I’ve been meaning to write this blog post ever since I started blogging, two and a half years ago. Set design is a fascinating art and?I’ve always wondered?how great sets are made to look and feel real, lived-in and warm. Lighting, color and easy camera access are some of the main concerns when designing a set, concerns we don’t have when designing our own homes.
Ivan and I are very different when it comes to watching a movie…while he remembers (for years) the story and characters, I forget all, except the sets and how a movie feels.?One set that has been on my mind for a long time is that of a relatively recent sitcom, HOT IN CLEVELAND (2011-2015). Not because it is particularly pretty (it is but there are so many others like it), but because of the way it makes you?feel – instantly at ease and at home. ?It is also one of the prettiest sitcom sets I’ve ever seen – cozy, colorful, elegant and full of old-world-charm.
The story unfolds in Cleveland, Ohio where a group of three L.A. friends stop on their way to Paris after their plane has an emergency landing and, charmed by the warmth and slower pace of this Midwestern town, decide to stay. It’s a tale of second chances, of finding love and happiness later in life. It’s also funny and cheerful, and quite cheeky at times. ?What else can you expect when the main cast includes the fabulous Betty White, whom I adore from her Golden Girls days, as well as Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick, both Frasier alumns. The guest stars alone are a joy to watch – Tim Daly, Sean Hayes, John Mahoney, Joan Rivers, Mary Tyler Moore, Craig Ferguson, David Spade, Kristin Chenoweth, Carol Burnett, Jennifer Love Hewitt… and the list goes on. You’ve got to see a few episodes when you have the time!?Back to the sets….?Let’s take a peek!
The house is?a Victorian farmhouse set in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the exterior shot, where an actual Cleveland home was used.
This is a scene from the pilot, a peek through the windows when the girls decide to sign the lease?and make this their new home.
The interiors were designed by Maralee Zediker and, according to an interview she gave to L.A. Times, she started the entire design process with a rug. It is a common practice for designers to start with one piece and build around it, and she plucked the entire color scheme from a Turkish rug that anchors the living room. During the first season, the details of the sets change from episode to episode, until finally they are given a makeover at the beginning of season two.?L.A. Times describes the rooms as a “Hollywood-Midwest style mashup…”, because of their collected feel and warmth, as if decorated from things you might find in your grandma’s attic.
The English roll-arm sofa with a neutral upholstery is a great backdrop for colorful pillows and throws that are constantly switched up. The leather armchair is replaced with a velvet wingback.
There’s color everywhere! As you’ll see in a minute, every room in the house is lovely. The living room walls are a pale green with many ?enchanting architectural details like Victorian moldings, stained glass transoms and multi-paned windows.
During the first season, the dining room is open to the main living area.
At the end of the first season, the sets undergo a transformation and the floor plan is modified a bit. For example, a ?window is added next to the front door. The sofa is also new, and so are the accessories. The dining room is a separate room now, right next to the kitchen, although no episodes were ever filmed in there.
Family photographs, books and cozy blankets add the soft, personal touch to the set. It really feels like these fabulous women are at home here.
“The living room color scheme was based on a 1920s Turkish rug in shades of aqua, teal, apricot and coral. The furniture came from the Warner Bros. property department and got punched up with pillows from H.D. Buttercup, Mortise & Tenon, Pier 1 Imports and Cost Plus World Market. “There are small areas of ‘pattern on pattern’ which I feel adds depth and dimension when used with constraint,” Zediker said.”
“The pretty and feminine furnishings were chosen to reflect “women who want to celebrate their new life in a traditional city, but whose ideas about style have been shaped by a half a lifetime spent in a very design- and trend-conscious metropolis,” set decorator Maralee Zediker said in an interview with L.A Times.?The result is a nice illustration of how contemporary Hollywood glamour pieces . In the dining room (below), a round mirror, a chandelier from H.D. Buttercup and two turquoise lamps with matching shades found at Marshalls – can liven up a more traditional home.”
Most scenes were filmed in the living room and kitchen but there were a few scenes filmed in the girls’ bedrooms. This is Melanie’s.
“As is so often the case in domestic sitcoms, much of the action takes place in the kitchen, below. Hynes explained the back story: The Victorian-era original had been updated with new appliances including an enameled Magic Chef oven in the 1930s, and then it got its Dish master sink faucet and a GE combination icebox in the 1950s. With its swing-out lazy Susan shelving, the GE was “referred to as the Cadillac of refrigerators,” Zediker said.”
“Hynes said he looked at photos of old linoleum and composition tile and came up with a design in red, white and blue “to subtly suggest the a feeling of ‘Americana’ that people tend to associate with the Midwest.” To make camera movements easier, however, the design is actually painted on the studio’s concrete floor.”
“Hot in Cleveland” creator Suzanne Martin wanted a large, Victorian-era porch, an additional area for the characters to congregate, which they tend to do at the end of each episode. She felt that the front porch was emblematic of a simpler, more humane life that so many people long for. “It is also the antithesis of what our characters knew from their life in Los Angeles, a symbol of the slower, more gracious lifestyle that our characters discover in Ohio,” Hynes said. “I suggested a porch swing in addition to chairs, because the swing is the ultimate throwback to a Norman Rockwell-like past that we all get nostalgic for.”
Well, I hope you enjoyed today’s post. The excerpts above are from an L.A Times Set Piece written by David A. Keeps. The images are from Hot In Cleveland’s official Facebook page.?To find out more about the sets, please click here?and here.?