Iconic Furniture in Pop Culture
Does art imitate life? Or is it the other way around? It’s a centuries-old question that might never be fully answered. But there’s no denying that our lives are influenced by the entertainment we see, including the furniture on display in our favorite iconic movies and TV shows.
While most furniture is simply used as background “noise,” some pieces have made their way into the pop culture hall of fame. But why?
It’s often a combination of reasons. A divan might make us long for bygone eras. A simple antique dining room set could remind us of our childhood days visiting a grandparent’s farmette. Regardless of the reason, we somehow form a psychological connection with the furniture we see on our computers and television screens. That bond is incredibly strong — so much so that we might find ourselves decorating our own homes, offices, apartments and vacation cottages with similar items.
If you have ever felt compelled by the iconic furniture you’ve seen in pop culture, you needn’t feel embarrassed. It’s not unusual for manufacturers and dealers to get a sudden rush of orders after a movie or TV show gains viral popularity. In fact, some makers of fine furnishings and sellers of antiques hope for this kind of buzz. They count on increasing sales through the excitement of unique furniture on our silver, HD and mobile screens.
Whether the furniture you see mirrors or makes society, you can probably relate to much of the furniture we’re about to explore. Join us as we take a trip down memory lane and discuss some of those iconic pieces of furniture that overshadowed the most famous actors and actresses. Who knew that stars could be upstaged by carefully crafted wood, vinyl and fabrics?
Let’s start with the couch or sofa, since it’s one of the central features in most of our homes and apartments. Couches give so much back to their owners. They’re places to sit, to rest, to converse, to eat and even to sleep. In addition, they can quickly become the central focus in any living room, den, family room or master bedroom.
Finding the right couch for you and your loved ones takes a little time. It may also stem from an exploration of these famous lounges:
- The Simpsons’ Brown Couch: Who would ever think that a cartoon could powerfully change the way we feel about our sofas? The sofa from “The Simpsons” may not be real, but all of us can picture that brown couch from the beginning of every episode. Over the years, the couch has seen many antics by Homer, Bart and the gang. It’s even come to life, taking on anthropomorphic qualities. Can you buy this couch in real life? Maybe. Somewhere, somehow, there’s a brown couch on sale in a little-known furniture gallery that probably looks a lot like this one.
- Oprah’s Couch: To say Oprah’s eponymous show was huge would be an understatement. At the height of “Oprah,” she was snagging an estimated 7.4 million viewers an episode. But what was just as iconic as the Queen of Daytime herself was her couch. Remember the infamous interview with Tom Cruise when he jumped for joy on the cushions? It’s a classic part of Americana.
- Austin Powers’ Lips Couch: While the lip-shaped, fire-engine-red couch from “Austin Powers” might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it definitely made a bold statement. Many people couldn’t think of this tongue-in-cheek — not to mention downright cheeky — movie without remembering the lips. For anyone looking for a couch that will definitely attract attention, this is one striking style to consider.
- The Divan in “Titanic”: Do you recall the scene in “Titanic” where Rose positions herself on a divan so Jack can draw her? Turns out that although she was the star of the moment, the divan came in close second. Its feminine lines and authentically vintage feel added to the romantic mood and made people wonder why they weren’t decorating their homes with more chaise lounges.
- The “Friends” Sofa: Oh, those wacky “Friends.” They were always gathering for laughs and talks at the local coffee shop, Central Perk. Thank goodness the couch was there to support them and make it easier for us to witness their casual, humorous conversations. While the couch isn’t anything special in and of itself, it did spark interest across the country. Maybe its simplicity and familiarity was what won it so many accolades.
Let’s move from the couch to another practical piece of furniture that belongs in every house: the chair. So many times, we overlook the importance of a chair. Fortunately, the designers of the TV and film sets below never forgot that a chair could be a focal point.
- Archie Bunker’s Chair: When “All in the Family” first launched in the early 1970s, it wasn’t expected to take off as brilliantly as it did. Carroll O’Connor turned a curmudgeon into an almost lovable iconic character and made his chair a common thread season after season. We can all relate to having that one chair we consider “ours,” though most of us are less fastidious about it than Archie.
- Frasier’s Dad’s Chair: When Martin Crane moved into his son, Frasier’s, beautiful Seattle apartment, craziness ensued thanks to a well-placed, well-worn and kind of homely-looking chair. Martin loved it to death and insisted that it belonged among Frasier’s more pristine furnishings. Dismayed, Frasier tried in vain to relegate the chair to the dump. Guess what? The chair never moved, and became a staple of the household.
