All hail Nancy Meyers, the queen of romantic comedies like The Holiday that never fail to deliver memorable sets. When she teams up with Production Designer Jon Hutman for a movie like this, you know they’re going to be good!
I think we all fell in love with the charming stone house where Kate Winslet’s character Iris lived. Here’s a look at how they built it for the movie and managed to make it look like it had been there forever.
*UPDATE: Amanda’s house from the movie is on the market! Click here to see the listing photos and details.*
Rosehill Cottage in “The Holiday”
In The Holiday, Amanda jumps at the chance to stay in Iris’s “fairy tale English cottage” when she sees this listing:
And who can blame her? The exterior almost looks like a painting, but it was real…sort of.
Building Rosehill Cottage for “The Holiday”
Production Designer Jon Hutman explained in the DVD commentary:
“We were looking for the cutest, smallest, most English cottage that we could find, and we found one, actually, that belonged to the National Trust.” But it was over four hours from London and “very isolated,” which would make it more expensive to film, since they’d have to take the entire crew out there.
In the end, they decided it was more sensible to build their own closer to London.
They did extensive landscaping around the cottage, even though little of it is shown in the film:
They built Rosehill Cottage in only two weeks, including the stone wall that looked like it’d been there forever:
“We built that wall and we put in those trees. It really was just an empty field,” Meyers said. “It was a real tourist attraction while it was there.” Despite the fact that it was in a remote area, hundreds of people went to see it each day.
“But it’s gone now,” she said. Because it was just a shell, it was torn down after filming.
Here’s how it looked in the movie, covered in (fake) snow and ice:
Inside Rosehill Cottage on “The Holiday” Set:
The interiors were created on a Culver City soundstage in California.
They originally planned to decorate the interior of the cottage with a mix of more contemporary furnishings. The back story was going to be that Iris moved there from a small flat in London and brought them with her.
In the DVD commentary, Meyers and Hutman say the modern furniture didn’t look right in the cottage sets, though. It began to look too much like the decorating in Amanda’s house, so they went in a more traditional direction.
Hutman said, “A lot of it is trial and error. It comes down to how do you make it feel English without making it look like a grandmother’s house?”
“We pushed furniture around in there forever,” Meyers said. “We kept trying different things. But I think we arrived at the right thing.”
“It looked a little too cheap and a little too young” with the more contemporary furnishings, Hutman said. And I think we’re all happy they went this route!
There’s always warm lighting in the cottage to make it look cozy, Meyers said.
She told Director of Photography Dean Cundey not to do wide shots because she wanted it to feel small and cozy.
Because of those close-ups, it was difficult to see all the details they put into the rooms. But we can see more of them in set photos like this one of the bedroom (below) courtesy of Columbia Pictures:
The small bathroom with the short tub was adorable:
But it also worked as a sight gag when Cameron Diaz stretched out in it:
If it weren’t for this production photo of Iris’s cozy library, we wouldn’t have seen much of it:
Here’s how it looked in the movie, seen from the kitchen door:
“Iris’s kitchen is filled with life, unlike Cameron’s, which was large and beautiful but didn’t have the same kind of warmth in it,” Meyers said.
We saw how Iris brought warmth and life to Amanda’s kitchen in L.A. when she was there, filling it with flowers, food, and friends.
A rare shot of the back of the house shows the little addition where Iris’s library was:
The town of Shere (in Surrey) was only about an hour outside London, so they decided to use it for the village scenes:
England doesn’t get a lot of snow, so they added it to the streets before Cameron Diaz drove through:
Jon Hutman said his favorite set in the movie was the girls’ bedroom at Mill House with the tent:
“At the premiere, Ed Burns said he wanted me to go to his house and build a tent for his kids!”
I also featured the “Mill House” where Jude Law’s character lived if you want to read about it:
The sets they built for Amanda’s house in California had 8,000 square feet. Iris’s was closer to 1,000.
“But the truth is, we all liked the cottage better,” Meyers said.
Jon Hutman agreed, saying whenever he asks someone which house they’d rather live in, this is the one they choose.
In case you missed it, the California house from The Holiday is on the market and you can see it here:
And if you’re in the mood to see the movie again, you can stream it on Amazon (affiliate link):
This is one I like watching every year around the holidays. It’s the next-best thing to going to England and renting a cottage of my own for Christmas! 🙂
P.S. Visit my Houses Onscreen page to see more I’ve featured, including It’s Complicated:
NOTE: Below is the original post as it appeared in 2010 before I updated it and republished it here.
My favorite part of the romantic comedy The Holiday? The houses! So let’s take a closer look at them, starting with Iris’s cozy stone cottage in the English countryside.
This is the ad that Iris (played by Kate Winslet) places online as part of a “house swapping” program, where you stay free at someone else’s place while they’re at yours:
Amanda (played by Cameron Diaz) jumps at the chance to spend the holidays in Iris’s “fairy tale English cottage.” Who wouldn’t?
Lucky for us, stills of the sets were taken by Columbia Pictures that show details in the rooms that we might have missed in the movie itself.
The stone fireplace:
The mantel decorated for Christmas:
As Graham moves from the living room to the kitchen we get a glimpse of the china hutch:
There’s a door to the book-lined library from the kitchen:
This may be my favorite room in the entire cottage, but we see very little of it in the movie:
Love the built-ins the bedroom has, which you can see in this scene where Amanda tries to cram all her stuff into them:
Producers chose the picturesque streets of Shere (in Surrey) for the village scenes. They wanted snow so it would look more like Christmas time, so they added it:
Building the Cottage:
Sadly, Iris’s cottage isn’t real. A fake exterior was built within 2 weeks in the middle of an empty field (screenshots via the DVD Special Features):
They did extensive landscaping around the cottage, even though little of it is shown in the film, and most of what you do see is covered in (fake) snow:
The film crew created everything that you see in the movie, down to the stone wall that seems to have been there forever: