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Stranger Things, all the secrets of the Byers’ brown sofa
In the Netflix TV series that is breathing new life into the sci-fi genre, many very strange things occur… Among them interiors that change along the characters that inhabit them
Wynona Ryder as Joyce Byers in the Netflix TV series 'Stranger Things'
The second season of Stranger Things, newly released on Netflix, brings us back to the terrifying locations of the 1980s Midwest, to recreate which setting scenographer Chris Trujillo has transformed contemporary Georgia into 1983 Hawkins.
In order to accomplish this, he employed several abandoned buildings, old surviving structures and small urban agglomerations. The Hawkins National Laboratoty, for instance, where Dr. Brenner conducts his experiments, is, in reality, the old Georgia Mental Health Institute, a former psychiatric hospital with 141 beds, now part of the Emory University Briarcliff campus.
Everything, from the plot to the interiors, is a homage to the 1980 decade, from the sci-fi genre, that was then living its most successful moment, to the tapestries and wallpapers chosen for interior settings. The screenwriter’s skill, though, lies in details, such as the innumerable real estate advertising boards, fake wood matchboarding, floral-patterned wallpapers, the predominance of a brown color palette and other earthy shades, especially gold and avocado green.
Stranger Things’ relation with architecture and interior design goes well beyond that, though. The home becomes a living portrait of its inhabitants, changes according to their changing, duplicates itself, turning into the scary Upside Down - a reversed version of reality covered in slime and tentacles, inhabited by frightful monsters – becoming a means of communication between the two dimensions.
Furnishings, walls and lighting create a direct line connecting the two realities, the one where young Will Byers has disappeared and the one where his mother Joyce (Wynona Ryder), standing on the big brown couch, paints letters of the alphabet on the living room walls in order to communicate with her son in the series’ first season. Even if the audience knows that Will is actually speaking with her through the intermittent lights and painted letters, this domestic “space-time blackboard” becomes the obvious symbol of the mother’s lack of mental lucidity. While the Byers are increasingly becoming more distant, the sofa becomes the emotional and physical emblem of their suffering, with cushions falling to the floor and the sofa cover folding on itself, revealing the underlying threadbare brown fabric.
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