Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Frasier Living Room

Getting your Labor Day Weekend off to a good start, here is a Friday question and answer:

Dave wonders about the FRASIER set.

Where were the cameras, and where was the audience?

The living room gives the viewer virtually a 360-degree view of the set. There seems to be a small space between the front door and the kitchen, but sometimes we see a wall there. And then there are the reverse angles; sometimes we have setups by the kitchen, sometimes by the balcony, sometime by the fireplace.

Were the walls movable? Was it clever staging? Handheld cameras? Multiple takes? What's the deal?

First off, the set was brilliantly designed by Roy Christopher. In addition to all the shows he’s worked on, he’s also designed the sets for numerous Oscar and Emmy award shows. But for my money the Frasier living room is his masterpiece.

The audience looks straight into the set. The balcony and skyline of Seattle is in the back. Martin’s chair faces you. Between the audience bleachers and the set are the four cameras. Walls are hinged. The wall leading to the kitchen can swing in and you can get a camera way up into the set. You can shoot the couch (which is angled to the audience) practically straight on.

I was able to bring cameras way up into the set and shoot a scene between Daphne and Roz at that round kitchen table in the back. You can get cameras far enough into the set to shoot scenes out on the balcony if you like.

In a couple of places there are "ports" in the walls. These are sections that can slide out allowing cameras to peek through from the other side of the wall. This allows you to shoot deep up into the set. You're always trying to get shots where you can see the actors' eyes. That's not something you are consciously aware of but when you can't see the eyes it's very disconcerting.

How they sometimes do reverse angles is by sliding a wall piece in. That's the "fourth" wall that the audience is looking through normally.

And here’s the best part. Wherever you shoot, from any camera, it’s always an interesting angle. There are hallways and nooks and skylines and pianos and artwork and fireplaces – it’s just a feast for the eye.


Question Mark said...

Possibly a dumb question...going by your blueprint, there's no guest room. Where did Freddy sleep when he stayed with Frasier?

Damon said...

Question Mark - Maybe it is what is on the other side of the fireplace. It looks to be a room, there is a door on the blueprint but there is no name. Unless this is the infamous "seater cubby" that hid the washer/dryer hook-ups.

Ken - Thanks for the blueprint, I love seeing this! I would really love to see full blueprints of The Montana if those are available. It must have been huge... at least on paper.

Harshing Mellow since 1966 said...

I always thought Freddy slept on the couch, but maybe it just never came up?

Anyway - this is really cool! Thanks for the blueprint! I still miss this show (I mean, I watch the reruns...but you know). Everything about it was great.


Jenna said...

Wow, there are 4 bathrooms in that one apartment. In fact, there are more bathrooms than people who live there.

I like the blueprint. I never envisioned how everything fit together before. It really is a great set, so much more interesting than rectangular room after rectangular room.

Nat G said...

I'm always amazed by a good set, by just how real it looks - tidy, but real, well-faked natural light and all that - and then you move your eyes up, across the far-too-high ceiling and up beyond the edge of make believe, into the lights and supports and all the myriad practicalities.

BD Johnson said...

A well designed set practically shoots (and lights) itself. It is true, your set had great sight lines and a wonderful color palette. A designer who understands the needs of the camera is hard to find.

blogward said...

Great and thanks - but I'm not sure what I'd say to that blueprint if I was in the market for an Elliott Bay apartment!

WV: gesubi = a tiny monkey found only in the rainforests of the Philippines

Steve B. said...

I've got a question, Ken: Ever have a lean period in your career? You know, one of those years when it seems that everyone in town has a gig, but you're left standing on the sideline? How do you deal with it, and how do you push yourself to keep moving forward?

Dave said...


Thanks for the answer -- and the blueprint. I've always thought the set was a marvel of design, and now I'm even more convinced.

Doug in Dallas said...

The Frasier floorplan's great! Does such a plan exist for the Cheers set, as well?

Rinaldo said...

I love seeing blueprints of TV sets like this; they just fascinate me. Thanks so much for providing an unusually interesting one that I'd never seen before.

"More bathrooms than people who live there" isn't that unusual in my experience. A single person's house is likely to have a guest bath in addition to the master one, plus a half bath near the living room; in fact that's exactly my own setup. Frasier had in addition a servant's quarters with its own bath.

Alex said...

I can't remember if Frasier's apartment is in it, but I enjoy flipping through TV Sets: Fantasy Blueprints of Classic TV Homes when I'm at the home of a friend who has a copy.

I like that Frasier's bathroom is apparently bigger than his bedroom. That seems right.

Joe said...

This is bloody brilliant. And, if one were a follower of that style (archetypalism?) looks like a terrific place to live, too.

What *I* wanna know is WTF was up with Kelsey Grammer's hair...that weird Gallagher-with-a-perm mullet thing...very jarring to the eye.

Emmett Flatus said...


Steve the Creep said...

This is the one TV show set I actually wanted to live in.