- The Space-Age Chairs of “2001”: Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” left audiences breathless. Decades later, it’s still considered a film classic and is constantly studied by students and artists who want to understand its deep, profound and somewhat spooky message about humanity, life and death. During the movie, the chairs displayed were considered some of the most revolutionary of the time. Interestingly, they helped spawn a movement toward minimalist seating, although they weren’t most families’ cup of tea.
- Chairy: Were you one of the viewers who watched “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” when it first hit the scene? You no doubt were kind of weirded out by Chairy, the lovable but slightly peculiar chair. Of course, no one could deny that this was a chair with a distinctive personality!
- Those Chairs on “The Voice”: Okay — we have to admit “The Voice” isn’t known for its furniture. But those chairs are crazy in the ultimate. They’re also more than a little intimidating. No wonder the performers get cold feet and perspire up a storm. The chairs are meant to evoke a sense of foreboding and mystery. Additionally, they seem to suggest that something bad could happen. Still, despite their oddness, they’re iconic for the show.
- The Iron Throne: Speaking of spooky and macabre, who could forget the Iron Throne from “Game of Thrones?” Its shape and composition aren’t exactly fitting for most people’s residences. Made of steel and swords, it’s a bold statement that evokes power and strength. But it’s probably not the comfiest chair on the planet. Take a pass on this one if you’d prefer to kick back in a warm, cozy recliner.
- The “Men in Black” Egg Chairs: Are they comfortable or not? Unless you find a set of these “Men in Black” egg chairs, you may never know the answer to that question. Sure, they look like they might fit the curves of most people’s bodies, but they could also feel a little strange. Unless you’re a baby bird, you might want to take a pass on these. Interestingly, they first appeared in real life in the 1960s as part of the modernist movement in furnishings. This means they have authentically vintage roots, despite their new-age appearance.
- Captain Kirk’s Chair: Even if you aren’t the most intense Trekkie on the planet, you’ve likely seen Captain James Tiberius Kirk’s chair from the original “Star Trek” series. The chair, a prop used for the three seasons, has become ingrained in our collective memories as the location where Kirk barked orders, confidently overcame enemies and (sort of) followed the Prime Directive.
Tables are highly useful furnishings for any home or workspace. They also provide great camera angles, which is why so many classic shows and movies have included tables.
- The “Golden Girls” Table: For “Golden Girls” enthusiasts, their Florida home’s kitchen table was a must-see in every episode. At least once per thirty-minute telecast, the table became a place to talk and eat some type of decadent sugary snack, typically in the wee hours of the morning. Was there anything special about this table? Not really — but it reminded all of us of the good old tables we think about when we envision whatever place we call home.
- The “Wonder Years” Table: Another kitchen table that evoked a sense of nostalgia was the one used in “The Wonder Years.” Although this show began in the 1980s, it was set in the 1960s and featured vintage-style furniture. Everyone who watched the kids grow up around the table felt a kinship with the realities of family life.
- The “Saved by the Bell” Max Booth: Ah, the “Saved by the Bell” cast. Every now and then, one of them pops up in the news. Even if you didn’t watch their show like a hawk, you probably recall the booth they sat around in The Max. It had a kitschy, plain feel, but was memorable all the same. Plus, it was a huge booth by any standards. No doubt the magic of TV had something to do with its size — as well as the need to fit a generous number of cast members around it.
- The “Downton Abbey” Dining Room Table: Unless you have a home with an incredibly large dining space, you probably can’t fit the huge Downton Abbey dining room table and accompanying dining room suite items into your home. Pity, because then you could have the fun of pretending you’re an aristocrat living in a simpler — yet still complex — time.
- “The Fourth Phase” Scroll Table: If you’re someone who’s drawn to unusual furniture, you owe it to yourself to check out the scroll table displayed in the film “The Fourth Phase.” This table has a handle that allows you to conveniently spin between several different displays, making it possible to have a unique vantage point most days of the week. And yes, this scroll table is available for purchase if you can’t stop thinking about it.
Yes, even wardrobes have their place in this article about pop culture and furnishings! If you’ve never considered having a wardrobe in your home, you may want to rethink your decision. Wardrobes can be fabulous places to store your treasures. Plus, when they’re made by master craftspeople, they’re truly works of art.
- The Wardrobe to “Narnia”: Narnia. It’s the last place you’d expect to go if you walked into a piece of furniture, but in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” it’s the gateway to an amazing and dangerous land. The wardrobe to Narnia has been depicted in movies as a towering item, but we have to wonder how most kids pictured it when they read this classic book. Even a simple wardrobe could have magical powers.
