Home & Design

Home, Home on the TV Screen

IN OUR ISOLATION, I think we should all take phone pix of our home settings and post them online or at least feature different rooms on Zoom. Then we’ll have the illusion of “visiting” (and distant friends can finally see that digital chinoiserie wallpaper we keep talking about—okay, I’ll just stop talking about it).

Short of that, we’re getting a glimpse into the home lives of the hosts and pundits who fill our late-night and early-morning TV screens. Some, like Stephen Colbert, make gentle references to wife and sons; others—talking about you here, Jimmy Fallon—have adorable little girls who crawl all over them and have basically become co-stars. There are kitchens and dining rooms and family rooms and attic spaces set up as home studios. From what I’ve seen, there are lots of bookcases, but Samantha Bee has addressed the “where to set up the home studio” problem by shooting Full Frontal With Samantha Bee outdoors, along what looks like a fire road in the woods. And of course CNN’s Chris Cuomo, suffering from the virus, continues his show from his basement, often checking in with brother New York State governor Andrew Cuomo.

I mentioned bookcases. That’s about all we get to see of John Krasinski’s setup in his new Some Good News (though the set is straight, Krasinski does seem to do his job wearing a coat, tie and . . . boxer shorts. Not much more than shelves to see in Trevor Noah’s penthouse apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, on Manhattan’s West Side, but there were pix of the aerie-like pad when it was a real estate listing; those won’t tell us what the  decor is like now, but we can get a glimpse of what made the host of what is now called The Daily Social Distancing Show pay $10 million for the place.

The nothing-but-the-bookcase approach is bland but doesn’t distract from news of the day, which is important to the morning shows. But we do get a peek at what seems to be CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King’s lower-level family room, a corner of NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell’s house and a nice, bright glimpse of the Connecticut kitchen of Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts (though she seems to broadcast mostly from an entertainment area in her lower-level family room, wearing her yellow slippers).

Here’s what a few of these TV people are showing us.

Tom Hanks hosts “Saturday Night Live” on April 11, 2020, from his kitchen. / NBC.

In his post-coronavirus-infection Saturday Night Live monologue on April 11, actor Tom Hanks said he was “more like America’s dad than ever before” because “no one wants to be around me very long, and I make people uncomfortable.” By contrast, the Hanks/Rita Wilson home kitchen, the setting for his appearance, makes us quite comfortable. There are Shaker-style cabinets in what looks like a cherry finish, counters crowded with what the appliance industry calls “small electrics,” assorted clutter corralled into corners, a peninsula with white cone pendant lights overhead—and the “open” concept that allows us to view all of this. (The glass-front upper cabinets holding dishes and glassware look quite orderly, I must say.)

If the kitchen looks familiar to those who’ve done a kitchen in the past 20 years and not overly glamorous, it is both of those things, and nothing wrong with that. It has the lived-in comfort of the sweatpants Hanks said he’d been wearing since March 11 (for the show, he wore a suit and tie).

The daily digs of regular SNL cast members also showed up in Zoom clips—lots of clutter, some very “spare” decor, as in little visible furniture, and a couple of cramped New York galley kitchens. But if there’s ever a shortage of stainless steel, one could do worse than round up the appliances of this group.

 

“CBS This Morning” co-host Anthony Mason in his dining room. / CBS News.

While Tom Hanks stood in front of his kitchen for his guest appearance, CBS This Morning co-host Anthony Mason goes one better: He has taken over the dining room of his family’s sprawling prewar Upper West Side apartment for his daily hosting duties. According to the Los Angeles Times, the shot is set up each morning by Mason’s college-student son Nick, which suggests that the family may dismantle everything and use the room for its intended purpose each evening. The co-host is fine with people commenting on his decor, including the splashy painting of Venice’s Piazza San Marco over his shoulder (though someone should rehang those pix so they make visual sense). He didn’t want the place to be like “a slick-looking TV studio: It’s a New York apartment,” he told the Times. But there’s a whole raft of TV equipment, of course, including a ring light, used to light faces evenly, perched on top of a stack of books, far right.

 

Seth Meyers of “Late Night With Seth Meyers” shown in the attic-space studio in his Connecticut country home. / Late Night With Seth Meyers, NBC.

Seth Meyers of Late Night With Seth Meyers has played around with his quarantine “set,” winding up in this “attic crawl space” and asking mock-leading questions about the little chair in the corner and the tiny door and what might be behind it. The black hardware on the doors echoes the place’s age and rustic feel, as does the little spool-style table on which rests first one copy, then two, of the steamy 1977 family saga The Thorn Birds. Meyer’s “studio” is not in his $7.5-million eight-room duplex in  Greenwich Village, which was featured in Architectural Digest. It’s the Meyers family’s 18th-century Litchfield, Connecticut, Georgian home, which has an easy charm that is as curated-craft as it is rustic. That’s thanks to wife Alexi Ashe’s designer sister, Ariel Ashe, now a design partner with Reinaldo Leandro. Putting the set in this quaint space keeps us viewers from swooning over the elevated-country furnishings in the Greenwich Village apartment, including two $4,500 silk pendant light fixtures and a $7,100 burl oak console from the Ashe Leandro collection for Ruemmler furniture. In Connecticut the furnishings, Ariel Ashe says, are from eBay, flea markets and local antiques shops.

 

Jimmy Fallon reports from the family room, with a “Mary Had a Little Lamb”-playing Winnie in the background. Note the Little Drummer Boy-style drum bar against the back wall. / The Tonight Show, Home Edition, NBC.

