6 Design Lessons from Kubrick Movies

From movies like Spartacus to A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick is undeniably one of the most revered movie directors in history. With each movie created, he used every resource available to him, including the best actors, set designers, artists, and producers to create some of the greatest cinematic masterpieces that have stood the test of time. As a demanding perfectionist, Kubrick's attention to detail in his films was simply unmatched.

Today, director Stanley Kubrick would have been 88. To celebrate his legacy as an iconic filmmaker, it is important that we highlight the genius concepts of the classic set designs that he created for his films that still inspire interior designs everywhere today. Here are the top 6 design lessons from Kubrick movies.

1. Use Spacing to Accentuate Key Statement Pieces

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The bedroom set which appeared at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the most widely known examples of an interior design style that is still quite popular today. The set makes use of carefully arranged furniture and sculptures to create a room that is minimally furnished but is quite elegant. While many people are turning to minimal design these days to make better use of smaller spaces, this particular set highlights the beauty of using minimalism in a large room.

The key to bringing all of the elements of the bedroom set together is the fact that each piece that appears in the room has been carefully selected to deliver its own unique aesthetic from the arm chairs, to the chaise, to the busts that sit atop decorative columns.

Every piece is also allowed to stand out in its own right because of the fact that the items have been carefully spaced. While some of the items have been placed along the wall, they aren't flat pieces that simply sit parallel to the wall. They use color and shape to attract your attention.

2. Contrasting colors

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 The Overlook Hotel interior set design from the movie The Shining is a great example of the use of contrasting colors. The use of the geometric pattern rug and red elevator doors stand out so strongly simply because the colors are so bold. When paired with the neutral color walls, the hallway almost seems to go on forever.

By using high contrast colors to make each piece in a space pop, you can draw attention to the statement pieces of your space while also ensuring that the interior design doesn’t look “overdone” because you’ve used too many colors. In addition, contrasting colors help to set the ambience for your space. Here, the reds and orange provide a sense of warmth that unexpectedly creates a foreboding nature when contrasted with the eerie greenish glow of the exit sign and double doors.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Use Unconventional Shapes 

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 One thing that Stanley Kubrick was absolutely not afraid of when it came to set design was the use of unconventional shapes. The interior set of the young couple's cottage from A Clockwork Orange is one of Kubrick’s designs that stands out the most when you think about how the use of unconventional shapes can transform the look of a room.

The interior design of the young couple's cottage incorporates the whimsical furniture designs of the mod 1960's, which first became popular in the United Kingdom and later spread to America. Instead, of looking like just another claustrophobic room, the cleverly chosen pieces for the cottage set work together to create a space that exudes style while making great use of every corner that is available.

While the swinging 60's has been over for more than 50 years now, you can still use this concept to create your own space by using mid-century modern pieces that incorporate unconventional shapes.

4. Minimalism for Maximum Impact


 These fabulous Djinn chairs set the tone for Kubrick's vision of the future in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Minimalism when combined with rounded pieces gives a sleekness to a space, along with the pop of the color and unique design. The rounded chairs completely transform this set from a sterile meeting room of Space Station 5 to glamorous, eye-catching design. This demonstrates that it is absolutely possible to set the mood for a minimalist space with just a few furniture pieces, especially if you use ones that strike the eye like this.

5. Mix Vintage Pieces in With Modern Designs

You probably already use this design concept on your own. However, mixing vintage pieces in with modern designs is an interior design lesson that Kubrick taught us well, given that many of the modern pieces that appeared on his sets were custom designed specifically for his movies and subsequently destroyed thereafter.

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6. Good Lighting Goes a Long Way

Have you paid attention to the use of light in Kubrick’s films? Lights are used carefully through Kubrick’s films. However, the use of light in Eyes Wide Shut is truly outstanding. From the glow of the Christmas tree lights to the table lamps, lighting is used carefully throughout the film, almost as though it has a meaning of its own.


Kubrick was known for his perfectionism when it came to lighting. In fact, for the making of Barry Lyndon, Kubrick went as far as to develop his own technology to capture the scenes in the film. For the portions of the film where he wanted only the light of candles, he purchased three of the ten lenses that were used by NASA in the 1960s to take pictures of the moon. He then attached these lenses to his own cameras.

While you don’t have to go as far as building your own lighting, good lighting really goes a long way. You should select ceiling, floor, and table lamps carefully in order to create the perfect mood for your space. Additionally, you should not feel pressured to only use one type of lighting. Using several different styles of lighting in a single space is the ideal way to perfect a sophisticated and well-planned out interior design for your space.

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