A House to Die For: “What Lies Beneath”

What Lies Beneath movie house poster collage

Scary movies just aren’t my thing, but I made it all the way through What Lies Beneath, simply because I couldn’t take my eyes off the house.

What Lies Beneath shingled house on water

Filming began in 1999 in Addison, Vermont, on the banks of Lake Champlain. Screenwriter Clark Gregg says he had always envisioned Claire and Norman Spencer living in Burlington, Vermont, which is an academic community like the one Norman is a part of.

What Lies Beneath back of house

The location was perfect except for one thing: they needed a house. So production designers Rick Carter and Jim Teegarden worked with director Bob Zemeckis to design the 3,500-square-foot Nantucket-style shingled house, which was constructed from the ground up (and, sadly, torn down after filming).


Zemeckis says the house had to work on two levels: it had to look like a kind of dream house in the sunlight, but when the shadows or light hit it a certain way, it would turn ominous.

What Lies Beneath house pergola

According to the production notes on the DVD special features, they then duplicated both the exterior and interior on soundstages in L.A.

What Lies Beneath rocking chair porch

Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford play Claire and Norman Spencer, a beautiful, happily married couple who have just moved into this old house in Vermont and renovated it. It was Norman’s late father’s house, who died and left the house to them. So at first when strange things start happening, they think it might be his ghost. Norman jokes that maybe he doesn’t like the changes they made to the house.

What Lies Beneath house-front porch

Oh, if only it had been his father’s ghost rattling around! The front door keeps opening on its own. That’s never a good sign…

door opening on its own-What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath movie house-entry hall

Harrison Ford-What Lies Beneath house hall

Later in the movie, when things get worse (I’ll try not to spoil anything here), we get a view of the hall from the floor. Love that bench and umbrella stand:

Harrison Ford stalks Michelle Pfeiffer What Lies Beneath

Looking down into Norman’s study:

looking into Harrison Ford's home office WLB

The living room has a view of the water:

Harrison Ford-What Lies Beneath living room

I wish we could have seen more of the kitchen. We only got a couple of brief glimpses into it:

What Lies Beneath house-kitchen

What Lies Beneath house-kitchen interior

The staircase:

What Lies Beneath house-staircase

The sets don’t look dated ten years later. The upstairs hallway:

What Lies Beneath-upstairs hallway

Michelle Pfeiffer in What Lies Beneath

Claire’s daughter Caitlin’s bedroom. After they drop her off at college, Claire spends most days alone in the house (if you don’t count the ghost):

Caitlin's bedroom-What Lies Beneath

Claire and Norman’s bedroom:

Claire and Norman's bedroom fireplace

I tried to get a shot of the round windowseat in the bedroom, but this is the best I could do:

curved window seat in What Lies Beneath

Claire and Norman's bed-What Lies Beneath

The bathroom, where at least 75% of the truly scream-worthy things happen. I may never take a bath again:

What Lies Beneath clawfoot tub Michelle Pfeiffer

They did so much filming in this bathroom that they created five different versions of it for the movie. Michelle Pfeiffer says that it was hard not to laugh sometimes because she could hear the crew in the bathroom noisily filling the bathtub and setting things up for her to walk in and be scared by, but she had to pretend not to notice.

What Lies Beneath house in the rain

Michelle Pfeiffer on the dock-What Lies Beneath

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  1. Ramona says

    I too am such a freak about scary things, I don’t even watch CSI or cop shows.
    BUT, I made my hubby come with me to this movie on my 30th birthday because I wanted to see that house so bad! It was worth it, because I don’t remember anything about the movie other than the house! Well, if you don’t count the 911 call Norman made 😉 Great choice to feature– you are so good at this!

    • Gina says

      LOL! That’s all I remember too! The stunningly, gorgeous house. Until I catch re-runs of the movie again!

  2. Kelly R. says

    Do you have any idea what happened to the home after filming? I would move to Vermont to live in that house, ghost or no ghost…but I would only take showers!

