"Our characters get to experience a lifestyle that most of us could only dream about. But that's what movies have always done--allow us to escape for a couple of hours and live vicariously through beautiful people in a glamorous world where we might otherwise never have an opportunity to go"
- Producer John Melfi
Two years after Carrie and Mr. Big say “I do”, the ladies of SEX & THE CITY are dealing with the reality of having dreams come true.
SEX & THE CITY 2 re-defines “traditional” as each of the women continues her own personal journey, then journey together literally. The sets give instant clues to how the two-year time span has unfolded…
Carrie & Big’s Apartment
“It's no longer just Carrie Bradshaw, all color and sparkle, nor reminiscent of Big's single life…minimal and modern and bachelor-like,” observes Writer/Producer/Director Michael Patrick King. "Carrie has decorated their place with an eye toward what would make Big comfortable. The fun for the design team and Sarah Jessica and me was to figure out how Carrie interprets them as a couple, design-wise. We wound up with a good mix: Carrie's into rugs, so you see her taste in those, and Big's in the furniture, which is very retro mid-century, his growing-up era."
Production Designer Jeremy Conway adds, “We wanted to create a space that was elegant but also felt like their home, particularly if Carrie had been working on it for two years. It would be grown-up and it would reflect their relationship now."
“We considered French Deco from the 1930s because the scale was appealing,” notes Set Decorator Lydia Marks SDSA. “We ultimately moved away from that specifically, but tried to retain the scale and the character of that period. The furniture we chose was very high quality, solid, linear and often vintage. All the surfaces were important: the 1940’s French dining table (Alan Moss) had a marvelous patina, the sofa in the living room was upholstered in a relief silk velvet (Donghia), the curtains were two layers of sheers (Osborne and Little) that in combination had an amazing depth of color and pattern, and the walls were covered in a textured wallpaper and cashmere. We worked with colors that were sophisticated but neutral, lots of different browns and blues.”
Producer/Actress Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Carrie Bradshaw Preston, describes, "It's a hybrid of who they are, Mrs. John Preston and John James Preston… a one bedroom on the Upper East Side…it has great views and you really feel the city all around them. For a romantic comedy set in Manhattan, it's incredibly realistic in terms of scale and proportion."
Marks explains, “The furniture had to work with the beautifully designed architecture to achieve success as a whole. We wanted the pieces to stay on the smaller side—most contemporary furniture felt too massive for the space. That was a compelling reason for using so much vintage furniture for the set, the pieces from France in the 1940s and 1950s seemed much more appropriate.”
“Big is interpreted in strong lines and furniture with hard edges. We made our own cashmere-covered wainscoting from a menswear-inspired pinstripe in a deep shade of chocolate to create a rich, luxurious space.”
“Carrie comes through in the layering of the furniture and the personal objects, books, textiles and collections—the carpets’ patterns (The Rug Company) reflect her nature and creativity. Bookcases are throughout the apartment because Carrie is a writer and a reader.”
“The bed was designed with both Big and Carrie in mind,” Marks recalls. “We knew that they had to have an important conversation integral to the story line in this bed, so Jeremy designed the bed to envelop them. It has side returns and an exaggerated-height headboard to reinforce this feeling of enclosure. The fabric is a silk cut velvet pattern on linen (Kravet). Because so much of the apartment was designed for Big, we wanted to create an area in the bedroom that is just for Carrie, a place for her to think, read and reflect. It's got a great vintage reading lamp, a textured rug (The Rug Company) and a beautiful black ribbon chair.”
Miranda & Steve’s Brownstone
“A partner at a prestigious New York law firm, Miranda has discovered that despite all her years to prove otherwise, there can be a glass ceiling for women who work,” reveals King. “Miranda had a baby out of wedlock, got married late, and she's the alpha spouse.”
“Miranda, Steve and Brady live in a brownstone in Brooklyn—a house with classic Brooklyn architecture, decorated for a family,” Marks says. “They have a few mid-century modern credenzas that they use for storage (there is never enough storage in a Brooklyn brownstone), some great lamps (flea market finds, George Nelson bubble sconce over the dining table, new glass lamps from Donghia), and a beautiful mossy green sofa in a shape comfy for a family. There is no room that feels “off-limits” to children.”
“Their palette is earthy—mossy greens, walnut and teak, with pottery accents and beautiful blurred landscapes on the walls. The objects on the mantel and on the credenzas include a mix of projects that Brady made and things they collected while traveling.”
“We built the kitchen out of an office and brought in a Wolf stove and a kitchen island with a great big Kohler sink. Their kitchen is definitely the hub of their activities and where they spend a lot of time as a family. It has a feeling of organized chaos. Now it’s Brady’s school notices pinned to a bulletin board, meals in process…life with children! I think this space reflects the fact that the three of them have grown to be very comfortable as a family.”
Charlotte & Harry’s Apartment
“Charlotte, who always dreamed of being the perfect mother to a loving family, now has the loving family and is discovering just how far out of her reach being the 'perfect' mother really is,” recounts King.
“Charlotte got her dream kitchen—all whites, with stainless steel appliances (Wolf and Subzero) and the traditional diamond tile floor but we did it with a gray and white combination instead of the classic black and white,” says Marks.
“The clean, bright, white space becomes a backdrop for the very, very pink cupcakes that Charlotte is making with her daughters. It is almost like acting in front of a white backdrop, everything falls away except the action and dialogue of the scene. This kitchen reflects what Charlotte wants to show the outside world – perfection. However, when life becomes too much for her, and she steps into the pantry off the kitchen, the other side of being a mother with two young children becomes evident. Her pantry is organized chaos, with a bulletin board of a million reminders of kid’s events, birthday parties, things to do, shopping lists, etc.”
