Critical Decor — A Look at the Classic Comedy, The Apartment


Critical Decor — A Look at the Classic Comedy, The Apartment

We love movies as much as the next guy. But we get particularly giddy when we get to pick apart the decor in search of deeper truths. Join us as we investigate the who, what, when and especially the why of interior design drama.

My favorite holiday movie from my childhood is The Apartment directed by Billy Wilder, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. If you’ve seen this movie, you may be questioning the holidays of my childhood if my favorite Christmas movie includes a suicide attempt by one of the main characters. But fear not, the film’s story is as funny as it is melancholy.

And if you really want to know about my childhood holidays, clear your schedule for four hours and give me a call. That should get us through the mid 1980s.

Let’s begin our rundown of The Apartment, a film appropriately named for our mission with the Critical Decor series. Glance inside C.C Baxter’s (Jack Lemmon) apartment that he loans to his philandering higher ups at the office. As he says himself in the opening moments of the film, “I live in the west 60s just half a block from Central Park….It’s a real nice apartment. Nothing fancy but kind of cozy. Just right for a bachelor.”


I didn’t really understand how spot on the scene has been set here with these opening shots of C.C’s apartment until I moved to New York and spent time in a few rent stabilized apartments that my lucky (and typically, but not exclusively) male friends happened to find or inherit. You can see the potential that is completely being wasted here by lack of decorating skills or time. The beautiful woodwork over the archway isn’t properly lit. The couches found on the street (oh, to live in a New York without bedbugs!). A mantle being used to hold empty bottles. In one of the famous moments of the movie, C.C uses a tennis racquet to strain his pasta. Yet despite all this, we see moments of a hopeful decorating future in those beautiful Tiffany lamps. Like Baxter himself, this apartment is a diamond in the rough. Grab this look for yourself from Krrb member Bargain Hunter Mama.

the apartment 2

Another great use of decor in this movie are the offices of Consolidated Life. The shots are framed to enclose you within the machine of a modern office. When the film came out in 1960, people were just beginning to express the malaise and redundancy of a 9-5 (or 8:50 to 5:20 in C.C’s case) office life. One of my favorite touches in the film is a picture in Mr. Sheldrake’s (Fred MacMurray) office. He has a picture of a seating area on the wall above his seating area. Amazing!


We found this Remington adding machine like C.C might use in Gaston‘s Krrb corner.

Bars play a large part in this movie, too. From the polynesian decor in Fran (Shirley MacLaine) and Sheldrake’s bar to the holiday decorations at Baxter’s watering hole. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the kitsch in all its forms that come together to lend a festive edge against some of the film’s darker moments.

the apartment macmurray

Add this martini set to your holiday party to get the same feel.

My favorite scenes in the movie are between C.C and Fran in C.C’s apartment. Fran completely lights up the room. She is the personification of the Tiffany lamps playing cards first in her robe, then in her fur coat and pearls. We can only hope she’ll lend a careful eye to make over (spoiler alert) C.C’s new apartment in the years to come.


This New Year’s Eve, find that perfect little bar in the city and put something nice on the jukebox. Order a martini and leave a seat next to you open for some sweet stranger who might walk through the door. Get yourself a deck of cards, wear this lux fur coat and find a C.C. of your own to take back to your apartment. Happy holidays from Critical Decor!