'Mad Men' and 'Sex and the City' production designers grew up in Hollin Hills

By Jennifer Sergent
Thursday, July 22, 2010

In hindsight, it seems obvious that the mid-century modern Hollin Hills neighborhood would inspire two local boys to become production designers for AMC's "Mad Men" and HBO's "Sex and the City."

Dan Bishop ("Mad Men") and Jeremy Conway ("Sex and the City," the TV series and movies) grew up together in the area, part of the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. Hollin Hills is home to the largest concentration of mid-century modern homes in the region, with 450 houses designed by architect Charles Goodman between the 1940s and 1970s.

The two have fond memories of playing sports on the grounds of Mount Vernon Unitarian Church in the late '60s and early '70s, and they both went on to Virginia Commonwealth University to study theatrical design.

As production designers, Bishop, 54, and Conway, 55, lead set decorators who work with teams of carpenters, painters and craftsmen to turn their visions into reality. For the early-'60s-era "Mad Men," Bishop decided how the Sterling Cooper advertising office should look, for example, and the kind of house Don and Betty Draper would live in. Conway conceived the country inn for the wedding scene that opens "Sex and the City 2," in addition to calling the shots on the decor for Carrie and Big's New York apartment.

We spoke to the pair in advance of the "Mad Men" season 4 premiere on July 25. Here are edited excerpts:

As children, were you aware of Hollin Hills' distinctive architecture? What is your house like now?

Bishop: The architecture there did influence my sensibilities about modern homes. I live in one now, with glass walls surrounded by trees in South Pasadena [Calif.]. Truthfully, I would rather live in a Hollin Hills house.

Conway: You knew it was different from other developments -- there were a lot of glass boxes. Now, I go between two places: an apartment in [Manhattan's] Union Square that is very modern, like a James Bond set. I also have an old-fashioned 1914 seaside cottage on Fire Island [N.Y.]. I have the best of both worlds.

How did you guys know each other?

Bishop: I knew his younger brother, Joe. My first memory of Jeremy is playing sandlot football with him at the church.

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