Justice for furniture! Bruce Wayne’s inspiring house in Batman v Superman set to reappear in Justice League

Our feature on Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) stunning modernist lakeside summer house and the Batcave in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has proved a hugely popular read here on Film and Furniture. After the success of DC’s follow up Wonder Woman and given that we know this modernist house will reappear in Justice League (theatrical release is 17th November, 2017) we thought this a perfect time to catch up with Batman v Superman Set Decorator Cal Loucks to delve a little deeper into Batman’s abode. As one of Hollywoods most respected film set decorators, Cal talks us through the film set decoration process for Batman’s house and Batcave, how she went about choosing the furniture and decor of one of our favourite houses in the movies and about her collaboration with Production Designer Patrick Tatopoulos.

Bruce Wayne's lakeside house seen in the moody early morning light in Justice League
Bruce Wayne’s modernist lakeside house seen in the moody early morning light in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Justice League Storyline

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes—Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) – it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

Batman’s discerning taste in modernist design and classic furniture

Bruce Wayne jokingly states in Justice League that his superpower is “being rich”. Thankfully for Film and Furniture fans, being rich in this case means discerning taste in modernist design and classic furniture.

As we discuss in our feature Batman’s taste in modernist furniture revealed in Google maps tour of Bruce Wayne’s house from Batman v Superman: Part 1 Bruce Wayne’s lakeside glass house is influenced by Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (built 1945-51, one of the fullest expressions of modernist ideals in architecture and interior design) which both Production Designer Patrick Patrick Tatopoulos and Set Decorator Cal Loucks have confirmed directly with us.

There has been some speculation that Batman V Superman was filmed in the actual Mies Farnsworth House house, but we can confirm Patrick Tatopoulos designed Bruce Wayne’s house and had it built specifically for filming in order to fit the character of Bruce Wayne –  darker, isolated, mysterious, and decidedly masculine in character. 

Bruce Waynes lakeside house brooding in the early morning light as seen in Justice League
Bruce Wayne’s modernist lakeside house seen in the moody early morning light in Justice League

“If this was an architectural study you could split the screen with both designs to see the nuances! Needless to say the Farnsworth house which was designed for a female client was completely finished in white to stand out from the landscape, whereas Bruce Wayne’s house has dark finishes to blend into the beauty of his surroundings” says Cal Loucks who was the original Set Decorator for the house as it appeared in Batman v Superman.

Another view of the Farnsworth House interior
Mies van der Rohe, Farnsworth House, interior
Bruce Wayne’s lakeside residence in Batman v Superman is a modernist masterpiece
Bruce Wayne’s lakeside residence in Batman v Superman is a modernist masterpiece. Set Decoration by Cal Loucks

Designing the house

“[Bruce’s] house is a combination of charcoals, rusts, golds and greys – warm and completely complimentary to the natural fall colours we first saw it in Batman v Superman. Aesthetically, Patrick wanted just the right colour mix for the stone tiles to work with the wood panels inside the house – he worked with the plasterers and painters to come up with the right colour mixture and texture for the stone work.” 

The history of the house is unexplained in the story, so a back story was created: the Wayne family summer house is on the same land as Wayne Mansion and when the mansion was destroyed, Bruce moved into the summer house and redirected his secret entrance to the Batcave here. In some ways this house suits his needs more than the family mansion. “I wanted the house to reflect Bruce Wayne’s need for soul searching and peace” says Cal Loucks. “But at the same time it exudes his bachelor lifestyle and his wealth – with modern technology and his minimal creature comforts” which we note includes the finest wines, whiskies and glassware!

In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (as shown in the clip above), we see Bruce wake up in the bedroom of this house (the bed is custom made and built into the wall of the house just as the original Farnsworth house) with a bottle of 1945 Chateau Margaux on his bedside table. He finishes off the wine in Baccarat wine glass – the most discerning of wine glass choices: The Baccarat Chateau White Wine Glass is inspired by the taste-vin silhouette that sommeliers use – the wide rounded bowl ‘opens up complex notes, aerates the wine and highlights the subtly smooth aromatic body. The tapered lip enables the diffusion of aromatic richness and prevents the wine, when swirled, from rising too high up along the glass’.

On Bruce Wayne's bedside table we also see a Baccarat whisky glass
On Bruce Wayne’s bedside table we also see a Baccarat double old fashioned glass, commonly used for whisky. Set Decoration: Cal Loucks.

