For a Horror Set, It's Astonishingly Homey: "People love being here," American Horror Story set designer Mark Worthington tells us. "That's the big difference this season. People actually likehanging out on set. There was an actress sleeping on set just yesterday, because it's peaceful. It's a very inviting place to be. It functions differently because the house isn't a hostile presence, the way the Murder House was in season one, or the Asylum was in season two. This is a sanctuary." Adds AHS creator Ryan Murphy, "Every season, I get very sad when I say goodbye to and we tear down those sets" but "I love [the Coven] set more than life itself."
The Exterior Is a Real House (But the Interior Is Not as Cool): It's called the Buckner House, a historic landmark in New Orleans, which was built just before the Civil War."They finished building it in 1857, so the interior wasn't completely appropriate," Worthington explains. "The proportions were a little odd and frankly, not good. The rooms were kind of really long and narrow and tall, so we started from scratch inside and built a whole new interior on a stage."
The Coven House Has Something Most Sets Don't: A working staircase! "We built an actual second floor," says Worthington. "The first two seasons, the staircase went to nowhere, and I always hated that, because you couldn't carry people up and down and do those dramatic things that are really kind of beautiful."
The House Came Together "Fairly Easily": "We knew we wanted it to be light in tone," Worthington recalls. "So we came down to New Orleans and the idea was to find an old antebellum mansion in the Garden District, a Greco-Roman revival, which starts from a base of being lighter. I started pulling research for Ryan of stuff down here – interiors that had a lot of white walls, white floor, lighter tones with darker furniture, creating contrast, and he immediately responded and we were off and running."
The Story Set the Color Palette: "Last year was so dark and grim and hard and I loved it," explains Murphy, "but this year was designed to be more, I think, fun. I wanted this year to be more light."
The Interior Set Is Huge: About 8,000 square feet. Those witches be livin' large, yo. We want in.
Steal This Trick: Some of the Pieces Are Crazy Cheap—But Crazy Cool! We are so going to try this at home. "Some of the furniture, we bought for next to nothing, and then we painted it," Worthington reveals. "So you might take an old piece that you find at a thrift store that's got a nice line to it, and in our case, we just painted them grey or bluish white, in a sort of antique treatment, and immediately you get something so stylized and interesting--but that doesn't necessarily have to be so incredibly expensive. You paint it white, and all of a sudden you have a design statement that's unexpected." Bam. We love it.
Some of the Pieces Will Break the Bank: "Like the chandeliers," Worthingon tells us. "There are a lot of them. We rented most of them because it's actually cheaper. You can spend $150,000 on a single chandelier. Not that we have ones that cost that much, but you can spend that much."
There's a Reason You'd Never Know Teenage Girls Live Here: "Ryan would never go for Justin Bieber posters!" Worthington says with a laugh, when asked to explain why the bedroom walls are so bare. "We're not necessarily piling on a lot of frosting to remind you who these people are, because they are acting. They are doing what they do. You are getting who they are through the action and so sometimes, less is more, which is a phrase that Ryan uses a lot. Sometimes leaving things alone can actually be more expressive and ultimately better for the overall story."
Next Season Will Look Completely Different. We know it's not witches, and Ryan Murphy has said season four will take place either in Santa Fe or New Orleans. "We don't really talk about the design of the new season in Ryan Murphy television world until after the first of the year," Worthington explains. "Ryan will probably call and I'll come in and he'll give me some briefs on what the basics are and we'll talk. I don't know. I'm still not ruling out Los Angeles. I've heard that rumors that you know, he wanted it to be at Paramount [Studios in LA] again so he could be around on the set. We just don't know yet."
Ikea Won't Help You: If you want to try to recreate the look of this house, you'll have to get creative...and lucky. "It's mostly antiques," Worthington tells us. "You're not gonna be able to go into CB2 or Ikea, or even Ethan Allen necessarily. Most of the stuff unfortunately is one-offs and stuff we found. And again, not necessarily all of it is expensive. Some of it was found more in thrift areas, or not thrift but lower-end antique stores, so it's not all crazy, but...it's all pretty unique." So I guess we'll just keep watching, and drooling, Wednesday nights on FX.