With the 2021 Oscars just around the bend on Sunday, April 25th, we jumped at the chance to talk all things movies, “Zoom rooms,” and so much more with movie-producer-turned-interior-designer Caitlin Scanlon. Recently featured in Forbes as one of L.A.’s top designers, Caitlin gives us the inside A-list scoop on how she went from Hollywood to homes, and shares a few of her best design tips, too.
In the spirit of this exciting West Coast weekend, we also checked in with our friend Oliver Dennison, former colleague at Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty and now sales associate at Wish Sotheby’s International Realty, in Los Angeles, for a sneak peek into a few of their office’s offerings (scroll down to take the virtual tours).
But first, settle in for our chat with Caitlin on how she got her start in film, why she pivoted to interior design, and the current importance of our interior spaces.
BRICKS & MORTAR: How did you get your start in film?
CAITLIN SCANLON: I always wanted to tell stories, and movies were the medium I was most passionate about. I was also intrigued by the business side of things, so my being an executive, and then producer, seemed like the right fit. I got my first job in Hollywood as an assistant to an executive at 20th Century Fox.
B&M: What’s a career highlight?
C.S.: There are so many! But the one that meant the most, and was the most fun on every level, was developing and producing Bring It On. It was low budget, so there was not a lot of oversight from the studio or my bosses at the time. They were busier with much bigger projects, so they let us run with it, and we did! It was like a bunch of kids putting on a show—but I knew it was my big chance to shine (as did the team we put together), so we approached this teen comedy with great seriousness. We tackled subjects like sportsmanship, integrity, cultural appropriation, all in a way that was totally organic to the story—and it turned out to be a huge hit—spawning tons of sequels, and even a Broadway show.
B&M: Why did you pivot to interior design?
C.S.: The movie business was totally altered by the writers strike of 2007. It shut down completely for six months, and the aftermath resulted in a huge contraction in the industry. Studios slashed their output by half, sometimes more. I had these other interests in architecture, design, and remodeling, and friends were asking for my help with their houses. When I realized I was more excited by picking paint colors than selling a pitch to Paramount, I was ready to pivot. My favorite part is seeing a client’s face when the project is fully installed—the “ta-dah moment.” It’s the culmination of so much work, and so many decisions for the client and for us, but the payoff is so worth it!
B&M: What were your early design influences?
C.S.: My father, mother, and stepmother are passionate renovators and travelers, and so was my grandmother, Mamie Scanlon, who emigrated from Ireland when she was 16. In her New York City apartment, Mamie had a beautiful summer slipcover for her couch; it had a big, cabbage-rose pattern. She switched to a garnet-red, silk-velvet one for the winter time. Her style was beautiful, exuberant, and festive, just like her personality. Once a month, she and my Grandpa Gus would move the furniture to the roof of their building, roll up the living room rug, bring out the fiddle, and host a cèilidh—an Irish dance party.
B&M: Can you speak to the importance of our interior spaces, now that so many of us are spending more time at home?
C.S.: With people working from home, and kids learning from home, there is a huge emphasis on functionality, as well as aesthetics. Peace, quiet, and privacy are basic human needs, and the open-plan kitchen and family room don’t always allow for that. I think it’s really important to make bedrooms, home offices, really any private space in a home, as sound-proof as possible. That way, everyone can be productive and not drive each other crazy. From a pure pleasure perspective, my clients are asking for bigger bathrooms with soaking tubs—a more spa-like experience, as well as outdoor living rooms for safe, socially distant hang-outs grounded in nature.
B&M: With the current binge-watching trend in streaming shows and movies right now, how would you create a dedicated “media space”?
CS: The keys to a good media room are cozy seating in big, deep couches and chairs, blackout shades or drapes (if you are watching during the day), a generously sized coffee table to hold snacks and drinks, a dramatic dark wall color, and, lastly, a good-sized television. AV equipment is so amazing now that a cinema-grade experience can be available in the home.
B&M: Any tips on how to create a “Zoom room” or space?
C.S.: It’s all about the lighting and the background. Meaningful art and objects behind you are important, but people can overthink that and get super self-conscious. Just put something up that brings you joy, or try a pinboard so you can have a revolving gallery based on your mood, and the type of Zoom meeting or gathering you’re having.
B&M: Speaking of binge-watching, what are your favorite streaming shows right now?
C.S.: On the drama side, Babylon Berlin and The Crown. Derry Girls gave me belly laughs, and I cannot wait until the new season drops!
And for some added pre-Oscar Hollywood fun, virtually tour these three extraordinary properties complements of our L.A. colleagues at Wish Sotheby’s International Realty.