“The Proposal” House in Sitka, Alaska

by hookedonhouses on August 8, 2010

The Proposal DVD cover

One of my favorite romantic comedies last year was the Sandra Bullock-Ryan Reynolds movie The Proposal. Not only was it a lot of fun, but it featured a fabulous cedar shingle and natural stone house in (what was supposed to be) Sitka, Alaska.

Most of the movie was actually filmed on location in Massachusetts. The 9-bedroom, 10-bath house is in Manchester, a 40-minute drive north of Boston.

When the camera first pans up from their boat to the house with the mountains in the background, director Anne Fletcher says (in the DVD commentary), “That’s all fake.”

There were actually “other houses and brown, dead trees” surrounding the house. The mountains, lighthouse, and many of the trees were added to make things look more scenic. Fake branches with leaves were literally twist-tied to the trees around the house.

When they were looking for the right house to use, Production Designer Nelson Coates says they wanted one with a rustic feel: “The script said it should feel like something out of Alaskan Architectural Digest. I was laughing when I read that. What is Alaskan Architectural Digest?”

The script also called for something on the water, with a dock. “The family needed to look like they were isolated from town–like they needed a boat to get there,” Coates told the New York Times.

He took photos of the house, then added mountains, leaves, totem poles and stone with Photoshop before sending the photos to the execs at Disney.  “They’re going, ‘Oh, my God, we had no idea they had mountains like that in Massachusetts.’ It was hilarious.” And it sold them on the house.

Most of the movie was shot inside the house, although they rebuilt some of of the rooms on a soundstage for the re-shoots later on. More movie magic transformed the interiors. In this photo of Ryan Reynolds on set you can see the stone fireplace behind him:

Reynolds on set-Touchstone Pics

But the real house is much more traditional in style. They thought it looked “too Colonial.” So Production Designer Nelson Coates built a facade on all of the interior walls of the house to make it looks more Alaskan.

All the beams are fake, as are all the walls. Even the fireplace stones are fake. Here’s how the real fireplace looked before they gave it a rustic makeover (via the NYT):

Unfortunately, this is not a movie that allows the camera to lovingly dwell on the house itself the way, say, a Nancy Meyers film might do. In fact, there are so many people in the living room scenes that we never get as good a look at it as I would have liked. The characters are always center-stage.

From the behind-the-scenes feature on the DVD we see another side of the room, as well as the movie lights installed overhead:

You can see the dining room behind Reynolds and Bullock in this scene as they make up a story about how he proposed:

When Margaret walks through the dining room one morning we get a better–if a little blurry–look at it without all the people blocking the view:

The Kitchen:

That chandelier looks like the one Sarah Jessica Parker has in her Hamptons house.

They didn’t show the kitchen in the movie (darnit), but luckily we get a glimpse of it from a deleted one in the special features:

We can also see a little of it behind Mary Steenburgen in this scene–but not nearly enough:

The Staircase in the Entry Hall:

Julia Roberts was originally supposed to play Margaret. When she bowed out, Sandra Bullock took the role.

The Guest Bedroom:

More time is spent in this room of the house than any other in the movie.

The house has 3 stories, but the top 2 were off-limits to the film crew. All of the homeowners’ things were moved upstairs, and they stayed in the guest house during filming.

You can read about the Kanebs–the lucky family that really lives in this house–in this interesting NYT article.

Guest Bath:

Barn:

The barn really exists on the property behind the house, so they decided to use it, both for a place where they’re confronted by the INS agent (played by Denis O’Hare, who is deliciously evil as the Mississippi King of Vampires on True Blood) and for Margaret and Andrew’s impromptu wedding.

The script originally called for the wedding to happen outside on the lawn.

They filmed an ending that had Margaret’s plane turning around, followed by a happy ending on the tarmac. It also featured a cameo with Niecy Nash as a wacky flight attendant.

They didn’t think that version worked, though, and filmed a new ending in the Colden Books office where Margaret and Andrew worked.

They used an empty, gutted building in Boston for the earlier office scenes, but the entire set, including Margaret’s & Bob’s offices, had to be completely rebuilt and replicated at Disney Studios in Burbank, CA for the rewritten ending.

office 2

The family’s puppy Kevin was played by four American Eskimo puppies named Flurry, Sitka, Nanu and Winter.

