The local McDonald’s was closed for renovation about 3 weeks ago.

When the construction was done and the parking lot was repaved, instead of the familiar drive-thru, I decided to park the car and explore the inside.

Whoa! Handsome, long, stone tiles on the walls, colorful hanging lamps; industrial-chic tables and chairs, and an eight-foot wall that had a watermarked super graphic of the chain’s logo-face on it. Quite a change indeed.
Ordering a drink, I sat at one of the booths, pulled out my notepad and jotted down my impressions. Not about the coffee (which was just fine), but how the new décor transformed the mundane into a delight.

Tiles 200This is not the first time I have scrambled to take a photo of the way an architect, interior decorator or retail display has caught my eye. Over the years, my wife has tired of watching me sketch corners of restaurants and store windows when she was just trying to enjoy a meal or do a little shopping.

But there is a method to my eccentricities. I have used these scraps of inspiration countless times when confronted with a blank design screen begging for an inspiration.Conduit200

I have been designing studio scenery for TV productions for a very long time, close to 2000 productions, from the grand to the prosaic. Just like any person who has ever had to put a pen to paper or a brush to canvas with a deadline clock ticking, I have my personal sources, computer folders, scrapbooks and old books.

But I often find my best inspiration in the aisles of my local home center.

Let me explain. There are two general categories of television scenery, realistic- a person’s home, an office, a locker room; and there are presentational sets, sets that exist solely as decoration for a television-only event:a game show, a talk show, a news program. 

When I need to put together a kitchen for an infomercial, there are websites galore loaded with photos, but budget and time restrictions often require some shortcuts. So, the cabinets are boxes with fake doors nailed onto them, but what sells the “cabinets” as realistic are the $5 handles on the doors. This is the magic of scenery. Just enough suggestion for the viewer’s mind to complete the puzzle.


When designing a presentational set, for a discussion show, for instance, the shelves of the home center come alive with all types of inspirations. Those furnace filters would add just enough texture if nailed just above the eye line and spray-painted a complimentary color. Bathroom towel racks? If I install pairs of two, one directly above the other, at the bottom of the chair line, and repeat this throughout the set, it will provide just enough relief. Don’t get me started explaining what gluing a simple group of vertical pipes or conduits can do to break up a dull flat wall. Every other aisle seems to have something to offer. Ceiling-light fixtures, become wall sconces. Carpets become wallpapers. Antique-style ceiling tiles turned diagonally, in a group of 4, provide just enough ornamentation to add a touch of sophistication to the set.

So the next time you run into one of those stores to pick up a lawnmower blade or a gallon of paint, look around at the shapes of the items in the aisle, and think like me----wouldn’t “that” look cool if I cut it in half and finished it to look like walnut wood?

BrianHeadshowBrian Flynn is an Emmy Award winning set designer who has worked on over 2000 unique productions. He has worked for all the major TV networks and for numerous foreign news producers. Mr. Flynn also works on infomercials (wait there’s more), non-broadcast corporate projects, and for schools and colleges throughout the United States. Currently his work can be seen on the new syndicated talk show “The Doctor and The Diva”, and on a number of informercials featuring chef Emeril Lagasse. Mr. Flynn lives in the western hills of NJ, in the town of Blairstown. He also offers a catalog of news desks, and off the shelf studio news and talk show designs on his website