Even though most were erected on some sterile soundstage in Los Angeles, it's hard not to feel drawn to the places where our favorite TV characters always get together. That got us thinking: how do they stack up in the world of design, and how could they be improved?
To find out, we enlisted the talents from Homepolish's roster of rockstar interior designers to assess seven iconic hangouts, from Central Perk to Monk's Cafe. Spoiler: Dunder Mifflin's conference room has some explaining to do.
Model, Influencer & Entrepreneur Lindsey Pelas Reveals Celebrity Pick Up Stories
First impression: Ah, when life was simple. I think Monk's Cafe was outdated when it opened, but that's why we love it. The plaid walls and coordinating plaid window curtains really play well off of the mauve countertop, don't you think? It's definitely the neighborhood hot spot; always crowded and bustling with your favorite people. What would you change? Though it's an institution now, if I had to change something I would start with the aforementioned walls and curtains. Scraping off that dated plaid and putting up a fresh coat of paint (or even doing some great wall treatment; reclaimed wood? subway tile?) would help bring the space into this decade. What would you keep? We could work around the handsome tufted leather upholstery. It can stay. Does it break any pillars of basic design? Thankfully, no! The original inspiration behind Monk's still stands in NYC. The verdict: Needs a few minor tweaks, but not so much that George gets worked up over them changing something that was perfectly fine as is.
First impression: I actually kind of love it! The mix of furniture styles, the different textures, the layering of patterns...these are all things I try to do in my designs. It gives a space dimension and makes it feel rich. What would you change? I would definitely change the walls in the background. Because of all the wood, velvet, and brick in the space, it feels heavy. I think a fun, patterned wallpaper in lighter colors and maybe (dare I suggest it) painting the brick walls white would lighten things up. What would you keep? So much! I love the mix of furniture, textures, and patterns. To me, it feels like a coffee shop. There's something nostalgic about it in that it is so different from our present-day coffee shops, which are designed more as co-working spaces. There's something about drinking coffee on an oversized velvet sofa that makes me long for the '90s. Does it break any pillars of basic design? It's pretty good to me. It might be pushing a little bit towards being cluttered, but that's an easy fix...thinning out the knick-knacks on those bar shelves will make a huge difference. Remember people: we want a space to feel curated...not cluttered. The verdict: Trash the clutter, lighten up the walls, and treat Gunther with a little respect, please.
First impression: It looks like a typical college/high school kid stoner hangout. Kind of dirty, old, hand-me-down furniture. Looks like a good time could be had here, but it's in desperate need of a makeover! What would you change? I would probably go for the dirty sofa and rug. The space would still feel very '70s and kitschy but just a bit cleaner and comfier. What would you keep? Some of the bones of the basement space make it work and feel like a retro basement should! I'd leave the green vintage washer/dryer and the orange pendant lamp in the background. Does it break any pillars of basic design? This place has a very "found" feeling to it. As it's Eric's parents' basement, clearly everything in it is old stuff no one wanted anymore. In a way this works when it's all put together, but no one would ever choose to put these things together! The verdict: If you're going for a retro feel, it's important to commit on every level, down to your washer and dryer.
First impression: To die for. Literally think someone probably died here. The facade is cute with its antique victorian style, but that's where it ends. Inside leaves much to be desired. What would you change? The yellow, what I assume to be laminate, counter tops. What would you keep? The industrial barn lighting running along the counter is cool. And I actually love their blackboard with their ever-changing (and ever-entertaining) daily specials menu. Always good for a laugh, and practical to boot! Does it break any pillars of basic design? It's hard to judge a cartoon in this category, but besides a lack of personality, the space seems to be pretty well thought out. No glaring red flags. The verdict: Even underwhelming decor can be redeemed with a little humor. And butts.
First impression: This space is definitely '90s cozy—sort of the design equivalent of those charming 3-piece suits Frasier is always wearing. The palette is very Pacific Northwest and while it has a mismatched vibe going on, overall it feels pretty cohesive. Makes me want to hunker down with a latte and a good book. What would you change? The design is pretty dated because, well, it's old. They've nailed the neighborhood coffee spot for affluent, middle-aged intellectuals of the mid-'90s (read: Niles Crane), but cozy and dark isn't what's popular at the moment. To brighten up the space, I would highlight the rustic wood floors by picking contrasting chair colors, brightening the walls, and drawing attention to that amazing green painted trim. Freshen things up with some new upholstery and modern signage and voila! What would you keep? I appreciate that this space is not taking itself too seriously. It is unpretentious and inviting, and feels like the kind of place where you would run into a neighbor and catch up on the local gossip or strike up a conversation with a stranger. Spaces that are too affected can be unwelcoming, which isn't what you want from a coffee shop. Does it break any pillars of basic design? I don't think so. There are so many right ways to design a space. As long as the fundamentals are in check, your directions are limitless. The verdict: It needs some serious color therapy, but at least it's not as pretentious as Niles and Frasier are.
Assessed by Homepolish interior designer Sara Knowles
Dunder Mifflin's Conference Room
First impression: Oh. My. God! This is seriously my nightmare. It's cold, sterile, corporate, and extremely dated. There has been such a shift in office design in the past few years towards making workspaces feel inspiring and fun. This conference room does no such thing. What would you change?Everything! New furniture, new lighting, new carpeting, new window treatments...all of it has to go. But let's start with the conference table and chairs. There are so many great options out there that could make this space feel so much more hip and inspiring. Buy a super cool live edge table and pair it with some simple Bertoia Wire Chairs or Eames Chairs. They are classics of design that would help make the space feel so much warmer and less corporate. For me, the less your office feels like an office, the better. What would you keep? Seriously nothing. Sorry. Set this place on fire and start from scratch. Does it break any pillars of basic design? Too many to sum up. It's boring, drab, dated, and uninspiring. A pretty good indicator of a well-designed space is the desire to want to stay in that space. I wouldn't be able to get out of here fast enough. The verdict: A complete disaster. Sorry, Michael.
First impression: It looks like a classic '50s style kitschy diner. Definitely someplace I would want to eat! What would you change? I would change the countertops to something fresher, still keeping the '50s vibe but making it more modern and less laminate. What would you keep? I actually really like the square neon lighting above the countertop! I would definitely leave that part. So much character—it would still work as a modern light fixture today. Does it break any pillars of basic design? There are many faux finishes in this space–laminate, veneer, plexiglass. As a designer, I always try to update anything made from those materials and definitely never put in any new ones! The verdict: A few tweaks here and there, but leave a lot as is because after all, what's old is new again.