How To Dress Your Home Like A Wes Anderson Movie

Flipping through the recently released coffee-table book The Wes Anderson Collection, we were struck by an intense desire to move right into one of the director’s magical movie sets. After all, who wouldn’t want to live in Gwyneth’s brownstone bedroom in The Royal Tenenbaums, with its so-retro princess phone and 1970s lighted mirror, or spend summers in residence at Moonrise Kingdom’s sweet New England cottage, circa 1960? And, as for The Grand Budapest Hotel (opening March 7), we’re most definitely ready to check in.
But, it's one thing to be inspired by those spaces and quite another to actually deck out your apartment to mirror them. Is it even possible to bring that style of quirkiness into your home — without feeling like you're an extra on a Hollywood set? As a matter of fact, yes. And, for the how-to guide, we turned to Kris Moran, a set decorator and prop master whose film credits include such Anderson classics as The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited, and Moonrise Kingdom. Moran also takes on the occasional decorating job, and she's furnished homes for director Noah Baumbach and actor Bill Murray. (And, we can't pretend we're not completely delighted by the idea that those two Anderson collaborators live in homes inspired by some of their best work.)
Ahead, 10 clever tricks for transforming your place into a curio-filled, color-saturated fantasy.
Photo: Courtesy of Abrams.
1 of 12
Curate Everyday Objects
“On Moonrise Kingdom,” Moran says, “we didn’t really decorate at all. What we did was pick functional objects that counted — from the perfect tent to brass ship lamps. If you are buying a stapler, for instance, don’t just buy any stapler: Buy one that sparks your interest. Maybe it reminds you of your grandmother’s stapler, or it’s so tiny it's funny. If you are drawn to an object, trust that feeling.” Even something as minor as a toothbrush can be an opportunity to bring design into your life. “If you see a toothbrush in a movie, know that I shopped it to death,” she says. “I don’t just go to CVS. I’ll go and get a European toothbrush that’s green with cream-colored bristles, because it looks great.”

Bogobursh Toothbrush, $10, available at Bogobrush.
2 of 12
Get Into Character — Yours
When Moran creates a movie set, she selects objects and furniture that reflect the film’s characters and their personal histories. In Moonrise Kingdom, Frances McDormand’s pantry is lined with home-canned tomatoes and boxed salt, because her character would likely have set up her kitchen just like her own mother had. Margot Tenenbaum’s bedroom had super-feminine accessories like that pink princess phone because “she was holding on to aspects of her girlhood.” So, go ahead: Use your grandmother’s china if it reminds you of her.

Vermont Country Store Princess Phone, $59.95, available at Vermont Country Store.
3 of 12
Forget Tear Sheets
While design magazines and blogs can be inspirational, Moran never copies the look of what’s in fashion. She avoids buying sets of furniture at any one store. “The current passes, and ideas change,” she says. “It’s more interesting and a better investment to decorate with the things that really speak to you and that have an element of your own history.” Moran finds unique and affordable vintage furniture at Furnish Green in New York.

Furnish Green Burke Shell Chair, $232, available at Furnish Green.
4 of 12
Go For Laughs
“Humor is a great element in design that makes people feel immediately comfortable,” Moran says. In The Royal Tenenbaums, for instance, a salon-style wall of children’s drawings in gold frames — adorable and hilarious on their own — gets an extra comedic jolt by being hung together with a mounted boar’s head. Moran sees the humor in anything oversized. For one of Bill Murray’s homes, she found a red-velvet-and-gilt French provincial living-room set on Craigslist for $5,000 and convinced her client to buy it. “It had amazing custom vinyl seat covers on the upholstery,” she says. “Bill still shakes his head at me over it, but I love it.”
5 of 12
Photo: Courtesy of Matt Zoller Seitz/The Wes Anderson Collection.
Kris Moran (with Gwyneth Paltrow) in Margot Tenenbaum's room on the set of The Royal Tenenbaums. The wallpaper is Scalamandré Zebras pattern.
6 of 12
Try The Cheap Tricks
Eye-catching design doesn’t have to be expensive. Moran is a fan of dollar stores, where she finds endless potential for design accessories and set props. The trick is in the editing, she says. For Noah Baumbach’s editing room, she created a windowsill display of vintage party noisemakers that cost $5 apiece. “They added a little color,” she says. Fill a bowl with leftover Champagne cages, she adds, and you have a design element that says you love to celebrate.

