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Set Pieces: A Hollywood-Midwest style mashup on 'Hot in Cleveland'

January 18, 2011 |  7:00 am

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In the cliffhanger to the first season of  "Hot in Cleveland," the TV Land sitcom beginning its second season Tuesday, the three L.A. transplants -- played by Wendie Malick (above, in blue), Valerie Bertinelli (in black) and Jane Leeves (in the tiara) -- take refuge from a tornado in a storm cellar with Elka (Betty White), the caretaker of their rented property. It turns out to be furnished with fine antiques and jewelry purloined by Elka's deceased husband. (Spoiler alert: Elka's next residence is the pokey.)

The three friends live more modestly in a late 19th century Queen Anne with a wide front porch and stained glass windows. It's based on an actual house in Cleveland and appears in the opening segment of each episode. In the pilot, the house was empty, but in Episode 2 furniture and decor were found in the basement and garage. "From this stash, our ladies decorated the house virtually overnight," production designer Michael Hynes said by e-mail.

In the second season, the characters have settled in Cleveland. The mandate was to update the interiors as a nod to all of their tastes, Hynes said, "while staying mindful of the fact that they are in Cleveland, not Hollywood." 

P1160681 The pretty and feminine furnishings were chosen to reflect "women who want to celebrate their new life in a traditional city, but whose ideas about style have been shaped by a half a lifetime spent in a very design- and trend-conscious metropolis," set decorator Maralee Zediker said by e-mail.

The result, as shown in the dining room, right, is a nice illustration of how contemporary Hollywood glamour pieces -- the round mirror, a chandelier from H.D. Buttercup and two turquoise lamps with matching shades found at Marshalls -- can liven up a more traditional home.

As is so often the case in domestic sitcoms, much of the action takes place in the kitchen, below. Hynes explained the back story: The Victorian-era original had been updated with new appliances including an enameled Magic Chef oven in the 1930s, and then it got its Dishmaster sink faucet and a GE combination icebox in the 1950s. With its swing-out lazy Susan shelving, the GE was "referred to as the Cadillac of refrigerators," Zediker said.

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Hynes said he looked at photos of old linoleum and composition tile and came up with a design in red, white and blue "to subtly suggest the a feeling of 'Americana' that people tend to associate with the Midwest." To make camera movements easier, however, the design is actually painted on the studio's concrete floor.

Keep reading to see more of the "Hot in Cleveland" house ...

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The living room color scheme was based on a 1920s Turkish rug in shades of aqua, teal, apricot and coral. The furniture came from the Warner Bros. property department and got punched up with pillows from H.D. Buttercup, Mortise & Tenon, Pier 1 Imports and Cost Plus World Market. "There are small areas of 'pattern on pattern' which I feel adds depth and dimension when used with constraint," Zediker said.

1Picnik collage

Behind Betty White, look for a nice touch beside the front door. Zediker hung a child's chair on the wall with hooks and monofilament: "I thought it was charming," she said, "and that hanging it on the wall for keys was a great re-purposing for such a sweet piece."

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"Hot in Cleveland" creator Suzanne Martin wanted a large, Victorian-era porch, an additional area for the characters to congregate, which they tend to do at the end of each episode. She felt that the front porch was emblematic of a simpler, more humane life that so many people long for. "It is also the antithesis of what our characters knew from their life in Los Angeles, a symbol of the slower, more gracious lifestyle that our characters discover in Ohio," Hynes said. "I suggested a porch swing in addition to chairs, because the swing is the ultimate throwback to a Norman Rockwell-like past that we all get nostalgic for."

-- David A. Keeps

Set Pieces appears here on Tuesdays. Join us on Facebook for an easy way to track future installments.

Photo credits: TV Land

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