American Hustle: 1970s interior design full of artifice, ambition — and a World of Tile bathroom — 21 photos!

American-Hustle-Jennifer-LawrenceI went to see American Hustle over the holidays. I LOVED the movie — the story — the actors — and yes, the interior design. Production designer Judy Becker (who also did Hitchcock — 34 photos here) did an amazing job recreating 1978 home, office and hotel interiors. To learn more about her process, I read the detailed production notes (in complete form, below) and this interview. Becker says, “…The themes of American Hustle added several layers that made the project especially intriguing: because the characters are running a con, the designs would not only show who the characters are, but who they are pretending and aspiring to be.” Yes, now that I read Becker’s explanation, I see how “artifice” and “ambition” are conveyed via the interior design. Moreover, the whole thing is outrageously glamorous. There’s a lot of foil wallpaper — there’s World of Tile tile! — and there’s feisty Jennifer Lawrence. LUV IT TO THE MAX! Read on for lots of juicy interesting stuff and 21 photos! Full captions and credits for each of the photos included in the slide show and for the photos shown in this main post, at the end. 

You can scroll right down to the bottom to see the slide show of 21 photos large. But first, some story…

American-Hustle-Disco-Bathroom-2American-Hustle-Disco-Bathroom-1About two-thirds of the way into the movie, I spotted what I was sure was a bathroom tiled in World of Tile arabesque aka lantern tile. I had spoken with Chippy in Novemberish, and she’d mentioned that she had sold tile to two movies. After I saw American Hustle, I called her up and sure enough: She said one of the films was American Hustle. She was all excited. I sent her photos from the press site.  The other movie with World of Tile tile, she said, is Walter Mitty. But, she went to see it, and the tile is shown very quick and is out of focus. She was very disappointed about Mitty.

Yes: World of Tile has now entered the world of movies because of Retro Renovation!

world of tile

How did Hollywood learn about World of Tile. I’m pretty sure it was from our blog when it was written up in the New York Times. Readers Nicky and Jason get SUPER CREDIT for discovering this place!

World of Tile was ‘discovered’ by Nicky and Jason, intrepid Retro Renovation readers — publicized on this blog — and then via the New York Times when NYT reporter Steven Kurutz drove with me to visit World of Tile and did a big story on us. This has to have been the way that Hollywood set designers discovered World of Tile. So we are taking credit! Woot!

1970s interior design portrayed in American Hustle

Here’s lots about the production design from Judy Becker via the American Hustle press materials and production notes:

First, the plot: American Hustle is a fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most extraordinary scandals of the 1970s, American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper).  DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that’s as dangerous as it is enchanting.  Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito, the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down. Like director David O. Russell’s two previous films, American Hustle defies genre to tell a story of love, reinvention, and survival.

American-Hustle-Office

Recreating the 70s: Russell relied on his longtime collaborator, production designer Judy Becker, to bring about the look he desired for the film.  Becker was excited by the opportunity. Her research, combined with the screenplay, inspired her to build unique worlds for the characters that expresses who they are.  “That’s one of the things that drew me to this project,” says Russell.  “So much of this movie takes place in different worlds: it’s the world of the Long Island home of Rosalyn Rosenfeld, it’s the world of Sydney Prosser’s East Side apartment, its’ the world of Richie’s Brooklyn apartment, it’s the world of the FBI with Stoddard Thorsen, it’s the museum with Irving, it’s City Hall, it’s the home of Carmine Polito with his five children and his wife in Camden, it’s the beautiful local restaurant where Carmine takes Irving out to dinner with the wives.  So many, many worlds, bringing warmth to the film.”

Jennifer-Lawrence-American-Hustle

But it wasn’t just the chance to re-team with one of her most cherished collaborators that excited Becker – she was also drawn to the film by the fact that it is set in New York in the 1970s.  “I have been interested in tackling that period for a long time, partly because it’s my favorite period in film history,” she says.   “The funny thing is, I was surprised by the world I found myself creating – instead of the gritty 1970s New York that influenced me, the movie took a more glamorous point of view.”

