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Set Pieces: The seats on 'America's Got Talent,' 'X Factor'

July 27, 2011 |  7:06 am

Sharon Osbourne. Piers Morgan. Christina Aguilera. Adam Levine. Simon Cowell. Nigel Lythgoe. These are some of the high-and-mighty folks who sit in judgment of America's singing-dancing wannabe stars. But where do they actually sit, and can you get a throne just like one of theirs? Let's get to the bottom of this.

Picture 2 NBC's "The Voice" crowned Javier Colon the winner less than a month ago and the show is scheduled to return in the winter -- good news for design fans like me, who were fascinated with the synchronized rotating judges' chairs, as shown at right with winning coach Adam Levine.

Made with red leather cushions and black gunmetal finished frames, the chairs were "the hero element," said "The Voice's" production designer Anton Goss of Consortium Studios. Each had to be calibrated with rotating mechanisms and decked out with cushions that allowed for the different-sized judges to appear to be the same height. "We really feel we raised the bar," he added. "They're a little bit 'Star Trek' mixed with Midcentury design and rock 'n' roll styling." Goss had them produced as proprietary designs at a cost estimated at tens of thousands per chair by the Burbank firm Scenic Route. Translation: You can't order one, even if you could afford it. 

AR2_MG_7932 By contrast, the chairs on NBC's "America's Got Talent," top, and Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance," right, look much more familiar. Indeed the only difference between the two is that the judges on "America's Got Talent" have leather-backed versions, and the chairs on the panel of "So You Think You Can Dance" are mesh-backed. "The chairs are very comfortable," said "America's Got Talent" production designer James Yarnell, who identified them as under-$1,000 In chairs by Trendway. "The judges have never said anything against them, which is a good thing as they're very verbal if they are uncomfortable with anything."

Speaking of comfort, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger and L.A. Reid will be sitting in the lap of luxury when "The X Factor" debuts this fall. The show's art director, Tamlyn Wright, chose a Midcentury Modern classic for the panel. "For the British version of 'The X Factor,' they had used the Aluminum Group chair in black leather," she said.  "They liked the Eames design aesthetics and it complemented the art direction of the show, so we wanted to stay in that world of design, quality and comfort."

Wright ordered the Aluminum Group's more deluxe Soft Pad Management chair, shown below, a 1969 Charles and Ray Eames design, customizing it with an added cylinder adjustment rod in the neck of the chair to accommodate the judges' various heights. It can be ordered directly from Herman Miller, with prices starting at $2,689.

1Picnik collage

-- David A. Keeps

Photo credits: NBC, Fox, Herman Miller