American Hustle Inspires a '70s Design Revival

The designer of the ‘70s-era film shares her inspiration, resources, and design plan for the glamorous, retro set.

"Everybody thinks of the '70s in New York as very dirty and graffiti-ridden, but I knew that our movie wasn't that '70s," Judy Becker, set designer of American Hustle, says. Becker found inspiration in The King of Comedy, a Martin Scorsese film that "takes place in a sort of cleaner, more glamorous midtown Manhattan," as well as archival issues of Interior Design magazine, which opened up a big world of design and furniture brands.

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The opening scene of American Hustle is quite unforgettable. Irving, played by Christian Bale, is in the Plaza Hotel fixing his toupée in a gilded mirror against a navy and pale blue damask wallpaper. Stylistically, it sets the tone for the whole film. It took five trials to get the custom-made flocked wallpaper right, says Becker. "It's very true to the period and very true to what the Plaza actually looked like, but we wanted it to seem not quite as rich and elegant in the opening scene."

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In addition to the acrylics, chromes, and burled woods of the '70s, Becker also found that Brutalist architecture and furniture was popular -- Paul Evans being the biggest name in that style of carved and sculptural pieces. "I was really inspired by that kind of sculptural relief when I created the sculptural wall in the London Associates' office," she says. "I really wanted to get that in because I've never seen it in a movie, but I see it in life all the time."

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Irving's wife Rosalyn, played by Jennifer Lawrence, "has slightly more over-the-top taste," so they sourced a lot of vintage metallic wallpapers for her house. "We tried to use it judiciously, but we pretty much did it everywhere." A gold and black brocade bedspread found at the Brooklyn Flea inspired Ros's bedroom: "We picked a wallpaper that kind of clashed with it but went with it, and we got a brass headboard. The trick was to make it feel like a unified whole, but not so over-the-top that you don't believe it."

header4 Irving's partner in crime Sydney, played by Amy Adams, has great style and is more aspirational, so her apartment is "more timeless, elegant, and in-line with contemporary tastes." Becker used elements that are very popular right now, such as grasscloth wallpaper and simple white nubby upholstery, and she covered Sydney's bedroom walls in a bold quilted yellow fabric, with a matching bedspread. As it turned out, Adams was so in love with the set, she ended up taking a lot of things from the apartment for her own home. There's no greater seal of approval than that. dh-shop-the-room-kitchen-header-09
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Hexagonal Club Chairs in "Dr. Pepper" Velvet, $6500, 1st Dibs Ivory Tulu Carpet, from $2800, Madeline Weinrib Basin Floor Lamp, $468, Anthropologie
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Brutal Wall Hanging Sculpture, $3500, 1st Dibs Magical Thinking Bedding, from $44, Urban Outfitters Milo Baughman Desk, $6800, 1st Dibs
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Wildebeest Hide Pillow, $209, Pfeiffer Studio Vintage Schwinn XR7 Exerciser Fitness Bike, $130, Ebay Brass Bull, $495, Jonathan Adler
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Musical Mandala Wallpaper, $150, Flavor Paper Wabi Wallpaper, Price Upon Request, Calico Wallpaper Flux Wallpaper, Price Upon Request, Jill Malek
Photographs: Francois Duhamel for Sony Pictures
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