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Set Pieces: Loft chic versus retro cool on 'Bones'

November 9, 2010 |  7:00 am

Bones-Brennan-slab-table

She's a renowned forensic anthropologist. He's an FBI agent.

Her loft is uptown international chic. His apartment is downtown Americana cool.

On "Bones," Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) have been a good match -- successful enough to spark recent rumors that this Fox show has a spinoff in the works. For the "Bones" design team, the key to success has been depicting two very different homes for two very different people.

"They're character-driven," set decorator Kim Wannop said. "We have great characters and a lot of back story to work with.  That's reflected in their homes."

Bones-Booth-Living

For the story behind Brennan's loft, top, and Booth's apartment, above, keep reading ...

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Dr. Temperance Brennan's loft

As "Bones" dives into its sixth season, anthropologist and novelist Brennan's commitment to her work is reflected in her loft.

"The character has collected ethnic objects from her travels, but they all reference her work," said production designer Michael Mayer. "So to punch up that point, the materials we used for her loft are hard-edged and linear."

Show creator Hart Hanson summed it up another way: "Brennan's place is like her character, cold and rational, but it has to have touches of warmth so that the audience can like her."

The 1,000-square-foot open layout incorporates brick walls and polished concrete floors. The loft's signature piece is a 9-foot-long concrete table (also pictured at the top of this post) with the severe lines of a Bronze Age altar. Nearby Asian, African and pre-Columbian artifacts crowd a wall of reticulated birch display boxes that Mayer designed; they pop out against the dark mahogany door and window surrounds. West African masks hang above a wooden sculpture of an Indian maharajah mounted on a Tibetan tea table.

Wannop shopped for pieces at Cost Plus World Market and Pier 1 Imports, as well as Wertz Brothers and H.D. Buttercup. An Asian-influenced glass dining table came from Blueprint.  Red shag rugs and pillow-strewn club chairs and sectional were from Plummers

Benjamin Moore's Soft Pumpkin paint was used on the walls to get the warmth that Hanson wanted. Wannop complemented it with abundant sprays of blooming orchids, a Chinese moon curio stand and a carved Chinese prosperity gate frame that throw some curves into the linear space.  Lighting fixtures from Lamps Plus and Info Lighting in L.A. also help to soften the look, below.

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Agent Seeley Booth's apartment:

By contrast, Booth's two-bedroom, shotgun-style apartment is every boy's dream: a playhouse of vintage toys, sports memorabilia and World War II collectibles. Hanson summed up the look: "Booth is a Level 1 hoarder, with a love of analog and the past."

While Brennan's loft is compartmentalized and serene, Booth's place is organized chaos.  Because the character comes from a military family, tail pieces of an old fighter plane have been used to decorate the pale gray walls (seen in the second photo from top). Toy trains, model cars and planes cover open surfaces between stacks of old vinyl records, autographed baseballs and glass jars of antique marbles.

"I did a large pull of sports memorabilia from the Rose Bowl swap meet," said Wannop, who found other collectibles at the Melrose Trading Post.

Built-in oak bookcases, hardwood floors, wooden shutters and doors with glass transoms give the space a masculine, retro vibe. Booth's whimsy is expressed in clever ways: an end table made from a manhole cover and aluminum tubing (also pictured in the second photo from top), an an airplane window turned into a wall mirror.

Circus-striped throw rugs from Cost Plus World Market anchor a butterscotch vintage leather recliner and blue plush sofa from Wertz Brothers.  A cuckoo clock, a Bakelite rotary telephone and an old boxing bell mix with poker chips, stacks of blueprints and an Oliver Hardy plaster bust. 

Bones-Booth-bedroom

Booth's bedroom combines Old West black-and-white photography with a simple bed and chest of drawers from discount emporium Living Spaces.


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The bathroom, above, gets injections of personality via vintage clocks scattered on the wall and an upended trunk deployed as a shelf.

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The kitchen, meanwhile, is flavored with more vintage paraphernalia.

"When I’m shopping," Wannop said, "a piece either screams Booth or it screams Brennan."

Distinct characters have been given distinct looks, but for fans of the show, the ultimate question remains: Will vintage Americana and international eclectic ever share a common living space?  Creator Hart Hanson just smiles.

-- Susan James

Photo credit for Brennan's loft: Michael Becker / Fox

Photo credit for Booth's apartment: Chris Tomko

CORRECTED: An earlier version of this post attibuted all photography to Fox.

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