The Outer Banks Beach House from “Message in a Bottle”

Message in a Bottle movie Kevin Costner's House MaineIf there’s one movie that always makes me want to pack up and move to the Outer Banks, it’s the Nicholas Sparks weepie Message in a Bottle, even though it turns out it wasn’t actually filmed there. Kevin Costner’s beach house in it looks so romantic and relaxed–and the views of the water don’t hurt, either.

I watched it again today and was surprised by how well the sets have held up since the late ’90s when the movie was filmed. Nothing really looks dated. Coastal Living ran a feature at the time on the production design and their photos of it are gorgeous, too.

Kevin Costner played Garret, a grieving widower who writes his late wife Catherine love letters and sends them out to sea in–you guessed it!–bottles. When newspaper writer Theresa (Robin Wright) finds one of them on the beach, she decides to track the author down.

Production Designer Jeffrey Beecroft told the magazine he was trying to tell the story with objects instead of words: “I wanted the character’s house to feel isolated and somehow romantically haunted, but comfortably masculine, too.”

The interior of Garret’s house was intended to evoke the inside of a ship.

Here’s how Garret’s kitchen looked when it was photographed for Coastal Living:

The producers originally planned to film on Tangier Island in Virginia, but the town council found some of the things in the script objectionable and wanted to make revisions to it before giving permission to shoot there.

Warner Brothers then tried Martha’s Vineyard, “but they were denied permission to build a temporary 3,000-square-foot house on stilts in the dunes near Chilmark Pond.” (Via

According to the movie’s website (which is no longer active), they ended up filming in Maine:

Garret lives on a small island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where the town’s inhabitants exist on the bounty and recreational opportunities provided by the sea.

The beautiful coastline of Maine was chosen as a stand-in for the chain of islands off the North Carolina coast, utilizing various cities near the maritime town of Bath, including New Harbor, Boothbay Harbor and Popham Beach.

Beecroft decided to use a small waterfront house on Popham Beach as Garret’s residence, and over $250,000 worth of renovations were done to it to get it ready for filming.

The filmmakers added an addition for Catherine’s artwork, as well as the adjacent living room. After filming ended, however, the owner demanded that everything be returned to its original state. Can you believe that? The production company spent almost as much undoing everything as they did fixing it up. (Via

At the end of the movie we know Garret has finally moved on because he has cleared out his dead wife’s art supplies and replaced them with his sailing stuff:

Love the screened porch:

The set photos were featured in the March/April 1999 issue of Coastal Living. Many thanks to the blog A Schematic Life for scanning them (the ones I used are hers) and mentioning some of the information from the article. You can see more there. Photos were taken by Bruce Buck.

There are a couple of things you can look forward to in most Nicholas Sparks movies–great sets (like the inn on the beach from Nights in Rodanthe), and a tearful ending. In case you haven’t seen Message in a Bottle, I won’t ruin it for you, but keep a box of tissues nearby when you watch it.

One of my favorites was Noah’s House with the blue shutters in The Notebook. I was excited to hear from a reader recently whose family originally owned it.

The house from the movie The NotebookShe sent me amazing old photos of how it looked when it was newly built in the early 1900s that I just added to that post if you want to see them!

P.S. Click Here to see more Movie Houses, including…

Filming location for the Sandra Bullock movie The Proposal and the real house they used |

The Proposal house, which isn’t really in Alaska!

'Til There Was You movie poster
Over the years I've gotten a lot of requests to feature La Fortuna, the charming Spanish-style courtyard apartment building from the 1997 movie 'Til There…
Remember the romantic beach hut I showed you in North Cornwall where Kate Winslet spends her holidays? The rental listing for the cottage mentioned Demi…

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  1. says

    Oh, so charming… you almost can “hear” the waves, Julia!

    Thank you for always sharing places we love!

    Have a blessed week, my friend.


    Luciane at

  2. says

    Great job, per usual, Julia! Love those dark wooden floors and that black bed in the bedroom. And the exterior is perfect for a beach house!

