Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ideas on Film

Over the past few months, I have had several visitors tell me that my bedroom reminds them of Hogwart’s Gryffindor house from the Harry Potter movies. I suppose I can see the resemblance..... dark wood canopied bed, aged honey colour walls, scarlet velvet upholstery, antique leather chairs, large oil paintings, and floral linen everywhere. No doubt Master Potter would indeed feel at home. I know I do.
Although I created my bedroom with no thought in my head about Harry Potter, there have been many rooms from film that have influenced me greatly over the years. In fact, I often go to the movies just to see the sets.
Here are ten of my most inspirational films.
See if you agree, and please share some of your favourites!

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, 1947
With or without a ghost, Mrs. Muir’s, Gull Cottage, has to be the most wonderful seaside dwelling imaginable. I remember seeing this movie for the first time when I was a little girl and, even then, I was totally captivated with the thoughts of how I would decorate this amazing place if only it were mine. That bedroom of Lucy’s, upstairs with the landing that opened out to the sea! That sitting room with the large window! Even the big utilitarian kitchen was charming... the perfect place to heat the water for your hot water bottle whilst a ghost peers over your shoulder. I’ve always thought she should have kept the the Captain’s monkey puzzle tree, however.

The Philadephia Story, 1940
Who wouldn’t want to spend a lazy afternoon in Tracy Lord’s south parlor? That gracious floral upholstery, the gargantuan vases of flowers, the sparkling windows overlooking the gardens. I can almost smell the fragrance of old roses wafting in on the breeze. Even in black and white, or maybe especially in black and white, this movie captured the idealized image of the perfect American house in the 1930’s.
And Cary Grant was pretty ideal himself.

Practical Magic, 1998
Oh, you can just give me this whole house. What a place! Perched on a ocean bluff, this Victorian gem is like something out of a dream. And that kitchen! Be still my heart. All in creams and warm woods, with a big, fat Aga and high trussed ceilings. I am not sure how Practical it would be, but I have no quarrel with the Magic part.

Out of Africa, 1985
“I had a farm in Africa”, said Karen Blixen.... and boy, did she. This African farmhouse should have been credited as one of the stars of this grand movie. I adored it. In fact, so besotted was I with the floral upholstery in the sitting room that several years later, when I began decorating professionally, I was given the delightful task of totally doing over a charming house for an older lady who had just come into a generous inheritance. She wanted a “pretty” house, and I knew just which fabric to use! I tracked down the very linen floral that was used in the movie and did her entire bedroom in it. She was thrilled, and so was I.

The Uninvited, 1944
From the moment Ruth Hussey and Ray Milland, playing sister and brother, stumble on the mysterious, abandoned Windward House perched high on a rocky Cornish bluff in this delightfully spooky ghost story, I was hooked. To have the opportunity to bring this wonderful house back to life would have been worth facing down its rather malevolent ghost. Maybe.

Bringing Up Baby, 1938
There is a charming
inn on an estate in Essex, Massachusetts, sumptuously decorated and surrounded by lilac bushes. I stayed there one May when those lilacs were in bloom and there was still a nip in the New England air. When I walked in, I recognized the design of the front lobby immediately. With an book-lined alcove around the fireplace, it was almost identical to Aunt Elizabeth’s country cottage in Bringing Up Baby. A fabulous movie house, preferably sans leopard.

Sense and Sensibility, 1995
The Dashwood sisters feel quite deprived having to leave their grand family estate of Norland Park and relocate to their donated cottage in Devonshire, but to me, this was the better abode by far. Perched on a bucolic hill, this lovely cottage had a heart-stopping view and interiors almost Swedish in style, with faded blues and greys. Charming.

Gigi, 1958
When I was very little I remember watching this movie on television and being swept away by Gigi’s dramatic red apartment. I thought it was the most extravagant place I’d ever seen. With large windows opening out onto turn of the century Paris, and those scarlet walls! It seems Gigi’s grandmother, (played by the equally extravagant Hermione Gingold....who better?) was forever in the kitchen creating cassoulets. I was entranced.

Swiss Family Robinson, 1960
How the Robinson’s treehouse captured my little girl dreams and shook them till all sorts of colour flew round my head! It taught me that the most vital ingredient in any good design is imagination. Just imagine having a multi-storied home in the trees, complete with an organ!