  3. says

    What a great house – I’ll just pretend I don’t know what happens in it.;)
    I’m racking my brain for a good holiday movie house…..ouch. Too much thinking – I’ll have to get back to you on that.
    .-= duchess´s last blog ..Busy Times =-.

  4. says

    I saw this a while ago and the only thing I really remember about it is loving the house so much! The blues and brown…just gorgeous!
    .-= DIANE DUDA´s last blog ..Coming Soon… =-.

  5. says

    I love scary movies and I love this one in particular. The house in it is one of my all time favorites. I think I’ve seen the movie at least 5 times because I love looking at that house so much. -Jackie

  6. bethany says

    Thanks for sharing all of these great photos. Movies provide us with so much inspiration for home decorating – I remember loving this home but since it is difficult to go a back and capture those images I have forgotten about it. Great post.

  7. says

    Funny! I was just talking about this movie last weekend and for the life of me couldn’t come up with what the movie’s name was! Thanks! The house is amazing! I would love to live so close to the water.
    .-= Jen @ After The Alter´s last blog ..Enough With The Socks!!! =-.

  8. says

    I hate hate hate horror films with gore/the occult, but I don’t mind movies with some suspense. I thought “What Lies Beneath” sort of sat the fence, b/c it is SCARY!! It is such an amazing house, and I love how the accessories, and layout of the home still come across as current. :) I love the cute little garden and the amazing views. That’s a lake I wouldn’t mind living on!

    I went to see that movie with my sister and her friend one summer when we were at the beach. She was the ONLY person to scream in the movie…I was so embarrassed. 😉
    .-= Amanda @ Serenity Now´s last blog ..Over the Top =-.

  9. says

    This is one of my favorite movies. It is one of those movies I know I shouldn’t watch when I am home alone but I just can’t seem to change the channel! I am on edge the entire time I watch it. The scenary is just beautiful! Great post.
    .-= Shell´s last blog ..The Cheese Straw Factory =-.

  10. MaryBeth says

    As soon as I saw your post the memories of this house came rushing back. I loved that house and now I will have to go rent the movie. Thanks so much for sharing, MB

  11. says

    This has been one of my favorite movie homes for years! I love everything about it; the house, decor, location. It is all perfect except the premise of this very scary film. YIKES!
    .-= Charlie´s last blog ..Tikau, Bee Mine…. =-.

  12. Julie says

    What a dream house! Nice choice to feature! I really dug that movie more than I thought I would. I remember some great Hitchcockian shots.

    I love the house in The Family Stone, but it frustrates me because it’s so cluttered! I know it’s a “real family” house and is meant to look lived in, but I really want to see it all prettied up because the house itself is fabulous.

  13. says

    I haven’t seen this movie because I hate scary movies. I’m like you, I scare easily, so I can barely control myself through scary movies. This house is spectacular, though. It’s the house I’ve always dreamed of owning if I ever live on the coast. I love all the blues in it too! Thanks for being brave enough to sit through the movie to show us the beautiful house!
    .-= Sarah @ Dream In Domestic´s last blog ..Pink Rose-Inspired College Bedroom =-.

  14. says

    I don’t normally like scary movies but loved this one for three reasons: 1) Harrison Ford, 2) the hourse itself! and 3) the view of the water ~ thanks for posting about it! Now I’ll rent the movie from Netflix and watch it again :)
    .-= Nancy Hood´s last blog ..Some favorites of the week ~ =-.

  15. says

    I never saw this movie…but now I think I need to! Adding it to my Blockbuster Online Queue as we speak.

    Did you see that new movie Stepfather. The movie’s pretty good, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the house. It was chock (chalk?) full of beadboard, molding and fab paint colors (…it’s a sickness, I know) :).
    .-= AnNicole@OurSuburbanCottage´s last blog ..DIY Monogrammed Door Mat =-.

  16. E. George says

    Hi Julia I am a coward when it comes to this movie but I could not keep away from it I get scared watching Ghost Whisperer its my favourite show… The house in the movie is beautiful but eerie I don’t think I would last in there for too long….. Best wishes Esther from sunny Sydney….

