Incredible set details from Set Decorator Regina O’Brien SDSA, many of which you'll find in the gallery above...but not all!
911 Call Center...
The 911 call center
is one of our main sets...it’s where emergency calls are received by one of our key characters, Grace Ryder
, so we shoot there every episode.
The challenge with a set like this is that the camera will be looking at either the back or the face of someone who is seated and looking at a monitor...not that exciting.
We therefore decided to create a dramatic peripheral wall which could be seen from all angles, and to give the desks a sleek polished look. Production Designer Seth Reed went to great trouble to give the walls as much texture and depth as possible, including a dramatic vertical staircase in the middle of the room.
For my part, I selected both direct light and reveal light sconces for the walls, and designed a curved desk to contrast with the straight lines of the walls. The desks were made by our construction department out of black Europly, we had stainless steel legs manufactured for them. Each desk is equipped with four Dell computers, a small black Poppin filing cabinet and an executive desk chair in chrome and gray from HumanScale, along with two desk lamps also from HumanScale.
Apparatus Bay, Commons, Gym...
comes to Austin, he is charged with updating the Firehouse, as he had done in New York, to make it beautiful and, as the script said, “like an Apple store”. Seth was inspired by minimalist architect John Pawson, whose work aligns well with Producer/Directors Brad Beucker, Tim Minear and John J. Gray, and their ideas of using negative space to let a space breathe.
The new team Owen
has assembled is very diverse: TK
, his son, is gay, Marjan
is Muslim, Paul
is Trans (as is the actor), and Mateo
is a DACA Dreamer. A cosmopolitan environment seemed right for the crew, but we also wanted someplace that seemed rich and organic.
brings high-end design and living to the station including a commercial “custom made” cappuccino machine, and beautiful dark wood furniture that contrasts with the bleached oak of the walls and built-ins. The kitchen features Iittala pots and pans, a Sub-Zero refrigerator, wall ovens, induction cook top, and Wolf appliances through Exclusive Sales and Rentals, and a very realistic marble-look vinyl paper from Astek.
In the lounge/dining area, we have a gorgeous sofa from Blu Dot, chairs from Cisco, a custom 12-foot walnut dining table made by Construction Coordinator Andy Akins, and 16 dining chairs from Corrigan Studios through Blueprint Furniture. In the game room, we have a ping pong table, foosball, and poker table. The gym set, where the crew works out, has something for everyone: spinning bikes, bench press, cross fit and more—all machines supplied by PreCor.
is his command center, with huge windows to be able to see what his team is up to. He has a few treasured items in his office, like the axe and helmet from his New York firehouse that he was wearing on 911, a small lump of melted metal from the Twin Towers (real), and few art books and other objects he has collected, like a rare Noguchi lamp.
is directly across from Owen’s.
They literally watch over each other.
She is the paramedic Emergency Medical Services (EMS) captain [Liv Tyler]. Michelle
grew up in Austin and identifies with the Austin weird/vintage aesthetic. She has a cool Barton Springs collage hanging on her wall, along with a vintage anatomical poster and an old Dolly Parton playbill. In discussion with Liv, we wanted to signify that Michelle
and her sister always looked up to their father who was a doctor, thus her interest in medicine and hence the poster. I also made a vintage medicine (maybe snake oil) bottle collection for her shelves. She is into retro/vintage items, like a vintage gumball machine, and regional ceramics, like Frankoma and McCoy.
Bunk room and bathroom
In keeping with the John Pawson aesthetic, we wanted a simple but beautiful space, dressed minimally. The bunk beds and nightstands are from Scandinavian Design, the lamps and bedding are from Ikea, and the tchotchkes are from many places including Rejuvenation and West Elm. Linen curtains from Restoration Hardware were modified by Omega|Cinema Props, who also supplied the custom mounted track, while the custom batiste sheers were mounted to a track cut into the window molding.
Old Firehouse 126
A swing set for the opening episode, in the script, the old 126 Firehouse
was shuttered immediately after the majority of the Fire Fighters who called that station home were killed in a catastrophic accident at a fertilizer factory. The only survivor of the accident was Judd.