D. McEwan said...

"Steve the Creep said...
This is the one TV show set I actually wanted to live in."

Me too, but I would decorate it SO differently than Frasier did.

"Jenna said...
there are more bathrooms than people who live there."

Of course. There had to be one (By the front door) only for guests. Frasier couldn't allow other people to use HIS giant bathroom! There were four bathrooms, but if more than one guest needed to go, there'd be a line in the living room. No guests in the private bathrooms. (Or was one Eddie's?)

I am reminded of the great British comedy actor Kenneth Williams, star of more "CARRY ON ..." movies than anyone else.

Kenneth was fastidious beyond all reason. He died a virgin while admitting being gay, because actually having sex with another person was just too unsanitary.

Guests in his home were NEVER allowed to use his bathroom. The very thought was intolerable to him. If a guests had a call of nature, they HAD to go outdoors and use the public convenience at the corner. It's in his published diaries, and he BRAGS about this in his autobiography.

Frasier at least provided a guest bathroom, where dinner guests or girl friend's mothers could go, or where handcuffed strippers could hide. (Come to think of it, that bathroom was used more often for hiding than it was for normal purposes.)

This was an unexpectedly fascinating post.

I realized that one of the reasons I've always enjoyed attending sitcom tapings was because I enjoyed seeing how the sets were deployed.

The MURPHY BROWN home set was also fascinating, but the "FYI Set" set was beside the audience, facing the same way, and was thus invisible except on monitors.

THE big curved staircase on the home set for THE NANNY was the same one in the home set (They were basically the same set in the same studio) as in David Hyde Pierce's earlier sitcom THE POWERS THAT BE, which I know many readers here recall with pleasure. There was more good comedy on that set in THE POWERS THAT BE's single season, than on THE NANNY's entire run.

Nickname unavailable said...

Best of all, when the camera was shooting from just the right angle, you could see my apartment building, or at least a picture of it, out the window.

Tom Dougherty said...

I've always marveled at that set. It's one of those things that you notice on the third or fourth time you see a particular episode, but it doesn't scream for attention. It's just a beaut. Thanks once again for the excellent blog, Ken.

Kurt said...

1. Is the Seattle background a picture, bluescreen image, or one of those minature scale models?
2. Kelsey Grammer said the set might end up in the Smithsonia, right? What happened to the set?

Debbie said...

The two pictures on the left side of the fireplace moved from episode to episode!
Sometimes they were close to the fireplace, other times they were far, and sometimes the far left picture was trimmed out to fit the fireplace ...was that an accident or on purpose to see how close we were watching?

kitchen tables said...

The Frasier Living Room is so beautiful. I think that is going to be my inspiration in remodeling my living room. Thank you for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

Question Mark and Jenna, there are only three bedrooms in Frasier's apartment - Frasier's, Martin's and Daphne's, that's why when Niles was unable to afford his rent at Montana, he slept in a cot at the foot of Frasier's bed. I believe Martin's room was originally the guest room, and Daphne's room was originally the study.

Group 18 said...

I have always been curious as to how the backdrop of the Seattle skyline worked.

Where were the pictures of the skyline in relation to the balcony?

Also, how high was the balcony off the ground?

jaevee said...

even though this is an old post and no one has responded to it in years i figured ask anyway.
I'm curious if someone could give me an ID on a specific item in the living room on the show..I have seen this in multiple seasons but just for reference sake/being exact, right now i am watching Season 4 E16 (the unnatural)

- in frasier's living room there is something on display on the shelf right behind his couch to the right/near "niles" (18 min 17 secs in you see a clear example), (here is a screen shot with the item right behind daphne's right shoulder )
- its a wooden box with what looks like some wooden spikes sticking out/up from the top of the box with what seems to be a round handle for a pull out draw built into the box.

DOES ANYONE HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THAT THING IS? (i have had no luck searching online before i posted this)

- obviously "Frasier" has many oddball/unique African art items as well as other "antiques" displayed around the house so i didn't know if it was just something like that , though i was also wondering if it was some form of traditional/ancient style "board game"???

- when i first saw the item on display episodes back it wasn't a clear image and the first thing that came to mind was a version of an old/original "VIKING CHESS" game (like kings table or something similar) but then when i got a better look i was not sure..(at a quick glance this was along the lines of what it made me think of (see link/image), obviously it isn't the same thing but the pull out draw could be for storing the pieces perhaps)
- if anyone has any idea what that thing actually is i would appreciate any ideas/feedback..

Disneydevotee said...

Does anybody know about the Seattle backdrop to the Frasier apartment? Was the daytime and nighttime shots of the city in the background giant photos/still images of the city or was a series of miniatures "buildings" used as sort of a matte painting look for the Seattle skyline as viewed through the Frasier apartment window?

I hope to hear some good knowledgable insights,



Anonymous said...

where can I get a copy of the picture in the background? Looks like a blue cat

Anonymous said...

