Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
October 01, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT

New York society in the 1870s may not have granted much latitude to affairs of the heart, but, oh, the leg room. It is just this feeling of lush, sweeping spaces-grand rooms in even grander mansions-that Martin Scorsese set out to capture in his sensually detailed adaptation of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. The result: elaborate sets that are as fussed over and dressed up as the stars themselves. To reconstruct the rooms authentically, production designer Dante Ferretti (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) and 10 assistants spent three months culling hundreds of books, visiting antiques stores, and scouring museums for paintings to copy. But the secret to Ferretti’s stylistic success may have been his imagination: In his hands, a Troy, N.Y., fraternity house became a ) majestic mansion, and two rooms at the National Arts Club in Manhattan were magically transformed into a series of elaborately entwined drawing rooms. And while the illusion of depth was often created by draping layers of lush fabric-lace, crushed velvet, and silk-what looks like a million-dollar house probably is: Ferretti spent every single dime of his $5 million budget. ”For the last scene in Paris,” he remembers, laughing, ”I had to beg for $150 so I could at least add a vase of flowers to the room.”

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