The new Netflix show “Locke & Key” revolves around the mysteries hidden inside this grand old mansion. The magical ancestral family home is known as Keyhouse, and today I’m giving you the tour with all the scoop on how they created it and where the show was filmed (hint: it’s not really in Massachusetts!).
“Locke & Key” is based on the popular comic book series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. It’s about Nina Locke and her three children, Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode, who move across the country in search of a fresh start after their father’s murder.
To say they get more than they bargained for after moving into this long-abandoned mansion would be an understatement.
The kids soon discover that their father’s childhood home comes with magical keys that are hidden around the property. But the magic and long-held secrets the keys reveal unleash powers they never could’ve imagined.
Take a look!
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The Keyhouse in “Locke & Key” on Netflix
You know this isn’t going to be your average family home when they arrive at the front gates.
“Locke & Key” is set in the fictional small town of Matheson, Massachusetts,
but the filming locations were actually in Canada. The exterior of Keyhouse was built in Toronto,
and interiors were created on a soundstage at Toronto’s Cinespace Film Studios.
Fancy Pants Homes reports:
Most of the filming took place in Lunenburg — a port town on the South Shore of Nova Scotia — and in Toronto, Canada.
And while many of the homes in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, are fairly similar to the one in the show, apparently Keyhouse manor was mostly CGI.
When you see the house onscreen, it does have a kind of “unreal” quality about it.
But that kind of suits the show, since Keyhouse is based on the artwork in a comic book series and is supposed to be magical.
With all of the supernatural goings on in this place, it would’ve been difficult to use a real house for a lot of those scenes.
My guess, based on other TV and movie houses I’ve researched like this, is that the first floor with the front porch were real structures built for the show, and the upper stories were added later with special effects. Hence the reports that it was “mostly CGI.”
When they pull up to the house for the first time, Tyler says, “It’s bigger than the pictures. Also a little more Norman Bates.”
Not only does he have a point, but it made me laugh because Carlton Cuse, one of the show’s creators and producers, also produced the series Bates Motel.
The Entry Hall and Staircase in Keyhouse
This show immediately reminded me of “The Haunting of Hill House,” another “family horror story” that revolves around an old mansion that would be hard to get a good night’s sleep in.
So I found it interesting to learn that Meredith Averill, one of the creators and producers of “Locke & Key,” was also an EP on “Haunting of Hill House.”
I would say that “Locke & Key” isn’t as grim, however. It has more warmth, and a lot of heart. As good as “Hill House” was, I enjoyed this one more because it was more hopeful and less depressing.
Like “Hill House,” Keyhouse has a grand staircase in the entry hall.
When they first step inside the house, Nina says, “These floors are original!”
Her late husband’s brother Duncan, who is giving them the tour, says, “Oh, it’s all original.”
He’s been the caretaker of the mansion, but because “it wasn’t a happy place to grow up,” he’s spent as little time here as possible over the years.
The Keyhouse Drawing Room
Gabriel Rodriguez, who did the artwork for the comic book series, was trained as an architect. He says he treated the design of Keyhouse in the books as an architectural challenge from the beginning.
He wanted it to be unique, “as uneven and unsymmetrical as possible, from every point of view. From there I did the actual blueprints as an actual architectural project. So we could have these highly detailed battlegrounds for all the action that was going to happen later, and to figure out how many places we have to explore for the story.”
But it was also important to make sure it felt like a real place: “I think one of the things that makes Locke and Key such a compelling story is that there are grounded elements of the story that are rooted in reality. So when you add the fantasy element, it gets sort of a huge contrast on that.
“I did entire research for the kind of architecture we were going to use and the kind of house we were going to try to make. With all of that as a reference, I was able to make a detailed design of the blueprints and all the elements.”
The Winter Study in Keyhouse
When Uncle Duncan gives them the tour and tells them the Winter Study has books on every topic imaginable, the kids are less than impressed.
I was, though. I’d love to have a Winter Study with bookshelves like these.
Or even, as Scot says when he gets the tour, an “Autumnal Study.”
