In Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building,” Season 3’s newest star Meryl Streep plays Loretta Durkin, a scatter-brained and quirky struggling actor. When set decorator Rich Murray got the creative brief, he was told, “She’s charming and warm and has lived in the same studio apartment for the past 35 to 40 years.” With that, Murray peppered in Easter eggs galore as an homage to Streep’s illustrious career.
Murray first had to come up with a concept for the space, and found inspiration from the 1951 film “An American in Paris.” Jerry Mulligan’s (Gene Kelly) apartment was ideal. “It has a lot of built-in quirkiness with drop-down, pull-down things,” says Murray. “Everyone has everything so neatly finessed, tucked in and tightened cornered, and so we sort of pull from that.”
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Aside from showrunner John Hoffman’s initial brief, Murray got no other notes on design requirements, so he “decided to attack with all the Easter eggs and inside jokes you could find.” With over 95 credits to her name, it wasn’t hard for Murray to dive into Streep’s body of work and turn Loretta’s apartment into a treasure trove.
Episode 5 sees Martin Short’s Oliver have dinner at Loretta’s apartment, and audiences finally get to see a detailed glimpse into her humble abode. Here, Murray walks through a few surprises — some obvious, others not so much.
‘Suffragette‘ – 2015
The framed hanging tea towel is a nod to the 2015 film “Suffragette” in which Streep played British political activist Emmeline Pankhurst. Says Murray, “It hangs between the window. Her character’s name is on the tea towel. Suffragette is a magazine that came out in the early 1900s and it was an activist pamphlet so we put her name on that.”
‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ – 1979
The homage to “Kramer vs. Kramer” is on Loretta’s fridge door.
Says Murray, “It closely mimics the bulletin board over her son Billy Kramer’s bed in the film. And there’s a Christmas card from her character to Billy. So, we recreated that card and hung the images around it.”
‘Julie & Julia’ – 2009
The tulips on Loretta’s desk were pulled from the 2009 film “Julie & Julia” which starred Streep and Stanley Tucci.
Murray was drawn to the flower arrangement when the couple goes out to dinner in Paris. “They’re in a booth and there is a gorgeous arrangement of French tulips that looked like they had been moved a couple of times. It was this gargantuan arrangement. So, I always put an arrangement of French tulips on her desk, and they were weirdly arranged like in the film.”
He adds, “The scripts on her desk were plays or movies that she had been in.”
‘Out of Africa’ – 1985
In a nod to Streep’s character Karen Blixen from the 1985 film “Out of Africa,” Murray covered an ottoman in a burlap fabric with a Kenyan coffee design. Murray says, “Her character lived on a coffee plantation, so we put that next to the couch.”
‘The Devil Wears Prada’ -2006
Of course, Murray had to pay homage to Streep’s iconic character in “The Devil Wears Prada.” “We built a series of books in her bookcase, and across the book spines is the logo from the film.”
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