I call them “home-for-the-holidays houses.” If you’re even a fraction of the holiday movie buff that I am, then you totally know what I’m talking about. They’re the colonial or Victorian houses with the brick facade, wooden shutters and storybook glow. They have the wraparound porch, arched doorway, beautiful trees, maybe a picket fence. Even when it’s July and the average temperature is 21°C outside, when I spot them, I think about roasting chestnuts beside the fireplace (that may or may not even be inside) 😂. I don’t see them all that often in Toronto because well – lot sizes are just smaller here – but when I do, they take me right back to to the festive season.
For fun, I thought I’d go on the record and share seven of my favourite home for the holidays movie houses. None of them are actually located in Toronto…but you might find ones similar to these in Rosedale, Lawrence Park or High Park.
Ho ho ho, here we go… my FAVOURITE HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS HOUSES.
I really have always wondered just what the heck Kevin McCallister’s dad did for a living to not only afford this gorgeous red brick colonial Georgian mansion — which sold for US $1.585 million in 2012, boobytraps not included — but support at least five kids, on top of buying his entire immediate family a round trip to Paris over the holiday. He had himself and the adults up in first class, too! But I digress. This one has become a real iconic home for the holidays movie house, even with all that dated red and green wallpaper inside. No wonder Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern’s bungling burglars wanted it so bad.
Okay, Cameron Diaz’s Amanda has it pretty good at her contemporary Los Angeles home, which architect Wallace Neff actually built for himself in the 1920s, and retains that distinctive, Mediterranean-influenced “California Style” he was famous for. But the real home for the holidays movie house here is the charming, cozy stone cottage in the English countryside, which belongs to Kate Winslet’s Iris. Seriously, this is where I want to spend my Christmases every year going forward. If I close my eyes, I think I can even smell the chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Oh, great, now I’ve gone and said it twice and officially have the song stuck in my head!
The Family Stone
The 1860 colonial from this romantic comedy is easily around 3,500 square feet. I read somewhere that it also has ten rooms! Pretty ideal for the kind of family reunion depicted in the film, no? I also love how cluttered the interior of the house is. Let’s be honest, that’s not just what Christmas really looks like, but most family homes, period.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Okay, if you want to get technical, the this isn’t exactly a Christmas movie. But since it takes place over Thanksgiving, which is also a holiday… and this is about holiday movie houses… I’m going to sneak it in. Mostly just so I can gush over the stately red-brick centre entry colonial that Steve Martin’s character owned. It was built in 1916, yet remains as timely as this classic 1987 comedy.
We’ve seemingly got as many film and television versions of Scrooge (or A Christmas Carol) as there are days in the year. But for me, the 1951 version with Alastair Sim will always be the ultimate. For as long as I can remember, not a Christmas has gone by without me throwing it on. Also, it helps that CBC would air it every year. As for Scrooge’s quarters, wow, this is about as gothic as a home for the holidays movie house gets — located a lonely, industrial part of town, very dark and foggy, and very old and sparsely furnished. But make no mistake, it’s positively spellbinding.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
The Griswold house is actually an exterior set on a Warner Brothers backlot in Burbank, California. It has been altered a lot to appear in other movies, especially the interiors, which are also only a set, not a real house. Doesn’t change the fact that it symbolizes your classic detached family home at Christmastime. And those Christmas lights are definitive!
Listen, if a movie takes place during Christmas, it’s a holiday movie. That’s a fact. Which qualifies Rocky IV and Die Hard. And when it comes to the former, oh boy, did the Balboas ever live in style — a beautiful estate in Los Angeles’ Hancock Park, to be exact, replete with 6-foot concrete lions guarding the front lawn! Okay, maybe not your archetypical home for the holidays movie house, but I like the Rocky flicks. So here it is.
Okay, that’s enough for now. Not surprisingly, I suddenly have a hankering to go pour some egg nog and put one of these on. Any suggestions? Oh, and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!