Holidays

All Questions Answered About the Iconic House in Home Alone

This Winnetka, Illinois, Georgian Colonial style dwelling appears in the classic 1990 film Home Alone. Photo: Jack Boczarski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Article originally posted by Architectural Digest

There are two different reasons one watches Home Alone. The first, to get into the Christmas spirit. The second, to ogle over the beauty that is the Home Alonehouse. The iconic film first hit the big screen in 1990, when navy blues and dusty rose pinks were the popular colors amongst family homes. According to Eve Cauley, the set decorator responsible for the iconic look of the McCallister family home, “There were no saturated green or red upholstered furniture sold in stores. Not one piece.”

That was, until the movie came out. “A red dining room became the in-style trend of the 1990s. My decor and wall-covering choices for Home Alone changed the color palette of the nation for the upcoming decade,” Cauley tells AD.According to an article by House Beautiful, the most popular paint colors ahead of the film were subtle mauve, denim blue, light turquoise, and barely-there pink. And after the film’s release, in 1991, Benjamin Moore’s most popular color was Arroyo Red, a deep reddish-brown color. In 1992, it was Forest Green. It seems as though it wasn’t only the holiday spirit that rubbed off on fans.

And with the revival of ’90s nostalgia and the trends that come with it, there’s no better time to do a deep dive into the Chicago-area home where it all began. Whether you’re looking to plan your visit to the real-life dwelling (the Home Alone house address is 671 Lincoln Ave, Winnetka, IL) or find inspiration for your decor this holiday season, read on.

How the Film Came to Be

This moment from the film became a meme before most people even had access to the internet.
Photo: FlixPix / Alamy Stock Photo

Home Alone was produced and written by the venerable film legend, John Hughes. The movie was inspired by a real trip the director went on with his family.

In an article for Chicago magazine, James Hughes—son of the director—recalls: “On August 8, 1989, my father [John Hughes] jotted down in a notebook a movie idea born of traveler’s anxiety that occurred to him during the bustle of departing for our first family trip to Europe, and set it aside. Two weeks later, after returning home, he revisited the premise: What if one of the kids had been accidentally left behind?”

Hughes continues, “Over the next nine days, he completed the first draft of Home Alone.” According to that same article, Home Alone went on to defy everyone’s prerelease expectations, and quickly became the highest-grossing live-action comedy ever made. It earned $476.7 million worldwide.

A Bit About the Plot

Daniel Stern as Marv and Joe Pesci as Harry in Home Alone
Photo: Atlaspix / Alamy Stock Photo

The original Home Alone follows the McCallisters as they prepare for an extended-family Christmas trip to France. The morning of their connecting flight to New York, their youngest son, Kevin McCallister (played by Macaulay Culkin), oversleeps, misses the family headcount, and gets left behind—just like John Hughes dreamt of. (Kevin’s parents were played by Catherine O’Hara and John Heard.)

The first few days feel like sweet freedom, as Kevin basks in his first real dose of independence by tobogganing down the stairs, indulging in massive ice cream sundaes, and watching R-rated movies that uncle Frank (Gerry Bamman) would never allow.

But the fun and games soon come to an end when Kevin is faced by the wet bandits—two bumbling burglars who have their sights set on robbing the McCallister home. Villains Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) soon realize the house isn’t vacant like they first thought, and an endless game of cat and mouse ensues, with Kevin setting intricate booby traps to protect himself and his family home. All with a little help from old man Marley and his wicked brother Buzz’s pet tarantula, of course.

Where Was Home Alone Filmed?

The street signs near the Home Alone house
Photo: Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

While all indoor scenes were filmed on set in a high school gymnasium (more on that later), a handful of memorable moments took place outside 671 Lincoln Ave, the address of a red-brick home in the affluent, cookie-cutter town of Winnetka, Illinois. Situated on the North Shore of Chicago, the neighborhood boasts suburban charm that practically begs to be made into a Christmas movie. The home itself was built in 1920 in the Georgian colonial style—perfectly symmetrical. According to Zillow, the home now boasts 5,398 square feet, 10 bedrooms, and 5 baths.

It’s Chris Columbus, the director of the film, whom we can hold responsible for finding the iconic Chicago suburb house. “We basically drove around for several weeks until we found the right house,” Columbus said in a 2015 interview. “We needed to cast a house that would work for the stunts and also a house that was visually appealing, and—if this makes sense—warm and menacing at the same time,” Columbus explained.

“It’s the kind of house, if you were a kid, it would be fun to be left home alone.” Columbus then took photos of home’s exterior, sent them to Hughes for approval, and the rest is history.

The House Then and Now

A fan doing Kevin McCallister’s signature facial expression in front of the home in 2021
Photo: Youngrae Kim for The Washington Post via Getty Images

671 Lincoln Avenue instantly became a destination for fans of the movie, with hoards of tourists flocking to the home hoping for a little taste of movie magic. But it wasn’t the McCallisters that had to put up with the newfound attention—it was the Abendshien family, who owned the home. “We would have not believed back then that there would be sightseers coming to look at that house for years afterward,” John Abendshien said in an interview with Vanity Fair.

According to an article written in 2015 for the Chicago Sun-Times, writer Richard Roeper stopped by the house in the winter of 1991 and reported that 400 vehicles had lined up outside 671 Lincoln Ave on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Some curious tourists went as far as knocking on the front door, or even venturing into the backyard in hopes of catching a glimpse of the tree house. The Abendshiens stayed in the home until 2011. It then sold in 2012 for a reported $1.585 million, closing the chapter on the Abendshiens’ 25-year residency.

