Anyone think I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately (see my recent post Period Inspiration: Netflix’s Anne with an E)? Well there’s been a flurry of great shows with astounding interiors – and one of the most talked about is The Handmaid’s Tale, an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s iconic novel of the same name featuring a killer cast including Elisabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes.
The show itself is admittedly a pretty hard pill to swallow – set in a near-future New England which is ruled by a religious military dictatorship in what was formerly the United States of America. In this society, human rights are severely limited and women’s rights are even more curtailed (you can read the Guardian’s review here). The Handmaids in this society are one of a class of women kept for purely reproductive purposes by the ruling class in an era of declining births due to sterility. Heavy huh?
The interiors in contrast are bright, sublime and cinematic. The central character Offred’s (played by Elizabeth Moss) world is primarily made up of The Commander and his Wife’s grand home where she resides, the homes of other ruling class families which she visits occasionally and the few shops and streets she is limited to walking to and from.
The interiors are a strange and wonderful mixture of genres because of the non-specific time and newly constructed nature of the society – beautiful but sterile set-like spaces. The conservatory area in The Commander’s modern Victorian home just took my breath away in each scene. Just look at those industrial-gothic factory windows, the charcoal craftsman furniture and all that rambling foliage! Dare I say it – it’s all a bit Ikea Hygge (if the premise wasn’t so depressing).
The rest of the home is drenched in a luscious teal palette which mimic’s the teal uniform that the elite wives wear and studded with ornate and elegant vintage chandeliers and furniture – the whole mission of the religious society is to emulate a more traditional time which is mirrored in the furnishings – but there is just that touch of fluorescent unnatural light present in all the spaces that adds a contemporary and surreal look.
The Commander’s Study which Offred begins to visit in secret is styled like a slick Gentleman’s Club. Smart teal walls and bookcases mirror the rest of the house and tube lights dial up the mood from cosy to a little tense!
A visit to the home of another elite family home reveals utterly dreamlike interiors – a palette of bright and creamy colours and ornate French furniture.
Finally my favourite interior in the whole show – the home of The Commander’s driver Nick who resides above the garage. The exterior of the space itself is beautifully gothic in charcoal black and the interiors themselves decorated in a utilitarian Americana style. Nick’s apartment is a studio space with black window and door trims, a generous butler sink, beautiful matte black industrial lights and plaid textiles. This is actually the one space that becomes a bit of a sanctuary for Offred and it’s interesting to see how this style was used to convey warmth.
What do you think of the interiors? Habitable or too sterile?
Author: Rohini Wahi
Rohini is a London based freelance journalist and trend forecaster for the design industries. She has worked for Elle Decoration, Living Etc, Houzz and Design Sponge amongst others.
She loves a period drama and keeps a tidy home. Launched in 2007 The Beat That My Heart Skipped focuses on home inspirations, design trends, lifestyle and food – coupled with an insight into Rohini’s work and home life – from key picks at trade shows to styled weekend soirees. To contact Rohini for queries, work for hire or just to say hi drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org