|Stephen in the dining room of "Alicia's Apartment"|
I love home design and I love everything connected to the family-focused home environment. I get inspiration from many places - magazines, catalogs, films and television shows. Home ideas and creative direction for the home is everywhere around us. In my book, NO PLACE LIKE HOME, I talked a great deal about how home sets - seen in films or on television - can be such a valuable creative tool for any homeowner to use. It is an entertaining and useful way to figure out your own home style. You may see a home you love, a room color, a furniture style or an accessory and it gets your mind going. I see it as a way to take what you respond to personally and guide you towards finding what is right for you and your home.
|on the way to see the sets|
With that in mind, I am very excited about sharing this next installment of Designer Dad : On Location with you. I recently went behind-the-scenes at the CBS hit show "The Good Wife" and spoke with the amazingly multi-talented Set Decorator for the series - Beth Kushnick. Beth made me feel instantly at home in the midst of the sets that she is a part of everyday with her wonderful creative team.
The magic of Hollywood is something that has always fascinated me, but having it tie into the design work that I do now and being able to use it as a creative resource for the everyday homeowner is very exciting and motivating to me. So spending time with Beth and learning more about her own creative approach to design - truly reminded me how valuable what she does is for all of us.
We can all be inspired and take something away from what we see on television or in films.
|The Set Decorating Team's Hub|
One more thought - for those of you that feel confident about making design choices in your home - this a visual way for me to inspire new ideas and creative directions for you. However, for those of you that are still trying to figure out their own home style or what they want the mood or essence of their home to be - I hope you will enjoy this journey behind-the-scenes as a way to get you to see your own home in new ways.
|The amazing prop house - lamps for every style|
Before my conversation with Beth officially got started, we went to visit the extensive prop warehouse for "The Good Wife" - that is near the several sound stages they film in. I was very impressed by the organization of everything. The place was filled with everything needed to create environments for the show and is the creative hub for the show's behind-the-scenes talent to have all they need everyday to do what they do quietly and stylishly.
|All about being organized behind the scenes to make the magic happen on set|
|All part of the behind the scenes magic - a place for everything|
|Styling props to fit any mood or theme|
|All about finding the right shade|
We left the prop warehouse and headed over to the sound stages containing the sets for the main law firm, the courthouse and, what I was truly looking forward to seeing, the main home set for the show. The family home set is for the central character of the show "Alicia" played by Emmy Award-winning actress Julianna Margulies. We ran into Julianna in the hall as we headed towards Alicia's apartment set. All part of the magic of Hollywood.
|Part of the backstage magic...Law offices for "The Good Wife" beyond those windows|
The backstage areas are always what I enjoy - this is where the illusion of what the show brings to life on screen is matched by what is not seen beyond the sets.
|The busy streets of Chicago captured on the backdrop panel to the left|
|On my way to see the main home setting for the show|
We arrived at the main home set for Alicia's family after watching some filming going on at the law firm. When we arrived on the home sound stage, Beth told me that she was going to take me in the main entrance to the apartment - so I could get the full effect. I love that - because first impressions in any home are key.
Let me just say that I immediately felt at home in this home setting.
So as I clicked away with my camera, Beth and I began to talk about her work and how she goes about designing home environments...
|"Alicia's Apt" from the outside - love the magic of television!|
DD: When the series began, what was the starting point for the central house interior for you? Did the producers say “this is what we are looking for here” or did you sit with the actors and discuss their characters? As a designer myself, I’m always interested in how other designers begin their creative process.
BK: The script is always the driving force in what is thought about on every level. In a situation like Alicia's apartment a team including the show creators, producers and director, production designer and I start to develop a back story for each character. Alicia was a newly single parent with two teenage children downsizing her life considerably. Based on her economic status as the wife of a State's Attorney as well as her return to the work force we decided she would have hired a decorator. Although the architecture of the apartment is formal the set decoration is casual and lived in with a strong sense of family. I knew that Julianna Margulies was playing Alicia and had worked with her previously on Canterbury's Law. As far as her children Zach and Grace go I selected hobbies for them and reflected it in their bedrooms.
|Those busy streets of Chicago!|
DD: Are there sketches you began working with? Did you do a mood board or what I call – a Look Book for the main house? You are creating a home for fictitious characters but you are creating home – so is the design approach like any other real home would be?
BK: I start with color and surfaces and ultimately gather samples of fabrics, wallpaper, flooring, paint and carpet. Unlike doing a feature film where one has the luxury of weeks of prep time, everything happens so quickly in television. I find the concept developing as I dive deep into the process. Alicia's apartment ended up being dressed over two days. Although I had acquired many furnishings in advance the process of moving within set really brings every thing together. I spend time trying to "live" within the space and view every possible angle the set can be shot from.
|The moment I was waiting for - the apartment foyer for "Alicia's Family Home"|
DD: You are capturing the lifestyle of a modern family - how do you keep the settings on the pulse and relevant to today’s family home?
