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PRACTICAL MAGIC

From The Ground Up
Just as important to the story of the Owens family is their multigenerational home, prompting filmmakers to build it rather than to look for an existing structure

Just as important to the story of the Owens family is their multigenerational home, prompting filmmakers to build it rather than to look for an existing structure.

"The house is tailored to the action in the film," explains Di Novi. "I don't think we could ever have found a house that could have matched our needs."

Production designer Robin Standefer (who had previously collaborated with Dunne on "Addicted to Love") labored for months researching what would constitute the perfect house for a family of witches. Once sketches were completed, it took an additional eight months to bring her initial artist's conception to three-dimensional life.

Although the tale of the Owens women begins in the 1600s, the story of "Practical Magic" spans three decades (from the 1 970s to present day), so the structure needed to be adaptable to the passing periods. "By the very nature of the family, the aunts in particular, there is a timelessness about the environment and about the house that particularly interested me," explains Standefer. "I chose a Victorian style for the house because it needed to be rambling. There are so many children in the house, so many generations. You could almost move in a circular fashion and get lost, finding yourself in different time periods. The design really developed from there. I tried to find elements of design that have stood the test of time. You couldn't be sure if things were originally in the house in 1850 or they had been added to it in the Twenties.

"In the living room, however, I wanted to be more specifically Victorian. The parlor is the ceremonial room and I felt that this was a place where I could speak about the period of the house."

The New England-style home also features a roomy kitchen-the heart of the house-which centers around a British aga-gas stove.

"The aga is almost like a shrine," elaborates Standefer. "This is the place where they do their work; it's where they place the caldron."

The pantry features shelves of home-canned foods-the kind of thing past generations of women used to spend their days filling which now fell to members of the prop department, who had to fill hundreds of jars.

The structure also features a dining room that has been converted into a work room (with the addition of a spinning wheel and a loom) and an impressive greenhouse filled with exotic plants, mysterious herbs and candle-making supplies.

The resulting structure stunned the author. "When I visited the set," remembers Hoffman, "it wasn't really like wandering into my own imagination; it was like wandering into another person's interpretation of my imaginary world. I was thrilled that it was so beautifully rendered; it gave me a sense of drifting through this magical world, but it was all so real."

Some of the magic was all a bit too real for the cast and crew. "We were filming a scene where we have brought a coven together," remembers Bullock, "and we had just reached an integral part where the women begin chanting together. All of a sudden, the door started slamming. Everyone saw and heard it, but we had no idea how it could be happening."

Standefer sees the house as being a very real character in the story. "The house itself has a certain magic to it. There is a whole world in this house and garden. These women are outcasts and this place is their sanctuary;

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