Proposal-filming-Sandra Bullock-dog

One thing producers weren’t crazy about: the outdoor pool. They covered it during filming because they didn’t think a house in Alaska was likely to have one. You can see it in this overhead view of the house on Bing Maps (thanks to Kim for finding this!):

The Proposal-real house overhead

You can read how Rockport, Massachusetts, was transformed into the town of Sitka in an article on Zimbio.

I love Sandra Bullock and her romantic comedies. Did you see my post about the New Orleans Victorian home she just moved into with her new baby?

Julia-simple teal signature

Visit my Houses Onscreen page to see more, including…

You've Got Mail Meg Ryan's BrownstoneMeg Ryan’s Brownstone in You’ve Got Mail

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Jessica at Lavender and Lilies August 8, 2010 at 8:02 pm

I loved that house! Great post!
.-= Jessica at Lavender and Lilies´s last blog ..Change Change Change =-.

Jess @ Frugal with a Flourish August 8, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Ok – so I totally skipped through the end of the post (haven’t seen this one yet) but man I love that kitchen!!! And the chandi is super cute! I especially enjoyed the commentary on how they sold Disney on the house! (Alaskan Architectural Digest!! – LOL!)
.-= Jess @ Frugal with a Flourish´s last blog ..Reader Project- Wedding Centerpiece Wine Bottles =-.

Julie B August 8, 2010 at 8:27 pm

I immediately starting googling this location after seeing this DVD for the first time. I was somewhat disappointed that it wasn’t really Alaska, but they did a wonderful job of making it look as authentic as they did. Great movie! Thanks for the extra details.

Jennifer August 8, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Love, love, love this movie! I loved the house even more!!! What I would give for a house like that…
.-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Tex-Mex Chorizo Migas =-.

Suzann August 8, 2010 at 8:39 pm

I LOVED that movie and the house too. Thanks for posting this.
.-= Suzann´s last blog ..A Trip around the Kitchen =-.

Vanessa@decor happy August 8, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Every time I read one of your movie posts, I want to go and rent the movie ASAP! Thanks for the insight.
.-= Vanessa@decor happy´s last blog ..Fun- Rest and Sadness =-.

Janell Beals August 8, 2010 at 8:49 pm

fascinating…and having grown up in Alaska the idea of an Alaskan Architectural Digest is extremely amusing. Janell
.-= Janell Beals´s last blog ..This Weeks Ideabook On Houzz- Mixed Company =-.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com August 8, 2010 at 9:45 pm

I adored the house in this movie!
And the lovely little coastal town.
.-= Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com´s last blog ..News Flash- Im gonna knock you out =-.

Kim August 8, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Your Welcome! I’m always glad to help.

I love this house! It’s gorgeous. I wish they had spent more time capturing the house in the movie. Then we could have seen better views of it. Too bad those mountains aren’t real.

There’s movies I love watching over again for the houses too. Like Matilda and Swiss Family Robinson. Too bad most of the homes in movies aren’t real because then I can never live in them. If only someone would draw up some houseplans for the movie houses.

Janelle August 9, 2010 at 12:01 am

This movie was so much better than I expected it to be, and I’m so glad you did a post on it. I loved the house. When they first come around that bend and the house comes into sight, I had a sharp intake of air — it was so breathtaking. I’m shocked (but not surprised?) to learn that it was filmed in New England. I’ve lived in both Connecticut and Maine, and I thought the town and the area shown in the movie were charming, but I never would have guessed they were in the Boston area. Well done, movie people!!

Cindy August 9, 2010 at 1:26 am

Loved the movie, loved the house, loved this post and loved finding out it was really in Mass. I like surprises.

Mom in High Heels August 9, 2010 at 3:05 am

James Bond and I loved this movie. The house is gorgeous and while I’m sad we didn’t get to see more of it (even if it wasn’t real), the guest bedroom was so fabulous I didn’t mind that much of the interior was filmed there. If that were my room, I’d never want to leave it either. :)
.-= Mom in High Heels´s last blog ..RTT- Building Legos in my dreams =-.

