Stepford look means `the best'

Movie: Homes used for the fictionalized town were highly decorated in traditional styles that ranged from clubby to comfy.

August 15, 2004|By Pamela Sherrod | Pamela Sherrod,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

What does it mean to Stepfordize a home?

Does it mean perfection - as in everything in its place? An abundance of flora and fauna from the driveway to lush fabrics?

A robot dog that obeys all commands? Or is it about accepting sameness in order to fit in at any cost?

The answer is yes across the board.

When it comes to design - from the interior to the exterior - it means "the best of everything," like the "smart" refrigerator that tells you when you're out of milk, talking security systems, homes and lawns so precisely manicured that the smallest sneeze disturbs a flower bed.

During a 1 1/2 -hour visit to the fictionalized town of Stepford, Conn., which comes to life in the film The Stepford Wives, we wondered who would want to live in these Stepfordized mansion-style homes.

Looking at the movie through designing eyes, we found the Stepford homes - with the exception of the one that was home to a resident who lived for awhile in "creative chaos" - were highly decorated in traditional styles that ranged from clubby to comfy.

"We scouted a lot of giant houses in Connecticut," said Debra Schutt, set decorator for the film. The goal was to portray Nicole Kidman's character (Joanna Eberhart) as moving from New York to this giant house, explained Schutt, adding, "and for it not to be distasteful."

The imaginary home seen in the film is a real multimillion-dollar home in the exclusive community of New Canaan, Conn.

"We looked for furniture to fit the space and the [Stepford] personalities," Schutt said. That left little room for the ultra-modern or contemporary.

That kind of style was left in Manhattan by former TV executive Eberhart and her husband, Walter Kresby (Matthew Broderick), when they retreated to Stepford for rest, relaxation and their Stepfordized change to perfection. So, if you think a little Stepfordizing might be just what your therapist ordered, maybe one or two pieces from the furnishings collection featured in the film will add the spark you want.

Oh, but think twice before going "all Stepford." The monetary sparks from Stepfordizing - not the designs - can be a killer.

The designs that stood out were the Amy Howard Collection's Swag Stool ($2,461), Giometti Table ($2,752), Medici Chest ($9,027), George III Demilune ($7,207) and Baltimore Bench ($7,717).

All of these pieces of furniture were seen in the home of Joanna Eberhart, and they are available in real life at www.amyhowardcollection.com.

In the Stepford's Men's Association, Howard's Wave Console ($6,916) mixed with Ralph Lauren sofas in a setting described by one character as "Ralph Lauren meets Sherlock Holmes."

That character was right. Ralph Lauren's style was there by design, Schutt said.

Other furnishings include Nina Campbell's upholstery and drapery fabric (information at www.ninacampbell.com); and furniture and decorative accessories from the Lillian August Collection (at Drexel Heritage stores; visit www.drexelheri tage.com). The outdoor teak furniture was by London designer Julian Chichester and by Barlow Tyrie.

"Many of the designs were custom-made for the film, but it's easy to re-create the look for yourself," Schutt said.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing Newspaper.

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