Karen Blixen’s House in “Out of Africa”

by hookedonhouses on March 22, 2010

Out of Africa DVD cover

Each time I watch the movie Out of Africa, I get swept up in the sheer beauty of it all–the scenery, the sets, the music and the love story. It’s hard to believe it was filmed in 1985 because all these years later, it feels timeless. I still love Karen Blixen’s house just as much as I did the first time I saw it.

The movie begins with Karen telling the story later in her life, from Denmark, saying, “I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills…”

Out of Africa-Karen's house main

The opening hunting party scene in Denmark was actually filmed in Northern England. Director Sydney Pollack says they got lucky when it snowed because it doesn’t snow that often there. That was the only part of the movie shot outside of Africa.

The rest of the filming took place on two sites about 30 miles from Nairobi. According to the production notes:

“The Ngong Dairy in Karen (named after Blixen), with areas of lush farmland and a magnificent view of the Ngong Hills, provided a fitting location for a replica of Blixen’s home. An existing farmhouse on the property was renovated to duplicate the original. Thick ivy was stripped from its walls, and a cookhouse and paved veranda the full length of the house were added.”

Out of Africa-Karen Blixen's house exterior

The house they used in the film previously belonged to the widow of Jomo Kenyatta, the first Prime Minister and President of Kenya.

Out of Africa exterior 4

The film crew added onto the house in order to make it resemble Blixen’s. Her actual home was still standing, but it was being used as a government health training facility and wasn’t available.

Out of Africa house exterior 2

They also had to dig wells and irrigate because there had been a drought and everything was “pretty dried up” when they got to the house, which had been abandoned.

Director Sidney Pollack says Production Designer Stephen Grimes “saw past all the crumbling stones of the house and the dried grass and the abandoned place and turned it into a really lovely house that was very close in spirit to the one she lived in with the same view of the Ngong hills in back.”

veranda 3

Regarding the difficulty of filming with wild animals, Pollack said, “I’m not sure you can ever really train a lion, so whenever we were filming a scene with one, there were several big guys standing nearby with (industrial sized) fire extinguishers, just in case.”

veranda 1

They also planted coffee in various stages of growth around the house so they could film the progression of the crop through the story.

veranda 2

According to the Production Notes, “A Kikuyu village consisting of circular cottages made of mud bricks and thatched with reeds was also built within the grounds, for the most part by a group of women. These were known as Shambas, Swahili for a patch of cultivated land, and were quickly inhabited by local people, which gave them a lived-in look by the time filming got underway.”

veranda 4

Robert Redford was the actor they had in mind for the role of Denys Finch Hatton from the beginning. The problem was that Finch Hatton was an Englishman.

Redford used an English accent at first, but those scenes were later dubbed because Pollack decided the role would play better as an American. He felt that Redford was such an American icon that it might be difficult for audiences to believe his character was British.

veranda 6

I always get a kick out of the scene where Karen is moving in and gives her servants white gloves to wear, and this one isn’t sure what to think about them:

white gloves

A shot of the living room at the beginning of the movie, when Karen is moving into her new house:

moving in-living room

And a few scenes later, the room has been furnished and decorated:

living room-wide shot

The windows all look larger with the draperies. Even the doors have curtains hanging on either side of them.

living room-mirror

Pollack says in the Director’s Commentary on the DVD that it was convenient having the house set to use for both exterior and interior scenes. If the outside conditions weren’t working (too dark or rainy, for example), they could easily move a scene indoors.

living room 3

Karen and Bror talk about their future together in the living room.

living room 4

The living room at night has a warm glow:

living room 2

living room 1

While Bror is on another hunting trip, Karen entertains new friends Berkeley Cole and Denys Finch Hatton:

dining room 1

Karen walks through the dining room during the day, when the table is bare:

dining room 2

I’ve read differing accounts about the real-life Berkeley Cole (played by Michael Kitchen, below). Some believe he was gay. Others insist he was in love with Karen but couldn’t compete with Denys. The KarenBlixen.com website says he died of heart failure.

dining room 3

The screenplay was written by Kurt Luedtke, inspired by Judith Thurman’s book Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller. It took years and many drafts to get the screenplay right. Luedtke finished the first one in 1982, three years before the movie was made.