FrenchFind Vintage German Noisemaker, $17.50, available at Etsy.
7 of 12
Relocate Readily
Just as Moran is in the habit of transferring props around on a set, she is forever moving art and furniture from room to room in her own home (especially when a movie wraps and she has the good fortune to come home with the props). “It’s amazing how you can refresh your decor just by shifting the things you already own,” she says. “Try relocating your artwork to another wall, or bring the pillows from your bed to your couch. They will probably coordinate well with your living room’s decor because you yourself picked them out, and whether you realize it or not, you do have your own style. The process can be surprising and fun.” Try this fan-patterned pillow in a retro palette.

Michele Varian Silk Print Pillow, $166, available at Michele Varian.
8 of 12
Be Eclectic
Just because you might find yourself suddenly flush with cash doesn’t mean you should order up an apartment’s worth of furniture in one fell swoop. The most interesting interiors don’t feel like they were purchased all at once. For that reason, even though Anderson’s films are usually set in a specific period, Moran likes to mix it up and combine furniture from more than one decade. She avoids choosing the signature piece of any one era (Saarinen Womb chair, we’re looking at you) in favor of pieces by lesser-known period designers. “Those iconic pieces call too much attention to one thing and take away from a space that feels accumulated over time,” she says. The Moonrise Kingdom set featured vintage industrial pieces like this army-green coffee table.

Furnish Green Industrial Army Green Coffee Table, $171, available at Furnish Green.
9 of 12
Photo: Courtesy of Matt Zoller Seitz/The Wes Anderson Collection.
Kris Moran's design for the Bishop family's New England summer house included custom-made vinyl LP cabinets and curtains made of sailboat fabric hung on the reverse.
10 of 12
Go For the Gold
If a dresser or chair is a bit lackluster, an easy way to glam it up is to gold-leaf it. “Even a terrible gilding job can look amazing, and anyone can learn to do it,” says Moran. She recently covered a five-foot-tall gummy bear in gold leaf for a display in a candy store. Total cost: $60. She also gilded a Statue of Liberty head for Bill Murray. Her source for materials and great advice: Sepp Leaf.

Seap Leaf Patent Genuine Gold Leaf Book, $65.62, available at Amazon.
11 of 12
Play With Texture
A quirky or colorful fabric can add texture and personality to a room, says Moran, who takes an unconventional approach to textiles. In the family room in Moonrise Kingdom, she hung diamond-patterned sailboat curtains backward (“the front was too shiny”) and used a Ralph Lauren striped fabric as a floor runner in place of a rug. Broome Lampshades in New York is another of her favorite sources. “Custom lamp shades don’t cost a lot, and I love when they perfectly match the sofa, which I think looks both tailored and hilarious,” she says.

Marimekko Fujiwo Ishimoto Lampshade, $59.90, available at Etsy.
12 of 12
Prop Your Next Party
To loosen up party guests, give them something to play with. At Murray’s holiday bash, Moran piles up props in giant bowls — everything from candy cigarettes to cardboard masks and paper airplanes. Her favorite touch: bowls of red wax lips. “They are beautiful objects,” Moran says, “and, before you know it, people are putting them on and taking pictures of each other.”

Old Time Candy Wax Lips (Box of 24), $23.99, available at Old Time Candy.

More from Home


R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Five love stories behind diverse, multicultural marriages.
Watch Now
Life experiments, 5 days at a time.
Watch Now
The style of subculture.
Watch Now
Viral trends, tried and tested.
Watch Now
From vibrators to lipstick, learn how your favorite products are made.
Watch Now
Extraordinary, one-of-a-kind individuals
Watch Now
The latest stories to watch.
Watch Now
Inside the homes of millennial women — & what they paid for them
Watch Now
Let's talk about sex, baby.
Watch Now
Female artisans around the world
Watch Now
Made by and for smart, opinionated women.
Watch Now
We helped 12 female directors claim their power.