Miss Honey’s Cottage & More from the Movie “Matilda”

by hookedonhouses on September 10, 2012

T he 1996 movie Matilda, based on the Roald Dahl children’s book about a gifted girl born into a family that doesn’t love her, can be a little disturbing to watch at times. Like when her parents, played by Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman, leave their newborn in the back of the station wagon, or when the evil Principal Trunchbull throws a sweet little student out of the playground by her pigtails.

But what keeps it from playing like a horror movie are the sets. We’ve got Miss Honey’s sweet cottage that becomes a safe haven for Matilda. Miss Trunchbull’s big old house gets fixed up by the end and becomes beautiful again. And even Matilda’s family home, which is over-the-top tacky, is colorful, retro fun. Let’s look!

THE WORMWOOD FAMILY RANCH HOUSE

Matilda’s family–shady car salesman Mr. Wormwood, daily BINGO player Mrs. Wormwood, and her bullying big brother Mikey–live in this colorful ranch.

Production Designer for this film was Bill Brzeski. Set Decorator was Jennifer Polito, who also worked on another fave of mine, Gilmore Girls–as well as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

They did an amazing job creating houses that were like characters in the movie–and that reinforced our ideas about the people who lived in them.

Matilda was left to fend for herself from the day they brought her home from the hospital.

I had to get a close-up of this orange flowered wallpaper in the kitchen because I grew up with something similar in mine. Brings back memories! My mom was so happy to finally get rid of it.

Gotta love these giant lamps in the living room. The set decorators must have had a blast putting together the Wormwood sets!

The Wormwoods chide their daughter for reading books instead of watching TV with the rest of the family.

MISS HONEY’S COTTAGE

My favorite set in the movie had to be Miss Honey’s cottage. Matilda’s teacher is the first adult who recognizes that she’s special. She tells Matilda that she had a difficult childhood, too, but she’s happy now. After she grew up and left home (and her evil step-aunt), she got her own little house with its own little garden. Who wouldn’t be happy here?

If only we had gotten to see more of it! This little scene where they have tea in the kitchen is our only peek inside.

The story of Matilda has a definite fairytale quality to it, so this cottage fits right in.

THE TRUNCHBULL’S HOUSE

Miss Honey’s horrible Aunt Trunchbull runs the Crunchem Hall grade school. The actress who played her is Pam Ferris, who you may recognize from Harry Potter.

There are some similarities between Matilda and Harry Potter, if you think about it. The Wormwoods are basically an American version of the Dursleys, the nasty Muggle family Harry had to live with. Soon after they discovered their powers, Matilda and Harry are sent off to school where they are recognized for being special. And they both do the whole fighting-against-evil thing, too.

“The Trunchbull,” as they call her, took over her brother’s house after his death. The grand old house is looking pretty sad under her care.

Miss Honey and Matilda sneak into the house when she’s gone to retrieve some of her things, like a treasured doll named Liccy (which was the name of Roald Dahl’s wife).

Where a painting of Miss Honey’s father Magnus used to hang over the fireplace, they find one of the Trunchbull from her track and field days instead:

(Have to add–Ferris also appeared on one of my favorite British sitcoms, Gavin & Stacey.)

Mara Wilson, who played Matilda, sadly lost her own mother to breast cancer during the filming of the movie. She bravely finished out her shooting schedule anyway, and the film was dedicated to Suzie Wilson in the credits.

Mr. Wormwood sold Trunchbull a clunker–this 1970 Buick Electra 225 sedan–and she vows revenge:

After Miss Honey returns to the house, it comes to life again:

She and Matilda have tea on the lovely front porch.

Danny Devito directed and narrated the film.

The Wormwoods sign the adoption papers giving custody to Miss Honey without a second thought.

Her father’s painting has been restored over the mantel now:

And Matilda gets to sleep in Miss Honey’s old bedroom:

If the house looks familiar, it may be because it has appeared in other movies and TV shows. For instance, it was the Omega Beta Zeta sorority house in Scream 2 and the site of Frank and Brenda’s engagement party in Catch Me If You Can.

In real life, it’s known as Fair Oaks Ranch in Altadena, California. It has 7 bedrooms, 4 baths, and nearly 6,500 square feet. Iamnotastalker has all the deets and took this photo of how it looks today. Visit her blog to learn more about it. (Thanks to Kim for sharing her research about it with me!)

Anyone else have fond memories of this movie because of the houses–or ones from other children’s movies?

 Mara Wilson also appeared in two other great “house movies:”



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Deb September 10, 2012 at 8:58 am

My kids love that movie :)

Tanya W September 10, 2012 at 9:05 am

I loved this movie when I was growing up… thanks for posting this!

