In honour of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s large, genre-defining retrospective, Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990 (on view until the 15th of January), I thought I would post on what I personally believe is the ultimate postmodern interior. The home of millionaire business man, Sam Stone, and his wife, Barbara, from the 1986 black comedy, Ruthless People, could be seen as the zenith of postmodern interior decoration- an explosion of primary colours, geometric forms, squiggles and turquoise. While there doesn’t appear to be any actual Memphis furniture in the film, the decor owes more than a heavy nod to the work of that design group – I spotted some almost replicas of de Lucchi’s “Lido” sofas and of Ettore Sottsass‘ “Malabar.” Art decoration for the film was by Donald B. Woodruff, who has worked on as varied films as Madonna‘s Who’s that Girl? and The Hunt for Red October, with set decoration by Anne D. McCulley, who has worked on 45 films including Star 80, a personal favourite of mine.
As a clear visual representation of their nouveau riche status (Stone made his fortune manufacturing spandex miniskirts), it can be seen as a symbol of their poor taste and lack of sophistication – and Sam Stone even uses his hatred of the furniture as an example of why he should murder his wife. Would a house like this drive you to such lengths?
Even though this a movie, has there ever been a more comprehensively postmodern interior? Karl Lagerfeld’s Memphis decorated Monte Carlo apartment, which I posted two years ago, comes pretty close. As there is even rainbow coloured geometric garden furniture in Ruthless People, this house might just be the winner- a Memphis Group showroom on a mansion scale.If you happen to be in London between now and the beginning of January, I would highly recommend visiting Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990 – probably a trifle long for anyone who isn’t an aficionado of postmodern design, it is very enjoyable and provides a clear overview of it. The book is also quite wonderful, and goes deeper into the theory that launched and resulted from it.
All screenshots from Ruthless People, 1986.