American-Hustle-Roz-House-Bedroom-1

American-Hustle-Sydney-Apartment-BedroomFor a designer, Russell’s concept for the themes of American Hustle added several layers that made the project especially intriguing: because the characters are running a con, the designs would not only show who the characters are, but who they are pretending and aspiring to be.  Becker’s approach is best seen in the contrast between Sydney’s New York apartment and Rosalyn’s Long Island home.  “They are really contrasting worlds – what was interesting was that we used similar palettes, textures, and materials, but completely different taste levels for those two sets,” says Becker.

American-Hustle-Roz-House-Family-Room-2American-Hustle-Roz-House-Family-Room-3

“For Rosalyn’s house, the character is a stay-at-home mom and housewife, a woman who clearly enjoys decorating and maybe enjoys decorating too much,” Becker laughs.  “Everything is based on reality and our research, but it looks a little over-the-top: we made extensive use of foil-patterned wallpaper, different patterns, furniture from the Pace Collection, and custom-made engraved Lucite screens.  It may not be tasteful, but it’s a feast for the eyes – and tells you immediately who Rosalyn is.”

American-Hustle-Sydney-Apartment-3American-Hustle-Sydney-Apartment-1

To contrast Rosalyn’s home, Becker sought to make Sydney’s apartment more sophisticated and stylish.  “She lives on the Upper East Side in a white brick building – common for single girls of that era.  For Sydney we created a more minimalist look; where Rosalyn had gold, Sydney has a sunny yellow; where Rosalyn had wallpaper, Sydney has neutral grasscloth,” Becker notes.  “It’s sexy, the apartment of a woman who would look cool at Studio 54.  When one of my assistants saw the apartment, he walked in and said, ‘Wow, I wish my girlfriend had an apartment that looked like this’ – and that’s the feeling that we wanted that apartment to have.”

American-hustle-bathroom-sceneOf course, the fashion was fantastic, too.

With the film set in the 1970s, costume designer Michael Wilkinson had a chance to express the decade’s distinctive design through the film’s fashion.  His designs further expressed the film’s theme: characters remaking themselves, transforming themselves into the people they aspire to be.  “Michael constructs each character’s personality in the fabrics they like, the colors they like, how they feel when you’re around them,” says Russell.  “The cream bathing suits that he put Irving and Sydney in when they meet – this tells you a lot about them – they’re stylish, but very much of their period.”

Wilkinson explains, “The characters are wholly unique and wildly imaginative.  In the script, there were a lot of opportunities to explore different social backgrounds, from the vibrant, racially diverse world of blue-collar New Jersey to ultra-fashionable Upper East Side Manhattan to the sprawling suburbs of Long Island. 1978 – the year the film takes place – is a fascinating year, because it marks the beginning of a transition away from a truly flamboyant, exaggerated lines of the 1970s and into a more streamlined, early 80s vibe.”

Clothing plays an important role in defining Bale’s and Adams’ characters. In fact, each character has over 40 costumes.  “There had to be something about Irv’s clothes that was very appealing – you want to trust him, you want to believe him.  There’s an aspect to his character that wants to fly a little below the radar.  It’s Sydney who starts helping him find a way to present himself to the world.  We played with a lot of beautiful fabrics, some colors that were quite expressive, great combinations of vests and shirts, stripes and plaids.’”

In addition to remaking Irving, Sydney is also remaking herself.  “She’s a small-town girl who arrives in New York.  She has a natural sense of style – and when she meets Irv, she gets the confidence to explore it.  She picks out Diane von Furstenberg dresses, wears Halston, and starts really enjoying this new silhouette, this new freedom – it’s super-sophisticated and confident.”   For Sydney and for all of the characters, Wilkinson worked with real clothes from the period to be as authentic as possible. He also ended up building a lot of clothes from scratch, designing costumes for specific moments in the film.

American-Hustle-70s-outfit

Adams’ character is contrasted against Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Rosalyn.  Wilkinson says that the designs for Lawrence’s costumes are meant to underscore the character as another hustler. “Rosalyn is a master of emotional manipulation – she really knows how to work a person over and she uses her sexuality to push her agenda.  At the same time, we had to balance that against the fact that she lives this totally boring existence in the suburbs,” Wilkinson explains. “She has wild mood swings, and this is reflected in her clothes, from her frumpy house dresses and muumuus to her ‘dressed-to-kill’ evening wear.”

