How design elements used in cinema set design can emotionally connect your interior spaces by quickly telling a story and setting a mood, in a timeless style.

If you enjoy learning about movie and TV set design, you will want to check out the truly unique YouTube channel hosted by Marina Coates, an architecturally-trained designer, who teaches design principles by explaining the effectiveness of cinema and TV set designs.

Given that we are admirers of her design approach, we share what we have learned, in hopes that you too will be inspired.

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What Is Cinematically Inspired Design?

According to Marina Coates, cinematically inspired design is the practice of applying design elements used in cinema that emotionally connect a viewer to a space by quickly telling a story and setting a mood, in a timeless style. The tenets of cinematically inspired design include:

  • Architectural Features
  • Color
  • Furnishings
  • Layout
  • Materials
  • Metaphor
  • Outside the Box
  • Spatial Use

We cannot take credit for the creative tagline “Cinematically Inspired Design”, as this is a trademark held by Coates. We can, however, attest that this phrase perfectly encapsulates Marina’s approach to design and what you can learn from her design philosophy.

Though we enjoy watching her walk-through videos of her painstakingly researched and created 3D virtual models of set designs of famous TV shows and films, we are really intrigued by her sharing of design secrets of movie magic.

Set Designers are Storytellers at Heart

As cinephiles, we enjoy continually learning about behind the scenes of our favorite movies and TV series. Given Marina’s growing popularity, we suspect that Set Designers have unfairly taken a backseat to the enormous media coverage historically given to actors, directors, cinematographers, writers, and even costume designers.

Marina shares that cinematic set designers are masters on how to condense design elements to make the greatest impact in the shortest period of time. She understands that set designers are storytellers at heart, relying on design to set moods and tell us more about the people who live there.

Through her work, she reminds us that many viewers do not realize that the depth of the connections that we feel with our favorite classic movies are due to the set designs that adroitly add tones, moods and surreptitious storytelling.

Marina is also careful to point out that she does not encourage or recommend copying a style seen in a set design, but rather promotes understanding of why you like a particular interior space and how the designer may have achieved it.

Her end goal is to help others create a timeless design that represents their unique stories.

Also see:


Secrets of Cinema Set Design to Apply to Your Home

To get a quick overview of how and why Cinematically Inspired Design can improve your approach to interior design, we strongly recommend watching Marina’s introduction video on this topic. Key themes that immediately resonated with us included:

  • Cinematic Set Design Tells a Story
  • Cinematic Set Design Creates a Mood
  • Cinematic Set Design is Timeless

To apply these principles to your home, here are expounded explanations to make them more relevant to your home’s interior design:

  • Use your interior space to tell a story, and set a tone and mood in a short period of time
  • Use tone and mood to tell guests about you and your family
  • Don’t be worried about the latest trends, but instead focus on setting a mood that can tell your unique story quickly
  • A lot can be learned from the secrets of set design to make your interior space

Cinematically Inspired Design: An Introduction


We also recommend watching this episode that starts out hinting that this set design secret is “hidden in plain sight” and often adds:

  • “drama, excitement, character, interest, and flavor in making a room unique and memorable”

The Secret the Cinema Knows About Design, Episode 3

Principles of Scale in Design [Scale Transforms a Room]

Marina has continued to add to her list of Cinematically Inspired Design video lessons, so be sure to subscribe to her YouTube channel, and follow her on your preferred social media platform. Here is her current list of instructional videos:


Our Favorite TV Show Set Designs Created by Mockingbird Lane Design

Marina has also fostered a passionate community of followers from her YouTube Behind the Scenes videos that are highly accurate computer generated tours of homes from popular TV shows and movies. She complements her impressive 3D models with narration that demonstrates her expansive knowledge of the shows, design details, and empathy for what her viewers want to know about the sets.

To get a sense of her excellent video hosting presence, read this apropos comment from one of her many YouTube viewers:

“Your videos are so inspiring and so informative. But your videos are also sooooo relaxing. Your voice, the background music, and the flow of the videos are mesmerizing.”

We shared the quote to acknowledge that you will not be alone in thinking that Marina really does have the perfect voice and intonation for these nostalgic, instructional, “no hurry” videos.

Another reminder: you are not the only person that finds her video walk-throughs of former TV shows utterly fascinating. In fact, we asked Marina if there were any surprises that she has experienced since launching her YouTube channel. Here’s what she shared:

“I hadn’t realized just how many other people love the details of these TV and movie homes. I’m not alone!” – Marina Coates, Mockingbird Lane Design


The Jeffersons’ Deluxe Apartment in the Sky!

Marina’s computer generated tour of the Jeffersons’ apartment was the video in which we first discovered her channel. Having binged on reruns of The Jeffersons, we were recommended this video by YouTube. As in all of her videos, Marina demonstrates her architect’s precise eye, as virtually no detail, or design question, is left unaddressed.

Though the majority of the show’s scenes were shot in the main living area, Marina explored other mysterious sections of the ”deluxe apartment”, including confirming that certain layouts would be impossible in real life (e.g. Mr. Bentley’s next-door apartment). We also enjoyed her demonstration of how subtle design choices can make a big difference on how a space is perceived and experienced.

The Jeffersons: Entire Apartment Tour [Computer Generated Tour]

The Jeffersons: Entire Apartment Tour [CG Tour]


The Bewitched Home

At just shy of 500,000 views, the first floor tour of the Bewitched Home is Marina’s most popular TV home tour. This tour illustrates Marina’s impeccable attention to historical detail. The series’ set design, much like the plot devices of the show itself, continually changed, not only from season to season but, in some cases, mid-season as well.

While watching her TV set tours, we like to test our memories, but this particular set design is too tricky, as too many set designs were made between seasons, and even mid-season.

Marina goes well beyond replicating the floorplan, by including interesting notes on the various artwork used throughout the show. For example, YouTube viewers helped her confirm that The Old Guitarist painting by Picasso had been hung sideways over the fireplace mantel.

Lastly, she deserves some kind of computer design rendering award for figuring out the dimensions and “funny angles” of the den with the “wonky walls”.

Tour the Bewitched Home, Part 1, Main Floor [Computer Generated Tour]

Tour the Bewitched Home, Part 1, Main Floor [CG Tour]


BTW: The Munsters Lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane

Given that Marina’s website and design business is named “Mockingbird Lane”, we can only assume that she is a big fan of The Munsters TV series, as this TV family lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Here are links to the two tours she created for this iconic show:


Upcoming TV Set Design Tour

Marina also let us know that her next TV show set design tour will be Mary’s apartment from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which will also include Rhoda’s attic apartment and WJM’s news center. The links in the next section will help you keep up with her work, as well as connect with her engaged community of followers.


Links to Learn More About Marina Coates & Mockingbird Lane Design


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