The Houses in Steve Martin’s “Cheaper by the Dozen”

by hookedonhouses on August 27, 2012

The 2003 Steve Martin-Bonnie Hunt movie Cheaper by the Dozen was a (very loose) remake of the 1950 classic that we looked at last week. It’s about a harried couple juggling work and a busy household with 12 kids. I’ve gotten a lot of requests to see photos of the houses in the movie, and I can see why–they’re my favorite thing about it!

In the beginning, the Baker family lives in an Illinois farmhouse:

Director Shawn Levy says they shot on location in Petaluma, California, which made things a lot more difficult than they would have been on a soundstage. “I don’t know what the heck I was thinking.” But adds that he “wanted the movie to look beautiful.”

In real life, the farmhouse is a 2,000 acre apple orchard known as Two Rock Ranch.

The Production Designer for the shoot was Nina Ruscio. Set Decorator was K.C. Fox. They did a good job giving the sets the look of big-family chaos and clutter.

It was hard to get good screenshots of the rooms because the camera and the characters were always moving.

Kate is writing a book about life with 12 kids called–you guessed it–Cheaper by the Dozen.

I like how they put the kids’ artwork all over the kitchen wall:

“The thing I love about the production design in this movie is the texture of real life in every scene,” Levy says.

An Entertainment Weekly review said, “Having a big family seems like lots of fun–and then you meet someone like Tom (Steve Martin) and Kate Baker (Bonnie Hunt), whose 12 children can spill more milk and harbor more illegal pets than any other 12 children we know.”

The director says it took several days to shoot the scrambled eggs scene in the farmhouse kitchen. “We were all nauseous by the end of it from the smell of rotting eggs.” Yuck.

The twins feed the dogs in the mudroom:

Tom and Kate’s bedroom:

When Tom gets a new job as a football coach in the city, they’re all sad to leave their farmhouse behind.

The new place in Evanston kind of makes up for it, though. Wowza.

The real house is in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. According to Seeing Stars: “In the film, there is a fake street sign out front saying Forest Ave – S. 300. Ignore it. There is no Forest Ave in Hancock Park. It’s actually at the northwest corner of Lorraine Blvd. & 4th Street.”

Believe it or not, the interiors of the house were built on a soundstage.

It was a two-story set, which is really unusual. Levy wanted to be able to film the movement of the characters going up and down the stairs. He says it probably cost more than building a real house would have been.

Some of the bedrooms upstairs:

The turret room:

Love that the kitchen has a back staircase:

In an interview Steve Martin–who doesn’t have any children himself–said, “I played fathers so many times, it’s like being one. I’ve had children of every age. And like I say, I get to do everything but the dirty work. Their parents have to take them home and deal with all that.”

Just love that turret:

Last week I featured the Second Empire Victorian from the original Cheaper by the Dozen movie, which was also used in another classic, Meet Me in St. Louis.

Out of all the Cheaper by the Dozen movie houses, do you have a favorite?

P.S. Looking for the sets from a certain movie or TV show? Visit my Houses Onscreen page!

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House Crazy Sarah August 27, 2012 at 7:42 am

I love the old farmhouse and how it looks so worn and real – and I appreicate that it is REAL and not on a soundstage! The set designers must have so much fun doings these houses!

Amanda @ Serenity Now August 27, 2012 at 7:56 am

I appreciate that they did a pretty good job of showing us what the houses would look like with 12 kids living there. I loved the shot with the cool black board calendar/scheduler in the background! :)

65andcounting August 27, 2012 at 9:04 am

Just curious: when you post these movie scenes, do you Tweet it specifically to the actors? It would be fun to get their comments. Both Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt Tweet regularly so it means they would likely see (and pay attention to) your thread. Here are the two Twitter handles:


hookedonhouses August 27, 2012 at 9:35 am

I never thought to do that! What an interesting idea. I wonder if they’d respond?

65andcounting August 27, 2012 at 10:22 am

I have an alter-ego that blogs (not about houses so I don’t use that link here) and whenever I post something, I see if the relevant persons or company has a Twitter feed. Nine times out of ten, they comment or reTweet or respond. I’m a Twitter junkie. Note: just because someone has a Twitter account, doesn’t mean they actually use it. I check before bothering to add them. Some celebs got a handle because they didn’t want to lose their own name but one Tweet and done. I follow Steve Martin’s feed and he’s very active. And funny.

