Evoke an era of suburban life without overdoing it

Challenge: Evoke a pre-”Mad Men” era of suburban commuter life without overdoing it

Set in the Manhattan advertising world and Connecticut suburbs of the mid-1950s, even a synopsis for “Revolutionary Road” evokes iconic, nostalgic images of quaint Americana. “That became absolutely the antithesis of what we wanted to do,” asserts production designer Kristi Zea. “We didn’t want to hit people over the head with it. That was crucial.”

Shot entirely on location in a subdued palette of the era’s popular colors (cooler grays in the city and a sea of blue glass between office partitions, for example), the production had another distinctively contemporary problem: the current trendiness of midcentury modern design.

Zea elaborates on standing out by not standing out: “Our choices of furnishings weren’t the high-end ’50s. It was very clear that we wanted things that middle-class America would be buying at that time.”

Picking the couple’s house also made a big difference, since it not only triggers their unhappiness but had to accommodate a film crew as well. The production ultimately found “the perky little white house,” as Zea calls it, near Darien, Conn., fudging ever so slightly on its age since period houses would have been too small to shoot inside.

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