How does the process of set decoration work?
I worked with the production designer, Dennis Gassner, who was in charge of providing the overall look of the film. Once locations and sets have a framework, then I put together mood boards with ideas of how to bring them to life.
Was there a particular look you were going for?
Bond was very particular because aside from a heightened sense of luxury and glamour everything has to feel real and hence many of the sets were like decorating real homes and hotel rooms. The director Marc Forster was very keen to create a strong element of realism at all times.
Did the sets reflect current design trends then?
It’s ended up having quite a 1970s feel, partly because there’s a trend for this at the moment but also it felt right for many of the scenes. We’ve gone back to the Ken Adam years, but updated the look with a contemporary edge.
Did you watch the previous films for inspiration?
I have to say I didn’t. My work is very much rooted in finding what’s right and what works for this particular set or scene in this particular film. I think it’s important that I respond to the people I’m working with in the present more than continuing what someone else’s vision that might have been before.
How does the sourcing process work?
I started work last September and went to all the design shows, Tent, 100%, Maison etc. I then build a reference library of catalogues and started contacting companies whose designs fitted the bill – B&B Italia, Bene, Boconcept and Interstuhl particularly. These were companies who loaned furniture to us. Everything else we bought or made.
Where does B&B Italia feature in the film?
The Grand Hotel sequence in Bolivia smacked of incredible luxury and we were lucky enough to dress an entire bedroom suite in B&B furniture from Antonio Citterio’s Maxalto collection. It felt right because B&B has a larger than life scale to it, but still fits beautifully into a domestic or hotel setting. They were very accommodating and created a bed for us. Even the largest beds tend to look very small on a film set because the rooms need to be so much bigger to fit the cameras, lighting and equipment.
What do they get out of it?
I think it’s a big deal if you can get Daniel Craig sipping a cocktail on your sofa. That set was several pages of the script so it gets a lot of exposure.
But the brands don’t get name-checked unlike some of the higher profile product placements and their products aren’t instantly recognisable so is it up to their marketing team to do the legwork?
True, but they’re still selling a lifestyle. The brands then get stills from the film to market them how they wish.
The film’s product placement deals have had almost as much press as the film itself – does it get in the way of the creativity of your job?
For the interiors elements product placement is not our starting point for furnishing the sets. If we want to use a company a lot, then we go to the people who deal with the product placement at EON and say we’d like to use this. They then sort out the machinations, thereafter everything they get out of it and all the brand promotion is of no interest to me. All I’m concerned with is making sure we get the right look for each set.
Does it say anything about the changing nature of design that a furniture brand is included in the product placement deals?
I think it’s more that it’s rare to be able to use one brand so much. This was the first instance in twenty years that I was able to do it on this scale.
How else do you furnish the sets?
I have a few London-based companies who are incredibly helpful. SCP is brilliant. I sit down with them and go through what I might be looking for and they point me in the right direction. They point me in the direction to new companies I might not have heard of or seen. EC1 Lighting is extremely helpful too – whenever we’re looking for lighting I head to them. Viaduct are fantastic too. If we buy bigger brands like Vitra or Artemide, then I always go through these companies.
What other brands did you use?
Fritz Hansen and Knoll we purchased from directly. Also Kelly Hoppen and Linley. For lighting, we used Artemide, Oluce and Luceplan.
Do you have to be aware not to upstage the actors?
Any detail is for the actors’ benefits to enhance their performances. I’m not trying to place an iconic piece because it’s eye-catching, that would be totally wrong. My aim is to make the film look right so that the story hangs together and so the actors feel that the environment is real for them.
So in the first instance do you buy?
We try to rent first but this was a particular production, filming in five countries (Chile, Panama, Italy, Austria and the UK), constantly thinking about shipping schedules so often it made more sense to buy.
You mentioned that you make things too?
Yes we make a lot of the furniture ourselves to get the right look. There’s a scene in the foyer of the Grand Hotel where we made our own 1950s wingback chairs. M’s desk in MI6 was made from scratch too in Pinewood.
Is this cheaper?
It’s more about getting exactly the right look for something that we can’t find anywhere else.
What was the budget for furnishing the film?
It changed quite a bit but a ballpark figure of £2 million wouldn’t be far off.
What happens to all the furniture after the film’s finished?
Well all the loaned furniture from B&B Italia and the others gets returned. But we have a big prop sale of things that we own for cast, crew and the studio.
Do you feel a sense of accomplishment when you see the film or after the project’s been finished?
More when the project’s been finished definitely. It’s funny I actually feel quite removed from the film as a finished product.