A foyer, a spiral staircase, and a walk-in closet are just a few of the details in Dr. Mindy Lahiri’s (Mindy Kaling) apartment that inspire some serious design envy. And even though Mindy’s TV abode isn’t exactly representative of a typical real-world New York City apartment — a foyer, a spiral staircase, a walk-in closet! — production designer Michael Gallenberg says he strives to make the set look as authentic as possible.
“There are probably some apartments in New York that are the size of that empty 10 X 10 foyer… but Mindy’s apartment is intentionally over-sized so that we can get cameras in there to shoot scenes without [having to] tear the set completely apart,” explains Gallenberg. “The apartment is probably a little bit above her means, but not that much. She’s a doctor in her early 30s, so she’s got some money.”
Click through the photo gallery for a tour of the beautiful brownstone apartment and click here to shop the sets of The Mindy Project.
The Walk-in Closet
Mindy’s closet is filled with clothes and shoes… most of which she’ll never wear. “We pull them from shows that no longer need them or shows that end,” Gallenberg says of the prop wardrobe, borrowed from NBC’s asset center. “We do sometimes borrow clothes from [the character’s actual] wardrobe. If she’s going to be getting dressed to go out on a dinner date, we’ll hang some things as evidence in her closet.” A window appears to flood the space with sunlight, but it’s a clever production trick. “J.C. Backings created [the window backings] for the show,” Gallenberg says of the fake view. “We tested various sizes and scales so that… the proportions were correct.”
Next: Beauty product junkie
Mindy’s bathtub, sink, and counters are lined with shampoos, shower gels, soaps, lotions, and potions. “She can never have too much lotion, perfume, or shampoo, and she never uses the whole bottle. There will always be a little bit left, and she’ll never throw it out,” Gallenberg says. “We’ve made reference to that several times, or at least Danny [Chris Messina] has.” Mindy’s beauty obsession creates a unique challenge for the set design team. “We [can’t] show brand names, so we create the labels. When Seth Rogen was on [the show], he and Mindy were shopping, and she handed him a bottle of shampoo — our prop master, Kevin Shaw, created the label. We also have a graphics person on staff who’s fantastic. A lot of our labels, book jackets, DVD covers, [and even some] original artwork we create. We pride ourselves on making it look very real, because if it’s not, you’ll notice. It puts you in the reality of the moment and lets your brain focus on the comedy, when we get it right that’s what we achieve.”
Gallenberg says audiences will see more of Mindy’s bathroom in future episodes. “We shot some scenes, [for an] episode that you’ll see in May. I love her bathroom. It was really nice to make a mid-century bathroom with old century tiles, tiles on the floor, an old claw foot tub.”
Next: Takeout food
One room where the production designer did skimp on space? Mindy’s kitchen. “She doesn’t cook. We’ve seen her make waffles, I think. Everything is for re-heating leftovers, and she’s got menu’s for the best restaurants around,” says Gallenberg, who collected real menus from New York City restaurants to place on the set. “[We] rearrange things in the kitchen in every episode so it looks like someone lives there. Little things like the mail, the fruit in the bowl or the bowl itself. Our decorator and our set dresser are wonderful at it.”
The Crafts Area
Gallenberg’s job is never done. “Mindy’s little craft area is an example of [one of the set elements] that has changed. We rebuilt it into more of a display with ribbons and different things that she could pull off if she was creating a card or decorating a box or a pot,” the designer says. “We keep analyzing the sets, and if we see something that’s [there for] the wrong reason, we fix it. You’re never done with a set.”
For more details on the sets of The Mindy Project, pick up this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now.