Holiday, 1938
Upstairs in the great mansion of the Seton family, there is a room untouched by time. It was the children’s playroom, with a roaring fireplace, cushy upholstery, faded rugs and books everywhere. It is the room where the characters played by Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant find comfort and solace and I have always understood why.

What houses from the movies have inspired you? Do share!


  1. I've watched Practical Magic many many times - mainly so that I can drool over that house/kitchen/conservatory/garden/sea-side location. If I could pick any single movie-location to live, it would be there.

    I also adored nearly every scene in Heath Ledger's "Casanova" - it made Venice look like a fancy candy coated cake.

    And nearly every scene in "Girl With a Pearl Earring" which all looked like a Vermeer painting.

    Outside of that, I notice that many times I am more enamored of the environments than the interiors in movies. I'd also love to live in one of those wind-swept, thatched cottages on "The Secret of Roan Inish" even though the interiors looked quite spare. I adore the moor wastelands of the Ralph Fiennes/Juiette Binoche version of "Wuthering Heights". The Tuscan environs in Kenneth Branagh's "Much Ado About Nothing", the Lake District countryside in "Miss Potter", the Bennett's house with the moat in the latest "Pride and Prejudice", the actual gardens in nearly every version of "The Secret Garden", the Fairy Market from "Stardust" and of course the Shire and Rivendell from LoTRs. :-)

    So much loveliness....

  2. Agreed, on all of the aforementioned movies and their particular offerings...I'd like to add the home in which Diane Keaton lives in "Something's Gotta Give"!!
    The kitchen, the desk overlooking the ocean, the hues of white in all the rooms, and of course the exterior grey shakes. All too wonderful...add Jack Nickolson singing "Sweet Lorraine". P. S. I just discovered your wonderful blog and feel I have so many tastes in common with you and Edward. I will stay tuned.

  3. You've got me thinking and my mind went blank. Of course I could not think of anything in particular from a film as so many wonderful interiors vied in my memory from so many books. I greatly prefer a book to a film as I can give my imagination free reign. Films so often are predigested to someone elses taste.
    Then slowly memory stirred, Hogwarts of course would be a delight with stairways changing at will and willows womping. Coming a little down to earth the datcha in Dr.Zivago I could easily come to terms with. The Beast's castle in La Belle et la Bete with Jean Marais, the old B&W film, haunted my dreams for many years of my childhood. The Parsonage in Pride and Prejudice minus Mr.Collins,I don't mind Colin Firth dropping in now and again (in period costume of couse). I loved the white paneling, the deep window seats and the light. There are quite a few beautiful interiors in the TV series of Midsummer Murders. I love English libraries with a dog or two enjoying a log fire. I'd better stop or there will be no room for anyone else.
    Lovely post as always, I bet Edward suggested the topic.

  4. Oh, Pamela, you've named quite a few of my favorite movies ans their houses!! I'll add the house in The Family Stone, so comfortable and warm; Kate's apartment in No Reservations; Mr. Blandings' dream house in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House; Mr. Brown's house in Nanny McPhee- quirky and fun; Hilltop in Miss Potter.
    There are more but I have to take John to work. :) Thanks for such a fun post!

  5. Karen Blixen's house in "Out of Africa" is one of my top faves. Two others that immediately come to mind are Bronte's glorious greenhouse flat in "Green Card", and the Naylor's Irish country estate in "The Last September". Fun post!

  6. Hello P&E,

    Whilst I may enjoy them at the time, my mind doesn't really hang on to that kind of detail(!) but I have always been in awe of American interiors. Everyone's homes seemed palatial compared to those in UK. Houses like in 'Meet Me in St. Louis' for example or for real luxury, 'High Society'. But there are thousands of films with wonderful interiors. Great that you can recall them so vividly.

  7. This is fun...I also loved the house in practical magic..And I love the house from The Adams family...The cottage from Miss Potter..The little house on the prairie..The little house where the schoolteacher lives from Mathilda...The home of George Sand..The farm where the children and there father live in the movie Chitty chitty bang bang...ofcourse WITH the car and the inventor..:)

  8. Oh, how lovely to be back in this enchanted place now that my computer woes have been chased away!

    What an absolutely wonderful post - and such food for thought. You've conjured up so many wonderful images for me...in particular, of course, Karen Blixen's house in Out of Africa!

