New Work: ‘Weeds’ Dining Room
“Weeds” is all about the sacred and the profane. Or maybe the sacred and the mundane.
In the Showtime series a California housewife played by Mary-Louise Parker turns to selling marijuana after the death of her husband. The darkly comic mix of suburbia, naïveté and family dynamics is portrayed against a background of drugs, death, deceit and personal demons. The amount of killing, death, pain and humiliation surpasses even recent mob-themed shows; and this is a comedy!
This year’s Metropolitan Home Showtime House consists of twin penthouses at the luxury Tribeca Summit loft condominiums. James Biber and his team at Pentagram Architects were one of 14 designer teams invited to create rooms inspired by the network’s original programming.
Biber and his team, working on their first showhouse design, referenced a comic climax from “Weeds” for their design of the dining room. For those not up on the show’s past seasons, the scene was an eye-rolling reveal of a stolen rooftop lighted cross lifted from a new local religion-based community’s church. The enormous crucifix finally appears, lashed to the ceiling of a hastily assembled “grow house.” The stolen cross has become a lighting fixture over a bed of marijuana plants!
Biber’s design captures the sense of humor and inventiveness of the show and its characters, who are constantly transforming the traditional structure and relationships of family, work and community into something new, dark and perverse.
“Our idea is to elaborate on a strong visual moment, one that is funny, surprising and meaningful,” says Biber. “I see ‘Weeds’ as a morality play, with its own brand of moral relativism being played out via hypocrisy.”
Increasing the luxury and abstracting the actual scene, the dining room features a cross chandelier constructed from four Swarovski Crystal Palace chandeliers containing over 5,000 crystals. This suspended cross hangs above a matching cruciform picnic table set with a living moss “tablecloth.” The table features benches, stacked to form a table, and the entire setting is suggestive of an outdoor space. The table is set with elegant dinner plates from Ted Muehling, hand-painted with insects and glazed in subtle and varied colors. These plates are arranged, like jewels, lining the center of the long bar of the cross. On the short bar is an arrangement of polished serving bowls from Alessi, reflecting the crystals above. To finish the table settings, each plate has a set of twig-handled silverware and an assortment of crystal goblets. One goblet is capped with a dome, a glass straw and filled with crystal “ice.” (The main character in “Weeds” is constantly sipping a drink from a domed-capped cup.)
The floor is covered with a pair of green/brown area rugs by Christine Vanderhurd that have been sewn together in a custom design for the room. The team built a pair of walls for the space that have been painted and covered in natural bark wallpaper. The wallpaper is punctured with holes, showing the 14 different colors painted underneath. One wall is painted with variations on green, the other on orange; a subtle nod to the “plant + fire = stoned” formula.
Behind the table and chandelier, lining the rear wall, is a set of full height curtains that have been screenprinted with Parker’s eyes—a nod to the actress’s amazing ability to act with only her eyes. The room also contains a six by eight foot framed lenticular image of flames, a reference to the burning of Agrestic, the town in which the series is set. Walking past the enormous framed image, the fire flickers under the lenticular lens screen.
“I hope that everyone who knows the show will smile in recognition, and I hope that those who don’t will be intrigued by the collage of references,” says Biber. “The show is so well written and so much more than just another ‘pot-selling widow makes it in suburbia’ tale. I hope our design begins to suggest that.”
Metropolitan Home’s Showtime House is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays through October 18 at The Tribeca Summit, 415 Greenwich Street. Hours are 10 am to 5 pm; please arrive by 4 pm to take the last tour. Tickets are $20 per person and may be purchased at the door. All proceeds benefit Housing Works. Admission will be free on the weekend of September 26-27. Please note that due to the subject matter and the restrictions of the space children under 12 and strollers will not be admitted. More information here.
Project Team: James Biber, Michael Zweck-Bronner, Suzanne Holt, Adriana Rodriguez-Pliego, Nazim Ali.
Contractor: Antarctic Construction, (917) 731-0556
Dining Table and Benches: Moss Fauset Woodworking, (201) 714-9797
Wallcovering: Lori Weitzner Design
Area Rug: Christine Vanderhurd
Curtain and Printed Image: Mega Media Concepts
Large Lenticular Image: Big 3D
Chandelier: Swarovski Crystal Palace
Track Lighting and Spotlights: Erco Lighting
Frame for Lenticular Image: CaesarStone
Fabricator of Frame: Maramara Stone Imports
Tableware: Forest Leaf Collection by Tabulatua
Platters: Ted Muehling
Serving Bowls: Alessi
Stemware: Fortessa by Schott
Paint: Benjamin Moore
Photos by Antoine Bootz, courtesy of Metropolitan Home’s Showtime House 2009.