'Good Wife,' great furniture line


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HIGHPOINT, N.C. -- There are certain movies in which the rooms are as interesting as the characters. One that comes to mind is Nancy Meyers' 2009 film "It's Complicated." The California ranch home that Meryl Streep lives in was nearly as enticing as the story line -- Alec Baldwin played the philandering husband who wants her back.

On the small screen it's Beth Kushnick's set decorating that's garnering raves. The apartment, offices and furnishings she creates for the CBS drama "The Good Wife" get so much email that the New York designer has started a blog, "The Good Look of the Good Wife."

The show's story line centers around Alicia Florrick (played by Julianna Margulies), who goes back to work as a defense attorney after her husband, Peter (Chris Noth), is caught cheating on her. As in "It's Complicated," "The Good Wife" is shot in a studio in Brooklyn, where Ms. Kushnick brings to life the world of Alicia Florrick with well thought out interiors.

"People wanted to know things so I give them sources on the blog. Every single week since the show began, I would get a question about Will's leather chair in his office, which I designed with Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams," Ms. Kushnick says.

Law partner Will Gardner's (Josh Charles) leather club chair is one of the best-selling items in the line, along with Kalinda's chair, which is sleek, sexy and a little dangerous like the character, Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi), a private investigator for the law firm of Lockhart & Gardner. Many of the pieces were designed with the character in mind, including the Alicia sofa and Diane's desk, which is used by Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski).

The furniture collection will undoubtedly grow as the story line does. In some scenes, Ms. Kushnick uses furniture from existing Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams collections.

"I read in the script that there would be a flashback scene to 10 years before in the home Alicia and Peter owned. I was able to get a big comfy, round-armed, slip-covered sofa that you couldn't find anymore from (the company) and they got it to me in three days."

With 30 years of decorating experience in film, commercials, other TV shows including "Fringe" and "Law and Order: Trial by Jury" as well as private clients, Ms. Kushnick has developed a broad and appealing range. But she had never entered into a partnership with a furniture manufacturer to make her designs available to consumers until "The Good Wife" and the enthusiastic response of its viewers. Ms. Kushnick and CBS partnered Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams on furniture and Interlude Home on lighting and accessories. The Good Wife (TGW) line was introduced at the Fall International Furniture Market in High Point, N.C.

"It reflects my design philosophy and what I do with private clients as well. I'm not looking to do spare, noncharacter-infused homes or rooms for anybody," she says. "It's the reason I think so many fans say 'I want to live in Alicia's apartment.' "

The look is very attainable. One of the more notable details is the fortune cookie collection in a bowl in the kitchen.

"Some of our sets were flooded after Sandy and my daughter said, 'I really hope my fortune cookie collection is still OK," says Ms. Kushnick, who is famous in the industry for attention to the tiniest details, even those the viewers never see.

"We create full back stories for every character, so on my sets every drawer is filled and every cabinet stocked with what that character would have."

She does it for the show, the characters and her own personal pleasure. "For me it is just something that is a must," she explains.

Ms. Kushnick is so dedicated to the creation of an environment that she gets excited when she sees really good fake food mixed with the real in Alicia's refrigerator.

"I think social media has helped me understand what fans are focusing on and through the show I have contributed to their visual training. I get screen shots sent to me, pictures of homes, pictures from the show.

"They tweet me through every episode and talk about patterns and fabrics, the colors, the palette. I could interact with the fans as a full-time job," she laughs. "They really keep me going."

Mr. Gold, co-founder of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, agrees that consumers have been influenced by television.

"Years ago, Bob and I were talking about how the American consumer has gotten progressively more sophisticated in their home furnishings taste and how we believed a significant part of this was due to television shows. It exposes people to higher-end design."

What drew Ms. Kushnick to the North Carolina-based furniture manufacturer was how similar its design aesthetic was to her own as well as how versatile it could be. "The ability for me to use the furniture in a contract setting such as the law offices, a bar, a nightclub, a lobby and a home or apartment just made my job more fluid."

"When we saw what Beth was doing with 'The Good Wife,' we immediately felt this was a show that was very much simpatico with our products," Mr. Gold says. "It's been a big success, frankly bigger than I expected."

All TGW furniture can be custom-upholstered. For example, Kalinda's chair, which is shown in leather, can be done in fabric and the standard foam cushion can be ordered in down.

For more information, go to www.mgbwhome.com, www.horchow.com or www.weisshouse.com.

homes - tvradio

Patricia Sheridan: psheridan@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2613. First Published November 13, 2012 5:00 AM


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