Hi, to answer the question about the backdrop, it is a series of photos. A close approximate (possibly the actual) of this view is from Kerry park on queen Anne hill. The view is even better in real life, extending from the skyline to the mountains and Elliott bay. Great post!
Todd R.

Sammy Preston said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ben Kleschinsky said...

I've always loved Martin's recliner. You just don't find ones like that anymoe. Leather's alright, that microsuede no way. Whatever that is man it's the best.

Aiko said...

I skimmed through the comments and sorry if I missed it, but I don't believe anyone else commented on the fact that in at least two episodes, Daphne's room is not on the right side of the apartment as you walk in, but on the left side down the same hall as Frasier's and Martin's! When she's first hired, Martin mentions that the room across from his (Frasier's study) is available for her to use. Then in Season 3, Episode 20 or 21 (the one with the chess game), Frasier sets off the fire alarm in the middle of the night and everyone emerges, presumably from their rooms, into the same hallway. Has this bugged anyone else?

Eva C. said...

"When she's first hired, Martin mentions that the room across from his (Frasier's study) is available for her to use."

Maybe that windowless space behind where the fireplace is?

Steve said...

@Aiko Her room hadn't moved, we just assume or at least I did, that she'd just run over from her room to meet them in the hallway.

I'm David.. who are you? said...

Does anyone know where the set's furniture was sourced? It's all so beautiful.
I particularly love (and WANT) the small drawer set where each drawer is rotated at an angle from the one below. It features behind the left side of the sofa, against the wall. To the right of the guest bathroom door.

Donna Wells said...

Hi Can anyone tell me the dimensions of the coffee table? Thanks, Donna Wells

Dixie Stine said...

Who was the artist who did the double painting to the left of the fireplace. I have never enjoyed that type of painting, but it fascinates me. I never tire of looking at it.

Marfa Otano said...

Early on, when Daphne was hired, Martin told Frasier's that she could sleep in the room across the hall from his room. Later in the show we found out that Daphne moved into Frasier's old study. So the blueprint is missing the third bedroom.


Hi Dixie Stine - the pair of works to the left of the fireplace are a pair of mixed media works of painted cement and glass made by Laddie John Dill of Venice, California. I was an art model for him several years ago when he was producing these pieces

Dixie Stine said...

That must have been very interesting, Venice. I'm going to attempt a water color with those as an inspiration. Dixie Stine

Anonymous said...

The camera never actually follows a character from the living room, down the hallway behind the fireplace. However, there has been many references to what's down that hall, in the dialog (scripts). Unfortunately, few fan's blueprints show many of these.

We know that there is Freddy's bedroom (used when he visits). There is also a study. Though, if someone twisted my arm, I might concede they are the same room. There is a bit of inconsistency because it was also mentioned that Daphne's bedroom was also a study before she arrived.

There is a full hall bath, with a shower, on the left side of that hall. I would assume its back-to-back with the foyer's 1/2 bath.

Somewhere, there is a laundry room, that doesn't have a washer nor a dryer, forcing Daphne to go elsewhere to do their laundry. There is a comment by Daphne that she thought the laundry room was simply a large storage closet until she found the unused hookups.

This might mean nothing, but I never understood that someone who hosted many dinner parties, had such a small, four chair, dining table tucked into a corner of the living room. IMHO, the apartment's true dining room, is up where the grand piano sits. Without the piano, a good size dining table could be put there, and would still be directly off the kitchen.

Doug said...

Regarding the comment from "I'm David.. who are you?"
The twisting drawer table was made by a furniture designer and builder named Larry Horowitz. I used to apprentice with him in San Francisco around 1989/90. I haven't been in touch with him since that time, and I can't really find any trace of him on the internet, besides a few references to him from that time period. He also went under the name of "More and More... Design" at that time, which is unrelated to anything going by this name currently on the web as far as I can tell.

One of the few references to him still on the web is on the ApplePly website (ApplePly is a brand of Maple plywood that Larry was fond of using):
Scroll down to the image titled "Twisted by Larry Horowitz", and you can see a tall chest in the style of the end table. Larry would often mount the tall stack of drawers on a turntable that would be attached to the top of the base, and the stack of drawers could be rotated manually. Larry was very talented and had many different designs, some of which were much more complex in the use of woods, inlays, glass and finishes, but his series of "Twisted" cabinet designs seemed to be the most popular. It's such a simple, classic yet modern design. He would joke that many times other furniture designers would tell him, "I have a design just like that in my sketch book," and Larry would reply, "Yeah, but I made it first."

Katie J said...

Regarding the set's furniture, I would appreciate knowing the source of the dining room chairs. They appear to be suede, like the couch, and I like the simple style. I just loved this show, which I now watch in re-runs. Always makes me laugh!

Sinéad said...

I just rewatched this, it was the first episode and Martin does say that, but then Frasier says, "My study??" ... the room across the hall IS Frasier's study AND the room Daphne moved into.

Unknown said...

It looks like an Onitama game, but Onitama came out way after Frasier. I haven't been able to find anything about it.