Erin August 9, 2010 at 5:30 am

I’ve always been so curious about the movie magic that takes place to change houses like this. It’s so amazing the things they can do! The house looks completely different in the movie. The NYT article on this family was really good too – they are really lucky their kids talked them into letting them film at the house because it sounds like a great experience. I’d love to have Betty White at my house for two months!

Gerry August 9, 2010 at 8:47 am

Oh my gosh, I absolutely LOVED this house when I watched this move! How interesting the changes the set designer people can make. I like the “after” shots much better than the “before”. I’m surprised the owners didn’t leave the changes! Great post, I’ve been hoping you would do this one.

Barbara August 9, 2010 at 8:52 am

That fireplace is a dream! I’ve never seen the movie, but I will definitely now! I live right outside of Boston, but I don’t remember it shooting here (there are lots of movies shooting here lately!). I’ll have to take a ride up to Manchester to see it! Thanks for another fascinating post, Julia!

Becky @ Farmgirl Paints August 9, 2010 at 9:15 am

Loved this movie. We own it and just rewatched it the other night. That bedroom was soooo dreamy. The scene where the bird takes the dog is seriously hysterical. I think I laughed until I cried… and peed my pants when I watched it:)
.-= Becky @ Farmgirl Paints´s last blog ..The list =-.

Liz@VioletPosy August 9, 2010 at 9:43 am

I didn’t like the film, but I did adore that house, it was just beautiful!
.-= Liz@VioletPosy´s last blog ..3 Today =-.

rhianna August 9, 2010 at 9:56 am

I loved this house.
I also love Julia Roberts, but don’t think it would have been as funny with her in that role.
.-= rhianna´s last blog ..Cats House DC Housewives =-.

middlesister August 9, 2010 at 10:18 am

Great job. That’s a ton of work on your part to put that together-thank you it was fun to see.

I heard that Sandra’s acting was way better in this movie than the Blindside and that she really should have won the award for her performance in the Proposal. That would not go over well as it was a comedy but I thought she was fab.

My sister had a commercial shot at her home-it is crazy disruptive.

hip hip gin gin August 9, 2010 at 10:24 am

Love that movie and love the house! Can’t believe it is in Mass., I might have to talk the husband into driving to Manchester to see it, although he will probably think I’m nuts. The bedroom is by far my favorite room, if I could have those blackout shades and fireplace I think I would be happy, and if they threw in that gorgeous bathroom I would be positively delirious! Oh someday.
.-= hip hip gin gin´s last blog ..Welcome! =-.

Blakely August 9, 2010 at 10:54 am

I love this house and this movie!
.-= Blakely´s last blog ..QBQ =-.

Kelly, Arte Styling August 9, 2010 at 11:06 am

Great post! I saw the film…and watched the behind the scenes…but am happy you shared all the “extras.” Thank you!
.-= Kelly, Arte Styling´s last blog ..Color in Food Development – Interview with a Food Scientist =-.

Nathan August 9, 2010 at 11:34 am

Finally! lol, jk. I love this house so much!

Nathan August 9, 2010 at 12:12 pm

And on second read/look, I actually noticed the backsplash in the kitchen which I LOVE. I’m not a huge fan of the cabinets though.

Lesley @ TheDesignFile August 9, 2010 at 12:31 pm

I love learning all about the movie magic. It’s amazing that they would choose a house and then completely rebuild the inside. It seems like they would just choose a different house.

Fascinating as always. Thanks!
.-= Lesley @ TheDesignFile´s last blog ..Design Star- Elimination means curse continues =-.

Amanda @ Serenity Now August 9, 2010 at 12:31 pm

GREAT article, Julia! I really can’t imagine Julia Roberts playing that role. She seems too “free spirited” to play uptight Maggie. (and maybe too old for RR???) I loved the exterior shots of the house. It’s sad that the barn looks nicer than my house. ;)
.-= Amanda @ Serenity Now´s last blog ..A Major Award =-.

Trish @TheOldPostRoad August 9, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Great post!
-Trish
.-= Trish @TheOldPostRoad´s last blog ..Cades Cove =-.

Bre August 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm

I LOVE that you posted this house! I fell in love with the house watching (and re-watching) The Proposal. The archways, the bathroom, the gorgeous bed, and of course the Babymaker quilt! :) Fantastic post thank you for sharing!

