Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Curious Geometry of the Petrie House -- Part 2

In an earlier blog entry, I noted the unlikely configuration of the Petries' house. The episode "The Man from My Uncle" highlights the difficulty of trying to draw a floor plan for the house that would make sense in real life, and still fit the clues we're given about the layout of the Petrie home.

I'm aware of at least two attempts by others to draw a floor plan: One is in a book of blueprints of various fictional TV houses; the other is an online picture that I found by browsing the web. Both versions arrive at solutions that ignore many clues given during the episodes of the DVD Show. One of them even contains numerous blatant discrepancies that conflict with what is plainly seen on the show. So I decided to try my own solution.

The main problem is the part of the house containing the den (or guest room) and Richie's room. Here's what we know about the rooms:

The den -- this room, which we never see (except for its entrance off the living room), must extend off to the right, as viewed from the living room -- because every character who enters the room turns right -- every single time.

Richie's room -- From "The Man From My Uncle", we know that Richie's room:
(a) has a window facing the house across the street
(b) is reached by a hallway, and is entered by approaching from the left of the hall, as seen from inside the room.

Item (a) is no problem; that would position the room to the left of the den, as seen from the living room; and that fits with the wall that can be seen through the open front door of the house. But item (b) is a real problem. How can you go past the den, enter from the hall on the correct side, and be at the front of the house -- unless the layout is something like this:
It's a layout that makes no sense. No architect would design a hallway that wraps completely around a room, as this hall wraps around the den. Yet this layout seems to be required in order to make everything fit together as shown on the program.

Then I figured out a possible solution. What if the Petrie home were situated inside a curve on Bonnie Meadow Road? There is such a location on that street.

In that case there would be multiple houses, in different directions, visible from rooms in the house -- like this:

Now everything falls into place. Richie's room is located like this:
Richie's bedroom window still looks out across the street -- but at a 90-degree angle from the front door. The den is not surrounded by the hallway, but instead has exterior walls with windows on one or even two walls of the room.

The rest of the house is fairly easy to lay out. The following drawing is certainly not to scale; distances and angles are too hard to determine on a 2-D television screen. Green areas are those we see on the show; yellow areas are never seen, and therefore are purely speculative on my part.

I've left out the positioning of the basement, and the stairs to the basement. You can only go so far with a project like this...

1 - Front Door
2 - Coat closet
3 - Den (the little wall inside the door is awkwardly placed. Perhaps it's a structural element -- maybe made necessary by the boulder in the basement?)
4 - Step up/down
5 - Bay window
6 - wood stove on brick hearth
7 - Pass through window to kitchen
8 - Ottoman
9 - Piano (usually seen only at parties; once seen against this wall of the room)
10 - Kitchen
11 - Broom closet
12 - Sliding glass doors
13 - Laundry room (never seen but once mentioned; this seems like a logical location)
14 - Garage (orienting the garage in this way makes sense if the street curves around the house as I've speculated)
15 - Wood deck (I've assumed the arms of the U shape; it would explain why the Helpers don't come in straight from outside the sliding door, and also gives a location for the grill (16) that was implied in that location in one episode.
17 - Master bedroom. I've drawn it as a trapezoid instead of a rectangle, as a close observation of the room while watching the show reveals an angle > 90 degrees between the wall with the window, and the wall the beds are against.
18 - Master bath
19 - Hall to Richie's room
20 -Richie's room
21 - Bath
22 - Window used by G-Man for stakeout
23 - Driveway
24 - To Millie and Jerry's house
25 - Bonnie Meadow Road


  1. Hi...Just wanted to let you know I've just built the Petrie house in Second Life. It was a challenge to figure out, but it works beautifully. :)

    If you'd like to come for a visit, just let me know!


    1. I like your rendition of the house. It has puzzled me for a few months since re-watching Man From Uncle and seeing them turn left out of Richie's room.

      There are a few issues though:

      Sevearl eppisodes have a view out the front door and show an outside wall with a vining bush or rose on it. This indicates some type of room that extendes out from the house to the left of the coat closet.

      In the episode My Brother's Keeper Staci falls asleep in the bathtub which is to the right of the den door, indicating either a jackn jill with richie's room or a guest bathroom with a possible second entrance from the hidden hall. A house like this would have a guest bath.