    I love many of the interiors in Woody Allen's films - one that comes to mind is 'Match Point' both for the apartment in London and the country house of the protagonist's parents. 'The Comfort of Strangers' for the delectable Venetian palazzo. 'Tea with Mussolini' is another. Oh, the list goes on.... The interiors shot in Morocco in 'The Sheltering Sky'. 'Brideshead Revisited' and 'A Handful of Dust'

    Oh, do stop me...I will fill the entire page. Such an inspiring gem of a post, dear Countess!

  9. For me it's been the beach aerie in The Sandpiper...a very old movie set at Big Sur with elizabeth taylor and richard burton...I've loved the cabin since I first saw the movie in 1966!

  10. Oh, wow. I am blown away by your film selections. So many of my favorites, too! Decor and otherwise. (Especially 1,2,3,4 &7! I need to watch 6 and 8 again, and am not sure I remember 5 and 10 so I'll need to grab those, too.) And a Countess von Arnim quote on your sidebar I've only just noticed! (Under Lewis, another lifelong fav.) Your selection is too wonderfully distracting for me to think of many other choices at the moment! Though, I will say, San Salvatore, along with the entire film (Enchanted April based on the book by von Arnim) is a heartfelt and absolute favorite. Those gardens, the open sea air you can just smell through the windows and shutters that are both beautiful and just THROWN open, the spare rustic simplicity of what I remember to be the Renaissance revival, art nouveau and 20's decor, the plastered walls, and most of all THE LIGHT. *sigh* I just want to be there NOW. Another, though perhaps offbeat choice for me is Amelie de Montmartre-- Her apartment, all that RICH THICK unlikely red and green...not to mention gorgeous yellow, and the mix of eras is perfection, 50's, 70's, 40's, Victorian, before, after, it all works. I love it; it's such a youthful though comforting interpretation of French-best-of-design to me. Practicality which says (along with Mary Poppins) "practically perfect in every way".

    I have several times done extensive Google searches for any similar wallpaper to the Flemish Unicorn red tapestry which adorns the adored Griffindor common room for MY bedroom, but to no avail. I really like this William Morris-esque by illustrator Walter Crane (1845-1915) as consolation, though, for my family room: http://www.bradbury.com/images/lion_dove_digit_400.jpg

    Have you ever read the book, Little Big? (by John Crowley) For lack of better description, I'll say Lewis Carroll meets the film Fairy Tale: A True Story. I cannot vouch for the ending, but the majority of the book was a magical journey that left me seeing my house, and all it's corners, angles, dormers and inherited wallpaper in quite a different (improved, if maybe bewitched) light.

    I hope you don't mind; I may comment here again! Thanks for the inspiration!



  11. What a great post and I had to think very hard...I love sets too...Pride & Prejudice..the Kiera Knightly version I love,love,love that house even with the pig walking through it!!....Miss Potters attic room..bliss.....Julia Roberts rented house in Sleeping with the Enemy..that porch and swinging chair...yes please..you can keep the murdering husband though!!
    Sirius Blacks house in Harry Potter...creepy faded grandeau with a helpful elf..great!! Oh and that film with Diana Keaton where she gets left a baby and then buys a Vermount Farm and makes lots of apple sauce...love that.( can't remember the title)

  12. I had no doubt that the bedroom you describe is how yours looks! yum! I'm one of those people you can't remember titles to books or movies, so alas, can't bring anything to the table, but I'm attracted to places that show living - remnants of their everyday lives, books, paintings, collections, etc. :)

  13. Isn't it strange Pamela how we all look at different things when we go to the cinema. Now that we live out in the country cinema doesn't feature very much in our lives, but in the days when I did go I can't say that I particularly took note of the set. However - I do love "the set" on your blog - and the lovely pictures you post too.

  14. What a wonderful, thought provoking post.
    Yes, the house in Out of Africa was astounding.
    Other than that, my mind has gone utterly blank....
    Some Merchant Ivory films, make that ALL Merchant Ivory films.
    Howards End particularly.
    Will really do some more work on this.
    all best wishes.

