Here’s What It’s Like to Design Sets for The Bachelorette

published Aug 6, 2018
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(Image credit: Paul Hebert/ABC)

Don’t even call it a guilty pleasure. The Bachelorette (along with all the other Bachelor franchise shows) is one of my favorite things on TV. I like it because it’s entertaining, yes, but also because it’s such a weird crucible of human behavior (some of it, admittedly, not so great behavior). What’s going on behind the scenes? Who is there for the Right Reasons? There are so many layers, and all of it plays out against a backdrop created by a team headed by Production Designer Angelic Rutherford.

Angelic has been with the show since Jesse Palmer’s season, which was just the fourth iteration of the Bachelor. (At this point there have been 22 seasons of The Bachelor, and 14 of the Bachelorette.) She’s responsible for the look and feel of the Bachelor mansion, the final proposal site, and all of the fantasy dates along the way. Recently, I asked her a few questions about the show’s design, her inspiration for this season, and some of the biggest challenges along the way. As you can understand, I was pretty jazzed.

Apartment Therapy: I think a lot of viewers are surprised to learn that the Bachelor mansion is actually someone’s home 10 months out of the year. Twice a year, the bachelor mansion is completely transformed from a family home into a stage set/dormitory. I imagine this is a pretty big undertaking. What would you say is the biggest challenge?

Angelic Rutherford: One of the biggest challenges moving back into the mansion after so many years is trying to hang curtain rods again and again! The walls have been patched over season after season, so it’s a struggle!

AT: When you’re designing for a season, do you take the lead’s personality into account? What was your inspiration for Becca’s season?

AR: I absolutely do. Our cast is one of my favorite inspirations for designing. It can be tricky because for a Bachelorette season, the house is full of men. So, it needs to feel comfortable enough for story to happen, and visually masculine. Becca is truly one of our favorite Bachelorettes. She’s from Minnesota and she’s very down to earth. The mixer room is designed more casual, with couches covered in moss Belgium velvet. The textures and patterns are warm with earth tones.

(Image credit: Paul Hebert/ABC)

AT: You mentioned in an interview with Elle Decor in 2016 that the sets (particularly the set for Bachelor in Paradise) need to be “makeout friendly.” What makes a space makeout friendly?

AR: Oh yes! Haha! This is a term I started years ago when I began production designing this franchise. It’s a funny way to describe the seating spots around the mansion and on dates. It’s really all about cast experience and making sure they’re in a beautiful spot to feel comfortable enough to talk and well, you never know what else.

AT: What has been your favorite space that you’ve designed for the show?

AR: That’s such a tough question! We’ve been in so many beautiful areas of the world! We had one season where our finale was in a barn that was over 100 hundred years old. We emptied the barn of hay from the ’30s, made it safe by reinforcing the beams and floors, and created a beautiful spot for our finale. We been to so many amazing locations — South Africa is another favorite, along with Thailand for our Sean Lowe season.

AT: I’m an avid viewer of the show, and this is something I’ve been curious about for a long long time: are the houses we see on the hometown dates the contestants’ families’ actual homes? Does the team ever decorate or stage the homes to make them more camera-ready?

AR: Yes, the homes belong to the families. We look them over before we shoot and streamline and declutter for camera. Usually the setdresser that is at the hometown becomes really close with the families.

(Image credit: Paul Hebert/ABC)

AT: Do you consider yourself a fan of the show? What has been your favorite season to design for? To watch?

AR: I am! It’s fun to see everything on camera and every season is so different. I really love designing for our summer show as well, Bachelor in Paradise. It’s colorful and I love the Mexican design influence.

AT: You’ve been working on the show since Jesse Palmer’s season, in 2003. How would you say the look of the show has changed over the years?

AR: Oh wow! I feel like it’s changed so much, from design trends and colors, to our furniture set ups. Definitely for the better over the years! With changing budgets and locations, It’s really been amazing to put together a look that the franchise is now known for!

AT: What do you work on when you’re not designing sites and scouting locations for the Bachelor? Or is this pretty much a full-time job?

AR: Sometimes we have scouts during the down time, but after shooting three shows a year, it’s nice to stick around and work on my own projects. I’m a painter and I’m currently designing a home line of my own! Hopefully out next year!

You can keep up with Angelic — and get sneak peeks at the design of future seasons — on her Instagram, This is the Final Rose Tonight.