Meet the ‘Outlander’ Fan Making Over Her Home to Match Sets From the Hit Period Drama

“It’s a psychotic process,” she admits, “but I have a lot of fun with it.”
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Since the release of the first Outlander book in 1991, millions of adoring fans have been consumed with Diana Gabaldon’s historical fantasy novels, swept away by the time-twisting passion and love between roguish Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser and his out-of-place English "Sassenach" Claire Randall, a World War II nurse who is transported through time to 18th-century Scotland. The fervor only intensified in 2014 when a TV adaptation of the series debuted on Starz, with showrunner Ronald D. Moore delivering plenty of sexy, sexy sex scenes and sweeping Scottish vistas for audiences to lust over. A rabid legion of online fans now lament the "Droughtlander" between each season, creating TikToks celebrating their favorite scenes, making chunky scarves just like Claire wears, and joining fan groups like Heughan’s Heugligans, a 65,000-person online community dedicated to the actor who plays the show’s hunky hero.

But for one Outlander loyalist, Chelsea Smith, knitwear and fan videos just weren’t enough. The office manager from Massachusetts’s North Shore used inspiration from the show’s vivid scenery and production design to outfit her own residence, or "Houselander."

Smith first found Outlander (which returns for its seventh—and penultimate—season this summer) a few years ago after her hairdresser recommended it and said she was instantly taken with the hit period drama’s on-screen world. "I've always been a total homebody and loved the simpler things, so it was easy to get sucked in," she says. Watching episode after episode in the white-and-gray living room of her circa 1755 farmhouse, though, Smith started to wonder if she could take her fandom even further. "Outlander’s set design is stunning and I became absolutely obsessed with it," she says. "The more I watched the show, the more I would look around my house and think, It’s so boring in here. We live in a colonial house, so why aren’t we making it more authentic to what it’s supposed to be?"

Outlander fanatic Chelsea Smith and her husband use inspiration from the hit period drama’s vivid production design to outfit their Massachusetts residence, lovingly dubbed "Houselander."

Outlander fanatic Chelsea Smith and her husband use inspiration from the hit period drama’s vivid production design to outfit their Massachusetts residence, lovingly dubbed "Houselander."

Calling traditional New England colonial style a little "stark for [her] maximalist heart," Smith instead leaned heavily into the Outlander aesthetic, choosing first to model her rarely used dining room after a deep-blue hallway in River Run, set in 1760s North Carolina. (After the first season, the show’s heroes move to France and later settle in colonial America.) On a lark, Smith posted a TikTok about her struggle to nail down which color to use. After the clip quickly racked up 1.5 million views, Smith realized she was onto something. With her similarly Outlander-obsessed husband’s help, she painted the couple’s bedroom the same dark green as is in the Southern colonial–style Big House on Fraser’s Ridge in the fourth and fifth seasons, following that up with an office remodel inspired by the French apothecary in Outlander’s second season. (She’s still hard at work filling her shelves with as many "cool oddities and curiosities.")

Most recently, Smith has tackled her living room, painting it a dark midnight blue that she says was on the show for about "three minutes total." Smith explains that using Outlander for inspiration helps her decide where to start on a design, not unlike finding a picture of a room in a magazine or on Pinterest and going from there. "Instead of having to brainstorm which color I want to go with from hundreds or thousands of options, it’s sort of like, Here’s the taking off point," she says. "I can see whether I’m going to like it or not based on whether I like it on the show."

In order to get her colors picture-perfect, Smith uploads screenshots of the Outlander sets (either from her iPhone or that she finds on Google) to Sherwin-Williams’s and Benjamin Moore’s color-matching apps. Once she gets color suggestions, she’ll hit the store, grab some samples, and start painting swatches on the wall. "If they’re not exactly right, I just start custom mixing them by eye," she says. When Smith gets to a color she thinks seems right, she’ll actually turn on the related TV scene, holding a paint stick near the screen to see how close she’s gotten. "It’s a psychotic process," she admits, "but I have a lot of fun with it."

Smith says she’s also used Google Lens on Outlander stills to try to identify background wallpapers and accessories. Before she painted her living room the midnight-blue shade, she thought about using a backdrop from a Season 5 scene where Jamie plays chess with Lieutenant Knox. "There’s this cream wallpaper with brown pheasants and Greek pillars…it’s similar to a pattern I’d seen in a Colonial Williamsburg design book I have," she says. "I Googled it and found an exact match. I was holding my phone up to the show as I was watching and zooming in on corners, looking at specific parts of the design based on what I could see in the shot. Turns out it was actually from a Schumacher Colonial Williamsburg collection from the 1990s and it’s literally only available on 1stDibs for $910 per roll, and they only have four rolls available, or eBay for $800 per four rolls, plus $100 for shipping—so that’s not going to work out, but I’m still thinking of trying to mimic the look in another room with a more affordable option."

Smith’s DIY updates to the 1755 home involve meticulous color-matching of wall paints—even sometimes custom mixing to get the perfect tone.

Smith’s DIY updates to the 1755 home involve meticulous color-matching of wall paints—even sometimes custom mixing to get the perfect tone.

Smith says her passion for Outlander-inspired design has made her a de facto expert for fans looking to do the same with their own homes. She hasn’t been able to recreate everything in the show’s decor world—the wallpaper from the Frasers’s ancestral home, Lallybroch, has been particularly hard to nail down, for instance—but she’s enjoyed helping other fanatics where she can. She’s posted videos showing how she crafts antique-looking apothecary jars and explaining how she landed on her color matches so they can replicate the look in their own home. She’s also made connections with people who actually work on the show, like longtime Outlander production designer Jon Gary Steele and producer Barry Waldo, both of whom follow her on Instagram.

Smith—who says she’ll next paint her bathroom to look like Jamie’s print shop and is planning a kitchen remodel inspired by the "stone walls, dried herbs, and dark wood" of Season 1’s Castle Leoch—explains that while she finds decor inspiration in her favorite show’s intricate set designs, that doesn’t mean she’s trying to glamorize the subject matter or story lines. While she says she does see value in romanticizing your life and wanting "to live in a home that makes me feel like I could be walking around in a nightgown with a candelabra," she’s also quick to acknowledge that, as a historical drama, Outlander often deals with representations of slavery, colonization, and sexual violence.

Smith says that, to her, the show’s darkest moments serve as a constant reminder that the best part of humanity is how we persevere. "That is something I’m proud to have my home embody," she says. "I hope my family has an incredibly comfortable and happy life within these walls, but I know that it can’t always be that way. There will be hard times, and when those come, we will be reminded that we can get through them together, and that home is still home in good times and bad."

Top photo courtesy of Starz.

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