From The Good Wife to The Good Fight: TV’s most sought after set décor
Set decorator Beth Kushnick returns to provide us with more eye-catching interiors
Following the premier of the much anticipated new CBS series The Good Fight, we caught up with the shows set decorator Beth Kushnick to talk about her work and some of the amazing décor she has sourced for the hugely popular legal drama.
When The Good Wife first appeared on our screens back in 2009 it quickly became a major hit for CBS. Apart from the gripping storyline and commanding performance by Julianna Margulies, the show struck a chord with audiences by virtue of its sumptuous interior décor. The furniture seen on the sets of The Good Wife quickly became a talking point. Soon bloggers, journalists and the global interior design community were discussing this new uber-stylish show, and it’s much coveted interiors. This polished aesthetic didn’t happen by accident however. It is the result of (the now famous) set decorator Beth Kushnick. By the time Beth landed the position of set decorator for The Good Wife she had over 20 years’ experience designing and decorating in film and television as well as the commercial and residential space. The results of this vast experience was the game-changing set decoration of Alicia Florrick’s world.
It was apparent quite quickly that audiences not only liked the shows décor and furniture, but they wanted it for themselves. Beth was inundated with requests from fans asking where they could buy theses home furnishings. Beth had worked on some big productions, both in film and television, but her work on The Good Wife quickly found global admiration, giving her a new-found notoriety.
Seen On Set: Did you have any idea when you started on the show that it would have the reaction it did?
Beth Kushnick: “I didn’t at all. As a matter of fact I almost made a huge error as I was much more leaning towards a film that I had been offered at the time. But thankfully I decided on The Good Wife. I had worked on seven TV shows before this, but I quickly realised that this felt different. This was the first job that really broke the fourth wall for me. The fans of The Good Wife really craved all of the information relating to the designs and décor and they started making contact in huge numbers. This really was something new for all of us.”
SOS: Today The Good Wife seems to be almost a case study in how an audience can, not only appreciate a shows interiors and décor, but actively seek the items seen on set. This new connection with an audience through set decoration is something that CBS really seemed to encourage?
BK: “Well they were the ones that approached me and said ‘we need to figure out a way to handle this fan interest’. At this point I was trying to answer emails, letters, identify furniture in screengrabs when I got home in the middle of the night on my own time. So they helped me craft a way to be in touch with the fans and as a result I started the blog; The Good Look of the Good Wife.”
The Good Wife became a global hit. It was one of the highest rated shows on TV at the time. The interest in the set décor only grew as the series progressed and particularly as people became aware that they could actually ask the shows set decorator where she found this amazing furniture, lighting and décor. Every interior design magazine in the world seemed to have a feature on the show.
SOS: How did you deal with this new level of accessibility?
BK: “We were inundated with requests every day. I would write about each episode, take the questions and provide the retail sources for the products, and ultimately really engage with the fans. I must say that as the seasons went on this really did influence how we designed and decorated the show, and propelled me, the crew and the vendors and retailers into a completely different arena.”
The scale of requests and the level of global interest ultimately led CBS and Beth to create a line of licensed furniture from The Good Wife. Clearly they saw an opportunity, and they turned to North Carolina based furniture and décor manufacturers Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Beth had already sourced much of The Good Wife furniture from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and the collaboration seemed a perfect fit.
SOS: How did the partnership with Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams come to fruition?
BK: “Michelle and Robert King (the show’s creators) really allowed the set to become another character in the show. And with the level of interest we had garnered, the network wanted to further pursue the idea of licensed products for the show. So I put together a presentation of all of the vendors that I use consistently, and most specifically, vendors who understood the film business. What you must understand about Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams is that they manufacture their products in the United States. Working on a TV show I have a new episode every 8 days, and they had the ability to get me product. And get it to me quickly. On top of that, we already had a long standing relationship and they design amazing pieces”.
