Interior designers who specialize in set design for film and TV have an arsenal of shared experiences: incredibly tight deadlines, last minute wardrobe and script changes that affect the colors on the set, and other challenges that are unique to their line of work. Sets must be layered and colorful but function solely as a backdrop to the action.
However, on Sex and the City 2, much like New York City or Carrie’s shoe collection, the set becomes more than just a backdrop, it becomes a character. We spoke with set decorator Lydia Marks and Martin Albert Interiors owner Albert Harary and designer Dara Centonze for some insight into this unique project.
“We designed Big and Carrie’s apartment as though Carrie and her decorator chose the pieces, but with Big very much in mind,” Marks said. Many items and areas of the apartment were designed around specific scenes and moments in the film. “For example,” she said, “we knew that Big and Carrie have an important conversation in their bed, so production designer Jeremy Conway designed the bed to envelop them. It has side returns and an exaggerated height headboard to reinforce this feeling of enclosure.”
Some of the challenges in set design include avoiding certain colors like black and white, and too-small fabric patterns that appear to wave on camera, but Marks broke the rules for the film. “We often use white,” Marks said, “Samantha’s office is a great example of this. I used the shiniest white floor available on the market! We also used black silk because it has such a beautiful sheen to it. You are able to see depth and dimension in the fabrics.” Marks relies on Martin Albert to help her source materials, design custom set pieces and collaborate on design decisions.
On Sex and the City 2, the costumes also largely dictated the choices for the interiors. Marks worked closely with the costume designers to ensure everything was coordinated. “Sometimes that starts with what we want the interior to look like, and sometimes it will start with the dress someone is going to be wearing when they sit on that upholstered piece of furniture,” she said, “I use fabric as a tool to give us an inside view to a particular character…the colors and patterns often tell a very strong story!”
Design firm Martin Albert Interiors recreated many set pieces from the television show and the first movie, and created new custom pieces (like the first class airplane seats) to perfectly reflect Marks’ vision for the film, often within very short timelines. “We’ve worked together for ten years,” says Harary, a well-respected authority in the industry for more than 40 years, “There is a lot of trust. And we still learn from each other and get inspired when the vision comes together.”
On breaking into the industry and becoming a set designer, Marks offers this advice: “Be prepared to think outside the box! When the director announces a script change and the lead actress is getting married in the morning…you’d better be prepared to furnish an office to look like a ballroom, furniture for twenty, create beautiful, elaborate window treatments that look like they came from a 19th century hotel lobby, then dress the entire room as a wedding gala, complete with a mix of real and fake flowers for shooting longevity, in about two days….you had better be prepared to think on your feet and use your arsenal of secret sources!”
Look out for Kravet and Lee Jofa fabrics and wallpaper while you enjoy this sizzling summer movie!