Judith Thurman was on set the entire time to help with details. Pollack referred to her as  a “walking encyclopedia.”

front hall

We get this brief look at the kitchen:

kitchen

Karen had at least two desks in the house that we see her use. This one was in a room  that appeared to be a kind of office for her:

Karen's study 1

Karen's study 2

Karen's study 3

Karen's study 4

Who could forget her dreamy bedroom with the mosquito netting?

Karen Blixen's bedroom canopy

bedroom dresser

bedroom-window seat

bedroom 3

The Muthaiga Club, the building where Karen and Bror Blixen were married in 1914, still exists in a wealthy residential suburb of Nairobi. It was created as a bastion of European tradition in the midst of colonial Africa. The one used in the movie is not the same one, though. It was built in a field across from the house.

Muthaiga Club

The club didn’t serve women. One of my favorite scenes is when they invite Karen in for a drink to toast her before she leaves Africa.

Muthaiga Club 2

It’s amazing how these scenes were all lit from outside. No interior light sources were used. They had to use a “very, very fast film,” according to Pollack, to capture the African light in a way that was pleasing, and not too harsh.

Muthaiga Club 3

Suzanna Hamilton played Felicity, the film’s version of Beryl Markham, another author who was a part of that group of Colonials. She wrote about her time in Africa in a book called West with the Night (1942).

Felicity 1

In real life, when Karen Blixen’s romance with Denys Finch Hatton ended, Markham became involved with him. He invited her to tour game lands on what turned out to be his fatal flight, but Markham had declined (so the story goes) because of a premonition that her African servant had that something might go wrong.

Sara Wheeler, in her biography of Finch Hatton, writes that Markham was believed to have been pregnant by him at the time of his crash.

Markham was the first woman to cross the Atlantic from east-to-west on her own.

Beryl Markham

Ernest Hemingway wrote about Markham in one of his published letters:

“Did you read Beryl Markham’s book, West With The Night? She has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. “

He also called her “unpleasant” and some other unflattering things, but admitted, “She could write rings around the rest of us.”

Felicity 2

The model (and wife of David Bowie) Iman played Berkeley Cole’s Somalian mistress (below). She happened to be in Kenya on a modeling assignment, and Pollack asked if she’d be willing to play the small role. Her character appears to be a fictional addition to the story.

The funeral scene where she has to stand on the other side of the church fence kills me every time.

Iman in Out of Africa

Baron Bror Blixen was written about by other writers, as well, including Hemingway and Markham. He was known as a great hunter–and a womanizer. He was charming and popular.

The coffee farm Bror bought (instead of the dairy farm Karen told him to get) never did make a profit. As everyone warned them from the beginning, it wasn’t possible to grow enough coffee in that area. It was financially devastating for Blixen. In this scene she packs up her house to return to Denmark.

moving out-living room

In the movie, Bror tells Karen about Denys’s death. In real life, she learned about it when she went into town and no one would speak to her. Everyone was staring and acting oddly, so she finally pulled someone aside and asked what was going on.

moving out-living room stairs

Her furniture sits on the front lawn, tagged for a yard sale:

veranda 5

Karen’s career as a writer didn’t begin until she moved back to Denmark after 17 years in Africa and began writing about her experiences there under the pen name of Isak Dinesen.

lions on Denys Finch-Hatton's grave

Friends wrote Karen from Africa saying that lions were often seen at Denys’s grave. At the end of the movie, we see the words: “She wrote her first stories in 1934 under the name Isak Dinesen. She never returned to Africa.”

Out of Africa won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Best Cinematography. Meryl Streep lost the Best Actress Oscar to Geraldine Page that year, though.

This is my favorite Meryl Streep movie role. What’s yours?

Visit my TV/Movie Houses page for links to all the others I’ve featured, including the more recent Meryl Streep film It’s Complicated.

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Willow Decor March 22, 2010 at 7:04 am

LOVED this!!! One of my favorite movies of all times!!
Thank you!!
xx-Gina
.-= Willow Decor´s last blog ..Sheer Bliss =-.

Jessica at Lavender and Lilies March 22, 2010 at 7:07 am

I love that house. The outdoor spaces are amazing. I have never seen that movie. I really need to.
.-= Jessica at Lavender and Lilies´s last blog ..Black Interior Doors =-.

Stephanie March 22, 2010 at 7:16 am

I have never seen this movie….but what a beautiful outdoor space!
.-= Stephanie´s last blog ..Twilight New Moon Party "Oh yes I did!" =-.

