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An Exclusive Look Inside the ‘A Christmas Story’ House

A Christmas Story House Still

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There are few holiday films more iconic than 1983’s A Christmas Story. It’s one of those feel-good holiday movies that brings the family together year after year. The story of Ralphie Parker—a little boy from a middle-class family in Cleveland, Ohio who fantasizes about receiving a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas—captures a great deal in its 94 minutes: Childish desire; mid-century family life; the rust belt. It seems as though every scene sparks this ultra-specific nostalgia inside us that can’t be shaken. From the unforgettable leg lamp to the kids unwrapping gifts on the rug on Christmas morning, the A Christmas Story house holds a great deal of cultural significance.

Its success is in no small part thanks to Reuben Freed, the film’s production designer, who dreamed up Ralphie’s world and the family’s home. “To me, it was a blend of Norman Rockwell and Salvador Dali,” Freed says. “We wanted to evoke a simpler time, even naively so. Naive was good for us.”

The set of this film is so famous that it’s the basis for A Christmas Story House and Museum (where the photo below was taken) in Cleveland. Not only has the Parker home been lovingly re-created, but you can even book a night’s stay there!

The A Christmas Story home may look perfectly simple in nature, but make no mistake: The craftsmanship, detail, and thought put behind each unassuming detail was deliberate. The homey, familiar style Freed and his team created on set was due to their elaborate planning, down to the weaves in the living room rug.

Sit Tight

As the Parkers were not rich, the furniture couldn’t look shiny and new. It needed a hand-me-down feel that felt lived-in. “I looked at materials from the 1930s, things that already had history to them,” says Freed. “The family’s economic state was considered. I wanted them to have things that gave the audience a sense of ‘My mom had one of those!’” The simple wooden tables and ready-made floor lamps and window trimmings aid in evoking this relatable style.

A Christmas Story Living Room
Courtesy A Christmas Story House and Museum

Rug Rats

“The house is sparse, so textures are very important, like the rug where the kids open their presents,” says Freed. The patterns suggest rails and roadways. Freed imagined the kids pushing a toy along a “runway” and all of a sudden it becoming a plane taking off. “It was important for me to think that Ralphie and his little brother could imagine these things,” says Freed. This is far more than detail-oriented. Each minute detail of the home points to how precise Freed was in executing his design, exploring even the psyche of a child’s character in relation to each room.

A Christmas Story Living Room Rug
Courtesy Google. From time to time, couches and furniture are switched out to be cleaned and sanitized. Small discrepancies are expected inside the museum.

Leg Up

Who can forget the “major award” that Ralphie’s dad delicately placed in the front window? “It gave a sense of the naivete of the time,” says Freed, who, along with the prop master and costume designer, built the lamp using a mannequin leg. “A soft glow of electric sex emanated from the living room when that lamp was in place,” says Freed. And the mesh stocking served a purpose beyond adding to the risqué vibe: It also simply helped hold the lamp together.

Courtesy Google.

Originally published in Reveal Magazine by John Ortved

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