The Symbolic Meaning Behind the Bedrooms in 'Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.'

rachel mcadams as barbara dimon and abby ryder fortson as margaret simon in are you there god it’s me, margaret photo credit dana hawley
Inside the Sets of 'Are You There God?' Dana Hawley/Lionsgate

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Growing up, especially as a girl, comes with its fair share of things to figure out—about yourself and others. The movie Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.—in theaters now and based on iconic author Judy Blume’s novel of the same name—captures just that. A big part of what shapes that coming-of-age process is where it all takes place. So, naturally, the homes and specifically the bedrooms dreamed up for the film give further insight into each character’s collective yet distinct experience.

Set in the 1970s, the story follows preteen Margaret Simon as she navigates a big move, religion, periods, boys, bras, and everything else that comes with growing up as a girl. “The movie is all about women and girls, and if we got their story right the whole [film] would sort of click together,” production designer Steve Saklad tells House Beautiful. “I listened a lot to Kelly [Fremon Craig, the director,] and Selena van den Brink, our set decorator… I thought if I could connect with them on their wavelength, I would know who these women and girls are—and each of them was so specific and so unique.”

rachel mcadams as barbara dimon and abby ryder fortson as margaret simon in are you there god it’s me, margaret photo credit dana hawley
Rachel McAdams as Barbara Simon and Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret Simon in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.Dana Hawley/Lionsgate

While the story mainly takes place in New Jersey, the production was filmed in and around Charlotte, North Carolina. Along with being a tax rebate state, the city was selected over others, like Atlanta, for its “classic suburban ranch houses and cul-de-sacs, which really said New Jersey to us,” Saklad says.

The city offered the backdrops for nearly every location except for the school. (Scenes there were filmed at the McCelvey Center in South Carolina.) Residences in Charlotte’s Foxcroft neighborhood were chosen to depict the Farbook, New Jersey, homes of the Simon family and the Wheelers, their neighbors.

For the interiors of the Simons home, Saklad and van den Brink leaned into earth tones—a fitting color palette for the era. Little by little, Margaret’s mom Barbara built their new plant- and art-filled sanctuary, which became just as full of life as their former New York City apartment had been. The atmosphere evokes a feeling of freedom and connection to nature.

The Wheeler abode offers a stark contrast. “Mrs. Wheeler and Nancy were strictly going by the rules,” Saklad explains. “Mrs. Wheeler was all about charm but icy underneath, so these strong blues and icy silver colors permeated the main part of their house.”

the living room of the wheeler home
The living room of the Wheeler home.Courtesy of Lionsgate

Each home influences how Margaret and Nancy Wheeler’s bedrooms look, showcasing their struggles and personalities. Margaret’s bedroom was one of the few sets built at a warehouse-turned-soundstage. “We spent a lot of time sort of finding the vibe,” Saklad says. “We added this wonderful portal of windows around her headboard so that she would have this sense that the world, the cosmos, the streaming sun, and moonlight are sort of surrounding her bed as she goes on this journey of finding who she is and what her place is with God.”

margarets bedroom
Margaret’s bed is surrounded by a portal of windows, a nod to her fascination with the cosmos.Steve Saklad

They installed night maps of constellations on the sloped ceilings over her bed to allow her to, in a sense, stargaze as she ponders her beliefs about the universe. To make the room feel incomplete, the walls were painted in various colors—two butter yellow, one pale blue, and one pale gray—driving home how Margaret is still in the process of discovering herself.

margaret's bedroom was designed to feel incomplete
Margaret’s bedroom was designed to feel incomplete.Courtesy of Lionsgate

Nancy’s bedroom is meant to feel like it was designed for her when she was 8 years old. “She's suffocating in these ruffles and sort of floral wallpapers that climb the walls like an overgrown garden,” Saklad says.

Since Nancy isn’t who she seems to be on the surface, the room includes odd pops of orange and green along with pictures of Twiggy and other fashion icons to hint at her rebellious era. “It didn’t show on camera so much, but under the ruffles [on her bed] were all the stuff she had crammed in that she didn't want her mom to see,” Saklad reveals. “So toys and sort of risqué clothing—the things that don't match the decor so that if you just peeked under Nancy's surface a little, you would understand how fragile she was and how sort of messed up she was.”

are you there god it’s me, margaret photo credit dana hawley
Nancy’s bedroom was designed to feel like it was meant for an 8-year-old.Courtesy of Lionsgate
nancy bedroom
Nancy’s walls feature posters of Twiggy and other fashion icons.Steve Saklad

Whether it's Margaret's curiosity-filled bedroom or Nancy's bright-yet-stifling chamber, the spaces are crucial to the periods they're at in life, revealing who they are and what they're going through in these moments.

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