Behind the Scenes, in Front of the Camera

Source: Dexter
Source: Dexter

I rarely watch television shows as they are broadcast. I prefer to wait until a show is complete, and to watch it at my pace.

This happened with Dexter. It’s about a serial killer who kills serial killers. It ended September 22, 2013 after eight seasons, so I’m behind (as expected).

After a day of counseling, it’s relaxing for me to watch a show that verges on fantasy, where the bad guys always get caught (okay, and they meet a grisly, poetically just end).

However, since season 5, what I’ve really been watching on the show is the set design. Holy moly. As an artist, writer, psychotherapist, and designer, I’m floored by production designer Jessica Kender’s work.

Each set expresses the character who occupies the space.

Dexter, being a cold-blooded killer, has a sleek, modern apartment (the outside is streamline moderne, which Miami is known for) with a few chairs to die for–er, that would be nice to have in my home, but it’s the layering that’s fascinating.

Source: Jessica Kender
Source: Jessica Kender

Dexter has a toddler who figures more and more prominently in his character development, and you can see how that’s shown through the toys on top of the no-nonsense modern furniture.

Source: Jessica Kender
Source: Jessica Kender

Louis, a minor character, is a video game designer and pop art collector, but he’s also self-absorbed, entitled, and lacks empathy. His apartment reflects his cool and calculating personality in its rigid organization (see the comic book collection on the right, towards the back?), while also showing off his great sense of style. How about that awesome mural featuring a masked assassin from David Mack’s Kabuki series? Oh, and Louis is obsessed with serial killers and created a game where you could play one.

Source: Jessica Kender
Source: Jessica Kender

Dr. Vogel is an English psychologist (played by the ever-elegant Charlotte Rampling) living in Miami, whose speciality is antisocial personality disorder (a diagnosis given to serial killers). Her art deco home office is seriously driving me nuts–in a good way. Check out the sealed up fireplace, and how it’s lighted and decorated, as well as the use of lighting, shadows, and leaves on the mantel.

Source: Jessica Kender
Source: Jessica Kender

Now enjoy her desk. It’s clean and simple, organized and controlled. Kender has arranged the objects according to how Vogel works. I would also assume Vogel is right-handed because of where her pens are, but her lamp is also on the right (which would cause a shadow while she wrote). I’m guessing that having the lamp on the right looked better, since on the left it would have been visually “in the way” when someone entered through the door. Okay, and are you envious of the etched glass windows?

Source: Jessica Kender
Source: Jessica Kender

In one of the seasons, the stylish big bad lived in a hotel room. I find two things interesting about the room. First, the aquarium empty of fish and water, but used as a still life display of what I hope are replicas of coral (real coral destroys coral reefs, don’t buy it!). Ultimately, things are in this hotel room for “looks”–just like the tailored suits dress up the handsome villains of this story arc–but I like the idea of decorating with dry aquaria to contrast with the terraria trend right now.

Source: Jessica Kender
Source: Jessica Kender

Second object of interest: the traffic diverter at the entrance. This breaks up the large living room, and creates a foyer for visitors. It purposefully pauses those who enter, as well as forces them to make a choice (left or right?). I like that it’s a wall without being a wall, a screen without being unwieldy or too solid. It’s practically a sculpture in the living room, and suggests a Japanese alcove space used to highlight a beautiful painting, calligraphy, or ikebana (flower arrangement).

Source: Jessica Kender
Source: Jessica Kender

Elway is a private investigator, and here’s his office. The glass walls (perpendicular to the windows) suggest transparency: Elway investigates and reveals the truth. But what’s that on his shelves? What is it he finds beautiful enough to warrant displaying, and displaying for his clients to observe (he may enjoy these things, but they’re behind his head most of the time)? Models of fast cars (power, thrill of the chase) and a display of samurai swords (honor, lethal skill, service).  And then there’s the use of red in the design. Curious.

Source: Jessica Kender
Source: Jessica Kender

The space I’m most in love with belongs to Deb, Dexter’s sister. I won’t tell you how she got this awesome beach house, but I think it’s funny that her character is a slob and she kind of inherited the decor of this home. It’s lovely in its casual beachiness, but doesn’t reflect her foul-mouthed, tough-as-nails personality. What it does suggest is that she’s maturing (after a recent breakup, she was living with Dexter; now she’s living on her own).

Regardless, the design is impeccable and the colors echo sand, driftwood, and palm trees. Note that the stringed lights look festive on or off, which is a consideration when buying stringed lights (do they look good off?) for interior decoration. I like that Kender designed the living room with seats facing other seats, i.e., people, instead of a television set, and that the sofa is also facing the sliding glass doors, which offers a view of the beach.

How does your space express who and where you are in the story of your life? As a designer with a psychotherapy background, I can help you design your happy place! Contact me here.

Featured image source: Jessica Kender

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