Penny March 22, 2010 at 7:54 am

I can’t thank you enough for this post. Out of Africa is one of my favorite movies. I watch it whenever I know it is on, and have read Out of Africa, as well, which I highly recommend to all. I had no idea Iman was the mistress and the scene where she is outside the fence at the funeral and Karen Blixen gives her a nod of respect is so poignant. Thank you for taking us inside her house, the club, and Kenya.
.-= Penny´s last blog ..Don’t tell Tracey =-.

nanne March 22, 2010 at 7:55 am

thanks julia!! that is one of my all time favorite movie houses!!

nanne

Kat in Texas March 22, 2010 at 8:03 am

One of my favorite movies! I caught it recently on a movie channel and had forgotten how much I love that house. Thanks for sharing and a good day to all!

Alison Agnew March 22, 2010 at 8:17 am

I can’t believe it, but I’ve never seen this film. Love the shots of the house…I think I have a treat in store! Thanks for posting.

Alison
.-= Alison Agnew´s last blog ..Cultural Rant =-.

Lou Cinda March 22, 2010 at 8:19 am

Totally one of my FAVORITE movies EVER!! I can’t even tell you how many times I have seen it and STILL cry everytime!!! I always think I would have LOVED to have been at her yard sale!! lol I have the soundtrack from this movie as I fell in love with the music the first time I saw it! Loved this post!

Lou Cinda :)
.-= Lou Cinda´s last blog ..Thrift Finds =-.

autriche March 22, 2010 at 8:40 am

i live maybe ten minutes from the now Karen Blixen museum and am so over the whole oh so poignant tale. perhaps it because whenever i reread the book i get carried away till i remember that if by some awful twist i found myself in blixen’s Kenya i would be the unfortunate “ndito”(young girl) who gets run over by a wagon or worse still some Iman like character not good enough to attend a loved one’s funeral. The Much Romanticized colonial era was awful for the natives what with the decimation of culture enforced Christianity robbery of land and generally being told black was second class. I had a farm in Africa ……..(voms). sorry if i offend your blog is lovely.
.-= autriche´s last blog ..swahili doors autriche style =-.

hookedonhouses March 22, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Autriche–
I think that’s precisely the point of the story. Karen Blixen learns that she can’t control Africa. The movie shows how Colonialism could be cruel to people like Iman’s character–it never suggests that it was right. In fact, I believe it’s a strong argument against it. The sets and costumes were definitely romanticized, though! -Julia

mark May 6, 2011 at 11:00 am

Do you think it’s any better now….Poor Kenyans are treated a thousand times worse by there ‘Brothers’.Yes I do know what I’m talking about I’ve witnessed it everyday for the past 25years!! sorry you’re deluded

Catherine March 22, 2010 at 8:44 am

One of my all-time favorite exchanges is from this film regarding a borrowed book that was never returned:

“Would you lose a friend over a book?”

“No, but he has.”

Susan March 22, 2010 at 8:50 am

This is a favorite movie of mine. Thank you for the lovely post and all of the background information.

Susan and Bentley
xxoo
.-= Susan´s last blog ..The Wee Cottage Within Ash Tree Cottage =-.

black eyed susans kitchen March 22, 2010 at 9:08 am

Julia, This is a wonderful post! Out of Africa is one of my all time favorite movies and the scenery, set and costumes were all just wonderful. My favorite Meryl Streep movie? This is one of them…really hard to decide.
?, Susan
.-= black eyed susans kitchen´s last blog ..CATKINS, PUSSY WILLOWS, AND SPRINGTIME TRADITIONS =-.

Mrs. B March 22, 2010 at 9:15 am

I’ve always loved Out of Africa. Since it was filmed, Karen Blixen’s actual home has been restored and turned into a tour home/museum. My husband and I had the opportunity to tour it a couple of years ago. It looks very similar to the one they used for the movie–I didn’t realize until this post that the movie wasn’t filmed there.
.-= Mrs. B´s last blog ..Special K =-.

Angela March 22, 2010 at 9:59 am

OMG – I have never seen this movie…MUST get it and watch it! I’ve also been looking for a good book to read on vacation next month! My favorite Streep movie – well, she is my favorite actress – I think right now, it’s Bridges of Madison County.

~angela @ peonypatch
.-= Angela´s last blog ..Crazy =-.

Astrid March 22, 2010 at 10:20 am

Beautiful story. Beautiful movie. Incredible scenery!

