It’s long required some suspension of disbelief to allow that the characters on most sitcoms could afford their relatively lavish digs. For every Dr. Frasier Crane or thriving Jerry Seinfeld comedian, there were several Rachels and Monicas scraping by while living high. It turns out, however, it’s not just the affordability of these places we should be skeptical about—it’s also the design.
Iñaki Aliste Lizarralde is a pop culture-enlightened interior designer, who has lately begun channeling both these passions into creating floor plans of the apartments of fictional characters. A few years back, Lizarralde decided on a whim to make the floor plan of the apartment featured on Frasier. "I really liked the series and his apartment, and I wanted to see him… molded," the designer says.
In less time than it takes to say How I Met Your Mother, friends were asking Lizarralde to create similar layouts of the apartments of their favorite characters, like Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw and Seinfeld’s Seinfeld. It turned out he was even able to sell them, too. But opening up Pandora’s Idiot Box has ultimately revealed some interesting details about the apartments of our fictional Friends.
"As an interior designer with years of experience, I developed my sense of space and ability to see sizes and proportions of architectural elements and furniture pieces," Lizarralde says. "The problem with the living spaces on TV shows is usually located in the secondary sets, such as the bedrooms and bathrooms. Almost all the shows have triangular proportions to lend the sensation of depth to the sets. Even the apparently squared sets are in fact trapezoidal (wider in the front part and smaller at the bottom part) and sometimes it’s very difficult to translate to a sheet as "real houses" because all the tricks of the set decorators are in evidence."
In other words, most apartments featured in sitcoms would have to have their own Narnias built into each doorway to fit all the space depicted. Lizarralde’s drawings make these incongruities a lot more noticeable than they are in casual viewing. Of course, a project like Lizarralde’s goes far beyond casual viewing.
The whole process of making a layout based on a show usually takes about 20 to 30 hours, though it can be much longer if it’s a series like Friends with a robust backlog of seasons. He prefers having the entire series run on hand, in order to access as much information as possible while drawing. In a matter of hours spent fast-forwarding through a series with a modest run, he can locate everything he needs.
After creating a first basic layout, Lizarralde refines and develops it with notes. Once a composition is in place, he starts a second layout to fit the final dimensions and proportions, and to place furniture and complete the final shape of the drawing. Just to be precise, Lizarralde then does a third and definitive floor plan, incorporating the colors, fabrics, and all the other details needed to make an accurate floor plan. At that point, the results look like an actual blueprint, albeit one that would probably look bizarre if actually acted upon.
"These sets are more theatrical scenographies than real houses," Lizarralde says. "I prefer a 'closed’ set without the contradictions of a sitcom set. The best example is the apartment of Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City or the apartment of Dexter Morgan from Dexter. These are apartments entirely built in a studio; coherent and almost 'real’ apartments that I enjoy drawing more than the complicated and absurd distributions of shows like Two and a Half Men."
See all the floor plans mentioned here and more in the slide show above.