So, everything was meant to look like it had stopped in time. Half eaten burritos and mugs of coffee...the place covered in dust and spiderwebs. For Owen’s
firehouse to look amazing by comparison, we envisaged the original as a space that was a little run down and outdated. For both firehouses, and every set we did, a significant amount of research was compiled, thanks to Art Director Ellen King, Art PA Lorr Volatier, Art Dept Coordinator Liz Georgoff, Set Dec Coordinator Jamie Klenk, and Lisa J Dooley. The majority of rentals from this set came from Omega|Cinema Props, EC Props, and Warner Bros. Property.
Strand house – Owen and TK...
Owen and TK’s house
was the last permanent set we built for Season One.
We initially shot at a real house that was remodeled in the Magnolia
modern farmhouse style of Chip and Johanna Gaines, who are from Waco, TX. We shot at that location house for the early stages, first as an empty home being shown by a realtor, then as a house not yet transformed by Owen
. The final remodeled version we built on stage.
house is sleek and modern, with furnishings primarily from HD Buttercup and Bassman Blaine. The lighting was from Lumens, West Elm, and RH Modern. I wanted to play with dark furniture against off-white walls, so that there would be a lot of monochromatic contrast, and sharp “New York” minimalism.
Shopping for the small pieces was very fun. A line in the script had said that Owen
grew up in Santa Monica, so of course I had to give him a Dogtown skateboard (Thank you Dogtown!). It also said he moved to New York when he was 15, so I thought maybe he was into early rap, and then graduated to the cool ‘80s world of Phillipe Stark and Alessi. Of course, he had other interests along the way, like Triumph motorcycles and café racers, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mid-Century Modernism.
is about my same age, so I just thought about the different things a person is into during the different times of their life, telling the story of Owen’s
life through objects. One of our Producers, John Gray, is very knowledgeable about design, and working with him and PD Seth Reed to figure this out was lots of fun.
Grace and Judd Ryder’s House...
and Judd Ryder
are central characters to our story. [Sierra McClain, Jim Parrack] Grace
works at the 911 Call Center, and Judd
is the last and only surviving member of the original 126 Firehouse
crew. They are a mixed-race couple and come from different backgrounds. Both are sophisticated and intelligent, but also religious (probably Baptist) and spiritually grounded.
We first shot Grace and Judd’s
at a location which was a Modern house from the late forties by architect Gregory Ain. Nonetheless, the clean lines felt very hip Austin. The house was furnished with many pieces by Charles and Ray Eames, which are now so ubiquitous it felt right. I then mixed in the contrasting pieces I felt they would have, like a Heywood Wakefield inspired dining set, work by Austin artists courtesy of the Austin Art Garage, Parts and Labor in Austin, and local artist Graham Moore, patterned Pendleton pillows, a Missoni pillow for glamour, ethnic pieces, vintage accent pieces, and quirky lamps from Bassman Blaine.
Judd has collections of vintage tin firetrucks and horse sculpture. He has always been into horses and riding, and Grace is into travel and art, but also “world” items, including African American arts and crafts.
Since the kitchen had been remodeled, I thought it would be fun if they had “kept” the original O’Keefe & Merritt stove from the ‘40s version of the kitchen. Their cookware is cast iron Iittala, along with candlesticks and vases. Iittala is classically Modern but also quirky. Family pictures are mixed in with artwork from African American ceramicist Zebi.
In Grace and Judd’s bedroom
, there is a wrought iron king-size bed. Judd is a big guy! It has a Pendleton coverlet and patterned sheets, topped with a quilt made by Rosalyn Miles.
The windows have custom made batik fabric curtains.
has a vintage beautician stand for a vanity, and ‘50s Danish dresser topped with family photos, vintage Murano lamp, Austin Prod vintage horse sculpture, succulent vase, and a Yellow Rose print from Austin artist Landry McMeans.
On a personal note, I was born in Fort Worth, TX, and moved to Los Angeles when I was 3-months old. When I was born, I had a little bit of jaundice, so my Dad called me the “Yellow nose of Texas.” So, as a wink to my Dad who has passed away, all of the flower arrangements used on the show contained yellow roses. I am sentimental and have always thought of objects as a little way to think of our loved ones, either living or not.
