Perry's Office Suite

A Discussion of a Magical Workspace

Updated 25 December 2007

The nature of Perry's office is a popular topic of discussion. In 2003, with a plentiful supply of shows from Hallmark, and with the encouragement and help of my Freundin, Leah, I began a project to "look into" the office. As one might expect, it got out of control and I eventually burned out on the idea. Now, after a timeout, I am ready to begin again and reveal here some of what I learned. If I've missed anything, please let me know.

As I began my project, I read of a book on one of the discussion venues titled TV Sets - Fantasy Blueprints of Classic TV Homes, by Mark Bennett, which included Perry Mason's office. I feared my project was over before it had begun! So, I obtained a copy. It's a nice book. There are three pages for Perry Mason. There are two blueprint-style drawings. One of Della's office and a big two-pager of the entire office suite. There is some text, mostly about the things in the office. I was quite pleased to note that the drawings are just plain wrong! Fantasy indeed! I decided that I would do better.

Goal The aim of this project was to make a floor plan drawing of Perry's office suite based upon a careful analysis of what can be seen in the show.

The Data Data gathering was done largely while watching shows from Hallmark. The shows were reviewed on a TiVo and interesting scenes were noted. Video capture pictures were then made from tape. In some cases, short video clips were made. A shortcoming of this technique was that Hallmark was showing only 228 of the 271 episodes at the time. For the missing shows, I watched tapes made from a local station some years before and from a variety of other sources. All shows were eventually viewed and video capture pictures were made of any interesting scenes. The dataset now contains 230 pictures and 5 video clips.

The pictures are organized into five categories which are indicated by a prefix in their filenames. The prefixes and categories are po_ for Perry's Office, do_ for Della's Office, go_ for Gertie's Office, lawl_ for the Law Library and wv_ for Window View. The remainder of the file name identifies the show by number in the form of pm123. All pictures are .jpg format. Quality is subordinate to content, and the pictures here have been lightly edited, if at all, and resized from 640 by 480 pixels.

Where is it? The first question that came to mind with regard to the office was "where is it?" In the Brent Building! Yes, but where is that? Thanks to the often seen view out of the balcony window (po_pm025_1), there are some clues. Since the view is clearly an enlarged photograph, the real question becomes "where was the camera when that picture was taken?" In my opinion, it was somewhere just west of south Hill street between 3rd and 4th streets. The analysis can be found here.

The Floor Plan The office suite is a curious place. A plan drawing of it would not be an easy thing to do. The evidence provided from the pictures had to be pieced together from the various shows and analyzed carefully. This process did not go smoothly.

The most unusual aspect of the suite is that many of the internal walls are not "square" with the outer wall of the building. Or, with each other, for that matter. The geometry is quite crazy. Perry's private office, for example, has twelve walls! The perimeter shape of the suite would not fit well into a real building. There's no room, for example, for the hallway occasionally seen outside Perry's private door, the one Paul often uses. That angled side of the office is simply too near the outside wall of the building. This situation is especially troublesome when one notices in episode #68, The Case of the Dubious Bridegroom, that there's another office over there! At the right, here, you can see a corner of that office's balcony from the outside. The balcony can be seen from the inside here.

Another oddness is the way the office changes over time. Some changes are small. Some are large. Some are temporary and some persist. To handle this situation, I decided that the drawing would be sort of a weighted average. That is, the configurations that last the longest would be favored. Short-lived changes would be ignored.

Situations Here are the five most troublesome situations which were encountered in the office with some discussion of how they were handled.

The Annex. In first season, the balcony side of the office suite "juts out," square to the outside wall, about four feet. When compared to later seasons, this situation can be easily discerned by the roominess in front of the balcony and by what lies behind the door near the balcony. This configuration is not shown in the drawing. See pictures here.

Aligned Doors. In the first season and maybe a little after, the main doors of Perry and Della's offices are in a straight alignment with the outer office door. In later seasons, Della's office door is offset. This was caused by a change in the shape of the wall adjacent to Della's door. The offset door configuration is used in the drawing. See pictures here.

The Long Wall in Perry's office that runs from the vicinity of the door to Della's office to "Paul's" private door is rarely seen. The shape of the wall is not consistent. The furnishings along the wall vary. The best view is perhaps in episode #231, The Case of the Lover's Gamble, and this configuration is used in the drawing. See pictures here.

The Law Library is seen in just three episodes I think. It is most revealed in episode #14, The Case of the Baited Hook, and this is largely the basis for the drawing. In later episodes, the configuration of the room changes somewhat. A most curious situation in episode #14 is the shape of the wall to the left of the library's entry door from Perry's office. When Perry enters the room, the wall is flat. When he steps out to talk to Tragg, there is a jog in the wall. The flat wall is used in the drawing. Further discussion and pictures here.

