The 1992 comedy Housesitter with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn is one of my favorites. Not only does it still make me laugh when I watch it again after all these years, but I’ve always loved the small yellow house Martin’s character builds as a surprise for his girlfriend.
Steve Martin plays Newton Davis, an architect who built a dream house for his girlfriend Becky (Dana Delaney). He tied a big red ribbon around it and asked Becky to marry him, but she said no. He draws a sketch of the house on a napkin and shows it to Gwen (Goldie Hawn), a waitress at the Cafe Budapest.
Here’s what it looks like when Gwen sees it in person, with the ribbon drooping and the house empty and abandoned:
According to Entertainment Weekly:
Dana Delany, who plays architect Steve Martin’s hard-to-please squeeze in Housesitter, must be the only person in America not impressed with his dream house. Nestled by a pretty pond in Concord, Mass., it’s both snug (1,800 square feet) and architecturally prestigious. The columned porch is classic Yankee farmhouse, the gables evocative of 1800s Greek Revival, the clapboard siding and checkerboard window pattern very ”American Gothic.”
”It taps a memory bank,” says architect Debra Wassman, who did the design with husband Jonathan Lanman. And [the house plan] is available by mail from New York’s Trumbull Architects.
I believe the small town of “Dobbs Mill” was actually Cohasset, Massachusetts.
Finding the front door of Davis’s house empty and unlocked, she lets herself in and looks around.
I was sad to read that this house was built as a “standing set” in Concord, Massachusetts, for the movie, and was torn down after filming ended.
We don’t get to see much more of the upstairs loft than this — the view of the pond from the window:
It’s a small house — one bedroom and bath, a great room, a kitchen, and an open loft. But it looks like bigger than that.
Interesting to see the gold taps in the bathroom. Since the movie was made, gold and brass went out of style and now they’re coming back around again!
A Little “Housesitter” Trivia…
- Designer Kelly Wearstler is listed in the credits (she helped with the sets).
- Meg Ryan was originally cast in the role of Gwen.
- In one scene, Goldie Hawn is singing “The Name Game,” and she inserts the names Katie and Ollie into the song. Her children are Kate Hudson and Oliver Hudson, who were still young at the time.
Gwen loves the house and moves in.
Davis comes to Dobbs Mill with plans to sell the house and discovers her there. He’s shocked to discover that his house is fully furnished, decorated, and lived in:
The decorating is very eclectic–and looked very fresh and new to us in the early ’90s.
He spots Gwen in the kitchen, cooking, and she asks, “What are YOU doing here?”
In this photo, when she’s pulling her dog off Davis, you get a glimpse of the dining area, furnished with mismatched chairs that are each painted a different color:
When he tells her she has to get out of his house, Gwen climbs into bed and pouts. “Boy, we had a great marriage going until YOU showed up.”
In all the times I’ve seen the movie, I never noticed what Gwen was hanging on the wall in this scene — the napkin sketch of the house.
In this shot you can see that the porch ceiling is a pretty blue-green:
Davis’s parents were played by Julie Harris and Donald Moffat:
A view of the house from across the pond:
Shortly after writing this post I was contacted by Debra Wassman, the architect behind the Housesitter house, who says there were actually two houses. Her company built the first one, which was named House Beautiful’s “Best Small House 1990.”
The second was built for the movie. It was a temporary structure that was torn down afterward. She explains:
The main difference between the movie house and ours is the center feature of our house was the two-story fireplace not an opening to the kitchen, and we also had a garage. The film house was a set and torn down; our house was bought and badly renovated so really both are lost.
The original plans were built all over the country, and the world; we have seen a few. I know the changes on the movie house were made for filmability, but also so they didn’t have to pay us a fee! We got film credit because we asked, not because they offered.
So interesting. Thanks, Debra! You can see more examples of her amazing work at Trumbull Architects.
P.S. Visit Houses Onscreen to see more, including…