La Sirena, a Kaplan F17 Speed Freighter starship, Year 2399... Retired Admiral, now civilian Jean-Luc Picard [Sir Patrick Stewart] hires Captain Cristóbal Rios [Santiago Cabrera] and his freighter-class starship for an almost impossible quest to find the sister of a murdered android, likely the daughter of his dear friend Data. Android specialist Dr. Agnes Jurati [Alison Pill] joins the search, navigated by former Starfleet Intelligence Agent, Raffi Musiker [Michelle Hurd]... All of this taking place 20 years after we last saw Picard... This is a different spacecraft than we have encountered before. Stewart points out, “The Enterprise was the flagship of the Starfleet, La Sirena is more of a transport ship...” An exciting challenge for Production Designer Todd Cherniawsky and Set Decorator Lisa Alkofer SDSA to take on!
Alkofer conferred with Stewart several times to capture the essence and depth of the character in her choices for Picard’s home, a chateau and vineyards that had been in his family for generations, literally hundreds of years.
Her use of antiques and antiquities, fine fabrics and art give a quiet sophistication and elegance to the embodiment of Picard’s lifelong interest in history, literature, art and other cultures...and of his home that has been defined over the centuries. The “antiquities” might include alien objets d’art as well as pieces from Earth’s ancient pyramids, tribal communities, advanced civilizations and societies throughout the world and time.
Alkofer licensed paintings from museums around the world, representing different eras , different styles, different civilizations...and worked with Adrianna Cruz-Ocampo at U-Frame-It gallery to perfect the framing for each.
“The painting in the center above the fireplace is a Ferdinand Léger. We featured Léger because Patrick Stewart is a collector...and it was appropriate, as the artist was from the south of France near the location of the chateau, easily someone whose work Picard would have collected as well.”
See the article below for the symbolism behind this piece, plus many more insider details!
Lisa rotes she purchased the sofa table, and several others for the room, from Arte De Mexico. “Side tables, coffee table, sofa table...that old-world look. I had no idea they had such a wide selection of good-looking pieces, and we needed to have multiples because of a major fight scene in one of the episodes. He was great, really good to us...we even got hardware!”
Note the details on the table: an antique counting instrument, shoe lasts, binoculars, which would be antiques to Picard, another way of looking beyond...fascinating pieces...
Screenshot: Jean-Luc Picard and an old friend in a spaceship holodeck version of the study... “He wanted to always be able to go back to his favorite things and not have it be about technology.” Every object has a story. Lisa points out that she chose many of them for their shape, knowing “that eventually I could transform them...” The whole picture would evolve for her from that starting point.
Picard’s very French personal assistants Laris and Zhaban...okay, they’re Romulans, but they have adapted and, except for the ears, seem as French as a Beaujolais...lovingly attend to Picard’s household and business.
The antique box has secret panels, and perhaps other secrets... See below for the story of the piece behind Picard’s right elbow!
“We bought the sofa for its lines, and I reupholstered it. We wanted it to echo the South of France, soft cushiony, ticking kind of fabric, warm and cozy looking. The sofa didn’t have down, but I ended up putting down in there, because it looks a little bit more cushy, more appropriate. The fabric came from Romo Fabrics, I pretty much shopped the Pacific Design Center for all the fabrics...again, the quality shows on screen.”
“I’m truly sad that we didn’t see more of the kitchen. It was this amazing amalgamation of something from the late 1800s to 2400, it spans the gamut of 400 years because that is an old limestone sink and yet the electronics to the right, that you only see a peek of is a whole unit that we had designed and built that had the food replicator and a wine fridge and regular refrigerator [from Exclusive Sales & Rentals]... So you’ve got all the space-age circa 2400 ways to keep food, and elements from three to four different centuries in one room.”
Château Picard, kitchen... “This was a practical location in Solvang, but we brought in everything...it was an empty room. I particularly love the limestone sink...and, again, the fabrics, Provencal and antique French lace...”
For this later somewhat surreal matrix version of the chateau, Alkofer and team turned everything grey, whether paintings & frames, books, sculptures, or reupholstering furniture... The set a metaphor, as was the scene... Watch video below for more details about this compelling set.
None-too-pleased former Starfleet Intelligence Agent, Raffi Musiker [Michelle Hurd] has a visceral reaction to her once-good-friend Jean-Luc Picard [Sir Patrick Stewart] appearing at her outlying residence...
Note the table, which Alkofer considered alien-esque, although it came from Warner Bros., distinct proof that a great set decorator will see what we might miss, and make it so!
