Only Murders in the Building Production Designer Shares Secrets of Oliver's Apartment at the Arconia

·6 min read
Only Murders In The Building -- “Framed” - Episode 202 -- A memorial for Bunny Folger provides an opportunity for our trio to question their neighbors, while they also try to get rid of a very implicating piece of evidence. One of Bunny’s relatives makes a surprising appearance and if you thought Bunny was a force, get ready… Oliver (Martin Short), shown. (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Hulu); Only Murders in the Building -- From the minds of Steve Martin, Dan Fogelman and John Hoffman comes a comedic murder-mystery series for the ages. “Only Murders In The Building” follows three strangers (Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez) who share an obsession with true crime and suddenly find themselves wrapped up in one. When a grisly death occurs inside their exclusive Upper West Side apartment building, the trio suspects murder and employs their precise knowledge of true crime to investigate the truth. As they record a podcast of their own to document the case, the three unravel the complex secrets of the building which stretch back years. Perhaps even more explosive are the lies they tell one another. Soon, the endangered trio comes to realize a killer might be living amongst them as they race to decipher the mounting clues before it’s too late. (Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)
Only Murders In The Building -- “Framed” - Episode 202 -- A memorial for Bunny Folger provides an opportunity for our trio to question their neighbors, while they also try to get rid of a very implicating piece of evidence. One of Bunny’s relatives makes a surprising appearance and if you thought Bunny was a force, get ready… Oliver (Martin Short), shown. (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Hulu); Only Murders in the Building -- From the minds of Steve Martin, Dan Fogelman and John Hoffman comes a comedic murder-mystery series for the ages. “Only Murders In The Building” follows three strangers (Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez) who share an obsession with true crime and suddenly find themselves wrapped up in one. When a grisly death occurs inside their exclusive Upper West Side apartment building, the trio suspects murder and employs their precise knowledge of true crime to investigate the truth. As they record a podcast of their own to document the case, the three unravel the complex secrets of the building which stretch back years. Perhaps even more explosive are the lies they tell one another. Soon, the endangered trio comes to realize a killer might be living amongst them as they race to decipher the mounting clues before it’s too late. (Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

Barbara Nitke/Hulu; Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu

The gorgeous real estate in Only Murders in the Building has fans wanting to live in The Arconia — despite the fictional apartment block's unsettling body count.

PEOPLE caught up with Curt Beech, the production designer who created the show's enviable apartments in season one, to learn the secrets of the over-the-top quarters of disgraced theater director Oliver Putnam (Martin Short).

Short stars alongside Steve Martin, who portrays out-of-work TV star Charles-Haden Savage, and Selena Gomez, who plays their mysterious young neighbor Mabel Mora, in season 2, now airing on Hulu.

Steve Martin and Martin Short cover rollout
Steve Martin and Martin Short cover rollout

Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu

PEOPLE: Oliver is in the theater world and his apartment is, appropriately, incredibly dramatic. Where do you start when creating a living space for such a colorful character?

Curt Beech: If it wasn't theatrical, it wasn't for Oliver! This was the maxim that guided the design process for Oliver's apartment. We designed a stage as the focal point of the living room, and made certain to give each of the characters an equally interesting defining element.

The production design for Oliver's apartment came from researching some legendary Arconia-esque Upper West Side apartments, including the Belnord (our exterior location), the Graham Court, the Apthorp, the Dakota, and the Ansonia.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11: People exit The Belnord on the Upper West Side as the city continues the re-opening efforts following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on December 11, 2020 in New York City. The pandemic has caused long-term repercussions throughout the tourism and entertainment industries, including temporary and permanent closures of historic and iconic venues, costing the city and businesses billions in revenue. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11: People exit The Belnord on the Upper West Side as the city continues the re-opening efforts following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on December 11, 2020 in New York City. The pandemic has caused long-term repercussions throughout the tourism and entertainment industries, including temporary and permanent closures of historic and iconic venues, costing the city and businesses billions in revenue. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Noam Galai/Getty

PEOPLE: Was there a particular item that inspired Oliver's space?

Beech: The decor for Oliver's apartment started with a single plaid Ralph Lauren fabric selected by Set Decorator Rich Murray, and a very over-the-top Pierre Frey wallpaper in the foyer. The fabric was used as wallcoverings in decorative panels in the living room, and gave us the palette for the rest of Oliver's theatrical world.

PEOPLE: Where do you hunt for inspiration for such an outlandish home?

Beech: In researching the apartments for Only Murders in the Building, we were inspired by the real-life apartments of Lauren Bacall at the Dakota (amazing!), Rudolph Nureyev, furniture designer Vladimir Kagan, essayist David Lerner, and Yoko Ono; and by the films Rosemary's Baby, Rear Window, Woody Allen's Manhattan, and Single White Female, among many others.

PEOPLE: His character is also a bit of a mess, personally and professionally. How did you reflect that in the styling of his home and the pieces in it?

Beech: On the day before we first shot Oliver's apartment, I was doing a final walk-through with Rich and I noticed teacups on almost every surface throughout the house. When I asked him about this detail, he said he imagined Oliver was so scatterbrained that he would make himself a tea, and invariably lose it completely. Rather than find it, he would just make himself a fresh one, and the cycle would continue.