  3. Laura says

    Absolutely LOVE that house and its interiors. We had to chuckle during the movie, though, about the “rocky coast” of North Carolina. Pretty glaring, at least for us! I live on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, near Tangier Island, and heard the whole story about them refusing the movie. Apparently Paul Newman made a quiet visit to Tangier soon after, I guess to see the place that turned down big Hollywood bucks because of a little beer drinking and swearing!

  4. betty in munich says

    As much as I liked the house in the movie, and the movie itself…as keen sailors – there were so many things wrong with the sailing sequences that are pivotal in the movie that it ruins it for me and my husband and we end up laughing through them. An experienced sailor would have never done any of that stuff and it gets to us every time.

  5. Dawn says

    Thanks for this! So relaxed and lovely and faded and cluttered. Love it so much.

    • Annabelle Kopf says

      I couldn’t agree more, Dawn! There seems to be a dearth of these homes showcased in movies these days–everything is so UNcluttered and UNfaded–this feels more real. So homey and cozy, and of course who wouldn’t want to live by the beach? :)

  6. diana says

    I didn’t know it was filmed in Maine… .love that kitchen.

  7. Donna says

    The Coastal Living photos are wonderful! Watching the film kinda made me break out in hives…so much clutter!

  8. Lee says

    I was so excited to see this post when I visited the site this morning. As I type, I’m looking out my window, over the sparkling waterways of midcoast Maine. When I first saw the movie, my reaction was from opposite perspective from what Laura (above) said (per her perch on the eastern shores of VA)… My husband and I recognized the “rocky coast” of South Carolina and looked at each other with a, “Hey!” (and we, also, laughed!). I read an article a long time ago, and Kevin Costner described midcoast Maine as “hauntingly beautiful”. When the lobster boats came into our cove this morning, just before full sunrise, I certainly would have described it that way too. Thanks Julia!

  9. says

    Thanks so much for doing this one! I love, love, love his cottage in this movie! Not sure I could live with so much stuff around, but I loved the little sunroom where her artwork sat and really liked some of the furniture. The ending of the movie totally shocked me, as I watched it with no knowledge of even what the movie was about.

    Thank you Julia! :)

  10. Marsha says

    Thank you putting this one on. I could just move in ! Reminded me that I would like to see this movie again too !

  11. Shabby Chick says

    What a gorgeous place. I’ve never seen this movie, but I don’t like weepy movies. I can’t believe the owner wanted the additions torn down!

  12. says

    Never saw the movie – but I want to now! What a great space – I love knowing where a film was REALLY filmed. I just wish more movies were filmed on the real location, not some other place claiming to be that location.

  13. says

    i’m renting a beach house on the outer banks this summer with a friend. i can not wait to smell in that air and take in all the houses. this got me excited:) weird that it wasn’t actually filmed there…won’t think about that;)

  14. says

    Great house. I can’t believe the owners didn’t want the extra rooms!

    I don’t know what it is, but this house reminds me of the one in Minority Report, the house that the wife of Tom Cruise lives in by the sea somewhere.

  15. Mary says

    Again, thank you for giving us a glimpse of these beautiful homes we’ve watched in movies. Lovely home which most are if they are by the water:)

  16. Sara says

    I love your reading your blog! I love it even more on when you do the movie house stories!!! Thanks!!

  17. Screendoorgirl 3 says

    I love this movie , this post , and Kevin Costner! Thanks for all of the background info, I love that stuff. It blows my mind how they spend so much money on a set. Thanks , Julia!……Jodi

  18. Karen says

    I loved the movie and especially the house. It was nautical, but not cutesy. Maine is beautiful and I knew that it was filmed there. How nice to live by the sea–it’s so expensive where I grew up in California and I do miss the ocean–oh to hear the surf. Love this and thank you for posting it.

  19. The Country Girl says

    Nice house, but a wooden ceiling does NOT make a house or room look like the living quarters of a ship. I lived on a large boat for several years and this assertion by the set designer is ridiculous.

    Re the renovations—My guess is that the homeowner wanted /needed the income from the location rental . S/he would most probably have ended up owing taxes on the renovations far in excess of the rental income. You’re allowed to rent your primary residence for a certain number of weeks per year without paying any taxes on that money.

