So You Want to Recreate ‘Mad Men’ Style at Home?

by | April 11, 2012 at 12:48 PM | Mad Men

Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) and Don Draper (Jon Hamm) in Mad Men (Ron Jaffe/AMC)


By KIM COOK

Now that another season of “Mad Men” is taking us back to the 1960s, lovers of Mid-century Modern style are eyeing the sets for inspiration.

Luckily, the popularity of both the AMC show and the design style makes it easy to find furniture that sets the stage.

The retro decor complements many of today’s furnishings — something to remember when you’re trying to capture that ’60s vibe, says Anthony Larosa, former furniture design department chair at Savannah College of Art and Design. He cautions against going all-in on the vintage look, even if you love it.

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“People would have had a mix of furniture in their homes,” he notes. “We get attached to things; we take them with us when we move and redecorate.”

If you’re keen to incorporate vintage, reproduction or newly reissued pieces from the “Mad Men” era, he suggests starting by looking at books and magazines from the period to see what real interiors looked like.

That’s the approach the show’s set production team took.

LIVING ROOM FURNITURE

“Mad Men’s” set decorator, Claudette Didul, says she and Production Designer Dan Bishop are especially proud of the Manhattan apartment they created for newlywed characters Don Draper, an ad agency exec, and his former secretary, Megan Calvet. The split-level, open-plan living room was initially envisioned by show creator Matthew Weiner, but it was up to the production team to make the space cool, livable and able to accommodate shoot requirements.

“We have to be able to move walls, and set up camera platforms, so we couldn’t have actual furniture in certain places. The sofa, bench and wall unit are all built for the space and can be easily removed,” says Didul.

Those looking to capture the look might like Gus Modern’s tweedy, tailored Rochelle sofa, designed by David Podsiadlo, which looks a lot like the Drapers’ ($1,999 at www.wayfair.com).

Crate & Barrel’s Bel-Air collection of coffee and side tables features walnut-stained tops on svelte, cast-aluminum tripod bases (side $399, coffee $549). Vintage Danish modern pieces are hard to find and often pricey, but the Calista teak sideboard, with its honey hue and lean profile, has the look at a reasonable price ($1,499).

Florence Knoll’s Lounge series of geometric chairs and sofas are classics. While the real thing will set you back $4,000 or more, you can find a similar one at www.roveconcepts.com for $549. Niels Bendtsen’s airy, glass-topped, floating-drawer Homework desk often sells for about $2,000, but Rove, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based retailer, offers it for $899. There’s a wide variety of “inspired by” pieces here.

Herman Miller commissioned furniture designer Mark Goetz to design a sofa that would complement the work of early Modern icons like Isamu Noguchi, George Nelson, and Charles and Ray Eames. The result is a tailored yet comfortable leather seat wrapped in a clean curve of molded plywood veneer (www.allmodern.com, $3,949).

Goetz says, “What makes the best Mid-century pieces is that they not only appeal to our personal sense of style; they have a degree of visual and functional truth that makes people want to live with them.”

LIGHTING

In period TV shows, light fixtures are essential in delivering the right look. On “Mad Men,” they’re practically characters in themselves. Tall, slender wood, colorful opaque glass, gleaming metal — every set’s personality is punctuated by one or two statement lamps.

Didul says the production team favored vintage lampshades despite their fragility. “The slubbed silk on them is just beautiful, and the light through them is really unique,” she says.

Hers came from Los Angeles-area prop shops and vintage stores.

You can find similar versions, such as Lamp Work’s walnut Tulip table and floors lamps (from $224.89 to $427.39 at www.wayfair.com), and www.shadesoflight.com’s long-necked turquoise or orange ceramic table lamps ($129 each).

Babette Holland’s new capsule-shaped Gemini and Apollo lamp designs reference the ’60s space missions. She’s done some of the bases in solid hues, others in her signature stripes, but the palette is true to the era — cranberry, gold, olive, sapphire ($450 each at www.ylighting.com.)

“We’ve been told that the colors remind people of those 1950s tumblers, so they immediately love them,” she says, talking about the aluminum drinkware found in many homes at the time. “So much of the design of that period is timeless. We did our best to tap into that and bring it forward.”

ART, ETC.

Most of the modern art on “Mad Men” isn’t actually vintage. Didul has found great pieces at rental galleries such as Art Pic in Los Angeles, and through artist friends.

The dramatic dot graphic in the show’s ad agency office was created by the art department under Bishop’s guidance. The piece echoes the work of English Op Art proponent Bridget Riley. Similar posters are at www.zazzle.com, starting at about $100.

You can find reproduced examples of one of that era’s most prolific designers, George Nelson, known for sunburst, asterisk, polygon and ball wall clocks (Polygon clock, $590 at www.wayfair.com) as well as the molded polypropylene Swag desk chair and Marshmallow sofa ($499 and $3,299 respectively at www.hivemodern.com).

PALETTE

Debra Kling, a New York-based color consultant and decorator, sees Mid-century Modern style as grounded in neutral hues. “Simple lines, natural elements like stone and stained wood, and earth tones, punctuated by what I call ‘Diner Brights’ — orange, magenta and turquoise,” she says.

To stay true to the style, Kling advises mixing these hues into a background of neutrals, and keeping the floor plan open.

Didul and her team have done that on the “Mad Men” sets, incorporating colorful throw pillows, ashtrays and drinkware throughout the rooms.

Etsy.com is a good source for vintage fabrics; mod Pucci prints, modern florals and groovy graphics are a fun way to add ’60s style with textile accents.

HOME FROM THE OFFICE

The offices of “Mad Man’s” advertising agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Price, are filled with cool furniture that would work at home, in living and work spaces alike.

One of the show’s most popular sets is the black, white and chrome sanctum of silver-haired company partner Roger Sterling. Didul says the brief from Weiner was “‘Italian hospital,’ and there’s actually a scene where copywriter Freddy Rumsen calls it that.”

You can buy the Artemide Nesso mushroom table lamp for $455 at www.allmodern.com.

Hokku Designs’ off-white Concorde leather sofa would fit right in too ($1,897 at www.wayfair.com).

Blu Dot’s Chicago series of wood veneer and tubular steel-box shelving looks similar to pieces found in Sterling Cooper Draper Price’s offices ($599 and up at www.wayfair.com).

Larosa says secondhand stores are a particularly good source for mid-century office furniture.

“Companies that sell used office furniture often have the best prices for vintage stuff,” says Larosa.

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