“The outrageous and outspoken Samantha takes on the taboo of menopause and aging,” says King, “by fighting the idea that when a woman goes through the 'change' she should have to change."
“Samantha’s Office is in a glass box hovering above Times Square. The hustle of the city can be seen out of every window,” describes Marks. “Her desk is a white table—Samantha Jones would NOT have a modesty panel. Her furniture is all white, Lucite and metal. We raised her desk and guest chairs up onto a low platform so the views out the windows could be better utilized. The platform was then covered in the smoothest and shiniest white flooring we could find.”
“The only color notes are accents to tie in with her logo wall, orange with brushed silver. It’s a clean and minimal look. Her waiting room, which is completely visible through another glass wall (Samantha needs no privacy from her guests or anyone else in Times Square), has two vintage 1960s white and Lucite chairs and a fabulous carpet designed by Paul Smith. The swirl pattern on the carpet completely mimics the shapes of the streets below. Unfortunately, we do not see more of this set, as it was one of my favorites in the film.”
The recurrent eponymous character throughout the television series and films is THE CITY, a love letter to New York. Although SEX & THE CITY 2 globe-trots to Abu Dhabi, landmark Bergdorf Goodman gives a gold-plated NY aspect to wedding gift shopping!
Marks explains the commitment to NYC, from sightlines to shopping Meccas. “It was really important that the audience felt New York—the views outside the windows were as significant as what was going on in the interiors. Also, the striking contrast between the urban landscape of midtown Manhattan with the sand dunes in the desert helped to underline the clash of cultures in the story.”
“Filming inside iconic locations such as Bergdorf Goodman helped to cement the sense of place we needed to achieve,” she notes. “It is an absolute jewel box. They are so good at what they do. Their visual merchandising team is unbelievably talented. The window designer from BG collaborated with us to create our window on Fifth Avenue. The home design floor allowed me to choose from their exquisite collection of china, flatware and crystal to create our bridal registry set. We emptied several boutiques and portions of the main floor to create our sets.”
The White Wedding
“What's funny and unexpected about this big Connecticut summer wedding is that it's two men getting married," King says, "and just like that, traditional and non-traditional collide—one of the themes of the movie. The wedding is a combination of everything you would ever want to do in a big movie, from elaborate sets and gorgeous costumes, to swans and dogs, to a big musical number…”
Conway points out, "Michael said it was important that this sequence was white. I think the line he used was that 'It should look like a snow-globe had exploded,' which was a funny, really great image to work from—brilliant!"
Built onstage in NY, almost every aspect of the set was custom-made. "As in everything we do," Conway says, "the details are really, really important."
“We wanted this set to sparkle,” notes Marks. “We covered many surfaces in crystal prisms, including footbridges, handrails and tree branches. There were two major guidelines from Jeremy: no twinkle lights and everything had to be white! He designed the most amazing back and garden of a country inn—we used real stone on the patio, real greens for the landscaping—a fantastic canvas to have for this fabulous party. It was like decorating a Busby Berkeley musical.”
The plane, the plane!
Samantha invites her friends to join her at a resort in Abu Dhabi, as guests of the owner, Sheik Khalid. The ladies travel in style on their trip as well. Their beyond-first-class accommodations on the sheik's airline were modeled after an Air Emirates Airbus A380. Every detail of the luxe cabin was duplicated exactly, including the individual suites and the lounge-bar, where the ladies share a round of Cosmos, naturally.
Abu Dhabi nightclub
Though the scenes would take place in an Abu Dhabi nightclub, a karaoke sequence which involved numerous extras and two musical numbers, was filmed in an opulent set created by Conway and Marks at Broadway Stages in Brooklyn, inspired by an elevated, circular dance floor King had seen in a club during a research trip.
Marks smiles graciously, “Complications with clearances in the Middle East evolved into filming the Abu Dhabi scenes in Morocco and on a sound stage in NY. So a couple weeks outside of shooting my job suddenly got a lot bigger!”
Marks and Conway transitioned their work on the first film to the sequel. “I really love collaborating with Jeremy,” Marks shares. “And it was great to have the opportunity to work again with much of the same team from the first movie. Our prior relationship was particularly helpful for this project, since Jeremy was often scouting out of the country!”
“It turns out that even FedEx takes almost a week to deliver a package ‘overnight’ to Morocco. And, how many carpet samples can a PA realistically carry on a courier trip? So, with a combination of disjointed international phone calls, e-mail, I-Web and couriers, we found a way to communicate as much as we needed to.”
“Sometimes we would manage to speak only every few days,” she reflects. “So the trust that we had built from working together before was extremely important in keeping things moving on two continents simultaneously!”
Set Decorator Lydia Marks SDSA generously shares her resources for SEX & THE CITY 2!
SDSA Business Members:
Aero Mock Ups
Arenson Prop Centre
Art for Film
Eclectic Encore Props
Film Art LA
Newel Art Galleries
Olde Good Things
Prop Company Kaplan & Associates
Props for Today
The Rug Company – carpets in NY
Kravet – Big & Carrie’s headboard
Aisling Flowers – flower arrangements on NY sets
Osborne & Little – Big & Carrie’s curtains
Lee Jofa – dining room chair fabric
Alan Moss – dining room table
Area ID – black tables in Carrie’s Apartment
Net-A-Porter – clothes & accessories in Carrie’s closet
Dior – clothing
Property – light fixture over dining room table
Anichini – bed linens
Duane Antiques – foyer mirror
Gallery 440 – foyer console
Martin Albert Interiors – draperies & upholstery