Bachelor mansion: behind the scenes
ABC’s The Bachelor franchise is currently airing its 25th season, and to celebrate that, Warner Bros. invited TV critics to its Southern California mansion, where the men and women meet each other for the first time and start their romantic televised journey toward a public break-up.
Creator Mike Fleiss praised the show’s cast and crew and said “the show has been a true blessing in so many ways. I’m so grateful to everybody’s who’s been part of it. The money and all this stuff is fuckin’ great, but there’s things that I’m truly proud of, and one of them is that the show has tapped into popular culture.”
That it has, and the mansion itself has become an iconic symbol of the series, and now an often-copied trope in reality television. Here’s a tour of the house and behind-the-scenes details about how the production uses the space, with insight from production designer Angelic Rutherford, whose team does the incredible work you may never have paid attention to but which is a key part of the series.
- The mansion, Villa De La Vina, is located at 2351 Kanan Road in Agoura Hills, which is directly north of Malibu and west of Burbank and Van Nuys.
- In 2008, it was on the market for $12.995 million, but that price was later reduced. Built in 2005, its 7,590 square feet include six bedrooms and nine bathrooms.
- This Bing Maps bird’s-eye view gives a good overview of the house and property. If you have an iPhone, look at the house using Apple’s new maps application; its satellite pictures appear to show production equipment in the driveway, perhaps one of the few useful things about Apple’s maps application.
- The house is usually used for just about three weeks before the production starts traveling, though that varies by season. Several seasons have shot elsewhere, and, of course, the show debuted in 2002, and the mansion wasn’t built until three years later.
- “We Bachelorize it every time we get back in,” production designer Rutherford said. The furniture, which ranges from vintage to items built by the crew, is changed every season along with accessories and other interior design elements. Rutherford and her team have about two weeks to set up the house, and only do “a little” planning before that.
- During our visit, the mansion—which mostly sits unused—had neutral walls, and Rutherford said that it was bothering her because it’s the opposite of the colors they usually choose: “very dark and saturated; that’s just our signature look.”
- When it was for sale, the Wall Street Journali described it as a “rustic Italian-style house” that was built “with materials from Morocco, India, China and Mexico.” I asked my friend Whitney Richardson, author of the fantastic blog Upstaged By Design, for some help deciphering its different styles, and based on photos, she said the exterior “has more of an Italianate feel—that is to say it’s more Western/Roman influences,” while she said that the interior is more Islamic or Moroccan. Islamic is “a style that encompasses a lot of countries and traditions, and can be seen in Morocco, in India at The Taj Mahal, in Iran, Istanbul, Turkey, or even Spain. The horseshoe arches are skinnier at the top and fatter at the bottom than Roman style arches, which are more of a perfect half-circle. There are a lot of intricate, symmetrical patterns used in Islamic art, and it’s usually non-figurative. You can see that in the tile throughout the house.” She noted, however, that “the wrought-iron railing for the stairs inside and out, the fountain, the columns on the top level of the entry way, are not at all Islamic. But they’re not exactly traditional. Everything is so decorative and oversized and ornate, which I tend to associate with McMansions.”
- Despite being a McMansion, it feels remarkably intimate and even small, if that’s possible. Perhaps that’s just the television, which makes things look significantly bigger.
- The driveway is more like a field in front of the house; I’d imagined it as curved, for some reason, but when the limo pulls in to the driveway, it’s just turning onto the driveway.
- Looking at the fountain in the front of the house, the room to the left of the entrance is the deliberation and voting room for Bachelor Pad; when someone is voting, a crew of about 10 crew members are crushed against the wall filming.
- The room to the right of the front door is used by story producers, who monitor feeds of what’s happening in the house. Rutherford said it’s like “a dark little cave.” The garage is used as the control room, and production uses the studio building that’s just south of the main house.
- Stepping inside the entryway, the mansion smelled immediately and overwhelmingly of hot wax, thanks to all the candles. I imagine it smells like that while the show is being filmed, too; quite an extraordinary difference from the smell of the Big Brother house.
- Standing in the front hallway, the family room is to the right, at about 2 o’clock, and the entrance to it from the foyer is know as the tink-tink spot, because that’s where host Chris Harrison announces to the women or men that it’s time for a rose ceremony, tapping on his glass and making that sound.
- The family room is referred to as the Mixer Room, and it’s the first place the men or women go after they enter the house, and is used as a holding location until everyone has arrived.
- The rose ceremony room is on the opposite side of the house, separated from the Mixer Room by the kitchen and then the dining room. The rose ceremony room, which is entered from the opposite side of the foyer, is usually a living room, but all the furniture is removed for the rose ceremony.
- During the rose ceremony, the women or men stand with their backs to the pool, with those in the back row standing on a riser. The bachelor or bachelorette stands just a few feet in front of them, in front of a large, ornate bar Richardson described to me as having “a teak wood South Pacific look.” Alas, it’s covered up for the rose ceremonies “because I don’t want a bar behind the bachelor or bachelorette,” Rutherford said. To the left of the bar is a wine cellar that’s lit dramatically.
- The massive kitchen has a massive refrigerator with ornate carved wood doors. I asked if they cooked: “They do; they make it a giant mess,” Rutherford said.
- The dining room, which is connected to the rose ceremony room (to the right of the men or women, as the bachelor/ette looks at them) doesn’t have a table but instead is known as the “Candle Room” and “The Make-Out Room” “because it’s nice and make-outy,” Rutherford said.
- Behind those rooms is the patio and pool. To the left of the pool, up a few stairs, is a cabana the crew refers to as the Lido Deck, a reference to Love Boat; it has a chandelier above a couch. “It’s a good spot for people to hang out, make out,” Rutherford said.
- Below the arched aqueduct feature behind the pool is a second patio with another jacuzzi. That area is used more during Bachelor Pad, when Rutherford’s team adds a day bed to the area.
- Three bedrooms are located upstairs. The bachelorettes and/or bachelors sleep in bunk beds, sometimes as many as six beds and 12 people to a single room. (The season’s star lives elsewhere.) The bunk beds are not exactly high quality; they appear to be made from 2x4s. “They hate it,” Rutherford said, explaining that she started using bunk beds about five seasons ago, because it was just getting crazy, especially with the girls and all their luggage.” The men or women live out of their suitcases, and bring everything they need.
- The master bedroom is connected to the bathroom not by a door, but by a shuttered pass-through window. While the bathroom is large, it’s not the kind of space you can imagine being shared by the 12 people who live in the adjacent room. Of course, people start leaving quickly, freeing up space.
- The house “is set up so people can sit and have a conversation and feel comfortable,” Rutherford said, explaining the many semi-private gathering areas. “They have to feel comfortable enough to where story actually happens. As silly as that sounds, they have to feel comfortable, and if they feel like there’s a camera stand that’s right behind them or right next to them, or the camera person’s too close, they’ll shut down.” Clearly, she and her team do an excellent job, because as we’ve seen every season, the men and women of The Bachelor and Bachelorette rarely shut down.