[Rafael Silva] is a Policeman and one of our core characters. He is a longtime friend of Michelle
, and the love interest for TK
. As with all sets, the most interesting part of a Set Decorator’s job is telling the story of the character through their environment...usually their home. All we knew about Carlos
was that his last name is Reyes
. At Modernica, I found an ornately framed picture of someone who could be his Grandfather in a WW2 uniform, and then I found a 1970s picture of some cops by a police car and thought that one could be his father.
family has been in Texas for generations, and perhaps even when it was part of Mexico. I wanted to honor that culture and gave Carlos
lots of Aztec and Mayan sculptural figures along with traditional Mexican craft items like the ceramic Palomas, papyrus paintings, a metate/molcajete, a Mexican wrestler (luchador) photograph, with a nod to Tom of Finland, and carved wooden “Spanish” table and lamps from Arte de Mexico mixed in with high-end furnishings in black bolstered leather from HD Buttercup. Being a gay, Latinx policeman from a Catholic old-Texas background makes Carlos
a very interesting character!
Austin Police Station...
Since we were shooting in a frequently used location to create the Austin Police Station
, I tried to mix the location’s Modernism with wood desks and partitions for a layered look. Our DP, Andy Strahorn, likes to shoot in chiaroscuro manner with lots of light and dark—especially the dark! So, our sets are often medium in tone.
The homeless encampment was a recurring set, where Michelle
volunteers medical aid and ultimately finds her sister Iris
[Lyndsy Fonseca] who has been missing for 3 years, living in a tent. A homeless encampment is an interesting space to try to reproduce, because of the mix of randomness...couches and other furniture found on the street, purchased en masse from St Vincent de Paul, mixed in with the practical necessities of life like water bottles, blankets and bicycles. This was a large encampment of over 100 “dwellings”, and a challenge to make look authentic but not without some community pride. I could not have done this set without the tireless work of Leadman Brack Burris and his amazing crew: Josh, Drew, Dustin, Omar, Tucker and Nancy, as well as other amazing Local 44 dressers, and the terrific paint crew.
Given Texas’ Hispanic ties, places like botanicas are common in Austin. As a last-ditch effort to find her missing sister, Michelle
visits a Curandera
(like a psychic healer). This set was so fun to do. Seth chose lime green for the outer room, and purple for the inner room to complement the jewel-toned Victorian style furniture I was getting. The script specified a life size Santa Muerte...imagine my surprise when Warner Bros. prop house had one! My buyers scoured Olvera Street and the General Candle Company, while Lennie Marvin supplied a lot of the religious and pan-religious items for the set to make it mystical and magical and a little bit sinister.
As scripted, Owen
meets his girlfriend, Zoe
[Natalie Zea], when shopping for skin care. Since this set was built on stage, we tried to make it the most beautiful boutique ever...and the perfect spot for a romance to spark. In addition to the branded products we created, we got product placement from 100% Pure and Saints & Sinners. Our Greens department, headed by Billy “Big Dog” Jackson, did such a lovely job, especially with the “living wall” behind the cash registers—so beautiful. Most of the furniture was rented from Form Décor and Lennie Marvin and re-clad as necessary.
In the first episode, we learn that Owen
was a Firefighter in New York on 9-11 who has contracted lung cancer related to the response at the Twin Towers, and this is part of the reason he moved to Austin. His oncologist in Austin is a true Texas gal. I thought it would be fun if her backstory had her competing in barrel racing as a teen and collecting First Nation artwork like Kachina dolls. She likes fly fishing and Fredrick Remington sculptures. Some of my inspiration comes from my Oklahoman father, and what he liked and collected and exposed me to as a child.
As with any show about First Responders, we have had several hospital sets. We initially used our sister series 9-1-1’s standing Hospital
set, repainting and refurnishing it, but then later built our own. As always, I tried to bring a Texas touch, either in the artwork of bluebonnets, longhorns, native Americans, or Texas history, or the floral arrangements – which always included yellow roses.
Both 9-11- and 9-1-1 LONE STAR shoot on the Fox lot here in Los Angeles, and we share Producers and Directors, and sometimes resources. As with every medical set I’ve ever done, Alpha Medical and A1 Medical prop houses were invaluable resources.
[Natacha Karam] is from Miami, and when I was in Miami over the Holidays, I saw someone who looked a lot like her! Being a Muslim woman firefighter is pretty unusual, but Marjan
is also very faithful to her religion, regularly visiting the mosque. Since we were not able to shoot in an actual Mosque, we filmed at a Moorish style cemetery from the 1920s, and dressed it as the women’s ablution (ritual cleansing) area and anteroom.
[Barry Corbin] is Judd’s
dad, who has retired from a career of working on the oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. His wife died several years ago, but he has not gotten rid of her ceramic rooster and chicken collection...or anything else. Stuart
roots for the University of Texas Longhorns, and the UT was kind enough to let our production use their merchandise- so I did!
