Hyde Park on Hudson

Director Roger Michell, Producers Kevin Loader & David Aukin, Focus Features - 2012

“The production design and cinematography are impeccable”
Allen Hunter, Screen International

“Handsomely decked out with a sharp eye for telling production design”
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
“Excellent production design from Simon Bowles completes this dreamy, impeccable film.”
Clare Stewart, BFI
“Hyde Park on Hudson boasts top-notch production design”
Geoffrey Macnab, The Independent
“Eye-catching production design from Simon Bowles creates a stylish look to the film”
Rob Carnevale, Indie London
“Simon Bowles’s elegant production design makes the Roosevelt family home very easy on the eye.”
Neil Dowden, Exeunt magazine, Stage on Screen
“Even though the production was shot near London it’s a vibrant facsimile of the U.S. East Coast countryside.”
Peter Debruge, Variety

“With beautiful production design from Simon Bowles, Hyde Park on Hudson is gorgeous and expertly crafted”
Joshua Brunsting, Criterioncast
“It’s a beautiful film, it looks like it was shot here on the Hudson Valley but it wasn’t, it was filmed in England!”
David Letterman, The Late Show

Production Designer Simon Bowles and Set Decorator Celia Bobak won the "Best Production Design in an International Feature Film" category at the British Film Designers Guild Awards in 2013 for their work in Hyde Park on Hudson.

Click below to watch the trailer. 


Hyde Park On Hudson takes place around the week of the King and Queen of England visiting the United States on their first ever state visit. The film is set in President Roosevelt’s family home Springwood in upstate New York in 1939 but shot entirely in England. directed by Roger Michell, staring Bill Murray and Laura Linney. 

Above; the Georgian property in London that I used, adding local architectural details to such as the balustrades, shutters and laying a golden gravel over the grey driveway.


Throughout the house all furniture, curtains and carpets were removed to allow me to start with a clean slate. I visited the Roosevelt house in Hyde Park when I first came on to the project as I wanted some authenticity and genuine character of the Dutch family to be represented in the film. Although the drawing room in the actual house is quite small I took inspiration from Sarah Roosevelts (FDR’s mother) outrageous interior decoration; collections of porcelain ornaments, flamboyant artwork and the then fashionable use of one single fabric pattern for both the curtains and upholstering furniture.


FDR’s library which kept the feel of being his mother’s house but supplemented with his own collection of reference of books, nautical paintings and masculine furniture.


The dinner party is an important moment where Daisy is left out in the cold moonlit night with the drivers. I dressed the room to stress the contrast as a magnificent fairy tale banquet with a mixture of cut crystal glass and flickering candles (above).


There were scenes elsewhere in the house to show the hustle and bustle behind the scenes of the event. I built a complete period American kitchen and a stable block. The complex textures and warm tones were followed through into these sets.

Director Roger Michell wanted the King & Queen to feel quite uncomfortable in the bedrooms they are given at Springwood, as if they are children’s bedrooms. We chose strong colour themes; pink colour for the King and blue for the Queen. I chose to use this concept as boldly as possible so we spent time tracking down the oddest wallpapers; a Victorian zoo scene in blue for the Queen (with matching curtains) and a pink wallpaper with a motif of a Dutch woman ironing for the Kings bedroom.


When FDR comes home to Hyde Park Washington follows. This invasion by the officials was shown a number of times in the film transforming the whole house; I rolled back the carpets,  piled furniture high at the corners of the rooms, hung telephone cables all about and powered up noisy 30s teletype machines, copiers and fans to break the silence of the family house.


As very few scenes took place outside Daisy’s House I chose to design the house as a whole but physically only build the ground floor and finish it off as a visual effects set extension for the wider shots, by Union VFX.


The interiors were shot in a location that allowed us to remove radiators, carpets, doors, lights and switches to use as a blank canvas. Every room in the house was redecorated, aged & dressed to the smallest detail to create a post-depression US home.


A key scene in the film takes place at Top Cottage, a house FDR built in a quiet forest. I built three sides of the cottage in a perfect hill-top location outside London. I warmed up the tones of the field-stone walls to match the mood of the intimate and celebratory scenes that were played here.


Finale scenes in Hyde Park town required part of the main street to be built. Using grainy old photos I pieced together some of the original stores of the period and recreated them a back lot. This was one moment that I could show how the depression had effected the country with sun bleached timber, peeling  paintwork and a few run down vehicles. Coordination with the costume, hair and makeup departments on this look created a cohesive design on the day.