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
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