The Beach House from “Sleeping With the Enemy”

Sleeping with the Enemy Cape Cod Beach House

When Julia Roberts fakes her own death in the 1991 movie Sleeping With the Enemy, she flees this contemporary Cape Cod beach house where she had lived with her abusive husband, played by Patrick Bergin. Just like her marriage, this house looks good at first, but we soon learn that it’s a kind of isolated prison for her.

Tortured wife Laura Burney spends a lot of time looking out at the ocean. Later in the story, we learn that it’s because she is planning to escape in it.

This Cape Cod beach house isn’t really on the East Coast. According to several sources, the exterior was the Shell Island Resort Hotel in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. They say it was shot from angles that obscured enough of the building to make it appear to be a house.

However, when I looked up the Shell Island Resort Hotel, this is what I saw:

It’s hard for me to believe any kind of angles could make this look like the house in the movie. A reader named Evie insists a single-family home was used for exterior shots, not the resort. She adds that it still stands on Figure Eight Island near her family’s beach house.

*8/11 UPDATE: A reader sent me photos of how the beach house facade looked during filming. Here’s the front:

Sleeping with the Enemy Beach House |

And here’s how it looked from the back, revealing that it was only a shell:

Thanks to Mike in NC for passing these photos along!

According to, the interiors were filmed separately: “Filmmakers created a 3,000-foot temporary structure on Shell Islanta, a man-made extension on the north end of Wrightsville Beach. The house overlooked Mason Inlet and nearby Figure Eight Island. After wrapping, 20th Century Fox demolished the house and restored the dunes to their original condition, planting sea oats and beach grass (from A Film Junkies’ Guide to Wrightsville Beach).”

An article in The New Yorker cites Cathy Whitlock on the topic:

A beach house was built from scratch for the film ‘Sleeping with the Enemy.’ Whitlock writes that the entire design concept for “Sleeping with the Enemy,” kudos for which go to production designer Doug Kraner, was centered on the notion that the film would be divided visually into two worlds: Laura’s secluded life at the beach house with her abusive husband, and her “new” life in a small town in Iowa with Ben, the painfully dorky drama professor.

Looking into the house from the outside, we see Laura sitting at the vanity in the bedroom:

The kitchen is gray, sleek, and modern. The whole house seems to reflect Martin Burney. Laura spends a lot of time in here preparing gourmet meals for her husband and hoping that they meet his approval. In her spare time, she arranges flowers in vases. There doesn’t seem to be much else for her to do, besides making sure all the towels are perfectly lined up…

Julia Roberts Sleeping with the Enemy Beach House Kitchen |

Looking from the kitchen into the living room:

Sleeping with the Enemy |

Everything is black and white, including the imposing painting that hangs over the fireplace:

Sleeping with the Enemy Beach House |

The black floors are so shiny you can see yourself in them:

Sleeping with the Enemy Beach House |

Sleeping with the Enemy Beach House |

In the bathroom, we see that the hand towels aren’t as straight as Martin likes them to be, and that’s never good…

Sleeping with the Enemy Beach House |

After Laura “drowns,” Martin closes up the beach house. In this shot of their bedroom, you can see the walls of windows overlooking the water:

Sleeping with the Enemy Beach House |

In Roger Ebert’s review of the film from 1991, he questioned a lot of the details:

I kept having questions, such as: (1) If the wedding ring is still in the bottom of the toilet, does that mean the toilet hadn’t been used for weeks? (2) How did the woman in the YWCA class get Bergin’s number at work? (3) How did Roberts pay her mother’s nursing home bill in the six months after she told her husband the mother was dead? (4) How did Bergin know where Roberts lived before she led him there? (5) How is it possible, in a small house, for a man to avoid discovery while slinking around rearranging all of the towels and canned goods? (6) Why would he bother, anyway?

Sleeping with the Enemy Beach House |

Sleeping with the Enemy Beach House |

The movie was based on a novel by Nancy Price. Apparently the beach house in the book was kind of a ratty little shack. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed the movie as much if they had gone that route! 😉

Julia signature 4

P.S. Julia Roberts’ Victorian Cottage from the movie is for sale:

Sleeping with the Enemy Julia Roberts' white cottage

Sleeping with the Enemy Julia Roberts' white cottage
I've gotten a lot of requests to see the houses from the 1991 Julia Roberts movie Sleeping with the Enemy. Some people ask to see…
Filming location for movie "Secretariat" in Louisiana
I was excited to hear that the farmhouse where they filmed the movie Secretariat is on the market so we can see what it looks like off-screen. This…

See More


  1. says

    Ha – don’t laugh at me Julia, but I may have the answer for #1. When I was a kid, our family went on vacation, staying in a hotel. When we arrived, there was a penny in the toilet. We got a good chuckle out of it — because — it never disappeared during our stay, no matter how many times the toilet got flushed. If a penny is too heavy to flush, I’ll bet a wedding band is too! =)

  2. coffee mug in hand says

    I hated that movie. Part of it is because I’m not a fan of Julia Roberts.

    • Tammy says

      Amen! I don’t know if I’d hate the movie or not — I refuse on principle to see any movie with Julia Roberts, because I simply can’t stand her, her ginormous mouth, and her gigantic nostrils. Ick!

      As to the beach house — definitely not anything I’d like. I prefer a Victorian-esque Cape May-ish looking house.

    • says

      I didn’t care that much for the movie, either; not because of Julia Roberts, though. It was just that there were, as Roger Egbert said in his review, too many holes in the plot. As for the beach house, it didn’t appeal to me at all.

  3. says

    I thought that was a scary movie and this beach house looks scary, too. The Iowa house is more my style. I remember wondering how someone could hide in that house without her knowing it.

