The March house... The beloved story of the March sisters... Meg [Emma Watson], Jo [Saoirse Ronan], Amy [Florence Pugh] and Beth [Eliza Scanlen] ...is both timeless and timely...
Set Decorator Claire Kaufman SDSA notes, “The March house is the heart of the film. I wanted it to have a very eclectic, lived-in feeling, filled with many different textures, fabrics and wallpapers...
“I love that it was a large space but felt like each area served a purpose. And Jess Gonchor had the wonderful idea of painting a lot of the details, like the curtains, as opposed to doing them practically...”
“My Set Dec Buyers Katy Shirey, Melissa Cooperman, Alana Shea and I pretty much purchased and rented the entire movie from in and around New England. However, most of the upholstery had to be redone as the fabric was either too worn or not the right color palette...”
A behind-the-scenes moment... While Emma Watson checks her notes, Director/Writer Gerta Gerwig [standing, with headphones] goes over a scene with Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and, seated on floor, Eliza Scanlen...
“I loved the architecture that Jess created with the house. The back stairs connected directly to the girls’ bedrooms. I also loved how the wallpapers took on a whole new feel between day and night...”
“I loved when Jess decided to paint the kitchen of the house duck egg blue...it really helps set off the pieces that I had brought in, as opposed to having them disappear against a muted wood background...”
“I knew as soon as I saw this desk that it was the perfect piece for Jo’s writing desk in her bedroom. I also remember bringing the idea of decoupage to Jess, which he loved. I think it was a nice addition to all of the paintings that were done in the girls’ bedrooms...”
“I wanted to have Jo and Meg’s room have a slightly darker and more mature feeling...” ...which made it the perfect place for Jo to beg Meg not to marry...and for Meg to reply, “Just because my dreams are not the same as yours does not make them unimportant.”
“I wanted to keep the wedding simple yet beautiful. I picked lots of flowers and plants that would have been indigenous to the area. I love how the yellow pops off of the surrounding green background...”
Marmee at Meg’s house... The March matriarch, known to her children affectionately as Marmee, is unquestionably one of the most admired women in all of literature—a mother who, alone in wartime, gifted her daughters with something often missing from girls’ lives: absolute trust and respect.
About the set, Claire notes, “Meg’s house was at the historic Fruitland Shaker community. I felt this worked for her as a simple décor style...”
“Jess, Greta and I spoke at length about the look and feel of the March house. We landed on the idea that the exterior of the house was organic and at one with nature on the outside...like a mushroom growing in a field. Or a simple cracker box...but when you took the lid off, it was a beautiful jewelry box inside...”
PD Jess Gonchor’s team built the exteriors of the March and Laurence houses side-by-side on the same property in Concord. He notes, “Greta and I wanted a feeling of scale you rarely have seen...Early on, I put together an entire map of that became our foundation...I think this is the first time on screen that you actually can see the geography between the two houses and how these two families became friends...”
Claire describes, “The Laurence house needed to feel grand, lonely and masculine all at the same time. The location was a complete dress, including all of the drapery. Because of the grand scale of the rooms, I felt that they didn’t need a lot beyond large dark wood carved pieces that could stand on their own...”
“I remember the direction I was given for this location… ‘Make it look like an Easter egg.’ I love all of the flower arrangements from Winston Flowers, the yards and yards of pink silk drapery we added and the stunning food styling. All the lace throughout the sets was sourced from Cooper Lace.”
Here, a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Director Greta Gerwig working out details of a shot with Emma Watson, who plays Meg...
Publishing house, New York... Close-up of the desktop from previous photo...
“I always strive to make my sets as believable as possible, so both the actors and the audience really believe in the space. Prop Master David Gulick and I made certain to have lots of items on hand for the actors to interact with and give depth to the viewing experience...”
Claire adds a note, “I couldn’t be more proud of my set dec team and what we brought to this magical movie. I am so happy that the movie all works together…the cinematography, the costumes, the music and the art direction. I really hope audiences enjoy it as much as I enjoyed decorating it.
“Writer-director Greta Gerwig has crafted a LITTLE WOMEN that draws on both the classic novel and the writings of Louisa May Alcott...
In Gerwig’s take, the beloved story of the March sisters—four young women each determined to live life on her own terms—is both timeless and timely. With its fluid approach to time, the film immerses the audience in the memories, moments, accidents of fate and acts of will that form the March sisters—ink-stained, defiantly independent writer Jo [Saoirse Ronan]; nurturing, principled, would-be actor Meg [Emma Watson]; fragile, open-hearted musician Beth [Eliza Scanlen]; clever, aspirational painter Amy [Florence Pugh]—into their full, complicated adult selves, each so different but united in an unswerving sisterhood. It is a world where the dailiness of women’s lives—their discoveries, sacrifices and anger, their financial, artistic and domestic concerns—deeply matters. Director Greta Gerwig brings to the fore a visually ravishing film with a look inspired by the bold artists who were changing the way people saw the world in Alcott’s time.”
“From the start, Greta always knew she wanted to bring audiences directly into the lived-in world of the March sisters in all its chaotic beauty," Producer Amy Pascal reveals. "It was vital to her that their private home life crackle with kinetic energy.”
“She envisioned a look for the film that draws from paintings from the era—from the European Impressionists to American master Winslow Homer—but then those paintings burst open into the raw, textured and unpredictable feelings of everyday life.”
“Greta surrounded herself with great department heads...She wanted to work with people who were going to elevate and challenge her, and then she also elevated and challenged them.”
Thus, the dream team of Director of Photography Yorick Le Saux, Production Designer Jess Gonchor, Set Decorator Claire Kaufman SDSA, Costume Designer Jacqueline Durran and their incredibly talented crews.
See the gallery above for the delightful immersive experience of LITTLE WOMEN...
In truth, we only touch upon some of the wonderfully encompassing sets...those that visually bring us into to the story and define the passage of time as it flits back and forth...but there are ever so many more, including:
...Jo’s intermediate life as a writer in the New York City of 1868, re-created in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a former textile center and home of Robert Frost... ...Aunt March’s home before & after her unexpected bequeathment...
...the threadbare home of the impoverished Hummel family...
...and the streets, shops & byways of 1860’s Concord.
All of the filming was done in the environs of author Louise May Alcott’s experience...she was taught by Thoreau, had Emerson as a neighbor...and the teams strove for authenticity throughout, both historic and philosophical, while ensuring a modern audience could relate.
Claire gives us details in the photo gallery captions above, and notes...
“I am so proud to be a part of such an amazing film with such a strong female cast and, of course, the wonderful director Greta Gerwig. I can never thank Jess Gonchor enough for having me decorate this film and my team for all of the creative efforts and joy throughout.
It was a profoundly fulfilling and meaningful experience for all of us.”