Thursday, October 25, 2012

TV and Movie Houses: The Golden Girls

One of my favorite all-time TV shows is The Golden Girls--the story of four ladies sharing a house, and a lot of laughs,  in Miami. NBC ran the show from 1985 til 1992 and while skeptics initially thought America wouldn't tune in to see a show about older women, it was in the top 10 for six of its seven seasons and won numerous Emmys. The show tackled some tough issues--from the (then relatively new) AIDS crisis, to the Cold War (which was just ending as the show began).

Sadly, of the four main characters, only Betty White is still with us. Each of the four women, in real life and in character, are fascinating and I could go on about them for pages. But, this being a design blog, I'll instead tackle the silent fifth star of the show--the Golden Girls' house. From the pilot episode, the house was an integral part of many plotlines. There were episodes that centered around the leaking roof, the garage renovation, the bathroom remodel, unsolicited offers to purchase it, and neighborly disputes over felled trees.

The exterior of the house is typical of the sort of ranch house that might have been built in Florida or California during the 70's--a long, rambling thing with a low pitched roof and a vaguely Polynesian flavor. While Blanche, Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia were said to live at 6151 Richmond Street in Miami, the REAL house used for the exterior shots is located at 245 N Saltair Ave in Brentwood, California.
Blanche owns the house for most of the series (in a later episode, she retitles the house in ALL of their names to avoid bureaucracy regarding tenants), having lived there with her late husband George. We know most of the furniture and decorating decisions were hers, because the house looks virtually the same during the pilot episode as it does throughout the show.
In one memorable scene, Blanche returns home with one of her many gentleman callers and trips the newly installed burglar alarm. Rose, who has been traumatized by an earlier robbery, fires a shot into the living room, ruining a cloisonne style vase that sat by the front door. Rose apologizes, pointing out that "At least I didn't shoot Lester!" but Blanche retorts "I'd rather you shot Lester!" while Sophia hides fragments of the vase in a potted plant to prevent Blanche repairing it.

A glimpse of the front entrance of the house...including Blanche's beloved vase (pronounced "vozzz", natch)
Much of the show's action takes place right here, in the girls' living room. The distressed wood doors throughout the house now look fresh again--Restoration Hardware has built whole collections around wood pieces with a similar finish. The furniture screams "80s"...rattan everything, peaches and teals. and the odd sprinkling of French style fautilles. Sophia once advised Blanche, "NO MORE WICKER!" and I have to agree!
The rear of the living room features a wall of glass overlooking the lanai, vaulted and skylit ceilings, and a fireplace. With some new furniture, I think this could be a very dynamic space.
How many cheesecakes were devoured around that kitchen table? (I just noticed those Chinese Chippendale chairs! Give those puppies a new coat of paint and some snazzy upholstery and they could be awesome!) The oak cabinetry, muted earth tone wallpaper, and butcher block counters are all children of the 80's...and the harvest gold wall phone looks to be leftover from the 70s. The wallpaper in this picture is the second used during the show. It replaced a small floral pattern in a similar color. The Golden Girls were not the first TV family to use this particular kitchen, though. In the short lived ABC series "It Takes Two" (from the 82-83 season), this same set was used in the home of its main characters.


  In one episode, the ladies set about replacing the toilet in this bright and spacious bathroom. Hilarity ensues, of course, but eventually they get it all put back together. Check out those colors! Teal and pink tiles cover the walls, and that hot pink shower curtain---have mercy! But the wall of glass overlooking a small walled garden and overall size of this bathroom make it memorable. Updated with a few acres of marble, this bath could be amazing.


Blanche's bedroom might as well be wearing shoulder pads it is such an 80's icon. Mauve wall to wall carpet, green laminate furniture, and a forest of palm leaves combine beneath her mirrored ceiling. But imagine that palm print by itself. Does it look familiar? It's a pattern designed in 1942 by legendary decorator Dorothy Draper called "Martinique" and has been a signature item at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Nate Berkus used it in his own dining room in Milan, and Nikki Hilton has apparently used it in her house. It's still available and when seen without the 80's colors Blanche had, makes a real retro-glam statement.

We rarely see the other girl's rooms, but in this episode Dorothy and her sister Gloria catch up in hers. The thin metal framed artwork over the bed is typical of what hangs on the walls throughout...and her headboard reveals that the wicker isn't confined to the living room. The glimpses of the secondary bedrooms indicate that they are all large enough to accomodate a sitting area in addition to the usual sleeping functions, which has made me think the Golden Girls house might be a perfect floor plan for the increasing number of multi-generational households.

A number of people online  have attempted to recreate the floor plan. It's no easy task...as with many sets, there are a lot of things that just don't jive. The plan above takes some liberties, but attempts to marry the plan to the elevation we are all used to. It also puts Blanche's room back at the front of the house, where it appeared in some of the first episodes.

