Bringing a story to life onscreen requires tremendous effort behind the scenes viewers often don't think about. The work of actors, directors, and producers is generally recognized, but creating the right tone in a movie or TV show also requires careful attention to the set design. Imagine watching "Mad Men" without the minimalist mid-century office furniture or "The Great Gatsby" without sleek art deco sofas for the characters to lounge upon. The viewing experience just wouldn't feel the same.
The Set Decorators Society of America describes their craft as "curating the environment through objects to tell the story of the characters." Set decorators bring scripts to life by carefully selecting items to create the perfect physical setting for the story. This task encompasses everything from furniture and lighting to art and tabletop decor. Some TV and movie set designs have become so popular with viewers they influence home decor trends, like the 1960s stylings of Netflix's hit series "The Queen's Gambit" or the Hampton chic of Diane Keaton's character in "Something's Gotta Give."
Lazzoni Modern Furniture compiled a list of iconic furniture pieces that appeared in movies and television shows, using research from across the internet. Keep reading to learn more about five chairs and sofas that made their mark on the big and small screen.
Captain Kirk's famous seat on the USS Enterprise sold for $304,750 at a 2002 California auction. In 1964, the show's crew used a "Dimension 2400" model chair from Madison Furniture Industries as the base to create this piece.
Designers built a larger frame around the lounge chair to house control panels with multiple buttons and switches. These features on each arm of the seat were changed as needed across episodes to fit different storylines. The captain's chair was then placed on a raised platform, making it the focal point of the starship's bridge.
In the 1970s sitcom "All in the Family," a shabby orange-yellow wing chair was the heart of the home. The manufacturer and date of this piece are unknown, as it was scavenged from a California thrift shop by the production team for $8. The show's patriarch, Archie Bunker—known for his cantankerous personality—quickly ousted anyone who attempted to sit in his beloved seat.
"All in the Family" touched on social and political issues like no TV series before it—and this chair appeared alongside many of those groundbreaking conversations. Archie's chair is now with the National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. and was the first entertainment memorabilia ever donated there.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, "Friends" grew a worldwide following that made it one of the most popular TV sitcoms of all time. So much so that even 25 years later, Netflix was willing to pay then AT&T's WarnerMedia about $100 million for one-year streaming rights. The show's trendy hairstyles, fashion choices, furniture, and decor remain recognizable today, but no single piece of memorabilia is more iconic than Central Perk's orange velvet couch.
Each week, Chandler, Joey, Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, and Ross piled into the coffee shop to sip java and swap stories on this unique sofa. The piece reportedly sold in 2011 for around $4,000 to $6,000. In 2019, 30 replicas of the couch were staged in locations across the globe for fans to visit in honor of the show's 25th anniversary.
A pair of Chesterfield chairs play a significant role in the 1999 sci-fi flick "The Matrix." A pivotal scene features computer hacker Neo and resistance leader Morpheus seated in these classic red leather wingbacks. Morpheus presents Neo with a now infamous choice: take a blue pill to return to life as he knew it—a computer-generated reality known as the Matrix—or take a red pill to reveal the truth and awaken to the real world.
The Chesterfield chair also became synonymous with Morpheus as a throne of sorts the character sits upon throughout the series, one powerful hand placed on each arm's ornately carved lion head. Film merchandise with this image has been popular with fans, including action figures, posters, and shirts.
One of the most memorable moments in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" features Dr. Evil sitting in a chair he's helplessly trying to control while his mini-me looks on. His black highback chair may have some futuristic stylings, but its bones are pure vintage furniture that harks back to the classic James Bond film "You Only Live Twice"—where another villain sits in a similar chair while petting his feline friend.
In the Bond film, the villain Blofield sits on a G Plan 6250 swivel chair made in 1962 by the British company G Plan, which democratized midcentury furniture in the U.K.
This story originally appeared on Lazzoni Modern Furniture and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
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