BK: Since I am primarily shopping in retail stores not having the time to wait for custom pieces I do encounter certain trends, which although this may sound counter intuitive, I try to avoid. I have found that they tend to date a set instead of keeping it alive season after season. We do make changes based on the script and character development. This season Grace's room reflects her growing up. The comfort factor in Alicia's apartment is what feels right to me for the modern family. When I observe the actors and crew practically "moving in" I know I have created a place where they feel at home. As any contemporary designer I do follow what is new and fresh and use it where applicable.
|All in the simple details and THE LIGHTING...lighting is key for Beth too|
DD: How would you describe the mood or style of this main home set?
BK: Comfortable and the closest to my personal design aesthetic.
DD: Where do you turn to for resources when designing these homes? Do you shop retailers to make them very authentic to today’s family and also accessible for real people to find a product they like from the show?
BK: Yes I shop at retail sources since time is an issue with a new episode shooting every eight days. For as many vendors that I have lost in this economy and miss greatly, I have found new one's who are very helpful and want to have their products featured on the show. What has become difficult is finding a large quantity of items since not much is being stocked these days.
|The living room set with its layering of life details|
|The color scheme and built-ins caught my eye right off|
|The use of artwork throughout the home setting is wonderful|
DD: What sort of feedback do you get from the show’s fans about the sets? What was the best comment you received or suggestion?
BK: Unlike any show I have ever decorated The Good Wife has received so much attention that it inspired my blog The Good Look of The Good Wife on CBS.com and my tweeting @goodwifesetdec I am able to give fans a behind the scenes experience and provide retail sources for items I use on the show. A fan's reminder that Eli Gold's character was a concert pianist inspired a plot point which can be seen in the second episode of season three.
|I love this shot because you feel like you are in a real home - until you see the opening to the backstage area beyond the dining room set|
|Attainable style throughout the set - however this rug is the most costly item used|
|Great view of how the room is layered in detail and how areas or "moments" are created|
to invite you into the space
|Love this "moment" on the set - the use of colors, textures (great wall paper) and more layers of life|
into the design. You see how real lighting is very much a part of this home.
DD: I am a firm believer in lighting making design come to life – how important is lighting in the home interiors you create? Does the set change for you when it is lit properly for shooting?
BK: Absolutely. I am a firm believer as well. On film it is vital, as we must take into account concepts such as actors skin and hair color, what time of day a scene takes place, and mood.
DD: Any favorite colors you like working with now?
BK: I am always a fan of colors found in nature and like to extend a view by using that same palette inside that exists outside.
|All in the details|
|This is one of Beth's favorite "moments" on the set - just an area that invites in.|
|This vantage point shows you the living room with the foyer and master bedroom to the left and the kitchen seen beyond the dining room|
|Real life details...the computer hard drive, the bag full of stuff from the office -|
all as if the family just stepped away from the room.
|Comfortable and inviting.|
|The reminder that this is not a real home but certainly feels like one|
|Real life details - even outlets and light switches|
|I walked around feeling like I was visiting a friend's house - but then I would look out the window and there would be someone on the phone or having a coffee.|
|Says "welcome home"|
|Back to the foyer looking out to the entrance/elevator hall from the kitchen|
|Great detail - built-in bookcases in the foyer and French doors. Two of my favorite things!|
DD: What is your favorite part of the job that you do as a creative person?
BK: When a set really comes together and is pleasing to my eye that is thrilling.
DD: Is the last thing you want to do when you go home is redesign your space or make it look stylish?
BK: Yes living up to what I create on camera is a challenge in daily life.
DD: At home myself, there are certain things I do for styling or to make my spaces more visually appealing – what do you find yourself doing in your own home when you have time?
I put that effort into a small but organized space for my daughter and I have some objects that are pleasing visually that I surround myself with.
|The kitchen. This was the set that caught my eye on television.|
|This is an inspiring space and feels like you should be entertaining here|
|I was drawn to the various styles of cabinets used in the space. The layer of open shelving and cubbies that go over the windows was also a creative use of space as well. |
Note the darker tones of finishes mixed with the lighter ones.
|All in the layering of how these characters live in this space - even down to the freshly washed dishes in the drying rack or wine glasses in the sink.|
|Everything is a prop in the cabinets (apples are fake) - |
Even cookies in the jars (not sure if they were fake or not)
|Details..details...Inside the fridge - like any other typical family (all props - however)|
|A mix of styles and finishes that come together perfectly|
|Beyond the kitchen to the left is the laundry room and small bedroom|
|Beth is all about bringing in real life moments...The catch-all area of the kitchen for keys, notes, mail, bills, stuff you grab and go with like any family does...|
|The life details...phone, vitamins, menus, phone chargers, invites...|
|The real life extends into the drawers too...Everything is authentic for the actors to feel like they are living|
in the rooms they are in....I think that drawer can be found in many American homes!
DD: What TV show homes inspired you earlier in your creative life? Either from growing up years or just general homes you saw on television that you loved.