While very similar to the first plan, I think this one captures the dynamic living room better. Again, Blanche's room is at the front of the house. I could see this plan working very well with a few tweaks. I'd give each bedroom it's own bath, and open the kitchen up to the living area, but otherwise it's pretty solid as it is.

Are you a fan of the Golden Girls? What were some of your favorite moments from the show? What suggestions do you have for the floor plan?

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20 comments:

  1. What a fun post! I get requests to write about the Golden Girls house all the time but have never gotten around to it. From now on I'll just send them over here!

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    1. I'd love to see your take on the house too Julia! I wasn't able to find many pictures of their "lanai", and I could probably have gone on and on, showing pictures of the plantation Blanche grew up on (it made a few appearances), or the Brooklyn apartment the Petrillo family called home.

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  2. I was wondering if you happened to know anything about the painting of oranges that hangs in the kitchen - I have yet to be able to find the artist's name or where I could find a print. Thank you for all of the great info! -Jill

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    1. Sure don't, but you've got me intrigued! I'll see if I can dig up anything. Stay tuned!

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    2. Ok. So if you were so intrigued by my question about the oranges painting, why haven't you followed through with digging up anything about it? Its been 8 months for goodness sakes. Just how long am i supposed to 'stay tuned'? Lazy blogger. -Jill

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    3. Hey Jill, I did some digging (eight months ago) and didn't turn up anything on it. Sorry!

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    4. Hi Southgate,
      I was just doing some searching again and came across this thread again... I'd love to know who the coward was that wrote that nasty follow up to my question, calling you lazy, and using my name to sign their anonymous response! Unreal.
      From the real Jill, thank you for trying to find out more. Please let us know should you ever learn anything about the print. :-)

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    5. Well thank you for saying that! No worries...if I come across anything Ill be sure to post it.

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  3. Very fun article and good analysis! About the only statement I disagree with is that you rarely see the other girls' rooms besides Blanche's. Without actually counting, if I had to guess the amount of times you see each girl's room from most to least would be Sophia's, Dorothy's, Blanche's then Rose's. That being said Blanche's room is the only one that truly has a distinct style to it and requires analysis.

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    1. Was watching some old episodes recently, and I have to agree with you. There were several episodes that took place in Sophia's that come to mind right away...
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. The two floor plans shown here confuse me a little - that "second entrance" in the kitchen (by the phone) was often used what to me seemed like a back door (Dorothy often came in with her purse on which then she took off, of when the neighbour doctor popped in with his dog...) but in these floor plans that space does not connect to the exterior. Am I right in pointing this out or am I missing something. BTW what a fun post - really! Thanks.

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    1. No you're right...and if you remember the episode where they remodeled the garage it was back through that door. I think it's one of those things that just doesn't jive with the exterior they chose. And you're welcome! I love doing these movie houses

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    2. I read that they used an actual house in the first season but moved to a set the rest of the seasons. Maybe that's why they remodeled, to keep the story line. And this is where the confusion may lie....just a thought!

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    3. Not true. They used a set the entire time. The set was originally built for a different, canceled show set in Chicago.

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  5. I have been wondering what it might cost to replicate Golden Girls home, on my own land in Central Ohio?

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  6. Also Sophia's bathroom connects to the wall of Dorthy's bedroom cause Dorthy said she can hear Sophia slam the lid

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  7. 70s ranch style, slightly Polynesian... love the gardens and the moon over the house on the intro

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  8. Thank you for this well-planned, well written article! I too have always loved the wonderful layout of this infamous home, indelibly engrained in probably more people's minds then those the world over might care to admit! You article was very interesting, succinct and informative. I was, however, wondering if you have any sort guesstimate on say the rooms, the kitchen and the house overall? I realize this is a bit of a seemingly silly question, but I ask because it's long been a design whose eloquent features I'd LOVE to recreate as an ideal dream home! It's spacious rooms, easy to traverse, incredibly functional layout with lots of space would be a real dream come true! Any additional information you might have as too sizes, square footage (both rooms and open areas overall) would really be a help in deciding whether or not to recreate a real home very similar to it. Any info you might find would be greatly appreciated! Again, kudos to you on the article as is, and thank you in advance for any further information you may able to provide. God blessed you and keep you! :-)

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    1. Thank you! The show, and the house, have always been one of my favorites. I would guess the house is about 3500-4000 square feet.

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  9. Really nice article! My wife and I have been talking about building and it would be cool to build using floorplans of tv or even movie houses! I suppose we could never have Dallas' Southfork however, with the right architect you could do smaller scale.. Just a thought!
    Regards!
    Sam

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