Anyone who has dreamed of owning a beach house and filling it with white-washed wood, linen-covered furniture and shell motifs will fall for the classic-meets-coastal home of Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon).
While the real house used for filming is tucked into the dunes of Malibu, set decorator Amy Wells used the series’ setting, idyllic and well-to-do Monterey, California, as inspiration for the interior design. “Madeline was always going to be traditional because she’s just that kind of a gal,” says Wells, who sourced every piece of furniture, decor, art and personal finishing touches to outfit the space.
“That last layer is always the most important and difficult to find,” she says. But when it came time to beach-ify Madeline’s oceanfront home she turned to a trusted (and super-affordable) resource: “A lot, if not all, the beach décor is HomeGoods.”
Of her enviable shopping process, Wells explains, “I go in with two of my buyers and everyone gets a cart and we start a wagon train. We go through, fill a cart, line up at the cashier, the cashier looks at us like, ‘Oh my god, what are you guys doing?’ and then we go for another round.”
A piece from her HG haul appears in the show’s very first episode: “If you see in Madeline’s house when they’re eating dinner and there’s a sign that says ‘To Beach’ right above her stove, that’s from HomeGoods.”
All of the homes in the show are real places (rather than sound stages), so Wells decorated and lit them like she would a house that’s meant to be lived in. “[Director] Jean-Marc [Vallée] shoots in 360 degrees,” she explains. “He has this tiny little camera and we use no movie lights, so my lamps, my fixtures are what lights the scenes.” The unique challenge is one of a few Wells faced on Big Little Lies.
The series jumps around in time, interspersing the events leading up to a grisly murder with police interviews that take place after the event. “I had to be really careful during the dressing process,” says Wells, adding in a conspiratorial tone, “because sometimes things aren’t revealed until they’re revealed.”
Big Little Lies airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO.