Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer



photo copy 4

I had a flat, WE had a flat, Ron and I. It was a nice flat. A VERY nice flat. I found it, I picked it above all others. It was devoid of black leather couches, it had Timorous Beasties wallpaper, it was unfurnished. I was pretty unimpressed with the state of most short term corporate rentals. Perfectly suited, I supposed, for a traveling business man who perhaps LIKES a black leather couch to watch sports on.

Not me, so much.

I had asked our housing coordinator if it would be possible to not look at flats with leather couches. She looked at me with puzzlement and suggested I just throw some fabric over it.

I really did not want to explain what a freak I am about housing. It has to be right. It has to give me pleasure, and above all it must provide sanctuary. A film production provides no sanctuary. It is a harsh existence. Long hours and dreary environments ( except my office, which I always decorate). We all work 12 – 14 hour days, and go home only to sleep. It becomes an unforgiving and stingy life. I discovered years and years ago that I HAD to have a sanctuary. I had to be able to close the door behind me, breathe a sigh of relief that I had come home once again.

Plus, I like the adventure of living in a new place, living local. Most people on a film crew live in hotels or more recently corporate housing. I have come to HATE hotels. Doesn’t matter how posh they may be. There is no personality in a hotel, it is an anonymous environment. I need to make a cup of tea and sweep a floor to feel like a whole person. So I gave up hotels 20 years ago. As a result, I have had some incredible sanctuaries over the years. Houses perched on cliffs, on inlets off of the ocean, a loft in Soho, apartment in Paris, a converted storefront in Vancouver, it’s a long list. It’s something I got from my mother.
We moved a LOT, but she never accepted anything ordinary. She would look and look until she found something incredible. Thus we lived in a string of really amazing homes, not expensive homes, but definitely out of the ordinary. We once lived in a 1930s house that was designed to look like an ocean liner. It had a teak lined dining room and a secret mirrored bar that popped out of the wall when a button was pushed, and a stainless steel spiral staircase that only lacked a Busby Berkeley Revue. Finding those houses required hard work and diligence. I remember we would wait outside of the newspaper office on Fridays so she could get the housing listings before anyone else. It paid off, and I am grateful for that gift of diligence and perseverance.

My sanctuaries are often off the beaten track and require a long drive to work. Other crew members think I am nuts. But that drive is part of the experience. I leave work behind, process the trials and tribulations on the drive home, and by the time I pull up to my home, my mind is clean.

Anyway, the flat. It was empty, it was all design-y, marble bathrooms, nice floors, brand new everything. Walking distance to all the shops and restaurants. Beautiful neighborhood, great view. It was like a very posh hotel.

I power shopped a day at Ikea and furnished it all. Two bedrooms, living room, towels, bedding pots, pans, dishes glassware. A trip to the nicer shop provided a rug, />a drama lamp and a couple of pieces of cool art work.

Very nice. If I had been a young graphic designer, it would have been perfect. It required nothing from me. That was the problem. It had no soul, and thus did nothing to feed mine.

One day while shooting at Doune Castle, I was standing in the middle of a field and looking around. It was beautiful, the light was amazing, the trees were a million incredible colors, ambers, gold, green, there were cows.I am passionate about cows. Some of you may have seen photos from that day, of our cast in the garden. And the garden was just the kind of garden I would have. An 18th century garden.

I said to someone. “why can’t I live here, I’d be happy here.”

So I started looking for a little house in the country…

27 thoughts on “Sanctuary

  1. MandyT

    Terry, I know exactly what you mean. I spent five years travelling every week Monday though Thursday as a consultant. It is so hard to feel like you have any sort of normal life when you are in a square box for 3 nights a week in a city where you don’t know many people. A physical sanctuary not really being an option, my sanctuary was in books. Thanks goodness the Kindle was invented so I didn’t have to keep carrying 3-4 books a week back and forth in my suitcase.

    I’m so glad that you have been able to find your sanctuary there in Scotland. From the pictures you’ve shared, it definitely looks like such a warm and cozy place, capable of allowing you to recharge your batteries. BTW, I can’t wait to try the meat sauce recipe!

    Best wishes! Mandy

  2. kathpowell13

    This makes you a unique and really interesting person. We love your ‘little house in the country’ and it’s always such a thrill to learn more about it. Priest holes, thick walls etc. I look forward to reading more from your blog day by day. Keep up the good work Terry.

  3. Karen Combs

    Totally understand! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    I LOVE my home, it is my quiet place, the place I can create. However, since I travel between 15-25 times a year for the teaching portion of my job, it is hard to stay “full” of creatively. Travel itself and staying in hotels can suck the life out of you.

    In order to stay sane, I always rent a car, drive myself to where I need to go. This allows me to search out special places during my down time to recharge. Maybe a walk on the beach, somewhere with a view, a quaint restaurant, an antique shop, all these things help . . .

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

      1. Karen Combs

        Absolutely! You have to take advantage of opportunities and live life.

        It took awhile, but once I figured out how to make travel a plus, rather than a negative, life became “colorful” and I have an wonderful collection of memories Many of them with my husband, who travels with me when he can. Sailing out of Venice at sunset, walking on a glacier, swimming with sting rays, high tea in Stratford upon Avon, flying over the Grand Canyon, sunset at 30,000, so many memories. 😉

  4. emac37

    Thank you for sharing Terry… I can just imagine how you felt that day at Doune – balm for the soul. My DH travels a lot for work staying in soulless hotels but coming home makes it worth all the sacrifices and discomfort. I agree with earlier comment you could easily turn this into a book you have a lovely writing style full of humour.

