It’s all in the architectural detail

Madam Secretary, the American political drama television series, starring Téa Leoni as Secretary of State, Elizabeth McCord, has always been high on my list for design dissection.

The story itself revolves around the work of ‘M-Sec’ Madam Secretary, and her struggles and triumphs as both a woman in power, a former CIA agent, a mother, wife and friend to the President, and the inevitable tough decisions, ethical conflicts and private life dramas that come with the territory.

Image courtesy of Ola Maslik

Each episode we are treated to a challenge of personal and professional dimensions and while I always found myself gripped by the storylines, it was when Bess stepped foot inside her Washington D.C. townhouse that my ears and eyes really pricked up.

Created by Barbara Hall, produced by Morgan Freeman and with all important set design by Ola Maslik, Tania Bijlani, Roshelle Berliner and Sarah Knowles, Madam Secretary sets itself up as a deliciously comforting yet riveting drama, centered around Elizabeth McCord’s life, which really gets visually interesting inside her own home. Season Six saw the finale and while I won’t reveal the ending, I can tell you it saw Elizabeth ‘Bess’ and her family set up in some pretty swanky digs.

My mum and I obsessed over watching every episode in real time like the faithful fans that we are, and at one point, it did look like our houses would end up looking suspiciously like the McCord family pad.

It is the cool, smokey colour palette, the mix of old pieces speckled throughout the house, the random yet wonderfully mapped out series of rooms (we decided we would essentially only live in the L-shaped kitchen-dining-snug sofa area), and the opulent yet uber-cosy bedroom with wondrous en-suite that Bess somehow got tonnes of work done while sat in her pjs, chatting ethics with her insanely smart husband.

Image courtesy of Ola Maslik

This TV family had some serious smarts – well, you would hope so, given that she helps to run the country. I can tell you this, if my bedroom was that sumptuous, I would get zero work done. I would simply loll about on my gigantic bed with 27 plump and squishy pillows and have a marvellous time procrastinating.

The Madam Secretary hallway combines beautiful architectural detailing with more modern tones in the form of the console tables and accessories such as the obelisk sculptures, all contrasted by period pieces such as this stunning bannister chair.

The house is a wondrous blend of period architectural detailing (staircases and architectural mouldings), rooms for academia, such as the library/office, which evokes a very powerful tone of Presidential approval, a sitting room meant for nothing more than semi-casual sing-alongs and a spot of piano playing, and then the soft side of ‘State life’, and this is where I will focus my attention.

Image courtesy of Ola Maslik

This kitchen, dining and tv snug is one of my faves in TV land. It has everything you need – perfectly appointed some might say – and offers a set from which the family dynamic really plays out well. Those who are searching for food late night after a long day at the office, those who are looking to make dramatic exits up the stairs leading from the kitchen and those who wish to tune in on the latest media coverage of Elizabeth and her colleagues. The space is at once cosy, a little chaotic and crowded, with its very stylish yet almost country countertops, central hob (stove) set up and cute sash windows – no doubt looking out onto their secure courtyard (natch).

Image courtesy of Ola Maslik

The space then moves into this incredible dining area that for once, you could actually picture yourself eating at. A long rustic wooden table is impregnated with stories and discussions from this family’s life, its slightly more authentic rusticity a throwback to their farm style life before they were swept up in the Washington melodrama. The chairs are sublime with that kind of Scandinavian chic style that blends seamlessly with everything and the entire back wall an open treasure chest of trinkets and accessories that reiterate that this is the home of a family, stuffed full of useless but sentimental items; recipe books, grandma’s plates, vases, candles and soap caddies. The off-white, bespoke open cabinetry is like a pantry of personality, adding visual interest and wiping away with any trace of unlived-in vibes. The rather imperial chandelier sits low at the table and even the art gets it own glow in the form of picture wall vanity lighting. This is a family home with a gallery finish. A nod to husband Henry McCord’s love and respect of art, history and anything of historical value.

Before I turn a corner on the kitchen, it is worth noting that in one episode Bess decides she wants to repaint her kitchen cupboards and I really do live for that realness in television. Especially from a fictional politician. I believe they painted the cupboards a smokey blue/grey and never in my life have I achieved that excellent brush work in my own home. So turns out, she’s also a gifted painter/decorator. Anyway, the kitchen had a mini makeover half a through Season Four’s episode “Off The Record” and now all I want to do is paint my kitchen. It is worth pointing out that this began my fave phase of the McCord family kitchen. Who doesn’t love blue/grey cabinetry?

Image courtesy of Ola Maslik

One you’re over how intimate and lovely the kitchen is, you move around the L-shaped configuration and into the snug area. One simple slouchy sofa, a TV set onto the wall and WINDOW SEATS! The window seat charm also continues upstairs and it balances that otherwise historic looking house with real world softness. Here we have sartorial stripes but softened by the casual linen blend loose fit covers on the two armless chairs and a footstool/ottoman in a kind of aztec print that looks beautifully worn and loved. The checkered rug that sits underneath it all screams comfort and cosiness with an edge of a kind of holiday home or cottage.

Design Facts/Credits:

Name: Madam Secretary
Seasons: Six (2014 – 2019)
Creator: Barbara Hall

Production Design
Ola Maslik
Tania Bijlani
Roshelle Berliner
Sarah Knowles

Series Art Direction
Brian Goodwin
Marissa Kotsilimbas
Matteo De Cosmo
Deborah Wheatley
Javiera Varas
Jeremy W. Foil
Scott Dougan

Series Set Decoration
Sheila Bock
Adam I. Rochester Sr.
Betsy Klompus
Kris Moran
Rich Murray


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