- The “Beauty and the Beast” Wardrobe: Sure, it’s only a cartoon, but the “Beauty and the Beast” wardrobe elicits a personality filled with positivity and charm. Additionally, it was obviously made by someone who knew how to add intricacies and designs during the furniture-making process. Interestingly, she has a feminine persona, whereas the wardrobe to Narnia seems to have a more masculine appeal. It will be fascinating to see how this cartoon wardrobe translates to a more realized version in the 2017 film, out this month.
Famous Miscellaneous Furniture Pieces
Finally, we come to all those furniture pieces that just didn’t fit anywhere else. Enjoy this trip down memory lane!
- The 1960s, Beatles-Style: The biopic of The Fab Four, “Eight Days a Week,” gives an outstanding look into the phenomena that was The Beatles. It also showcases plenty of 1960s fashion and furniture flair. Who could forget the bold, brilliant colors of the time? Those who don’t like everything to be matchy-matchy may find it a little hard to bear, but it’s eye-catching nonetheless.
- The Mirror in “Harry Potter”: Look deep into the “Harry Potter” series’ mirror. What do you see? If you’re like many viewers, you saw a piece of furniture that would look great in your house or office. Yes, it’s a bit ornate if you prefer a streamlined, modern touch. But, if you’re into a lot of filigree and gilding, you’ll appreciate just how ornate it is.
- The “Cheers” Bar and Stools: Who wouldn’t want to go into a place where they all know your name and everybody rips off one-liners all night long? The “Cheers” set isn’t something you’re likely to recreate in your own home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try. All you need is a solid bar with heavy-duty stools — and maybe a cast of colorful characters to keep you smiling, drink after drink.
- The Window Seat of “Girl Meets World”: Disney knew it had something special with “Girl Meets World,” the sequel to the 1990s cult classic “Boy Meets World.” In this show, Mya and Riley spend lots of time discussing important issues on Riley’s window seat. While it’s an embedded piece of furniture in the window sill, it still deserves a place on our list. After all, can’t we all wish for a location where we can enjoy natural sunlight or moonlight while discussing important topics with a BFF? Although the series has been shelved forever at this point, viewers will always have fond memories of the window seat moments in the NYC brownstone.
- “Mad Men” Whiskey Tumblers: While they might not be technically furniture, the whiskey tumblers in “Mad Men” have elicited quite a stir among connoisseurs and collectors. Their style is a mixture of glass and metal, and although viewers may have thought they couldn’t possibly be authentic antiques, they were wrong. The tumblers are actually vintage 1960s, and a great nod to sophisticated glassmakers.
- Forrest Gump’s Bench: Life is like a box of chocolates, according to cinema’s “Forrest Gump.” He should know: He lived life to the fullest. He also recounted his experiences while sitting on a simple park bench that has gone down in history. Can you get the same park bench for your own home? Not exactly, but there are plenty of replicas out there. All you need to feel just as relaxed as Forrest is a white suit, a feather, and time to reminisce.
- Shower Curtain Hooks: Chances are strong that if you ever watched the original “Psycho,” you have a love-hate relationship with shower curtain hooks. The hooks used in this classic horror film were simple, silver-toned and functional. But thanks to Alfred Hitchcock’s incredible directing abilities, they turned into creepy reminders that we need to take showers in locked bathrooms.
- The Leg Lamp: Is it a major award, or just a horrible lamp that should never have been made? You get to decide when you watch “A Christmas Story.” Best of all, if you can’t get enough of this type of lamp, you can own one!
When the movie first arrived on the scene in the early 1980s, it wasn’t an immediate box office hit. Fast-forward to today, and it’s gained such a following that you can actually buy a leg lamp. Be sure to display it proudly in your front window for all your neighbors to admire.
Finding Furniture to Stage Your Own (Lifetime) Production
If all this talk has put you in the mood to stage our own production — called “life” — then it’s time to think about the movies and TV shows that most resemble your preferred lifestyle. Write down those that speak to you somehow and ask yourself if you could see yourself living in a similar setting. You might discover that finding your ideal vintage or antique furniture is easier than you could have imagined!
While you can’t necessarily go out and buy all the furniture you see on your iPad or laptop while cruising Netflix or downloading Amazon Prime movies, you can get virtually identical replicas.
Think about the mood you want to achieve, and have fun making your home or workplace a location that embodies the style of Hollywood.
And don’t forget that Sunday, April 9th is Cherish an Antique Day, which provides you with the perfect excuse to start redecorating your entire home with the antique-style furnishings of your choice or famous furniture from TV shows.
Watch closely next time you’re in the movie theatre or munching on popcorn while watching a classic at your house. See some furniture you’d love to own? It might be possible if you do a little research and find a great supplier. Hey, you can always dream if it isn’t!