Cooper’s character, the FBI Agent who falls under the spell of the hustlers he lures in, is another character remade through the film.  “He starts off as someone who doesn’t care so much about how he looks,” Wilkinson says.  “He’s doing things like curling his hair, but he doesn’t have a very finessed approach to what he’s doing.  When he comes into contact with Irv and Sydney, it has a huge effect on him.  He re-invents himself: he goes from ill-fitting polyester cotton blends to silk shirts and stylish leather jackets.”

“For Jeremy Renner’s character, David wanted to put him in pale suits,” continues Wilkinson.   He had a signature way of dressing with a slightly old-school feel to it, a Rat Pack kind of boldness to it.  Maybe his clothes aren’t the most up-to-date – they hark back to another era, especially when juxtaposed with the finer, sophisticated clothes we see from Irv and Sydney – but he’s a very well-dressed man expressing a New Jersey bravado, and that was fun to explore.”

I’m going to see the movie again. LOVED IT!

View the Slide Show — Great big juicy detail

Tips to view slide show: Click on first image… it will enlarge and you can also read my captions… move forward or back via arrows below the photo… you can start or stop at any image:?

Complete list of credits shown in main story (in order):

Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence) in the Rosenfeld home in Columbia Pictures’ AMERICAN HUSTLE. © 2013 Annapurna Productions LLC All Rights Reserved. Francois Duhamel.

Set of the disco bathroom built in a warehouse. Styled with baroque wall and floor tiles with two kinds of vintage wallpaper to evoke the hedonistic, anything goes feeling of the discos of that era as seen in Columbia Pictures’ AMERICAN HUSTLE. Production Design by Judy Becker. © 2013 Annapurna Productions LLC All Rights Reserved. Alex Linde

Richie Dimaso (Bradley Cooper, left) prepares to bust Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams, center) and Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) in Columbia Pictures’ AMERICAN HUSTLE. © 2013 Annapurna Productions LLC All Rights Reserved. Francois Duhamel.

Jennifer Lawrence stars in Columbia Pictures’ AMERICAN HUSTLE. © 2013 Annapurna Productions LLC All Rights Reserved. Francois Duhamel.

Set of Roz’s (played by Jennifer Lawrence) house. The vintage ranch house had to be completely redone, except for the stone fireplace. Every inch of the house was covered in vintage foil patterned wallpaper, carpeted, furnished and switched out with vintage appliances as seen in Columbia Pictures’ AMERICAN HUSTLE. Production Design by Judy Becker. © 2013 Annapurna Productions LLC All Rights Reserved. Alex Linde.

Set of Sydney’s (played by Amy Adams) apartment. Built on a stage and inspired by “White Brick” apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper East Side popular among single women in the 70′s and 80′s. This set was minimal and stylish with a custom designed fabric wall that added to the sense of cool stylish and aspirational single woman. As seen in Columbia Pictures’ AMERICAN HUSTLE. Production Design by Judy Becker. © 2013 Annapurna Productions LLC All Rights Reserved. Alex Linde.

Set of Roz’s (played by Jennifer Lawrence) house. The vintage ranch house had to be completely redone, except for the stone fireplace. Every inch of the house was covered in vintage foil patterned wallpaper, carpeted, furnished and switched out with vintage appliances as seen in Columbia Pictures’ AMERICAN HUSTLE. Production Design by Judy Becker. © 2013 Annapurna Productions LLC All Rights Reserved. Alex Linde.

Set of Roz’s (played by Jennifer Lawrence) house. The vintage ranch house had to be completely redone, except for the stone fireplace. Every inch of the house was covered in vintage foil patterned wallpaper, carpeted, furnished and switched out with vintage appliances as seen in Columbia Pictures’ AMERICAN HUSTLE. Production Design by Judy Becker. © 2013 Annapurna Productions LLC All Rights Reserved. Alex Linde.

Set of Sydney’s (played by Amy Adams) apartment. Built on a stage and inspired by “White Brick” apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper East Side popular among single women in the 70′s and 80′s. This set was minimal and stylish with vintage parquet floor tiles with additional fabrication to match. As seen in Columbia Pictures’ AMERICAN HUSTLE. Production Design by Judy Becker. © 2013 Annapurna Productions LLC All Rights Reserved. Alex Linde.

Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence) & Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) in the Grand Old AC Hotel powder room in Columbia Pictures’ AMERICAN HUSTLE. (Jennifer Lawrence dress: made for film, jewelry, shoes: vintage / Amy Adams dress: made for film, jewelry, shoes: vintage). © 2013 Annapurna Productions LLC All Rights Reserved. Francois Duhamel.

Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence) outside the Long Island elementary school in Columbia Pictures’ AMERICAN HUSTLE. (Jennifer Lawrence dress, jacket, jewelry, shoes, bag: vintage). © 2013 Annapurna Productions LLC All Rights Reserved. Francois Duhamel.

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Comments

  1. says

    Congratulations World of Tile! Living through those years some of those interiors are spot on down to the parquet floors and the schefflera in the corner. Just about every house and every shopping mall had huge schefflera trees in big pots.

    • gsciencechick says

      Me too. Definitely my most favorite space.

      DH and I saw the movie on Christmas, and we both loved all the décor.

  2. Steve H says

    Sydney’s apartment looks like it’s right out of the pages of the Bloomingdale’s Book of Home Decorating by Barbara Darcy – a 1970′s classic.

  3. Robin, NV says

    I think of the 70s as having two faces – super high end style and super low end style. It seems to me that the 70s was the last decade that had its own sense of self and a real sense of glamour. The high end of 70s style was fabulous. Unfortunately the low end was pretty bad being mostly cheap imitations of the high end style (and, for whatever reason, that’s what most people remember). But outside of New York, people were playing with colonial decor and Americana, which has its own sweet charm.

    • pam kueber says

      I LOVE both sets of designs — Sydney’s and Roz’s. If I had to choose one yo live in — I’d choose Roz’s house.

      • Kate says

        I also love both designs, but I would live in Sydney’s house for sure — although I’d come visit you in Roz’s house and love it! :)

      • June Cahill says

        Totally agree! I love them both – but if I had to choose….probably the ‘more calming’ of the two… Of course, let’s see, in 1978 I was a freshman at the U – and found a pic of my old dorm room with me (lbs lighter) sitting on my twin bed (brown bedspread, of course) with Levi 501′s, and a Farah Fawcett flip hair-do. I was living for ‘country swing’ and Sat. Night Fever! So much for ‘upper east end’ haughty!

      • Ann B says

        That’s a tough call but probably Sydney’s. Love both though. In ’79 I built a large Dutch colonial home and did the colonial thing until ’88 when I built a modern ranch home that mostly stood the test of time while many of that era did not. Sold that last year and am now refurbishing a ’61 hi-rise co-op. I seem to have a time-warp thing going on… back and forth.
        I think you’re right about ’70′s homes being the next big thing though it will be more challenging. There were a lot of copy cat wanna-be’s that used cheap materials.

  4. Heidi says

    Do you know if there have ever been any weddings at WoT? I always thought the round room would make for a great event.

  5. Kelly M says

    At times I was so busy looking at the sets, I completely forgot about the characters that inhabited them! What a blast from the past. Now where did I put my platform sandals?

  6. Tami says

    Ohmagerd – that B & W busty lady wallpaper! I clearly remember stumbling across and being dazzled by that design while thumbing through a sample book as a preteen in the 70s. My mom was making us help choose wallpaper for our bedrooms. It was at a wallpaper place on route 7 in either New Milford or Brookfield CT – anyone remember it?

    BTW, anyone remember the wonderfully over-the-top foil wallpaper of the Pie Shop, also in CT in the 70s. There were ones in Waterbury and Bridgeport. I’d love to see if there are photos of those interiors online.

  7. says

    You may not realize it, but you have a lot of film industry art department people who read your blog and look at the time capsule houses all the time. I am a set decorator. I live in a 1954 house and I’m always looking for ideas from you for both my work and my home. I’ve saved pix from your photo stories for future work reference. Friends have seen your blog and sent me links. The people who found World of Tile through you were probably regular readers!

  8. says

    I was in one of those “white brick buildings” back then. The walls of the apartment were covered in brown suede. I asked naively as a 20 yr old from NJ “How do you clean this?”. The host turned to me and said ” You don’t. The cleaning lady does.”

