supper. All of the above, ambitious as ever.

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photo of Lionel Messi saluting the crowd

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