July 29th, 2020 by David Smith SDSA. Video: Chase Helzer

Main Photo
Richardson House Kitchen... Set Decorator Lisa Clark SDSA reveals, “Much of the initial research for the Richardson House was pulled from Architectural Digest and Better Homes & Garden magazines from the 1990s. There was one research photo for the kitchen that Reese particularly liked, that had checked curtains. Buyer Robyn Holmes scoured the fabric stores to find the fabric you see, which was very close to the look and feel of the original photo and had hints of the blue and yellow color palette I chose for the adjoining Sunroom.” Kerry Washington as Mia, Reese Witherspoon as Elena. Photo by Erin Simkin, courtesy of Hulu.

Set Decorator Lisa Clark SDSA

Production Designer Jessica Kender

ABC TV/ Hulu

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE, starring Reese Witherspoon as Elena Richardson and Kerry Washington as Mia Warren, explores the picture-perfect world of the Richardson family as it is upset by and contends with interactions from the newly arrived Warren family. The story examines the weight of secrets, expectations, identity, race, the creative drive to be an artist, and how we define motherhood. 
An adaptation of the best-selling novel by Celeste Ng set in Shaker Heights, Ohio during the 1990s...with an occasional 1980s flashback...the mini-series is an ABC TV/ Hulu Production streaming on Hulu. Witherspoon and Washington are also Executive Producers of the series, which has received an Emmy nomination for Best Limited Series, as has Kerry Washington for Lead Actress, and a much-deserved Emmy nomination recognition as Best Director for the wonderful, late Lynn Shelton.

Inside the Set With SET DECOR...

The beautifully designed and set decorated sets are by Production Designer Jessica Kender and Set Decorator Lisa Clark SDSA, who, together, undertook the task of visually relaying the dynamics of mother-daughter relationships – the nurturing and rejection, the push and pull for children between the desire to emulate or to rebel. The show was filmed on three sound stages at The Lot in Hollywood.

SET DECOR, spoke with Lisa in detail about the series, her responsibilities, their approach as a team, and how research, work experience, life experience, and serendipity all helped to bring this wonderfully presented show to life. 
After graduating from Stanford, Lisa wore many hats, first working as a Set Designer for theatre productions in the Bay Area, then as a Set Decorator in independent films, and as a project manager for museum exhibitions. She spent 4 years as an Associate Producer at Lucasfilm. 
Lisa came to set decorating as a second career. She points out that she had the good fortune to work as a Set Decoration Buyer with Set Decorator David Smith SDSA on the pilot of PARENTHOOD in the Bay Area in 2009 before coming to Los Angeles in 2011. 
[Editor’s note: Watch the fascinating INSIDE THE SET video interview with Lisa & David above!]

Relocating to Los Angeles, Lisa first became a member of the Art Directors Guild, after working with Production Designer Jeannine Oppewall for a few years, before getting into IATSE Local 44 as a Set Decorator and finding the career she wanted all along.
Advanced Liquidators

Having read the novel of LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE twice before she began the 9-week prep, Lisa dove deeply into researching the 1990s and 1980s periods, finding the ‘90s set dressing slightly more elusive. Past editions of ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST and HOUSE & GARDEN provided a treasure trove of ideas for many of the main sets, while her own experience as a young artist in the 1990s helped informed Mia’s environment. 
Capturing the 1990s was a particularly interesting challenge to Lisa because it is a decade that most people remember, but it has not yet solidified in the general consciousness stylistically like other eras have, such as the 1970s or 1950s which have visual touchstones. Depicting the period was one of the great joys and challenges of the piece, which her whole team embraced.
With her team of Set Decoration Buyers Robyn Holmes [SDSA Associate], Eva Firshein, Joanna Venezky, Rhonda Elliott, and later Yumi Arai and Jill Deibler, they scoured the internet, secondhand stores and thrift stores for ‘90s cast-offs. Ebay, Craigslist, Calico Corners, Ralph Lauren Fabrics and Ethan Allen Furniture provided wonderful treasures, along with the incredible inventory of the Los Angeles area prop houses.*
The custom-made drapery, bedspreads, duvets, valances, Roman shades, throw pillows and bed shams were primarily made at Universal Studios Drapery under the watchful eye and care of Alex Coronado, with drapery installation by Trevor Callebs. The workload in the drapery department was so heavy that Lisa had a 5-page spreadsheet listing fabric details, set location, pickup and deadline dates. In fact, there were days when all but two of the drapery tables in Universal Studios Drapery department were covered in projects for LITTLE FIRES.
Walking the finished sets with novelist Celeste Ng and producers of the show, Lisa and Jess were paid a wonderful compliment when the author said, “I feel as if you crawled inside my head”...
Lisa would like to thank her incredible Set Dressing crew led by Nelson Bush.
Editor’s note: 
Our thanks to David Smith SDSA for the video interview and the article...and his invaluable perspective. 
Almost full circle...a decade after first working for him, Lisa brought David on as an Assistant Set Decorator for this series!
Check out the video and the gallery above for on-point sets that convey the atmosphere of the story and its characters, define the time and place, and tap your recent memories!
Karen Burg, Editor
*Los Angeles area prop houses used in LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE include:  
Advanced Liquidators Office Furniture
Alpha Companies Motion Picture Rentals
Art Pic
EC Prop Rentals
Faux Library Studio Props
Hollywood Cinema Arts
Hollywood Studio Gallery
Lennie Marvin’s Prop Heaven
the now departed Modern Props
Modernica Props
Omega|Cinema Props
Practical Props
Prop Services West
Universal Studios Property 
Warner Bros. Studios Property

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Richardson House Living Room... “Production Designer Jess Kender and I decided on a tightly controlled color palette for the Richardson House. Reese wanted her character to be dressed mostly in red, white/cream and blue, and we wanted to reflect that formality in the Living Room. Much of furniture was purchased from Ethan Allen, which was quite popular with wealthy people in the 1990s. The pair of sofas were actually shipped from an Antique Consignment dealer on the East Coast. The throw pillows and drapery were custom-made by Universal Studios Drapery. I used the same fabric on the drapes and some of the throw pillows, just reversing the pattern...a detail we found quite common in our research of the period.” Photo LC, courtesy of Hulu.