  5. EllenSpins

    I don’t understand how folks can live without a home to go to. A place to recharge is so necessary. I totally get what you mean about driving home and leaving work behind, too. I try to never bring my work home with me – home is where I do my living.

  6. eclecticdefined

    When we visited Scotland, we stayed in a timeshare on Loch Tay, not far from Pitlochry. It was so amazing and so much better than staying in a hotel. So, when I planned our trip to Paris in 2008, I rented an apartment. We stayed in the 14th arrondissement and lived like Parisians, stopping at the boulangerie every morning to get our baguettes and pastries, and shopping at the marche, charcuterie, and boucherie when we returned from sightseeing each evening. We took the Metro and walked everywhere. It made the trip so much more enjoyable. We enjoyed the neighborhood – the people living in the apartments near us, the girl in the boulangerie who spoke no English, but managed to understand my fractured French and get us exactly what we wanted, the workers painting the apartment building who wished us “bon jour” every morning, the music wafting up from the little club just down the street from us. It was wonderful! On our last day in Paris, we stopped at the boulangerie to take a photo of the young girl who had helped us every day. She asked, in French, if our vacation was over. When I replied, “oui” and asked to take her photo, she smiled shyly, and then handed us one of their cloth bags with their logo and address that they give to their regular customers. I was so touched and couldn’t say “merci” enough. We had made a point to never be the “Ugly Americans”, greeting her every morning with “bon jour” and speaking as much French as we could manage (I had 8 years of Spanish and 2 years of Italian in school – no French, but had studied for three months before the trip). Never once did I ask, “Parlez-vous anglais” and she was nothing but delightful, as was her mother. The clerks in the deli and butcher shop were equally helpful and friendly. We never saw the rude French we had been warned about. We concluded that, when you don’t behave like an entitled American, expecting everyone to speak English and go out of their way to assist you, you are treated well and have wonderful interactions with the locals. And, surprise, they will speak to you in English as long as you attempt to speak French. That experience – living in the apartment – cemented the decision to never, if ever possible, stay in a hotel when on vacation. It is an entirely different experience when you stay in an apartment, home, or even a timeshare, and it makes the vacation so much more incredible.

  7. edgyvegy

    Love me some Timorous Beasties. I, too, can relate. Grew up an army brat, and even two years my mom was starching fabric on the walls and I was training for a future in interior design by default. Home can be anywhere you make it. Certain places definitely have physical energies, and you know it right away. So happy you found a soul mate home there 🙂

  8. Gràs Beathag (Mal) (@mostlyalurker)

    I SO resonate with everything you’ve written. since i completed my undergrad studies and ventured out into the world on my own, i have sought out special places to create my home, my sanctuary, my oasis. it is something that is vital to me — like air, water, and food. i’ve taken lots of crap from family (and sometimes friends) about my pickiness, and willingness to spend (usually more than i should) on the most perfect place i could find to reside wherever i’ve lived.

    i even had the pleasure and privilege of building a house from the ground up with my father in the last years of his life. i loved that house (it had a 600 square foot sewing/creative studio!), and was at the end of a gravel road i named. many’s the time i’ve wished i could’ve jacked it up to plunk down on another piece of land somewhere else.

    thanks for being so generous with yourself in sharing you with us!

        1. terrydresbach

          It is quite wonderful She says good night, gathers her things and heads out to her house. Rain, sleet, thunderstorms, whatever, she says “i’ll be in my house”.
          She even has her own house number on the door.

  9. outlander roundup

    I’ve always felt that I have an old soul. I want things that don’t look like they were made yesterday. Anything that appears a bit wonky and imperfect speaks volumes to me. Little flaws and scars on furniture, woodwork and stonework gives it a life, a history and a most importantly a soul. I want things to have lived a life before I found them. It’s comforting and I don’t feel so disconnected and alone. A house with a past embraces you, welcomes you and you feel relief once you step through the doorway. I am not in the house that I love and that welcomes me. I can feel it. But I try to make it my own anyway I can. I was told by a clairvoyant once that I would live in a barn conversion. Strangely enough I do like barn conversions very much! But sadly I’m still waiting on the lottery win to buy one.

    Glad that you have recognized that in yourself. There are things we need in place so that we can BE ourselves. If you constantly live in places that don’t agree with you, you will grow old fast and becomes very bitter, even hating the things you used to love with a passion.


  10. Pamela (@P_Umali)

    Hi Terry!
    Loved the story! Scotland is such a beautiful country–finally visited 2 summers ago after reading the outlander series! The best places we stayed were not hotels but small b&bs. My favorites were a wee place on the river bank of Inverness & on the Isle of Sky in the middle of nowhere! Nothing fancy, nothing huge–just homey and cozy. Scotland has so much history and beautiful scenery–how can you not want to be in the middle of it all. I enjoyed the opportunity to slow down as SoCal life can be demanding & NONstop.

    I can relate to your long hours and going home JUST to sleep–having a place to unwind and relax is very important. It’s so nice to see that you make it a point to create a sactuary for you and Ron.

    Thank you for sharing ;D

Leave a Reply