living in

Living In: Volver

by Maxwell Tielman

Like many people, I have a list of actors and actresses who I can watch in literally anything. No matter how dreadful the film may be, I am able tolerate it simply because of that special somebody. It was, for example, because of my inexplicable love for Mandy Moore that I was coerced into viewing such questionable films as Chasing Liberty, Dedication, and the pretty much unheard of 2003 teen flick How To Deal. This thespian girl-crush, however, also helped me to stumble upon comedic gems like Saved! and American Dreamz. Penélope Cruz, the prolific Spanish bombshell, is one of these actresses. I’ve seen a fair share of duds on her behalf (anybody remember 2000’s Woman On Top?), but I’ve also stumbled upon some amazing films because of her. It was because of Ms. Cruz’s role in the 2006 film Volver, for instance, that I discovered the stunning work of the Spanish film director, Pedro Almodóvar.

Almodóvar, the director of such such notable titles as Matador, Talk To Her, and Woman on The Verge of A Nervous Breakdown, is an expert when it comes to crafting fabulously twisted tales, filled with vibrant color and offbeat humor. Volver is no exception. A mixture of murder, mystery, comedy, and family drama, the thematically eclectic film centers around Raimunda, a working class mother who must juggle three jobs, a disjointed family, and the harrowing act of disposing of her recently deceased husband’s body. Cruz, who brings Raimunda’s near-manic personality to life, tackles her emotional ups and downs with aplomb—displaying masterful comic timing and dramatic range. In addition to its deliciously convoluted story, the film itself is a dazzling treat for the eyes. Every object and location within the film is filled with rich, saturated color and pattern—a perfect pairing for our color month if there ever was one! —Max

1. Shovel | 2. Santoku Knife | 3. Marimekko Merkurius Scarf | 4. Cesar Arellanes Embroidered Dress | 5. Marimekko Pieni Uniko Pillow Sham | 6. Marimekko Ahonlaita Pillow Sham | 7. Tissue Paper Pom-Pom | 8. Wedge Canvas Espadrille | 9. Hoop Earrings | 10. Urban Decay Eyeliner | 11. Vintage Mosaic Lamp Base

1. Paper Garland | 2. Skalny Round Metal Chair | 3. Moschino Floral Print Dress | 4. Black Paper Fan | 5. Vintage Suitcase | 6. Floral Tile Coasters | 7. Styling Shears | 8. Missoni Wool & Cashmere Throw | 9. Desk Lamp

Film: Volver

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas

Production Design: Savador Parra

Set Decoration: Mara Matey

Costume Design: Bina Daigeler

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  • OOoooo this one’s great, Max! You should DEFINITELY do a Living In for Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios…. triple the pop-art, triple the tacky colors of Volver!!!!

  • I LOOOOOVE this movie! Penelope’s character’s sexy, colorful outfits are the bomb and she has this perfectly messy, voluminous hair throughout. Definitely one of my favorite Almodovar films. Thanks for it!

  • I think including a knife in the sets considering the knife’s original context (used for a murder) is in poor taste. Should have left it out.
    Saw Volver a long time ago (in Spanish, so I was a bit confused, was only learning the language at the time) but I enjoyed it and I like everything else that’s been included. Just think the knife was a bad idea, like you’re endorsing murder.

  • Ohhhh, thank you for reminding me how much I love Almodóvar! Did you all ever see “Tie Me Up Tie Me Down”?? so effing weird and awesome.

  • What’s not to love about Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura, and Almodóvar? You should definitely do Living In: “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” Antonio Banderas is so young in it, he’s almost unrecognizable!

  • I love this movie! And Penelope. And Pedro. And maybe it’s all influenced me way more than I ever realized because my living room basically looks like some kind of riff on that first moldboard complete with that exact unikko pillow, pink tissue paper poms (left over from my wedding), a striped blanket (like that striped scarf), and a floral pillow almost like that dress. A little uncanny!!

