Tour the Mod Sets of Showtime's 'Masters of Sex'

Based on the lives of research team William H. Masters (played by Michael Sheen) and Virginia E. Johnson (played by Lizzy Caplan), the period drama takes place in the 1950s and ‘60s and features stunning midcentury modern sets. Look inside the on-screen home of Dr. Masters.
By: Susan Hornik

Photo By: SHOWTIME

Photo By: SHOWTIME

Photo By: SHOWTIME

Photo By: SHOWTIME

Photo By: SHOWTIME

Photo By: SHOWTIME

Photo By: SHOWTIME

Photo By: SHOWTIME

Photo By: SHOWTIME

Period Set Design

Production designer Michael Wylie built the entire house set on a stage at Sony, using as many period materials as possible. "The curtains and light fixtures are all from that time period,” he said. “The floors feature a real Linoleum product that was popular then. We used a ton of lamps on this set, which helped create a moodiness at night that was fitting for the show."

Minimalist Approach

The idea for the entire set was to convey a cold orderliness, said Wylie. "Dr. Masters was the king of his domain and he requires order,” he added. “There are very few feminine touches in the house at all."

Midcentury Materials

Wylie used period materials and fixtures throughout the set. "The lights are repro globes, and the flooring is real linoleum from Ireland,” he said. “The copper oven is a favorite. We were determined to use it even if it doesn't match the rest of the room!"

Actors on Set

Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) and William Masters (Michael Sheen) cook in Dr. Masters' midcentury modern kitchen. Wylie based this set on his own home. “I literally took pictures of my 1957 midcentury modern kitchen and gave them to the person who draws the plans,” he said.

Can't-Miss Color Combo

Wylie loved the contrast between orange and blue in the living room. "It's a classic design choice from the period,” he said. “The use of very long drapes and sheers was also very midcentury. The television worked and had a corded remote control – very fancy!"

Statement-Making Chairs

The chairs were purchased from an antique store in Los Angeles. "We used pops of color against a relatively plain background," said Wylie. "The lamps and painting are a great example of this. The yellow high-backed chairs got lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ when we brought them to the set."

Custom Focal Point

The fireplace feature was handmade. "The rocks were formed by plasterers and individually painted by the show's great scenic painters,” said Wylie. “The pottery and metal sculpture are from the period and were purchased in Los Angeles.”

Party Ready

This photo shows the living room set up for a dinner party. "The flower arrangements are very old-fashioned, and we were sure to use the 1950s-style champagne glasses,” said Wylie. “The brick wall was made by plasterers using a straight edge and a screwdriver to make the grout lines."

Authentic Touches

The set decorator from the Masters of Sex pilot episode purchased the couch and chairs in New York City, while all of the drapery was custom made at Warner Bros. "In true 1950s style, we had an ashtray on every surface," acknowledged Wylie. "Notice the triangle pillows on the couch, which give a rare touch of whimsy to the otherwise somber set."

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