    I do like Julia Roberts, though.

    • Juani says

      I also prefer the Iowa house – even though I like being near a beach,this house is wayyy too modern and clinical-looking for my taste.

  4. says

    I loved the setting of this house, but the house itself seemed very dark and depressing. Of course, it was planned that way to set the mood. I’m always astounded that so much money goes into movies. They built it specifically for the movie, and then demolished it?! It seems like such a waste. This is definitely the type of house I’d love to get my hands on, and transform it from dark and gloomy to light and cheery.

  5. says

    For such a beautiful setting, the beach seems so dark and foreboding (on purpose, of course). I much preferred Julia’s little cottage in the small town. :)

  6. says

    I thought the whole thing was really creepy – especially HIM!! The house looks very cold and sad :(

  7. says

    I haven’t seen the movie and the house doesn’t look spooky to me at all. But now I’m curious how that might change when I do see the movie! By the way, I do like the house since, well, what’s not to love about any beach house, but I don’t like everything about it. That floor is way too shiny, for example, and the place feels a bit too modern for me.

  8. says

    There is a book called “Cape Fear Beaches” that has a picture of the woman who owned the land the beach house sat on, sitting on the set of the beach house. It says that it is “at the north end of Shell Island.” I believe that the beach house was a set that was built right above the Shell Island Hotel and was torn down after the movie. Being as it looks to have been on a point of an inlet and the ocean (I studied the movie way too much when researching the other house), if the house still existed, it would have been an easy house to spot but I could not find any houses like it so close to the beach or waterway to have been it.

  9. says

    I thought the movie was scary and creepy and I thought the set folks did an amazing job creating that ambiance while still making the house seem realistic for living. Of course, I loved the little cottage, as comfortable is definitely my way of living!

  10. says

    Great post! This house was so cold and overbearing. Very much like Roberts’ abusive husband. That being said I know a lot of people that like the OCD, austere beach house. Bethenny Frankel is one of them, and my hair stylist is another. I’m off to send him the link to this now!

    P.S. Lined up hand towels and cans STILL freak me out to this day. Ebert raised a lot of excellent questions with his movie review.

  11. Kim says

    I’m not a big fan of the Beach house at all. It does have that abusive feel to it and I haven’t seen the movie. I definitely like the victorian home so much more.

  12. says

    The setting/lighting for this part of the movie was perfect. The house seems very cold and creepy, just like her abusive husband. The one part about this movie that always bugs me – why couldn’t she just wait and dispose of the ring later or at least toss it in the ocean?

    • shelly joseph says

      I was mad at that ring too.

      I always thought why didn’t she toss it in the ocean or sell it a pawn shop on the road. Anything but toss it in the house of the physco she lived with.. I can’t tell you how that ring has bothered me.. Well I now I know never flush a ring or a penny cause they will stay right there… :-)

  13. says

    Mysterious…Roger Ebert’s questions are interesting. Great post. A little scary before bedtime though.

  14. E. George says

    Hi Julia hope you are doing well – lets see I’m scared of water and with a husband like that I would feel caught between a rock and a hard place so I like her home a lot more…… Regards Esther from Sydney

  15. Lily says

    It would be interesting for you to do a post on how production crews build an entire house just to destroy it after filming is done. So much work involved! I would love to see pictures of the process.

  16. margie says

    My parents bought a cottage at the Cape 40 years ago, and when I saw this movie, I knew it was NOT the Cape. Can’t fake it…so why bother?????????

  17. says

    How did Julia Robert’s character know she would ever go out on a boat to put her plan into action? Some say she must have set the plan up with the neighbouring doctor. If so, I bet he was p***** off when she went to Iowa

  18. Janna says

    I am a huge fan of Julia Robert’s so I don’t know why people are judging her..she is a great role model and she is not ugly or annoying….I have watched all her movies she had done and there favourite 2 movies were stepmom and pretty woman…….I have met her twice and she is so nice and I got to meet her children and her husband…such a nice family

  19. Karen Loveless says

    I live in Wilmington where this movie was filmed! Another interesting house is pictured here as well. If you look at the picture of the back of the fake house, look across the water and to the far right. The white house similar to this fake one was used for scenes from Weekend at Bernie’s. It is located on Figure Eight Island which is a private island where many famous people have vacationed!

  20. Heather says

    I lived at Wrightsville beach when this was filmed. The “house” was actually built a few yards north of the Shell Island Resort. But Elle Decor might need a geography lesson, too. Wrightsville Beach is indeed actually on the East Coast. Who does their writing?

  21. Vicky says

    Julia Roberts is stunningly beautiful and I enjoy all her movies. No need for haters to bash her. I live in NC just a short distance from Wilmington and Figure Eight Island and have spend many great times at Shell Island Resort located at the north end of Wrightsville Beach which about as far East Coast as you can get. Figure Eight Island is an exclusive island of very wealthy beach homes and is restricted from general public access.

    Although I could live in either house, I would definitely choose the contemporary beach house. I would desire a housekeeper though to keep those floors shiny and dust free; and keeping all that glass crystal clear from sea mist could really be a challenge!

  22. Vicky says

    It looks like a lot of expense went into building the set. I wonder why they didn’t just finish the house throughout then sell it after the movie was finished. I read above where the land was owned by a lady. I’m sure she was paid well for the use of the land but could have probably made millions selling a famous movie house.

  23. says

    The Victorian house was not in Iowa. It is in Abbeville,SC. I know. I watched the filming there. Beautiful historical town in the upstate part ofSC.

  24. amy says

    Since when is North Carolina, which borders the Atlantic Ocean not on the East Coast?