  • Like everyone else with eyes, I love Almodovar. However, in future could you please put screencaps of spoilers behind the cut and warn of them first? I don’t think Volver is an institution like Citizen Kane where it’s assumed everyone knows what happens at the end, and now I wish I hadn’t seen that second screencap. Still gonna see Volver next, but you know how it is.

    Still, it’s a beautiful movie. I would love to see more inspiration like this on D*S, instead of the usual run of what-shall-I-do-oh-I’ll-paint-everything-white. The colors are so gorgeous! And those patterns…yeesh!

    • hi katherine

      thanks for your commment, we’ll make sure spoilers are warned ahead of time. sorry about that ;)

      re: “paint everything white” posts, i don’t think we really do a lot of that. if you need any help or direction with posts that are more like this just let me know. i’d be happy to point out posts that are more of what you’re looking for :)


  • I didn’t notice any spoilers, and I thought including the knife was a bit of black humor. I laughed. I want that red crocheted sweater.

  • This is a great post- all the color and pattern is dazzling, and makes me wanna go see the movie.
    Can I make a suggestion for Living In? I’d love to see you guys do Tarsem’s ‘The Fall’. It’s one of my favorites, with a great story and tons of visual appeal.

  • any fluent spanish speakers out there who saw this? i speak just enough that, while watching this fabulous movie, i was pretty sure that the English subtitles were not translating her hilariously filthy language all through the movie. i felt like i was missing out on a major comic element of the script. can anyone confirm that for me?

  • You’re absolutely right, I was unfairly confusing D*S with some of the more bland “modern design” blogs, which is extra goofy of me considering that D*S is the only blog that has held my attention for so many years in a row. My absolute favorite D*S of all time was the sneak peek of Pete and Bailey McCarthy’s home, with all those outrageous colors and textures. I bookmarked it and I still go back to it when I am feeling self-righteously affronted by Martha Stewart Home. I guess if I could have my way, every room in every house would look like the aftermath of a Willy Wonka shroomfest. Which just reinforces Almodovar’s awesomeness…for me, at least ;)

  • I’m sure Penelope Cruz’s character in Volver wouldn’t be able to afford a $2900 dress, and I’m really surprised if any of the visitors of this site can afford it too.

    I’m a UK based regular reader and I’m not totally sure about the economic situation in the US but I find it unrealistic to advertise products at that price to people who view this site for perhaps DIY projects or business advice.

    Is that seriously the only dress you could find that fit the film, or is it that you are involving aspirational products to up the status of the site? Either way it’s totally confused.

    Max can you even afford products at those prices? I can barely afford the paper garland.

    • katie

      like all our living in posts, we’re striving to find pieces that best represent the visual style of a movie. sometimes they’ll skew lower end in terms of cost (as many of these pieces do) and sometimes there will be the occasional splurge piece thrown in when we feel it’s a good fit, visually.

      while most of us on the team wouldn’t’ spend $2900 on a dress, there is a sizable portion of our audience that would. in our content, we do our best to provide options that work for all of our readers. while we typically focus on things that are more cost-conscious, this blog started as- and will always be- about showcasing the most beautiful and inspiring designs possible- regardless of their price tag.


  • I was wondering if people in Spain really do wear tons of color or if this was just a style choice for the film. After watching this movie I had an irresistible urge to buy a red sweater.

  • “I think including a knife in the sets considering the knife’s original context (used for a murder) is in poor taste…Just think the knife was a bad idea, like you’re endorsing murder.”


    Paula, the teenage daughter of Raimunda (Penelope Cruz’s character in the movie), uses the knife to stab her step-father in self-defense when he tries to violently rape her. While I am not familiar with Spain’s self-defense laws, I would not be so quick to label that act “murder” or accuse design*sponge of endorsing such.

  • What a great subject! And yes, Penelope is so cooky and femme fatale at the same time. I adore the dress, with washing up gloves, so cool. All so glamourous and vibrant!

  • I loved everything about this movie. Is it just me, or is Penelope Cruz 100X better in Spanish? I don’t like her english-speaking films nearly as much as her spanish ones—she has excellent comedic timing. I think I’ll have to re-watch this, but wish I could see all that gorgeous color on the big screen again!

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