Small-Screen Style: Retro Edition

As a lifelong fan of TV, I’d like to give a shout out to the set designers who, since the dawn of the television industry, have created spaces that set a specific mood and served to further a plot. These unsung artists weren’t stars in their own right, but they set the stage, literally, for others to become celebrities. They furnished the sparse apartment that underscored Ralph Kramden’s struggles. They gilded the mansion that reflected Alexis Carrington’s love for 1980s opulence. They built environments that helped expand on the characters who inhabited them. Let’s look a little closer at the iconic TV homes of yesteryear.

(All these photos came to us from Julia Sweeten, creator of the fantastic website Hooked on Houses. Have a look at it.)

Bewitched,” 1964-1972

I’ve always had a fondness for this expanded Cape Cod-style home. The midcentury furniture in the living room — though certainly hip and cool as befitting a Madison Avenue ad exec — takes a backseat to the architectural elements in this room, such as the triple set of French doors and the brick wall with niches surrounding the fireplace.

Courtesy of Hooked on Houses. (Set decoration by Sidney Clifford, Louis Diage, Milton Stumph, Jack H. Ahern and James Crowe.)

Samantha’s staging game was ahead of its time. Look at those mugs in coordinating colors, artfully displayed with measured precision. (Wait, is that an electric orange juicer on the counter? What? Why? Even without electricity — or magic — juicing an orange by hand isn’t that hard.)

Courtesy of Hooked on Houses.

Full House,” 1987 to 1995

This warm, relaxed home was an ideal environment for raising children (and for their uncles’ hijinks). I think that little reading nook is a great use of the space under the stairs. I am, however, unsure about that statue next to the steps. Coming home to a dark house, I would not want to be greeted by a little-bearded-man effigy.

Courtesy of Hooked on Houses. (Set decoration, James Ira Colburn and Mary Ann Good.)

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” 1970-1977

Mary’s enviable single-gal apartment packs a lot into one room — beamed ceiling, gorgeous windows, sunken sitting area. The doors at left lead to a walk-in closet.

Courtesy of Hooked on Houses (Set decoration by Raymond Boltz Jr., James Hassinger, Warren Welch, Edward M. Parker, Joseph Reith, George R. Nelson and Cloudia Rebar.)

“Sex and the City,” 1998 to 2004

It’s not the height of fashion like her clothing, but Carrie Bradshaw’s bedroom was comfortable, casual and a great place to write a dating-and-relationships column.

Courtesy of Hooked on Houses. (Set decoration by Karin Wiesel, Susie Goulder, Christina Tonkin Noble, Douglas A. Mowat and Stephanie Carroll.)

“Murder, She Wrote,” 1984-1996

The vintage appliances and the hanging copper pots are fantastic. It’s a little cluttered for my taste; but I suspect that when homicide is a weekly occurrence in one’s hometown, tidying up isn’t a priority.

Courtesy of Hooked on Houses. (Set decoration, Robert Wingo, Bill Gregory, Lee Poll, Fred S. Winston, Frank Lombardo, Donald J. Remacle, Wally White, Richard B. Goddard, Bill Webb, Hal Gausman, Tom Bugenhagen, Jim Duffy, Richard Friedman, James Hassinger and Lowell Chambers.)

“Friends,” 1994-2004

Let’s put aside the oft-noted (and totally valid) point that Monica and Rachel could never afford a New York City apartment of this size on their entry-level salaries. Let’s focus on the fact that this space does look like it’s decorated the way many young adults would furnish an apartment — with castoff pieces from family and friends. Those have to be grandma’s curtains hanging on the (fantastic!) wall of windows. And, obviously, the console and carpet came from mom after she re-decorated the house once the kids left.

Courtesy of Hooked on Houses. (Set decoration, Greg Grande.)

I could point out the rustic wood beams, which add character and define the boundaries of the kitchen and living areas (or the set microphone caught in this shot). But, really, I just wanted to include a photo of young Brad Pitt. (Frosted hair!)

Courtesy of Hooked on Houses.

“The Brady Bunch,” 1969-1974

The burnt orange and avocado color scheme really captures the aesthetic of the era. (Extra points for the matching table, chairs and placemats, I guess?) But it’s … a lot. Thank goodness for the calming influence of the unembellished cabinetry.

Courtesy of Hooked on Houses. (Set decoration, Anthony D. Nealis, Dorcy Howard, William F. Calvert, Pierre Ludlum and John Burton.)

The Bradys’ staircase has a linear quality that becomes a focal point in the soaring two-story space. (I’m assuming the plants are faux because I never saw Alice water them.)

Photo courtesy of Hooked on Houses.