  17. says

    I’m drooling over this house! You are so right that it doesn’t look dated at ALL. I feel like some of the things I did SIX years ago look dated. Bravo to the set designers. Of course I’d be too scared to see this movie.
    .-= anna see´s last blog ..Not Ready for My Close Up =-.

  18. says

    Gorgeous, without the ghost of course. I was just thinking of the house in Practical Magic, then I went to your movie list and saw that it was coming up. Woo hoo, one of my all time faves. Can’t wait, I love these posts. Pam
    .-= Pam´s last blog ..Too Busy for Blogging!!! =-.

  19. says

    Thank you, thank you for dedicating a post to this gorgeous house! I tried to find pictures of it in the past and never was very successful. Cannot wait to see your post on Practical Magic because that house was a stunner as well. Keep up the amazing work!
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Holiday Traditions =-.

  20. says

    I do remember this movie being a little freaky. The house is gorgeous. I never paid as much attention to houses in movies until I started reading your blog. Sometimes I get distracted from the movie looking too much at the house.
    .-= Carmen´s last blog ..More pumpkin ideas… =-.

  21. says

    I saw this awhile ago, but I don’t remember the story at all! LOL! The house is beautiful though. I wonder what happened to it after the movie was over?
    .-= Jenny´s last blog ..Homeschooling Week 9 =-.

  22. Cher says

    Wow — that house is fantastic! Maybe I’ll have to watch with the sound off.
    I *adore* that round window seat.

  23. says

    Hi Julia!
    Oh, what a pretty house — and since I’ve never seen the movie, and probably never will because I am TERRIFIED of scary movies, I don’t see anything threatening about it, even after dark.
    It’s gorgeous and timeless, too — interiors that look as if they might have been done yesterday, not a decade ago. Classic design lasts!
    Fun read, thanks!
    .-= Cass @ That Old House´s last blog ..Sunday Favorite — A Walk Around That Old House =-.

  24. says

    So glad you shared this gorgeous house with us because I hate scary movies! I can’t even sit on the computer while my husband watches one because I get scared just listening to it. I’d have nightmares for weeks but then I miss out on great homes like this one. Glad you were so brave for us!
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..A Guest Post For Those Old House Lovers =-.

  25. says

    Great post, Julia! I had almost forgotten about this movie. The house was gorgeous, as well as the outside {that view!}. I may have to dig this out of my DVD collection and watch it on the weekend {or at least add it to my winter viewing list}.

  26. Kimberlee J. says

    I would love to see this movie just to see the house. Thankfully you’ve done a fabulous job documenting it so I can live peacefully in my house and NEVER watch it. I HATE scary movies. I did LOVE this house though.

  27. hookedonhouses says

    Usually homes built for movies like this are torn down after filming because they are empty shells. I didn’t run across any information about this one specifically, though. Does anyone else know? -Julia

  28. Gerry Emery says

    Thank you, thank you for showing this house. I have loved it from the moment I saw the movie and it has always been one of my favorites! Like you mentioned, it’s a ten year old movie and the house is timeless. Nothing is dated, just classic. Love it!

  29. Kim Wakefield says

    I am so happy you did this house, it is my favorite movie house, location and all!! Thank you!!!

  30. Karen says

    I had to laugh at Amanda’s comment about her sister being the only person who screamed at the showing of this film! For sure my sister and I would be screaming right along with her:) This is a great suspense film and of course the house . .

    One sad film to watch (although the acting was superb!) is “One True Thing” (w/Meryl Street and Renee Zellweger. The old house is so wonderful and the Halloween scenes are great. And sometime find the Woody Allen film, “September” – entire filming takes place inside the cottage, the set is as neat as it sounds! And on other Meryl Streep film (again – great acting with Liam Neeson) – another gorgeous house and for me another plus – a lot of winter scenes! It’s called “Before and After”. All are a bit older films.

