Detective Olivia Benson had a rough go of it on the season 15 premiere of Law & Order: SVU, but tonight’s episode represents a new era for the detective as she moves in with longtime love Brian Cassidy.
SVU set decorator Deborah Moses gave EW a tour of Bensidy’s new love nest.
“[Olivia is] looking for a new life, a new start,” Moses said of the “clean and crisp” apartment, created by production designer Dean Taucher. “The space is new and airy with big windows, a high ceiling, and a great view.” The couple’s one-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath apartment is decorated with furniture and accessories from home brands like Restoration Hardware, West Elm, and CB2. The kitchen (pictured above) features IKEA cabinets, a Frigidaire refrigerator, a Keurig single cup coffee maker, glassware from Lenox, and plates from the Ralph Lauren Home label, which begs the question; Given detective Benson’s busy, high-stress life, can we expect to see her whipping up home cooked meals for her man? “I’m assuming it will mostly be Chinese takeout in that fridge,” said Moses. “And maybe some condiments.”
Read on to learn which character tries to incorporate a cattle skull into the décor, why the pad is bigger than the average New York City apartment, and what SVU star Mariska Hargitay thinks of Benson’s new digs.
Entertainment Weekly: What does the new apartment represent for Olivia?
Deborah Moses: Her last apartment was, in New York terms, more like a tenement building. She lived in an apartment that had a couple of small rooms and it was encapsulating. Now she’s living in this big, airy space that has high ceilings. It’s almost like the world has opened up for her. Her last apartment was [created during season 8], my first season. She’s lived there since 2006, so it was time to move.
How do the personal belongings the characters bring to their new apartment reflect their individual tastes?
That’s tricky. [Olivia] has good taste. She’s worked her whole adult life and she’s got basically no family and no kids. She’s making a nice home for herself. She’s got a good bit of Restoration Hardware, nice, comfy, grown-up furniture. Cassidy got to bring a couple of his [crazier] items with him, [like] a cattle skull and a few items that Olivia is trying to incorporate into their new, grown-up life.
What’s the story behind the cattle skull?
Originally, Cassidy places it on the wall above their TV [on tonight's episode], but [in later episodes] it has migrated and it’s not so front and center.
How did the production team decide what the set would look like?
Dean Taucher, the production designer, and Warren [Leight], the showrunner, batted ideas around a little bit — where Olivia would live, where she and Cassidy might move. We came up with a concept that they live in the 50’s on the West Side in some sort of new construction. They are both starting over in a new space, a new building, a new life.
How long did it take to create?
In some ways, it’s still a work in progress. As you’ll see in tonight’s episode, they move in, but they’re just unpacking. We’re probably about three-quarters of the way there right now and we’re several episodes away from [the finished set]. It’s a process that has taken a couple of months.
Tell me about the kitchen.
The tile is earthy. We wanted to use different earth tones. Going with the concept that this was a new construction in New York City, you’d have stainless steel appliances. The plates that she has are Ralph Lauren, I think I [picked them up from] at my favorite shop in the world T.J. Maxx. Her glassware is from Lenox.
Will we ever see either character using the kitchen?
Who knows? Maybe we’ll see a whole new side of Oliva where she’s a chef… or perhaps he is. I think we’ve seen her making pasta once or twice, but basically she’s always cooking for herself. I’d imagine she could do some cooking. So far, I think we’re on the takeout route.
What kinds of furniture and accent pieces will we see in the other rooms?
It’s a combination of Restoration Hardware, West Elm, and a little bit of CB2. There are a couple of eclectic pieces that were second-hand finds — so as not to be too design-y — but more like real life where everybody has an eclectic mixture of this and that. The couch is from West Elm. Also, the apartment has a lovely foyer and they’ve got big closets that I’m sure every New Yorker wishes they had.
Why are New York City apartments always so much bigger on television than they are in real life?
Exactly. You see these big apartments on television because we need the room to shoot. And the actors need room to have action, so the spaces are generally more generous than they are in real life. [Benson and Cassidy have] a nice sized apartment. It’s that sort of New York apartment where there’s one big room with the kitchen, dining room, and living room all crammed into one space.
Do they have a great New York City view?
About 15 feet to the east of their apartment window stands [the SVU] courtroom. You know all of the courtroom scenes? That’s actually just across a little hallway on the same soundstage.
What does Mariska Hargitay think about Benson’s new home?
I think she’s happy with it. This season, so far, people have been really engaged and excited again. This is part of that. I think she was excited to have her character move on. Obviously, it was in a horrific way, but I think Mariska is excited about that moving on process.
You put so much work into their new apartment, does that mean it’s safe to say that “Bensidy” is going to last?
Wow… that you have to wonder. I am only the decorator. I have no idea what’s in store.
Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesday’s at 9/8c on NBC.