14 things to read about Mad Men


Mad Men is reaching its end and as the airing of the last episode comes closer, I feel more and more like Don Draper: I wonder what will become of my future, my days are meaningless, emptiness invades my life.

This series is one of those (few) series you can watch again and again and find new meanings and nuances that the first time had gone unnoticed. Matthew Weiner was able to slide plot keys in seemingly innocent but loaded with content places. Clothes on the floor, a shelf that seems to collapse, a wine-stained carpet. Everything means something.

Throughout these years hundreds of articles have been written on the series, every millimeter of each frame has been analyzed with the hope of finding out who is Don Draper. Instead of writing another article, I have decided to select some interesting pieces and interviews I’ve been reading over these past seven seasons. I have included some articles that I wrote in the blog too.

edward-hopper-wallpaperEdward Hopper’s influence on the aesthetics of the series
Alienation, anxiety and loneliness of Hopper’s paintings marked the cinema of the 40s, especially Hitchcock (as seen in Rear Window). The aesthetics of the American painter returns to our screens through Mad Men. A good analysis of the numerous references written by Carlos Reviriego.

8003_G27_fr46.tifFrom the beginning
Mad Men creators talk about the evolution of the series, from the first drafts until now.

About tales and short stories in the structure of the script
A great article by Enrique Vila-Matas about the fragmentation of the stories inside the series, where each moment can be appreciated as an independent story.

The movies that defined Mad Men
The films you have to see to understand the visual aesthetics of the series. North by Northwest, The Apartment, Vertigo… As recommended by Matthew Weiner.

The decorations, the furniture and the interior design
An analysis about most iconic decorations of the series, their meaning on the story and their relation to the characters through their evolution. This video is great too.

16 things you can learn thanks to Mad Men
Keep a change of clean clothes in your office, be mysterious, pretend to shoot your neighbor’s pigeons to release stress, and other lessons by the Draper family.

Captura de pantalla 2015-04-27 a la(s) 00.27.26Sally
Matthew Weiner and Kiernan Shipka (Sally in the series, what a great character), talk about what it means to grow up on the screen. 

Behind the cameras
Great photographs James Minchin taking during the filmings.

The costumes
Janie Bryant, costume designer, explains the details behind some of the most iconic outfits (there are just so many).

120326_mad-men-13_p323 copiaIt’s toasted’
The real ads that were published in The New Yorker during the time that the series takes place.

The editorial by Annie Leibovitz
A couple of years ago, Annie Leibovitz photographed January Jones and Jon Hamm as Betty and Don for Vanity Fair. The result is just astounding

don-draper-women-00The women of Don Draper
A walk through all the feminine characters in Don’s life, in illustrations.

madmen-annieleibovitz3Life cost
How much would you have to pay to live in an apartment like Peggy’s today? And for the three Martinis they have at lunches with clients? Here you have a price index to get an idea. 

dondraperinfernoWhat’s reading Don Draper?
An exhaustive list of every book that has appeared on the series. Included those on the shelves whose titles you can barely distinguish.

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Mad Men’s interior design and set decorations


Mad Men is the perfect series. The script is brilliant. The lines are gold. The actors are outstanding. And the production design is so good it can’t be described without sounding too excited. Well, what can I say when we are on Season 7 and we have been fainting over every dress showcased in each and every episode? Janie Bryant, costume designer of the show, is a genius. Period. But today I wanted to dedicate an article to the interior design and set decorations of the TV phenomena.

Dan Bishop (production designer), and Claudette Didul (set decorator since Season 4) are the two main creative forces behind Mad Men‘s visual treasures. Along with Matthew Weiner, creator of the show, who is known for his rigorous loyalty to history. Every detail needs to be checked in order to verify that it could have been used in the date in which the action is taking place. There is a story that reflects Weiner’s obsession: apparently, he once made his set decorator swap out a bowl of apples because they looked too large to be from the sixties. The choice of objects and furniture used in the sets is extensively researched. Bishop says he achieves realism by avoiding cliché: “staying away from the iconographic examples of mid-century modern furnishings. For example, we try to avoid Barcelona chairs and whatever is in every mid-century modern magazine today. We use more obscure examples, not necessarily by famous designers.” (via).