There is so much going on on the home set of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” that it’s hard to peg the aesthetic. It’s not been hard for Winnie and Franny (far right, holding a paper snake she will soon use to attack Fallon) to steal the show from Dad. / The Tonight Show, Home Edition, NBC.

It’s hard to know what the story is at The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, now that the action is taking place in the host’s home. There’s so much going on, one element contradicting the next, but I’m going to take a shot: The theme is . . . theme park, several of them. There are the Snow White and Seven Dwarfs figures hanging on one wall, a drum kit mostly hidden behind a puffy sofa, a theater-size popcorn machine, an adult-size chute (not shown) that lands mid family room. At least I hope this is the family room, though some stories have called it the living room (but I guess that’s fair when the living includes 4- and 6-year-old girls Franny and Winnie and Gary, the dog). Upstairs is more subdued though no less quirky, with wood-paneled walls plus stair handrails and beams that look like tree trunks and branches whose bark has been peeled.

Okay, I’m stopping now, visually exhausted.

 

Stephen Colbert, of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” did a show from his bathtub . . . / The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, CBS.

. . . then decamped to his New Jersey backyard, but has since settled in an indoor corner with bookshelves containing books that actually look as though they’ve been read. / The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, CBS.

Stephen Colbert has staged episodes of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert from various places in and around his Montclair, New Jersey, home. The bathroom has a nice combination of modern style (the glassed-in shower stall) and traditional (the wainscoting and the soaking tub with the Victorian-style exposed tub filler). The patio seems a bit bleak, perhaps because of the season. The trelliswork is nice, but the cast-aluminum chairs and table seem pretty random. And the firepit . . . well, it’s a firepit.

 

Former Fed chair Alan Greenspan focuses on the feed from his wife, NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell, all business up top and comfort (sneakers) below. / NBC News.

The home of NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell is a charming old farmhouse on a winding, almost-rural road in Washington, DC. That’s not what this setup looks like, for sure. The tall, tailored curtains make for a neutral background for Mitchell’s broadcast segments, and the rest of the space, clearly a home office, is swathed in drop cloths, leaving very little opportunity for style to shine through. Two charming notes about this broadcast are Mitchell’s sneakers, worn with her very proper television dress, and her husband, 94-year-old former chair of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, monitoring her work, all got up in a suit and tie.

 

Al Roker and Pepper, seen (by millions) at home in New York. / Today, NBC.

Al Roker and his trusty laptop in the kitchen. / Today, NBC.

Today show weather guy Al Roker and wife, TV journalist Deborah Roberts, own my dream house. It’s an Upper East Side town house (okay, that may be too much vertical living for me) that sits quietly on its street not far from the Metropolitan Museum of Art exuding solidity. The TV couple bought the house some years back for several million dollars, and it’s certainly worth at least three times that now, or whenever the pandemic is over.

Roker’s been quoted as saying he always thought a town house “was real New York living,” and it’s hard to argue. What I admire about the place is the low-key nods to the home’s age—the wainscoting in what I assume is the dining room, the simple fireplace mantel, even those venetian blinds in the kitchen, which I’m guessing are wood. But it’s a cleaned-up traditional, light and airy-feeling (which is sometimes hard because attached town houses are narrow and deep and usually get light only from front and back windows and often a skylight). We can’t see much of the wall behind Roker in the top picture, but there seems to be a hand-painted (or perhaps wallpaper) mural adding interest above the chair rail (I love chair rails).

Pepper, the Rokers’ rescue pup, is of course a great selling point—for the homeowners, not the house—but so’s the kitchen. From what I can see of the upper cabinets, they’re a bit beyond the usual without anything tricked-up going on. And, unseen in these images, is the kitchen island, one that makes sense: It’s one of those stainless-steel tables sold by restaurant-supply places, narrow and on wheels so you can move it to where it’s needed for the real purpose of a kitchen, meal preparation.

When the Rokers move on to their next place, and when I win the lottery, I’ll buy it from them—if there’s a way to install an elevator.

—Nancy McKeon

 

 



7 thoughts on “Home, Home on the TV Screen

  1. Mary Wisniewski says:

    Social media latched on to Tom Hanks’ kitchen with skepticism. People thought a multimillionaire movie star would have a huge, sleek open-plan kitchen. He said on “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me” last week that it was the kitchen of his office/man cave, a separate structure from his house. Since Tom and I aren’t on drop-in terms, I don’t know the truth.

  2. Hi, Nancy. I see it as an American take on English country manor. A bit simpler, some pure New England looks here and there. And of course, I always pick a little Chanel frock when I’m going to go wander in the barn… Cheerio!

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      oh me too, absolutely . . .

  3. Carol says:

    My favorite is Samantha Powers’ home office since it looks more like mine.
    I don’t know how to send a picture.

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      Could you paste in a link to the site where you see her office?

  4. Fun article! I have found during this period of bad, bad news that focusing on the reporter’s home backdrop can be a welcome relief. (And I’m tempted to call to offer some advice to a few!)

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      Well, Seth Meyers is open to constructive criticism. He invited Martha Stewart to visit virtually and give him her opinion. She suggested, very nicely, that the big white (alabaster, I’m guessing) lamp in his attic setup is too tall and too skinny for that spot. Let’s see if he or his very talented designer sister-in-law switches out the lamp! Margaret, do us all a favor: In my story, I inserted a link to pictures of the Meyerses’ Greenwich Village home. I labeled the interior something like “elevated country” but I know that’s not good enough. What would you call it?

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