The Keyhouse Great Room
Duncan (Aaron Ashmore) tells them who’s who in the portrait gallery on the wall of the Great Room, starting with Devon Locke and ending with “Phoebe, Chandler, and Monica.”
The Great Room is one of the cozier family spaces in the house where they spend time together by the fire.
Director Michael Morris told Decider that when he pitched the look for central location Keyhouse, he aimed to make it, “dilapidated, but not menacing.”
He says he didn’t want it to be as dark and creepy as the one in “The Haunting of Hill House,” for example. You can see my post about “Hill House” to compare the two:
Keyhouse might be dusty and outdated, but they wanted to signal
that “not everything we discover here is going to be unpleasant.”
The Keyhouse Kitchen
The kitchen may not have been updated in decades, but it’s charming and warm
with stained-glass skylights and an enormous gas range.
The floor plans designed for the comic-book version wouldn’t work for the sets, so they had to be redesigned to be more workable for filming.
Cuse told CBR.com, “When we adapted it for production, we had to make it really functional and practical. So the layout of the rooms, it was important to create these traffic patterns, these circularities so you could actually follow the characters. It was certainly something practical I learned on the Psycho house in Bates Motel, just kind of thinking how you move actors from space to space.”
“We built the exterior of the house in Toronto. And then we built the interior and we wanted to make sure the way the rooms were laid out on stage allowed for the characters to move easily [within] the various spaces.”
“The essence of it all came from Gabriel’s design. The emotional goal was to make it feel inviting… there are a lot of incredible details in Keyhouse that will pay off down the stream.”
Rory Cheyne was the Production Designer for the project.
According to an interview with Director Michael Morris, “Cheyne went above and beyond to create the look of the house, even down to hiding the KH initials of Keyhouse throughout the wood moldings around the set.”
The attention to detail in every room is amazing, from the vintage light fixtures to the stained-glass windows.
Darby Stanchfield plays Nina, the grieving widow of Rendell Locke, who thought that moving to his long-abandoned childhood home would help her learn more about his past.
Instead, there seem to be new questions about him facing her at every turn.
How well did she really know her husband after all?
The Upstairs Landing
The Town of Matheson in Massachusetts
In the books, the town is called Lovecraft, but it was changed to Matheson for the show.
It’s really the coastal town of Lunenburg, in Nova Scotia.
According to an article in Decider:
Located South of Halifax in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia (and about a 12 hour drive from central Massachusetts), Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with most of the buildings preserved in the same state they were in from the 18th and 19th centuries. That’s thanks to a decision by UNESCO in 1995 stating that Lunenburg showed off one of the best examples of what British colonialism looked like, in the modern day.
In the comics, the history of Keyhouse stretches all the way back to the Revolutionary War. And even if the location is Canadian, instead of American, getting the colonial period right is probably a good start.
The ominous Drowning Caves that play a big role in the series were also filmed in Lunenburg.
The Matheson Academy
The scenes for the Matheson High School were filmed at Humber College
on the shores of Lake Ontario, west of Toronto. (Source: iNews UK.)
The show is based on the popular comic book series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
and you can see what the house looked like in it here (scroll down on that page).
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One of the design inspirations for the house was Bluenose Lodge, an historic inn in Lunenburg,
and you can see the similarities to it if you click over to their website, although this one’s bigger.
“Keyhouse is absolutely a character. It’s the lead, in many ways.” -Director Michael Morris
These photos are screenshots I took while watching the first season of “Locke & Key” on Netflix.
They haven’t announced whether there will be a second season of the show yet, but I’ve got my fingers crossed. After the cliffhanger at the end of this one, I want to see what happens next!
2021 Update: The second season is now streaming on Netflix.
For more information about Keyhouse in “Locke & Key:”
- 25 Details You May Have Missed (Insider)
- Interview with Comic Book Artist Gabriel Rodriguez (CBR.com)
- Interview with Director Michael Morris (Decider)
- Filming Locations Guide (Atlas of Wonders)
Check my TV & Movie Houses page to see others I’ve featured, listed A-Z,
including “The Haunting of Hill House.”