Sets for the traumas/crisis events that precipitate 911 calls...
A few standouts...
Cattle breeding facility...
Being set in Austin, inevitably many of our emergency story lines are Texas related, including a fire at a Cattle Breeding Facility
. The central part of the story is that the canisters which hold the stud sperm become projectiles. Our set was an empty corrugated metal warehouse which the art department divided with translucent corrugated plexiglass sheets and refrigeration strip doors. I supplied the lab refrigerators, coolers, tables and the lab equipment, while Prop Master John Harrington supplied the canisters. Special Effects made them fly through the air.
I also dressed the owner’s office full of framed pictures of his award-winning stud bulls. Sadly, we only saw into that office through a crack in the door.
Happy Stan’s Used Car lot...
Since it’s Texas, of course someone needed to be tossed around by a Rodeo bull! We had fun dressing this good ol’ boy’s used car lot, complete with a roasting pig and bar-b-que smoker for Happy Stan’s
big sales event, featuring Malachi
the fearsome Rodeo bull.
Tornado: Ray’s house and a downtown street...
In Episode 4, a tornado touched down in Austin!
Our two main sets were a house, Ray’s,
that had collapsed with his two kids inside, and a Prius which was lodged between two downtown buildings.
Both sets required destruction on a major scale. We had several semi-trucks filled with debris dumped out onto the set and then moved around with bobcats. We then dressed on top of that the pallets of shoes, clothes, books and the many, many pieces of furniture we purchased at St Vincent de Paul, which needed to be distressed and broken.
Fortunately, Leadman, Brack Buriss and his team of Set Dressers prebuilt rolling carts with debris on top of a chicken wire armature to quickly dress the Downtown streets to look like piles of tornado wreckage. This was essential, as we only had from 5pm in the evening to 5am in the morning to completely “wreck” the street, shoot the scene, and clean it up again!!
Snake house Nursery and Basement...
A young couple is enjoying their first night out after having a baby. The mother nervously checks her phone app, and sees a rattlesnake in her baby’s nursery!
Choosing a jungle theme for the nursery seemed a good way to go, and the stuffed animals in the room along with the graphic animals on the wall temporarily obscure the very live snake!
In the basement laundry room, we wanted to make it feel like a subterranean snake den.
Both of these sets were built on stage.
The intersection set, where our finale’s big emergency happens, was one of the only times we really got to re-create funky weird Austin. We shot in downtown San Pedro because it has mostly two-story buildings and felt a lot like an East Austin shopping area. Of course, we turned up the volume and made it colorful and hip with a boba shop, bitcoin store (existing), the vintage clothing store Austintatious
, art installations and a food truck park.
Taco Cabana food park...
Anyone who has been to Austin knows they love their food trucks and food truck parks! For this food truck park, anchored by the Taco Cabana,
Art Dept built a shade structure, and Set Dec dressed the park with the Tex-Mex funkiness found in Austin: pennants, palapa umbrellas, galvanized tin and salsa in abundance!
I wish to thank our amazing Art Department, PD Seth Reed, Art Directors Ellen King, Clarence Major, John Vertrees, Denise Hudson, Art Dept Coordinator Liz Georgoff, Lorr Volatore, Graphics by Bryan Eddy and Michelle Mace.
This would have been impossible without Buyers, who are also SDSA Associate members, Tracy Johnson, Lorraine Genovese and Lisa Goldsmith, and Buyers Amie Bordelon and Heidi Hansen. Set Dec support from Lisa Dooley, Marissa Butler, and Set Dec Coordinator Jamie Klenk. Never ending thanks to Leadman Brack Burris, Dustin Davis, Andrew Gonzales, Josh Burnett, Tucker Ford, Omar Bocanegra, Jacob Kern-Mireles, Gary Ledyard, and On Set Dresser Andre Freiman.
For the video interview, since we were in a shelter-at-home situation, I used a Yeti mike that I got from Eclipse Worldwide...they were out of Webcams naturally! They also supplied for Owen's House
: wireless speakers, the Ring doorbell, security cameras and control panel.
Editor’s note: Gene Cane had one of those Webcams, Regina! Eclipse Worldwide generously supplied our video team with a Logitech camera, Yeti lights and Blue mics. Thank you Eclipse!
And thank you to NEST for supporting the SDSA outreach with SET DECOR and #OfficalSDSA