Christmas is just one week away, so it’s the perfect time to binge-watch as many holiday films as humanly possible, to really immerse yourself in the most wonderful time of the year. Might we suggest Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square, a new Netflix original film that’s filled with festive sets and merry music (written entirely by Dolly herself!) to match? To further explore the winter wonderland that was fashioned for this movie, House Beautiful spoke to production designer Ina Mayhew and set decorator Sarah Carter—and we can guarantee you’ll have a holly Dolly Christmas if your festivities look anything like the ones in this film!
When we think of Christmas, we may think of the cozy sense of community upon returning home just in time for the holidays—and Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square delivers on this. In true Christmas spirit, the inspiration for this film’s primary set came from a very real place (or two). “The initial idea was based on a small town that the executive producer, Sam Haskel, is from, in Mississippi,” production designer Ina Mayhew tells House Beautiful. “He and Dolly Parton wanted the film to have a small town that is composed of a town square surrounded by small businesses, with a church at one end and a gazebo on the square.” Thus began Mayhew’s hunt for a town with “mostly single story buildings and a small square in the center of town.” Ultimately, she decided to base the town square on Main Street in Woodstock, New York, a town that Mayhew herself calls home.
Woodstock served as the ideal inspiration because “the buildings were the perfect scale and style,” Mayhew says. “It was important to keep some sense of reality while also adding a bit of a storybook feel too. I wanted it to look like the town was nestled in the woods and surrounded the buildings with real, tall pine trees. The challenge was to create this charming town and fit it on a soundstage, so it was important to add as many real elements as possible.”
Once the location was set, Mayhew collaborated with set decorator Sarah Carter to come up with a color palette and overall concept. Then, Carter took to nearby stores to search for home decor items that best fit the aesthetic of the film. For example, the General Store set was filled with finds from vintage and thrift shops, as well as homemade preserves from HomeGoods and penny candy from Amazon. “The Christmas tree in this set was filled with handcrafted ornaments, children's toys, wooden beads, and simple velvet bows, all sourced from thrift stores and a sweet little Christmas store in Helen, Georgia that was selling Christmas decor in June,” Carter tells us.
Another charming store featured in the film is the cottage-style shop called “Mary had a little lamb.” The Christmas tree on display in this store “started with a beautiful pearlized velvet ribbon and ornaments” that Carter found online. Florist Christina Guthrie also played a role in bringing this adorable shop to life. Carter says that Guthrie “worked her magic and the tree was just dripping with angelic innocents and a little Dolly sparkle.” Once again, thrift stores provided some of the display pieces for this set, as did Facebook Marketplace.
OF course, we can't forget the stunning Victorian house that will likely catch your eye as you watch Christmas on the Square—and best of all, this home exists beyond your laptop (or television) screen! Located in the Inman Park neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia, the Beath-Dickey House is a Queen Anne-style house that was built in 1890, and its history in and of itself is worthy of a film. Legend has it, according to Mayhew, the home’s original owner, John M. Beath, who founded the Georgia Ice Company, “built the house to lure his fiancée from Boston to Atlanta—but she never married him.”
In Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square, the Beath-Dickey House acts as Regina’s (played by Christine Baranski) residence. “We decided to go in the direction of an ornate period home to establish the wealth and history of Regina’s family in the community and the creation of the town,” Mayhew explains. Local antique stores were the go-to stops for the home’s rugs and lighting, while the tufted velvet settee and dining room chairs came from Bridge Furniture & Props. Mayhew credits florist Christina Guthrie with creating the Christmas decor seen on the fireplace mantels, staircase banisters, and tabletop centerpieces.
Between the very merry set design and the fact that Dolly Parton wrote 14 original songs for this film, there’s no reason you won’t have a holly Dolly Christmas this year!
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