      The garage is also perplexing. In Broom Broom the door is in the rear, but when the door is opened it reveals the garage is not attached to the house. There appears to be a breezeway between the house and garage.


  2. I'm so happy to have found some other people who have struggled with this issue, LOL! I've spent many hours myself trying to do this. The idea of the house being on the corner DOES solve much of the "Man from My UNCLE" issue. However, here's a couple of problems with that:

    1. When Mr. Gerard comes out of his house, Rob ALSO sees him coming up the Petrie walkway. It's hard to imagine that Rob's vision would extend that much to the left.

    2. We know from the last regular episode, "Love Thy Other Neighbor" that they have only TWO bathrooms. Rob says, "We can afford two cars and two bathrooms but only one deck of cards." One is in the master bedroom. The other comes off Richie's room but ALSO has to be to the right when you enter that den (as mentioned in a previous comment here, Stacey falls asleep in the bathtub in that direction).

    3. The den must also extend more to the left because when you exit the front door, there is more house out there. This would be great for allowing the bathroom as drawn here to also be entered from Richie's room, but the bathroom still isn't where it should be to the right in the den.

    4. We see Richie's room in three episodes: The Man from My UNCLE, Never Name a Duck, and The Sick Boy and the Sitter. It's a little different in each, but the bigger issue is that in The Sick Boy and the Sitter, the very obvious implication is that it is toward the audience off the kitchen (where Lora's illustration has the mysterious formal dining room). I figure that's where they had Richie when he was very young, and it WAS very small, so it's now a junk room.

    I have more, but I have to get on with life for a bit. It's nice to meet you all. LOL.

  3. You make several excellent points. It's clear that my proposed floor plan resolves some issues, but not others.

    There's only one solution: I'll have to watch the episodes all over again! And I'll take any excuse to do that.

  4. the have a blue print of the house in the "Official Dick Van Dyke show book" I don't remember which page. I don't know if it's in the original book but I know it's in the updated one.

  5. I think it's great there are other fans out there that are as geeky about these things as I.

    Let me throw some problems in the stew. In The Man from My UNCLE the G man says he wants to watch the house across the street, Rob says, "Jerry Helper?" What'd he do?" In A man's Teeth are not his own, it's clear Jerry lives next door, and has an office there. In My House is Your House, we learn the Helper's house has the same floor plan, bigger closets, bigger laundry room and bigger garage (no rock). At some pint, Rob must have had the rock removed, because when he plays pool with Blackie, Buddy's brother, there's room for the bar, pool table and no rock. Also, when Laura is auditioning for a PTA musical, Rob asks everyone to move back to the window seat, the fourth wall the audience never sees. In Long Night's Journey into Day, the garage is attached again. In All About Evesdropping the helper's house looks nothing like the crazy floorplan of the Petries, and Rob and Laura go out the patio door to the Helper's patio door.

    Whatever the floorplan is, it's obvious why the builder vanished after the house was sold-- a crazy house like must take up an acre of ground.

    As silly as the house would be, I always liked it, I got a kick out of seeing it recreated on color for the special. Oh, and speaking of color, the walls up stage are not "eggshell" as Vito says in "Give Me Your Walls."

    1. These are all good points, I made a few of them myself, in my notes on the episodes you've referred to. By the way, the fourth wall of the living room was seen once, in "A Nice, Friendly Game of Cards". No window seat in view, but you do see, against the wall, the Petrie's piano that appeared in a few episodes.

  6. I would like to build a rendition of this house. I am only concerned with the livingroom, kitchen, master bedroom, and the master bath. The rest of the house doesn't matter. I love that Laura had an island and the cooktop was right there. I don't like having my back to people when I am cooking. Have always loved that house! I am a realtor so I disect houses on screen!

  7. In the G-man episode, the first agent mentions "the house across the street" and Rob says "Jerry Helper? He's my best friend! What did he do?" I always thought the Helpers were next door!

    1. You're right, that was a continuity error for the sake of the joke. The Helpers were next door. In one early episode, Millie mentioned her address as 146 Bonnie Meadow Road. We know the Petries were 148. So, they were on the same side of the street.