’90s Movie Dream House Anatomy


While “dream home” is a relative term, the ’90s certainly helped create a collective imagination of what it might look like: something big, grand, and filled with “rich people” things that seemed better fit for a mall or a high-end hotel. Surely, at some point you thought a canopy bed or a grand double staircase made of marble (because everything was made of marble) was the height of living, and that’s probably you watched “Clueless” or “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”—even if now, your idea of something dreamy is a tiny home or even just something with, like, one extra closet.

While a revolving wardrobe or hidden hangout room may still seem unattainable, there’s nothing stopping you from rewatching iconic movie and TV show scenes over and over again—and inserting yourself into the frame, if only in your dreams. After all, if now’s not a good time for nostalgia and dreaming of a bigger, better how, when is?

With over-the-top elements like extravagant pools, backyard roller coasters, and even a wall of TVs, it’s no wonder the bar for the modern dream home is set so high (and why every ’90s movie house party was so widely attended). Here’s a list of details you’ll find in some of the best movie and TV dream homes from the ’90s.

Staircases are great for dramatic moments. Double staircases? Well, doubly so. Even though such elaborate details seem out of step (pun intended) in today’s craze for tiny homes and smaller spaces, they were key in the movie mansion craze of the ’90s. For example, in “Clueless,” a carpeted double staircase is quite literally the centerpiece of Cher Horowitz’s ritzy LA home. And it creates a great backdrop for some equally dramatic moments, like when she walked gingerly down the steps before her grand date with Christian, revealing her Alaïa ensemble with flair (before her dad asked her to put a jacket over it, of course). It’s also where she had a kiss with her step brother (okay, technically ex-step brother).

2. An Impossibly Large Pool

You used to want a standard backyard pool until you saw an over-the-top ’90s version. Suddenly, it wasn’t complete with out ornate fountains like the ones in “Billy Madison” and “Clueless,” or the massive water slide in “Blank Check” (which, in case you forgot, goes from his room to the pool. Swoon). Add in the hallucinatory pool party in “Romeo and Juliet,” and the literal kid-apult in “Richie Rich” (which technically launched kids into a pond, but whatever), and it became basically impossible to quench your voracious pool appetite. 

3. A Large Kitchen with All the Snacks

Imagine coming home to a massive kitchen that’s stashed with all your favorite snacks and beverages, which seems to get replenished on the daily. We constantly dream about kitchen life Will Smith lived in “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” complete with an after school spread of hors d’oeuvres—just make sure you don’t set the house on fire out of excitement. 

4. A Hidden Room/Secret Passageway

Is there anything dreamier than a secret room or hidden passageway? It doesn’t matter where it goes or what’s inside, just give us a bookcase entrance or revolving wall door like in “Casper” and we’re happy. 

We can’t think of a standout ’90s movie/TV dream home that wasn’t a gothic castle (“The Addams Family”), spacious craftsman with original wood detail (“House Party”), Colonial Revival (“Father of the Bride”), or some other amazing historic architectural wonder. To be fair, homes with architectural charm never go out of style, so if you’re still fantasizing about one of these, that’s completely reasonable.

6. Perfectly Manicured Hedges/Topiaries

If a modestly-sized cookie cutter tract home a la “Edward Scissorhands” doesn’t top your list, a manicured yard full of whimsical topiaries shaped like dinosaurs just might.

Ah attics, an infinite source of mystery and intrigue. Most of the homes in this category fall under the “your [fill in the blank ancestor] died and now you have to live in this mansion that is supposed to be creepy but is actually the coolest house anyone’s ever seen” trope (i.e. “Casper” and “Jumanji”). In outliers like “Home Alone,” the attic still shows up as a representation of the fear of the unknown. It might not be dreamy, but it’s definitely central to a lot of these homes.

No ’90s dream home is complete without the coolest car on the block parked in the driveway. Take “The Parent Trap,” for example, when the gang is leaving for a camping trip (joined by unexpected guest Meredith) and cooly roll out in a Jeep Wrangler with an open hood. Or, there’s the sleek orange Chevrolet convertible from “Friday,” with stylish white lines running the course of the vehicle on the sides. That would surely make the neighborhood talj.

From an over-the-top speaker system in “House Party” to the security/GPS system with a wall of TVs in “Blank Check,” the ’90s got us prepped for a future of limitless in-home technology. And who remembers Disney’s “Smart House?’ I always dreamed about having a video wall that could transport me to a beach where I could actually feel the breeze through the screen. Although, we can do without a house that pinches you for DNA.

10. An Element of Surprise

This category is reserved for those features that you have to go back and watch a YouTube clip of to make sure you didn’t dream them. Both the houses in “Casper” and “The Addams Family” basically had a roller coaster ride hidden beneath them (not to mention the backyard coaster in “Richie Rich”), but we think Cher’s mechanical rotating wardrobe and outfit simulator in “Clueless” is equally as surprising and dream-worthy.

As if buying a home wasn’t hard enough these days, you can thank the ’90s for any and all of your impossible home goals. Chime in below to let us know what your nostalgic ’90s dream home consists of!

Jessica Isaac

Contributor

Jess is an interior and architectural photographer based in Los Angeles. While she has the honor of peeking inside designer homes on a regular basis, she loves real homes designed by real people most of all.





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