Ever wished these famous fictional houses were real? Check out the top 10 best and worst homes from literature…and maybe get a little inspiration for your own home in the process. (Both what to imitate and what to avoid at all costs!)
Long before we have homes of our own, many of us envision what we want our “dream house” to be like. Didn’t you? I did.
In one early version, my imaginary house had a red slide inside, with a fountain and an always-freshly-mown lawn out front.
Nowadays, I’m still into dream homes, but instead of trying to find one I’m trying to create it. You see, you have to work with what you’ve got, flourishing right where you are and letting your home blossom on the outside as you do from the inside.
When creating your dream home, you can find inspiration in all sorts of places. Books are one of my very favourite places to look! There are so many memorable homes in literature that I’ve longed to visit; and the authors’ descriptions make me feel that I have. Of course, there are also certain iconic literary homes that I want to avoid at all costs because they make me shudder. These are prime examples of what NOT to imitate with your home!
Let’s take a look at 10 dream houses from literature, and 10 (thankfully fictional) houses that are just the worst.
Top 10 Worst Homes in Literature
(I’m not actually ranking these, just listing them. I couldn’t choose the lesser of ten evils.)
1. Castle Dracula from Dracula
Sure, it boasts costly furnishings and a well-stocked library. But with its shadows and secrets–plus being the residence of one of the most evil villains in literature–Castle Dracula will never be featured in Better Homes & Gardens.
2. Thornfield Hall from Jane Eyre
Although it’s not the worst house on this list, the brooding Thornfield Hall doesn’t exactly strike me as a dream home. It’s interesting that Jane doesn’t end up there at the end of the novel. I’m with Jane; I’d choose Ferndean over Thornfield.
3. Hill House from The Haunting of Hill House
When you think of adjectives to describe your home, you don’t want the words “vile” and “diseased” to come to mind. This is the ultimate (and often imitated) haunted house, and I wouldn’t go anywhere near it!
4. Satis House from Great Expectations
The crumbling Satis House is in desperate need of redecorating. The bars on the window don’t exactly scream curb appeal, and inside the “conversation piece” is a 30-year-old wedding cake smothered in spiderwebs.
5. Wuthering Heights from Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights is gloomy and imposing on its own, but what’s more repellent about this house is the residents, and the tragedies that occur within its walls. It gives us a grim reminder that it’s often the people–and their choices–that make or break a home.
6. Castle Udolpho from The Mysteries of Udolpho
This Gothic castle situated in the Apennines has everything…you don’t want in a fairy tale castle. You know, like mysterious blood on the stairs, wax figurines lying about, and banditti lurking nearby.
7. The House of Harfang from The Silver Chair
At first, Harfang seems like the ultimate haven for weary travelers. Jill and Eustace find plush beds and plenty to eat. But if there’s anything that will break the mood of hygge, it’s finding out your hosts want to eat you for supper!
8. Palazzo Roccanera in The Portrait of a Lady
Welcome to “a kind of domestic fortress, a pile which bore a stern old Roman name, which smelt of historic deeds, of crime and craft and violence.” It’s nice when your house has a story, but you don’t want it to go like that!
9. Efrafa from Watership Down
The theme of home is a big one in Watership Down, and we get both positive and negative examples of it. Efrafa is a terrifying place, where residents are subject to a dystopian existence that’s far from the home-like atmosphere you want to cultivate!
10. The House of Shaws from Kidnapped
Of this dreary Scottish manor we’re told “Blood built it; blood stopped the building of it; blood shall bring it down!” That’s not exactly a slogan you’d want cross-stitched and framed above your mantel, is it?
Okay, now let’s move on to the GOOD homes from literature. The ones you’d actually want to live in!
Top 10 Best Homes in Literature
These aren’t in any order. It’s too hard to decide because each is wonderful in its own way!
1. Bag End from The Hobbit
Big houses can be just as cozy as small cottages, and Bag End proves it. Bag End is built into the side of a large hill, but it’s not a “nasty, dirty, wet hole….it was a Hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.” With many wood-paneled rooms and well-stocked pantries, it’s the perfect place to raise a large family–or live comfortably alone, with plenty of room to welcome house guests.
2. Green Gables from Anne of Green Gables
Green Gables offers a simple, honest way of life I admire. Anne’s imagination imbues this home with wonder, but it’s a pretty lovely place to begin with anyway. (Honestly, there are so many tempting homes in Montgomery’s novels that I’m planning to devote a whole post to the topic. That’ll be over on my literary blog, Tea and Ink Society.)
3. Pemberley from Pride and Prejudice
Pemberley is “a large, handsome, stone building,” but what really makes it special is its gorgeous natural setting. We’re told that Elizabeth “had never seen a place where nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.” A house’s setting can be as important as the house itself…and a good setting shouldn’t be wasted on an ugly home.
4. The tree house from The Swiss Family Robinson
If there’s a part of you that’s ever felt like running wild in the great outdoors, the Robinson tree house is the perfect home to “get away from it all.” Really away! Picture yourself swaying in a hammock in the hot island breeze, the sound of waves crashing nearby.
5. The March family home from Little Women
It’s not grand and fancy like the Laurence residence next door, but it’s homey and full of the vibrancy of a close-knit family. I love the home and family atmosphere of Little Women so much that I’ve written two posts on it: The Little Women Guide to Homemaking, and How to Have a Little Women Christmas.
6. Grandfather’s hut in Heidi
High in the Alps “where every ray of sun could rest upon it,” this tiny hut is the epitome of simple. As a child I wished myself there, with a hayloft bed, surrounded by the smells of warm wood and fresh mountain air. And of course, there’s all the toasted cheese and fresh goat’s milk you could wish for!
7. Godsend Castle from I Capture the Castle
Sure, it’s drafty and probably leaks in a dozen places, but I’d overlook those details for the sake of my very own English castle. Wouldn’t you? To swim in the moat by moonlight and sunbathe on the battlements? When you really love your home, as the heroine in this story does, you forgive its flaws.
8. The Burrow from the Harry Potter series
The Burrow is the Weasley family home. It’s cluttered but cozy, with evidences of bustling family life wherever you turn. Oh, and it’s full of magic, which would be super fun! (And very handy for getting chores done, I should think.)
9. San Salvatore from The Enchanted April
In Italy above the Mediterranean Sea sits San Salvatore, a villa swathed in “wisteria and sunshine.” With such a profusion of light, fragrance, and flowers, the people who stay there can’t help but find transformation. All who enter its walls and gardens discover a softening towards past grievances, a renewed zest for life and deeper understanding of love. I’ve never read a more lovely reminder that a place can transform a person.
10. 221B Baker Street from Sherlock Holmes
Holmes’s residence is almost as iconic as he his! I can just picture the Victorian rooms, littered with newspapers and eclectic odds and ends. Everyone needs a home base that reflects them, a retreat from which you can sort out the world’s puzzles.
Wouldn’t you agree?
Related posts to read next:
Many of the residents of these houses made it onto my list of best heroes, heroines, and villains from classic lit. Chances are when you find a memorable home in literature, its occupants will make an impression, too!