One of the hazards of having an eye for design is getting distracted by the sets in movies and TV series. Ironically, it’s the ones designed to be the most naturalistic that stand out for their attention to detail. Here are our favourite fictional TV homes – and some little-known facts behind them.
1. Sex & the City
Who doesn’t know Carrie’s tiny West Village apartment like the back of their hand? Her library of magazines on the large bookshelf just inside the front door, her perfectly eclectic mid-century furniture and sprawling bed dressed in a unisex shade of grey-blue linen (by Calvin Klein, available here)? The most memorable feature, though, is her walk-through closet crammed with Manolos and Mui Miu, a den of dreams after every city girl’s heart. A study in tousled but glamorous style.
The girls’ apartment has its vintage charms but this one belongs to the boys: the brilliantly compact, space-saving studio of Charlie, Marnie’s boyfriend in Season 1. It features a Mondrian-inspired storage unit along one wall, a loft lounge with the bed underneath rather than on top, and a staircase incorporating storage for clothes – all in plywood. The set by LA designer Laura Ballinger had the design community drooling but it wasn’t enough to keep Marnie interested in poor Charlie.
There is not a hurricane lamp out of place in the cool, classical interior where Victoria Grayson presides over her Hamptons fiefdom, stroking her favourite wingback chair, planning ill-intended benefit parties and standing guard at her widow’s walk. We love the sprawling Grayson Manor for its impossible sense of order and how perfectly it embodies Victoria’s manicured malice.
4. Gossip Girl
Rufus Humphrey’s Brooklyn loft is full of quirky finds but let’s face it: we’re here to ogle over the lives of New York City’s poutiest privileged set. In our eyes, rich dad Bart Bass’s home-in-a-hotel takes the cake. It’s sumptuous and daring, mixing polka dots and patterns, metallics and bold colour. Our favourite room is Serena’s bedroom, an oasis of citrus calm punctuated by a fabulous pop art print.
If Saul Berenson’s New York apartment in Episode 1 of Season 4 looked familiar, that’s because it belonged to former editor of Elle Decoration (South Africa), Laureen Rossouw. Laureen’s apartment in the iconic Mutual Building in Cape Town’s CBD has been featured many times in local and international décor publications. And it’s not hard to see why. Laureen’s impeccable eye comes through in her beautifully curated collection of Art Deco and ‘50s furniture, and South African art and design.
‘So what do you think of what I’ve done with the place?’ Frasier asks his dad when he moves into his Seattle apartment. ‘You know, every item here was carefully selected. The lamp by Corbu, this chair by Eames, and this couch is an exact replica of the one Coco Chanel had in her Paris atelier.’
‘Nothing matches,’ his father replies.
‘Well, it’s a style of decorating – it’s called eclectic. The theory behind it is, if you have really fine pieces of furniture, it doesn’t matter if they match – they will go together.’
‘It’s your money.’
Eleven years later, we still think Frasier’s apartment is a great example of timeless eclecticism.
We don’t go there all that much but Dr Gregory House’s home is a dead giveaway that there’s more to this misanthropic workaholic than meets the eye. He surrounds himself with objects of old-school quality – vintage metal lights, solid wooden bookcases, a retro drinks cabinet in good knick. Taupe walls keep the tempo masculine and low-key.
8. Downton Abbey
It takes a meticulous production designer to make you see period interiors anew. It helps to fall in love with the characters, to ogle over their toilette rituals and be taken in by their quaint speech and delicate manners. But Downton Abbey is in a league of its own among period TV dramas. Everything seems to glow with that soft English light inside the Crawleys’ Georgian country house. It’s a genteel world of upholstered luxury captured succinctly in the opening credits with their tasselled green curtains, teal walls, antique perfume bottles and a vase of plump roses.