Elvis Presley Loved Redecorating Graceland, and Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” Shows How the Home Changed Over the Years
When you think of Elvis Presley, chances are, you’re familiar with his equally world-renowned home in Memphis, Tennessee, known as Graceland. As the second-most visited historic house museum in the United States — right behind the White House — and the most visited private residence in the country, Graceland has provided past, present, and future fans of the King of Rock and Roll with the unique opportunity to visit the very place where the music icon lived for much of his career.
As it is typically less than ideal to film in a notable structure — given its historical significance, as well as limited space and privacy — recreating the celebrated home for director Baz Luhrmann’s latest film, “Elvis,” was inevitable. Apartment Therapy spoke to one of the film’s set decorators, Beverley “Bev” Dunn, to find out how such a recognizable home was replicated nearly exactly, and how Elvis himself played a key role in Graceland’s design.
Prior to shooting the film, Luhrmann and his wife, Catherine Martin — who worked as a producer, costume designer, and production designer on “Elvis” — visited the real Graceland, taking “many, very detailed photos” and having access to original blueprints of the estate, Dunn reveals.
Built on a private property in Guanaba, Australia, the exterior set of the Graceland replica took 10 weeks to construct. And while it may have seemed like once this project was completed, the film could truly begin, that was certainly not the case. “The pandemic shut down production and the set sat wrapped in plastic for almost a year,” Dunn tells Apartment Therapy. During this time, “all the established greens and plants had to be relocated and stored, watered and manicured, as did the grass and lawns around the mansion and driveways.”
As for the interior sets, those were built on sound stages at Village Roadshow Studios, not too far from the reproduced exterior. The design team manufactured the decor themselves, including a 15-foot-long all-white sofa — much like the one that sits in the real Graceland today — which was quite the struggle to fit through the front door, as it was “a very tight fit.” Fortunately, Dunn and co. were able to successfully maneuver the furnishing. Following the conclusion of filming, “all [set] dressings were sold at auction earlier [this] year.”
Of course, one can tell a lot about a person from their home — and working on this film allowed Dunn to learn about Elvis in greater detail. She and her team members turned to numerous books, photos, newspaper articles, and furniture receipts to truly immerse themselves in the world of Graceland. One factoid that design lovers might find particularly relatable? Elvis “loved to redecorate,” to the point where “there were many interior… changes [at Graceland]” throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
In fact, Presley “constantly changed furniture” and never threw anything away. Instead, he would reportedly store decor on site. (Because if there’s one thing any decorating aficionados loathe, it’s getting rid of things. After all, you’ll find room for it someday!)
Given how frequently the King would change Graceland‘s interiors, “Elvis” showcases the home at various points in time, beginning with its appearance shortly after he moved in, in the 1950s. Staples of the home’s decor at this time included red carpeting and blue walls aplenty. When selecting this particular shade of blue, Dunn says “we matched the color as best as we could using photo reference, which had been color enhanced. We had to be careful not to go too Wedgwood blue.”
Later on in the film, Graceland is depicted as it appears today, with white carpeting and upholstered furniture to match, along with bamboo wallpaper, and the famed set of peacock stained glass windows. This design decision was a choice made by the director, reveals Dunn. “Baz wanted the viewer to connect to Graceland as it is seen now, as that is the way it is most remembered today.”