In “Booksmart,” the Teenage Bedrooms Deserve an A+

updated May 23, 2019
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Credit: Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Pictures

“We have to go to a party tonight,” Beanie Feldstein declares to her best friend, Kaitlyn Dever, in “Booksmart.” “Nobody knows that we are fun. We didn’t party because we wanted to focus on school and get into good colleges.” To prove just how fun they are, the dynamic duo decide to live it up for one evening.

The coming-of-age comedy, directed by Olivia Wilde, follows student body president and valedictorian Molly (Feldstein) and her equally brainiac BFF, Amy (Dever), as they get ready to graduate high school and attend prestigious universities. But before they bid farewell to senior year, Molly convinces Amy to crash a classmate’s party the night before their graduation.

Like many besties, the ladies prep for their big night out together — in this case, they get ready in Amy’s room, a space that production designer Katie Byron wanted to make “warm, cozy and comforting,” she tells Apartment Therapy. To achieve that aesthetic, Byron and her team incorporated floral wallpaper, wood tones and warm lighting in the room of a Studio City, Calif. home. “[There’s] this subconscious feeling of, ‘Do these girls really want to leave this club house for this unexpected crazy night out on the town?’”

Byron notes that Amy isn’t a neat freak, but “everything in Amy’s room has a place. She loves her surrounding and she takes care of them. If you were to freeze on the shot of the closet, you would see that everything is nicely label and organized.” Indeed, a freeze-frame on one part of the movie’s trailer reveals a drawer labeled in all caps with the words: “fall clothes” and “protest items.”

Credit: Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Pictures

Byron worked closely with Dever on what to include in the room, from objects on bookshelves (like a printed tablature for ukulele) to items inside drawers, so the actress could become familiar with the setup, especially since her character likely has been living in this room her entire life.

“When you design a teenager’s room you usually have layers of childhood throughout time because as kids we don’t usually come in and give our rooms full makeovers, but Amy probably would take things away and put them in a box,” explains Byron. “There is a bit more curation because of who she is.”

The walls are covered with hand-drawn posters that read “Science Not Silence,” “My Body My Choice,” and “Time’s Up.” The empowering signs are a reflection of Amy as someone who “cares about the environment. She cares about breaking down structures that don’t work. She’s not judgmental. She’s loving, caring and sentimental,” hints Byron.

Amy’s bookshelves are also comprised of feminist literature, including “Feminism Without Borders” by Chandra Talpade Mohanty, “We Should All be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis” by Lydia Davis, and various titles by Gloria Steinem, Maya Angelou, and Mary Oliver.

The furniture in Amy’s room is sourced from prop houses in Los Angeles — except the bunk bed, which Byron’s dad built based on a version he had constructed for her little sister. “He’s a carpenter, so when we were in that room I was like, ‘Man this bunk bed would be really good,’ so I called him up,” Byron recalls. “He was super stoked to have his furniture on screen.” The extra bunk was designed with Molly in mind since she’s “constantly at this house as the Kimmy Gibbler — the friend that is always there,” states Byron. “We labeled some of the drawers as Molly’s clothing. There’s space for Molly in this bedroom.”

Byron also worked closely with Feldstein to design Molly’s bedroom in an apartment located in Pasadena, California. “One thing she wanted to make sure was she didn’t want her character to come across too messy or neat,” Byron emphasizes.

An unapologetic overachiever, Molly decorates her safe place with academic achievement awards, as well as images of Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former First Lady Michelle Obama — all of which can be seen in the first few minutes of the film as Molly meditates on her bedroom floor. Adds Byron: “The idea is that when Molly is getting ready in the morning, she has this practice, which is this meditation. There’s [this] rhythmic exercise of getting her life together and acknowledging her idols and paying respect for the women who came before her.”

Molly’s uncompromising attitude is further emphasized with the phrase “Take No Prisoners” printed on the wall next to her bed.

“Olivia had this idea of having some sort of affirmation on the wall that could be the thing that Molly holds in her head throughout the day,” Byron reveals. “It’s the thing she wakes up and looks at, so it’s sitting in her subconscious for all her decision-making. It’s a bold thing. In the same way when she looks at  Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Michelle Obama, and is reading all this feminist literature, she’s also thinking this affirmation.”

While Molly’s room is “very special to her,” there is a “sadness” to it. “Molly’s home has less of a family vibe than Amy’s house does,” Byron points out, adding that there’s this sense that Molly lives with her single mother, who is never around. “If Molly could pick a room to stay in, it would be Amy’s room. I think that Molly would probably stay at Amy’s house every day of the week if she could.” Because what are best friends for if not slumber parties, right?