Captain Cristóbal Rios [Santiago Cabrera] and his freighter-class starship, Navigator and strategist, former Starfleet Intelligence Agent, Raffi Musiker [Michelle Hurd], Qowat Milat warrior, Elnor [Evan Evagora], now sworn protector of Jean-Luc Picard, and Synth specialist Dr. Agnes Jurati [Alison Pill] on the bridge of the cargo spacecraft... The starship is non-military, owned and flown by Rios, carrying a variety of cargo, large enough to transport a full hospital or several smaller ships. Bridge console designed by Alkofer & her set designers as industrial spacecraft, circa 2400...See next photos!
While the ship itself was hard-edged, Alkofer designed a more organic aspect for the captain’s chair and corresponding chairs on the bridge. She chose a heavy-weave fabric with metallic highlights and had a patch created with the ship’s logo, which you can see in the oval behind Rios’s shoulder... La Sirena translates as “The Mermaid”...
Alkofer designed the bridge/control panel as current to 2400... “When the set designers started drawing it out, I said, ‘I don’t want somebody to sit at a computer console and be looking down and touching buttons, I want heads-up screens to emanate from it.’ And Alex, the Executive Producer, wanted the graphics to be like a virtual screen, like a flick screen, if you flick it, it’ll move away from you. So that was the initial dialogue on how to design it...”
“It’s difficult to see in the photos, but the back of the chairs look like a spine and have webbing spanning them, to hold medical kits and compact flight bags.”
Looking down the length of the mezzanine to the bridge, we can see the first of the lower decks, where we would find the canteen, infirmary and common area. Below that deck are holds, some quite vast, containers, engine room. The openness is entirely contrary to the refined confines of the Federation ships...this reflects the immense emptiness of space...
The lights on the ribs of the ship were designed and created by Alkofer’s team from wine racks and light tubes...once they had the prototype, their onsite shop created over 150 of those. More than 500 lights were hung and placed on the ship by her crew...
“The Transporter and light array were designed by Todd, with light specifications per the DP – some were two feet wide! Todd had the full set built 3-stories, with access for cranes to light from outside and below...”
“We had just a million things for cargo. Those things sticking up from floor storage bays on either side of table were camping chairs unopened, legs up. Whenever you do groups of things and you wrap them all or have them in a place altogether, people don’t necessarily know what they are, and it becomes almost a graphic. The table and benches, again, industrial and sturdy, enhanced design.”
La Sirena, Raffi’s stateroom... Rios [Santiago Cabrera] checks to see what’s bothering his friend Raffi [Michelle Hurd].
“The nightstand next to her can play 2 different ways. Everything that we built can play in more than one configuration, because I wanted to be able to use them in different parts of the ship, for different things. Noelle, my set designer, created half a dozen pieces, and I could take them apart or put them together. Like there was a closet, but if you opened it, one of those night stands could fit in for storage with a drawer for small things, or use it as a footstool, if you turned it upside down it could be put next to a chair and used as an ottoman... The dresser here and the pieces in Rios’s stateroom are interchangeable.”
“All of the furniture in the staterooms is supposed to look modular, attached, like they’re part of the architecture. The thing about the desk, everything was mobile, so the return was on a pin and you could shove it into the unit,and it had a drawer you could store stuff in. Everything could be moved, if he wanted to change how the desk was, he could face the desk or sit perpendicular to it. The desk chair has a flow, the back, again looking like a spine, which reflects the ship – when you look down the front of the ship, it looks like a spine. I like to have carry-through on designs – not exact replications, but the essence.” See video for details on the fabulous Italian chairs!
“The replicator, that box design looks like the furniture. You know, everything echoed, and yet again, it’s square, but it’s has curves, rounded aspects. The standing oval next to it is a light. There are elements that reflect the name of the ship, the logo patches and these are the subtle references we made to the name. It wasn’t overplayed... And yes, there are actual books...he has a few things in common with Picard...”
Jean-Luc Picard [Sir Patrick Stewart] returns to Vashti to solicit the support Zani of the Qowat Milat [Amirah Vann], leader of the warrior nuns who bind their swords to worthy or lost causes and who practice absolute candor...
The propmaster needed somewhere to store a key sword prop, so Alkokfer had this sword rack made. She thrives on collaboration.
Jean-Luc Picard [Sir Patrick Stewart] meets the boy-now-grown warrior Elnor [Evan Evagora], who had been waiting for his return since childhood...
The futon-like pillows are of an open weave linen imported from Germany. The design is for both simplistic beauty and function. They can be carried easily and used as beds when the warriors are mobile.
A flashback to when Picard had rescued the young Romulan and left him in the care of the nuns... This is actually an enormous treehouse Todd designed and Lisa translated into organic materials and handmade pieces...
