Seeing George Clooney at a critically acclaimed role in The Descendants was undoubtedly one of the film’s main attractions. But layout enthusiasts hightailed to the theater also to observe how the movie’s setting (Honolulu and Hanalei Bay) along with the ancestral house’s importance was interpreted in the creation and set design.
The five layout and décor elements below helped me get a deeper comprehension of the load of property and heritage shouldered by Matt King (George Clooney) at The Descendants. In reality, the pictures below made place decorator Matt Calahan’s brilliance all the more clear. He sourced materials and furnishings from all around Hawaii to make homes that had background, which made the viewer feel like the collections were dwelt in not from the figures onscreen but all those that came before.
Oscar Sunday: 7 p.m. Eastern, 4 p.m. Pacific, Feb. 26, 2012
Sutton Suzuki Architects
1. Old Plantation Style
The style gets its name in the pineapple and sugarcane plantations which supplied the layout for Chinese, Japanese and Filipino laborer homesteads. Hawaiian kitchen and bath designer Cindy Tervola states, “The qualities of the old plantation style are walls made up of beadboard paneling, hardwood flooring, high ceilings adorned with lovers, and large doors opening into a lanai. And most rooms have direct outdoor access.”
Tervola adds, “Architects attempted to overthrow the homes to take full benefit of the tradewinds. They made for big windows, doors and homes which were constructed off the ground to circulate air under to cool the inside.”
This particular plantation house, color aside, reminds me of this scene in The Descendants in which the King clan meets concerning the future of their estate. Rooting the Kings into a farm and ancestral house was pivotal in the film, as it cleared the way for knowing how their lineage traced back all of the way to Hawaiian royalty and missionary settlers on the island.
M Squared Design – Architecture
Wide-hipped roofs with large overhanging eaves and a non traditional wood framework typically characterize a plantation home.
2. The Lanai
The outside roofed terrace, or lanai, is the heart center of the Hawaiian home. “It’s where household members and guests can recline on the pune’e [sofa or daybed]. Much of the family’s dining and enjoyable tasks are had in the lanai given the year-round tropical climate,” states Tervola.
K2 Design Group, Inc..
All-weather wicker furniture which could resist the wet and dry seasons is a favorite choice for tropical and farm cabin lanais. This collection from Crate and Barrel’s Ventura lineup is UV resistant and has a rustproof aluminum frame and cushions that resist fading and mildew.
The melodrama surrounding Alex King (played by Shailene Woodley) is often performed on the lanai of her parents’ house and the rented beach house of her mother’s lover. The lanai creates a setting which allows for an intimate and fair exchange — fitting for Alex, as she’s the one who enlightens her father about her mother’s infidelity, which helps spark her dad’s journey toward truth.
Willman Interiors / Gina Willman, ASID
3. Lauhala Weave
Hawaiians use every portion of the hala tree, the origin of their woven lauhala mats, hats, furniture and roofing materials. The lauhala weave ceiling found in this picture is warm, ecofriendly, sound-absorbing and sustainable; it is employed in multimillion-dollar farm houses and small cottages equally.
Willman Interiors / Gina Willman, ASID
The lauhala ceiling with mahogany trim and framed kuba fabric seen here generates a contemporary-meets-traditional Hawaiian farm house makeup. Tervola states, “Island-style layout comprises old pieces with the brand new, mixing materials for a more contemporary look in more of the luxury homes”
I remember watching the lauhala weave in The Descendants when Hugh (Beau Bridges’ character) was introduced. (Hugh is one of the cousins that are eligible, a group which The New York Times aptly describes here as “a gaggle of pale loafers in loud shirts and sandals” who happen to have a valuable parcel of property in Kauai.) From the island restaurant scene, the lauhala-weave walls function as the backdrop to a dialogue between Matt King and Hugh that enlightens the moviegoer to the King clan’s financially-driven interests.
F. Schumacher & Co..
Hot House Flowers, Spark
4. The Hibiscus and Tropical Floral Prints
One of the film stills for The Descendants puts the hibiscus flower front and center as a beachside George Clooney contemplates the future of his family’s Kauai estate. It was no accident that the hibiscus landed so prominently — as it is Hawaii’s state flower, the producers picked it to help root the film to the property.
Whether King’s aloha shirts, the chair cushions at his in-laws’ house or the art and structures around his own residence, patterns with florals (birds of heaven, plumerias) along with the omnipresent palm tree are widely used in almost every interior framework in The Descendants; they are popular in the tropical clime of Hawaii.
5. Ancestral Photos
Prior to deciding the destiny of his family, King stands before a wall filled with his ancestors’ photos, showing a mixture of Caucasian missionaries and settlers with their native Hawaiian spouses as well as the haole (foreigner) kin who make up King’s extended family. Possibly the visual reminder of the ancestors makes King remember a significant thing about heritage and inheritance: You should always try to do the ideal thing, which oftentimes isn’t the most lucrative thing.
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