It’s probably the most visited log cabin on TV since Grizzly Adams’ — if cabin is the right word for a place with a 1,000-square-foot living room and a dining table that seats 18. Northern Exposure‘s Maurice Minnifield, the ex- NASA jock (played by Barry Corbin) who splashed down in the one state big enough to hold his bluster, calls it home.
”We wanted to give him a castle that’s commensurate with the size of the character,” explains Exposure cocreator Joshua Brand, ”a monument to himself.”
Imagine, if you will, a collision outside fictional Cicely, Alaska, between Charles Foster Kane’s Xanadu and a hunting lodge. A zoo’s worth of moose, bear, and buffalo gaze with glass eyes at museum-quality paintings. An arsenal of rifles and knives cozies up beside Victorian lampshades and rococo sofas. ”Guns and roses,” Brand calls the decor. ”In a way, it’s a Rorschach for Maurice.”
The set was inspired by a real log house built about 20 miles outside Seattle by DeWelle F. ”Skip” Ellsworth III, who teaches cabin construction through the University of Washington. His 6,500-square-foot home, dripping with hunting trophies, Zulu shields, knives, even a carriage and sleigh, was used in three episodes of Exposure.
Eventually Maurice got his own place, built inside a Redmond, Wash., soundstage under the supervision of production designer Woody Crocker, and stocked with furnishings found at thrift shops and taxidermists’. ”This is a man with a great knowledge of period and style, but who overdoes everything,” Crocker says. ”Practicality is not Maurice’s long suit.”
Leaning back in his character’s study and scanning the wildlife-studded walls, Corbin says, ”This is Maurice’s vision. It’s a very odd vision. It’d give me the willies to come in here at night and see all these dead things.”