The banquette designed and built by her team, Alkofer again incorporated a signature fabric with a metallic weave to enhance lighting. And again incorporated curved pieces and globes to step away from the usual harsh lines often found in SciFi depictions. Fabric sourced through PDC, glass globes from Ikea.
The Cube a.k.a The Artifact, Romulan Borg Reclamation Project...
Narek [Harry Treadaway] and Soji [Isa Briones] meet... Note how Alkofer has included ovals and curvature in the neon lighting of this very hard metal, SciFi space! The huge space facility included the Entry Portal here, plus Psych Ward, Cantina, Locker Room/Changing area, Private Quarters. Read below and watch the video for much more!
Alkofer softened the personal quarters with fabrics and lines. Since Soji believed her father was a horticulturist, there are small plants under a grow-light behind her bed. Alkofer designed the standing lamp that’s between them to be totally mobile. It can collapse for storage, can be adjust from table lamp height to full extended standing, or configured perpendicularly.
Jean-Luc Picard [Sir Patrick Stewart] reconnects with a dear friend Deanna Troi [Marina Sirtis] and meets her daughter Kestra Troi-Riker [Lulu Wilson]. Troi and her husband Will Riker, who had been Picard’s ‘Number One’ for years, had moved to the unspoiled planet to help save the life of their son, who had a rare disease.
The house actually stands on Universal’s backlot but had been unused for years. The teams refurbished it completely, so now it’s in use again by several productions! See video for more insider details...
Jean-Luc Picard [Sir Patrick Stewart] The pristine setting is the base on the planet Coppelius that serves as a sanctuary for androids who are created based on the original Data. “It’s an all glass house. Because La Sirena is so dark, and the Borg Cube so dark, we wanted to embrace that lightness, to bring all the light in...”
Jean-Luc Picard [Sir Patrick Stewart] tries to convince Soji [Isa Briones] that making the morally correct decision actually will advance Synths, otherwise, they will become the destroyers that legend accuses them of being.
“The desk behind her is the one we used in the pilot where we find B-4’s head. The desk is now enclosed, because it’s the same technology, just updated for current use. Much of the scientific gear was from LCW Props.”
Set Decorator Lisa Alkofer SDSA brought elegance, while Production Designer Todd Cherniawsky brought a deep working knowledge of the sci-fi canon to the latest STAR TREK iteration, PICARD, the eponymous series starring the beloved character, Jean Luc-Picard, played by Sir Patrick Stewart.
The combination proved ideal for portraying the now retired Starfleet Admiral, who is, yet again, willing to take up a noble and likely hopeless cause
...and for the worlds we visit with him on this quest throughout the galaxies.
Château Picard, La Barre, France...
Stewart and Alkofer conferred several times over the character’s traits and likes, thus giving full force to the visual depiction her set choices convey, particularly in the Château Picard.
Stewart noted Picard’s deep interest in history, anthropology, art and the classics of literature, indubitably, Shakespeare...all characteristics he happens to share with the character.
Set Decorator Lisa Alkofer SDSA
In Conversation with SET DECOR
Alkofer notes, “Gene Roddenberry’s original through-line is humanity and being interested in somebody’s soul, whether they’re a Romulan or a Borg or whatever the next alien is going to be. Roddenberry always tried to find a common ground. So that’s sort of how I interpreted it through Patrick’s/Picard’s oeuvre.” Thus, artifacts representing different cultures, eras and places. Among the actual antiques and vintage pieces, “We did a riff off of those initial artifacts, so we also have some that might be alien artifacts in the year 2399,” Lisa smiles. [See video here and gallery above]
“It all came from history and humanity, trying to have a common goal and to communicate with people that are not like you.”*
Having worked as a buyer and Assistant Set Decorator for some of the top Set Decorators in the world throughout her career, Lisa knows her way around antiques, fine furnishings and luxurious fabrics. She and Buyer Sondra Thorpe [SDSA Associate] delved into finding the treasures within treasures at the esteemed Pasadena Antique Mall, looking not only for actual antiques but unusual objects and shapes that could be re-interpreted in a variety of ways. “We literally spent weeks in that place alone, combing each vendor’s stalls, going through each of those cabinets and trunks, and we kept going back and looking for more unusual stuff...and making great finds!”
“When you see Picard sitting at his desk, at his right elbow is an unusual piece, a glass half-sphere that has a little light on it. That was an original large camera lens and a microscope light that somebody had made into this odd little sculpture. I was going to use it as if it were the original television for the Enterprise, a piece that Picard had discovered and kept.
