May the 4th Be With You: A Salute to the Influence “Star Wars” Has Had on Today’s Home Decor

published May 4, 2021
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Credit: Photo: Mary Evans | LUCASFILM | C20TH FOX | Ronald Grant | Everett Collection, Mary Evans | LUCASFILMS | Ronald Grant | Everett Collection

I wasn’t exactly a huge “Star Wars” fan growing up, so don’t ask me anything super obscure about the canon because I don’t claim to know the answer. I had seen the films from the original trilogy over the years in bits and pieces here and there and found what I remembered of them  — namely the puppetry and space opera vibes — a bit campy but in a good way. Like many others though, the cuteness of Baby Yoda from the “The Mandalorian” pulled me back into the “Star Wars” universe like, well, a black hole. With not much else to do over the past year, that series became the jumping-off point for me to totally geek out, watching the complete Star Wars oeuvre not once but twice — first in chronological order starting with 1999’s “Episode I: The Phantom Menace” and then in the order of release date. Alongside the interpersonal and familial relationship plot lines, the interiors within the original trilogy — especially 1977’s “Episode IV: A New Hope” — stuck with me the most. 

Maybe it’s an occupational hazard, but these days, I fixate on interiors in every piece of media I consume, including films. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing while watching. Over 40 years later, it’s as though big home decor brands and smaller makers alike today have borrowed liberally from the minimalist furnishings and styling of “Star Wars’” two opposing worlds — the cold rigor of the Empire, sure, but in particular, the warm Tatooine interiors — both deftly created by original set decorator Roger Christian.

Anytime you’re creating a fictional world or universe, the opportunity for creativity abounds, all free of historical context or precedence to shape aesthetic decisions. That said, George Lucas’ ideas still came from somewhere, and much has been written on the influence of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” on the original Empire sets with their symmetry and slick futurism. After all, Lucas had enlisted conceptual artist Colin Cantwell, Kubrick’s own collaborator, to prototype the Death Star.

With regards to Tatooine though, inspiration might have been more of a happy accident in scouting that extended to the eventual sets’ spartan but stylized furnishings. Shot on location at the Hotel Sidi Driss in Matmata, Tunisia, Luke Skywalker’s childhood home was actually an underground dwelling constructed by the Berbers hundreds of years ago that was eventually converted into a hotel by the time filming began in the ’70s. The desert dwellings and sandy canyons were originally meant, I think, to feel lackluster, reinforcing Luke’s desire to break out of his pastoral life to discover his true calling: the force. Curiously, though these kinds of soothing shades have become the prevalent palette in home design today, and I really do think Star Wars has maybe a little something to do with it — and I promise, that’s not just the zealous fan in me talking.

Credit: Photo: Mary Evans| LUCASFILM | C20TH FOX | Ronald Grant | Everett Collection, Hay

I’m hardly the first person to notice “Star Wars’” set design being noticed by designers and creatives alike; prominent and lesser-known copycat projects abound on the internet. In 2019, Kayne West famously built four Star Wars-inspired dome-like dwellings on his Calabasas property for the homeless, which were subsequently torn down due to lack of permitting. Death Star paneling is a thing on Pinterest, not just for the world of miniatures but also as featured in real-life playrooms, home theaters, and even bedrooms (and not just kid spaces, mind you). Why personalize a piece of furniture with paint or peel-and-stick wallpaper when you can hack a BILLY bookcase into a bespoke display cabinet, complete with Death Star detailing along the shelf backs?

Turns out that’s just the tip of the galactic-looking decor iceberg. Hay, a Danish brand, is currently selling readymade decorative neon tube LED lights that bear resemblance not only to lights strewn about Darth Vader’s lair but also (and maybe even more obviously?) to lightsabers. GenZers sure love a neon light, and all it takes is setting up one or more of these guys along a wall in your home to recreate your very own Death Star-inspired corner or corridor. You can even choose from five different colors to create a custom combo or pay homage to your favorite Jedi or Sith’s weaponry.

Credit: Photos: Mary Evans | LUCASFILMS | Ronald Grant | Everett Collection, Urban Outfitters

If you’re looking for more compelling evidence of “Star Wars’” influence on home design right now though, companies riffing on some version of warm minimalism make a real case. As you may recall from the early films (and you’ve probably seen them if you’re reading this), Luke and the rest of his rebel friends dress in a largely earthy, neutral palette, which is in sharp opposition to the cold, predominantly black-and-white garments of the Empire. As expected, the interiors of each side of the force follow suit, respectively. Instead of the Empire’s high contrast geometry, Tatooine is all creams, curves, and tonal textures.

So when I saw Urban Outfitters Isobel bookshelf (pictured above), I couldn’t help but see the cut-out windows and arched openings of Luke’s home (also pictured above) in the irregularly-shaped, rounded niches and faux stucco finish of this piece, which happens to not just be a one-off item. The Isobel collection also includes storage console and wall shelving offerings with similar silhouettes. Did I mention there’s also a resin lamp and full-length mirror in the mix? “With a Space Age look we love, this modernist floor mirror makes a major statement with minimalist appeal,” says the product description.  “Space age,” huh? More like Space (Opera) age.

Credit: Photo: Lucasfilm | AF Archive | Mary Evans | Everett Collection, Pottery Barn

More Star Wars-inspired minimalism can perhaps be seen in the warm palettes that are prevailing in home design right now, too. Sunset colors — from shell pinks to saffron yellows — are everywhere. These soothing shades bring coziness and soft but uplifting energy into an interior, which is something many of us still need right about now. Moreover, they play well with the creams, tans, and greens of warm minimalism (and naturally, the dunes and sandscapes of Luke’s home planet). Sure, it’s hard to prove a direct correlation with Star Wars here, but humor me. When it comes to specific home decor items available right now, even glassware and mirrors have gotten sun-kissed makeovers, as evidenced by this copper-tinted Pottery Barn Violeta mirror that looks, well, just like a twin sun of Tatooine.

Credit: Photo: Mary Evans | LUCASFILM | Ronald Grant | Everett Collection, Sarah Crowley

To bring things full circle, I’d be remiss not to talk a little bit about Yoda’s hut, which makes its on-screen debut in “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” as Luke learns to fully wield the force from the Grand Master himself. Like Luke’s Tatooine home, the hut’s rounded, smooth, and totally organic in form — again warm minimalism at its finest! — built from mud inside the base of a tree. It’s Yoda’s choice of decorative and functional objects, oddly enough, that feels especially on-trend right now though: glowing crystals to light his house (hello, salt lamps!) and hanging bundles of herbs on the walls (which feels like a precursor to the eucalyptus shower stall hack taking over Instagram).

Maybe the point of this piece is just to expand upon how far-reaching Star Wars has been on the world of creating — filmmaking, sure, but also in terms of costumes, fashion, and even home design, specifically the brand of warm minimalism gaining steam right now in decor. All that aside, if you want to channel a “minimalist Star Wars” aesthetic in your own space, you don’t have to go the route of licensed merchandise to get the look. Sure, Yoda tiki glasses and Darth Vader toasters are fun, but these days you can find stylish pieces that feel like they’d fit in a Tatooine cantina or even on the Death Star itself.