Only Murders in the Building -- From the minds of Steve Martin, Dan Fogelman and John Hoffman comes a comedic murder-mystery series for the ages. “Only Murders In The Building” follows three strangers (Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez) who share an obsession with true crime and suddenly find themselves wrapped up in one. When a grisly death occurs inside their exclusive Upper West Side apartment building, the trio suspects murder and employs their precise knowledge of true crime to investigate the truth. As they record a podcast of their own to document the case, the three unravel the complex secrets of the building which stretch back years. Perhaps even more explosive are the lies they tell one another. Soon, the endangered trio comes to realize a killer might be living amongst them as they race to decipher the mounting clues before it’s too late. (Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)
Only Murders in the Building -- From the minds of Steve Martin, Dan Fogelman and John Hoffman comes a comedic murder-mystery series for the ages. “Only Murders In The Building” follows three strangers (Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez) who share an obsession with true crime and suddenly find themselves wrapped up in one. When a grisly death occurs inside their exclusive Upper West Side apartment building, the trio suspects murder and employs their precise knowledge of true crime to investigate the truth. As they record a podcast of their own to document the case, the three unravel the complex secrets of the building which stretch back years. Perhaps even more explosive are the lies they tell one another. Soon, the endangered trio comes to realize a killer might be living amongst them as they race to decipher the mounting clues before it’s too late. (Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu

PEOPLE: The living area with the green velvet chairs seems to include an actual stage. What inspired that feature? Did the script call for it or was that a purely design decision?

Beech: The stage was a jumping off point for the space planning of Oliver's apartment. The stage was not a detail I had discovered in any research, but it was an idea I felt set the right tone for Oliver's character, and the show overall. Everything we designed is slightly heightened, but grounded in a reality for the characters.

We imagined wine-soaked soirees at Oliver's house that started with a big dinner in his La Scala-themed dining room, and ended with the actors and actresses of his latest production singing and dancing around the piano and on the stage in the living room.

The exuberance of his apartment also reminds the audience of the loneliness of his current life. This is something that each of the main characters is having to contend with. Oliver, Mabel, and Charles want nothing more than to feel creative again!

Only Murders in the Building -- From the minds of Steve Martin, Dan Fogelman and John Hoffman comes a comedic murder-mystery series for the ages. “Only Murders In The Building” follows three strangers (Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez) who share an obsession with true crime and suddenly find themselves wrapped up in one. When a grisly death occurs inside their exclusive Upper West Side apartment building, the trio suspects murder and employs their precise knowledge of true crime to investigate the truth. As they record a podcast of their own to document the case, the three unravel the complex secrets of the building which stretch back years. Perhaps even more explosive are the lies they tell one another. Soon, the endangered trio comes to realize a killer might be living amongst them as they race to decipher the mounting clues before it’s too late. (Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)
Only Murders in the Building -- From the minds of Steve Martin, Dan Fogelman and John Hoffman comes a comedic murder-mystery series for the ages. “Only Murders In The Building” follows three strangers (Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez) who share an obsession with true crime and suddenly find themselves wrapped up in one. When a grisly death occurs inside their exclusive Upper West Side apartment building, the trio suspects murder and employs their precise knowledge of true crime to investigate the truth. As they record a podcast of their own to document the case, the three unravel the complex secrets of the building which stretch back years. Perhaps even more explosive are the lies they tell one another. Soon, the endangered trio comes to realize a killer might be living amongst them as they race to decipher the mounting clues before it’s too late. (Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

Craig Blankenhorn/

PEOPLE: The dining room is a truly one-of-a-kind space. What can you tell us about the theater box-print wallpaper?

Beech: The dining room almost didn't make it into the final plans, but we sold it in a way that would make Oliver proud! We first found an old etching of the La Scala Opera House in Milan. Then our graphic designer cleaned it up, and our amazing painters added color to a single panel that we then scanned and had printed on textured wallpaper. After it was hung, two painters from New York's Metropolitan Opera House painted the curtain mural over the fireplace.

The origin story we created for the wallpaper is that it is a tribute to Oliver's father who was an opera impresario. We imagined Oliver had artists from one of his musicals decorate the room, and it gave him the confidence to pitch his ideas to anyone. When he is in that space he has to be "on" because he is literally on stage with an audience surrounding him.

PEOPLE: Any other standouts in the dining room?

Beech: The furniture, as with all the furniture in Oliver's apartment, is likely "liberated" from one of his productions. The dining room furniture we selected is shell-like, and we imagined it came from Splash! The Musical! on a truck in the middle of the night after the show dramatically flopped.

PEOPLE: This show could only happen in a very particular type of old-school New York apartment building. How did you discover the real building that appears in the show as the exterior?

Beech: With our Location Manager, Collin Smith, we scoured New York City to find the right courtyard building. This type of building is a unicorn in New York, and when we found the Belnord, it was love at first sight. Once we had this location, we were able to take photos of the views out of the windows and create backings for our sets on stage.

PEOPLE: Is there anything you created for Oliver that didn't make it into the show?

Beech: There is an elaborate Louis XIV dog bed in Oliver's living room and hidden in the foyer is a completely tricked out dog closet which has a few little winks to Steve and Marty's comic history together. There is a dog sombrero as a tribute to The Three Amigos, and an "arrow through the head" hat for Olivier's dog to wear.

Also, all of the books in Oliver's apartment came from Rich's collection from his graduate school days at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and the theatrical models placed in the apartment are from my graduate school designs at UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television.

New episodes of Only Murders in the Building air Tuesdays on Hulu.