In her 2006 rom-com, Nancy Meyers served up a visual feast of muted chintz, pastel shiplap, and so many hearths we lost count. Now that cottagecore has gone mainstream, here’s the story behind this classic of the genre.
It’s a story about contrasts, about what happens when these two women trade lives,” says Jon Hutman, the production designer of The Holiday, in which English rose Kate Winslet and Hollywood movie exec Cameron Diaz swap houses, fall in love (Diaz gets Jude Law; Winslet gets Jack Black—talk about contrasts), and fix their lives.
To create Winslet’s world, the assignment was to find the quintessential English countryside home, to oppose Diaz’s sprawling, Spanish-revival California mansion. Hutman’s model was a National Trust historic property in Herefordshire, near the border with Wales, which was perfect but not available for use.
“The only way we could have it was to build it,” he says. So he did: The exterior shell was constructed in Surrey, outside of London (and has since been torn down). The interiors, an endless stream of aggressively cozy corners, were created on a soundstage in L.A. Our favorite is this one, a happy and balanced reading nook that you want to settle into and maybe never leave.
“I would vacation in this cottage. With all these books, this would be the perfect place to have no WiFi and no plans!”—Drew
“I’m a big believer in research, which basically means stealing ideas from real places,” says Hutman. To create the story of this room, an old place that’s been updated, he left in the supports under each shelf, called ledger strips. “That detail is the whole thing,” he says. “It tells you the history of the room.”
“Bookshelves as they’re often done in movies is one of my pet peeves,” says Hutman. “Books are collected over time. I’m not into the color-coded thing, where people get books they’d never read.” Instead, this is a carefully assembled collection, an artful but chaotic jumble that looks like it took years to compile, as it would have in the character’s life. It makes the shelves, and the room, look “really well dressed,” says Hutman. “I am in no way embarrassed of these bookshelves.”
Hutman sources English chairs—like this one—at a store called Hollyhock in West Hollywood. “It’s that colonial style, with the paddle arms and the little brass wheels on the feet,” he says. The shape recalls a chaise lounge. “You can really rest on it,” says Hutman.
Desk & Chair
The 19th-century antique writing table is closer in vintage to the armchair, but Hutman paired it with a school chair he painted black, establishing more of that contrast. “We were making classic shapes contemporary,” he says. “You understand with that black chair that you are not in an old professor’s house.” Hutman, who has designed four films for Nancy Meyers, is a big fan of writing tables, which unlike desks don’t hide the actor’s legs.
The off-white ceiling, walnut floors, and pale walls are a neutral backdrop for the furniture and decor, a connect-the-dots of color. Hutman chose a classic, worn (but not too worn) Persian rug with rich tones. “If you look at the dab of color in the bookshelves, it mimics that,” he says. “It lifts the room. From the red ashtray to the carpet to the books, your eye dances around the room.”
By John Ortved | Bedroom and library photographs by The Holiday © 2006 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and GH One LLC, all rights reserved/Courtesy of Columbia Pictures | Cottage exterior photograph by Simon Mein/Alamy