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khloé kardashian’s set designer spills secrets–and we listen!

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BAR CABINET Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams “Collins Bar”

text by  SHANI SILVER  photography by  FYI/RICHARD KNAPP

When a celebrity production designer wants to talk shop, we pull up a (beautifully upholstered) chair. Joe Celli, Production Designer, and current creative force behind the Kocktails With Khloé set, was tasked with designing an on-screen home reflective of Khloé’s real life digs—and on a budget at that. We think he pulled it off in fine style, and chatted with him about our new dream job—his.

LAMPS (behind sofa) Ethan Allen SOFA by Sofa U Love WALL PAINT Dunn Edwards – Cape Cod Blue (DEC792)

HOW DID YOU BEGIN YOUR CAREER AS A SET DESIGNER? I was trained as an actor but soon realized that I wasn’t prepared to get rejected on a daily basis. I worked as a Prop Master in the theatre for a few years before I finally moved to Los Angeles and started working in television Art Departments.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WISH EVERYONE KNEW ABOUT SET DESIGNING?  A good set tells a story that compliments the action. Telling that story requires the talents of many people.

WHAT WERE THE DESIGN GOALS FOR THE SET OF KOCKTAILS WITH KHLOÉ? The Pilgrim Media Group producers and I were asked to capture the essence of Khloé’s own home. The hardest part about that is shrinking the footprint and then making it work for television. From there, it was important that Khloé and her guests feel “at home” and not like they are on a set being filmed/taped/recorded.

WHERE DID YOU DRAW THE MOST INSPIRATION? Khloé’s house is the real inspiration.

WHAT IS ONE PROFESSIONAL MUST-DO FOR ANYONE HOPING TO GET INTO SET DESIGN? Be prepared to tell and sell your design story…and learn to draft.

COFFEE TABLE Jonathan Adler CHAIR by Sofa U Love Bar Cart by Kravet

WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON MISCONCEPTION ABOUT SET DESIGN? It’s not as simple as flipping through some catalogs and saying, “let’s get that.” Designing a set is like putting a giant puzzle together…except the only photo reference you have is what’s inside your head.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY OF STYLING A SET? (KHLOE’S OR OTHERWISE)? Any set comes to life when you are finally able to dress it. Until then, it’s a lifeless box. The day that we were finally able to open all of the packages and start to place it in the room…that’s always the most fun. Until you realize that you have some holes to fill!


WHAT IS THE MOST SURPRISING ITEM ON SET? The most surprising item was the Ethan Allen starburst chandelier that hangs in the front foyer. Surprising in that we’d thought, for a few days, that we’d have to go without it to accommodate one of the many robotic cameras (24 in total). I was gone for an afternoon and came back to see it hanging where it is now. It really brings some life to an otherwise utilitarian space.

WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL FAVORITE DESIGN ELEMENT ON THIS SET?  When two scenic flats come together they form a very sharp right angle. We went through and rounded over all of those edges to soften them, just like in Khloé’s house. It’s the smallest and simplest detail. I suspect that most people wouldn’t even notice but it brings a real sense of softness to the room.

TUNE-IN: Wednesdays 10/9c on FYI