On Bruce’s bedside table, next to the Chateau Margaux we also catch a glimpse of a Baccarat double old fashioned glass more commonly used for whisky (above).

The same (or very similar) whisky glass plays a starring role in the Justice League Comic-Con trailer. Alfred notices the whisky in this glass vibrating, indicating someone uninvited is approaching. We have yet to find out who or what this might be!

Whisky vibrates in the Baccarat whisky glass indicating someone is approaching, in Justice League Comic Con trailer
Whisky vibrates in the Baccarat whisky glass indicating someone is approaching, in Justice League Comic Con trailer. Set Decoration: Dominic Capon.

This whisky glass is from the Baccarat Harmonie Barware range and a very similar glass is the Vesper Double Old Fashioned Tumbler.

Alfred's desk in Justice League includes a Baccarat whisky glass
Alfred’s desk in Justice League includes a Baccarat whisky glass. Set Decoration: Dominic Capon.

Back to Batman v Superman:  After we have seen Bruce arising from his bed, we find Alfred in the main living area where he discovers another bottle of empty wine and another Baccarat wine glass on the table to which is says sarcastically “I hope the next generation of Wayne’s don’t inherit an empty wine cellar”! 

Alfred seated a Bruce Wayne's desk where we see a Baccarat win glass
Bruce Wayne meets Alfred in his modernist lakeside house in Batman v Superman, with Baccarat wine glass on the table and Serge Mouille light seen to the left. Set Decoration by Cal Loucks

The early morning light creates an atmospheric dark slate hue to the room.

Bruce Wayne talks to Alfred in his modernist lakeside house in Batman v Superman
Bruce Wayne talks to Alfred in his modernist lakeside house in Batman v Superman, with Baccarat wine glass on the table and Standing Lamp with Three Arms by Serge Mouille  seen in the background. Set Decoration by Cal Loucks

On the wooden topped desk we also see a Serge Mouille table light and a wooden flat bowl which is the ‘Tenebras Turned Block Bowl’ in black walnut made by Oakland, CA-based Andrew Germann. Each of his pieces are crafted from small cuts of FSC®-certified walnut that would have otherwise gone to waste. He hand-turns each piece of wood to create each bowl’s shape.

Block bowl by Tenebras
Block bowl by Tenebras

Alfred sits in a Brno chair and a set of these chairs are also seen around the dining table.

The challenges

The house was built specifically for filming on a secluded Lake in Michigan and there were many challenges in creating this masterpiece. Transporting the construction components and the interior furnishing across a very narrow log bridge to the property over a period of three seasons proved tricky. Cal explains “We had to do all this before the frost of early fall – the winter in Michigan was very harsh that year and then the marshy spring. The Construction department had quite a few issues with the property itself – mounting posts into swamp land, then frozen land, etc”.

Lighting was also a challenge. For Batman vs Superman shooting predominantly took place at sunrise and the team were determined to avoid conventional ceiling pot lights. The only lighting in the house are the Serge Mouille lamps.

Bruce Wayne's lakeside house in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Set Decoration by Cal Loucks
Bruce Wayne’s lakeside house in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice featuring Serge Mouille lights in the foreground and background (right). Set Decoration by Cal Loucks
Standing Lamp with Three Arms by Serge Mouille
Standing Lamp with Three Arms by Serge Mouille
bruce-wayne-batman-desk-furniture
Bruce Wayne’s desk with Serge Mouille table lamp and Brno chairs.
Tripod Desk Lamp by Serge Mouille
Tripod Desk Lamp by Serge Mouille. The shade of this lamp is modeled after a “moule” or mussel shell. The arm is connected by a brass swivel and supported by an unusual tripod base with legs bent at the front accenting the angle of the stem. Available in white or black with brass fittings. Vintage versions are available from Pamono and 1st Dibs.

Surrounded by nature and beauty Bruce Wayne’s house is a place for a soul to heal. Cal explains: “The house is simple and luxurious but it allows him to continue his real work. For example: the wall to wall screen stashed in the wall connecting the bedroom to the living room – to watch the world news & business stocks”. 

The furniture

“I chose the furniture very carefully and precisely because this is a very minimal setting. Bruce Wayne does not live in clutter – he is methodical. In some ways this house and its natural surroundings is the place for Bruce Wayne and Batman to ponder “What do I need? More in my life or less?”. Obviously we wanted a nod to the influence of the original Mies van der Rohe’s designs. Wayne kept the very worn original furniture pieces from the manor house – not just because they are classics but because they are part of his families past”. 

