KRIS Likes… Mad Men

Yesterday was my first Mad Men-free Sunday (the season 4 finale aired last week), and it has left me feeling a little gloomy. Set in the early 1960’s, the show’s set design is a flawless reproduction of that turbulent (yet aesthetically pleasing!) time period. A few items are made custom for the show but most of the pieces used in the sets are from the actual period.  Amy Wells, the set designer, has said that while she sources product from internet sites like Ebay and Etsy, the Pasadena Antique Center is also a major source for great vintage furniture and antiques.   Amy, along with production designer Dan Bishop and creator / producer Matthew Weiner all heavily researched the period to make the interiors as true to life as possible and are all responsible for creating such accurate and intriguing spaces for their characters. “Part of my attraction to the period is the design,” says Weiner; even the main characters, Don and Betty Draper, are a tip of the pillbox hat to Manhattan’s top decorator of this era, Dorothy Draper.  Some of Amy Wells favorite designers: John Lautner, Ludwig Miles Van Der Rohe, Paul McCobb, Dorothy Draper & Tony Duquette…

The original Draper living room set.  Colored grass-cloth, like the french blue grass-cloth on the walls above, has made a major comeback and it’s not like the old grass-cloth clients often remember with disdain.  The real stand-out in this room for me is the sectional.  The sculptural shape makes for a great sofa to float in the center of the room and it looks like 6 could fit comfortably on the sofa during a cocktail party.

There is a vast improvement to the Draper’s Living Room once Betty hires a decorator in season 3 and I was happy to see that they decided to keep the blue grass-cloth on the walls.  The new coral and apricot hues used here were very popular at the time and we start to see more vivid colors of the 60’s start to come into play as opposed to the more muted palette of the 50’s.  LOVE the orange silk Dunbar Japanese influenced sofa and silk dupioni valance and drapery panels piped in the same color as the sofa.  The high back chairs with black and white cane fabric are very fashionable and look like something Interior Designer Kelly Wearstler would use in her hip Hollywood Regency style decor.  Cocktail table is also a VAST improvement from the first one!

This button-tufted turquoise velvet headboard is probably the most recognizable furniture statement of the show, sadly the end of Don and Betty meant the end of the headboard as well.  It conveys a sense of lavish comfort, as the best upholstered pieces do, heightened by the lush velvet and botton-tufting detail (button- tufting is a real art, one that should not be taken lightly)!

Pete’s Manhattan apartment is one of my favorite sets on the show.  The partition screens you see in the background are originals from the period. I wish I had one for my apartment as I think they are very chic!

Outdoor dining tents during this time were often framed with festive striped curtains, like this one above from the scene of Rodger and Jane’s country club engagement party.  I am determined to bring tents and stripes back together again. The ivory covering the wooden frames of the tent (bottom left corner) and little white lanterns (top right corner) are both hugely inspiring.

I was sad to see Partner Bert Cooper’s office go with the end of Sterling Cooper.  It was one of my favorite sets and I particularly loved its asian infusion vibe, perfectly tailored for the aristocratic eccentric.  Another great sectional – it reminds me of a classic Billy Baldwin sofa with the loose botton-tufted box-cushion seat and loose back box-cushions.  The cool color of the large turquoise silk throw pillows contrast beautifully with the warm orange sofa (this color combination has become a new favorite of mine).  The outside of the sofa adds a new dimensional twist with the Danish modern legs and sides upholstered in separate fabric.

The famed Rothko painting Burt is standing next to is a replica print – apparently it was not easy for set designer Amy Wells to get the permission to make this replica print, but well worth it!  The juxtaposition of the orange and turquoise has a charming vividness that I really dig.

Don Draper’s first office at Sterling Cooper.  The chairs, sofa and coffee table in Don’s original office were all a nod to the late designer Milo Baughman and made by Futurama in Los Angeles. The bright yellow button-tufted pillow, the brass spindle table lamp in the corner and mid-century abstract art hanging on the wood-paneled walls are just a few of my favorite features in this office.

The show features tons of streamlined, industrial office supplies.  The desk lamp above is one of my favorites!  In addition, all the executive desks seen in the first Sterling Cooper office are all original pieces from the period.

The decor in the new office of Partner Rodger Sterling is all thanks to his new, young wife Jane who hired a decorator to make it “very modern and new”.  My favorite aspect is the sculptural lighting in the room, like the silver arched floor lamp or the mushroom-shaped desk lamp (which is actually a 1962 design by Artemide called the Nesso).  The desk is a marble-topped Saarinen table with a pedestal base but my favorite part is his desk chair, an Eames design, as is the compact sofa below, for Herman Miller. The “Mad Men” art department made the very psychedelic black and white painting in the background whose style they copied from Op Artist Brigid Riley.

I really love the creative lounge in the new office.  The 60’s vibe seems to penetrate the walls of the new form more than it did at the old Sterling Cooper offices.  Even Don has his art work hanging on the wall. The orange button-tufted sofa and chairs are all replicas of classic mid-century modern designs by Knoll ( I simply can’t get enough of the orange and button-tufting that goes on in the show).  The chair that Peggy is resting her feet on was designed in 1964 by Eero Saarinen. I also adore the little standing ash tray in front of Pete.  It’s those types of details that really complete the atmosphere of the sets and truly set the show apart.

I love the white textured lamp in the corner of Sally’s psychiatrist’s waiting room.

Silver lamp is GORGEOUS!  I also found it funny that they had a harp in the living room!

LOVE the zebra wallpaper in this restaurant scene!



7 thoughts on “KRIS Likes… Mad Men

  1. great post !

    By any chance, do you know where I could get the twin desk lamp of Don Draper ?

    thanks for your help, I desperately look for this piece…

  2. Katie likes… the vintage-weird but kind of perfect tangerine bird print in the original Draper living room, however and both of the lacquered/Coromandel (?) screens in the office scenes. My favorites are also the caning high-backs and the Nesso you mentioned above. Amazing (and very well-researched) post. As for Mad Men, I am in the dark… still holding out on TV, lest I start wearing calf-length skirts and curlers to bed;)

  3. great post Kristen! the set design is so spot on, i don’t think people really realize how much work goes into recreating an era in decor, it’s fascinating. i too was going through mad men withdrawl last night…missing don desperately!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s