Design has a starring role in Meryl Streep's new comedy 'It's Complicated'

By Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 17, 2009

In 2003, the movie "Something's Gotta Give" starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson created a lot of buzz. But it wasn't just because of the acting. Moviegoers and design enthusiasts were enthralled with the interior sets created for the Hamptons beach house where most of the film took place. Homeowners across the country were clamoring for the kitchen in particular, replicating the exact design -- down to the drawer pulls -- in their own homes.

The writer and director of "Something's Gotta Give," Nancy Meyers, is back with a new film. "It's Complicated," which opens Dec. 25, stars Meryl Streep as Jane, a bakery owner and a divorced mother of three in her 50s who has an affair with her married ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) at the same time she becomes romantically involved with the architect working on her house renovations (Steve Martin).

Jon Hutman is the production designer responsible for the film's comfy and casually elegant, California-style interiors. We spoke with him by phone from Italy, where he was working on a new movie. The following are excerpts from the conversation.

This is your fourth collaboration with Nancy Meyers. You also created the set for "Something's Gotta Give." Were you surprised by the popularity of that house?

Yes. People loved that house. But I'm the last person to claim that I invent this stuff. I look at every magazine and book that I can get my hands on. I feel like I scouted every house in the Hamptons, and we put together the best of what we saw.

I believe that the reason people love that kitchen was the movie. I think if you were to just publish that kitchen in a magazine, people would like it, but what really made it strike a chord was the movie. Nancy writes movies that are very much from her heart. "It's Complicated" is very much in that same personal vein that "Something's Gotta Give" was: It's about a really successful woman in her mid-50s that is going through something that people go through in life.

How would you describe the difference between the houses in "Something's Gotta Give" and "It's Complicated"?

Remember, the house in "Something's Gotta Give" is a second house. Erica Barry [Diane Keaton's character] is divorced, she's had a string of successful plays, the house was a gift to herself. Jane [Meryl Streep's character] is in the process of giving herself that gift. Her current house, which she bought when she got divorced and raised a child in, is Chapter Two in her life. The house that's coming is Chapter Three. Jane's situation and her house are a little more human. . . . It's comfortable, it's stylish, but she's in the process of doing something that's more about her independence as a woman.

The movie takes place in Santa Barbara, Calif., but the interiors were shot in New York?

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