I actually got the see her house (now museum) in Denmark. It was so many years ago that I don’t remember much about it…other than I thought I could easily live in it.
.-= Astrid´s last blog ..Colorful "Pussy Willows" =-.

Maya @ Completely Coastal March 22, 2010 at 10:43 am

I loved that movie!

And thank you so much Julia for the generous weekend link!!!!!!!!!!!!!
.-= Maya @ Completely Coastal´s last blog ..Artist Melissa Barbieri =-.

Susan March 22, 2010 at 10:46 am

Julia-Can you believe I saw this for the first time about a month ago? Of course, I had to research the actual person after I saw it. She was quite a character. Where have I been and how did I miss this fabulous award winning movie ??!! I have always looked at houses or sets in movies (My husband sometimes thinks its a little annoying when I stop to point out a rug or clock during a critical scene :). The entire time I watched this I was thinking of you and “movie Monday” :) Thanks for doing it!!
.-= Susan´s last blog ..Turkeys and Tidewater Blue =-.

mary mendez March 22, 2010 at 11:09 am

Loved this post. The picture of Karen’s dog! All these years I have adored Scottish Deerhounds and actually had forgotten where I first saw one.

Hip Hip Gin Gin March 22, 2010 at 11:54 am

This was a fantastic post!! Love that movie. It makes me so sad that she never went back to Africa. Probably because I worry that I will never get a chance to go back either, and it truly is the most beautiful place. I thought the film really captured that so well.
.-= Hip Hip Gin Gin´s last blog ..Simple Pleasures =-.

Lauren (in PA) March 22, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Sigh.

Thanks!

Carol March 22, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I fell in love with the look and feel of this house the first time I saw the movie. So much so that I spent weeks tracking down the fabric on her sofa and chairs in the living room. It turned out to be an English linen and quite expensive at the time , $35 a yard, but I saved my pennies and splurged. The two chairs I slip covered with it still look great over 20 years later.

Rick Wilson February 5, 2011 at 4:09 pm

I just found the site about Karen Blixen’s house. I wanted to ask you which fabric you found that matched the one in the film. I just figured it was a lost cause trying to track it down or that it would be discontinued. I visited the real house outside Nairobi about ten years ago now and thought you might like to know that the film maker gave most of the furniture to the real house museum and they use it in almost every room. Some of it was originally owned by Blixen and was tracked down from the yard sale. Giraffe Manor, about two miles from the museum still has the original bedroom furniture. Thought you might be interested.

hookedonhouses February 5, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Thanks for the additional info, Rick!

Christine July 22, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Hey Carol,

I have been looking for that floral fabric for some time. I would love to recover my sofa in this and am asking if you would be so kind as to share where you purchased and the actual name of the fabric???

Thanks, Christine

Lori-Anne March 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Oh thank-you Julia, for this wonderful post! Out of Africa is one of my all-time favourite movies AND books!! While there was a lot you said that I already knew, some of the trivia was new to me and I loved reading it. You’ve also inspired me to track down West With the Night, now – thank you again :)
.-= Lori-Anne´s last blog ..Flame in a Teacup =-.

Amanda @ Serenity Now March 22, 2010 at 1:22 pm

I haven’t seen “Out of Africa,” but I couldn’t help but think that I’d love to have gone to that yard sale. ;) I loved MS in “The Devil Wears Prada.”
.-= Amanda @ Serenity Now´s last blog ..Easter Bunny Makeover =-.

Heather Collins March 22, 2010 at 1:30 pm

thanks for this much needed mental respite from a stressing day……

Carolyn March 22, 2010 at 1:49 pm

The BEST movie! Thanks for your post.

For those unfortunate souls who have not seen it, RUSH out and buy it! It is full of breath-taking scenery, exquisite music, appealing decor, gorgeous table settings, a great bit of colonial history that we aren’t all too familiar with, wild life, enchantingly dreamy safaris, amazing African culture, Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in their primes, great drama, ROMANCE! Everything! It is a treat for your eyes, your ears and your heart.

Kara March 22, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Still one of my all time favorite movies. That house was amazing. Meryl and Robert were amazing. Makes me want to watch it right now!
.-= Kara´s last blog ..Simple Life =-.

Kim March 22, 2010 at 2:59 pm

This house is so gorgeous it looks like it was made in the 2000′s. I could totally see myself living in a house like this.

