He’s at home finding the right house for his films

Jon Hutman (right, with director of photography John Toll), is the set designer responsible for the casually elegant interiors in the new film “It’s Complicated.’’ Jon Hutman (right, with director of photography John Toll), is the set designer responsible for the casually elegant interiors in the new film “It’s Complicated.’’ (Photos By Melinda Sue)
By Terri Sapienza
Washington Post / December 24, 2009

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The 2003 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 nationwide 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 tomorrow, stars Meryl Streep as Jane, a bakery owner and mother of three 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.

Q. 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?

A. 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.

Q. How would you describe the difference between the houses in “Something’s Gotta Give’’ and “It’s Complicated’’?

A. 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.

Q. I noticed lots of natural, earthy elements in the “It’s Complicated’’ house. What kind of look were you going for?

A. It’s the idea of classic elements used with a modern aesthetic. There’s slip-covered furniture with natural linen, beautiful old wood on the doors, dining table, and floors. There’s also a very Italian influence in terms of color and materials. There’s a casual comfort that’s very approachable and appealing.

Q. The “It’s Complicated’’ kitchen isn’t a trophy kitchen. It looks more like a real cook’s kitchen, with everything out in the open and accessible.

A. That’s what we’re going for. Part of what Jane is building in the renovation is the combination family room-kitchen thing, and it’s what she’s tried to create within the framework of her existing house. . . . It’s totally attractive and comfortable but in a lived-in way. And it’s meant to be makeshift, but in a way that someone that has a strong sense of aesthetics would make it. Her bakery is where she was able to realize her vision in a clearer, purer way.

Q. Any reason we don’t get to see the renovated kitchen in the movie?

A. It’s very easy for people to get sidetracked in the house. But the story in this movie is not about Jane’s new kitchen; it’s about Jane having an affair with her ex-husband and also becoming involved with the architect. . . . The happily-ever-after is about getting the guy, not the kitchen.

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