Friday, February 17, 2012

The Design of the Descendants

As with most films, the setting often garners top billing as an additional character. Such was the case of Hawaii in director Alexander Payne's story of love, loss and legacy, The Descendants. George Clooney plays Matt King, a land baron who reacquaints himself with his two daughters when his wife is in a coma after a boating accident off of Waikiki. Shot entirely on location Honolulu and around Hanalei Bay, production designer Jane Ann Stewart no doubt enjoyed the perks of her job and spent eight months in pre-production, soaking in the unique culture of the land.

The King family lineage traced back to early settlers of the islands, hence the name "The Descendants." Stewart used this as a reference point for the design, adding history through color, accessories and detail. She gave the home an "old plantation style" look, recreating a Zuber-like mural of explorer Captain Cooke's time on the islands in the dining room. "I wanted it to feel like it had been there since the ships arrived," says Stewart. "I want people to want to go back to that house over and over again." Mission accomplished.

The original house belonged to another "descendants" type family and the wood had been stripped and painted with a semi-gloss white that was restored to original condition by the production team. Set decorator Matt Calahan had the enviable task of locating the furnishings from shops all over the island. "When you're dressing a set, you just layer it with lots of history, a little bit of the orient, some Americana - especially from the '50s and '60s," notes Stewart.

Family photos grace the walls throughout
the house to denote a lineage and history

Modern colors were added to several of the rooms for an updated look
Island touches: A hexagonal coffee table displays seashells
Love the mid century club chairs

Leaf pattern area rug, floral fabrics and celadon wall
color bring the vivid nature indoors
The Descendants won two Golden Globes and has been nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for George Clooney.

Photo Credits: Fox Searchlight


  1. While I can understand the benefits on shooting interiors on a studio set, location shots are always more interesting to me.

    1. Agreed. The wonderful houses for Peppy and George in The Artist were shot on location in Hancock Park as well.