This Spooky Old House

“The aspect of the venerable mansion has always affected me like a human countenance, bearing the traces not merely of outward storm and sunshine, but expressing, also, of the long lapse of mortal life, and accompanying vicissitudes that have passed within.”

~ Nathaniel Hawthorne


The spate of horrific heat has finally broken and I am now enjoying beautifully gloomy chilly weather. It’s been cold enough to stoke up fireplaces as evidenced by smell of burning wood in the air. Smells like autumn. I’m sipping pumpkin coffee this morning and listening to old time horror radio. In a mood… a mood for haunted houses!

(Disney’s Haunted Mansion)

I’m sure I’m not the first person to completely miss a movie because I’ve been solely focused on set design. There are scads of great examples of houses being main characters, especially for this witchy season. The infamous Addams Family mansion, the labrynthine anthropomorphic wonders of The Haunting (both of them), the lushly atmospheric gorgeosity of The Others‘ house and, of course, every single Hammer Horror classic sports an architectural tribute to cobwebs, a castle-creature more worthy of its own book than a single blog post.

(The Addams Family House)

One I’d like to mention today has been written about before, is not quite as spooky ooky as others. More subtle charm, less overtly seasonal and not at all menacing. Practical, you could say. No really, you could, it’s the house featured in the movie “Practical Magic”.

I don’t remember much about the movie or the book other than the whimsy and bedazzlement of this wonderful world full of mystery and magic, a place where things were crafted and built and baked with care. A parlor, an attic, a kitchen I would never want to leave! Porch, lighthouse, conservatory, all so enchanting. These are classic haunted house ingredients: the Victorian style, the high, vaulted ceilings, the spiral stairs, the deep buttery woodwork. The twist though is how BRIGHT this place is, sunny, happy, warm. This isn’t the kind of brightness you get from one coat of white paint. It’s the intense saturated glow that looks like it came from two thousand layers of varnish glaze a la Maxfield Parrish. All of the glass doors and cabinetry (rippled to give it the 100 year old handblown effect) accent this. Really, really beautiful. And, of course, in proper witchy house the dusting would happen automatically. I mean, c’mon, that’s just obvious.

Movie set was built from scratch, not based on existing design/structure.  That just blows me away. Below quotes from Amas Veritas:


“When I visited the set,” remembers Hoffman, “it wasn’t really like wandering into my own imagination;it was like wandering into another person’s interpretation of my imaginary world. I was thrilled that it was so beautifully rendered; it gave me a sense of drifting through this magical world, but it was all so real.”

Standefer sees the house as being a very real character in the story. “The house itself has a certain magic to it. There is a whole world in this house and garden. These women are outcasts and this place is their sanctuary; it almost feels as though all the emotion of the generations
is caught up in its walls.”


It is really difficult to pick one single element in this house to draw attention to but here are two things I literally swoon over:

These huge hulking chunks of furniture have such amazing character and presence. Worn and timeless and solid as earth’s core, it’s like they literally grew up out of the ground.  To me, they have the same cozy secure feeling of being wrapped in a velvet crazy quilt on a snowy day.


This photobucket person appears to’ve uploaded an entire (?) article published in Victoria magazine (where I got the chair photo). Which makes me so nostalgic. In her teens, mi hermana used to subscribe to this magazine, which is really quite lovely, and then hack it all to bits for decoupage projects. So, all in all, great magazine.

All other photos came from Hooked on Houses, where there are even more photos. Very neat site which will be mentioned in more detail in the future I’m sure.


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