Beth Kushnick was being inundated. Fans of the television show The Good Wife were reaching out to her through social media and constantly filling up her in-box. They didn't want to discuss plot points from the legal drama or get the inside dirt on what was planned for Julianna Margulies's character. They wanted to talk about the show's furniture.
"I was getting so many inquiries," says Kushnick, the show's set decorator. The network, CBS, asked Kushnick to write a blog to discuss her choices and tell viewers where to source everything from one character's linens to a mirror in another's apartment.
The Good Look of The Good Wife has proved so popular that the network capitalized on fan interest this fall with a television first: a home-decor licensing deal that will feature furniture on the program that is available to viewers to purchase.
CBS also launched a cosmetics line inspired by the Young and the Restless this year and partnered with a clothing store to create a line of clothing for the rebooted 90210, but it hasn't ventured into licensed furniture and home decor before, says Liz Kalodner, executive-vice president and general manager of CBS Consumer Products.
The network has partnered with Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, a residential and commercial furniture manufacturer, to create a line inspired by the show. It's also developing a home decor line with Interlude Home.
The lamps, vases and side tables made their debut on the show's season four premiere in September. Love Will's plush leather chair? You can buy it online for your office for $1,995 (U.S.).
TV execs are realizing that viewers are just as likely to obsess over a couch as we are the main character. Not only are manufacturers seeing sales boosts when furniture is featured in productions, the attention paid to the look of programs is even inspiring the next evolution of product placement – as-seen-on-TV furniture.
The trend, like so many others, can be traced back to Mad Men, says Cheminne Taylor-Smith, vice-president of marketing for the High Point Market in North Carolina, which bills itself as "Fashion Week for home furnishings."
The show that launched a thousand skinny ties proved that highly stylized set design could attract as much attention as the storylines.
Although we're still waiting on an official Mad Men line of furniture (the clothing did get the official treatment with a line sold at Banana Republic), it has nevertheless had a massive influence on furniture makers who have seized on the interest in mid-century modern pieces, Taylor-Smith says. For example, Dwell Studio debuted a retro-inspired line last year.
Set decoration is the new source for design inspiration. Janel Laban, executive editor of Apartment Therapy, a popular interior design website, says that readers regularly contact the site looking for information on pieces from their favourite movies and television shows.
Inquiries have ranged from where to buy the high-backed couch featured in The Kids Are All Right to the name of the paint colour used in Dr. Gregory House's office in House.
"People feel more empowered to work on their homes, create a style in their home. And it's moved out of the realm of hiring a designer and going to a showroom to find things," Laban says.
For furniture makers, having a piece featured in a hit show or movie can mean great benefits to the bottom line.
Earlier this year, the Phillips Collection, a North Carolina-based company, had eight of its futuristic Seat Belt Dining Chairs included in the The Hunger Games.
"It was huge," says Jason Phillips, the company's vice-president and creative director. "Every one of our customers mentioned that they saw it, it reinforced the brand and [there was a] huge boost in sales." Phillips estimates it resulted in a 30-per-cent jump.
He says the movie's set decorator chose the chairs without any lobbying from the Phillips Collection, but the company is now nurturing the relationship.
"We make sure we treat her as a VIP from that moment on, get her catalogues, offer to tour her through the warehouse," Phillips says.
Other television networks are following CBS's lead and getting into the home decor biz.
In the summer, NBC announced the launch of a licensing program for the show Downton Abbey that will see a range of products inspired by the period drama, including home furnishings, bedding and bath lines, housewares, decor and kitchenware, most of which is expected to be introduced in stores by next fall, says Carole Postal, co-president of Knockout Licensing, the company overseeing the licensing program.
"Downton Abbey's Edwardian-era English country manor house is beautifully furnished, so almost everything seen in the show, from furniture to fabrics to tableware and cookware or even lighting and linens, could be a part of our licensing program," Postal says.
The popularity of Downton Abbey's aristocratic aesthetic will get an extra boost thanks to the upcoming film adaptation of Anna Karenina, Taylor-Smith says.
"That look of 'to the manor born' is going to be very popular," she says.
The Good Wife furniture collection features 11 pieces so far, including Alicia's Sofa, Kalinda's Leather Chair, as well as several other chairs, accent pillows and another sofa.
"It's been selling briskly right from the beginning," says Mitchell Gold, adding that more pieces will be introduced for the show's next season.
The trend is probably the closest we've come so far to being able to click on an item we see on a TV series and purchase it directly from the television. Don't discount that eventually becoming a reality, says Kushnick, only half-jokingly.
"Eventually, this level of instant gratification will be [widely] available," she says. "That's only a matter of time."