The Best-Designed TV Homes

A TV home can say a lot about the character who lives in it. Or it can really miss the boat. I love when a protagonist’s home is a perfect reflection of the character — Meg Ryan’s cozy, shabby-chic Upper West Side apartment in You’ve Got Mail, comes to mind. But I’ve always been disappointed with Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment in Sex and City because how can a person with such a strong sense of personal style have an apartment so devoid of personality? Like really the only cute thing in her apartment was that beautiful chair Aidan made her… So yeah, I watch a lot of TV. And I’m real into home design. So , I present to you, my favorite TV houses. Houses that not only reflect the character, but also just look so damn good. I’d love to live in all of them, or at least have a drink with the characters who inhabit them.

Mary was young, fun, and had just arrived in Minneapolis/St. Paul for a new job when she moved into a gorgeous apartment on the third floor of an old Victorian. According to my mom, there was nothing cooler than Mary’s apartment, and she coveted it hard back in the 1970s when the show aired (and when she herself was moving into her own cool girl apartment in Plymouth, Michigan). I mean, where to even start with Mary’s pad? The Palladian windows, the sunken living room, the bookshelves that are built in to the rise in the floor? Sure, it’s a bit dated what with the shag carpet, but the yellow wicker chair and copious plants are totally in style now. And what’s more, I truly believe that Mary would have decorated her apartment this way. Also, I can relate: For two years in college, I lived (with three roommates) in a four-bedroom attic-level apartment in grand Victorian on a historic street in Kalamazoo, Michigan. And I decked that place out with a wicker sofa, a wicker bust that perched on a garden column, and so much more. Cool girl, new city, who dis?

I could write an entire blog post on my love for this show. I love that usually you’d have maybe one character who sips sherry from a decanter every day at 5pm, covets a spot as corkmaster in Seattle’s most snooty wine-tasting club, and is a Freudian psychiatrist. And this show has two! Who does that?! It is a great and comforting delight to watch how hard brothers Frasier and Niles Crane both compete with and love each other. Frasier lives in a high-rise apartment in one of Seattle’s best (and presumably made up?) addresses: The Elliott Bay Towers. His address is 1901, so I assume he’s on the 19th floor. We know he is not on the top floor, because his nemesis, Cam Winston, lives above him, in apartment 2000. Frasier lives in a three-bedroom apartment with his dad Martin, Martin’s dog Eddie, and Martin’s home healthcare worker Daphne. But the apartment is all Frasier: Austere, lots of 1990s blonde wood tones, a grand piano on a raised platform near the panoramic windows, and tons of tasteful art. And the art is so good! There are many African statues and masks both on a built-in bookcase and on a floating wood console in the middle of the room. There’s a Dale Chihuly glass bowl on a pedestal to the right of the fireplace (I love this nod to a local artist); there’s an enormous Robert Rauschenberg poster at the hallway that leads to Martin and Frasier’s bedrooms; and there’s a colorful Miró-esque Jack Otterson oil painting hanging near the kitchen.

I whole-heartedly believe that Fraiser Crane worked with Seattle’s most expensive interior designer to help him curate an apartment that perfectly reflected how he wants to be seen: As a sophisticated and interesting man with unassailable taste. I also appreciate that one of the show’s most long-running gags is home-decor related: That when Martin moved in to his son’s tasteful digs, he brought with him his beloved TV-watching chair: a ratty recliner, complete with duct tape patches.

There has been much written about the Friend’s apartment, which might just be the most iconic TV home of all time. Monica Geller’s apartment was colorful and cozy and who doesn’t love that giant French poster behind the TV (true story, I once enlisted a artistic friend to help me create something similar in high school. I think I was going to put it behind my bed? It didn’t work out). But would this have been how Monica decorated her apartment? I dunno. I think that for as anal as Monica Gellar was, the apartment would have been much more modern and spare. But what I always liked most about the apartment was that it really beckoned you to hang out – that comfy couch and chair. No place was this as apparent as in the kitchen. The design of the tiny kitchen is cute with the exposed brick wall and the turquoise painted cabinets and shelves, which held colorful bowls and dishes. There was the pig chef figurine near the stove, a timer, salt and pepper shakers, olive oil, an assortment of cooking spoons, which created a slightly cluttered but super homey look. It’s a look I find even more refreshing in this era of white subway tiled kitchens with exposed shelving that displays only neutral bowls that no one actually uses. Basically, I like a kitchen to look like someone cooks in it and I very much believed Monica cooked in that kitchen all the time, despite cooking all day in her job as a chef.

