Television Settings

June 25th 2015 Comments: 15 Topics: ,

Much has been written on how formative the childhood years are on the psyche. Good or bad, imprints made during this short period of life, have a profound affect on thoughts, actions and decisions well into adulthood.
Ask any architect or designer what influences them most and they’ll ramble on about the most esoteric things – travel to exotic lands, operatic arias, paintings and sculpture. Few fail to notice what truly inspires them most is intrinsically ingrained in them: it was the way they grew up.


Growing up in rural Alabama in the 60’s, inspirational artwork and stirring classical music were certainly not a part of my daily life. And Exotic travel? Well, that was supplied by one place – television. Those formative years found me glued to that tiny screen, always lying on the carpeted floor mere inches away (“Get back! You’re going to ruin your eyes!). I guess I thought the closer I was, the more I could absorb all that wonderfulness the boob tube spilled out to me. As a budding- architect-in-incubation, I was hungry for mental sustenance and those inane 1960’s television shows fed me plenty. Junk food? Certainly – but it was filling.

In hindsight, its astonishing the effect the designs of these TV shows had on my artistic development. I think they held great sway on anyone my age – I’m just brave (or stupid) enough to admit it. The following are the ones most imbedded in my memory:


Samantha and Darren Stevens house on “Bewitched”

Transitional design is a big buzz-phrase these days.  The Stevens’ house was one of the first – a prime specimen of the rare “modern-meets-colonial” period of design.  Jokes aside, the plan of this house was brilliantly laid out with a sophisticated circulation path. Bobby McAlpine once told me he used the “Bewitched” stair layout (which ingeniously connected the main stair and service stair at the landing) as inspiration for a design.


The Addams Family House

Nothing could be more exotic than the home of Morticia and Gomez Addams.  Herman and Lily Munster came close but the Addams outdid them in terms of interior decoration alone.  I’ve often joked their prolific use of odd taxidermy had a profound influence on future interior designer Susan Ferrier.  And Morticia’s wonderful spidery glass conservatory – well, needless to say, we’ve done that a few times now!


“The Brady Bunch” House

Most people thought this show was about the complications and issuing hilarities that result from the combined family. No, this show was about how cool it was to be an architect.  The original hipster, Mike Brady (those turtlenecks!) lived and worked in a house of his very own design.  How great was that?  Plus, this was way before safety codes dominated architectural design so he could create that insane stair.

Wilbur’s studio on “Mr. Ed”

Yet another architect working from home, Wilbur found his pesky interruptions not from a ton of bickering kids but from a talking horse. I always appreciate Wilbur for his place in pioneering what would be known as “barn-chic”. I’ve no doubts Ralph Lauren took notes from this guy.


Collinswood on “Dark Shadows”

As a child in the South, the coast of Maine was as remote as Africa.  The set designers of “Dark Shadows” offered me a glimpse into that windswept Gothic environment.  I adored this show and studied the design of Barnabas Collins’ family estate like it was Vitruvius’ ten books of architecture . Sure, Collinswood’s walls shook when the doors slammed but that was easily overlooked.  I’ve actually detailed an English library that almost looks just like this one (only it’s more stable).


The Beverly Hillbillies Mansion 

This was my initial entree into the exotic and far away land of California.  Most television historians look down on this show as silly fluff but Jed Clampett’s home (actually based on a real Beverly Hills house) was an architectural buffet.  I always loved their enormous and modern chef’s kitchen with its Hollywood regency detailing.  And as a confession, I’ve actually copied the detailing on their front door for a house in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Yes, I admit these were some of my early influences.  The higher minded ones came later.

I’ll leave you with an unaired 1965 gem of a pilot called “The Decorator” starring a very campy Bette Davis.  This show was set in Malibu in a great modern house and, had it aired, I would’ve eaten this one up.


Greg Tankersley for McAlpine Tankersley


  1. Melinda says:

    Love this! Its amazing how many things inspire us without us even realising it. Im shaking my head and grinning right now, you have made my day 🙂

  2. I loved your little journey down memory lane. I still pay close attention to the rooms of nearly every TV show or movie I watch. It’s a big time bonus when you see a spectacular room or home.

  3. Jane says:

    I loved reading this! So true for all of us growing up during that time. We have a pool table in our house and when we have a large party we have a topper for it and a large table cloth that drapes to the floor. A couple of weeks ago, we had a little social and a close friend said, “You guys are like the Beverly Hillbillies”. I called him the next week and said this table will forever be called the Fancy eatin table. We even have the pot movers. Still laughing!!

  4. Glenna Dlautt says:

    Clever post, Greg. I confess to being enchanted with the homes in those television shows as well. Also love many of the homes used as movies sets, a la Something’s Got to Give and The Holiday to mention a couple. It is fun to live vicariously sometimes. Hope you are doing well.

  5. Glenna Flautt says:

    Didn’t check my typing before posting my comment.

  6. Kris Kendrick says:

    Oh, Mr. T! I love it!

    The thing about the Brady home that always flummoxed me was that the front elevation didn’t match the interior… it’s reversed. We will have to discuss that stair sometime…

  7. cyndy says:


  8. peggy says:

    Loved this post. I know a young architect who works for you whose earliest drawings were influenced by the houses in Jumanji, Home Alone, The Amityville Horror, and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House to name a few.

  9. kristin boan says:

    Loved reading this post. A great mix of humor and honesty. kristin

  10. LOVE IT! Because is so true!

    I would also add all the wonderful old black and white movies I saw as a child….especially “Gone with the wind”!….we didn’t have a color TV…:)

  11. Michael Imber says:

    Great post! I vote for Dark Shadows- endless hours of mysterious interiors. What’s behind door number 3?

  12. Kristine says:

    Loved watching the pilot of Bette Davis as the socialite ‘Decorator’!! I soooo wish this had become a real series. Thanks for sharing!

  13. SUSAN HURWITT says:


  14. Catherine Masterson says:

    I can totally relate. Great post.

  15. […] 1)Television settings can actually be a good source of inspirations and ideas for interior design. […]

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