When Dash & Lily was released last month, we shared a guide to all of the New York City locations featured in the Netflix holiday miniseries. Now, we have a very special treat: a two-part interview with the production designer, Jennifer Dehghan.
In this, part one of our interview, Jennifer discusses building Lily’s apartment, recreating Macy’s Santaland on a soundstage, filming at The Strand, and how New York is actually the lead player in this series.
For more behind-the-scenes details courtesy of Jennifer Dehghan, add Wiretap to Chrome and watch Dash & Lily for her exclusive comments.
First, would you agree that New York is the actual star of this series?
I joke that number one on the call sheet was New York City. Dash & Lily is a love story, but it’s really a story about falling in love in New York.
I have to say that while I was watching it, it felt like I was actually there. Some of the series was shot on location, but you also filmed on a soundstage. Can you share how you created Lily’s apartment?
I spent most of my time trying to perfect Lily’s Lower East Side apartment building because I felt like that had to be believable and realistic. But the whole thing needed a heartfelt, charming, and fun lens. I didn’t want it to be cheesy but it had to be good-hearted, and that’s a really fine line. A Lower East Side tenement building is sometimes pretty rough. We played it like they were on the third floor walk-up of this apartment building on Orchard Street that we found the exterior for. I did a ton of research at the Tenement Museum and found real photos.
The idea was that the apartment had been in Lily’s family for a long time, and three generations are living under one roof. The building needed to have history. And inside of it, there had to be some of the original architecture, woodwork, moldings, and arches, plus the tin ceiling in the kitchen. Our idea was Grandpa moved there in the 50s, and probably would’ve renovated in the 70s. The countertops were a proper, fabricated laminate, but the kitchen had the original tenement structure with the window that separated the kitchen from the living space. With Lily’s bedroom wallpaper, we wanted it to feel youthful and fun, but also have age to it. We created it ourselves and added in a lot of texture so that it felt like old wallpaper that had aged as opposed to the new vinyl wallpapers.
Are there any other elaborate sets that stand out in your mind when you look back at your work on Dash & Lily?
We built all of Macy’s Santaland on a stage. We shot that in October; Macy’s hadn’t set up yet and they wouldn’t give us access. Santaland is a real production and there was no way that even if we had waited until December to film after they were set up, they wouldn’t have shut down for a day for us to do it. We had to create everything from scratch: all the snowmen, Santa’s house, the backdrop, the Christmas trees, the candy canes, and then a little section of the Macy’s store. We built it all really quickly because it was in Episodes 1 and 2, and we were still trying to finish the main stage set. It was a big deal and weeks of no sleep, but we pulled it off and it looked great.
Did you film on location at The Strand? It looked more polished than I recall it being.
We did shoot practically in the store, and made it more romantic and lovely by painting and dressing the shelves. Then we also built it on a stage so that we could have more control. The goal was to shoot real New York, but the New York of your Christmas nostalgia balanced with sadness and longing.
The Strand was having a really tough time this year, and the show has helped bring them some revenue. Shortly before Dash & Lily was released, the owners had put out a letter saying they were really in trouble. They’ve been there for 92 years and didn’t know if they could last through COVID, and asked people to consider them when ordering books or holiday gifts. They had a massive response, and then the show brought more attention to the store. I hope it helps because it’s a real landmark.
If you haven’t already, make sure to add Wiretap to Chrome and watch Dash & Lily. Next week we’ll have part two of this interview. We’ll share details about the impressive way they filmed the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights in Brooklyn, and how they staged a Jonas Brothers concert at a brand new landmark in NYC.
Images courtesy of Netflix