In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the unforgettable glass house from the romantic drama The Lake House. Back in 2006, Speed co-stars Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves teamed up again for this remake of the South Korean film Il Mare, about a doctor who falls in love with an architect she’s never actually met.
See, Alex (Reeves) is living in 2004, but Kate (Bullock) is in 2006, which is kind of a problem. Thanks to the magic mailbox at the lake house, though, they’re able to send and receive letters to each other.
(To be honest, I’m not sure it makes much sense even if you do manage to unravel all the logic behind it. But their letter-writing romance is sweet, and there’s a cool glass house involved, so let’s focus on that.)
It was built for the film on Maple Lake in Willow Springs, Illinois. They were granted the use of the lake for filming on the condition that the lake was left exactly as it had been. Sadly, the house had to be demolished after filming.
According to the production notes:
After weeks of scanning lakefront locations in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Indiana and virtually every mile of the vast Lake Michigan shoreline for something that embodied all the necessary elements, The Lake House production team rose to the challenge and built the iconic house themselves.
Location manager James McAllister returned to Cook County, Illinois, where he had worked a decade previously on Evil Has a Face at a Forest Preserve location along the tranquil, 55-acre man-made Maple Lake. It proved to be the perfect setting: naturally serene and romantic, with the surrounding texture and terrain Agresti had in mind.
In this shot we get a look inside the house at night:
This photo (below) was a production shot, taken when the house was still being styled for the shoot:
At least half of the movie takes place in and around the glass house on the lake, which is why it’s so maddening that we get to see so little of the interior. This shot of Alex as he cooks in the kitchen is a prime example. It’s such a tight close-up that we’re left to imagine what the rest of the kitchen looks like:
This is his drafting corner (his bedroom is behind him and the kitchen is in front of him):
Alex’s father was a famous architect who built the glass house. He was played by the wonderful Christopher Plummer, who I’ve had a crush on since he was Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music…
Alex tells his brother, “This house is about ownership, not connection.” There are views all around, but no way to connect with them. “He built a house, not a home.”
British architect Nathan Crowley was the one who really designed the house. According to the website Triangle Modernist Houses:
Crowley took the 2,000 square-foot structure from sketches to completion in just ten weeks: 2 weeks design and documentation, 4 days bidding, and a scant seven weeks for actual construction. 35 tons of steel and a crew of nearly one hundred was required to finish the house by the time filming was scheduled to begin.
The house was actually constructed on dry land next to the lake, atop steel beams that rose 10 feet above the waterline, which was created by excavating nearly 1200 cubic feet of soil and letting lake waters flood in under the pilings.
“It wasn’t very big, but the logistics were a real challenge, especially in the limited time we had to do it,” Crowley says. “We even had a heating system installed to keep our actors warm.”
The house had running water, but no toilets.
Crowley, who also acted as the production designer, says:
“The house was our most important set, the one key piece around which the story revolves, so it made sense for us to create exactly what we wanted. We wanted a mixture of modern and classical, something that Alex’s father might have designed.
“In some ways its roots lie in the kind of 1960s glass box style, but we also drew from the Regency Period, a style popular in England in the early to mid-1800s, to add romance and elegance to the overall look, and even integrated some elements of greenhouses.”
Here’s a shot of the house taken during construction:
Sandra Bullock said in interviews that she loved the house and hated seeing it demolished: “I was so disappointed that I couldn’t keep it, move it, and at least use it as a guest house somewhere.” Me, too!
You can read more about the house and its construction at Triangle Modernist Houses. (The production photos were found on that site, too.)