The One With Purple Walls: How design powerfully influenced Friends

(image courtesy IMP Awards)


“I said I think we should paint the wall purple. Everybody was really anxious about it. Nobody likes change until I painted the little model purple. Color is really important in terms of establishing the show identity. …One of the responsibilities of a production designer is to look into the future. If you can. We put a door all the way up this hallway and we really didn’t say where it went to. I said, why don’t we just wait and see where the story is taken.” (John Shaffner, Great Big Story, “Designing the Apartment in Friends” via Laughing Squid)

When we’re watching a show, and these days in the bountious plenty of the new golden ages of TV, that’s a lot of shows, one of the things we’re drawn to is the sense of place.

Sure we love the characters, and we’re utterly and completely drawn in by the storylines but there’s also a strong attachment to where all the action takes a place, which, in the right hands, can become a character in and of itself.

In the case of Friends, Monica’s apartment and the coffee shop gathering place Central Perk were not only the hub of narrative interaction but pivotal to the overall look and feel of the show as this marvelously illuminating video essay from Great Big Story featuring renowned set designer John Shaffner makes wonderfully clear.

Apart from a renewed appreciation of the importance of set design to the overseas televisual creative process, you will come to understand that colour is everything, the colour purple in particular.

Oh and mysterious doors to nowhere? Worth sticking around to see where they lead …


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I am an extrovertive gay man living in Sydney who loves Indian food, current affairs, music, film and reading, caramel anything, and a beautiful guy called Steve who makes every day a delight. I am trying to get two novels in a trilogy ready for e-publication, love my iPhone & iPod, and am secretly Canadian in my soul. Life is fun, exciting and joyful and I aim to make the absolute most of it!

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