Jon Hutman on Something About Her and Nancy Meyers–Core

How would you define Nancy Meyers–core? When you hear that term, what does that mean to you?

Well, I don’t know what core means.

It means aesthetic, in this context.

I think the look that people associate most strongly with Nancy comes from Something’s Gotta Give, number one, and It’s Complicated, number two. Those films are both…when I say autobiographical, it’s not that it is her, but her soul is in those movies, and everybody knows that Nancy loves design. What I’m always quick to say is this: People remember those movies and those houses because of the story that happens there.

As the interest in the sets and the houses has endured, I think it’s really important to remind people that when we were doing Something’s Gotta Give, I visited all these houses in the Hamptons and looked at all these books, and we did our best to synthesize the best elements of this and that, but it’s very personal.

There is an aesthetic, which—look, I really hate this coastal-grandma thing. That wasn’t the idea. The idea was, Where does an educated, sophisticated, successful woman live? When somebody buys a house in the Hamptons, it’s their second house. It’s like, where do I go to breathe? Where do I go to relax, and what does that look and feel like? Before we went to the Hamptons, Ina Garten was doing it at the Barefoot Contessa. Meryl Streep’s world in It’s Complicated is in Santa Barbara, and it’s the West Coast equivalent of that.

What I think both of those movies capture—again, in the spirit of the script and the story and the characters—is this kind of casual elegance. It is aspirational, but it’s comfortable. Elegant has always been a little stiff and uptight.

So if someone wanted to replicate or honor that feeling in their own home, what kind of pieces should they be looking for? Any tips on how to get that vibe?

When I design a set, it always starts with the container of space. So rather than getting a few little objects and knickknacks, you start with the space. You build it out with some kind of architectural detail, which can be clean and modern. It can be a little bit beachy; it can be classic colonial Georgian. It can be whatever your vibe is. For me, places turn out better when you embrace the architecture that’s there. So if you really want to get granular with it, what’s the difference between the Hamptons and Santa Barbara? It’s subtle, but they’re different.

What are the differences?

What’s the difference between Meryl’s house in It’s Complicated, which is a one-story Spanish-style ranch house in Santa Barbara, and Cameron Diaz’s house in The Holiday, which is a two-story Spanish revival in Pasadena designed by Wallace Neff, who’s a famous architect? It was his own house. We built the interior on stage and brought in this contemporary Belgian aesthetic, which at the time was before Restoration Hardware and everybody else did that. But each of those places embraces the place, the architecture, and the aesthetic of the person who lives there.

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