TV shows to inspire textile and surface designers

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I do love watching a good TV show. In fact, TV has been a great escapist activity in a period where we can’t travel or get our usual doses of real life inspiration. Sure, it’s not the same as the real thing – but it’s easy, free or low cost and can be accessed (literally) at the touch of a button.

If you’re a designer – or any kind of aesthete – here are my recommendations for television shows with inspiring sets, locations or designs.


The lavish interiors of The Great

The Great, starring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult, is a bizarre – but strangely compelling – account of the life of Russia’s Catherine The Great. It’s a bit of drama and a whole lot of comedy. It’s written by Australian Tony McNamara who first wrote a play about Catherine The Great for the Sydney Theatre Company in 2008. Prudes might say it borders on vulgar, most people will say it’s cheeky and hilarious.

Photo: Ollie Upton/Hulu

Regardless of which camp you’re in, one fact that’s unarguable is that the sets, locations and clothes are beyond lavish. Although set in Russia during the 18th century, none of the show was filmed there! Filming was mainly in York, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Hever in Kent and Caserta in Italy.

The interiors are lush, the chinoiserie wallpaper is divine and the dresses are works of art. I spent the show equally engrossed in the wallpaper as I did in the wacky somewhat fictionalised story.


The chic sophistication of Succession

This is, without a doubt, one of my favourite television shows of late. Brilliant acting, great storyline and excellent writing. And featuring a couple of Aussie actors (Sarah Snook and Ashley Zukerman – remember him in the Melbourne police show Rush?) sporting convincing American accents.

Photo: Peter Kramer/HBO

I’ve watched this a couple of times. First, totally engrossed in the story and writing. And second, to soak in the chic sophistication of the sets – mainly apartments, boardrooms and homes of the dynastic Roy family, who are all vying for the coveted role of who will succeed their media magnate father Logan Roy.

The scenes flit from the elegant urban rooms in their New York penthouses, and segue – via private helicopter of course – to their Hamptons-style compound. Everything in it, lampshades, the furniture, the arrangement of the fresh flowers, the cushions … is carefully curated and perfectly designed. A visual feast for any designer.


The sumptuous interiors of Patrick Melrose

This series is a tad depressing but the sets are beautiful. A story that spans five decades, Benedict Cumberbatch plays a man trying to come to terms with his abusive father, played by Australian Hugo Weaving – see, a bit dark – but if you can get past that, the decor is stunning.

Some would say it’s overly stylised – and it is. I mean, who really lives in places like this? But that’s part of the appeal. It’s visually mesmerising and shows that while many of us may aspire to live in this near-perfect world from an aesthetic point of view, it’s obviously a facade that belies a darker subtext.

Try to get past that and just lose yourself in the colours, which have clearly been derived from a carefully curated palette to symbolise richness and privilege. But is also very beautiful!


The glamour of the Riviera

Riviera is a television series starring Julia Stiles and Anthony Lapaglia and is set in the art world of the French Riviera amidst the mysterious machinations of a dysfunctional family.

To be honest, I’m not that fond of the storyline but I’m watching it because of the locations and decor! Filmed in Nice, the Le Negresco hotel on the Promenade des Anglais, the coastal towns of Villefranche-sur-Mer and other glamorous places. And the clothes! It’s added a number of destinations to my wishlist! Oh, and I want Julia Stiles’s wardrobe.

Above: Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat


By Valerie Khoo

July 29th, 2020
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