  15. I loved the apartment in "Green Card" with the old conservatory and when I was a child I was captivated by the interiors in "The Sound of Music" and "The King and I".

  16. Ohh some of these are my favorites too! I love Out of Africa...I also love Roman Holiday, Sabrina (and basically every Audrey Hepburn movie to make it short :) )

    Hmm...can't seem to think of any more...can't seem to think today. Ahh Mondays :)

    Thanks for your sweet comment on the English Muse too! Wasn't so sure what to write. It's hard trying to write for a different blog because you have to match the style.


  17. Oh my dear dear friend, I am sorry to hear about your friend that has just discovered she has this wretched disease.

    Please tell her (from someone who knows) not to be afraid. She can do this and it will be okay.

    Breast cancer chemos are extremly harsh there is no doubt about that, but they will kill her enemy.

    I am sure having you as her friend will help her along.

    Thank you so much for your love and compassion, I am grateful.

    Love Renee xoxo

  18. I have to agree with you on the Practical Magic house and the Dashwood's Devonshire cottage. I now want my bedroom to look like Harry Potter's! It's about time we decorated (your naughty influence) :)

    Kim x

  19. Your bedroom sounds perfect! I really like your description. It would go well with my study.

    Those are some grand movies. Your descriptions of the movie sets are enchanting.

  20. I also love to see films for the sets and costumes. A few that come to mind would be Marias bedroom in the recent 'Secret of Moonacre' (little white horse) The house in Nanny Mcphee, The Shire, and I love Frances and Elsies bedroom in Fairytale.

    How wonderful to have a bedroom from Hogwarts!! :)

  21. Bravo for choosing these 2 first enchanting films.
    This is a great fun post indeed !

    My heart goes to a mix of baroque and Italian, so it will have to be Il Gattapardo (Le guépard) by Visconti, with its sumptuous palaces.
    Then i always remember this movie with Jill Clayburgh, La luna and the house with terrace, in Roma.
    I was totally in love with La casa Malaparte in Capri, the setting of Jean-Luc Godard's Le Mépris
    and i stop here because i don't want to invade your comment space!

    Thank you for this fab post Pamela!

  22. I'm so glad you asked!

    Jack Lemmon's bachelor pad in How to Murder Your Wife, 1965. It showcases the best of 60s designs.

    Jane Fonda's brother's, Cliff Robertson, apartment in Sunday in New York, 1963. It has exposed brick walls and a fireplace with a loft bedroom above a step-down galley kitchen.

    Ingrid Bergman's elegant London salon style apartment in Indiscreet, 1958. She stars with Cary Grant.

    The textiles in Mama Mia staring Meryl Streep, 2008.

    If you've never seen the 1st three movies I suggest you give them a try. They're quite good.

  23. i do love movie sets too.

    i will have to check these out.

    i start the job tomorrow.
    thanks for your sweet comments.

  24. What a fun post to read! We watched an old Alfred Hitchcock movie, Vertigo last night and I was looking at the furniture...all back in syle now! I always loved the rooms in Doris Day movies, too! But the Tuscan home in Under the Tuscan Sun makes me swoon! lol

  25. Oh some of my top faves...must also concur with Green card...and stepmother.

  26. What a great post! Some of the rooms you mention I don't know but others like Karen Blixen's i love too. My all time favorite though is from The French Lieutenant's Woman where at the end of the movie Jeremy irons finally discovers Meryl Streep in her Scottish hideway. I love the house, the staircase and finally the wonderful airy spacious room at the top where she waits for him.

    I also liked all the sets of A Room with a View. . .

  27. What a wonderful post! I felt like I took several trips just reading it . . . and I realize that they are several movies which have escaped my attention thus far. (Definitely need to bone up on the old Cary Grant ones.)

    I admire your attention to detail. Often, the visuals just wash over me and I am hard-pressed to remember specifics. I did remember absolutely LOVING Diane Keaton's house in Something's Got to Give. I saw that with my best girlfriend and we said, almost simultaneously, I want that house! As for your choices, I covet the house in Practical Magic . . . and completely agree that the Dashwood's cottage is much preferable to that stiff, stately home.