BK: I can't say I was inspired by television homes but feel my creative life developed by growing up in Manhattan and starting in the film business at an early age. In addition I was influenced by my time working in the theater where I experienced so few stage elements saying so much. I feel my visual acuity is partially innate and has been developed by each project I have been on.
|The dining room seen from the kitchen. LIving Room is to the right. |
The grouping of frames on the wall is a favorite focal point in this room.
This is where Beth and I sat to talk about the show's designs.
|Layering of lighting is very key everywhere|
|The illusion is broken for a moment. The cameras have to come into the home somewhere!|
|In the dining room looking towards the kitchen - living room to the left|
DD: What about in films? Any homes in films that you personally took notice of and why?
BK: I am mostly influenced by older films and in particular appreciate design from when the industry was less influenced by economics and technology. When I first started it was so much more hands on and that fueled my creativity.
DD: Was there any one thing that inspired you to become a set decorator?
BK: There wasn't just one thing - it was a career path that developed organically. I was a painting major in college and studied art history as well.
|"Alicia's Bedroom" Great use of color on the walls - calm and relaxing|
|The magic of TV lighting seen high above|
|Details of life...jewelry boxes filled, notebooks with notes, paperwork from the office...|
|An inviting corner. Great use of moldings and detail.|
|"Alicia's Dressing Table"|
|Just like any home - bedside table drawer catch-all...|
|Art is used throughout and chosen with each character in mind. Master Bathroom seen beyond.|
|Simple details on the shelves.|
|The ladder - a reminder of the illusion|
|Bathroom shelf - makeup brushes, kid's clay projects...This area caught my eye because this is how people live...these are the things people intertwine into their lives everyday...|
|Master Bathroom Vanity|
DD: What did you set decorate before you did this series?
BK: Since my daughter was born I have mostly done episodic television but previously I have worked on such films as Reversal Of Fortune, Howard Stern's Private Parts, Rounders, and Hide and Seek. My television credits include Fringe, 3 Lbs., Conviction, Kings, and Canterburys Law.
|"Alicia's Daughter Grace's Room"|
|Typical teen room with some style...|
|The Court House Set - Hallway|
DD: What is your favorite area or “moment” as a set decorator on each of the main sets for the show?
BK: In the courtroom I am drawn to the banker's lamps on the prosecution and defense tables because they blend styles. A traditional shape but in chrome with modern black glass shades - unexpected. In the law office I am thrilled with the new additions we have made for Season Three. I actually have used some personal dressing on the set, which happens rarely, but seeing it in a new context is meaningful. In Alicia's apartment there are so many moments that I still gravitate to and feel is some my best work as a decorator.
|The Main Set for the Court Room|
|You see this impressive set every week on the show. You feel like you are in a real court room|
DD: Do any of the actors have personal favorite areas on their set or others?
BK: Eli Gold (Alan Cummings) is so very pleased with his new office and interacts with everything in it; Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) has a new piece of furniture in his office, which is iconic and inspiring. Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) has a great eye and is very interested in all the set decoration from a Buffalo themed Motel Room to her new upscale office.
|A new set that will be seen this season...|
|First vantage point of this office...with a special surprise....|
|The desk - a replica of the desk that was JFK's desk in the Oval Office at The White House|
|Ironically, this very desk was seen before in a film...The desk was used in "National Treasure" for those of you that loved that film. Beth worked on that film too.|
|The smallest details - Law books all over....|
|...or so you think...Styrofoam!|
DD: When you get to the set in the morning – what is the first thing you will do?
BK: Every day is different and engaging in it’s own right. Some days I open sets, other days are spent acquiring set decoration, and we have numerous meetings on each episode. I also spend time pulling from my enormous inventory that I have amassed in my set dressing warehouse.
|A quick peek at the main law office set where Alicia works...|
This is the new office set for Alan Cummings' character to be seen this new season...
|Law office casual conference area with the new office beyond. Alicia also has a new office to the right - but we will let the show reveal that office during the premiere.|
|The main law office conference room - which is seen on the show every week.|
|The Hollywood Magic...|
DD: For the fans out there that are all about making their homes better and more inviting – what are the three things you have learned that truly make a home a home?
BK: I am a big fan of keeping the "top layer of life" on a set or in a home. I think people should treasure their past and not feel they have to hide their personal possessions. I think a home can look inviting when you see a life developed in it - the random things we acquire and love.
My special thank you to Beth Kushnick and the teams at CBS for allowing me into their home for "The Good Wife." As Beth mentioned, she has a loyal group of fans from the show that follow her set decorating blog for the show and also follow her on Twitter. Get connected and stay inspired!
I hope that this backstage "home" pass has motivated you to make your own home better, to define your style a little more or make you appreciate the elements of what can make a home a home...
More to come...
Make sure to check out the new season of "The Good Wife" - with many new set designs to be revealed - premiering this Sunday, September 25th on CBS.