Create your own writer’s lair with objects and atmosphere
In the recent film Knives Out, successful crime novelist Harlan Thrombey lives in an amazing mansion that’s just perfect for a bestselling writer of bloodthirsty murder mysteries. The brick walls and elaborate woodwork exude character, as does the often dark and creepy artwork sculpture and knickknacks adorning the walls and multiple bookcases. Here’s how to get the look of the house in Knives Out.
Most writers don’t live in a mansion, unfortunately. In fact, many writers may find themselves relegated to a corner of the bedroom or even the basement as they pound away on their laptop keys. However, we can dream can’t wait we? What writer wouldn’t want to live in such a muse-inspiring atmosphere? Let’s take a look at some of the settings that appear in the movie and discuss how we can create our own writing decor with a Harlan Thrombey vibe.
First, some scene setting.
First of all, you may be sad to know that Harlan Thrombey’s mansion doesn’t actually exist, but is a movie set. (Alas, there is no such writer as Harlan Thrombey, either. The name comes from a Choose Your Own Adventure novel from the 1980s.) Real or not, that doesn’t mean we can’t draw inspiration from the amazing setting.
According to the Set Decorators Society of America, the movie was filmed in part at an actual mansion in Massachusetts, known as the Ames Mansion. This house provided some of the interior shots of the library. The exterior was provided by an undisclosed private home. However, the second and third floors, where things get really interesting both in terms of the plot, were actually created for the film itself.
The closest that we might come to a real life writer who lived in such an atmospheric mansion would be someone like Mark Twain, whose massive Victorian home can be toured in Hartford, Connecticut. Twain’s house does lack some of the atmosphere of Harlan Thrombey, but that is more than made up for by the fact that this is where Twain wrote classics such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. When he was working out plot points it was said that he would roll a ball around the billiards table in his office, possibly to get the ideas rolling as well.
Some things to watch for the next time you see the film:
The glass-topped coffee table in Thrombey’s library that displays a collection of antique flintlock pistols. In case of emergency, break glass!
In the actual writer’s garret on the top floor, where does one begin when inventorying cool objects? First of all, there is the wildly patterned sofa where Thrombey exits the stage, so to speak. What a great place to stretch out for an inspirational nap.
Then there are all of the paintings and a few masks, given more focus because of how they are mounted against the sloped ceiling. And yes, that does appear to be a stuffed monkey leaping around up there.
A stuffed monkey?
The masks throughout the house seem to be an allusion to theater, as well as being slightly creepy. I could see giving each one a name and making it a character in a story.
In a nod to modern sensibilities, the author uses a Mac desktop computer and Post-It notes to keep track of scenes and plot twists, or maybe snatches of dialogue. Notice how the vintage lamps provide both ambiance and function on the author’s desk.
How much is too much?
The house is chockablock without being cluttered. The one exception might be the bookcases stuffed with old paperbacks, which is reminiscent of a cabin or beach house. After all, who knows when we might want to re-read that old copy of Jaws or Murder on the Orient Express.
Read on to get started with creating your own perfect writing lair.
How do you as a writer create your own riding mini-mansion and possibly even on a budget? The key is to find a room or even a corner of a room that you can personalize with items and objects that will inspire your writing. Obviously, it’s not all about show or decor but these objects could also serve some utilitarian purpose such as when it comes time to describe that knife used as a murder weapon or that unusual painting that provides a clue to the identity of the murderer in your story. To a certain extent you can even shop your way to the Harlan Thrombey look.
If you have more time and are up for an adventure, then thrift shops, antique shops, and even world travels can provide just the right object to decorate your writing mini-mansion.
Don’t forget to shop your closet, attic, or garage.
One simple way to recreate this look without spending a lot of money might simply involve clearing out a table top, top of a book case to display interesting objects that you have collected over the years. Take them out of the drawers and closets and put them on display.
Use objects for writing prompts.
A great writing exercise is to write a paragraph about the memory associated with an object, or simply to describe it. This might prompt some real writing down the road. Let the muse lead you where she will.
Some final thoughts on noir decor.
Remember that creating this look is really the opposite of the Marie Kondo approach. Instead of minimizing and clearing out your space, the idea here is to fill the space with interesting objects and artwork. Instead of minimalism, we might call this Maximalism or writerly BoHo.
No matter how you approach it, have fun, and use the space to find inspiration for your writing. The objects we collect and how we decorate with them can definitely provide a comfortable space for writing. Settle in, pour that mug of tea, and steep yourself in the atmosphere you have created.
Even if you don’t have an entire mansion to call your own, that’s perfectly OK. After all, the right decor may inspire and provide a sense of joy, but there’s no substitute for the drawing rooms and hallways of your own imagination.