On ‘Modern Family,’ signature sensations

Special to the Los Angeles Times

Following the comic foibles of three related Los Angeles households, “Modern Family” required a trio of home environments that represented distinct styles and incomes but still reflected the American family home.

“There are three multigenerational, multicultural families,” production designer Richard Berg says, referring to sets of relatives that include a retired white patriarch with a much younger Latina wife and a gay couple with an adopted daughter from China. “You need to be able to tell whose house you are in at a glance.”

Wall colors gave each home a recognizable signature. The hectic home of Claire (played by Julie Bowen) and Phil (Ty Burrell) — a place that Berg calls " Pottery Barn-Restoration Hardware traditional modern” — is painted in a serene shade called Labrador Blue by Benjamin Moore. The world-traveler residence of Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) is a tasteful Benjamin Moore Louisburg Green, while the modern architectural residence of Jay (Ed O’Neill) and Gloria (Sofia Vergara) has accent walls in Benjamin Moore’s vibrant Currant red.

“It started out as a white on white on white,” Berg says of the last residence, so the story called for Gloria to bring in red and zebra patterns on lampshades and counter stools.

The house, based on a real residence in Brentwood, announces its aesthetic with the front door’s geometric mosaic of windows and off-center diagonal handle. Berg designed the sleek white sideboard and used Hollywood glass to top the pedestal table in the dining room, surrounding it with leather chairs that have cube-like steel bases.


Based on a home in Cheviot Hills, the house of Claire and Phil is catalog conservative, defined by farm-style tables and comfy classics, including roll-arm sofas purchased from Sofa U Love and accent pillows from Pottery Barn. Set decorator Amber Haley purchased other items from Los Angeles stores such as Pom Pom, Mortise & Tenon, Pampa and Wertz Bros.

The residence of Mitchell and Cameron, meanwhile, has the wood windows and baseboards, crown moldings and old-fashioned tile kitchen counters that Berg says “you’d find in a Hancock Park-adjacent duplex.” The decorative hearth is an antiqued plaster mantel from Edmon’s on Melrose Avenue. The couple has a dining table from CB2 surrounded by Bertoia wire side chairs; in the living room, the sofa from H.D. Buttercup in L.A., piped and tufted armchairs are from Room Service in L.A., and occasional tables are from West Elm.

Those rooms are done in sedate neutrals, but daughter Lily’s room is a riot of pink and flowers. The Wildflowers rug is part of the Kathy Ireland Home Innovations collection, and striped curtains are made from fabric purchased at Diamond Foam & Fabric in L.A.. Lily sleeps in a modern crib from the L.A. store La Bella Cosa, though how restfully we can only guess: Above it is a delightfully absurd mural in which her two dads are painted like Greek gods, winged guardians floating on clouds.