Thanks for sharing this with us.

mamava March 22, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I’ve been to the Blixen house and there’s a reason they didn’t use the original–which does look EXACTLY like the movie on the outside and I really did almost wet my pants and refuse to let any family members in my picture that day–it’s because the house is really quite small. The colonial “luxury in the bush” feel that is so perfect in the movie does exist in the real house, but on a smaller scale. I loved her bedroom which was very feminine and had a Scandinavian feel, whereas Denys’s room was very masculine with leather and animal hides. The kitche is detached, common when you might have fire danger. It was wonderful to be there.

The reason that the coffee didn’t make it was not because of the altitude, as it says in the movie. The land there is unsuitable because of the soil. It is at almost 6,000 feet so it can be suprisingly chilly for being on the equator. We lived in Tanzania for 3 years and saw many of the bush sights that Karen and Denys see on their travels. We loved it.

Blakely March 22, 2010 at 4:26 pm

I love your movie post. This weekend I watched The Proposal twice this weekend, and I all I keep on thinking about was how great the house was. You have really changed how I look at the sets of movies. The detail is so amazing!
.-= Blakely´s last blog ..Pick Me Up Flowers =-.

Candy @ SoBella Creations March 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm

I love houses with lots of windows. The doors are also great on this house.
.-= Candy @ SoBella Creations´s last blog ..Wednesday’s Reading Corner =-.

cristin @ simplified bee March 22, 2010 at 6:39 pm

It is gorgeous!

xo,
cristin
.-= cristin @ simplified bee´s last blog ..Sweet Pink & Yellow Baby Girl Nursery by House of Ruby =-.

Maureen March 22, 2010 at 6:56 pm

If you enjoyed Out of Africa and West with the Night, you must read “I Dreamed of Africa.” It’s an incredible book written by Kuki Gallman, another expat living in Africa. Her story…and the tragedies she endured–absolutely blew me away.
.-= Maureen´s last blog ..It was bound to happen… =-.

Carmen Lake January 1, 2011 at 7:28 am

Anyone who has had personal tragedy in their lives would relate very keenly to the emotional whirlpool that Kuki Gallman lived. She is an inspiration to those and gives permission for all to navigate the rawness and naked feelings of loss and eventual recovery as part of their own individual growth and self awareness. Reading her books were counsel enough for me, in my life. Thank you, Kuki.

carol miller March 22, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Who was the costume designer…it looked so Ralph Lauren…remember that collection he did about the time the movie came out? It so reminded me of this movie, because the ads were set in Africa on safari. It was one of my all time favorites…lots of white linen and those fabulous straw hats. The house couldn’t have been more perfect and definitely one of the stars of the movie. I always enjoy a movie more if there is a fabulous house to look at…. hooked on houses???? ummm …carol

le@whoopwhoop March 23, 2010 at 12:50 am

Hello Julia … what an amazing story that film showed us and that house – just fab with a capital F – a great recount – best le

ps I have a great kit home up at present – have you written much on prefab homes … this one is amazing – :)
.-= le@whoopwhoop´s last blog ..Bach = Kiwi speak for holiday shack =-.

autriche March 23, 2010 at 1:36 am

you Julia, are a wise woman indeed. Thanks for allowing me to offer a dissenting view. The(one sided) portrayal of that era gets me really riled up. If you are ever in Nairobi look me up we can have coffee at the Karen Blixen coffee shop (yes there is one!) It is located next door to the museum in the house she and Bror lived in while constructing “mbogani”. It is called Swedo house and is nice! There I said something nice. I shall now go back t my quiet and shy lurker ways. Kwaheri.
.-= autriche´s last blog ..swahili doors autriche style =-.

E. George March 23, 2010 at 5:02 am

Hi Julia what can I say but simply thank you for this great blog absolutely beautiful – the movie set and the actors and the movie brilliant. What a dreamy place to live in . I haven’t watched this movie for a while my husband bought me the DVD but I was avoiding watching it because it always makes me cry but I promise I’m going to watch it soon. I loved Meryl in Julie and Julia and Mama Mia (its the only musical you will get me to watch). I love Robert Redford in Barefoot in the Park, The Great Gatsby and Three Days of the Condor. Thats it till next time Regards Esther from Sydney….

Debbie March 23, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Thank you so much! The house was lovely and I loved the movie.
South Africa has always been at the top of my wish list to visit simply because of the movie. I am dating myself but gosh I love Robert Redford! He is absolutely lovely too!

