By Shelley Levitt
IF HOME IS WHERE the heart is, the kitchen is where that heart beats, feeds, schemes and confesses. "Just like in real life, whether it's a galley kitchen in a tiny New York apartment or a big modern kitchen that spills out into the family room, the kitchen is where people hang out," says Anne Stuhler, production designer for Blue Bloods.
Who can forget Lucy hatching plans with Ethel around the dinette table in her 1950s Manhattan kitchen? Two decades and 1,200 miles away were the Minneapolis digs of Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. "I'll always think of Mary framed by the kitchen counter while she chatted with Rhoda or Lou," Stuhler says. With its minifridge and uncluttered countertops, "it was the ultimate single woman's apartment."
What's the recipe for creating a kitchen on a hit TV show? We chatted with the production designers and set decorators of some of today's most popular shows to find out.
THE GOOD WIFE The kitchen is the room that draws oohs and aahs when people visit this set, says production designer Stephen Hendrickson. He's not surprised. "I really love this room, too," Hendrickson says. "It has a very modern aesthetic with clean, geometric lines." A luxury kitchen with high-end Electrolux appliances and pale green cabinets with backlit sea glass doors, it's also warm and inviting with potted herbs, succulents and beautiful pastel vases. "This is where Alicia Florrick comes to unwind with a glass of wine at the end of the day," says Hendrickson, "and where she and the kids have their most heartfelt conversations."
THE BIG BANG THEORY "This is the kitchen of scientists," says Ann Shea, set decorator. "They don't care if their plates match or if they're still using the pots that their parents forced upon them. All that matters to them is functionality." The butcher-block island is littered with circuit boards and rocket parts, the fridge covered with takeout menus and NASA magnets. But, says Shea, since physicists sometimes stay up all night playing video games, they have a really good espresso maker, along with a cereal dispenser and a microwave that scans the bar codes of packaged foods and programs itself to follow the cooking directions.
TWO AND A HALF MEN When Internet billionaire Walden Schmidt bought the Malibu home, he kept Alan and Jake as housemates but redesigned the kitchen. "It went from a Spanish-style traditional kitchen to a much more modern one," says Shea. The counters are now topped with Carrera marble, the appliances updated, and, for the first time, a dishwasher has been introduced. "We went to great lengths to find the coolest spatulas and the most fun cutting boards," says Shea. And she chatted with Ashton Kutcher about the type of art his character would choose. "He felt the art would be by street artists," she says. Shepard Fairey, the artist who created the Barack Obama "Hope" poster, fit the bill.
A gathering place for multi-generational Sunday family dinners, the kitchen in Frank Reagan's Queens home is traditional and timeless. "We thought that Frank's late wife had redone the kitchen maybe 10 years ago," says Stuhler. "But while she updated the appliances, she would have kept a lot of things that were family heirlooms, like a Spode China turkey platter, mismatched tea sets and hand-painted Quimper pottery from France."
Upgrade your kitchen appliances and accessories with these editors' picks.
Innovia Automatic Paper Towel Dispenser: When you're elbow-deep in a bowl of guacamole, you can still grab a paper towel simply by waving a hand in front of this touchless dispenser. Available in silver, blue, red and black for $99 at Innovia Home.
Samsung French-Door Wi-Fi Refrigerator: You won't need magnets with this fridge's built-in Wi-Fi, apps and 8-inch LCD screen right on the door. Load recipes, keep a running shopping list, leave notes for your family or listen to your favorite Pandora station on built-in speakers. Available at Samsung for $3,699.
Kohler Stages Kitchen Sink: Designed in collaboration with professional chefs, the Kohler Stages sink has an extra-wide basin for large pots and pans, a built-in hardwood cutting board, flip tray, basin rack, six porcelain prep bowls, accessory storage rack and more. Available at Kohler for $1,568.