    You do SUCH a wonderful job with the movie pictures Julia! I am so appreciative of your efforts.

  31. says

    I loved this post Julia – I haven’t seen that movie and you didn’t spoil it for me (I avoided the text and just looked at the pictures – LOVED that round window seat! What a dreamy feature!) I’m adding this to my queue for sure. So they built this house for a movie? What happened to it when they were done? Did they sell it to some lucky soul?
    .-= christy´s last blog ..Monday morning Foo-fest =-.

  32. says

    Great house! I love your movie house features.

    My husband and I watched The Proposal this weekend and I think the family house in the movie would be a great future feature! My husband kept saying how much he loved the house. It had a great rustic yet elegant feel.
    .-= Mrs. B´s last blog ..Decoupage Poe Pumpkin {from the archives} =-.

  33. Erin T. says

    Your post inspired me to watch the movie last night! Loved getting a second look at the house, even though parts of the movie still scared me to death.

  34. says

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen this movie…my husband agrees..so it’s certain! I don’t like scary movies, but I may have to make an exception and watch this one, just to look at the house. It looks breath taking, and the surroundings and lake are beautiful. Yep, I think I need to rent this one.

  35. says

    Thanks so much for posting my all time favorite horror flick. I absolutely love the house! It is amazing that it isn’t dated at all. That is timeless style.
    .-= Shannon´s last blog ..Waiting =-.

  36. says

    I could barely stand to even look at the pictures of the set..this movie made me scream out loud …SOL…? I love the bedroom, especially the builtins and the window seat. Now do you have a picture of the kitchen in Fatal Attraction??? Thanks for another great Monday!!
    .-= susan´s last blog ..The Telltale Signs =-.

  37. says

    I saw that movie in the theaters and don’t even remember the house. I think I was too scared! You’re right, it doesn’t look dated at all. Hmmm… maybe I need to watch it again.
    .-= micah´s last blog ..Let There Be Light =-.

  38. says

    I’m really glad you featured this house because I saw this movie in the theatre when it came out and all I can remember thinking was that I didn’t like the movie. This house is great, I can’t believe I didn’t notice it more when I watched the movie! I’m in love with that window seat.
    .-= Erin´s last blog ..An Oasis of Clean =-.

  39. says

    Since you brought up the subject of scary movies, I was reminded of the horrific movie, “House of Sand and Fog.” Wouldn’t you think a movie with House in the title would feature some online photos of said house? Nope. Couldn’t find a thing but I’ll bet you can. Such a movie it was! Not a fan of scary movies and didn’t see What Lies Beneath but love the house!

    .-= Nouveau Stitch´s last blog ..It’s a Pillow Plight! =-.

  40. Paula Powell says

    I watch this movie with the sound off just because of the house! Julia — a couple of suggestions for other movie homes: the beautiful Bucks County house in the second half of Marley and Me. And Meg Ryan’s home in The Women! Really stunning!

  41. Paula Powell says

    Oops! My bad! You already did Marley and Me. But you should definitely check out the other movie home I mentioned. Thanks!

  42. Jo in NZ says

    Man, did I love this house! I kept playing the bathroom scenes over and over, scary as they were, just so’s I could see all the gorgeous gray tile! Thanks x

  43. says

    Love this house, your post reminded me that when I first saw the movie it reminded me of Harrison Ford’s character’s house in Patriot Games; a movie that also ends on a dark and stormy night near the water. According to IMBD the house for that film was located on the “Pengerine Cliffs in North Beach on the coast of Maryland, about 30 miles south of Annapolis on the Chesapeake Bay.” The final scenes are shot in night vision glassed and I kept wishing they would just turn on the lights so I could see more of the house!

  44. Kristin says

    Thank you so much for posting this. I think this might be my dream house. I’ll take the ghosts. I don’t mind.

  45. says

    Hey there- I decided to come over here after reading about this bog at Black-Eyed Susan’s. I have seen this movie, and I too, love this house. I also loved the color of paint used in the foyer. Gorgeous. In and out.
    .-= jenny´s last blog ..Tidbits -and a Blogging Break (?) =-.