Melanie March 23, 2010 at 5:26 pm

I have never seen this movie:( Don’t hate!
.-= Melanie´s last blog ..The First Pioneer Woman Recipe! =-.

FROM THE RIGHT BANK March 23, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Thank you for this post, Julia – I enjoyed it so much! I had forgotten how much I loved this movie. As for my favorite Meryl role, there are so many I can’t possibly choose. Most recently, I LOVED her as Julia Childs. :)
.-= FROM THE RIGHT BANK´s last blog ..Hydrangeas In The Garden =-.

christy March 24, 2010 at 3:48 am

What a wonderful, informative post. Can you believe I haven’t seen this movie? I need to rent it pronto. The house is just gorgeous!
.-= christy´s last blog ..The Foo’s Fabulous Big Girl Room! =-.

Beth A March 24, 2010 at 11:16 am

Thank you so much for this lovely post and for teaching us so much about Karen Blixen as well as about the film. You really made my day. My personal favorite scene is the part in which Karen is asked to tell a story … about a wandering Chinese who lives in Limehouse, and girl called Shirley.

Her improvised words are actually from short story written by Thomas Burke and published in the collection called “Limehouse Nights” (1916). I believe it is still in print. Yes, I am such an obsessed geek that I actually went looking for it. You can read it for free in Google books.

You have also inspired me to seek out Judith Thurman’s book called Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller. It’s now on my bedside table. Great stuff. Thanks again.

Donna March 24, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Thank you for doing this house! It is so lovely. My favorite Meryl Streep movie is Heartburn. I think she is so funny in that movie and so strong when Jack Nicholson dumps her. I also love her in an obscure film with Robert DiNiro called Falling In Love about an affair that cannot be forgotten. She lives in a gorgeous house in that film too.

Carol Harris March 25, 2010 at 8:44 pm

I am so glad I found your blog! This movie I have watched a million times, so much so I bought it. I love everything about it, the stars, the scenery, Africa, the house, her man/woman servant, EVERYTHING. Thank you so much!
.-= Carol Harris´s last blog ..Home Staging in Buffalo, NY =-.

Heather March 26, 2010 at 9:18 pm

I’m loving your blog re-design! Great job on this…it’s beautiful!
.-= Heather´s last blog ..My friends, I’ve been busy =-.

Dee Dee Brooks March 27, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Julia it is always such a pleasure to visit your site. I forgot how much I love this move and that house! I think the front porch is one of my favorite spots. Love the story, love the music, love Robert Redford washing her hair!

You have such wonderful taste!

Karen Flanagan April 23, 2010 at 1:29 am

One of my all time personal favorites. One of the best sets ever, best musical scores ever, best screenplay, best pieces of cinema ever. EVER! Incredible cinematography…I’ve been smitten with it since the first time I saw it.

mark May 31, 2010 at 11:38 am

Actually the house used for the movie is called ‘the ngong dairy’ it was never lived in by Karen,It was an army officers home nearby her home.

hookedonhouses May 31, 2010 at 11:47 am

That’s right. It was mentioned in the production notes that I quoted in my post that they used the Ngong Dairy for the movie. -Julia

Farmgirl Susan June 15, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Hi Julia,
I just discovered Hooked on Houses a few days ago, and I’m hooked! It’s going to take me days (weeks?) of ignoring farm chores and my To Do List to make it through all the movie/tv houses. ;) What a treat, especially as you’ve included so many of my favorites. Out of Africa is my all time favorite movie, and I learned so many interesting little tidbits from this post.

I love all the extra details you include about each movie – and I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who has watched Housesitter over and over. So funny you mentioned her hanging up the framed napkin, as I just finally noticed that the last time I watched it.

Thanks for such a fabulous site!
.-= Farmgirl Susan´s last blog ..Sunday Dose of Cute: The Dangers of a Laundry Line =-.

Kathy August 22, 2010 at 7:42 pm

The woman who is (or was) living in the Ngong house (used in the movie) is Sally Dudmesh who has been in a relationship with the great grandson of Lord Delamere. Lord Delamere was a big “figure” in the colonization in Kenya, and was known to K. Blixen. Of course the great grandson is now in prison for shooting someone that he “thought” was a trespasser. I have seen an article on Sally D. and there are pics of the house that was used in the movie. It was built in 1920 and is very similar to Karen’s actual house. Actually, both houses were probably built by the same builder.

