9 Things Designers Can't Unsee in TV Homes

Renata Klein's home in Big Little Lies

Hilary Bronwyn Gayle / HBO

Whether you’re watching a new TV show or a marathon of an age-old favorite, everyone has that one thing they can’t get past when it shows up on-screen. Personally, I will shout every single time I notice an obviously empty coffee cup a character is pretending to juggle. My best friend cannot ignore a poorly executed American accent by a British actor. My husband has to IMDB every actor who looks vaguely familiar until he figures out where he’s seen them before.

But for interior designers, the distractions of a TV home quickly rises above anything the actors are doing, wearing, or saying.

  • 01 of 09

    These Home Are Suspiciously Clean

    The set of Netflix's Dead to Me showing Jen's spotless kitchen

    Flickr / Brandi Kalish

    Cheryl Kees Clendenon, President of In Detail Interiors, struggles with watching messy characters navigate their lives in pristine homes. "They always appear to be [magically clean]. It’s a sure sign of TV land as no one's home can possibly be that clean and uncluttered... can it? Is it me?"

    Christina Applegate’s character in Dead to Me is a fabulous example. For a woman with two young sons who only comes home to drink wine by her pool, how is her house so sparkling? 

    Best friends and founders of Merinda Studio, Erin McCarthy and Mindy Turitz, agree. "Once in a while, the beautiful and spacious kitchens we see on television remind us of our own cluttered and messy spaces. A Netflix session is likely to send us straight to our cabinets and pantries for a clean-out session. [Although], maybe that's not such a bad thing."

  • 02 of 09

    Never Trust Anyone Whose Home Is Cold and Uninviting

    Renata Klein's home in Big Little Lies

    Hilary Bronwyn Gayle / HBO

    On a similar note, taking the cleanliness to the extreme can have another negative impact. It can cause a home to feel cold—and this is another major distraction for designers. “[I] can’t unsee a home which feels stark and unlived in,” said Emma Sims Hilditch of Sims Hilditch Designs. “While every designer loves to see an interior that is beautifully styled, it should always feel welcoming and comfortable.”

    Think Renata’s Monterey mansion on Big Little Lies. Is it architecturally beautiful? Sure. Would we want to live behind that glass-walled window, surrounded by minimalist furniture and an alarmingly intense five-year-old? No, thanks.

  • 03 of 09

    No More Word-Based Wall Art

    Cougar Town kitchen set with EAT art on walls

    TBS / Warner Media

    Cheryl is also a hard pass on word-based all art. Whether you can’t read what the words say or you’re just trying to figure out what they have to do with the storyline or character development, it’s way too distracting.

    "[No] words written or hanging on the walls,” said Cheryl. “Words belong in real books in a beautiful home library not in corny 2 ft tall wood letters." 

    Two popular shows are guilty of this trend: Jules Cobb's EAT sign in her Cougar Town kitchen and Jan Levinson’s home office in The Office. Sure, the latter's a giant sign for her own candle label, “Serenity by Jan,” and it’s there to show you she’s bonkers but… do not replicate it in your own home.

  • 04 of 09

    A Big Yikes for Too Many Mismatched Colors

    Chesney's mismatched home in Coronation Street


    UK-based interior designer Kane Hughes credited the beloved British soap opera Coronation Street for his biggest TV-induced headaches. “One of the worst fictional TV homes has to be Chesney's home in Coronation Street, with its mismatched colors in every corner of the living room.” 

    “The chaotic décor includes a yellow couch that sits in the middle of the room, which clashes with the yellow and pink walls. These colors do not work well together, and the stark contrasts also make the room appear much smaller.”

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Is This a Character Quirk, or Just a Distracting Mess?

    Penny's apartment on the Big Bang Theory


    Amy Donato, Glidden Senior Marketing Manager of Glidden, also finds a bold and bright color scheme far too distracting. Add in a messy space, and it’s just visually too much.

    “Any time I watch re-runs of Big Bang Theory, I notice how cluttered and messy Penny’s apartment is,” she said. “And the color scheme is too bright for me. But at the same time, that matches her personality!”

  • 06 of 09

    A Stale and Gloomy Color Palette

    Leonard and Sheldon's apartment on The Big Bang Theory


    It’s not just Penny’s apartment that gets a thumbs down. Aino Heinäsuo, Interior Designer, Architect, and Game Artist for the popular design game Redecor, shared her dislike for another Big Bang abode: Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment. 

    “In Sheldon and Leonard's living room, I'd probably change the color palette... freshen it up a bit,” said Aino. “[The] combo of beige walls and wooden floor with reddish wooden furniture makes the place feel stale and a bit gloomy. I'd add some pure white and highlight the blue color, which can be found in the curtains and the rug. I'd also love to organize the space again… [or] at least hide all the loose stuff from the tables.”

  • 07 of 09

    When a Place Has Zero Design Focus

    Modern Family's great room


    “The set of Modern Family ranks as one of my least favorite fictional homes,” said Joe Fava of Fava Design Group. “It doesn't know what it wants to be. The architecture is sleek with clean lines, but after that, it becomes a mess. It's the classic example of more is more and it doesn't work.”

    Diving into the specific details in an attempt to figure out what’s going on here will only cause further confusion, warns Joe. “The rug isn't hideous, but when you pair it with the different colored walls, it becomes too contrived,” he said. “The striped rug with the artwork that introduces another striped effect clashes with each other. We have three different style tables. The espresso center table with a white lacquered bar with a traditional turned console table in the left foreground is a poorly executed mix. It looks like different pieces were shopped at a flea market and placed, thoughtlessly throughout. And that lampshade...need I go on?”

  • 08 of 09

    Is It Grandiose or... Kinda Gross?

    The Rose Family Mansion from Schitt's Creek


    DIY expert and influencer Lizzy Laing of @renovationHQ cannot get behind the McMansion fad. “As someone who prefers more characterful, earthy properties which mix natural materials with wood, I’m less fond of the grandiose style featured in the mansion of Schitt's Creek. Although there’s no denying a huge marble-clad entrance hall can't help but take your breath away!”

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    A Failed Attempt at 'Upscale'

    Beth and Randall's kitchen in This is Us

    Gary Frutkoff / NBC

    Cheryl pointed out that one irksome aspect is when a TV home is supposed to signify wealth, but it fails to send the right message. "[In] This is Us, Beth and Randall's home... the kitchen is horrid," she said. "So many design mistakes, from the blood-red walls to the sheetrock hood and range located way too close to the sink."

    "The dated door style, crown molding protruding past the walls, open above the refrigerator, and the most egregious error: the white tile running up just a bit on each side of a stainless panel behind the range. No, no, no."

    And it doesn't just stop at the kitchen! "The living room is cluttered and way too busy," Cheryl added. "It is supposed to be upscale and they missed the mark."

Next time you're nestling in for some Netflix, take note of the backdrop. It's the perfect way to spot the things you'd love to try out at home... and the things you'd never dare.