Following the release of Home Sweet Home Alone in 2021 (the sixth sequel to the original), Airbnb reopened the doors to the home. This Airbnb stay offered a highly coveted trip down memory lane, and came complete with a candlelit dinner of Kraft macaroni and cheese and Chicago-style pizza, plus a viewing of the film franchise’s newest holiday adventure, Home Sweet Home Alone. While the Airbnb experience is no longer on the table, you can stream the original Home Alone, Home Alone 2, and the rest of the sequels on Disney+.

Can You Visit the House From Home Alone Today?

Fans visiting the Home Alone house in 2021
Photo: Youngrae Kim for The Washington Post via Getty Images

These days, a quick search in Google Maps will lead you straight to the house, making a trip to 671 Lincoln Ave accessible and easy. Dawn Silvers, an Illinois resident and lover of the movie, visited the Home Alone house this Thanksgiving. Silvers and her youngest child originally made the drive to Chicago for a concert, and then decided to tack on a visit to Winnetka. “Home Alone is one of our family favorites. We watch it multiple times throughout the holiday season,” Silvers tells AD.

“When we pulled into the neighborhood, we were giddy as schoolgirls. We pulled onto the street and I think I may have squealed with joy,” Silvers explains. “We knew immediately which house it was by the looks and the amount of people standing on both sides of the street and in front of the house.”

Silvers wasn’t the only one who had the smart idea to visit the house ahead of the holiday season. “There were quite a few cars parked on the opposite side of the street so as not to interfere with picture taking. Everyone was smiling ear to ear, taking pictures, pointing to the different windows.” She eavesdropped on fellow fans asking, “Was this the window Marv went through and stepped on the broken ornaments?” and, “That’s the doorknob that burned the M into Harry’s hand, and the front door that Kevin McCallister slid through on his sled.” The movie magic is (and will always be) in the air on Lincoln Avenue.

The home looks a little different than it did in 1990. There is now a wrought iron gated fence enclosing the property, with a sign that states: “Please do not touch the gate. Thank you!” as well as a new driveway and garage. But the holiday spirit remains. “The Home Alone house had wreaths on five of the windows upstairs, as well as the front door. There was also green garland wrapped around the white columns, the edge of the porch roof, and on the handrails of the front steps,” explains Silvers. The McCallisters would approve.

Building the Set From Scratch

Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister and Joe Pesci as Harry, one of the burglars, in Home Alone
Photo: United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

The Winnetka house that Chris Columbus hand-selected as the McCallister house was perfect in every sense of the word, except for one small hiccup—the interior wasn’t big enough. “Film sets must be large enough to have room for the camera, as well as the actors, in addition to the furniture,” explains Cauley, the movie’s set decorator.

The set team ultimately decided to build the entire interior of the home in the gymnasium of New Trier High School, also in Winnetka. At that time, there were few film studios in Chicago, and John Hughes lived north of the city. “Filming in an empty high school meant we were in close proximity to his family,” explains Cauley. “He could visit the sets easily or stop in and see filming, and then go home and write.” Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Uncle Buck were also filmed in Chicago.

Curating the Rich, Lived-In Interiors

In the film, Kevin sets elaborate traps in order to catch the burglars attempting to break into his home.
Photo: United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

The only way to describe the interior of the Home Alone house is to compare it to a Norman Rockwell painting, which is precisely the aesthetic Cauley was going for. “I thought about what look would best represent Americana, and of course, Norman Rockwell came to mind,” Cauley says.

Like Rockwell, Cauley used saturated greens, reds, and golds to stand out against the white fluffy snow. “I thought of it like a flip-book, where use of color orchestrated throughout would give the film a warm feeling,” says Cauley. She also found inspiration from historic Christmas cards.

Cauley had about six weeks to bring the McCallister family home to life. “I love selecting and finding decor that builds a character, or when collaged together, supports a story visually,” she says.

When asked how she sourced such rich fabrics, wallpapers, and carpets, Cauley shared her best-kept secret. “I also do some residential interior design, so I have trade accounts at some stores,” she says. “John Hughes wanted a timeless traditional look, so I went to brands with that look, within my color palette.”

The Finishing Touches

Catherine O’Hara as Kate McCallister in Home Alone
Photo: Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

With every rewatch of Home Alone, you may start to pick up on little details you never noticed before, and that was Cauley’s intention. “I put personal character details about the house as clutter that might not ever be noticed but felt right to me,” she says. “I had a little book about the care and feeding of spiders on the kitchen counter, as if perhaps Buzz was reading it, put it down when he went to the kitchen to get a snack, got distracted and ran off, leaving the book there.”

She also laid out holiday wrapping paper in the primary bedroom, as if Kevin’s parents, Kate and Peter McCallister, were wrapping Christmas gifts but didn’t have time to clean it up. It’s these little details that all come together to create the thoughtful, curated set fit for this celebrated holiday movie.

The admiration for Home Alone is still going strong decades later, and it was on full display recently when Macaulay Culkin received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Catherine O’Hara, who played the role of Kevin’s mom, gave an emotional speech at the celebration and concluded with an iconic line from the film: “I just wanna say, merry Christmas, ya filthy animals.”

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