The flatbar Brno Chair, the Barcelona Couch/day bed and the Barcelona Chair were all taken directly from the way Mies originally designed the Farnsworth House. These pieces were custom made for the film by Knoll, in leathers colours specific to the character of the house.

“Patrick and I deliberately chose to avoid harsh black in any of the elements of the house – I did not want it to look conventional or smack of an office lobby! Instead, the wonderful warm quality of the green and tobacco leathers spoke to the safety, serenity and history of this house and allowed me the freedom to age the furniture to the level we needed to describe the character. Patrick and I worked very closely so that the furniture, the wood panelling and the brick floor tile worked together to create the unique character of the house” say Cal.

We also see in this house two B&B Italia Antonio Citterio iconic Charles sofas custom made in rich warm charcoal velvets with a B&B Italia Athos console behind the sofa and a vintage Mies van der Rohe Tugendhat coffee table (also often called the Barcelona Coffee Table).

In the lounge area we find a Blackman Cruz side table in Beehive Wrought Iron with brass and glass. The carpets were custom made for the set decoration team by the luxurious Kasthall. The side table between the Barcelona chairs is another Blackman Cruz piece in lacquered tree root   

Cal felt that Bruce would take comfort from several items saved from the Wayne Mansion – these included the unique antique black Italian bronze Urns and the very personal desk blotter and inkwell “The urns are probably my favourite as they added a unique statement of Waynes past” she adds.

The Batcave.

We asked Cal if the hanging computers and tables in the tech area of the Batcave were a deliberate reference to bats. She lights up: “Ahh! the Batcave. As long as I live – it will always be an incredible privilege that I was able to work with Patrick on the Bat Cave, the Batmobile and so many other iconic pieces in the movie”.

Batman's High Tech HQ in the Batcave set decorator film furniture
Batman’s High Tech HQ in the Batcave. Set Decorator: Cal Loucks

“Patrick wanted the Batcave to explore the concept of the hanging bat in all of its nuances. So the desks and equipment were suspended from the ceiling – such a freeing feeling to not have legs on anything except the control room chair..along this same idea – I designed the retractable large work light over the bat mobile to look like spreading wings over top of the car. Patrick wanted a sculptural cover over the Batwing – I designed one in charcoal latex which draped into the shape of  a bat wing with the texture of a bat’s skin…”

The Batmobile in the Batcave found via a dark corridor from the Bruce Wayne residence
The Batmobile in the Batcave found via a dark corridor from the Bruce Wayne residence

“To design the lab, I got very specific with the purpose of each work area – these sorts of details are usually left to the decorator!!…I needed to tell the story of the character – Batman is a detective and a stealth spy, a bit of a dabbler in sciences but certainly forensics and chemistry, he is very mechanically gifted and practical. So the work areas became very clear”.

“I designed each table to incorporate these requirements – but they also needed be lightweight since we were suspending our desks from the track system – which was supported by the stage ceiling and the cantilevered set had taken up a huge weight load already. My prop builders who are so talented, making the desks with laser cut plastic surrounded by aluminium frames to lighten the load. The desks were hung by rods on industrial casters made to look like they could be reconfigured to whatever task Batman was up to. All of the dressing for each area – from communicating devices and Albert’s auto pilot control for the Batwing, to the laboratory equipment (including the welding, milling and fabricating tools for Batman’s work) was custom fabricated. The place needed a gritty, used quality to it – we didn’t want the technology to look like it came from the future”.

The relationship between production designer and set decorator must be a good fit to achieve such stunning results. We asked Cal about her working relationship with Patrick Tatopoulos: “It’s about embracing Patrick’s original concepts in all of its detail and nuances – such as the suspension of the Batcave – then we kick it up a notch – pushing the design as far as we can in order to tell the story… and the joy of being fearlessness about the design, so that the end result really connects with the audience. In Batman v Superman is was an organic process with a lot of dialogue in order to accomplish all 172 sets, whilst staying true to the concepts”. 

A triumph of production design and set decoration featuring some of our favourite furniture classics, we look forward to watching out for the house in Justice League on 17th November (2017). So loved and significant is this house, it even appears in Minecraft and has been honoured in lego!

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