The “Friends” Apartment & A Generation Of Design Expectations
It’s easy to underestimate the power of pop culture. And yet, TV shows throughout the ’80s and ’90s still affect how many of us live to this day. South Park injected a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of cynicism into the perspectives of generations; The Simpsons taught us that the perfect family doesn’t exist, but we should embrace our imperfections. But there may not have been a more influential modern TV show than Friends –– and some of its influence actually has to do with home design.
Broadly speaking, it’s hard to ignore the cultural impact Friends had on a generation (or perhaps a few). For the better part of 10 years, the bubbly group of friends dominated the airwaves. And in the time since the show wrapped up, all sorts of merchandise, spinoff activity, and other content has remained prevalent in society.
Friends actually went through a sort of cultural revival specifically in the last year or so. Following widespread outcry that the show had been taken off of Netflix, everyone’s favourite New York buddies popped up on HBO Max –– prompting who-knows-how-many binge “re-watches” by fans (and paving the way for a much-publicised reunion special –– which fans of course adored).
Alongside this streaming-driven revival, Friends also became prevalent in –– random and surprising as it may sound –– the online casino space. The show has served as the source material behind a modern slot game that Foxy Games highlights as one of the best such games inspired by TV shows. It has similarly inspired a digital bingo room as well (which was on some casino sites’ front pages for the better part of 2021).
In short, from streaming to gaming and everywhere in between, it’s clear that Friends remains enormous popular and influential.
Much of that influence, over the years, has been positive. Friends entertains its legions of fans, but it also teaches us to open up to the families we choose, and to value the loving relationships in our lives. It is all in all a positive show. But as mentioned, the show also had a complicated influence on home design. Specifically, it led generations of young people to build up unrealistic expectations about the apartments they could put together in their earliest adult years. But it also affected how people consider interior design.
No, really. Just hear us out. Of all the things to take away from Friends, the fact that this group of people were able to afford such spacious apartments right in the middle of New York City is difficult to process.
The main two apartments in the show belonged to Joey and Monica. Both are instantly recognisable for just how much we’ve seen of them through the years; really, when you think about it, most of the show took place in these two locations (and the iconic Central Perk café of course!). But when you hear people refer to “the Friends apartment,” they usually mean Monica’s. This was the apartment that influenced so many fans’ thoughts on interior design.
Yes, the size of the place was absurd. Monica is a struggling cook in her early-to-mid-20s in possession of a sprawling two-bedroom with a spacious living room and its own back porch. As of 2018, Curbed suggested that even a “modest” two-bedroom in the heart of the city would cost nearly $4,000 a month in rent. Beyond these factors though, Monica’s apartment drove home a lot of ideas that young people would carry into their very real lives for years to come.
For starters, Monica’s apartment was extremely colourful! This was a representation of the character’s bubbly personality, and the eclectic taste of the group as a whole. But the splashes of colour around the apartment –– purple doors, yellow ceilings, and a mixture of exposed brick and multi-coloured ornamentations in the kitchen –– clashed mightily with the bland looks we still see in so much apartment staging today. The apartment showed us that a bit of personality with regard to colour can make a space seem like home.
The general décor passed along a similar message. The kitchen table chairs didn’t match. Pots, pans, and kitchen staples were displayed openly. Various works of art and old film posters were framed on the walls, and at any given time flowers of all different sorts were displayed everywhere from main tables to the top of the fridge. The apartment was haphazard, but in such a way that it felt real and “lived-in.” Fans of the apartment understand that not everything has to be symmetrical or in sync to be appealing.
And then of course there’s the overall layout to consider. When you look back on it, it was actually something of a masterclass in space. Granted, that’s easier to pull off when you have an inexplicably gigantic apartment. Nevertheless, Monica’s place always had open space, despite its generally haphazard design. Furniture was not clumped together, points of entry and spaces between rooms were left clear, and it never felt as if characters were crowded.
Now, with all of this considered with regard to the show’s influence, it’s important to note that Monica’s place is very hard to emulate. Interior design startup Modsy gave it a shot, and while the result was an awfully attractive space, it lacked that same lived-in touch. It was instead a sort of modernised and streamlined version of the Friends home.
Nevertheless, we have no doubt that Monica’s apartment remains a significant part of the show’s legacy. It may have set unrealistic expectations, but it also provided certain examples people would do well to pay attention to. Replicating such an apartment in 2021 is no easy task, but with the right ideas and techniques, you can put your own spin on the classic look and wind up with a place every bit as homey.