On Set: Mad Men We sit down with the decorator that helps bring creator Matthew Weiner’s meticulous vision of the 1960s to life
Don and Megan’s penthouse: “This apartment was a lot of fun to figure out. It was hard because it was so big, and we kept bringing stuff in but it was like sand: it just never looked full.”
By Amanda Koellner
Design Bureau chatted with set decorator Claudette Didul to find out how she scoops such spot-on vintage pieces. I understand your father was in advertising around the same period of time that the show exists. Do you have memories going into an office similar to the ad agency we see on the show?
Definitely. There was a lot of Herman Miller and Knoll furniture. I remember the Pollock Chair, which doesn’t have a very good ergonomic way about it, giving him carpal tunnel. I always laugh because we’ve used that piece so many times on the show. What’s the process like for finding these amazing set decorations from the ‘60s?
atthew Weiner’s extreme attention to detail when it comes to the props and sets of his widely acclaimed television series Mad Men is as synonymous with the show as protagonist Don Draper’s womanizing ways. As the lore behind the hit AMC show (which will wrap its seventh and final season this spring) goes, Weiner once demanded a smaller size of prop fruit based on the shrunken sizes of ‘60s produce. Portrait by Amanda Bromberg, Photos courtesy of AMC
I go through a lot of vintage magazines and books, and sometimes find things online. This past year, I found a great interior design magazine from February of 1969 and most of the issue was about offices, which was great. It also proved that we were doing OK with what we’d been choosing for the past few years. Are the props and furniture a mixture of custom pieces based on what you find in your research and vintage scoops or largely one or the other?
It’s mostly vintage, and a lot of it comes from Craigslpist. It’s amazing what you can find there. Sometimes people know what they have, and other times, they have no idea and just want to get rid of it. I have some local vendors out here—Sun Beam Vintage will email me like, “Hey we got this great desk in; we just got these amazing credenzas.” How do you and production designer Dan Bishop work together, and at what point does Matthew jump into the process?
Usually Matthew has a very good idea of how he wants it all to look. He and Dan will have a meeting in the beginning of the season or whenever there’s a new set involved. Dan will come back and do some sketches of what he thinks the room or office would look like, and then we chat about what should fill it and go from there. Did you ever consider going into interior design?
I know a lot of decorators who would or have, but it kind of scares me because it’s so permanent. Sometimes a client might not know when to let go; I just think it would be difficult to do, and I’m not sure if I have the right skin for it. a