A Design inspiration from the Classic Film PILLOW TALK

Doris Day Pillow Talk21

A Bedroom Inspired by the 1959 Romantic Comedy PILLOW TALK

(from my series of articles about taking Classic Films as your Interior Design Inspiration…see here, AND here)

Pillow Talk  isn’t just what goes on when the lights go off… It’s also a brilliant 1959 romantic comedy starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day. In the film, Doris plays Jan, an uptight interior decorator who … who due to the state of the phone company’s slow development, has to use a party line shared with Rock’s character Brad. This doesn’t sound too bad at first; however, Jan is forced to listen to Brad’s sappy conversations with many, many, many, many, MANY different women every day and night (yes, there IS a subtext of irony in this).

Pillow Talk is famous for using a “split screen”, mostly to allude that two people are in the same room together – or sharing the same bed or bathtub – even when they were not. The film was shot during a time when it was a big no-no to be overtly sexual in films, so the director found other ways to play with the audience without breaking any rules. Why is this significant in the design world? Well, aside from the gorgeous time capsule “Haute” design sets and costumes of the film, the split screen literally was a new way of envisioning not just film but how to take previous mediums (in this case film, but it applies to Design, Art, etc.) and translate it into a modern language.  In the film, there are usually two of everything, so keep this in mind when planning your design scheme. For example, have two glam yet clean lined night-tables at the sides of your bed, with  two lamps on either side as mirror images of each other and a retro rotary phone on each bedside table as well.  The idea is that both sides of the bedroom should be mirror opposites of one another, channeling the “split-screen” technique that was used in the film so often.  To give this a more cerebral modern spin, colour block the flanking walls of your bed in our Pillow Talk palette of Lagoon Blue by MSL (Martha Stewart Paint), Hollyhock by MSL and file cabinet by MSL and invert the stripes on each wall so they are mirrored reverse images.

I love the idea of placing matching rotary phones on either side of the bed.  Now there are several ways that you can do this.  Using a real vintage rotary phone is fun and really brings you back to the time of the film (plus nothing compares to the feel and weight of their handset). But what if you’re afraid of losing your hi-tech phone? Don’t fret! You could use the new “modern” rotary phones. They give a similar look but with a hi-tech appeal. (I myself am going to go Old School and hunt down a hot pink set of Rotary phones).

Original late 50’s Rotary Phone

The modern version of a Rotary Phone

I especially like the SagemCom Sixty retro yet modern take of an original rotary phone (shown above).  It is an old-school rotary telephone that has a modern day twist. The biggest difference between this phone and the older phones is the digital display (and no more waiting for the dial to spin back as you’re dialing). The body of the phone is also gone which makes it smaller and lighter and say goodbye to the cable cord!  The SagemCom Sixty is only available in this electric orange – which I love – but you could pick a phone in any colour, just make sure that it goes with your colour palette choice. The brighter the better! Why? Because you’ll definitely want this rotary phone to stand out and get noticed.

Bright colours and sleek, sexy curves dominated the design style of the 1960’s. This is especially important in Pillow Talk because it was a film that steered away from using black-and-white pictures and monotone rooms, like many films of the same era, and was one of the first films to introduce rich, bold, sexy colours that would dominate the next decade. Remember that the film was very daring and cutting-edge at the time.  Even the advertisements and taglines were sexy. The film had an element of glamour and sophistication, and this can be added through your use of clean, sleek lines present in your space.

So when you’re creating your retro bedroom in the style of Pillow Talk, consider choosing furniture that coincides with the mood and style of the decade.  Use curvaceous, sleek furniture with fluid lines that will create the illusion that your bedroom has gone back in time. Don’t forget that you can also use white as your base colour (this will come in handy later!) and then accent it with a variety of colour blocked and striped walls.  Colours that were really popular for bedroom design in 1960 were pinks, oranges, and bright greens. Adding retro accessories – like Peter Max prints, starburst wall clocks and mirrors, and spherical light fixtures – will add the ‘60s flavour.  Scour thrift shops and don’t forget to browse eBay for nightstands that really did go back in time – I suggest using two boomerang-shaped marble top tables – that will complete the look and bring the room together.

Remember in the film when Jan redecorates Brad’s bachelor pad to get her revenge on him for pretending to be someone else? It ends up looking like the gay Pride parade threw up all over his apartment! (Sorry, but it does and yes…irony again) However, I do like the idea of the bold colour mix that Jan was going for. Remember when I said “don’t be afraid to use white” and that “it will come in handy later”?  Well, now it’s later.  There were too many colours going on everywhere you turned in Brad’s apartment, making it a bit overwhelming. BUT, if you focus these colours into one area or space while using white as your base overall colour and use the bold colours as pops, it will work beautifully!

I love the bright, funky pillows scattered all over the bed (and notice the rotary phone on the table!) in the photo 3 images up.  The wall sconce is placed on the side of the bed. You could duplicate it and have another at the other side. Finally, the design on the wall is unexpected, posh and very ‘60s!  So remember…Pillow Talk isn’t just something you do when the lights are out… Its a Design inspiration for your new bedroom!

  1. JudithJudith11-18-2011

    AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING love the idea and the article and the images. Thanks!