8 Questions with Mad Men Set Decorator Amy Wells on Decorating Your Place on a Budget

8 Questions with Mad Men Set Decorator Amy Wells on Decorating Your Place on a Budget
We've all been there: Staring into the void of our brand new, empty apartment feeling overwhelmed by the idea (and expense) of furnishing it. We sat down with Amy Wells, award winning set decorator for Mad Men to get her take on essentials, styles, and starting points.
A guy is moving into his first real place, what items or concepts should he focus on first to make it a put-together home?
Start small, and go from there. If you don’t know where to begin when putting together a room, use a favorite piece of wall art as inspiration. This can be something as simple as taking a color from your favorite piece and using the same shade for the wall, adding a few accents in the same color throughout the space.
When it comes to dressing well for men, the key is making sure the items, regardless of whether they’re preppy, urban, or casual, fit properly above all else. When a man decorates his home, what is the most important aspect he should focus on?
No matter your style it’s most important to bring in elements that highlight who you are. This can be as simple as showcasing your most prized possessions in plain view – for example, if you’re into photography, dust off those old cameras you’ve been collecting and display them on a hanging shelf or glass paneled cabinet.
A 25 year old guy has $1,000 to spend on his new, empty living room. What does he buy?
I’d say the guy should splurge a bit on a comfortable couch and a unique ottoman that can double as a coffee table. Pick a sofa that has no gimmicks nothing fussy – clean lines will insure that it can be mixed with many other pieces. You don't want your sofa to go out of style! Also, buy items that can do double duty to get the most out of your money! From there, you can add a few unique décor items to really make the space feel personalized, based on who you are and the things that mean something to you.
Several styles have been popular in recent years like Mid-century modern and vintage industrial. What’s becoming popular now? Are there any styles a guy looking to invest in some nice pieces should look to?
Mid-century is a classic style for anyone. Especially after my years working on Mad Men, I am very fond of that vintage look. If you’re not feeling confident about committing to a trend – or are concerned about it looking dated by next year – invest in a simple focal piece then search for less expensive accents at places like HomeGoods or flea markets that represent you.
When starting out, a lot of guys fall into the trap of over using red, black, and white. What are some modern color palettes a guy should consider to create a modern and masculine home?
I personally love chartreuse and brown, grey and red, or even a nice medium blue with charcoal grey and light grey with pops of black – these are still masculine colors without looking like the same old palette. If you are going with a sleeker look, you can use the black and white, but choose a third color that you love to pepper in throughout the room.
Is there an item that men almost always overlook that they should include in their apartment?
Most men overlook items that help make their homes cozier. Guys need rugs so they can lay on the floor. Don’t be afraid to get a nice dark wool shag. It won’t show dirt and it gives you flexibility of where to sit and hang out. Also, add wool throws to a space. These are perfect for staying warm while binge watching your favorite show during the winter.
A big problem for guys in their 20’s is budget: Besides Ikea, where would you recommend shopping for affordable but well designed items?
One of my favorite places to go is HomeGoods – it’s ideal for anyone looking to decorate on a budget. It’s a store where you really can find the most unique pieces no matter your style, aesthetic or budget. I always find the most unexpected and well-made pieces, whether it’s a sturdy, hand-carved coffee table or a funky piece of wall art.
When you're designing a room and it's just…”you know, missing something,” what's your go-to solution?
Add some dimension to a room. Try hanging a cool statement piece from the ceiling to bring an unexpected depth. It’s always more unique to have dimensional items as well as pictures on the wall. These pieces can also serve as a great conversation starter since they will draw the attention of your guests.

Ready to take on your bachelor pad? Read how in our Intentional Apartment series!

Andrew Snavely

Andrew founded Primer in 2008 and brings 15+ years of men's style expertise. Known for his practical, relatable approach to style and self-development, he has been a recognized speaker at conferences and has styled work for top brands. Off-duty, he loves photography & editing, and enjoys road trips with his dog, Leela. Raised in rural Pennsylvania, educated in DC, and living in LA for nearly 20 years, Andrew's diverse experiences shape the relatable and real-world advice that has helped millions through Primer. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.