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  • Writer's pictureLynn Grant

History All Around Us

July 8, 2018.

Isn't it fun to learn about different time periods? How people lived, dressed and cooked? History is everywhere, nothing in our present takes shape out of thin air. Production designers research historical and visual trends across hundreds of years. Why? Because history shapes a story. A million design decisions are made based on understandings of the past. Research shapes our choices, which then reinforces the client's brand or story's moral, etc.

Speaking of design history, I recently went on a historic homes tour at the Haas-Lilienthal House in San Francisco. It’s a beautiful old Victorian home in Pacific Heights. When they were renovating the house in the 1970s they had a lot of trouble finding craftsman to restore the interior woodwork. Apparently, in the late 1800’s middle class people would pay to have one piece in a room made from a particular wood, i.e. Golden Oak, and then have a painter replicate the wood grain for the rest of the room. That saved tons of money for modest budgets. A century later, the craft of replicating wood finishes was lost.

Later that day, when we went on a walking tour of the Pacific Heights mansions with docent John Nockles, he contrasted the price tags for building of early 20th century mansions (in the million-dollar range) with the Victorian home we'd just toured. Where the middle class families could only afford to have their wood painted to look like a certain expensive wood, the rich could afford to make an entire room out of the actual woods. The price tag went way up when building a ballroom of mahogany or a dining room of oak. The Flood and the Spreckels mansions both feature these beautiful, but pricey, interiors.

Designing sets for Mary Poppins was a great reason to take a home tour and see these beautiful Victorian era homes. Do you have something from a favorite historical area you'd like to share? Drop me a line at or sign up for more blogs and news from Lynn Grant Design.

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