Set Pieces: Feeling at home on ‘Nate Berkus Show’
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When he landed his own daytime TV show, decorator Nate Berkus talked interiors with production designer Jeff Hall, who has created sets for ‘Top Chef’ and ‘The Dr. Oz Show.’
‘Considering how many living rooms I’m in each day, I like thinking my set is a room addition for all those homes across America,’ said Berkus, above with actress Ellen Pompeo. ‘I wanted it to feel like a real space, not like a fake living room. Then I did what I do best -- helped to make it pretty.’ (On Tuesday’s episode, tastemaker Berkus features the work of Los Angeles print maker David Weidman, subject of an L.A. Times’ Home section cover story back in July.)
Working within a smaller-than-usual New York City television studio, Hall had an additional challenge: designing a set for an interior decorator.
‘Whatever we did, the set is going to be conceived of as Nate’s look,’ Hall said. ‘So nothing was going to be typical.’
Indeed not. The floor was covered in a mix of wood, tiled marble and sisal carpeting. In a library-like area below, bookshelves flank a fireplace hearth that was clad in indigo slate.
Hall even dispensed with what he calls ‘clunky’ audience seats in the front rows, opting for gently curved benches upholstered in linen. To create a sense of gardens beyond two picture windows, the production designer commissioned enormous living walls filled mostly with succulents from the New York and Los Angeles floral designer Trish O'Sullivan.
‘Every space needs to have something living in it,’ Berkus said. ‘That wall brings with it rich colors and a bit of the outdoors amongst all the lights, camera and action.’
Keep reading to see more of the set and to find out where the design team went shopping ...
Production designer Hall added illuminated honey alabaster columns on the landing where guests make their entrances. ‘Nate is a vintage boy and he wanted a leather club chair,’ Hall said. Guests sit in a Belgian linen-covered Drappo armchair from Niedermaier. Behind the two seats is a John Derian-designed purple velvet tufted bench from L.A.-based manufacturer Cisco Brothers. The glass-topped wooden table is made by Arteriors Home, and the herringbone patterned dhurrie rug is from Berkus’ HSN home decor line.
‘Our homes shouldn’t be one note,’ Berkus said. ‘The leather chair doesn’t match my guest chairs perfectly; they bridge together different eras and aesthetics and that’s important in any space you design.’
To create a residential vibe, Hall used ‘exaggerated Georgian-style wainscoting’ throughout the studio, illuminated by nickel-plated Restoration Hardware sconces, all pictured below. An equally exaggerated take on tuck-and-roll-upholstery fills the spaces between columns. Hall placed furniture -- an antique red campaign chest and a settee with a John Robshaw block print pillow -- in the audience area.
‘Most TV shows just design a set,’ Hall said. ‘We decorated the entire studio.’ That includes parts never likely to show up on screen. One example, below: Bays for wiring and lights were tricked out to look like drum-shaped hanging pendant lamps, below left. They even were decorated inside with a geometric pattern, below right, in case anyone in the audience could peel an eye off Berkus and look up.
-- David A. Keeps
Set Pieces appears on Tuesdays. Bookmark L.A. at Home and check back for more.