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On the Set of Grace and Frankie

Take a look behind the scenes of the Netflix hit with production designer Devorah Herbert

Written by Cathy Whitlock

The Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated Netflix sensation Grace and Frankie features a pair of unlikely rivals turned friends brought together when their husbands fall in love with each other. Starring Jane Fonda as the retired and uptight cosmetics executive Grace and Lily Tomlin as the bohemian art teacher Frankie, viewers love the binge-worthy show not only for its snappy repartee but the show’s coveted interiors have garnered a lot of attention as well.

The fourth season of Grace and Frankie hits Netflix on January 19. In the meantime, join us for a behind-the-scenes tour with the show’s production designer Devorah Herbert, who, along with art directors Michael Krantz and Amy Wheeler and set decorators Christopher Carlson, Beauchamp Fontaine, and Andrea Fenton, has been responsible for the past four season's designs.

“In our story, the beach house is meant to be in La Jolla where most of the action takes place,” details Herbert. “The interior of the house is a set we've built on stage at Paramount Studios, but the actual beach house we use to film the exteriors shots is a beautiful Cape Cod-style house right on the beach in Malibu.”

“Grace and Frankie’s beach house is where the two women forge their friendship and a new life together, so I wanted to represent a fresh start for both of them,” she notes. “With the interior design, I wanted to evoke the much needed fresh air of the ocean while showing the personalities of these two fiercely strong women bumping up against each other in a funny way.”

Designing a set tells a visual story about the characters. Herbert kept Grace’s “impeccable taste” in mind when designing the beach house. “The beach house is somewhere you want to spend time. You can imagine wandering in barefoot after a stroll on the beach and just relaxing, listening to the waves outside. We wanted the audience to feel the ocean in every room, so we used an open floor plan with lots of windows, and included nautical elements throughout the house.”

“The main rooms are decorated in carefully coordinated blues and creams, but Frankie’s eccentric style has a strong influence too,” says Herbert. Natural materials, linen slipcovered furnishings, and taupe washed woods against a backdrop of sea blue walls complete the beach house look. 

A pop of navy in the cabinets gives the kitchen a nautical theme. Seashell prints and a driftwood colored chest in the dining room bring in the outdoors.

Herbert used home furnishings that were a blend of high end and very affordable, creating a luxe look in the end. Wayfair, Lenox, Dovetail, Two’s Company, Restoration Hardware, Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, Ballard Designs, Circa, and Palecek were a few of the design sources. “We use Etsy all the time to add personal touches, especially for Frankie.” Herbert was also influenced by coastal styles in the pages of Traditional Home.

Formal, orderly, and elegant, Grace and ex-husband Robert’s (Martin Sheen) home in the first season was decorated in rich jewel tone grasscloth wallpaper, aubergine dining chairs, crystal chandelier, and an oriental rug. The home’s interiors reflected the uptight nature of the couples’ personalities.

The designer wanted to show the contrast of Robert and Sol’s (Frankie’s ex-husband played by Sam Waterston) new lives. “In their new home, we wanted to show the two characters who are very different from one another joining their lives, so with the design we decided to marry two different architectural styles (Spanish colonial and contemporary California),” she explains. “Robert is more of a traditionalist and Sol is more earthy, organic, and eccentric, so we used the bones of a traditional Spanish colonial which is very emblematic of Sothern California and also more traditional like Robert.”

“It was important to make the house really warm and inviting and to show both of their personalities, but show them blending in a way that when you look at the set, it all feels warm and personal. We used lots of organic textures, earth tones, natural material and colorful patterns. Then we layered in art and décor from around the world to make the home a very personal space. The idea was for the two distinct styles to blend harmoniously just as the characters."

For more on the designs of Grace and Frankie, follow production designer Devorah Herbert on instagram.

All photos courtesy of Netflix