That’s how I approached STAR TREK. Every time we found an unusual object, or one with an interesting shape, I was always planning on making it into something else! Shapes were very important, especially in maintaining a more humanistic aspect to our design.”
“The globe standing next to Picard’s desk is, indeed, enormous, but I kept looking at it, and realized he’s a person who’s interested in the world, he would definitely have something like that.”
“His desk was pretty spectacular. Unfortunately, we don’t have any photos that show the entire desk. It was shaped like a trapezoid, another stunning antique that felt right for Picard and would hold distinction across time. I bought that from Anne Hauck Art Deco, one of the premiere Art Deco stores in the world, certainly in LA. In fact, half of THE AVIATOR sets, Ava Gardner’shouse, all of that, was shopped out of that store.”
[Editor’s note: THE AVIATOR, for which Production Designer Dante Ferretti and Set Decorator Francesca LoSchiavo SDSA won an Oscar, was the beginning of a long and close relationship with Alkofer, both working and personal.]
Art of the Château...
The hero painting titled Daughter hangs above the fireplace mantle behind Picard’s desk. The storyline was that Data had painted the piece...actually two versions of it, the difference being the direction she is looking. We learn later of twins Dahj/Soji, who are perhaps his daughter[s] due to fractal neuronic cloning. The painting, in all of its versions, was a collaboration between Set Dec, Art Dept and Props. “Todd found the artist, Andrea Dopaso. I brought in imagery of styles I liked and our Executive Producer Alex Kurtzman agreed, so it became a Turneresque seascape/portrait. Prop Master Jeff Lombardi took it from there, as there needed to be various degrees of completion for the flashbacks of Data painting, circa 2369.”
“All of the other paintings in the Château are museum pieces that I licensed through museums...The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, Art Resources and others...and are from different eras and different styles, different civilizations.”
“The painting in the center above the fireplace, on the opposite wall from Picard’s desk, is a Ferdinand Léger. We licensed two of those paintings for the whole season, one for his study and the other was going to be used in another part of the chateau. The reason we featured a Léger was because Patrick Stewart is a collector...and, obviously, he’s a French painter, in fact, he was from the south of France near the location of the chateau. This piece is early 1900s/1920s, during the Cubism period – this style was dubbed Tubism, so it fits into our scheme to have art from all different times, styles and places. I chose this specific Léger because it is a figurative painting, almost like a family portrait. Picard is longing for a family. Although he doesn’t vocalize it, it’s obvious that is what he’s searching for. Since on the opposite fireplace is the painting Daughter by Data, whom he considers a family member, and because Picard has such eclectic taste, this seemed ideal.”
“As I mentioned, all of the other pieces on that wall are from museums, so the framing had to reflect that. David Smith [another Set Decorator extraordinaire] taught me early-on the importance of good framing. He said, ‘If you’re ever going to spend money on anything, spend money on frames, and spend money on flower arrangements. If you’re going to go cheap on everything else, that’s fine, you can have Ikea furniture, but if you spend $200 on that floral arrangement sitting on the dining room table, it will make the whole room.’
That was a long time ago, I took it to heart.”
“Those fine art pieces were all chosen because of Patrick and his interest for the character, and I wanted the framing to look old world and carved and important, and make the art pop. So, I brought them all to U-Frame-It Gallery and worked with Adrianna for literally hours to choose the designs for the frames, because it was so important to both of us to get it right.”
[Editor’s note: Adriana Cruz-Ocampo is the owner of U-Frame-It Gallery, details which can be found in the Resources section above.]
“Because I tend to do stuff very early in prep, we had enough time that she could source really unusual frames and unusual mats. She took care, and I took care, on how everything looked. She and her team did such an amazing job. It made the set.”
“We initially had an antique tapestry hanging on the perpendicular wall, but it was threadbare, probably 200-hundred years old, so we decided it would be wise to have it framed. The embroidery was really beautiful. It had hints of red in it, so Adrianna floated it in a heavy, carved frame, with a little bit of red velvet kind of echoing it. That’s the only piece that wasn’t licensed from a museum, but it looked like it belonged in one!”
She points out that Picard’s family estate, the vineyards and chateau, are literally hundreds of years old. The Old World refinement of this rustic, organic setting offers a complete counterpoint to the technical advances of the 24thcentury, which it also holds, including replicators, holographic computer components and heads-up displays that appear on command in the ancient home...and more so and in more complexity on sets throughout the series. [See gallery above.]
La Sirena, A Kaplan F17 Speed Freighter starship...
The heightened sense of style is a visual leit motif Alkofer carried into the 3-storied spacecraft and in consideration of each of the other worlds we visit. A cargo freighter, the ship La Sirena reflects the vastness and the emptiness of space.