BK: “So Mitchell came and visited the set and my shop and, even though he had been asked to do a license like this before, he felt that our show was the right fit. But we were now treading on completely uncharted territory.”
Wanting to do a home décor license rather than the typical TV show merchandise, such as a mug, or a pen or briefcase was unheard of. This was the first time in TV history that a licensed home décor line was created for a Network television show. Every step in this process broke new ground. Beth worked very closely with Bob and together they figured out what looks good on film, what scale pieces needed to be, and even how each actor would sit in them. This attention to detail led to much more than just props for a TV show, it was good furniture design.
BK: “We began development of these iconic pieces that were specifically designed for each character. But as these items began to sell, they were not only being sold because they were seen on the set, they were being sold in different fabrics and colors, so we knew that we had created some really well-designed pieces that could stand alone.”
This coming together proved to be a great move for Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. The residential and commercial furniture manufacturer and retailer has a unique contemporary style with a certain luxurious characteristic that was a great match for the highly-stylised show. The range of Good Wife products became much sought-after and brought a new level of brand awareness for Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. The socially conscience company has grown considerably (not solely due to The Good Wife of course) and now employs over 700 people in the United States and around the world. With a stunning catalogue of furniture, lighting, décor, rugs and bedding it is unsurprising that their pieces can now be seen in countless movies and TV shows. And, once again, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams have provided some furniture for the set decoration of The Good Fight.
SOS: We loved the first two episodes of The Good Fight. The set décor looks amazing. Did you approach the set decoration of this show differently?
BK: “Well my favorite part of The Good Fight is how the palette changed. When you look at The Good Wife you can see that it was a very warm palette of color with a lot of red. This was due to the fact that we went with the concept that Law was a Bloodsport. I love working with colors like this. In The Good Fight the red became secondary in everything.”
We couldn’t wait to see the offices of both Lockhart, Deckler, Gussman, Lee, Lyman, Gilbert, Lurie, Kagan, Tannebaum & Associates (yes that’s a lot of surnames) and Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad in The Good Fight. For most fans these office sets truly are another character in the show. They didn’t disappoint. Each provides the perfect level of juxtaposition. From the open plan spaces with highly contemporary office furniture to the more classic office décor of Diane Lockhart’s office to the masculine, yet warm, décor of Robert Boseman’s office. These details create a considered platform on which the characters can perform. As the show unfolds we glimpse pieces in both the fore and background, a gold leaf table lamp, a chrome legged credenza, eye-catching artwork, all contributing the richness of the space. Beth, together with her team, have once again produced a stunning array of sets.
SOS: Of all of the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams pieces you used in The Good Wife and The Good Fight is there a piece that stands out?
BK: The Major chair from Eli Golds office from The Good Wife. The design of the major chair is so applicable, so classic. It really is a timeless piece. It has worked in a multitude of sets for me, both in The Good Wife and now in The Good Fight.
SOS: I have read that you were particularly fond and proud of Alicia’s apartment in The Good Wife. I know it is still early days, but is there a set in The Good Fight that you have a special affinity with?
BK: “So far my favorite set is Maia’s loft apartment. It’s the eclectic mix that is closest to my personal aesthetic. From her bed from Raymour & Flanigan, to some old antique pieces I had in the shop, to a beautiful swivel chair from West Elm”.
As The Good Fight progresses we can sit back and soak up the aesthetic that has become synonymous with Beth Kushnick. The attention to detail that comes with 30 years’ experience, not just in the world of filmed entertainment, but from working in the commercial and residential spaces. Few set decorators have become famous because of their work. Perhaps few want to. But this role seemed to find Beth, and not because she wanted it, but because her work commanded it. It spoke to an audience long before she had a public voice. Good design can break new ground, forge new collaborations and open new doors. Every industry needs someone brave enough to walk through them.
You can catch up on episodes of The Good Fight now on CBS All Access.
The Good Wife: The Complete Series is available now on Amazon.
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