Home Alone is one of my all-time, favorite holiday movies. There is not a Christmas that goes by that my family doesn’t crowd around the television at least two or three times to watch — each joke, character and situation like a piece from our own collective memories. It also framed my young idea of what I thought Christmas should look like–not the being left home alone, or going on vacation for the holidays parts, but the big brick house, lots of family running around, fully decorated trees and wreaths and garland, immaculate-looking churches and most importantly, real snow. When the film came out, in 1990, my Dad was in the military and we only lived in tiny apartments – so this house was really my ideal even outside of a Christmas setting.
If you’re unfamiliar with the film, the concept is a little goofy. The McCallister family is planning to travel to Paris for the holidays, but after a big snowstorm the night before their departure, they sleep in, rush to leave and forget their youngest son, Kevin, who is now “home alone”. While his parents try to rush back from France, their neighborhood is being scouted, and subsequently burgalled, by two thieves Harry and Marv, who are specifically targeting the McCallister house – their “silver tuna”. Kevin finds out about their plan and sets up three floors of booby traps to prevent them. Ultimately, it’s a little more involved and I wouldn’t analyze the story too much, or it all falls apart — but it’s a comedy, with great guest stars, really beautiful locations and great filmwork. It’s a holiday classic.
The interior design of this house is a favorite of many movie-goers, and plenty of blog posts dive into the minutest of details (including why there are less picture frames on the staircase in the first movie versus the second) — so I’ll just post a few of my favorite scenes. Above is an exterior shot of the actual house in Winnetka, Illinois – just outside of Chicago. The film was designed by John Muto (Species) and decorated by Eve Cauley (Sister Act) and Dan Clancy (Boss), among what I’m sure was a hefty team of assistants.
Keep reading to see more pictures of this exquisite film.
In the photo above is Kevin and the fully-decorated den. The entire house was designed heavily in shades of red and green – you can see this reflected everywhere from the wallpaper, to the bedrooms, the kitchen – even most of the accessories and clothes the characters wear were designed to coordinate. Here’s the master bedroom:
In this scene – Kevin is ostensibly hiding under the bed after his first run-in with the Wet Bandits, the detail in the wallpaper (hugely popular in the early 90s) is reflected floral piece above the head of the bed — and even the books on the bookshelf to the back right are in shades of red and green (which they might have gone a little overboard on — notice the double pillow cases?).
Another great example of the intricate red/green wall paper and dark green walls. Dark green is such a dramatic color to use on the walls – and amazingly, it’s not the only time we see this wall color — it’s also the color of the walls in the house the family travels to in Paris. I love the thin spindles of the staircase and the elements of plant life and art placement.
This is the kitchen, heavily featured early in the movie – and later, covered in dirty dishes – again the heavy green/red overtones and interesting tiled countertop. And below, the dreaded, but fantastic attic space Kevin has to sleep in at the top of the movie.
Below, the unforgettable shelving system in Kevin’s brother Buzz’s room. To me, this is exactly what big brothers’ rooms of the early 90s looked like–maybe without the typewriter on the desk.
This site details a few of the locations director Chris Columbus shot in — the location of the real Grand Food Market, the pedestrian bridge Kevin walks across after he inadvertently steals a toothbrush, the Trinity United Methodist Church where exterior scenes were filmed, and the gorgeous Grace Episcopal Church where the interior church scenes were filmed. Here’s a slightly blurry photo of that beautiful shot:
Two sites I loved regarding the set of Home Alone are this one from HookedOnHouses.net and this one from Between Naps on the Porch – they both go into great detail of several rooms, and include pictures of the real house as compared its depiction in the film.
You may have heard in the past couple of years that the home was for sale – and so given an update that it badly needed, over twenty years after the film, and almost 100 years since it was originally built. Here is an article from the Daily Mail that shows the renovation.
And lastly, one of my favorite shots from the film, the snow-covered exterior of the house. I get a chill just thinking about a snowfall like this (allegedly they used potato flakes to simulate snow) and I’m on my way to warm up a cup of hot chocolate. Ultimately, where this movie lacked in a believable plot (And it being primarily a kid’s movie – it never occurred to me that in a similar situation, I wouldn’t also booby-trap my home) — it really excelled in set design and detail. Not all of this movie was shot in the house — much of the interior rooms were replicated on a set at a nearby high school. But the house, which regardless, serves as somewhat of a character in itself, will remain, like the movie, as one of my favorites.