  28. My choice - Clarissa Vaughan's (Meryl Streep) beautiful apartment in The Hours. Gorgeous New York loft with flowers, flowers, flowers everywhere - divine! Leigh

  29. Love your choices Pamela. I would add How to Steal a Million with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole - I can't resist a Parisian fantasy...xv

  30. The Ghost and Mrs Muir will always hold a special place in my heart, for like you, Pamela, I wanted Gull Cottage to be mine! I often dreamed about it as a child.

    I also remember being fascinated by the Shirley Temple version of Heidi, both Clara's opulent home and grandfather's rustic mountain cabin, but I'm sure my imagination made more of those than they appear on the film.

    A wonderful blog that you would enjoy is "Hooked On Houses" www.hookedonhouses,net. Julia finds the most wonderful homes all over the world to display in her blog posts. Today she is showing the home from the recent movie "Marley & Me"

  31. I loved the cottage in Sense and Sensibility too Pamela. Much nicer and cosier. A small country cottage is my ideal.

    We had a drama serial called Upstairs Downstairs in England many years ago. An upper class family in the upstairs and the servants in the basement kitchen. I loved it and I loved the rooms and the Edwardian decor.

    I have visited many English stately homes and manors in my life and I always love the ones that allow you to explore the servants quarters and the attic bedrooms. More fascinating than the huge posh rooms.

  32. Sorry, the link to Hooked On Houses blog is


  33. Victoria magazine did room views of Practical Magic and mentioned how the whole exterior, house and all was just a front. Hurt to hear that. You mentioned all of my favs except for the last house in the Bette Davis movie Dark Victory. Her other movie with a great house is The Great Lie. Hollywood did know how to style appealing rooms.

  34. Loved Practical Magic. I didn't think the movie would stand up to the book, but the movie made its own magic. I thought your list insightful. Like to add Brideshead Revisited, The Great Gatsby and all of the wonderful Poirot mysteries, and practically anything done by BBC!

  35. I don't remember seeing your bedroom...I must go back and see.
    I sometimes see a movie- just for the sets. Lovely post here Pamela.

  36. what a great list- all wonderful houses of the films I've seen.

    I would especially love the Dashwood's cottage or Tracey Lord's place.

    I've got a thing for Diane Keaton's house in Something's Gotta Give as well.

  37. What an incredible post. You got my wheels turning. Philadelphia Story was a huge influence. I was always drawn to little cottages like in the 'The Quiet Man' & several of the Shirley Temple movies or even "Heidi"!! Man I'm old!
    I adore your blog. Many thanks for commenting on my yesterday. So very appreciated. That was a great photo of Jackie 'O & Caroline you posted on July the 4th. I love that one, very touching.
    :D Deb

  38. A post very dear to my heart. I am always thinking of houses in movies. :<) Just read an article in a magazine where a woman did her kitchen like the one in Something's Gotta Give, so there are more like us, Pamela! And clearly, from all the comments the world is full of people who really pay attention to sets. Sometimes when I pause a tv show or movie, I can see the work which went into making a room just perfect; little tiny details that maybe most people wouldn't notice but still make the room 'work' as a real place in a certain time.

    For me, yes the kitchen in Practical Magic - my favorite place and scene - the lime in the coconut.

    The kitchen in Back When We Were Grownups, a Hallmark show which is on dvd.

    I do love the playroom in Holiday. And that house in Bringing Up Baby. And the inn in Holiday Inn. And the house in Christmas in Connecticut. Meg Ryan's apartment in You've Got Mail. The amazingly huge and wonderful apartment in Hannah and Her Sisters. Jessica Lange's childhood home in Tootsie -esp. that bedroom. I also like Derrick's mention of Meet Me in St Louis - what a great house. And the house in It's a Wonderful Life -'drafty old house.'
    And I so agree with Bead Babe about Eliz. Taylor's place in The Sandpiper - heavenly. I've watched the movie twice in recent years - I do love it, but I think I watch it more for the setting, which I do quite often. I'll get a notion to 'be' somewhere, and will watch the movie or tv show which takes me there.