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Richardson House Home Office... “The office was designed to be ‘His and Hers’, with Elena's orderly desk on the left [foreground] and Bill's cluttered one on the right. Note the bookshelf dressing reflects each of their professions and personalities. We had fun tracking down the correct Cleveland Indians pennant and ticket stubs, as well as glassware and coffee mugs for Bill.” Photo LC, courtesy of Hulu.

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Richardson House Dining Room... “I was so happy with Jess's color choice for this room, as those darker jeweled tones were so popular in the ‘90s, and I wanted to play that up with the contrasting oxblood red tones. The runner, drapes (not pictured) and chairs were all made from the same toile fabric. The chandelier was purchased from an antiques dealer in Santa Barbara, as were many of the other smalls. Since this was at one time her mother's house, I wanted it to feel like there was inherited wealth in many of the smaller details.” Dining table, dining chairs and china cabinet all Ethan Allen. Photo LC, courtesy of Hulu.

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Richardson House Kitchen... “Buyer Eva Firshein had the difficult job of tracking down the right appliances, the most challenging of which was this cooktop. Elena's calendar became a character in the show in its own right, and was quite a collaboration between myself, the Props Department and the Art Department. Initially, we all brainstormed together what would be written on the calendar, and each set of color-coded tabs was assigned to a different character. It turned out that Set Designer Rhea Rebbe's handwriting closely resembled Reese's own handwriting, so she ended up being in charge of writing the post-its for each episode.” Photo LC, courtesy of Hulu.

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Richardson House Kitchen & Sunroom... “We knew the Sunroom was the place where the teenagers were going to spend a lot of time, so it was important for it to reflect Elena's controlling nature yet be more inviting than other areas of the house.” Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington. Photo by Erin Simkin, courtesy of Hulu.

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Richardson House Sunroom... “I was set on this yellow and blue color palette because it's so evocative of the 1990s and isn't really a color combination we see today. The sofas were custom made to get that relaxed oversized shape of the era, and I worked closely with the Costume Designer to select the blue upholstery so that the jean wash from that era wouldn't disappear into the sofa. The fabric is actually a subtle tone-on-tone stripe. The pillows, valances, and Roman shades were made by Universal Drapery. Please note the attention to detail on their part to get the flowered urn pattern to land exactly centered in each scallop.” Photo LC, courtesy of Hulu.

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Richardson House Sunroom... A close-up of Elena's daughter Lexie and Mia's daughter Pearl reveals not only their mood [Scorch!]...but also, some of Lisa’s details, with the palette strictly adhered to in white, yellows and blues... Jade Pettyjohn, Lexi Underwood Photo by Erin Simkin, courtesy of Hulu.

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Richardson House Entry Hall... “I decided that all of the floral arrangements throughout the Richardson House would be predominantly white, with subtle seasonal changes, to reflect Elena's tightly controlled nature. All of the floral arrangements were done by florist Laura Armstrong.” Photo LC, courtesy of Hulu.

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Richardson House upstairs hallway... “This hallway became iconic in the advertising for the show. All the artwork in the house came from Hollywood Studio Gallery and Art Pic, and Hollywood Studio Gallery did custom printing and framing for us. The hallway is supposed to look like the boys and girls live opposite each other. In reality, the stage space was tight and there were only rooms on one side, so we ended up having to flip the bedrooms to dress and redress as the four bedrooms. Izzy’s and Lexie’s were featured in the show. Moody’s and Tripp’s bedrooms unfortunately didn't make it in the cut!” Photo LC, courtesy of Hulu.

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Richardson House, Lexie’s bedroom... “Lexie's room is the iconic girly teenager's room from the ‘90s, with floral-on-floral and white wicker. The bedding and drapes were custom-made. We had several cultural references scattered throughout her room, like paraphernalia from 90120, Beanie Babies and SHAPE magazine. She is clearly Elena's daughter.” We also knew Lexie's room was one of the rooms that was going to burn. Luckily, Jess and I had worked on STATION 19, so we had experience with controlled burns. In certain cases, we had stand-in furniture built and also made duplicates of certain items, like the bedding and drapery.” Photo LC, courtesy of Hulu.

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Richardson House, Master bedroom... “The Master bedroom is the more sophisticated version of what we see in Lexie's room. It's a symphony in muted beige tones and florals. The bedding was custom made, reversible and matched the custom drapes. Many of these pieces were second-hand or consignment store finds. Notice the Asian figurine lamps. I interjected elements of Asian-inspired decor throughout the smalls in the house to hint at the issue of cultural appropriation which comes up in the storyline.” Photo LC, courtesy of Hulu.

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Richardson House, Master bathroom... “I managed to talk Jess into this goldfish wallpaper, and I'm so glad I did! Ironically months later, one of my set dressers saw it in a house from the 1990s that he toured while shopping for a new home.” Photo LC, courtesy of Hulu.