Jane September 10, 2012 at 9:05 am

I would have loved to have seen more of Miss Honey’s cottage also. I watch a lot of children’s movies for the settings. Really love the cottage in Nanny McPhee Returns. Just adorable.

hookedonhouses September 10, 2012 at 9:39 am

That’s another good one!

Megan Hull September 10, 2012 at 9:06 am

That cottage just makes me want to have a yard FULL of foxgloves!

hookedonhouses September 10, 2012 at 9:38 am

Me, too, Megan!

House Crazy Sarah September 10, 2012 at 9:27 am

Never saw that movie – but now I’m intrigued! Poor Miss Honey looks emaciated!

hookedonhouses September 10, 2012 at 9:37 am

Yes, she really should eat a sandwich. I think she was subsisting mainly on tea, poor thing.

Farmeress September 10, 2012 at 9:30 am

Our 7 year old granddaughter Amy (wants to be a librarian) insisted we take home (11 hour drive) author Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” to read and send back to “her library.” We read it aloud while driving home (Sping). I did not know this author but for his children’s titles. Husband did for adult stories. You can not imagine how enjoyable this read was!!! Read all available about the interesting author and rented Matilda movie when the grands visited this summer. Danny DeVito & Rhea Perlman, while Americanizing it from its charming English roots, did a very entertaining interpretaion close to the story. Miss Honey’s cottage was s sweet and reflected her kind- full of goodness character so beautifully. If you enjoyed the movie…read the book! Whatever your age you will enjoy it so much! Oh, we accumulated 30 cents in overdue fines! But we’re your grandparents Amy-! “Yes, but I run a small operation Nana… and I have expenses.”

hookedonhouses September 10, 2012 at 9:37 am

Love this. I’d say that was thirty cents well spent by Operation Nana. Ha. :-)

Farmeress September 10, 2012 at 9:34 am

Oh too, the picture over the mantle in the “grand house” is author Roald Dahl.

hookedonhouses September 10, 2012 at 9:36 am

I forgot to add that bit of info. Thanks!

Marm September 10, 2012 at 9:45 am

Our family enjoyed this book and movie too. I didn’t notice the Miss Honey actress looking so skeletal in the movie, but that picture of her having tea with Matilda is downright scary.

Marie C. September 10, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Julia, thank you for this lovely, lovely post. You are one in a million! I just have one itty-bitty question: I thought Roald Dahl’s wife was Patricia Neal, the actress. Did he call her “Liccy?” I’d looove to know!

hookedonhouses September 10, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Marie–That’s right, he was married to the actress Patricia Neal first, for 30 years. They had 5 children together. But they divorced in 1983 and he married Felicity “Liccy” Crosland.

Marie C. September 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Thanks! I appreciate that…I googled the question, but nothing was mentioned about that 2nd wife…those rascals!

Abby R September 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I love that you covered this movie! I’m 28 years old but I still love Matilda :)

Melanie Penelope September 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Me too!

Amanda @ Serenity Now September 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Timely. We finished listening to Dahl’s “Matilda” on CD not too long ago, and the girls loved it. The Wormwood home is definitely a character all on its own!!!

Sherry September 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm

That very wallpaper was in the kitchen of my childhood home, exquisitely ornamented by a giant wooden fork and spoon hung below the clock, lol! The master bedroom featured deep pile orange shag carpet. I do love Miss Honey’s sweet cottage.

Deb September 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Ha ha!! We had the big wooden spoon and fork too! I wish my mom had kept them :)

hookedonhouses September 10, 2012 at 1:42 pm

My grandma had them, too. I remember being kind of fascinated by the giant fork and spoon when I was little! :)

Melanie Penelope September 10, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Oh no! I hadn’t heard about Mara losing her mother during filming :(

Thank you for another great post full of beautiful homes and interesting information :)

Jill Valeri@The Welcome Home September 10, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Funny coincidence. My daughters have just started watching this movie (they latch onto a movie and watch it repeatedly). I catch it in bits and pieces and the sets are like characters. They are more than merely a back drop to the action.

I loved Miss Honey’s cottage and would have liked to see more of it too.

Great ending!

Kim September 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm

I was so happy and excited to come here and see the “Matilda” sets on your site. Thank you so much for posting this. I have loved Ms. Trunchbull’s house ever since I saw the movie “Matilda” when I was little. It’s one of my top favorite tv/movie houses.

You’re Welcome on finding the Matilda house location. I was so excited to have found it because I searched for it for years.