Cherniawsky’s design offers an open cockpit/bridge, literally bridging the fore end of a mezzanine. The opposite end berths the updated transporter with a dynamic light array. Exposed framework, with cargo nets covering niches to hold whatever within, along with boxes, trunks and other minimalistic storage compartments, comprise the length of the mezzanine, as it overlooks the exposed two-story-high central expanse in this highly functional transport ship. Below decks are an eating and common area, medical bay/infirmary on the second deck, the bottom deck has multi-use holds and storage containers and engine room, while the upper deck holds the bridge, control panel and living spaces, including the individual staterooms, with beautifully designed modular units Alkofer employed in different aspects. [See gallery and video for more details!]
The bridge has virtual screens and heads-up displays that can be manipulated to appear anywhere needed. Alkofer brought in a definitive organic touch for the captain’s chair, a special woven fabric with a hint of metallic to reflect more light in the dark ship, a great framing device for the actors who sit in it. [See gallery above re: a special detail...the logo & its meaning!]
She translated that visual connection onto the set for the Qowat Milat, a sect of warrior nuns on the planet Vashti. For a giant treehouse that Cherniawsky designed as their quarters, a safe and effective shelter, Lisa incorporated linen fabrics in bi-hued double-panels which provided both color and privacy, and used a German open-weave natural linen for beautiful yet simple thin futon-like pillows that serve as bolsters for the benches and as mobile beds when the warriors are on the move. Art has a natural tribal quality, furnishings a Japanese influence. Her work with the legendary Gretchen Rau on MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA informed the female Samurai-like aesthetic.
[See gallery and video.]
Freecloud and Nepenthe...
From there, we jump to the entirely futuristic nightclub/bar on Freecloud...with so much more style and panache than the usual...and then to its opposite, the very naturalistic setting of the planet Nepenthe, where Picard’s dear friends Admiral William Riker [Jonathan Frakes], formerly his first officer, and his wife Counselor Deanna Troi reside with their daughter...the forested mountain lake retreat as welcoming as his friends.
The Cube a.k.a The Artifact, Romulan Borg Reclamation Project...
But we also step into The Cube.
Literally an enormous cube, this is a captured Borg spacecraft, cold and imposing.
Again, using softened metallics and unique shapes, Alkofer brought a depth of visual style to a completely sci-fi high-tech, highly graphic metal design.
[See video for details!]
Coppelius, Synth planet... Picard’s ultimate quest was to reach Coppelius, the sanctuary planet for androids who are created based on the original Data, the pristine oceanside setting rendered in creams with golden orange hues. “It’s an all glass house. Because La Sirena is so dark, and the Borg Cube so dark, we wanted to embrace that lightness, to bring all the light in...”
The two constants throughout the series are the starship La Sirena and Picard’s chateau, which appears on the Holodeck aboard the ship whenever Picard wishes to make it so, which fortunately is at some point in most episodes! A matrix version appears in the season finale.
As Alkofer points out about the look of the entire series, “It was truly a collaboration of two different worlds...a more fashion humanistic organic world that I come from and Todd’s world of the science fiction gear. We had a great collaboration, which is how I always prefer to work, and which could not have been possible without the great collaborative spirit and talents of my team, especially Lead Jason Bedig and his stalwart crew, Head Buyer Sondra Thorpe and Buyers Ed McCarthy, John Bradley and Gregory Beech.”
She also acknowledges the collaborative spirit of SDSA Business Members as resources, with a thank you to all, especially those she worked with most often on this project: Alpha Companies Motion Picture Rentals, Arte De Mexico, Art Pic Gallery, Exclusive Sales & Rentals, LCW Props, U-Frame-It, Universal Drapery, Universal Property, Warner Bros. Property. She points out, “We purchased and designed and augmented most of our set dressing.” That includes lighting, draperies and wallcoverings, furnishings, art and thousands of space and otherworldly elements.
In the video and gallery, Alkofer generously shares more fascinating details!
Click on the video, visit the gallery above...
Karen Burg, Editor
*From Producer/Co-Creator Akiva Goldman on CBS All Access THE READY ROOM...
“We want to address the issues of the day, and many of today’s issues seem to be founded on a loss of empathy, driven by our inability to see with an empathetic eye. There’s been an escalation of “us” vs “them”. We’re obsessed with the differences, we’re so fixated on “the other” as a threat, it’s as if empathy has gone off. It’s as if somebody snuck up at night and turned it off culturally. So, part of what we’re trying to do...true to all STAR TREKs ...is to speak to contemporary problems...”