Mad Men thumbnail imageOne of my favorite TV shows, Mad Men, wrapped up its sixth season this past Sunday. I’ve written about Mad Men’s iconic mid-century design in the past, and the show’s sets continue to fascinate me. I enjoy noticing all of the little telling details on the sets: details that have as much to say about what’s going on in the world as they do about what’s going on in the lives of the characters. Season six happens in 1968, which means we are fully in the throes of the hippie revolution, side burns and plaid polyester galore. It’s post-Summer of Love but it’s also a tumultuous year of war, political assassinations and social upheaval. The sets are darker, messier, and more chaotic this year. Clean mid-century design has begun to yield to groovy patterns and shag rugs, and the color palettes have morphed from refined neutrals to some flower power brights.

Mad Men office decor upstairs

In one of the craziest scenes all season the characters are administered “energy shots” by a doctor, causing them to run helter skelter through the office. Note the orange shag rug and brightly colored wall panels.
Photo credit: Jordin Althaus/AMC.

Mad Men office wallpaper

Poor Ted. That groooovy wallpaper would give me a headache, too.
Photo credit Jamie Trueblood/AMC.

Peggy and Ted in the creative room

Some of my favorite scenes were in the creative room, where Peggy and her underlings muse about margarine (sometimes under the influence.) It’s a lot messier this year, with a jumble of papers and books strewn all over. It’s a recognition that the creative process is messy, but also that standards are starting to relax in general, and creatives are being valued more for their ideas than appearances. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

 

Mad Men creatives room

It’s no accident that Don looks totally out of place in the creative room now. Could his collar be any tighter? By the way, did you notice those logo coffee cups everyone was toting around this year? Love them. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

SC&P coffee mug logo

Speaking of logo coffee cups, did you notice SC&P’s hip new logo? It was shown in the last episode on the glass doors to the office. Apparently there is a coffee shop in LA where you can currently buy a mug. I want one!! Photo credit: Booth Moore/ LA Times.

One of the biggest changes we see in the office design is the addition of a staircase the firm put in when they expanded upstairs. The staircase figures prominently in the scenes literally and metaphorically, as characters like Joan and Bob Benson make their way up the corporate ladder while others fall from grace. Pete, whose marriage is falling apart and struggles to care for his senile mother, literally takes a tumble down the stairs at one point. (And his mother takes a tumble off a cruise ship. Allegedly.) Much like the show’s opening sequence of the falling man, Don has been on a downward spiral all season. (Spoiler alert) In the closing minutes of the season he’s laid off/put on forced leave from the company and must exit down the stairs.

Mad Men Joan on the stairs

Joan is a partner now, and her elevated position is quite literal in this scene. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

Mad Men's Dawn

Don’s assistant Dawn is the company’s first African American employee. Again, here the staircase represents opportunity and upward potential for her character. Photo credit Michael Yarish / AMC.

Mad Men office partners

In the final episode the partners stage an intervention of sorts, telling Don to “take some time off”. He’s been heading down in more ways than one all season. Photo credit Jamie Trueblood/AMC.

On the homefront, there are changes in the characters’ domestic lives that are reflected in their living spaces. The shiny newness of Don and Megan’s apartment had begun to wear off, much like their marriage. So many of the scenes shown there were at night, or on the precipitous balcony (again, read danger: falling), or in the back hall of the apartment building where Don lurks while trying to hook up with his neighbor’s wife.

Dpn and Megan's apartment

Don and Megan’s super chic apartment looks more lived-in this season, and clearly Megan has no qualms about stepping on the sectional sofa. The couple entertains their neighbors in this scene. Later on, Don entertains the neighbor’s wife in a more private fashion. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

In his separation from Trudy, Pete’s is living in a sad little pied-a-terre that couldn’t be more dismal.

Pete Campbell's apartment

Pete’s sad bachelor pad. That wonky coatrack is as discombobulated as Pete himself. Photo credit: AMC.

Trudy and Pete's home

In contrast, back in the ‘burb’s Trudy’s bought a spiffy new floral sofa, a perfect reflection of her can-do spirit. No matter it looks totally out of place in their otherwise staid, traditional home. Trudy’s the kind of gal who needs a decorator and doesn’t know it. Pete puts his shoes on a white sofa? No wonder they’re separated. Photo credit: Ron Jaffe/AMC.

Peggy and Abe buy a fixer upper on the upper west side. Ultimately they are unable to fix either the apartment or their relationship.

Peggy and Abe's apartment

Peggy should have bought that place on the upper east side with the view when she had the chance. Her crumbling domicile reflects her bad luck in relationships this season. Unfortunately Abe is NOT Peggy’s “handy man.” Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

I’m sad to see another season of Mad Men wrap up, so soon and hope they don’t make us wait too long for season seven. As we inch closer to the 1970′s it will be fascinating to see the sets continue to evolve with the times, and with the characters of Mad Men.

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Tamara Leicester is a licensed interior designer and owner of Tamara Heather Interior Design, LLC. She designs casually elegant interiors with an artistic sensibility, often drawing upon the talent of local artists and craftspeople in her work. Dreaming about updating your space? Learn more at tamaraheatherinteriors.com.