We just finished a marathon session of House of Cards, Season 2 – and there are two things I love about this show – the story and the interiors from the set. Netflix sums up the plot best: “Kevin Spacey stars as ruthless, cunning Congressman Francis Underwood who will stop at nothing to conquer the halls of power in Washington D.C. His secret weapon: his gorgeous, ambitious, and equally conniving wife Claire.”
Devious, calculating, manipulative, yep, that would be the Underwoods. In the show, their schemes take place in various locations throughout Washington D.C. and in their townhome. House of Cards uses shots of Washington D.C. in the opening credits but the show itself is filmed in various locations throughout Baltimore, Maryland and on a sound stage in Joppa, Maryland.
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT with references to the plot below!
The Underwoods townhouse living room is elegant and neutral, filled with dark wood trim, a camelback sofa, wingback chairs, a dark stained fretwork hutch, and simple but stylish accessories like crystal candlesticks and glass hurricanes. No one ever drinks out of paper cups in this show, there is always a formal coffee set waiting.
My favorite interior is their classic black and white kitchen, with Shaker style cabinets, subway tile, metal counter stools and fixtures, sleek appliances, and black countertops. The windows are covered in dark wood traditional shutters by Horizon Shutters.
For the most part, their townhouse is dimly lit, I’m sure it’s to create a mood for the story but also because the Underwoods are at home only in the early morning or late evening as both work full time during the day wielding power and manipulating anyone who gets in their way.
Their townhouse formal dining room is also very traditional. We don’t see much of it in Season 1 but get a few more glimpses in Season 2.
The Underwoods’ bedroom is also tasteful and elegant, but more transitional in style with black and white photography on display and modern geometric prints appearing in pillows and on Claire’s vanity chair.
We get a glimpse of Adam’s NYC urban loft in both Season 1 and 2 with its giant windows and industrial touches throughout.
The Oval Office is another part of the set, decorated in traditional damask print sofas and a brass coffee table in between. Long drapes with swag pleated valances cover the windows, striped chairs flank the marble fireplace and GW is framed above.
I’m looking forward to any furniture changes made by Francis and Claire in Season 3.
The Cabinet Room is seen a lot in Season 2, in this scene Francis is sitting alone, his plans unraveling, and he must make another manipulative play to regain power. I love the pendants suspended over the long meeting table.
Claire’s office in Season 1 is light and bright with French doors and arched windows throughout.
In Season 2 she trades for a more traditional setting due to her new role as wife of VP to an office with black and white checkerboard floors and silk drapes with tassel tiebacks.
Francis’ office as Majority Whip in Season 1 displays dark wood furniture, a navy striped sofa, and brass lighting, appropriate in the halls of Washington, and always there is a formal pot of coffee waiting.
In Season 2 his new office as VP shares the same Washington DC aesthetic, complete with traditional mahogany furniture and office accessories, brass fixtures, a Jefferson bust, and historic prints and oil paintings.
House of Cards uses the aside technique, also known in theater as “breaking the fourth wall” where the main character speaks to the audience at different moments throughout the episodes.
The technique makes it harder to despise Francis Underwood and it draws us into his ruthless schemes, but as creator Beau Willimon explains:
“It’s not our goal for viewers to like Francis, or even care about him in the traditional sense…We want you to root for him despite yourself, to be complicit in his schemes even though his behavior might be outside the limits of your own ethical boundaries.”
Such an interesting approach to an evil character! Read the full Q&A with creator Beau Willimon here. It’s a great show if you love political dramas, it’s definitely for adult and mature audiences due to sexual content and language but I did enjoy the story and the sets/interiors. Both seasons are available on Netflix, all images from Netflix.
Have you been watching House of Cards?