The story behind "Home Improvement" -- EW takes you behind the scenes of Tim Allen's popular show

By Kate Meyers
December 09, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST
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Think ’90s Norman Rockwell with a turbocharge.

It’s just your average, middle-class American residence: framed photos of the kids, a complete set of the World Book Encyclopedia, functional furniture, fake-walnut cabinets and enough space for the man of the house to blow up a dishwasher every once in a while.

Okay, so maybe it’s not exactly your average residence, but it’s the house that Tim and Jill Taylor (Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson) call Home Improvement on Disney Studios’ Stage 4 in Burbank, Calif. And with approximately 34 million Americans tuning in to their family travails each week on ABC, it’s the most visited living room in the nation.

The set, based on executive producer Matt Williams’ house in California, isn’t intended to evoke any particular interior-design style. ”It’s not Architectural Digest,” admits designer David Sackeroff. He and his staff gleaned most of the Taylor bric-a-brac from flea markets and the Disney prop house — the look they were aiming for was tasteful, not decorated. They’ve thrown in some yin-yang touches to express Jill and Tim’s personalities — model cars, auto posters, and Detroit Lions paraphernalia go head-to-head with a Michigan Opera mug, cloth grocery bags, and fresh flowers. But, strangely, nothing in the house is from Allen’s beloved Sears — although the Tool Time set is a whole other story.

Taylor-Made: The Taylor residence from a front-row perspective. ”I wouldn’t exactly call it a style — more like a place to put your feet up,” says designer David Sackeroff. The set’s homeyness extends to such ”ordinary” details as a wall-mounted Dustbuster, emergency numbers taped next to the phone, and a cabinet filled with mismatched sets of dishes.

Reality Bites: Well, not quite. Unlike most moms, Jill Taylor has network propmen to shop and clean for her each week. A peek inside the refrigerator reveals the usual family staples — yogurt, pasta, leftovers in Tupperware, diet soda-plus an ecological, if unusual, touch: old-fashioned reusable glass bottles for milk. (”Pat (Richardson) really wants to show recycling,” says Gunn.) Cast and crew photos adorn the fridge. What’s under the magnet clip? Store coupons, of course.

Fuel Time: A perfect example of the Jill/Tim psyches at play. Hers: A show was written about Jill’s desire for a new dining-room table. Richardson and director Andy Cadiff, after looking at a slew of snapshots, picked this antique pine table — which, says set decorator Jeannie Gunn, had ”more character than the old one.” His: Not far from Jill’s things are Tim’s model cars (a ’58 Chevy, a ’59 Corvette, and two ’89 Lamborghinis), plus several car magazines and the baseball book This Date in Detroit Tiger History.

Fire Power: The car poster above the fireplace is an antique, and the photos on the shelf are of Tim and the Taylor boys, Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), and Mark (Taran Noah Smith). During the holidays, Gunn decorates the fireplace with greeting cards. The real Allen touch here is the specially made scale model of a red 1956 Lamborghini Ferrari. ”Tim brought in a catalog with a picture of it, and we ordered it,” says Gunn of the numbered original.

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