What the Sets of I Love Lucy Would Have Looked Like in Color
These rooms were so beautiful.
For a lot of people I Love Lucy was their favorite show to watch. In 1952 nearly 75% of the US households that had a TV were all tuned into the show on Monday nights. It’s no wonder then that the program brings back a lot of nostalgia for so many people, and this has only continued as it’s been in syndication ever since it first aired. One thing that always mesmerized me as a kid were the apartment sets, even in black and white. Now you can see what those sets would have looked like in color at the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum in Ball’s hometown of Jamestown, New York, where faithful displays of the sets are on display.
Seeing the items used on the show in more detail is pretty amazing as it brings to life something that served as the background imagery to so many wacky storylines and touching moments alike.
The kitchen is where Lucy baked that giant loaf of bread that was unforgettable. Everything in the kitchen was just so, having been selected for it’s homey-ness. The plates were the Franciscan “Ivy” pattern. This iconic design featured brilliant green leaves in a wreath around each piece on a cream background. This pattern first went into production in 1948 and was made until 1983, though today it’s known as a set for admiring and not eating from since this brand is known to have used lead in their glazes.
This pattern was also used on The Donna Reed Show and Bewitched, setting it as one of the most iconic mid-century china patterns in existence.
My mother had these plates as well, so I have soft spot for them. Lucy and Ricky had the whole set, down to the teapot, creamer, and butter dish.
Many fans of the show will remember the kitchen canisters and matching breadbox that were ever-present in the kitchen as well. These are the Nesco “Nosegay” canisters in the rectangular design (the company also did a round design, too). Since the show was in black and white the color of certain objects used on set are still being debated today. The ones at the museum are pink, however a fan who attended a taping claims they were grey in reality.
In recently-colorized episodes the canisters are shown as being various shades of pale yellow, grey, pink, beige, and green so there isn’t full agreement on what the canisters should look like.
In an era before color TVs set designers used items that “read” on camera well in terms of contrast, often paying little attention to how well these colors would have gone together in a real home.
There are two living room displays, one of the couple’s New York apartment and one of the California apartment in Hollywood. Both are strikingly modern, but the New York apartment is the one that most people remember best.
On the mantle stood two Asian figurines. The color of the originals has also been debated. An auction of set extras said to be from I Love Lucy was in the beige and black colorway. Anything on set was needed in multiples and this was especially true of porcelain and pottery items as they were so easily broken during the physical comedy scenes.
The ones at the museum are painted in blue and lilac, which no doubt would have read very similarly in black and white.
Also on display is the bedroom furniture of the same style used on set. The twin beds had built-ins at the headboard- a common feature of many bedroom sets at the time. This style was sold as I Love Lucy merchandise, called the “Live Like Lucy” line. Anyone in America could have a set just like Lucy and Ricky for $198- albeit with a normal double bed instead of the more prim twin beds that were shown on TV.
If you look very closely you can see that the pulls on the drawers of the bedside tables and dresser are not exactly like those on the show as the for-sale sets were close (but not exact) copies of the ones used on set.
The museum even has Lucy’s famous flower necklace on display- the one she wore on the show and also in many publicity photos from the 1950s. The 3-strand champagne pearl necklace features beaded flowers made up of tiny pearls- a fancier version of what many women across the US were wearing during the era.
It’s interesting to see how the items from the show would might have looked in real life, give or take a few slight differences in set accessories. And, it’s definitely a lot more colorful than what I imagined, yet somehow it still feels classic to this day.