LAIR OF PRETENSION

Lair puts a spotlight on the homes of famous movie villains

The Vandamm House in North by Northwest (1959) was inspired by the dramatic styling of Frank Lloyd Wright's residences of the mid-20th century. (Courtesy Tra Publishing)

Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains
By Chad Oppenheim / Andrea Gollin
Tra Publishing
$75.00

Bad people don’t always have good taste, but when they do, their homes are the stuff of architecture history. Curzio Malaparte was attending fascist rallies in between stays at his cliffside retreat, the various owners of Lloyd Wright’s Sowden House committed unspeakable crimes behind its stony facade, and Philip Johnson‘s sordid past all but eclipses his career as one of the most accomplished architects of the 20th century.

A book cover that says Lair on it

Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains (Courtesy Tra Publishing)

While most of us may not be able to tour the homes of these baddies or live in anything remotely like them ourselves, the homes of movie villains are at our disposal however many times we wish to visit them. Chad Oppenheim of Miami-based Oppenheim Architecture and writer Andrea Gollin have come together to shine a spotlight on the homes of the silver screen that lurk in the shadows to draw an undeniable connection between low morale and high design. Their book, Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains, pries open 15 of the most diabolical abodes and renders them in silk-silver linework over depthless black paper, all of which were exquisitely illustrated by Carlos Fueyo, a VFX and CG supervisor behind some of the most visually sumptuous blockbusters of the last decade.

Cutaway drawing of the Death Star

Carlos Fueyo’s perspective cutaway of the Death Star reveals more of the structure than can was ever depicted in the original Star Wars series. (Courtesy Tra Publishing)

Lair makes evident that the average movie’s art production team is at its most creative when given the opportunity to imagine homes as sinister and calculated as the villains that would commission them with dark money. An eye-opening interview between Oppenheim and Star Wars set decorator Roger Christian uncovers the inspiration behind the Death Star, arguably the most famous evil lair in cinema, albeit one that doubles as a weapon capable of obliterating planets many times its size. “When it came to the Death Star,” Christian explained, “that was inspired by the Reich architecture of Albert Speer, obviously. When you look at Nazi architecture, it’s very black with red on it. Very simple and very daunting—and strangely beautiful.”

Fueyo’s illustrations render the highly articulate surface of the Death Star with all the wonderfully arbitrary detailing of the original and managed to produce a perspective cutaway that offers a glimpse into the orderly, clock-like work of its scaleless interior. The divergent paths of the light and dark sides of the force are as apparent in the contrasting austerity between the Empire’s home base and the humble desert residences of the Jedi as they are in any of the other cinematic choices made in the production of the blockbuster film series.

Black-and-white drawing of a modern beach house

John Lautner’s Elrod House in Palm Springs played the evil lair in Diamonds Are Forever (1971). (Courtesy Tra Publishing)

About a third of the 15 lairs are owned by various Bond villains, from Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s sub-volcanic hideaway in You Only Live Twice (1967) to Karl Stromberg’s spider-like marine research laboratory in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). While Bond trots around the world as a stylish nomad, his enemies stay put in increasingly eccentric abodes that speak to their character just as effectively as their words or actions. The sensuous architecture of Los Angeles-architect John Lautner makes more than a few cameos and is otherwise the unsubtle inspiration for a number of the evil lairs throughout the movie series. A rarely-seen interview between Lautner and Marlene Laskey on the Elrod House, a home the architect designed in 1968 that was extensively featured in Diamonds are Forever (1971), reveals that the home was built with surprisingly few restraints, thus imbuing the structure with a number of eccentricities suited to the fictional supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Good design often comes at a price, either through its exchange with one’s soul or a sum of money that no one person should reasonably have. While real-life crooks reveal little of themselves to the public by trade, the homes featured in Lair grants its readers a more-than-generous look into the lives lived by a fictional class of villains.

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