Approach the Bench Brings Real Life Detail to The Good Wife

TV kitchens give viewers decorating inspiration

By Kathy Flanigan of the Journal Sentinel
April 2, 2015

Nearly everyone can identify the kitchen used in the “Brady Bunch.” Its signature orange Formica countertops and green accents are exactly how a blended family lived in the 1970s, or wanted to.

That’s the thing about television. The sets have to look impeccable but lived-in. Set design for TV shows helps provide character insight, but it’s also a mirror of how we live, and sometimes it’s the inspiration for making changes in real homes.

Beth Kushnick understands that.

Kushnick is the set decorator for “The Good Wife,” an Emmy-winning CBS drama in which Julianna Margulies plays Alicia Florrick, the wife of a cheating political spouse.

In the course of the show’s six seasons, Alicia returns to her law career after a long absence with work clothes few of us could afford and a body even fewer women could sustain while working a full-time job, parenting and running for office as Alicia does.

The look of the kitchen in Alicia’s fictional Chicago apartment? Well, that’s something you might be able to have.

“It’s upscale because the show is upscale, and their economic status is on the upscale side,” Kushnick said by phone. “But the kitchen is very attainable to viewers because you can pick that kitchen cabinet from the highest level to Home Depot.”

Kushnick creates a backstory for every character on the “The Good Wife.” When the show started, main character Alicia Florrick was separating from her cheating political spouse and moved to an apartment with her two high school-age children. The character of the kitchen — and she does indeed consider it a “character” — was meant to be a safe haven for the shaken Alicia.

Kushnick wanted the kitchen to be functional, but also a place where Alicia could relax with a glass of wine and the kids can make a sandwich.

It’s the place where new characters to the show are introduced and longtime characters are reunited.

“On a design level it’s accessible, even though my level of decorating is in a very high/low scenario,” Kushnick said. “This is what makes Alicia’s apartment so eclectic. It’s very much like my personal aesthetic. There are items like upholstery that are on a very high end, and items from Target and Pier 1 that are on a much more accessible level.”

For example, the kitchen stools at the island are from Pottery Barn.

The light-color cabinets are painted in Benjamin Moore Beach Glass, and the backsplash “has a beach glass feeling,” Kushnick said. Kitchen shelves reveal boxes of cereal.

A blender sits on a counter, and towels hang from the oven handle. Of course, there’s a refrigerator for wine.

“Literally, the kitchen started the fan engagement,” Kushnick said.

Followers of the show wanted details and specifics on the objects in the sets.

She recalls a viewer asking her where she got one of the pots that sat on the third shelf next to the sink.

Another viewer asked Kushnick about a sink faucet, and when she said it was from Home Depot, “they didn’t believe me.”
Color sets the tone

Kushnick started with a color palette. Alicia’s apartment is done in soothing, cool colors with shades of blue and green. The law offices are drenched in warm reds because “kings once described law as a blood sport,” Kushnick said.

It’s that attention to detail that earned Kushnick and Alicia’s kitchen its fans. Kushnick has more than 6,000 followers for her Twitter account @goodwifesetdec.

“Most of the fan base are people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford a decorator,” she said. She recommends shopping at HomeGoods or similar stores for accessories. Shifting things in a room — as she did with the shelves around Alicia’s sink — also can make a room look refreshed.

Kushnick has a huge warehouse where she uses and recycles purchases she’s made, from big-ticket furniture items to picture frames. Other items come from fans on Twitter. She bought a few throw pillows from a follower and a chess set from a company called Approach the Bench, which makes law-themed gifts. Both were used in the show.

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