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It’s hard to recall a show that’s been as eagerly awaited as And Just Like That…, billed by HBO as “a new chapter of Sex and the City.” Don’t call it a comeback — though it picks up after the original’s end and the two movies that followed, it’s been a full 12 years since we saw these characters on the screen. And though we may be Samantha-less (hopefully just for the time being), some things haven’t changed, including watercooler-worthy fashions and, yes, iconic interiors. 

This new season gives us a plethora of spaces to visull explore, from fabulous new apartments to homes that have been updated for the times (you won’t see Carrie’s answering machine make an appearance, at least as far as we know). And that’s in addition to every other room where we see the cast, from restaurants to event spaces and — of course — boutiques. To learn more about how this incredible world was devised, we spoke with Emmy award-winning set decorator Carol Silverman, who worked on creating newfound environments for these beloved characters. See what she had to say, and check out some of our favorite sets and pieces from the show, including quite a few finds from Chairish (most notably Carrie’s cherished yellow table lamp). And be sure to shop our curation of pieces inspired by those used on the show.

Sarah Jessica Parker in And Just Like That…

And Just Like That…

How did you first get involved with And Just Like That…? At what stage did you come in? 

The sets were beginning to be set up on the sound stages, so it was a bit later than usual. Producer John Melfi reached out to a mutual friend, production designer Bob Shaw, as the show was still looking for a decorator. I happened to be available just then, so it worked out. Some big decisions about the design had already been made but there was room for me to have input.

Once you read the script, what got you excited from a set design and decoration standpoint?  

Oh my gosh! The opportunity to pick up these iconic characters from 2010 when we last saw them and create new spaces for them is a decorator’s dream come true. And a big responsibility as well! I’m a fan of Sex and the City, I’m the same age as the characters, and I’ve lived in New York for many years, so I felt confident that I could bring something personal to the conversation. One of my goals in the decoration was to give the fans something they could take away and bring to their own homes. Chairish is a great source that’s available to everyone. That’s something I kept in mind.

What is your design mantra on set? 

“Yes, and…” is a well known tenet of improvisational comedy. That’s my approach too. All ideas are welcome. Never let the first response be “no.” I’ll pull out a big pile of swatches and samples and pictures of furniture and research books and just start pinning things to the walls. The assistant decorators join in as well. Then we walk away and sleep on it. When we come back, the ideas that work really stand out and we go from there.

Charlotte's bedroom in And Just Like That...
Charlotte and Harry’s bedroom, featuring a 1940’s Louis XIV-style bed from Chairish

Since the show may feature some familiar sets and locations,  there is a level of attention to detail, research, and inspiration. Is Chairish a go-to source for your projects that require certain pieces? 

Chairish is often the first place I look for all kinds of things from lamps to dining tables to rugs, anything and everything, especially when the piece needs to have a certain level of design. I always find lots of great choices. Just scrolling through, sometimes I find surprises that turn out to be the perfect thing.

What are some of your favorite pieces from Chairish that appeared in And Just Like That…? Do you have a story to share about any of those pieces from Chairish? 

There was an early Deco salon set in Carrie and Big’s bedroom. We were getting very close to filming and I felt that arrangement still needed something. I had some small Deco tables, but they didn’t feel right. I was frantically searching Chairish for the perfect thing. I found an adorable 1960s Adrian Pearsall round cork end table. But I wondered if the juxtaposition of the early- and mid-20th century pieces would be weird. Happily, the table looked great in the room. It worked as a bridge between the antiques and the modern pieces. The first day of filming in the apartment, Michael Patrick King pointed at it and said, “Great!” 

In another story of searching everywhere for a very particular thing, I needed a yellow lamp. It was going to be highly featured. We bought so many yellow lamps but none of them were right. Cynthia Nixon was directing that episode. She and Michael and I had different ideas about what that lamp could be. I found a 70s yellow Crayonne Habitat Moon lamp on Chairish. It has so much character and looks like a little robot. Sarah Jessica loved it. Together, we sold everyone on how well it worked for the scene. It makes its appearance in Episode 6. 

