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 co-creator Joshua Brand, "a monument to
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. "Practically 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
HORNS APLENTY: The elk antler chair, upholstered
in tanned elk hide with deer antler buttons, was built by a
taxidermist artist and has a matching side table. It "fits
with Maurice's vision of manhood,"
"Heavy, substantial, big. You couldn't harm any of this
POST MARK: The newel post duplicates one at the
Depression-era Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, Ore. "The
Native Americans have given Maurice a name, and eagle is part of
it," says assistant art director Lori Melendy. "He had
a Native American carve the post for him."
"There's a lot of dead
in Maurice's home, Corbin says.
that don't work. Rusty swords. In a way, it's
symptomatic. Brought up with the John Wayne myth,
Maurice has no idea what his role is anymore. He is
simply and truly trapped in amber."
ROLE: Cardboard tubes of the sort used in
heavy construction double as logs in Maurice's house. The fakery
doesn't end there: The numerous rifles were salvaged from broken
stocks and fitted with barrels constructed of wooden dowels or
LANCE A LOT: "They're not your basic pocket
knives," set dresser Rachel Thompson says. "Maurice
collected many of them in his travels. They're something that'd
be easy for him to pick up and pack out. He's not the type of
guy to collect salt and paper shakers."
MAN ON THE MOON: The study is filled with
astronaut photos, including one of Richard Nixon welcoming the
Apollo 11 crew in which Maurice's face was pasted over Neil
Armstrong's (that's Michael Collins to his immediate right and
Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin to his far right).
THE SHINING: A copy of Sydney Laurence's 1931
work "Northern Lights," which hangs in an Anchorage
Museum. "Laurence is the foremost historical painter of the
Northwest and Yukon," Crocker says. "It only makes
sense that Maurice collects the finest Alaskan art."
Of the walrus, Corbin says,
"Maurice probably harpooned it."
But set dresser
Kimberley Frank thinks a puddle jumper taking Maurice fishing
rendered the walrus "instant road kill." "If you
were Maurice," she asks, "would you tell somebody it
got hit by a float plane?"
The framed arrowheads are Maurice's
"salute to Native American heritage,"
Corbin says. In
real life, they're plastic replicas of obsidian, agate, and
jasper artifacts unearthed along the Columbia River, supplied by
a Portland gem shop.