Critical Decor — Mad Men’s Pete Campbell at Home and at Play


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With the premiere of the final season of AMC’s Mad Men last night, it got us thinking about some old favorite episodes. The Jon Hamm directed episode, “Collaborators” is one of the many memorable episodes in the series. Between Pete’s indiscreetness and Trudy’s vicious words, there’s a lot to take in. But we get particularly giddy when we get to pick apart the vintage decor in search of deeper truths. Join us as we investigate the who, what, when and especially the why of Don Draper and Co.’s interior design drama.

There’s a time and place for everything. A lesson the sleazy Pete Campbell learned the hard way in this episode of Mad Men. After an evening of socializing with their Rye, New York neighbors, Pete hatches a plan to seduce one of the other neighborhood wives, Brenda. He leverages Broadway tickets to “Hair” in order to get Brenda to pay a visit to his Manhattan pied-à-terre. Finally, we are introduced to Pete’s bachelor pad which he finagled at the end of the previous season after convincing his wife, Trudy, that he should get a place in the city. And oh wow, it’s a doozy!

It’s no secret that Pete’s got a yearning for Don’s life, so this urban get-away makes perfect sense. However, this clunky one bedroom also perfectly demonstrates why, despite their similarities, Don is Don and, well, Pete is Pete. The apartment lacks style, personality and charisma. Apparently Pete’s proximity to, and careful study of Don and Roger Sterling’s refined design sensibility has not rubbed off. Pete has favored heavy American made pieces that echo mid-century Ethan Allen rather than Herman Miller save for the Danish-style bar. Pete’s one statement piece—the geometric coat rack—is a puzzler, figuratively and, seemingly, literally. The television, Pete’s New York City companion, sits awkwardly, yet fittingly, next to the bar, staring blankly at the sad space. Even Brenda, Pete’s dalliance, notes after their rendezvous that his place could use a woman’s touch.

This new affair, of course, ends badly when Brenda shows up at the Campbell’s tidy residence, beaten and battered by her husband after he discovers the tryst. Pete reacts in disgust to Brenda’s appearance on his doorstep, as if the entanglement is no fault of his own. After Trudy cleans up Brenda and drives her to a local hotel, she gives Pete a verbal lashing. Despite allowing Pete to have a separate space for his infidelities, Trudy is fed up with his indiscretions so close to home. Since Pete can’t keep his lives separate, Trudy steps up to do just that.

Sprawled on the sofa, Pete looks as out of place as the floral print on the clean lines of the mid-century sofa. Battling for living room real estate with the sturdy pieces of Americana, like the mahogany display cabinet and overstuffed sitting chairs, the sofa reminds us that all is not as neat as it seems.

  • Gayle

    Oh, Pete. You’re so conflicted.

  • Ugh, Pete is such a sleeze. Honestly, I was too busy being disgusted at him to notice those decor details but now that you mention it, that makes perfect sense. That’s what I love about the show, the attention to detail is rivaled only by the character development, and a lot of times they’re both so good it’s hard to know where to focus! On the bright side, Trudy earned MAJOR badass points that episode. I like her much better now.