Sarah Jessica Parker in And Just Like That...
Sarah Jessica Parker with Carrie’s beloved 1970’s lamp from Chairish

On Set Decorating…

What kickstarted your interest in set decorating? 

I’ve always liked furniture and objects. I had a dollhouse that I spent hours decorating. My mom used to rearrange the furniture in our living room constantly and made every curtain and throw pillow in our house, as well as many of her and my clothes. She was extremely creative. We had a book about art in revolutionary France in which I saw wallpaper with a fleur-de-lis pattern. I decided my bedroom rug would look better like that so I took a magic marker to it. What I ended up with was a rug with wavy lines and a time out!

What inspired you to pursue a career in the field? 

I actually fell in love with theater in high school and majored in it in undergrad at SUNY Oneonta. I tried out every role: acting, stage management, makeup, costumes. What stuck was props, building or sourcing the perfect object for its purpose in the play. Set dressing and props are separate departments in TV and film, but in theater, it’s all one. I’ve had to get sections of bleachers, traffic lights, professional gymnastics floors, every kind of kitchen appliance, you name it. 

Eventually, I moved to New York and worked my way up to the prop crew on some Broadway shows, such as Angels in America, Victor/Victoria, Gypsy with Bernadette Peters, The Heidi Chronicles and The Red Shoes. There is nothing more romantic than standing on a Broadway stage looking out at an empty house and imagining all of the actors who’ve trod those boards and all of the audiences they’ve played to. Their ghosts are all around you.

In theater, there’s a rehearsal process, then production when the show moves into the theater, and then public performances. Once the props are set, you come in every night and run the show the same way. I discovered that what I liked most was the initial period of research, finding things, making choices, and putting it together. That’s what set decorating is — and that’s the twisty road that led me to it.

Carrie and Big's dining room in And Just Like That...
Carrie and Big’s apartment, with vases on the shelves from Chairish

Was there a particular film that resonated with you? 

It was a musical that started me on this journey. I went on a class trip to see Pippin on Broadway, and that was kind of it. Talk about “Magic to Do” (the opening number of the show)… they sure did some on me. 

What is your artistic process like? 

I like to start by casting a wide net. I look at books and decorating magazines, go to furniture stores and decorator showrooms in the Decoration and Design Building and the New York Design Center at 200 Lexington, get a feel for what’s out in the world, get inspired. Then, by reading the script and having many conversations with the production designer and director, I start to bring the decoration of the sets into focus. There are always many changes along the way to the final product. You have to be ready to roll with it.

Charlotte's dining room in And Just Like That...
A view through to Charlotte and Harry’s dining room, featuring a set of 19th-century Chippendale dining chairs from Chairish

On the Process…

Tell us a little bit about the working and collaboration relationship between the production designer and set decorator. 

There is usually a lot of communication going on between the production designer and the decorator. We’ll have our heads together all the time about everything from the tiniest details to the grand overview of the whole project. The designer usually has an idea of how they want a space to look, and it’s my job to bring their ideas into reality. It’s always different though, depending on who you’re working with. Some designers like to go shopping with the decorator and some are more focused on architecture and paint finishes. Miguel Lopez Castillo, the production designer for And Just Like That…, took more of the latter approach.

A set can literally be any place, from outer space to the bottom of the ocean to a teenager’s bedroom. The production designer has to imagine all of it. The art directors draw up the plans, the construction department builds it, the scenic artists paint it, and the set decorators bring in everything else.

How soon before production begins does the set decorator and their team begin working? What are your initial tasks?

It depends on the size of the project. For a small movie with a 30-day shoot, you might have a month at best and your team is you and a production assistant. For And Just Like That…, I had three months, four assistant decorators, a coordinator, and a production assistant. We had a lot to do! On any show, the first step is to read the script and break it down. By the time the set dec department starts, it’s usually been decided which sets will be built on a soundstage and which will be locations, so we can set priorities. For a built set, we have to source and supply all of the hardware, any flooring material other than wood, plumbing fixtures, tile, and wallpaper. It’s a big job. 

