James Bolenbaugh

Art Director for “Orange is the New Black”


Photography by Liz Clayman

Production Designer / Art Director

James Bolenbaugh is the Art Director for “Orange is the New Black” as well as a Production Designer for PBS “Idea Channel,” created and hosted by Mike Rugnetta. James has been found in the art departments of your favorite TV shows including “Mad Men,” “Halt and Catch Fire” and “Elementary” as well as many other shows and pilots for HBO, NBC, CBS, PBS, ABC and any number of other 3 letter combinations. 


Growing up in the High Plains of Montana, he learned how to build guitars in his grandfathers modest wood shop where he developed a life long fascination with design and craft of all variety. James is an amateur history enthusiast and a collector of many trinkets, doodads, whatchamawhosits, and dust collectors. These are but a few.

1979 O’day 28 Sailboat


A lot of people don’t think of New York as a sailing city, and even more think of it as sport only for the wealthy elites. You’d be surprised how cheaply you can find decent sailboats on craigslist. I bought my first one 10 years ago for $500 split with a friend. We had that up until last year when I bought this 1979 28 Foot O’Day at auction for $3500. It only had one previous owner, a former Navy Captain in his mid 80’s who kept it in really fantastic and original shape.

I spent a bit of time between jobs and on weekends updating it and redoing the woodwork before the season started this year, and I renamed it Nenemoosha after my great-step-grandfather’s sailing canoe from the 1890’s. If you pick up this habit, find some friends to split the annual costs with, you’ll need crew anyways, and it becomes an affordable getaway for all. you heard it here first, sailboats are the new summer homes.

Buy Now$6,500

1950s Big Beam Flashlight


I picked up this flashlight at a flea market in Montana. The Big Beam! Turning Darkness Into Daylight! I have a minor obsession with flashlights, and this is the queen bee for me. It started when I was a small child, maybe 4 or 5, and coveted the playskool yellow plastic flashlight with the red and green lens options. I wanted it so badly, that I tortured my mother with incessant whining, turned crying/wailing/screaming at the toy store. Lucky for me, she didn’t murder me (apparently it’s the only time it crossed her mind) and I got the flashlight for christmas. She has given me some kind of flashlight every christmas since, almost 30 years now.

Buy Now$24.99

Grandpa Ted’s 1970s Sears Tape Measure


When I was a teenager I started apprenticing with my grandfather Ted Beringer to learn how to make guitars. He was self taught and had over 50 years of experience by the time I learned from him. One of the things I always loved about his wood shop were the simplicity of the tools. He had a pretty meat and potatoes operation, and one of the tools he used most was this simple cheap Sears tape measure from probably the late 70’s. I have lost more tape measures than I can count, but he kept track of this one for over 30 years. It’s the only tool I asked for when he passed, and I love having this little keepsake of our time together.

Buy Now$14.99

Stereoscopic Viewer and Cards


I have an ever growing collection of 3D photos from the advent of photography up through the 1940s. They were very popular at the turn of the century as a way to sort of travel without traveling. For me, as a production designer, and history enthusiast, I use them to TIME travel without traveling. I have Teddy Roosevelt in 3D, a lot of amazing photos of soldiers and cathedrals and farm settings. It’s really incredible to watch this old black and white photo pop to life. You suddenly start looking at details in a photo you never would have noticed or thought about when it was flat and lifeless. You can usually pick these up at flea markets and antique stores for a couple of dollars a card.

Buy Now$29+

Guitars: One my Grandpa Built and One I Built


The flat top acoustic is my favorite guitar that I ever built with my grandpa. I had sold it at a time when I thought I would be making a lot more of them. After lamenting selling my favorite guitar many years later, my mother showed up in NY with a guitar case. She had bought it back from the guy I sold it to and surprised me with it. It’s a great folky guitar with a big booming sound.

The archtop guitar is one my Grandpa must have built in the 70’s or 80’s and sold to a Las Vegas musician. I bought it from him a few years back. It’s in terrible shape, cracks everywhere, and a split neck, definitely was well used and abused. Currently it doesn’t have enough strength to even be tuned. Sometime, when I have woodshop access and some time off, I’m going to fix it up and get it humming again, but for now, I like to pull it out of the case and look at the beautiful craftsmanship under all the cracks and chips.

Buy Now$499

7” F. Dick Santoku Kitchen Knife


There’s nothing more important in your kitchen than a good sharp knife. I replaced my standard 8” chefs Knife with this 7” Santoku knife. I use it for nearly everything. It’s very versatile, well balanced, and keeps a really sharp edge. I also quite love the styling on the handle, and their arrow logo. Fun fact: Santoku (three virtues) refers to the three cutting tasks which the knife performs well: slicing, dicing, and mincing. The Santoku’s blade and handle are designed to work in harmony by matching the blade’s width/weight to the weight of blade tang and handle, and the original Japanese Santoku is a well-balanced knife. I learned that from wikipedia just now.


Buy Now$87.05

1980s IBM Mainframe Key


Nearly every film or TV show I work on, I end up collecting some prop or set dressing as a little memento. I worked on Season 2 of Halt and Catch Fire to research and source antique computers as well as recreate a 1980’s mainframe: The IBM 3090. I worked with a former IBM Engineer to find manuals and schematics from his personal library, and he told me that I was becoming an practically becoming a Systems Engineer with everything I was learning, but I couldn’t be legit unless I started carrying one of these on my keychain every day like he does. I tracked one down, and I still carry it on my keychain every day, even though it only opens up old antiquated technology. If anyone get’s locked out of their antiquated mainframe… I guess I have them covered.


Carter the Succulent


I have had many succulents over the years. I usually name them after Presidents, and just like our commanders in chief, most of my succulents have died. But not Carter, he’s been with me through thick and thin, survived a house fire, and seemed to grow better after, moved through several apartments, moved to Atlanta, and back he’s been attacked by both feline and canine and laughed it off. I keep wanting to repot him in a bigger pot so he can grow more, but… we have a pretty good thing going here, and I don’t want to mess it up.

Buy Now$5

1890s Crystal Sailing Trophy


As I said before, my great-step-grandfather had a sailing canoe named Nenemoosha. He was the Commodore of the, now defunct, Brooklyn Canoe Club in the 1890s. My stepfather gave this to me as a house warming present when I bought a place near where the Commodore used to live. Since then, I have been doing a lot of primary source historical research on the Canoe Club because nobody has ever really written about it’s history before. So far what I have discovered is that they were pretty decent at racing but really excelled at partying. They were known for their lavish and elaborate annual dinners as well as having a really debaucherous club house called the Alligator Lodge.

The members of the BCC presented this trophy to the Commodore for a particularly successful year of winning.  I have an accompanying newspaper article that describes the dinner at which it was awarded. When I took this home wrapped in newspaper through airport security, I have never seen more panic on a TSA Officer’s face. Apparently, the lead in the crystal made this appear jet black in the scanner and they thought I had a bomb. “That’s really nice crystal” the officer later said, “I’ve never seen one show up on the scanner that way!”

Buy Now$95+

Vintage Wrought Iron Bed


I used to stop by this little antique and home wares shop called Moon River Chattel to kill time before therapy, and would walk out with incredibly pricey trinkets and antiques. I had been eying this bed frame on several visits, but couldn’t justify the expense until I Production Designed an exorcism film (Ava’s Possessions) where I needed a bed to tie the main actress to while she was slashing out eyes, and vomit while being exorcised. Probably not the worst thing this bed has seen. The store is unfortunately shuttered now, but therapy has gotten much cheaper.

Buy Now$359.99

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