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7 TV Shows to Binge for Design Inspiration

From the mid-century-modern world of Mad Men to the traditional opulence of Succession

By Mara Reinstein | April 8, 2020 | Design

There’s never a wrong time to turn to quality television as home design inspiration. But now that we’re all self-isolating and social distancing within our walls because of the  COVID-19 pandemic, plunging through your streaming queue and gazing at a show’s visual style — that seamlessly complements its story and characters — is a flat-out essential activity. Beyond the benefit of providing some good old-fashioned escapism, the right series with the right set-design eye candy can spark your own creativity and innovation. And in this current golden age of television, a plethora of swoon-worthy options are just a sanitized finger-click away. Check out these all-time greats, whose aesthetics span from the polished world of 1950s New York City to contemporary white-trim California cool. Welcome home.

 

American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

Think opulence, and lots of it. The acclaimed 2018 limited series about the late, great Italian fashion designer (played by Edgar Ramirez) was filmed on location at his mansion on Miami’s Ocean Drive, offering viewers a behind-the-gilded-gates look at his over-the-top architectural philosophy. (To wit: His 10-suite estate features two rooms covered in seashells and a 54-foot-long pool comprised of more than one million mosaic tiles—thousands of which are 24-karat gold!) Because much of the original furniture was sold (the spot is now a boutique hotel), the art department commissioned Italian upholsterers to recreate the original Versace-designed fabric and accentuated his penchant for black and gold.  (Netflix)

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: Amercian Crime Story. Image: FX The Americans

Not only did this cold-war spy thriller about married Russian sleeper agents (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) in the 1980s keep us hooked with ultra-suspenseful plots from 2013 to 2018, its decade-of-excess period made for totally awesome retro production design. (Ditto for its costumes, but that’s another story.) As the decade unfolds in the show, set designer Diane Lederman shifted the décor of the pair’s suburban home in Washington, D.C., from warm colors (notice the soft-gold washer-dryer and kitchen table) of the '70s to cooler '80s tones. She and her team purchased vintage furnishings and gadgets via thrift stores, Etsy, and eBay.  (Amazon Prime)

Big Little Lies

Author Liane Moriarity set her juicy  Big Little Lies novel in her native Australia. But for its small-screen adaptation, which first premiered in 2017, producers chose the airy beachfront world of Monterey, California. Each stunning residence in the show had a personality befitting its owner, from Type A Renata (Laura Dern)’s grand abode with its minimalist furnishings (courtesy of Ligne Roset) to tormented Celeste (Nicole Kidman)’s home of stone and glass overlooking the tranquil sea. (Set decorator Amy Wells picked up the dining room chandelier from Jonathan Adler and chairs from Objects rentals.) As for the house of queen bee Madeline (Reese Witherspoon)? Her lived-in Cape Cod–style beach home is like something straight from the Martha Stewart design book.  (HBO)

Big Little Lies. Image: Jennifer Clasen/HBO

Fantastical attention was paid to the production design of this iconic drama, which ran from 2007 to 2015, and served as a time capsule for 1960s New York City. (Creator Matthew Weiner once even switched out apples in a kitchen-set scene because they looked too plump.) For the first half of the series, ad man Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and his family live in a colonial-style Westchester house decorated in East Coast Danish midcentury style. When he moves out and relocates to Manhattan, his sleek high-rise Upper East Side apartment features a sunken living room with shag carpet, and walnut cabinetry with a built-in television set. Emmy-winning set decorator Claudette Didul said she took inspiration from two 1960s-era books by author Betty Pepis, as well as the 1965 book  Decoration U.S.A. It’s still available on Amazon.  (Netflix)

 

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

No joke: Housewife turned comedian Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan)’s dreamy pre-war 1950s apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan still looks timeless. The Dorothy Draper chests! The Chinoiserie folding screens! The candy-apple-red-and-white kitchen! Production designer Bill Groom, who researched via books,  Life magazines, and catalogues, has said he copied the latter from a Doris Day movie and sourced the home furnishings from antique dealers. Meanwhile, Midge’s nemesis Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch) lives in a townhouse dressed in a mix of American and European antiques from Newel.  (Amazon Prime)

 

The Politician

In modern-day Santa Barbara, ambitious high school student Payton Hobart (Ben Platt) is seeking elected office—and he wheels and deals from a bedroom that would make a POTUS drool with envy. Indeed, production designer Jamie McCall told  Architectural Digest that she referenced President John F. Kennedy’s stately quarters when creating Payton’s lair (see: a canopy bed with a tufted silk headboard, antique cane bench, and several first-bound editions of classic books). The rest of the Hobart mansion is a study in ornate decor, from a chinoiserie-tinged sitting room to a well-manicured California lawn. Set decorator Amber Haley sourced the interiors on Chairish and 1stdibs, and picked up an assortment of ashtrays from eBay.  (Netflix)

Succession. Image: Peter Kramer/HBO Succession

If you’re Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and you’re trying to run a global media conglomerate while your children wrestle for control, you might as well plot in the most luxurious confines as possible. That palatial 20,000-square-foot estate in the Hamptons used to belong to Henry Ford II, and is valued at a mere $175 million. Production designer Stephen Carter told  Architectural Digest that he and his team placed a desk from Newel Antiques and kept the homeowner’s rug in the office. For Logan’s Fifth Avenue apartment (filmed at Queens’ Silvercup Studios), set decorator George DeTitta shopped at high-end sources such as Newel Props (an offshoot of Newel antiques) along with 1stdibs, John Street Antiques, and The Antique and Artisan Gallery in Stamford, Connecticut, as well as antique shops in Westport, Connecticut.  (HBO)

This article was originally publishe on Architectural Digest

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