How do you approach designing for so many different genres and time periods?

Research is key to any project. I start from reality or as close to reality as I can reasonably get to find representative images and start the conversation with the production designer and director. Set decoration is storytelling. There’s a balance between being absolutely true to history and telling the story of the particular show you’re working on.

How is designing for TV or the movies different from designing at home?

For television and movie sets, you have to think about telling the story of the characters, how the set will photograph, supporting the director of photography with your lighting fixtures, supporting the director by arranging the furniture for the best shooting angles; you’re thinking about the technical aspects along with the aesthetic. Directors of photography usually want a lot of lamps in a room to motivate their lighting. That’s something you might not realize as a viewer until you look for it. Check out how many lamps are in the next show you watch!

Miranda's house in And Just Like That...
An overhead view of Miranda and Steve’s living room, with their kitchen in the back; the antique oak kitchen table is from Chairish

Some Favorites…

What is your approach to design in your own home? 

I like to keep things simple and comfortable. I do have kind of a lot of chairs, though. 

What is your favorite decor piece in your home and why?

I have a vintage Eames LCW chair that I got years ago at a long-vanished antique store in the East Village. It makes me happy every time I look at it. The ultimate in functional design. I also have a pair of DCW chairs I got at the 25th Street Flea Market. They look like they were in someone’s barn for a while. They’re in kind of rough shape, but I love that about them. At the other end of the chair spectrum, I have a mismatched pair of Art Nouveau side chairs I bought at Stair Auction in Hudson for Boardwalk Empire. They are so delicate and beautiful. No one is allowed to sit on them! I really do love chairs. 

What is your favorite decorating cheap thrill?

Fabric! I’m attracted to the tactility of fabric. If I see something I really like, I’ll buy a piece of it, like a yard or two and use it as a throw or a curtain or even a scarf. I don’t even hem them. Linen and denim are usually 60” wide, enough for a 30” round table. 

What is your favorite paint color?  

Benjamin Moore Ozark Shadows is an excellent neutral. It can look warm or cool, light or dark depending on the light in the room. We used it a lot on Boardwalk Empire and I came to love it. Farrow & Ball Borrowed Light is also a great color. A pale blue room has a timeless feeling.

What is a favorite design destination you think every decor lover should visit at least once?

The Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago

Carrie's desk in And Just Like That...
Carrie’s iconic writing desk

Who are your favorite design influences and icons?

Henry Dreyfuss, the industrial designer, is one of my favorites. The form of so many things we take for granted, that are so familiar as to seem as though they were never designed to begin with, came from his mind. Interestingly, he began his career as a theater designer. Charles and Ray Eames are iconic to me. Their designs are classic, functional, and beautiful. Their Time Life desk chair was released in 1961 and you still see it every day. In fact, I put one in Carrie and Big’s apartment.

What’s your favorite thing about Chairish? 

I can easily find local vendors. We often need things quickly so that’s important. I’ve gotten to know some of them and return to them again and again. The interface is well designed and easy to navigate. I appreciate that I can put in an offer. I like that it’s a source that’s available to everyone, not just designers and decorators. More than once, I’ve stayed up way too late scrolling for treasures. I feel confident that everything is of good quality.

Besides the films you’ve worked on, what movie have you seen the most in your life?

A Room With A View. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen it. Hearing the opening music takes me right back to the first time at the Paris Theater in New York with my best friend. It’s such a beautiful film. Many years after that first viewing, I had the opportunity to work with Daniel Day-Lewis on a very low budget movie called The Ballad of Jack and Rose, directed by his wife, Rebecca Miller. He is a charming and extremely talented person. 

Where do you like to go for inspiration? 

I’m very lucky to live exactly one mile from the Metropolitan Museum in New York. I go there all the time. There’s always something that will spark new ideas.

All images by Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

January 14, 2022

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