count olaf’s house

I got to take a behind-the-scenes tour at Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio, and encountered the model of Count Olaf’s house used in the 2004 movie Lemony Snicket.

Count Olaf’s house movie prop, built at ILM

Count Olaf’s house movie prop, built at ILM

It randomly occupies half of a small lobby, and stands maybe seven feet (2.1 m) tall. It is fabulous. The sign says it took three months to build in the Industrial Light and Magic model shop, and another two weeks to light and film it on stage.

This is how it appears in the film:

image from the Lemony Snicket wiki

image from the Lemony Snicket wiki

Says the Lemony Snicket wiki:

The house is described as a dilapidated mess. The bricks are stained with soot and grime, the front door needs repainting (and contains a carving of an eye), and the entire building sags to one side. Rising above the house is a tall and dirty tower. In The Bad Beginning: Rare Edition, Lemony notes that his sister Kit has proposed that some of the eyes in Olaf’s house contain secret peepholes, cameras, or microscopic lenses.

Fittingly, they have let the model accumulate dust :)

The ruined chimney:


A disheveled downspout, a course of eye motif blocks, and a great circular window with web panes. Looks like the model builders used bermuda grass roots or something similar for the dead vines creeping up all over the house. (Minus one point, though, for the not-in-scale tattered lace curtains :)


The front door (with reassembly notes :)


Here you can see the dust coat and teeny, tiny rivets. I was particularly taken with them.


The inadequately-repaired drafty dome, with more rivets (and dust):


and its finial topper:


This is a particularly fine eye-paned window, and a closer look at the corbels. Such great distress and weathering.


And finally, a closer look at some of the tower eye windows:


9 thoughts on “count olaf’s house

  1. Joyce Merten says:

    Brian really found a superior tour for your Bday. I can see where you would appreciate the details of this impressive structure more than most.

  2. Nancy Enge says:

    The tour was really just the two of us and occasionally some of his coworkers, walking the permitted hallways of the two buildings Lucasfilm occupies, where all this *truly* amazing collection of movie props, artifacts, posters, paintings and models lives. With panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay, the Palace of Fine Arts and downtown just outside the windows. It is utterly fantastic, and B’s daily reality :)

  3. Nathaniel Alan Kemp says:

    You should have taken more photos especially the front of the house because there no photos that I can find on the internet. It bugs me very much finding all these photos of the back the house but none at other angle of this beautiful structure.

      • Easton Smith says:

        Great. Thanks. And please know that the model was actually made by the film’s Art Director, John Dexter, in our art dept production offices in Los Angeles, not at ILM like the sign says.

  4. Nathaniel Alan Kemp says:

    I did do some drawings of this house. I am just in love with its architecture and shape, especially with the tower. I wish they used it the TV series; that would have been amazing.

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