Tuesday, November 27, 2007

SHELTER Sets: "You're gonna make it after all..."

When I think young independent career woman on her own I think - Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. When I think of a "career-gal" apartment, I think of Mary's attic apartment in the 1892 Victorian at 119 N Weatherly Ave. in Minneapolis.*

What did I like about her place?

The open space, the big windows, and the pass-through kitchen. I have always wanted one of those. I imagined that when I had a party, I could keep in on the action by listening through the opening and yelling cute contributions to the conversations in the other room. However, I never really had one of those apartments, in fact, I have never even been shown one of those for rent.

My current apartment is the closest; I have an extended breakfast bar separating the living room from the kitchen. However, sometimes too much of my kitchen is visible, so I will be installing a curtain drape to pull over when the mess threatens to take over the rest of the apartment. But I did have something in common with Mary. Even though I never had her pass-through, I sure had plenty of Mary's "bad" parties.

Layout of apt D, 119 North Weatherly Avenue (click to see larger)

I found an incredible article at The Mary & Rhoda Magazine that details the design and contents of Mary's apartment and even helps you source the items that were used in its decor. Now I don't know that many people today who would want to live in the apartment as it looked then. However, if you are interested in set design and how you can show aspects of a character's personality through their living environment, it's a fascinating read. Think about it, would Monica Geller have been the same without her lavender painted apartment and mis-matched kitchen chairs?

Interesting facts about Mary's first apartment:
  • The apartment had to look like the rent was only $130 per month in 1970.
  • A real attic apartment would NOT have a sunken living room. However, it gave them two levels to the set, which would make it possible for all the actors to be seen during group scenes like Mary's infamous parties.
  • When Mary did move to a better apartment, a lot of her furniture and things moved with her. Some were re-upholstered or refinished, just like someone would do in real life.
  • The kitchenette that I loved so much had a stained glass panel that could be raised up and down to hide the kitchen if needed.
Some of the items used to give Mary the impression of being a young, educated, career woman with traditional values:

Ben Shahn's January 18th to February 12th
Toulouse-Lautrec's Jane Avril, 1893

And her one modern touch, a futuristic Laurel lamp.

*The real location of the house was 2104 Kenwood Parkway, where the house is currently worth over three million dollars.

Apartment blueprint from here uncredited, though I think it's the work of artist Mark Bennett.

The Mary & Rhoda Magazine
The Mary Tyler Moore Show Online!


Abbey Goes Design Scouting said...

This is an awesome post! I love looking critically at TV/media and looking at how show producers make something seem authentic.

Rechelle said...

That is a cool post. I was never really into the Whole Mary thing - but I know she is a cult figure to some.