  46. devil says

    Okay, I rented this movie just because of this post. It is an awesome house, if a little dismally decorated.

    I gotta say, though, I think this is a TERRIBLE movie. Way, way too long and boring. I had to fast-forward through a lot of it.

    The gardens were even better than the house. Just gorgeous.

    • Gwynneth says

      I couldn’t agree more! I wasn’t scared (come on, Miranda Otto [warrior of Rohan from LOTR!] freaks out over a domestic spat and Michelle goes nuts? And the CGI ghosts…meh: seen ’em, not scared of ’em!). And yes, the house was dismally decorated. I mean, if you want gray, scary places, watch “Dark Water” or “The Grudge”.

  47. says

    I LOVE this movie too, not just because of the story, but because of the house too!! I absolutely love the built in cupboards in the bedroom and the round window seat is to die for!
    .-= Bomberryr´s last blog ..Baby Blues =-.

  48. Kelli says

    I read this on IMDB regarding what happened to the house:

    The house depicted in the film was used for day scenes only. It was torn down after filming because it didn’t meet local building codes. The rooms were duplicated on an L.A. sound stage for night scenes.

    What a shame!!!

  49. Shelly says

    Hi….I have always been in love with the house in “what lies beneath”, and I loved the movie to. My friends and I have often tried to replicate features of this house in our own homes. Can anyone tell me the grey blue interior paint color that was used throughout much of that house? I would almost bet my life that it is Benjamin Moore’s “mount saint anne”. I really want the exact color they used. Thanks

  50. says

    I loveeeeeeeeeeeeee this house.DH is such a baby when it comes to horror films.I make him watch this one all the time.He always grunts “you just want to watch it to see the house again”. Maybe so…well and of course HARRISON FORD!

    P.S….whenever I want to slip into a day dream….I come to your blog.

  51. Debbie says

    This is one of my all time favorite movies!!!!!! I love Harrison Ford & Michelle Pfeiffer the house was an absolute bonus in this movie…. Every time I see it I see something in the house I love… Thanks for your post!!!!!!!!!!!

  52. hookedonhouses says

    A reader named Angela just sent me this note about the paint color in the house:

    For those of you who are looking for the grey/bluish paint color in the movie What Lies Beneath, well I do believe I have it or very very close to it. I painted my kitchen and nook area in the Mount Saint Anne by Benjamin Moore that was suggested by a post on this website. It is gorgeous and looks exactly like the color in the movie. I’ve had so many compliments and people asking for the color. Don’t be fooled by the color shown on the website. It looks nothing like it. I love it so much that I’m thinking about doing one of my bathrooms. If you have white cabinets in your kitchen, this is the perfect color.

    (Thanks, Angela!)

  53. Patty says

    I am obsessed with this house. That is what brought me to this site. We may remodel our very old, very small sigle story “bungalow” & I am trying to find plans for this home or at least as close as I can get to it. It is beautiful and thank you for having this site!!!

  54. Thumper says

    Just watching What Lies Beneath at home in Roscommon, Ireland.
    The decor is so fantastic in the house that I looked it up online to try and find some pictures and happily came upon this blog.
    It’s fantastic – thank you!

  55. says

    I really like this house. My family lives about 5 miles from where this was filmed, and I was in high school at the time. The filmed “Me, Myself and Irene” the same summer, in the same area.
    This house was actually built in a state park/campground, at the state parks “day use area”– the picnic area with access to the lake. My understanding was that it wasn’t a real house at all, that they used the existing picnic shelter and also built a “shell.”

    The presence of the crew and cast made camping there that summer quite fun, even if swimming wasn’t available because of filming. I for one never caught a glimpse of anyone, but many people that lived in the area did.

  56. Marisa says

    I am hooked! Now I can see pictures of the movie set houses instead of playing the dvd’s and pausing them just to look at the details of these awesome homes!
    Thank You!