The Main Entrance is not seen much. In episode #1, The Case of the Restless Redhead, the front wall is flat. In episode #31, The Case of the Fiery Fingers, there are "jogs." As far as I know, there are no other major views of this part of the office. The latter configuration is used in the drawing. See pictures here.

Miscellaneous Items Here are some of the minor items that arose during analysis.

Doors. The height of Perry's office door was estimated by scaling Della's height (65.5") in picture lawl_pm042_1. The door is about 80" high. The width of the door was estimated by assuming an 80" height and scaling the door in picture po_pm054_4. Other doors of the same aspect ratio are assumed to be the same size as Perry's office door.

More Doors. There are eleven doors! The primary doors, named on the drawing, are the Main Door, Della's Door, Perry's Door and the Private Door. The other doors are identified descriptively: the Law Library entrance door (from Perry's office), the Law Library hall door (to the reception area), the Law Library door to Della's office, the door behind Della's desk, the door behind Gertie's desk, the odd other door in Gertie's office and the mysterious door near the balcony. The obvious question is "What's behind all those doors?" Some answers here.

Perry's Desk. The width of Perry's desk was estimated at 30" by scaling the paper on the desk seen in po_pm025_1. The length is estimated at 60" based on the usual practice for desks. The orientation of Perry's desk was estimated from po_pm043_3. The desk seems to move around a little. Sight along the desk's front edge in the pictures.

Della's Office Clock. In season one, the clock is on the "left" wall of a protruding corner near the back door (do_pm010_3). In the second season, the protruding corner goes away, and the clock moves to the rear wall (do_pm053_1). Later yet, the clock moves to the "right" of the entry door (do_pm071_1) and stays there until the end I think.

Della's Desk. Through the first season Della's desk is long and narrow with a modesty panel (do_pm010_1). Season two opens with the same design (do_pm041_1). Later in the second season, the modesty panel goes away (do_pm053_2) and the desk is shorter (see do_pm053_3). This design persists (do_pm267_1).

The Balcony. The "left" side of balcony is based on po_pm068_1. The "right" side is based on po_pm025_1 and others. The thicknesses of the protrusions are a guess. Note the different appearance of the right side joint in po_pm182_2.

The Bust. The bust of Voltaire in Perry's office moves along the wall between the entry door and the door to the law library. A popular location was used in the drawing.

Waste Basket. A waste basket on the angled wall between Perry's desk and the balcony wall was inferred from episode #108, The Case of the Envious Editor, where said waste basket is heard but not seen as Perry tosses something into it.

Gertie's Office is Missing In episode #118, The Case of the Torrid Tapestry, Della opens her door to the outer office and we see a hallway where Gerties's office should be. See do_pm118_1. Gertie's office is also seen to be missing in #172, The Case of the Surplus Suitor. In #183, The Case of the Shifty Shoe-box, "Frank" is seen in the hall outside the main office door. He enters the door and is next seen in Della's office.

Oddities Behind Della's desk is a mysterious translucent wall. In later seasons, two filing cabinets were placed in front of it. The really odd part is the way the wall itself changes. See here.

In the first season, in Perry's office, there is a picture (po_pm014_09) in many episodes. It's missing in one (po_pm008_2).

The Law Library door "should" be seen in po_pm028_1 instead of that table and painting.

In later seasons, the mask hanging on the wall near Perry's desk usually looks like po_pm048_1 but it looked like po_pm041_3 once.

The horse sculpture above the sofa in Perry's office is briefly missing in espisode #182, The Case of the Nebulous Nephew, as can be seen in po_pm182_3. It returns shortly afterwards (po_pm182_4).

In episode #235, The Case of the Careless Kitten, the area near the door by the balcony is quite different than usual. See in po_pm235.

The exterior of the Brent Building, with its narrow windows, doesn't seem to jibe with Perry's relatively wide balcony with an ornate rail.

The Perry Mason TV Show Book mentions that the cast, Burr chief among them, would "add a little coloration or modification" to "a painting that appeared frequently on the wall of the set" (see the last paragraph here). I looked carefully at the painting behind Perry's desk but could not detect any changes. I did notice that the horse sculpture over the sofa in Perry's office did change (see here), but not gradually.

The Floor Plan Drawing The floor plan drawing is based upon what can be seen in the show and guesses arising from the logical consequences of geometry. I'm sure there are arguable errors but this is the best I can do. The plan was drawn to precise dimensions with a computer aided design program and printed. The printed drawing was scanned and a.picture editor was used to add color and enhancements.