ENTERTAINMENT
05/02/2021 15:07 GMT | Updated 06/02/2021 10:15 GMT

The Secrets Of The Pink Palace: How The Interiors Of It's A Sin Were Created

Production designers Luana Hanson Interiors built around 165 sets for Russell T Davies’ hit Channel 4 drama.

Warning! This article contains mild spoilers about It’s A Sin. 

With its throwback wardrobe, stunning soundtrack and nostalgic references, AIDS drama It’s A Sin has transported viewers back in time to the 1980s. 

But a huge part of believing the world we see on screen is thanks to the incredible sets and locations that Russell T Davies’ Channel 4 drama makes use of. 

Production designers Luana Hanson Interiors imagined and created around 165 sets as they brought 80s London back to life – despite the series being filmed in Manchester. 

Since the series started airing last month, Luana – who has previously worked on productions that have starred the likes of Hugh Jackman, Olivia Colman and Sheridan Smith – has been sharing the secrets of how she achieved this on her interiors company’s Instagram page

So if It’s A Sin has captivated you as much as it has us, here’s 13 revelations you need to know...

1. While The Pink Palace was set in London’s Soho, the exterior was a Manchester street

Paton Street, near the city’s Northern Quarter, to be precise. 

Google Street View
Paton Street in Manchester on Google Street View as it is seen today. 

Designers added period cars and completed graffiti down the street, as well as adding poster boards, a postbox and telephone box from the time. 

The houses down the far end of the street also had all their front doors changed, while the shop windows had to be regularly redressed during filming to reflect the 11-year period the show is set over. 

Ben Blackall/Channel 4
Jill (Lydia West) outside the gang's flat

The Pink Palace’s communal staircase is the one really behind the door on Paton Street

The main entrance and staircase to the gang’s flat seamlessly fitted in with the set that was built for the Pink Palace on screen, but they were in two different locations.  

Ben Blackall/Channel 4
Ash (Nathaniel Curtis) in the Pink Palace's communal hallway

2. The Pink Palace set was built in an empty school 

Two gymnasiums had to be knocked together to create one giant space in which to build the London residence. 

The set was completely plastered before woodwork was added, wallpaper hung and distressed, and a bathroom and kitchen fitted, and the rooms completely dressed. 

The set took inspiration from the designer’s own personal experience as Luana said she based it on memories she had of living in a large student house share in Kempsford Gardens in London. 

“Our living room was very similar, full of incongruous fun objects and always a party,” she said. 

Ben Blackall/Channel 4
The Pink Palace played host to many parties in It's A Sin

3. The time period the show is set over presented some logistical challenges

Luana revealed: “The challenge was making the backing look believable and changing the decor over an 11 year period so it worked with the shooting schedule which wasn’t always in chronological order.”

During that time, bare plaster walls had been painted and new cupboards and lights fitted, as the gang made improvements to their living quarters. 

There were also difficulties finding a piece of lino from the 70s or 80s that was big enough to cover the floor, and in the end a bespoke design was created and printed onto some plain lino to be fitted onto the set. 

Ben Blackall/Channel 4
The flat, seen here in episode one, was improved over the duration of the series.

4. Props were sourced and purchased from markets, junk shops and eBay 

And the mustard chair in the living room was inspired by a photo of Boy George’s home. 

“We love to buy original items that are in immaculate condition,” Luana said of the Pink Palace sets. “We spent hours sourcing all these original wonderful props and furniture, all helping to create the illusion of the 80s.”

5. Many of the appliances on the set actually worked

The kitchen had a working cooker and taps, while all the light switches worked, as did the hot water wall heater. 

The bathroom was also operational, with warm water running from the shower and taps. 

6. The view out of the flat was captured by the show’s photography experts

Being built in a school obviously meant that views visible from the flat had to be specially created, with director of photography David Katznelson and backdrops photographer Sarah Horton producing backdrops of London buildings. 

7. The AIDS hospital was actually a derelict school in Manchester

It was a “mammoth” project for the interiors team to recreate the Middlesex Hospital in London, which was the first dedicated HIV ward when it was opened by Princess Diana in 1987. 

A derelict Manchester school was transformed, comprising a 100-metre corridor, six private rooms, kitchen, lounge area and a fully practical lift, as the ward was meant to be on the ninth floor. 

“We moulded and made the 28 ceiling lights, placed 200 meters of bumper bars on the walls coupled with bespoke stainless steel Medi bars which we made in house,” Luana said. 

“The lino was actually laid by the guys who laid the original lino in the AIDS ward in Middlesex.”

Ben Blackall/Channel 4
Valerie and Clive (Keeley Hawes and Shaun Dooley) seen in the hospital waiting room

8. A woman’s house was completely turned upside down to become Richie’s parents’ home

Dressers completely redecorated all the rooms of the four bedroom house to become the Tozer household, even down to the smallest of details like the light switches.

“Cooker, hob, extractor, carpets, wall lights, curtains , furniture, washing machine, glass – you name it we changed it,” the interiors company said. 

It added that the elderly lady who owned the property “welcomed the upheaval”, and after filming had finished, her house was given a fresh lick of paint. 

Ben Blackall/Channel 4
Valerie (Keeley Hawes) in the Tozer house

9. The view seen from the house had to be digitally edited in

Ritchie’s parents were supposed to live on the Isle Of Wight, but the house they filmed in was located in Rochdale. 

Therefore the sea view at the bottom of the hill as seen from the windows of the house was achieved using CGI.  

10. Roscoe’s family house also required a complete redecoration and redress

The house in Stockport had a whole new kitchen fitted, as well as the redecoration of the parlour, bedroom and hall, and a dressing of the exterior. 

Ben Blackall/Channel 4
Roscoe's father seen in the Babatunde family living room

11. Things got a bit crafty on the Doctor Who set

In episode five, Ritchie is seen appearing in a Doctor Who episode, which was based on an actual edition of the sci-fi drama. It’s A Sin creator Russell T Davies also executive produced the long-running sci-fi series in the 2000s. 

To make it look authentically 80s Doctor Who, designers used crates, cardboard tubes, polystyrene and PVA glue among other things to fashion the set – built at Granada Studios in Manchester – which Luana said was similar to how the sets were created back then. 

“We had the right cameras as well,” director Peter Hoare recently told Digital Spy. “We got hold of some studio floor cameras from the period, and we stuck on little logos that said ‘BBC TV colour’. I was just in heaven. It was brilliant.”

Russell also used his Doctor Who connections to bring together a real bunch of Daleks from different eras of the show. 

Peter revealed: “It’s all anachronistic because – as Doctor Who fans will tell you – the Daleks all come from different periods. They were owned by individuals, some of whom were ex-Doctor Who operators – Dalek operators. They brought their own Daleks, and they’re all from different Doctor Whos.”

12. The tailors where Colin worked was built in an old Manchester tennis club

The Culver & Hound set was made up of the main shop area, a back room, cloak room and corridor. 

While the interiors were filmed in Manchester and set in London, the exterior of it was shot in Liverpool. 

13. Designers transformed a second hand shop to become the printers where Colin worked

A rank of shops had to be transported back to the 80s to become home to Printalux, where Colin started working after losing his job at Culver & Hound. 

It took inspiration from 80s store Prontoprint, with designers creating bespoke items that fitted in with the Printalux branding to be placed around the store, which in real life is a second hand shop. 

The next door shop also became a home appliances rentals shop, which came complete with a load of 80s TV adorning its windows.

It’s A Sin airs Fridays at 9pm on Channel 4, with all episodes available to stream on All4.