A Perfect Match: BMA + The Bachelor Set Designs

What do you get when you combine the set designer for one of America’s most successful long-running TV franchises — and the virtually unlimited treasure trove of fabrics to be discovered in the Baxter Mill Archive? In short, a new kind of magic, season after season. 

For over 20 years, Angie Rutherford has been the visionary behind the sets that invite contestants from ABC’s The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise to sit back, relax — and find their soulmate. As lead set designer, Rutherford is challenged to create a new environment with each season that reflects the personality of the bachelor or bachelorette at hand, while still meeting the technical requirements of set furnishings that subtly accommodate sound and light equipment. The settings themselves present a unique challenge for Angie and her team: deliver a comfortable, inviting environment that feels residential — and doubles as a wired, live television set. 

“With all of our selections, we want contestants to feel like they’re in an upscale environment — one that they can curl up and feel comfortable in — rather than feeling like they’re on stage, where it is standard to film other television shows,” says Angie. “We also need to keep things fresh every season, both in the Bachelor Mansion and in our remote locations. That means my team is constantly updating and reupholstering our sets’ look and feel.”

Prior to stumbling upon Baxter Mill Archive through a mutual connection in 2019, Angie and her team were constantly looking for new fabrics, but she says, “I could never really find the designs that were in my head.” That all changed when Angie took her first trip to BMA, got lost in the archive for three days straight — and has been utilizing BMA as an exclusive source for her Bachelor sets ever since.

Angie works closely with BMA’s decorative fabrics design manager, Ashlyn Beck, to bring those designs in her head to life. “I can tell her something so specific – like, I need something that is blue, toile, and also a little bit leafy and masculine – and she will pull something the next day, and recolor it to be exactly what I imagined.”

The process usually begins with a mood board and several brainstorms with Ashlyn, before the pair get to work. Once fabrics are selected in the archive, Angie and Ashlyn alter them to fit the color schemes for the season, print them in-house through the Springs Creative digital printing machines, and then take their new one-of-a-kind printed yards of fabrics to upholsterers who use them to create pillows, poufs, drapery, blankets, and more accents for the sets.

In addition to offering the country’s most extensive collection of textile fabrics to choose from, Angie notes that the preservation aspect of BMA’s mission is a huge part of the appeal to the partnership. “I want to see the cracks in the paper; the parts where the artist didn’t quite finish – that’s history. I love exploring all of the hand-painted fabrics and giving them new life through an updated color story. Reviving these pieces for new designs today… that’s special. What BMA does here from a preservation standpoint, it’s not just inspiring, it’s important.” 

Recently, all it took was one piece of fabric tucked in the endless treasure trove of BMA’s archive to inspire an entire season’s set theme. Angie and Ashlyn used a small piece of Turkish rug found in the archive, scanned it, and played with its colors and textures to ultimately become a focal design element of multiple furnishings. 

As of spring 2023, BMA and The Bachelor franchise, through Angie, were entering into their third year of partnership. Angie says she looks forward to a long-term relationship with BMA and is looking forward to discovering what else the archive has in store for future seasons. And while she enjoys keeping BMA her “little secret,” she encourages designers who feel stifled by the industry’s limited options for sourcing original fabrics to visit BMA — and fall in love with the difference. 

For Angie and other designers looking to find something truly unique, “It’s a place where designers can be the artists they already are.”