To celebrate Stranger Things winning Best Ensemble in a Drama Series at the Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG) this week, I thought I’d put a post together about the set design and decor used in the first series.
For those who haven’t seen it, Stranger Things (2016) is an American Sci Fi horror series created by the Duffer Brothers. The first season focuses on the disappearance of a young boy, Will Buyers, and the appearance of a psychokinetic girl, Eleven, who helps his friends in their search. Will’s older brother, his mother, and the town police chief start their own investigations too.
Stranger Things is set in Hawkins, Indiana in November 1983. So, immediately we can expect there to be a lot of influence from 80’s decor. It pays homage to 1980s pop culture, inspired and aesthetically informed by the works of Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and George Lucas, among others.
I have decided to focus on the 80s inspired decor of the two main families, The Buyers’ and the Wheeler’s.
BEWARE! SPOILERS AHEAD!
The Buyers’ House:
Obviously, the vintage car is an instant giveaway about the period in which Stranger Things is based.
In the 1980s, chintz worked in just about every room, this idea has been used in the majority of the living spaces. Floral patterns can also be seen on the lampshade and vintage knitted throw blanket. The eagle eyed among you may be able to spot the retro radio and thermos flask on the shelving unit in the centre. Thermos flasks were invented by 1892, and quickly became the in thing!
This image in particular allows you to see the breadth of eclectic styling that the set designers have created.
Interior trends in the 1980s involved dark, wood panelled walls that seem to be everywhere in the show. It’s an efficient way to evoke the period, and given that role that walls will play in signifying the barrier between dimensions, a subtle reminder that what appears to be solid may be much thinner than it seems.
Even the Christmas lights that adorn the infamous ouija board wall feature traditional, retro bulb shapes. You can also spot a 1970s/80s circular glass flush mount ceiling light in the top left hand corner.
Rotary Phones were first introduced to the market in 1892 in La Porte, Indiana. After Will’s first message from the Upside-Down fries her phone, Joyce picks up a new one and nearly blows a gasket when she can’t walk more than a few feet away with it.The series timeline was set in 1983, in part because the production designers and Duffer brothers started finding Radio Shack ads for phones in late 1982.
Again, wooden panelling has been used on the right hand wall in the kitchen. Many ’80s kitchens featured neutral tones, as can be seen with the white and wood units and dull yellow walls. What brought these to life? Intense pops of colour. In this case, colour has been added through the retro yellow and green dining chair fabric. Pops of colour have also been included within the props, the bold yellow bottle lid really catches my eye.
The Jaws poster in Will’s bedroom is a direct callout to the Spielberg classic, released in 1974. On the desk at the back of the shot, you can see a boom box sat on the desk, which would have been a very common item within homes in that decade.
The Wheeler’s House:
It is a stereotypically American house (you don’t see properties like this in the UK!), made more obvious by the American flag by the door!
As mentioned before, the 80’s was a decade that adored Chintz. It can be seen covering the walls and also adorning the china on the walls in the Wheeler’s dining room.
Yet again, the living room in the Wheeler house features a palette of neutrals, which screams 70s/80s design. Notice the white chair rail along the wall, spearating the brown textured wallpaper above and rusty terracotta paint below. Chair rails were either wooden, as seen here, or replaced with a wallpaper border instead. It is a classic way of breaking up walls throughout the 80s.
The use of the green La-Z-boy armchair is not necessarily specific to the decade, as they were producing chairs from the 1920s, however, it is a reference to American pride.
The Wheeler’s basement is the setting in which the boys play Dungeons and Dragons. While Dungeons & Dragons was created in the seventies, it was popularized in the eighties. Board games in general rose to popularity during the eighties.
Notice the walkie talkie on the sofa that the boys all use to contact eachother. Walkie talkies could only be used within certain ranges or distances, so having a direct channel to your best friend next door was basically the greatest thing ever – which the boys certainly take advantage of. But when Elelven can hack into the signal and contact the Upside Down, the walkie talkies act as a portal.
Again, there is a very eclectic mix of textures and patterns used in this space. However, they are all in typically 70s/80s colours and patterns, meaning they all work together. Paired against the plain carpet and wooden walls, they provide a focal point. The tapestry style fabric on the sofa would be seen as very outdated these days.
Finer suburban homes in the early 1980s loved brown carpet and the Wheeler household was lucky enough to have some. It also has vertical blinds, which were popular for sliding glass doors, patio doors from the kitchen and walk out basements throughout the 80s. Also note the brass planters. Plants, especially palms, were popular during the 80s as they refreshed the space and breathed in a new lease of life to the room.
A poster of Blondie’s Debbie Harry features on Nancy’s bedroom wall. Yet again, you can see a chintz pattern on the duvet cover, which would have been all the rage at the time!
Overall, the set designers have done a fantastic job in creating authentic, well styled interiors. The attention to detail is incredible. Although, I think I prefer the 80s sound track to the interiors!
What are your thoughts about Stranger Things? Has this post inspired you to watch it? I can’t wait for series 2!