Name: Dev Shah
Location: Lower East Side/Chinatown area
Size: 900 square feet
Years lived in: Renting
There's one thing that you won't find in the apartment of Master of None's main character Dev: any furniture pieces from IKEA.
"It's just not Dev's style and I could never image him assembling any furniture," reveals Amy Williams, the production designer for Netflix's hit show, which recently came back with ten new episodes for its second season. Last week, I published a sneak peek of Dev's apartment. Amy is back with not only more photos, but also lots of details about the apartment's design inspiration.
Alan Yang, Master of None's co-creator, is no slouch when it comes to style either. When asked what he thinks the most "Dev" decor item in the apartment is, he answered: "The Vintage 901 Bose speakers with the tulip bases in Dev's living room." Alan actually owns a pair now, himself!
Aziz Ansari, co-creator and the actor who plays Dev, also brought a lot of his own personal style to Dev's on-screen home. As Amy reveals below, the design inspiration is rooted in real life.
Describe Dev's apartment's style:
Aspirational, eclectic, cultured, curated, playful, optimistic, engaged, sentimental
What was the inspiration for his apartment's style?
We wanted to give it a very Lower East Side/East Village vibe, so the architectural layout is actually inspired by a combination of two apartments I lived in myself in the East Village: a duplex on East 10th Street and a renovated prewar walk-up building on St. Mark's Place. Aziz also happened to reference the same duplex style on 10th street from a place a friend of his had in the early 2000s.
Practically, for filming, we needed physical space to shoot around the set, so it couldn't be too small. This was especially important for the "Mornings" episode in season one. That episode took place almost entirely within Dev's apartment. NYC apartments are small and pricey, so we needed to justify why and how Dev could afford a 900-square-foot one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. The idea was to have it look like a rental unit in the Lower East Side/Chinatown area. It's also less expensive if you rent an apartment in a top floor, walk-up tenement type building, so we placed Dev's apartment (5D) on the 5th floor.
"Aziz and his character Dev have amazing taste and design sensibilities. Dev is a man of many interests and the goal was to reflect this variety within his eclectic living space."
This hints to a top-floor walk up, which are harder spaces to rent out in NYC and tend to be more of a "deal" space wise. To really drive home the point that this is a rental unit, we made the hallway outside his apartment pretty worn and disgusting. The walls inside his place are a standard rental white and the cabinets are the cheap '90s style that most landlords place into rental units.
When we meet Dev and his apartment for the first time, he's somewhat established and can afford to pay for the rent himself. Later in the first season, he splits the rent with a girlfriend, which can help cover expenses. That's the reality for a lot of New York couples.
"He's the kind of guy that would occasionally splurge for a cool chair after booking a high-paying commercial."
The back story was that this is a place Dev had lived in for years and held onto from his NYU college days. Maybe his doctor parents footed the bill in his early twenties? Then he became a "working actor," and not necessarily a "struggling actor."
The idea being that he eventually started earning a nice living booking national commercial campaigns, voice-overs and small parts in film and television.
How involved was Aziz in the design of Dev's apartment? Did he have strong opinions about design?
Aziz's sense of aesthetics and his own home in LA inspired several decor choices. The furnishings, artwork and collections are quite similar to his own. Aziz shared many references and ideas with me very early on in the design process. He also had final sign-off when it came to larger items, such as the sofa, bed and artwork.
Aziz and his character Dev have amazing taste and design sensibilities. Dev is a man of many interests and the goal was to reflect this variety within his eclectic living space.
In the show's universe, did Dev decorate the apartment himself?
Dev would certainly have consulted some websites to do design homework. But ultimately, I think he would have decorated the place himself. Everything in his space is carefully selected and collected. He is, after all, a man of many interests (or, if you will, a Master of None). He's the kind of guy that would occasionally splurge for a cool chair after booking a high-paying commercial. He's also the type that has an eye for a hidden gem at the flea market or thrift store. The thought was that he probably decorated this apartment slowly, over time.
What's your favorite element of Dev's apartment?
There so much I love. It's all so personal and handpicked. Jasmine Ballou, the set decorator, Aziz and myself really worked together to make Dev's apartment feel unique, but also tried to make it feel aspirational and cool as hell. I'm particularly proud of the sunken living room aspect. It's something I had to really push hard for, because it's not exactly the most film friendly, but it does make the space more dynamic and really puts a focus on what Dev values most, which is FOOD.
The smaller details like his camera collection, his books and artwork are also a source of pride.
What's new or different about Dev's apartment in season two?
In season one, we last saw Dev's space with Rachel's influence as they cohabited in his place. In season two, all of those element are gone and replaced with items he picked up in Italy.
We filmed Italy first before any other episodes, so I was able to bring back some items from this wonderful flea market in the Grand Pisa in Modena. We brought back pasta-making tools and decor from his Italian apartment. We also peppered in a few nods to some of the cinematic references of the season. Episode 209 has a fur blanket, similar to the one used in My Night at Maud's.
What are the home decor stores Dev's shopping at?
In season one we have a scene with Dev and Denise shopping at Las Venus, a Lower East Side retro shop. That scene is pretty indicative of Dev's tastes and habits. It's a place he would actually wander into and peruse for interesting pieces for his apartment.
We scoured Craigslist, Etsy and eBay to find many of those mid-century, space-age, '70s glam and primitive objects. We also shopped local at stores such as Winter Check and Repop in Brooklyn and Furnish Green in Manhattan. Much of the lighting comes from a vintage lighting store that was located just a block from our stage, called Ludite. The plants all came from the plant district on W 28th Street in Manhattan.
As with any real NYC apartment there's also the staple of items from Bed Bath and Beyond as well as West Elm and CB2. There's not a single item from IKEA though. It's just not Dev's style and I could never image him assembling any furniture.