  20. Kim says

    What a great beach house. After looking at these photos they make me want to live by the ocean. It’s so peaceful looking and I could definitely unwind there.

  21. Sandy says


    I made a comment a few weeks ago on your Blog this was my ALL time favorite movie because of the Movie set. I do have the Coastal Living issue with the pictures in it…but I still pinned them all :-)
    Thank You !!! so much for sharing them on your Blog.
    Now I just need to look and see if you have You, Me & Dupree my 2nd favorite and of course the Bewitch House you showed a few weeks ago….love it too.

  22. Shannon says

    Love the house, love the set design, but the best thing in it are those glimpses of Paul Newman. I miss that guy.

  23. Elvira says

    Thank you, Julia, for featuring one of my all time favourite movie houses. It has such a lovely atmosphere, beautiful lighting, just the right amount of shabby chic and especially the room where Catherine used to paint. A room with wrap around windows has been a dream of mine for decades and in this film it’s portrayed in its finest expression. Watching movies with great houses in them always gets my imagination going and this inspires me to try to reproduce it.

    Must go and watch this gem again.

  24. e. george says

    Hi Julia I love this movie cried a lot…. The house is so beautiful and so is Kevin Costner. Love the coastal look. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to watch it again but I have to try. Thank you this was beautiful. Regards Esther from Sydney. PS miss Paul Newman.

  25. Stacia says

    I remember after seeing the movie I dug out a very old pair of my keds tennis shoes. Left them on the porch the entire summer so that they would age (much more than they already had) and put them by my wicker chair. I wanted them to look like I had just slipped them off and sat down. Not sure why but I just love those shoes by Catherine’s drawing table.

    I live in Chicago and with Theresa living in Chicago I loved all the city sitings. Can you dig up any photos of Theresa’s city apartment?

    Thanks for sharing. Gonna watch that movie again tonight. Just cause I can. :)

  26. Karen says

    I second digging up any photos of Theresa’s city apartment. I loved her place too. I guess I really never noticed the clutter. It just looked lived in the way homes can look when people are busy and involved in their lives.

    My mother-in-law had a very sterile home and she was obsessive when it came to cleaning. I recall her screaming and yelling at her son, while we were dating, when he tried to cook us a steak in the oven and had it covered in foil. She yelled that now she was going to have to clean the oven. No one could enjoy themselves around her and I recall feeling uncomfortable even being in her home–sure it was spotless and there was no clutter, but it felt pretty colorless–not to mention having to cope with her hair-trigger temper.

  27. says

    We actually had the pleasure of staying in this house 3 years ago. We were looking for a summer rental in Maine and found a listing for a cottage that was in the movie “Message in a Bottle”. The family who owns it was renting it out for the summer and we signed up for a week. It’s located in Popham Beach (Bath), ME.

    We were warned beforehand that the house had been heavily propped out for the movie and that little of the actual decor from the movie remained – though we were thrilled to find the kitchen pretty much the same as it was in the movie. Regardless of the decor, it was a charming little beach cottage with great bones and was right on the ocean. What a magical place! After reading all of the comments above, I feel extra lucky to have stayed there.

    • Heather says

      Are you able to provide me with a contact person for the house or the actual address? I would truly appreciate it. Thank you!

  28. says

    Can someone please supply me with the last letter read by Theresa that was
    was written as a farewell to Cathrine. Explaining to her he has found a new true love and want to tell Theresa that he loves her.
    Please e mail me Thanks so much for your help
    Lou Sisbarro

  29. Sof says

    Your website is amazing!! Since I was a kid I’ve always appreciatted the cosiness and the feeling that a well decorated set movie house brings. Some of my favourites are the late 80’s and 90’s like “somethings gotta give”, “what women want”, “you’ve got mail”, teresa brownstone apartment in “message in a bottle”. Completely love brownstones manhattan type apartments in the fall or at night with the street lights on, like carrie’s in sex and the city and like so many other american movies.
    Keep up the good work!