Hoyt Clagwell August 27, 2012 at 2:15 pm

War of the Roses would be a great movie house to cover…

Hoyt Clagwell August 27, 2012 at 2:17 pm

…And Housesitter…

Rebecca C. August 27, 2012 at 2:52 pm

It’s great that the set designers made these houses look like any house, not like some perfect house in a magazine. I love the house with the turret. Didn’t know it was in Hancock Park. I must look for it the next time I drive over there.

Kim August 27, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Thank you for sharing this. It’s one of my favorites. I love the exterior and that foyer. They are both so gorgeous.

That turret room is so cool and I never understood how the boy could be so disappointed having to sleep in it. I would love it as my room.

One of my other favorite movie houses is the one from the movie “Matilda” that the Trunchbull lived in. I love it so much it’s on my “top favorite movie houses” list.

Hoyt Clagwell August 28, 2012 at 12:31 am

I’m too tired and lazy to check my facts, but I think those scenes in Matilda were filmed in an actual house–the same used in Catch Me If You Can for the Strongs’ house.

Vicki August 27, 2012 at 4:47 pm

The houses are both great, but I would love any house that came with Steve Martin. And, hopefully, his banjo!

CottageGirl August 27, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Love all of the houses you’ve featured today …

But the one that touches my heart even after all these years, is the one from Meet Me In St. Louis.

Laura August 27, 2012 at 6:57 pm

I like the first house better. The second one is too grand for my taste.

Laura August 27, 2012 at 6:59 pm

By the way, I’d love to see you show the house from “The Love Letter” with Kate Capshaw and Ellen DeGeneres. Kind of a goofy movie but the sets are gorgeous!!!!!!

Anne @strawberryjampackedlife August 27, 2012 at 7:57 pm

I love both of those houses. My cousins’ Victorian house in Indiana has a back staircase. I was always so jealous.
By the way, did you know that the real-life “Cheaper by the Dozen” parents were industrial engineers / efficiency experts who often used their large family to conduct experiments.

Wendy August 27, 2012 at 11:03 pm

No Way!!! We just drove through Two Rock last weekend and I told my husband for about the eleven hundredth time that I should be living out in the country in Sonoma or West Marin. Dang. I’ll have to look out for that house next time.

paula soares August 28, 2012 at 12:48 am

Kirst, Thankyou Julia for posting this: it is a timeless film( love it) and congratulations to the set design because they had a really good job of showing a daily life house,in a film for real….

Terry August 28, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Giggle, giggle. I know these were movie sets, but! How refreshing to see rooms that are not “after” photos or have been scrubbed, polished and culled into submission prior to a photo layout or sales brochure. My children have moved on but at least one room of the house needs to be dusted, my cat Daffodil has left a hair ball somewhere, breakfast dishes need to be put in the dishwasher as soon as I unload the darned thing, my perfectly organized pantry somehow came undone sometime during the night, I need to go to the grocery store so won’t reorganize the pantry right now and I still don’t have the paper management thing down in spite of all the tips I get from I just purchased a new book so I guess I will fire up the old Kindle and get to reading.

Bridget August 28, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Wow! The old farmhouse is in my home town! I’ve never seen it. I’ll have to google it or ask my parents about it. Fun!

Bridget August 29, 2012 at 1:33 am
hookedonhouses August 29, 2012 at 6:13 am

Thanks, Bridget!

Bridget September 8, 2012 at 1:54 am

Just had to share that this same house made the local newspaper. It’s going to be one of the hertiage tour homes in Petaluma in a couple of weeks:

I guess you’ll know what I’ll be doing that day!

Kind regards!

hookedonhouses September 8, 2012 at 8:52 am

Oh, wow! I’d love to be able to take that tour. Thanks for the link, Bridget!

Screendoorgirl 3 August 31, 2012 at 7:26 pm

I remember watching this movie and loving those spice colored dining chairs. I’m so happy you have a blog for me to relive them! I prefer the second house–too much clutter at the farmhouse.

Bridget September 17, 2012 at 2:33 am

My sister and I toured the farm house today. The house is used as a wedding location besides being an organic apple farm. To compare your pictures above with what we saw today was like night and day. The house was quite stark. We walked in the front door to see a large office type of room to the right. A long hallway straight a head with the staircase. To the left was the livingroom and further left was the kitchen. We were not allowed upstairs as somebody is living there. Everything I loved about the house was missing. The house we saw today seemed like a shell in comparison. The property was truly beautiful but the house seem to lack warmth the movie showed it had.

hookedonhouses September 17, 2012 at 7:47 am

Interesting that it’s so different in real life! Thanks, Bridget.

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