‘True Blood’ set design sees changes on the home front


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As ‘True Blood’ speeds along into Season 4, witches may have joined the cast of vampires, shape shifters, werewolves, fairies and cat people, but changes on the domestic front are what have really put design fans under a spell.

In painstaking detail, ‘True Blood’ production designer Suzuki Ingerslev answered questions about the inspirations and resources used to create striking residences for the show’s characters including Bill Compton (played by Stephen Moyer, above right), Vampire King of Louisiana, and Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard, above left), now landlord with a swanky bachelor crypt in Sookie Stackhouse’s family home. Chief among the topics in our email exchange with Ingerslev: the formerly mud-encrusted home of Sookie (Anna Paquin, right, with Eric).


Question: Sookie’s house looks new. How did it get that way?

Answer: Eric repainted the façade a warm yellow color (Dunn Edwards DE5373, Clay Dust) with Navajo White (DEC772) trim and touched up the landscaping. Eric kept her house the way he knew she liked it best, which is how her Gran originally decorated. We updated a few electronic appliances, such as a microwave and big screen TV, which are actually gifts for Sookie from Eric.

Bill Compton’s house really got the extreme makeover, from shabby to unbelievably chic. Why does it look so contemporary?

When we first meet Bill in Season 1 he inhabits a worn-down antebellum home that was inherited by ancestors who, over the years, had performed various remodels but had left it in ruin. It did have a Victorian feel, but that style wasn’t necessarily an indication of Bill’s taste. We chose a modern style for him because we felt he had been around for a long time and had traveled the world. There are antiques and treasures from other countries and time periods he might have accrued through his adventures.

What reference materials did you use?

Books on plantation interiors, traditional homes and modern furnishings, as well as Object Magazine. The more modern feel creates an interesting juxtaposition between the traditional plantation architecture and the furnishings. The set does have an elegant Regency feel, and I really wanted it to be sophisticated and sexy.


His office has a Hollywood Regency vibe, normally a somewhat frilly style. But it reeks of sex and power, doesn’t it?

It is meant to be his lair. We wanted the room to be extremely masculine and authoritative and could be a place from which King Bill could stage his power plays.

Are we to believe that Bill had a decorator?

We are to believe Bill employed an interior designer to decorate the place, but it was ultimately his vision. As a king, obviously, he wouldn’t tend to the myriad mundane tasks but would oversee and exercise control over the finished product.

He’s got a lot of interesting objects on his shelves. What are those about?

We wanted the room to be indicative of his secret inner life, to illustrate his true personality and reflect Bill’s experience of having seen the world throughout the ages. The layers of collectibles indicate a well-traveled and timeless life. We had fun playing around trying to guess which items may have been received as gifts from various fellow vampire dignitaries.


How did you set the tone for the office?

A good part of the room’s inspiration came from the wallpaper selection (Astek Wallcovering). The monochromatic scheme prevented the room from becoming busy or competing with the numerous collectibles. We worked to bridge a gap between old and new by finding traditional plantation elements that were done in a fresh way. The light fixture over Bill’s desk, for example, is a traditional crystal chandelier encased in a not so traditional black silk lampshade. The desk itself is also very modern with its high chrome finish. That piece was very important to the overall design because it provided an anchor for the entire room to spin off.

Bill Compton’s office, above, has a desk from Eric Brand Furniture, leather desk chair from Alan Desk, Daytona armchairs in faux crocodile upholstery from 22 Bond St., a glass and chrome side table from Mortise & Tenon, a bohemian glass chandelier from LAMF with a custom black silk drum shade, and bookshelves and cabinets from H.D. Buttercup.

How would you describe King Bill’s living room?

If I had to name a style I would say it’s in the vein of old Hollywood meets Southern plantation. The goal for the living room was to create a tranquil, formal room in which Bill could greet and entertain guests. We see less of Bill’s individual personality here, but something that is much more formal, although still relaxed and intimate.

What about the color palette?


The wall color is a custom color we developed ourselves. There is a good deal of paneling in the room and we didn’t want any sense of claustrophobia, so we chose a neutral color with a subtle detail of a warm silver paint to highlight the moulding. The drapery is also neutral and was meant to soften the overall effect. We went with a lighter color fabric that would allow the black horizontal banding to pop. We chose an earthy palette for the entire remodel so in transitioning from room to room, the subtle tones would blend to create an overall mood.

The living room, above, has a pair of Bruno sofas from Cisco Brothers, a chrome and faux marble coffee table from H.D. Buttercup and a carpet from the Rug Warehouse in Los Angeles. The antique ebony wing back chairs, left, were purchased from Design Utopia; the white linen side chair, right, is from Pampa. The table and floor lamps are from Mortise & Tenon.

The formal entry to the home really sets a tone. What are the key design elements?

Like all the rooms in Bill’s house remodel, it has a nice mix of old and new elements. The zebra rug is a nod to the hunting trophy rooms of the past. The chandelier, like the one in Bill’s study, takes the traditional element of a crystal chandelier and amps it up by encasing it in a rusted wrought iron sphere. Once we cross Bill’s threshold, we want audiences to feel his worldliness and quiet power. We want his house to reflect how he rules Louisiana with an understated but iron-fisted elegance.

The foyer, above, has a Mansfield hall table from Craig Olsen on a zebra rug purchased on EBay. The chandelier from H.D. Buttercup sits in a custom metal sphere by Mortise & Tenon. The custom crystal and iron wall sconces are from LAMF.

-- David A. Keeps

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Photo credits: John P. Johnson / HBO


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