Take a look at a classic interior design moment in holiday film history.
There are few holiday films more iconic than 1983’s A Christmas Story. The story of Ralphie Parker—a little boy in a middle-class family in Cleveland who fantasizes about receiving a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas—captures a great deal in its 94 minutes: childish desire, mid-century family life, the rust belt. Its success is in no small part thanks to Reuben Freed, the film’s production designer, who dreamed up Ralphie’s world and the family’s home. “To me, it was a blend of Norman Rockwell and Salvador Dali,” Freed says. “We wanted to evoke a simpler time, even naively so. Naive was good for us.”
As the Parkers were not rich, the furniture couldn’t look shiny and new; it needed a handed-down feel. “I looked at materials from the 1930s, things that already had history to them,” says Freed. “The family’s economic state was considered. I wanted them to have things that gave the audience a sense of ‘My mom had one of those!’ ”
“The house is sparse, so textures are very important, like the rug where the kids open their presents,” says Freed. The patterns suggest rails and roads, and Freed imagined the kids pushing a toy along a “runway” and all of a sudden it becoming a plane taking off. “It was important for me to think that Ralphie and his little brother could imagine these things,” says Freed.
You remember the “major award” that Ralphie’s dad delicately placed in the front window. “It gave a sense of the naivete of the time,” says Freed, who, along with the prop master and costume designer, built the lamp using a mannequin leg. “A soft glow of electric sex emanated from the living room when that lamp was in place,” says Freed. And the mesh stocking served a purpose beyond adding to the risqué vibe: It helped hold the lamp together.
By John Ortved | Main Image Courtesy of A Christmas Story House & Museum | Movie Poster Courtesy of Allstar Picture Library Limited/Alamy