It’s been 20 years since the spellbound film of Practical Magic hit theaters one fateful October day. A film that was once dismissed by critics has proven to simply get better in age with its simple and endearing themes of female friendships and woman’s resilience, and upon further viewing and several attempts at casting your own love spells, the little witch in all of us has never strayed from the dream that is the home of the Owens family themselves.
While an outcast band of witch sisters on a remote Massachusetts island in 1998 makes Practical Magic such an incredible story, its world building was equally enchanting, and by world, we exclusively meant the old victorian where Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman cooked up their own mischief. For in their small town where stones were cast and pejorative chants of “witch!” rang about, the white house on the cliffs covered in white flowers and pleated by vegetable gardens and a greenhouse made an unforgettable sanctuary for the Owens sisters to dream of a life other than the ones they were gifted with, to which they come to embrace.
Even though the film remains popular especially every fall, we get a glimpse of how lovely the Owens house can be year-round, even if only in our imaginations. As the real house was just a shell of a home built for filming in Washington’s San Juan Islands, set photos and stills from the film show how much of a character the home was in itself, perhaps our favorite! For example, most of the film takes place within the kitchen, the central hub for which cooking of all culinary and mystical kinds happen:
The white-washed cabinets and farmhouse sink add to the timeless feel that echoes the exterior of the Victorian. This isn’t your typical creepy haunt; it’s meant to be inviting, airy and cozy, even if the townsfolk are scared to set foot here.
Interiors of the house were shot on a soundstage in Los Angeles, but even so, the warm glow of the kitchen at night can’t help but make us feel we’re right in the room with Sally Owens.
As typical with most Victorian interiors, the only main dark wood and crown moldings that give off true gothic vibes are found within the foyer and the living room, but more of a rustic and aged feeling, rather than a frightful one, enlisting the use of mismatched textures and portraits of assumed ancestors of the family.
From this spread in Victoria Magazine, we get a fuller glimpse into the parlor. It’s not cramped nor truly dark, again just simply rustic and worn with dark neutrals and low lighting.
Quoted from Victoria, author Alice Hoffman, whose book the movie is based upon, exclaimed that upon visiting the Los Angeles sets, “I realized that the set designers had created a complete physical world out of their imagination, just as I had. It was as if we were both novelists.”
Having been socially isolated for much of their years and with their ancestors before them, the Owens house is stuck in time, and comfortably so. According to production designer Robin Standefer, what makes this home so endearing and intriguing to viewers is that the home is meant to be a place of refuge:
“There is a whole world in this house and garden…These women are outcasts and this place is their sanctuary.”
Looking up to the conservatory where the herbs are grown and gathered, nothing scary stands out. Rich greenery flowing from the white shelves and spilling over the cabinets where flower petals are strewn about the floor, it’s a room full of constant work and life, aged to perfection and matured with a simple grace and elegance. For all the home’s grandeur, the rustic rooms and heirloom furnishings are what humble and make everything hospitable. Take the most spacious part of the home, the attic space, with stairs leading up to where the lighthouse once was.
Which brings us to its location. Nothing makes the Owens house feel more spectacular than being built right along the cliffs of the island, and repurposed for magic after serving as an old lighthouse. The porch wraps around like the vines that grow on it, and frame the ocean beyond the garden and pergola. The house seems to blend into its surroundings, becoming one with the splendid nature that grows around it and fuels their inspirations and craft.
Truly a world within itself, the Owens house is meant to withstand time and passing fads. We find ourselves drawn to this small world because it’s nothing like we see today– not in 1998, and surely not 20 years later, let alone in the real world. For being only a set on a film, the unattainability of the Practical Magic world is what makes us come back each Halloween to watch it, to keep us dreaming, to keep inspiring us to create our own magic, even if just within our homes.
Photos via Google. Quotes via Hooked on Houses.