  9. Janice says

    I also saw and loved the movie! I went with my husband and friends and while they were carefully following the plot of the movie, I was studying all the hairstyles, jewelry, clothes, shoes, set design and yes, being reminded of my own time in the 70′s. I graduated from high school in 1975 so I was out on my own by 1978 and I remember having a lot of oranges, browns and golds. I loved my design style then, but like everyone else, I succumbed to the 80′s mauve and the 90′s hunter green. I’m so glad I am fully and completely entrenched in the 50′s now because I don’t have to care what the latest craze is in design. Best line of the movie was from Roz when talking to Irving about his episode with the mafia….”You’re Welcome!”

  10. Janet in CT says

    This is quite fascinating! I do have a question. That white and gray “stone” around the fireplace with the burnt orange upholstery in front of it – what is it exactly? Is it fake stuff that comes piece by piece or a section that fits together and is in thin slices or is it larger regular sized pieces or what? I love it and it may be the solution to a problem in our house, as in cover-up a past faux pas. I would love to know if it is still around or available somewhere as old stock. There is always something fascinating coming up on this website.

    • pam kueber says

      It’s apparently original to the house. The Roz house is a real house — totally redone but for the fireplace, as I recall the press materials saying.

      • says

        Imitation stone (known by brand names, esp Formstone and Permastone) was popular in Philly and Baltimore in the 60′s and 70′s – it’s especially well known in Baltimore, where it’s now covered by historic preservation ordinances. You need special approval to remove it from Victorian brick houses! Apparently they allow removal if the original architecture is unusual.

        As for getting the look today, some of it was applied like stucco and hand formed in place, while others were precast like today’s stone veneers. Stone masonry cut into rectangles (either rough or smooth on the face) is known as ashlar stone. I would bet that if you look hard enough you’ll find a stone veneer with a similar look. If not maybe fieldstone or brick veneers would work. Call around; I hope that helps.

  11. Lauryn says

    I cannot wait to see this film, for so many reasons (we don’t get many first run films here in little ol’ small town Iowa, so I’ll have to be patient or make the trek to a bigger city). Thanks for sharing such wonderful info about the film…better than a trailer!!

  12. Staci says

    I loved this movie! In one of the scenes not pictured here, Irving is sitting at a semi-circular desk. I had been shopping at an antique mall earlier the day we saw the movie and I had just seen a desk like that there! I was totally noticing all the details like that too.

  13. tammyCA says

    Haven’t seen the movie. Did they use an actual house? That’d be good to save the vintage. I always feel squeamish when anything vintage, like (wallpaper, tile, flooring) is used on a movie/t.v. set knowing it will just be thrown in the trash after they wrap.
    One thing I liked about the 70s was that shopping malls were carpeted and in warm earth tones, wood, and soft lighting with soothing background music..now I can’t even stand to enter a mall with the jarring harsh light, reverberating crowd noise off all the tile, stone, the blasting rap music from every clothing store!! I don’t have sensory issues but all that sure makes me have it.

    • Lauryn says

      I thought that too, TammyCA … what happens to all of that wonderful World of Tile tile after the film is finished? Does it really get thrown in the trash heap?

  14. Heather says

    Ohhhh, the glam of all of it! I adore these sets! They totally take me back to being a little girl in the 1970s. I would do every single inch of my home like this, if I could ;) It totally reminds me of a couple that my parents were good friends with (yep, hustlers-the friends, not my parents lol) whose home was epically gated, a suit of armor standing atop white shag carpeting in the living room, foiled wallpaper everywhere, Lucite dining room set….so luxe!

  15. blair kooistra says

    You’d enjoy “Inside Llewyn Davis,” as well. Great prop and set design. It’s set in 1961 New York City and Chicago; there’s great attention to furniture denoting affluence. And the recreation of an Illinois Turnpike Harvey House restaurant took my breath away.

    Good times for film viewers/mid-century design fans.

  16. Richard says

    Pam, loved this! I’m so happy people are finally appreciating my favorite FAB decade: the 1970s! Have you ever seen the show “Swingtown”? It was on for one season in ’08…totally got my love for 70s decor and style into super high gear.

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