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July 22, 2014

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The Sixth Simpson

Mike Woodley, Kaufman & Broad's Senior Vice President of Architecture, was the primary designer of the Simpson House. Here, he speaks about his latest creation and the dawn of "TV architecture."

Were you part of the team that watched 56 consecutive episodes of "The Simpsons," looking for design ideas?

Well, I can tell you I didn't watch all 56. But I was definitely involved in the whole process.

What was the most difficult aspect of the translation, from cartoon to reality?

The width of the house. Our house is narrower than the Simpsons' actual house. It was just a reality in terms of fitting it on a lot that's common to Las Vegas. The actual Simpson house is at least a 50-foot-wide house and ours is 40 feet wide. We had to take the Simpson house concept into a narrower format.

Have you ever worked in this arena before?

Well, this may sound crazy, but we've done a lot of stuff; I'm a big advocate of TV being a part of peoples' lives, emulating peoples' lives. Let me give you an example: we've done what we call a "Cosby Stair." That's a double stair. If you've ever watched "The Cosby Show," the kids go up (one staircase), and there's another one that comes down into the kitchen area.

I'm kind of an odd guy, because I watch TV shows and try to figure out how the (floorplans) work anyway. So it was natural for me to do this.

Do you have a favorite room in the Simpson house?

I gotta say it's the TV room. I think it really represents how we live. It's fashionable to say we don't watch TV, but I think it really reflects the way we live. There's access to the backyard, it's off a formal room that isn't used as much (chuckles). The TV room is where we live. That's what I love about The Simpsons -- it is reality.

What was the most unusual house you designed prior to this?

We did a house some time ago that we gave away, a promotion with IKEA. It was a three-quarter-scale replica of one of our houses. And we do a lot of charity work, designing playhouses for kids. We've done some pretty wild layouts.

Do you think the Simpson house will comfortably accommodate a family?

Absolutely. When we did this, we kept in mind the fact that someone would have to live in it. It meets all the codes; you can actually fit a real refrigerator in it. There's nothing about it that is "off." The layout, the way the house flows, the spaces -- it's just like the Simpsons. But it is not significantly different from what we do.

I will tell you that there's no basement in our house; the Simpsons have a basement. We moved the laundry room upstairs. It's a very marketable house.

One more question: how did you do it?

We had stuff to look at as we designed it. We had photos, so we could mimic the front of the house exactly. And like I said, this is what I do every day. It was fairly easy.

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