“Friends” may have been about six New Yorkers, but a handful of its 236 episodes centered specifically on furniture. The tan leather recliner that Joey was convinced had magically healed itself. The oversized entertainment center that resulted in Chandler’s makeshift split door. The yellow couch that Ross bought and might move upstairs, if only everyone would “pivot.”
But “The One with the Apothecary Table,” in which Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) tried to convince Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) that the newly purchased Pottery Barn piece is a one-of-a-kind find, might be the series’ most memorable set-centric episode. “It’s from yore — like, the days of yore,” she explained.
Even though the home furnishings chain is described in the episode as “all mass-produced, nothing is authentic, and everyone winds up having the same stuff,” Pottery Barn is banking on viewers’ unwavering love for the series.
The company recently announced that a 14-piece product line inspired by “Friends” will go on sale July 30, ahead of the show’s 25th anniversary in September. The limited-edition collection will include Central Perk mugs, throw pillows and, of course, that titular apothecary table.
The mahogany piece with multiple drawers (to fit 300 CDs, as Rachel pointed out) is priced at $1,099. While the 2000 episode drew some criticism for explicitly integrating product placement into the script (versus being placed in the background of a shot, which was customary at the time), the company’s “phones light up with catalogue requests every time it airs in syndication,” a onetime executive at the retailer’s parent company has been quoted saying.
Greg Grande, who was the set decorator for all 10 seasons of “Friends,” was tasked with furnishing the rest of the episode — a particularly demanding ask since the apothecary table ends up in the apartments of both Phoebe and Ross (David Schwimmer).
“For Ross, it was perfect, it totally works in his place,” he told The Times on Monday. “Phoebe’s apartment had to be eclectic and have a little bit of quirkiness to it, since she had such a unique personality, and that apothecary table, it’s quite a piece. It’s a big piece and, well, it’s not quirky!”
In Phoebe’s home, the table ended up sitting in front of a 1930s-style, tufted green sofa, and alongside items that appeared to have come from thrift stores and swap meets. Grande was then invited by Pottery Barn to “take anything else” from its Beverly Center location for the episode and ended up sourcing the birdcage, partition wall and small tchotchkes Rachel secretly buys. “These were pieces that made it feel like she actually did outfit the place from there.”
Grande — now a production designer who has worked on “Baby Daddy,” “Dear White People” and the upcoming “Black-ish” spinoff “Mixed-ish” — isn’t involved with Pottery Barn’s upcoming line (though “it makes me wish I had a piece of the action”). But he’s happy that the sets of “Friends” are part of its lasting appeal.
“The fact that generations now, after the fact, are still talking about the show, it’s amazing,” he said. “I think we actually gave it a character that’s believable; it felt like the times. It’s nice — that doesn’t happen but once in a career, right?”