For the first 20 minutes of that post-party Sunday morning, I congratulated myself on having the foresight to bring the tyrant’s trike. I sat head in hands by the lift, watching as he belted happily up and down the corridors collecting ‘Do not disturb’ signs and hanging them on his handlebars.
Then, a feeling of unease. What was it about that soft clack of plastic wheels on carpet that sounded sinister? I lifted my hungover head and in front of me was that scene from
The Shining: boy on trike, long corridor, an orangey carpet with a bold pattern…
‘Argh! Breakfast time! OFF, please Ceddy. Now.’
David Hicks’s hexagonal carpet from The Shining.
It’s spooky how the world a great director creates can linger; weird how just a few details can bring with them the whole atmosphere of a film. I haven’t seen Stanley Kubrick’s film for more than two decades but a trike and a similar carpet, and suddenly I was right there in the Overlook Hotel; coming over all Shelly Duval.
Spooky, too, that just a week later I found myself talking to the keeper of that famous carpet, the woman who owns the licence to sell it, and perhaps the person best placed to explain the power of objects in movies.
The Djinn chair from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey
Paula Benson, founder of Film and Furniture, is a sort of film-set detective. She investigates, analyses and tracks down the furniture and fittings that come together to make a great movie. I met her first a few years ago over a communal flowerbed, and was struck by the originality of her idea. I’ve visited her website on and off ever since and found it fascinating.
Paula sells objects from iconic films: the Mario Bellini glass bowl from Batman’s house, Christian Grey’s desk from Fifty Shades of Grey, the paintings from his walls. ‘It’s not my type of movie, but we have quite a following of Fifty Shades fans,’ said Paula when we met. The most famous chair in movie history — the Djinn chair from 2001: A Space Odyssey — is available to buy on Paula’s site. So is the red Olivetti Valentine typewriter seen in Alex’s bedroom in A Clockwork Orange.
Cini Boeri whisky tumblers from Blade Runner
There are also articles examining the realities conjured by different directors. Whether or not you’re a film nerd, we all enjoy the suspension of disbelief, and Film and Furniture is a window into how that’s done.
‘I owe it all to that carpet actually,’ said Paula. ‘I found myself watching The Shining and wanting to know who designed it. I knew Kubrick wouldn’t have chosen it at random. He’d have had a million and one reasons to use that particular David Hicks carpet and so I started to do some research and I found myself drawn in, obsessed, going down rabbit holes.’
How much significance can a carpet have? Paula smiled. ‘Kubrick was obsessive about every detail. And he was really interested in chess and games of strategy, so one theory is the carpet design references the sort of boards used in war strategy games. And if you watch the film closely, Danny the little boy appears to have moved each time the camera comes back to him. He swaps squares as it were, as if he’s a player making moves.’
The Olivetti typewriter from A Clockwork Orange
‘It’s not just me who’s obsessed with the carpet from The Shining,’ said Paul. ‘It was in the film Minions, it was in Toy Story 2… In fact there’s an entire website set up by the director of Toy Story around the Overlook Hotel. That’s when I realised other people are fascinated about these sorts of details, and Film and Furniture was born.’
Paula’s right. It’s weird the power these objects have, even out of context. Film and Furniture offers whisky tumblers from the Blade Runner set — the glass Deckard drinks from when he’s relaxing between hunting replicants. Holding one, I feel as if I belong to the future.
‘Well, these objects, from sci-fi films, do create the future,’ Paula said. ‘Think of Minority Report, which featured a touch-screen long before Apple ever produced one. Then there’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. You know there’s a version of Skype in 2001? We may never escape Kubrick’s vision.’