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'Parenthood': Inside Season 4's new photo studio

September 10, 2012|By Lisa Boone
  • Ray Romano joins the cast of "Parenthood" as photographer Hank Rizzoli.
Ray Romano joins the cast of "Parenthood" as photographer Hank… (Chris Haston/NBC )

When "Parenthood" returns on Sept. 11 for its fourth season, Ray Romano joins the cast as Hank Rizzoli, a curmudgeonly photographer who hires Sarah (Lauren Graham) as his assistant.

When it came to designing a photography studio for Rizzoli, production designer Steven Jordan chose to transform an empty firehouse set on the Universal lot into a relaxed but elegant space complete with a darkroom, framing area and an alcove for hanging backdrops.

“I wanted to create a space that was a little clunky,” said Jordan. “I deliberately stayed away from hip lofts.”

Jordan added several columns to the set to break up the cavernous space and in a technical move, installed stained glass over giant wood doors to temper the light. The two doors hint at street life outside and in a whimsical move, Jordan kept the white lines of a basketball court from the previous set. “It adds another dimension to the space,”  he said. 

Finding old camera gear for the studio was a challenge for set decorators Claudette Didul and Peggy Casey. The pair, who share a background in photography, searched Craigslist and consulted with Samy's Camera and Calumet Camera for film stock, cameras, paper and darkroom items. Old school photography buffs will enjoy scouring the set for such items as negative cutters, dryers, a photography sink and large format cameras. 

Casey said she worked to make the interiors calm by working with a fixed palette: woods, leather and metal. Although Jordan wanted the interiors to look cluttered like Rizzoli’s character, he did not want the set to become campy with goofy props. Simple touches of elegance include gently used Oriental rugs from Santiago’s Vintage Shop in North Hollywood and a surplus of unique frames from Valley Moulding & Frame in North Hollywood, The Huntington Collection resale shop in Pasadena and Azteca Frame in Burbank. “Finding the frames was a labor of love," Casey said. "You neeed those touches of elegance every once in a while so it doesn’t look like he eats out of cans.”

The decorators found frames, industrial shelves, cameras, small drawers, old metal tool boxes and even an old watering can at Country Roads Antiques in Orange. The large framing table was custom built but the long teal-colored table -- repurposed from an automotive garage -- was purchased at Olde Good Things in downtown Los Angeles.  “It was covered in oil but after they scrubbed it for weeks it eventually came up with a gorgeous patina,” said Jordan. 

Many of the set’s accessories were found at thrift stores including pullout chairs and barstools from the Sniveling Sibling in Eagle Rock, cabinetry and lamps from Pepes in Silver Lake and a stunning lamp on a wooden tripod purchased for $200 at Sunset Bazaar in Silver Lake.

Jordan decided to keep the existing stairway from the previous firehouse set in anticipation of designing another set for Hank -- a turn he described as a departure from his previous Midcentury Modern, Craftsman and cottage interiors. 

“Hopefully someday the writers will send him upstairs,” Jordan said of the empty space. "It will be a very unhip loft.”

lisa.boone@latimes.com

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