  57. Shannon says

    This is my utmost favorite house on film. I watch this movie very often just to see the house (the setting is great too, especially the little town of Adamant in Fall). I am SO glad to see someone else shares my love of this house and took the time to break it down, room by room. I agree, I would have liked to have seen more of the kitchen, but thank you for sharing what you have!

  58. says

    I live nearby to this area in Addison and one of my best friends lives right down the road. They did indeed have to tear this house down. It was built at D. A.R state park. The spot that they picked had a stone built bathroom, which they were given permission to tear down with the condition that they rebuild it, which they did. This is a very rural community but very beautiful.
    There is a scene where they decide to go into NYC to meet friends for dinner- the bridge they drove over was recently torn down as it was considered unsafe. They now have a ferry service running until the bridge is rebuilt in 2012. Bu the way there is only a few houses and lots of open fields on the other side of that bridge! Lol!
    I also don’t recall a 2nd house bring built that would have been their neighbors on the other side of the fence, that might have been something on the LA set.
    I loved this movie and I love this site! I was so excited to see the Father of the Bride house as it is my dream home! Thanks for such a great site!!

    • hookedonhouses says

      Interesting! Thanks for the additional info, Heather! -Julia

  59. says

    This is a gorgeous house, but I don’t think I could ever live there. It’s just way too big and any creaking or strange sounds at night would freak me out too much. I prefer cozy cottages! Small, with a nice garden :)

  60. says

    Thank you so much for creating this!!!

    This has been my dream house ever since I saw the movie in theaters – I don’t have to explain any further as you clearly understand :)

    I too agree, 10 years later nothing looks dated – The power of a classic style!


  61. Gwynneth says

    Most movie houses (or mead halls, for that matter, as in Peter Jackson’s “The Two Towers” part of “The Lord of the Rings”–an entire village, really) get torn down due to environmental regs or other reasons. My favorite “tear-down” was Quint’s shack on Martha’s Vineyard from “Jaws”. The townies were horrified that such a low-life structure would “ruin” their perfect town and made Spielberg & Co. sign a promise to take it all out. Then the tourists started flooding in (I think the town was Menemsha) and asking to SEE QUINT’S SHACK! It was still there at that point, but the movie folks just said, “Sorry, they are making us tear it down!” Heh-heh! (I think the town built a replica. Typical).

    There IS a scene in this (rather flawed) film–I don’t find ghosts OR Harrison at all scary–that bugged me. When they take the sailboat out for its final run in the fall, they sail under a REALLY high bridge which in all likelihood is the one on a reservoir near Brattleboro, VT…above the West River–quite a long way from Burlington. Nobody sane would ever sail there either, in a boat that size. That’s bass-fishing country.

    I was also not a big fan of the house’s decor (all gray and white). Blah! If you want to see see a great example of spooky, deranged production design, check out “Cold Creek Manor” with Sharon Stone & Dennis Quaid. Truly creepy, with its rotting , brick, pseudo-Gothic mansion and menacing locals from upstate NY!

  62. jcm says

    Hey, you know the horse-waggon shaped figure in the wall of the hallway, its actually a window that was covered over; it would have looked into the front room (the room with the balcony window in it). Even though this isn’t specified in the movie, there are a few scenes in which you catch the glare of the glass. Who would cover that up ?!

  63. Jasmine says

    I made a house on the sims inspired by the house from this film, please have a look and tell me what you think :)

  64. Richard says

    I did a little research and it appears that the paint colors are all from Nantucket. I have spent many a summer on the island and have seen these interior colors as they are a staple of Nantucket and Cape Cod. Claire and Normans Master Bedroom and Norm’s Study wall appear to be painted 93-3C Lyndhurst Mushroom from Valspar. Their Entrance Hall and much of the rest of their interior appears to be painted in a blue gray color called ICC-66 Quiet Moment from Behr. Hope this helps.

  65. δονητές says

    Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is wonderful blog. A great read. I’ll definitely be back.