Struggler August 9, 2010 at 1:47 pm

They did a good job with this movie, but for me, this house totally stole the show! Very interesting that it was actually in MA.
.-= Struggler´s last blog ..More Decorating with Dogs =-.

Marie August 9, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I loved this movie too Julia, but didn’t realize that it’s actually in MA and not Alaska like the movie implied. Now I’ve gotta check out your post about Sandra’s new Victorian home in New Orleans. I luv everything about Sandra…I’m a big fan.
-marie
.-= Marie´s last blog ..Illuminate Your Space =-.

Susan S August 9, 2010 at 5:37 pm

I just love movie houses! How many of us love some of the movies just because of the houses?? I just thought of a great question to ask your readers: What movie house would they build if they had the money? I already have my answer. Which one would you build, Julia?

Susan S

hookedonhouses August 10, 2010 at 10:28 am

Depends on my mood! Today I’m thinking I’d like to have the little yellow house from “Housesitter.” Small and simple and low maintenance, like a vacation home. In the fall, I think I’d go for something like the “Practical Magic” house–it would be fun to decorate for Halloween! And I’d love to spend the winter in the stone house from “Christmas in Connecticut.”

What would you choose?

Susan S August 10, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Well, since I too have a love affair with houses of all sorts, I’m pretty much in the same boat as you! But, currently I’m crazy about the home belonging to Cameron Diaz in the movie, “Holiday.” I must say though that I also love the home in “What Lies Beneath” or the Grey Garden house is architecturally pleasing also! I love your choices too .

Kate (Little Beach Bum) August 9, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Love Movie Mondays! I seriously look forward to it all week…end? I have to say, I liked this movie OK, but I wasn’t SUPER impressed by it. I remember loving the landscapes more than I noticed the house, although I like what I see from these pictures. I think that’s because I’m from Seattle so I am naturally drawn to that Pacific Northwest coastal vibe ;) AND those bright green/teal cabinets are a shock! But I really like them!
.-= Kate (Little Beach Bum)´s last blog ..Hidden Rules =-.

Catherine August 9, 2010 at 10:42 pm

I loved this film, and can not imagine Julia Roberts in the lead!!
.-= Catherine´s last blog ..Coffee Flavored Coffee =-.

Lauren August 10, 2010 at 12:23 am

Ahhhh – thanks for doing this one. In the future, if you just want to review Ryan Reynolds’ movies exclusively… that would be fine, too.
.-= Lauren´s last blog ..Now with floor =-.

persis August 10, 2010 at 4:46 am

i loved this movie too! i laughed my heart out when i watched it!

Persis.

jan August 12, 2010 at 6:50 pm

I do not understand why they spend all that money to film at a huge place, change everything or almost everything, and then give us almost no view of the place. Old movies spent more time with the camera steady or not as many closeups and you got a much better view of the place the story was happening.

elz August 16, 2010 at 1:54 pm

This is one of my favorite movie houses. I love the outside. I also love Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in it. I enjoy Julia’s movies too, but I’m glad Sandra was in this one. It worked really well.
.-= elz´s last blog ..Friday Favorite- Shark Christmas Ornament =-.

izzhik June 20, 2011 at 2:17 am

Does anyone know what the name of the boat is in the moie?

kerry vaughan July 26, 2011 at 1:03 am

I actually grew up south of Boston and had visited Rockport as a kid with my family one summer and the second I saw the scenes of the shops by the waterfront it came right back to me and I said to my son “that’s either Rockport or Glauster Mass.” It is so pretty and that’s what New England is all about, the harbors and the Old town looks make people from all over want to visit :) Great movie and beautiful scenery -makes me so proud of where I am from :)

black eyed susans kitchen September 10, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Love those cabinets in the kitchen!!

Megan May 3, 2012 at 11:19 pm

I love reading through and looking at all your wonderful work, I must admit I loved the movie but even more so I love that bed!!! Does anyone have any clue as to where it’s from? I have gone almost crazy trying to figure it out, thanks and as always enjoyed the amazing pics!

Megan June 7, 2012 at 4:33 pm

It’s a very nice house and a good movie aswell, but i was born and raised in Sitka and they should have found a house to film in, in sika, I was totally upset with that!!

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