Looking at Ephron Interiors
IF YOU WATCH more than one Nora Ephron film, the stylistic hallmarks become easy to recognize. The dialogue is always smart and elegant, aspirational but natural—like talking to your wittiest friend. The movie plots twist to frank and turn back to funny, all while barbed observations fly. The set designs project a warm coziness with some cosmopolitan sophistication, a coziness that is only amplified by the autumnal wardrobes.
For about a year now, these interiors have been cataloged on the Instagram account @noraephroninteriors. It's a cheat sheet for the precise way the late Ephron viewed life, love, and interior design.
We see the bookcases and rustic desk of You've Got Mail, the pairing of ladderback chairs and a round dining table from Sleepless in Seattle, the floating magazine-piled shelves in When Harry Met Sally. Seeing dozens of Ephron-esque screengrabs within a grid layout makes the commonalities click in with newfound clarity. The upholstery is either floral or striped. There are stacks of books and usually a desk in plain view. Every apartment and home has a comfortable, lived-in feel—mixing old and new with the heavy-handed quirk of someone who owns multiple turtleneck sweaters. The interior style is best described as American Country. And while Ephron may have brought it to the silver screen, the influential decorator Sister Parish is the one responsible for it all.
Parish started working during the Great Depression and established herself as a unique aesthetic force, the first traditionalist to mix and match furnishings from different eras and styles. This decorating style would rise to become a covetable and understated look for the country's upper class. (As the Times once described Parish's hodgepodge style: "spending half a million to look like you didn't.") A turning point came in the 1960s when Parish was commissioned to makeover the Kennedy White House, and the style became known across the globe.
Well before the turn of the century, the look had already cemented itself in Ralph Lauren catalogs and Martha Stewart's magazine—and the homes of most Ephron protagonists. It was an immovable and aspirational mainstay of American interior style: the floral upholstery, wicker baskets, patchwork quilts, and needlepoint rugs. Today, this look might be called cottagecore, but make no mistake about its origins.
I look at a Nora Ephron interior, and I see everyday life. Well, an everyday life that is better than my own. (Except for that wagon wheel coffee table.) When a post from the account pops up on my feed, I can lose focus on the dull minutiae of my day, if just for a minute. I'm transported to a world of highbrow dinner conversations about pesto and a world where antique rugs are bigger than any New York apartment I ever lived in.
The romance in Ephron's movies was at once unrealistic and achievable. The same can be said of the interiors. ◆