Mike White’s limited series The White Lotus is a child of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeing production shut-downs during to safety protocols, HBO reached out to White during the summer of 2020 and asked if he could quickly create a series that could conceivably begin shooting within a few months. White wrote the screenplay over a matter of weeks, and the production team headed to the Four Seasons Resort in Maui to begin the shoot.
That’s where production designer Laura Fox needed to redesign the beautiful rooms at the Four Seasons into locations that would more directly reflect the characters within the series. After toiling online and through mobile connections during a 14-day quarantine period, Fox and team started putting together the looks and designs, including those from local artists, that would be featured in each location.
Here’s a look at how Fox and team created each major location used in The White Lotus.
Note: All photos were provided by Laura Fox.
The Palm versus the Pineapple Suite
One of The White Lotus‘s most ridiculous and hilarious on-going conflicts is Shane’s (Jake Lacy) quest to correct what he perceives to be a massive slight: the assignment of the Palm Suite instead of the Pineapple Suite for his honeymoon. Given how integral the suites are to the plot, Fox and team needed to design two suites that would perfectly fit the narrative.
“The Palm Suite, in my mind, is the best room in the hotel because it has the best views. The palm trees are the perfect height, and it has a color palette of green and live plants all throughout the room, which is so calming. What I loved about that was that he just couldn’t see it and had to move to the Pineapple Suite because it was the fancier suite. The Pineapple Suite, in contrast, has low ceilings and no view despite outdoor access. Of course, it’s covered with pineapples or pineapple artifacts. I just I love that those two rooms help tell the story of his character.”
The Palm Suite (Before)
The Palm Suite (After)
Wealthy CEO Nicole Mossbacher (Connie Britton) and her family Mark (Steve Zahn), Quinn (Fred Hechinger), Olivia (Sydney Sweeney), and her friend Paula (Brittany O’Grady) booked the incredibly large and, presumably, expensive Tradewinds suite. While their suite isn’t quite the source of conflict that the Palm/Pineapple proved to be, it nevertheless required a very specific look and setup to match the requirements of White’s script.
“The Tradewinds is kind of funny because I really wanted [Hawaiian artist Herb Kāne]. For a reasonable price, we were able to license his stuff, but then I also realized [his work featured] all these canoes which is where the kid ends up. At one point, I said to Mike ‘Is it too on the nose?’ But in hindsight, it really is telling that he’s in that room miserable and his future is on the walls.”
Quinn, in fact, does spend the entire vacation sleeping in a tiny kitchenette. In reality, that suite has another bedroom that could have easily held him.
“The difference is, if you’re at the Four Seasons, the door we pretended was to a bathroom when we changed the locks on it really just leads to another bedroom. We were trying to accommodate the script. In reality these big rooms like this with these big views, they probably have another bedroom, but we just turned that into a bathroom.”
The Tradewinds Suite (Before)
The Tradewinds Suite (After)
Another iconic location of The White Lotus is Armond’s (Murray Bartlett) office. In fact, it’s the location of one of the most talked-about scenes of the entire series. The redressing of a small ballroom invoked multiple aspects of Armond’s lived experience and personality.
“I read the script, but I didn’t really realize how crazy about dolphins we were going to get. We wanted it full. He’s been working there a long time. We wanted it Hawaiian. We wanted pictures of gorgeous surfers on the walls, but it also had to be a workspace. Really picking the couch was the starting point. We knew what would happen in the script so we started there. That room was one of their smaller ballrooms. It had a unique cloth wallpaper, but we just went with it and tried to fill it up with Hawaiian energy because Armond is such a great character. He starts off as a pretty great employee who falls apart, so we wanted to show up that side of him but leave room for what’s to come.”