    I love the house in Please Don't Eat the Daisies, and the Rome apartment in Roman Holiday as Micaela noted. And the house in The Birds, before it gets wrecked! And I'll finally end with the English house in The Holiday. I NEVER would have left it for California. It is my dream house beyond all others, and in the extras they show how they built it for the movie.

    And thanks to Pat for the hooked on houses site.

    Great, great, great post!!

  39. The apartment with greenhouse/conservatory in Green Card, villa and garden in Enchanted April, and country house in Howard's End are some of my faves.

  40. Wow what great list. Sadly many I've never seen and/or heard of. The Uninvited sounds very good. I loved Out of Africa and the Ghost and Mrs. Muir and I'll add to the list

    The Cook, the Thief his Wife and her Lover ... I remember thinking it was a strange but very beautiful movie.

    xo, from S, Winnie & les Chats

  41. Oh you genius, capturing some of my favourite sets and films! The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Holiday and Out of Africa in particular. The shabby charm of a comfortable dwelling that is somehow neat and artistic, sigh.

    Don't forget the "apothecary" in Practical Magic, made me want to break out the herbs and bottle them.

    "The Trouble With Harry" has some gorgeous rustic charm and pretty pretty rooms, leading out to the porch and autumn colours. I so want to see "The Uninvited" but alas it's not on DVD yet.

  42. I had to come back to read all the comments. I so love movie sets, especially in old movies. I looks like there are a lot of us that do the same thing. Love this post!

  43. How great that you included the Swiss Family Robinson house!! As a little girl, I got completely lost in the idea of how I would make that tree work for ME! As for "real" movie houses, the Practical Magic house is still a favorite.

  44. I loved this post!!!!!
    loved it - there are some movies now I want to see again or for the first time. Ive never seen Holiday!!!! Oooh - I wish I was near a video store right now!!
    Of course, Something's Gotta Give and The Holiday are my all time favorites and she has a new movie coming out this Dec. and I can't wait for that. Off topic, but I must say that picture of you is so gorgeous. You are incredibly beautiful.

  45. Thank you for the inspiration! I would love to build a bedroom inspired by Hogwarts. There are also bits of atmosphere from books that I like. I shall have to make some notes. Wonderful post!

  46. I love the Bennett's house in the film of Pride and Prejudice, the last one with Kiera Knightly. I love the New York appartment lived in by Meryl's Streep's charater in The Hours. The lovely villa in Enchanted April and also the house in the film with Magie Smith My House in Umbria - to name just a few. I'm sure when I posted this comment I'll think of loads more:)


  47. Being an apartment dweller, I always wanted Jimmy Stewart's rooms in Rear Window with that huge window. With all the photos and books laying around too. And yes, it would be nice if Grace waltzed in once in awhile to nibble on my lips.

    Or the musty tobacco-fumed dwellings of Holmes & Watson from the '40s.

    I also loved that old house in The Uninvited, Pamela. But maybe without the mournful crying.

    Or that wonderful huge monstrous castle in Frankenstein. Plus the laboratory. :)

    And that farm in Field of Dreams with the Diamond and the ghosts.

    Great post!

  48. http://www.amasveritas.com/film/setting/interior.html

    A site with photos of the interiors; exteriors and other shots from Practical Magic. For more wonderful homes AND gardens -- try the BBC series Rosemary & Thyme -- solving mysteries and creating gardens at fantasic homes!

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

  49. Some of my very favourite films here,The Ghost Of Mrs Muir,fantastic film and Sense and Sensibility.

  50. Definitely the kitchen in Practical Magic and the attached green house with oodles of vintage cloches containing herbs. I also love the rooms of Manderly in the BBC version of Rebecca...heavenly.....i

  51. HOW PERFECT! Pamela (and Edward), the movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir launched my love of all things nautical. My Mom was an old movie buff and we watched it one night. We combed antique stores for nautical things and my Mom did some imaginative things in the decor of my room. I still love nautical antiques. I am going to rent or better yet, buy all those movies. I love all of them!
    Great post!

    Thanks for your great comment on my car photo ;-)


I love to read your comments! Each and every one! Though I'm always reading your comments, I may not respond in the comment section. If you want to write me directly, you may do so at pamela@pamelaterry.net. Thank you for reading!