I am now looking through tons of bungalow books in the early 1900s trying to find a similar floor plan for Karen’s house, although I know the builder made alterations. I think I am getting close. But I have since found another house built in Africa that is absolutely gorgeous! Now I am not sure which one I like the most. Maybe a combination of them. A lot of windows and high ceilings is the goal for my dream home.

And I agree with Autriche. The colonization of Kenya (and other parts of Africa) wasn’t necessarily a “good” thing. What the movie did for me was start me on a journey of reading tons of books about the pioneers in Kenya. It opened my eyes to the struggles of the native people there and the pioneers that wanted to start a new life in a “new” country.

hookedonhouses August 22, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Very interesting. Thanks for the additional information, Kathy! -Julia

Craig November 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I saw Out of Africa in the theater when it was brand new; I then bought it on VHS, later on DVD, and will have it on Blu-Ray. I watch it at least once a year and listen to the soundtrack all the time. It is a great film that rises to the level of art, and of course the house and other sets are part of the magic.
I think it may be Streep’s best work, but there are so many other great performances that qualify…
Yes, it does seem to romanticize the colonials, but it is also a strong indictment of those days. I think Iman’s character clearly (and wordlessly) speaks volumes. It’s just a great movie all around!

Fiona December 5, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I was so happy to see this blog. Its fantastic to see how many people loved the film and the story. I was born and lived in Kenya and my grandparents were very much part of the colonial culture and as were my parents. As a child I can remember the romance in the manicured lawns of up to acres and the wonderful stories of the Baroness. Thank you.

Jerilyn March 1, 2011 at 10:57 am

If I wanted to build this house here on my own property how could
I obtain or find bluprints?

Gwynneth August 14, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Great post! I’ve seen the film countless times and I always cry at the opening credits scene, showing the train moving across the vast savanna, with the music and gorgeous sunset! The house is toned down, yet sort of luxurious. It’s era would be around the same one as that in “Howard’s End” (late 1910′s) and it reflects that transition between the Edwardian world and early 20th Century.

I was glad that they did not make the film over into a “pc” version, and DID show the inequality, not just between blacks and whites, but women and men, as well as the prejudices of various Kenyan groups (Farah: “He may be a chief but he’s a Kikuyu.” Implying that he is not that smart). There is also the matter of class structure and the way Karen is somewhat excluded from society because she refuses to obey its rules about women.

Also, there is frequent mention about the ruining of Africa’s ecosystem, and the hypocrisy of people like Finch-Hatton, who decry it, yet profit from it. Likewise, though Karen wants the best for the Kikuyu on her farm, she calls them “my Kikuyu” and is mocked by Denys for it. It all comes of as very honest, and though romantic, we are shown, I think a true portrait of colonial life at that time, which was not much different in Kenya than it was in India, China or the South Pacific…that is, not equal, not fair. Denys, like his contemporary, the journalist John Reed (portrayed in “Reds”) characterizes WWI as “an argument between two spoiled countries” (England and Germany). Yet, unlike Reed, he is unwilling to get involved in opposing it. For all their “good intentions” and sensitivity, none of the characters in “Out of Africa” is anything like a revolutionary or even a social reformer.

Karen DID have a great house, though!

Kim August 26, 2011 at 8:54 pm

YES!!! My favorite Meryl Streep movie ever as well! She was amazing in it and even though I was pretty young at the time, I was so upset that she lost out on the Oscar to Geraldine Page (for what I’m sure was one of those career pity Oscars, darn it).

The part that kills me is when she has to sell all her things and move and there’s the voice-over with her wondering if she’s made any kind of impression on Africa– if anyone will remember her… Oh gosh, it makes me tear up every time. And then when she asks her servant (the only man who’s been “faithful” to her the whole time) to say her name– her real name– one time before she leaves.

I love this movie! I tried to dress like Karen Blixen for awhile. And I loved the house and the lighting and just how classy and warm it looked. So timeless.

Thanks for posting this! Okay, I’ll stop gushing now…

Karen Kotoske August 6, 2012 at 5:53 pm

In 1986 I was very lucky to find two sofas almost identical in every single way to the sofas in the film, right down to the skirt (and of course the fabric.) Now they are so worn but I CANNOT bear to part with the fabric and would love to recover them with the same fabric. Does anyone know the name of the fabric and where it can be found?(This question is being posted aug 6 ’12) I am located in the US.

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