Wanted: a one bedroom, fourth-floor, Upper East Side walk-up, just off of Madison Avenue.
"How easy would it have been to just find a place like that listed in the Sunday Times Real Estate section?" muses Jeremy Conway. But no such luck: Sex and the City's Production Designer was asked to build Carrie's small but stylish apartment - as well as digs for Charlotte, Samantha, Miranda and Big - from scratch on a soundstage at Long Island City's Silvercup Studios. "The benefit, of course, is that a set allows you more flexibility and control," he says. "It's much easier to light and shoot, and if you don't like a wall...well, you move it."
Conway makes it sound so simple, but the truth is a great deal of effort and analysis goes into designing each of the show's interiors. "There's actually a lot of psychology involved," he explains. "In the beginning, there was a great deal of design and thought that went into each of the characters' apartments. We employed a particular color theory for each of them that helped in identifying character and personality. The idea is to be able to look at a room and say, 'Now that's very Carrie.'"
And if Carrie's abode looks a little familiar, then he's done his job well. "The thing about our show, is the stories come out of everyday occurrences," he says. "So it has to seem as if we're getting a look into the way these people really spend each day. It can't be too extravagant or neat as a pin, because let's face it - how many single women live like that?"
"We realized that what Carrie has in her apartment is not what she's all about," Conway explains. "She's not a decorator, but there's definitely a sense of style in the way she's put things together." The walls are a soft shade of celery green washed with a lavender iridescent glaze ("it looks better on screen - it has a glow about it," Conway explains). The size of the apartment is realistic as well: "I try to keep everything small, because that's what New York City apartments are," he says.
All the furniture in Carrie's apartment has a flea market feel - weathered paint, mismatched chairs and tables, lived-in fabrics - and for a good reason: many of the pieces were snatched up by Conway and his tea m at New York City flea markets and second-hand stores. The two main elements of the living room are the "Aidan Chair" and a large circular coffee table. The chair is slightly stained and ripped, Conway points out, "because if you recall, Aidan tells Carrie he pulled the leather from an old pullman car." Conway searched for a table that would be ideal for the girls to gather around and gab - but couldn't find one that fit the bill. So he took matters into his own hands - literally. "I built one, and it was exactly what we were envisioning," he says.
Conway makes sure every detail in Carrie's apartment is authentic - from the cracked plaster on the bathroom walls to the braided telephone wires snaking over the doorways. "Some of these details may not even end up on the screen, but it helps support the actors, because they feel as if they're in a real place."
Rarely do TV shows pay such particular attention to daily changes on the set, he adds. "We'll go so far as to move current magazines through. That way if you catch a glimpse of the Vogue on Carrie's coffee table, it's not three years old."
A visitor to the stage would have no trouble figuring out which character lives here: dozens of matchbooks are collected in various bowls and shopping bags - from Barney's, Jimmy Choo, Bergdorf's and other high-end stores - are hung on the backs of doorknobs. Stacked on the coffee table are books on subjects near and dear to Carrie's heart (case in point: a volume dedicated to the art of Manolo Blahnik shoes) as well as an ashtray brimming with butts.
The bathroom sink and bathtub are adorned with beauty products (everything from Kiehls moisturizer and Christian Dior blush to a wide array of Bobbi Brown brushes collected in a Krispy Creme donuts mug). The kitchen contains an eclectic assortment of stemware ("various glasses Carrie has picked up from her nights out on the town") and the fridge is plastered with magnets and family photos - many from Sarah Jessica Parker's personal collection. "We've purposely decorated with a little bit of this, a little bit of that," Conway explains. "And definitely lots of little touches that are Sarah Jessica's - it makes her feel like this is really her place, her friends, her life."
"We know that Carrie would have some deadline or date to meet," he continues." She doesn't have the time to neatly arrange her products or stack her shoes in the closet. She's more of a 'Leave 'em where they fall' kind of woman. It's what we like to call organized chaos."
Because Carrie is a journalist (not to mention a fashionista), publications are her life. She has hundreds of magazine back issues organized for easy reference on shelves in her foyer - everything from Mademoiselle and Vogue to The New Yorker and Gourmet. "Reading material is everywhere - books abound," adds Conway. The shelf over Carrie's bed, the basket under her desk, even the makeshift radiator cover (doubling as a nightstand) are covered with volumes. "There is no doubt that the person who lives here deals with words on a daily basis," he says. "They're all around her."
There are a few cookbooks in the kitchen, he adds, "But Carrie can't cook, so she would never use them. What gets read most in there are the dozens of takeout menus - arguably the most important tool of a [New York City] single person's life."
played by Sarah Jessica Parker
No one captures the lives of the lovelorn and the love-seeking in New York City better than columnist Carrie Bradshaw does.
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