The colors and shapes evolve with the story. The brown and dark tones used in the first episodes slowly showed an evolution towards brighter shades, primary colors, happier images. This was more evidently perceived in Season 5, where Don was much more optimistic.

knoll-herman-miller(image source)

The sets are full of iconic design pieces, such as the Eames Walnut Table (the one in the conference room), the Noguchi table, the Eames executive chair (the one that Don uses)… The famous modern furniture stores Herman Miller and Knoll are two of the most important collaborators in the show, and they provide many of the furniture you see in the scenes, such as the Eames chairs and sofas. Some of the sofas are from Knoll. The built-in televisions come from Harry Poster, a vintage seller specialized in TV sets. And I know you’re curious: the beverage carts are from Well Appointed House. Other pieces are found at outlets such as Sherman Oaks. Many of the vintage items are actually found at Etsy, like the Cathrineholm Lotus bowls.

And I haven’t even talked about the hotels decorations, such as The Carlyle, The Plaza, the Waldorf Astoria, all done by Claudette Didul. Here you can find an excellent article on this subject.

Don and Megan’s apartment in New Yorkmad-men-interiors24 Claudette Didul designed the interiors of this beautiful apartment in Manhattan where Don and Megan begin their happy marriage. Show creator Matt Weiner ­requested a sunken living room, “like a conversation pit” (via). The inspiration for the decoration was drawn from the original interiors that Betty Pepis designed in the sixties. Lots of orange is used here. If you want to check the references, here you have Didul’s inspiration list: a book called Decoration U.S.A. by Jose Wilson and Arthur Leaman, a New York Times decorating book from 1965, and lots of House Beautiful and House and Garden magazines (via).mad-men-interiors19mad-men-interiors31 ?????????????????? The fridge is an original 1964 General Motors Frigidaire, a very rare edition. mad-men-interiors16

Don’s office (the latest one)don-drapers-office
Don sits on a Eames executive chair. Naps on a Florence Knoll sofa. Reads at night thanks to the Fase lamp. And drinks from Dorothy Thorpe Roly Pole glasses.mad-men-interiors1mad-men-interiors23

Roger Sterling’s officemad-men-interiors35 This is one of my favourite sets. The decorators said they had a difficult time imagining what it would look like, because the only reference they had in the script was a line that noted: “It looks like an Italian hospital in here”. How does an Italian hospital look like? They had to use their imagination. The result involved lots of white, abstract paintings, mod feeling, and some touches of black. The furniture is composed by Poul Volther’s Corona chair, Saarinen table and stools, and an Eames for Herman Miller sofa, all 1960s-era classics. The oval desk is the marble-topped Saarinen Tulip table, complete with a Nesso table lamp from Artemide (via). He also has a Time-Life executive chair, named after the building it was created for in 1960 (via). The paintings were created by the Mad Men art department in style of Bridget Riley, an artist famous for her geometric abstract works that played a key part in the Op Art movement. Her work as often criticized of as “impersonal” and unrelated to the real world. I think it is a very neat description of Roger’s personality.

Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s offices mad-men-interiors13mad-men-interiors21mad-men-interiors36
expressionist2mad-men-interiors37mad-men-interiors14mad-men-interiors17mad-men-interiors41mad-men-interiors11 mad-men-interiors29mad-men-interiors28mad-men-interiors3mad-men-interiors9mad-men-interiors6mad-men-interiors5

Don and Betty’s house mad-men-interiors22 The house where Don and Betty lived is inspired by the Colonial Revival homes, in an Americana, Federal style. You could say that some of this furniture is outdated, but as Bishop points out, people didn’t redecorate their houses every year, so they had furniture that could date from a decade ago. That’s the reason we can identify 50’s pieces in the houses.mad-men-interiors40 mad-men-interiors20mad-men-interiors27mad-men-interiors12mad-men-interiors10

Other interiorsmad-men-interiors39Sally’s psychiatrist’s office

whitebrickmad-men-interiors4Joan’s house

Trudy and Pete’s apartment in New York.

mad-men-interiors2 Pete’s apartment in Manhattan. It reflects the collapse of his life.

mad-men-interiors A bar. Of course.

Credits: all images belong to AMC unless otherwise stated. Some modifications of the photos were found here and here.
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