When it comes to interior design, people find inspiration all over the place. But for those among us whose job it is to create beautiful homes, one specific source often appears when the rest of us are shutting off our brains for the day and hopefully leaving work behind until tomorrow: watching TV. And while there are plenty of TV homes and as-seen-on-TV decor trends designers can't stand, there are also some great TV homes that anyone can turn to for a little inspiration.
We asked some of our favorite designers to share which TV home elements they love, and where they’ve found surprise inspiration during their Netflix binges.
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A Beautiful Kitchen
“When it comes to TV homes, we’re all about the extra-large kitchens where everything major happens on the show,” say best friends and founders of Merinda Studio, Erin McCarthy and Mindy Turitz, “From Monica and Rachel’s open kitchen and turquoise shelves on Friends to the enormous wooden kitchen island and hive of gossip on Downton Abbey. But our favorite might be Alice’s mid-century mint and orange oasis on the Brady Bunch.”
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Interior Designer Kane Hughes cites Grace and Frankie’s beach house as a personal favorite—and most of it comes down to its seafront location: “The beach house in Grace and Frankie is a fan-favorite. This TV home creates the perfect coastal setting with its nautical furnishings, pastel walls, and unique features, such as the blue deck chairs and boat decor.”
Emma Sims Hilditch of Sims Hilditch Designs agrees, noting that it’s these small elements that can truly make or break the believability of a set. “Designers love to see interiors which, although fictional for the screen, still reflect the perceived surroundings of the property. If a home is by the sea, it's nice to see little coastal touches placed throughout the home which nod to this.”
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Amy Donato, Senior Marketing Manager of Glidden, mentions Grace and Frankie as one of her favorite set designs, too, but for slightly different reasons. “I love the beach house from Netflix’s Grace and Frankie! It has so much design to it … the home looks very high-end, yet the pieces could be easily imitated through affordable finds,” she says.
“I feel like Grace hired a really great interior designer to do the space,” Donato adds. “It’s a great mixture of blues, whites, creams, wicker, natural wood, rattan, and little pops of color like orange throw pillows. I also like that while it is a beach house, they don’t go over the top with beach-themed decor.”
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Hughes notes that another famous roommate duo has an enviable space:Will & Grace’s New York apartment is full of tiny details that create a world of inspiration. “[I love] the clever use of rugs to create different zones to the unique artwork. Despite the contrasting design elements, the whole concept works well together.”
In fact, Hughes has used similar methods in real-life designs, specifically citing the zoning via area rugs, which “I find works well in small open-plan style homes.”Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Family-Friendly (Yet Stylish) Decor
When it comes to finding family-friendly inspiration, Donato says that she finds constant things to love about Dre and Bow’s house from Black-ish. “The space definitely has a fun, family vibe, yet is so put together,” she says.
But the true secret to its visual success is showing a family home that doesn’t scream KIDS LIVE HERE. “The artwork they use on the set is so beautiful, too,” Donato says. “[And] I loved the one season where they remodeled their kitchen and made it more modern with darker cabinets and dark chairs around the kitchen island. That has inspired me to think about updating my kitchen.”
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Bold, Fun Color Palettes
As Donato points out, watching TV can show us decor decisions we might not consider otherwise. “I’ve been watching re-runs of Friends lately and noticing how much I love the color scheme in Monica and Rachel’s apartment,” she says. “It’s girly yet fun and appealing. I love the purple and blue colors used throughout the majority of the apartment, and then the pop of green from the mystery door. And I’ve always loved Monica’s pink bedroom—my guest room-turned-office is a similar light pink!”
She had a similar thought while watching Black-ish. “They have a neutral color on their walls in the kitchen/living room space and then a blue color that pops on the back of their built-in shelves,” she says. “I plan to put a blue color on the back of my built-in shelves—it adds so much interest!”
But it’s not just fictional TV homes that show us fun pops of color—reality TV can inspire, too. Aino Heinäsuo, Interior Designer, Architect, and Game Artist for the popular design game Redecor, cites the hotel from The Circle, a reality competition series. “In this series, the rooms are super colorful and have interesting furniture choices that catch the eye,” she says. “They are really fresh and bold. I think people would love to have something similar to their own homes. Colors are definitely coming back!”
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Proof That Industrial Lofts Can Be Cozy
“I really like the common living area from New Girl,” Heinäsuo says. “[It has] an industrial vibe—the loft apartment with high ceiling, rustic brick walls, and contemporary furniture.”
For this particular space, Aino noted that it’s all in the details. “It has some super cool industrial-style pendant lights and open-beam ceilings. Also, the huge windows play a big part in how the apartment feels.”
Because the space is so open, the layout is also key. “The sofa is smartly located in the middle of the room, and it’s surrounded by a low bookshelf—this separates the dining and living areas,” Heinäsuo says. “Also, the furniture seems to be well-sized compared to the rest of the room. The room is cozy and doesn’t feel too empty, which can often happen when decorating larger rooms. I’d happily see myself living in this apartment!”
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Timeless, Relevant, and Stunning Styles
As Joe Fava, CEO of Fava Design Group, notes, there’s a reason the Mad Men set designs are some of the most iconic sets in TV history. ”Good design is timeless,” he says of Don Draper’s apartment and home office. “No matter the style, this room could have been designed today or 60 years ago and is still relevant and stunning.”
“From a design perspective, both the palette and the furniture of this room are on point," Fava says. "The furniture selections exhibit classic lines, and the warm walnut accents are very much en vogue.”Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Wallpaper Inspiration for Days
Along with its timeless designs, Fava also points out that the wallpaper in Don Draper’s apartment elevates the space to a new, aspirational level: “The walls appear to have a textured wallpaper and wallpaper, whether it be a nubby grasscloth or a bold mural, are all the rage. Wallpaper adds dimension to a wall that can't be replicated with paint.”
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Skipping Dated Patterns
When it comes to the color palette of Mad Men, Fava says, “In terms of color, designing in color blocks, rather than choosing a lot of busy prints, works well here and keeps things current, as some patterns can date a room. By choosing mostly blocks of color, assigning a specific time period to a room is more difficult.”
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Whatever You Don't Have
“I’m constantly lusting after American houses I see on TV!" says British-based DIY expert Lizzie Laing of @renovationHQ. "Some are epic compared to what we have here in the UK. The houses that feature in Curb Your Enthusiasm are absolutely to die for: huge Californian, gated fronts with terracotta style tiles and turrets. Or marvelous monochrome, white picket fences, white wooden fronted balconies, and contrasting black wooden shutters like Jeff & Susie's house in Season 10."
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A Huge Array of Inspiration
Fava says that one client loved the look of the homes in Succession so much that the formal living room of Logan Roy's townhouse became the basis of their entire design concept.
"The client [based in Ruxton, MD] loves the show and wanted her living room designed with this room in mind," he says. "Like the inspiration room, we kept the color palette neutral using soft tones with just a hint of color on some key pieces. The silk tie-backs at the window are simple, chic, and luxurious. Soft metals adorn the cocktail tables and we added a sparkling crystal chandelier for a hint of glamour. To complete the look, we added over-scaled painted wood moldings for added detail."
Next time you feel guilty for nestling in and watching TV, think of it instead as well-curated research for your next design project—the pros do it, so why shouldn't you?