Kim September 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I also meant to mention, did you know that Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito are married in real life? They’ve been married for 30 years. I stumbled upon that years ago.

hookedonhouses September 10, 2012 at 7:46 pm

That’s right! They are married. I think they’re such an interesting and creative couple.

Kim September 11, 2012 at 1:27 am

You’re right, they are an interesting and creative couple.

Sarah September 16, 2012 at 6:09 pm

And, according to a tell-all book by their ex-nanny, they’re lovely people, good parents and kind to their staff.

belledame September 10, 2012 at 6:35 pm

my favorite kids movie. the first time i saw it i thought the whole story was matilda’s exaggerated imagination. but you have miss honey there as an adult witness to trunchbull’s tyranny. still, you have to view it with a child’s eye. it crumbles under real world analysis. miss honey’s cottage is dreamy and impractical. no stove, no insulation in the walls – really not up to code. crunchem hall is shockingly dilapidated. what school district would allow a school to remain open in such disrepair. all those nails in the pokey are a lawsuit waiting to happen. …and hurling children out of windows?

it is a darling film.

e. george September 11, 2012 at 5:28 am

I love this movie. When we were kids there were not that many good kids movies on TV so I’m making up for lost time. I think Miss Honeys cottage is beautiful. Just watched a show called Live The Dream as seen on Screen it’s about villages and homes used in tv shows in Britain they spoke to an American lady from Ohio who moved to UK and bought this 500 year old thatched cottage she did do a lot of work on it but gee it was beautiful and the village what can I say…… Till next time Regards Esther (still a kid at heart) from Sydney. PS Thank you for sharing as always. I loved the way this movie ended.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy... September 11, 2012 at 8:13 am

Awesome. But I’m bummed that we don’t get to see more of that cottage. SO precious.

Rebecca September 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I’m so happy you posted about this movie. I actually asked about it awhile back. This was one of my favorite movies as a child and now my daughter is obsessed with the movie. (I watch it with her quite often too just to admire Ms. Honey’s childhood home) Thanks for posting!!!

apsutter September 12, 2012 at 12:16 am

I loved this book as a tiny little girl and loved the movie when it came out too! Miss Honey’s cottage is what started my love affair with storybook cottages. I love movies that are whimsical and sweet like this. I tend to prefer mid-century modern homes so it pains me to see how oddly decorated the Wormwood household is. I do like the green steps in front of the house though.

Tracie September 12, 2012 at 8:37 pm

So glad you posted this. The movie came out before I had children, so I have never seen it. It’s been the perfect movie for a quiet family evening….as a teacher, I can only hope to be as kind as Miss Honey and also hope my 10 year old twins will always be as strong and determined as Matilda. The sets were great, too! My boys commented that the big house reminds them of our aunt and uncle’s house in New York…..they are so in tune with decoration already….haha…wonder where they get it??

Anyhow, I love this site and needed to let you know that you how you affect families even more than just moms decorating. Also, how sad about the little girl’s mother passed away during filming….

Tracie September 12, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Also, I looked up Embeth Davidtz, who plays miss honey, and she was in Shindler’s List….perhaps the tea scenes were filmed during that time? even though the years don’t match up, maybe the filming does….

Carole Roth September 13, 2012 at 12:08 am

Pam Ferris was also in my favorite series, “The Darling Buds Of May”.

Jordan September 30, 2012 at 12:20 pm

This unmistakeable interiors of this home served as the home of one of Martin Sheen’s other characters, President Bartlet. In the “West Wing”, the interior played the New Hampshire home of President Bartlet, his wife Dr. Abbey Bartlet (Stockard Channing) and their daughter Zoey (Elisabeth Moss). The producers used a more modest farmhouse with a wrap around front porch for the exterior shots.

Jordan September 30, 2012 at 12:27 pm

***I am referring to Ms. Trunchbull’s house.

Terri January 12, 2013 at 4:37 pm

This looks like “Ducky’s house” from NCIS.

Allen526 June 22, 2013 at 7:59 pm

this exterior was used on NCIS : )

Andrea January 20, 2013 at 10:11 am

One of my favorite movies. Thank you for posting all those photos – especially the ones of Miss Honey’s cottage!
The cottage garden reminds me a little of the Oakhurst neighborhood in Decatur, GA. There are some really beautiful gardens there with a lovely overgrown look. Just add some honeysuckle, jasmine, wisteria and kudzu, and you’ve moved Miss Honey to GA.

Allen526 June 22, 2013 at 7:57 pm

The Trunchbuls house has been my dream home since I first saw the movie when I was four Im 21 now and still love the movie and house !! Thank you so much or posting !!

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