This is a show where the setting – the Greek island of Corfu – is kind of why you watch. The characters – the real-life Durrell family who move from England to Greece in the 1930s — are likable and grow more developed as the series progresses, but I’m here for the house they live in, followed by the town in which they live. The widow Mrs. Durell move herself and her four children, three of whom are basically adults, into a crumbling stone house atop a cliff overlooking the sea. The house they use for exterior shots is just down the road from the actual house the Durells lived in for about four years until 1939. I was a little sad to hear that the interior shots of the house are all filmed on a soundstage in London. But kudos to the set design people, because the interior is super believable, from the charmingly uneven and slightly crumbling walls, to the dark British-feeling sitting room, to the simple bedrooms — each with an iron bed, faded drapes, antique rug, and desk.

But it’s the kitchen/dining room that’s my favorite, and it’s also where the bulk of the indoor scenes take place. From the red walls, to the farmhouse table, to all manner of antique hutches and cupboards, it’s so homey and there always a door open through which you can practically smell the sea breeze and rosemary bushes wafting in from outside. And the outside, swoon. Sometimes they move the dinner table into the sea and eat knee deep in blue ocean, that’s the kind of scenes you’re missing if you’re not watching this sumptuous show.

Villanelle from the show Killing Eve is one of the creepiest, most beautiful, and interesting characters on any show I’ve seen. She’s a multi-lingual paid assassin who falls in love with the British Intelligence agent (Sandra Oh) who is responsible for tracking her. We don’t really know why Villanelle quite so enjoys killing people for hire, but we’d have to assume its for the money, because girl has expensive tastes, as evidenced by her covetable designer wardrobe, both when she’s dressing up as characters to pull off her hits, and she’s just lounging in her Paris apartment. Villanelle once showed up at a family party in Italy to assassinate the patriarch, helped herself to a gorgeous designer dress from the wife’s armoire, and damned if she didn’t wear that dress as she killed the lady’s husband. Oh, and she sent her British Intelligence officer/ would-be lover a perfectly-selected chic wardrobe including a skin tight Valentino-looking dress that is a far cry from how Sandra Oh’s character normally dresses, which is shlumpy workpants. So basically, Villanelle has a VERY strong sense of style. When we see Villanelle’s Parisian apartment, it is no surprise that it’s trés chic. A beautifully-curved leather chesterfield sofa, a vintage Lucite coffee table, a antique wooden armoire, marble fireplace, modern glass globe light fixtures. It’s fabulous. You do sort of get the feeling that she maybe inherited this apartment from someone whose style she coveted, perhaps someone she killed? I’d move into this apartment in a jiffy even if the previous occupant was a killer.

Rogelio De La Vega is a very colorful character. He’s a vain and lovable soap star who turns out to be Jane’s father. As this clever and adorable show progresses and Rogelio gets back together with Jane’s mom, Xiomara, they eventually move in together to an awesome Spanish Mission style house in Miami, where the show is set. The main area of the house is an explosion of bright and cheerful colors and patterns – some walls are pale pink, others are aqua, and the dining room is coral. In the living room, there’s the cool wooden sofa chocked full of Mexican throw pillows, a carved wooden hutch, colorful tile on the stairs and framed on the wall, and an antique cat sculpture. The space is sunny and fun and packed with personality, just like Rogelio, Xiomara, and Miami. I do believe the house is more Rogelio’s style because this is a guy with blindingly white teeth and a wardrobe filled with lavender shirts (his signature color). I enjoy all the scenes set in their sunny and well-decorated home.

The spare and sparking clean farmhouse of siblings Marilla and Matthew in the fictional farm town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island, Canada seems rather too austere a place to raise the dreamy, intelligent, and opinionated orphan that is Anne. But it’s one of the joys of the show to see how a sort of cold home can fill with warmth when suddenly there’s love and new life inside of it. The beautifully worn floorboards, the whitewashed walls and beamed ceilings, the oil lamps, high backed chairs, the charming farm table that is both a sturdy surface on which to joylously pound out scones and where candlelit dinners of beef and potatoes are consumed, and my favorite: Anne’s bedroom. Which really isn’t much – a wooden bed with string of feathers tied across, a small round rag rug on the floorboards, bowl and pitcher atop a dresser, and a window that looks out onto the field. But I just love how serene this bedroom feels. Seeing it makes me feel better for poor dear Anne and the life she goes on to have.

Also: There is clean white light shining through the rooms in nearly every shot. The farmhouse just screams (no, quietly whispers) “clean, practical, and comforting.”

To the best TV homes,

Emily

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