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The Royal Tenenbaums House Is for Rent
The first time I stepped foot in my 4th-floor walk-up in Hamilton Heights, I knew I’d hit the jackpot. I rented it sight unseen while I was still living in Chicago because it was cheap and near my graduate school. I didn’t know until I arrived that it was on one of the most beautiful and coveted streets in Manhattan.
My favorite feature was the living room’s small but perfect east-facing window. It looked out over the many historic brownstones that lined Convent Avenue and provided an intimate view of the street’s most unique looking brownstone which, despite being raised in a standard brick home 1,000 miles away, felt eerily familiar to me.
Other people recognized the house as well. Every day, I’d watch curiously as dozens of people posed for photographs outside the turreted, colorful heap of a home on the corner of Convent and 144th. Clearly, they had figured out what I was still trying to solve. After a few painful weeks of failing to recall the mystery home’s origins, my neighbor Rob informed me that the brownstone was, in fact, the house from “The Royal Tenenbaums.” “People are always up here snapping selfies outside it,” he said.
A sense of relief rushed over me as visions of emo Gwyneth Paltrow and a tracksuit-donning Ben Stiller pacing throughout wood-paneled rooms flooded my mind. Staring at the house’s many levels, it was easy to fill in the activity from the legendary film. Luke Wilson creeping onto the roof with the hawk Mordecai. Owen Wilson, high on mescaline, crashing his car into the small staircase on the north side of the house. Baby Ben Stiller taking calls in front of the second floor’s grand bay windows.
Eventually I asked myself the same question I imagine every person who encounters the hulking house does: “I wonder how much that bad boy costs?” Four years later, I finally have an answer. According to Curbed, the brownstone is on the market for the first time since 1999 for the cool price of $20,000/month.
The house’s quirky interior character is clearly visible in its Compass listing, as is the unique exterior which famously caught Wes Anderson’s eye on a location scout. Legend has it Anderson actually decided on the house before he wrote the script for “The Royal Tenenbaums.” The fairytale-esque brownstone served as his main inspiration for the story he eventually wrote.
In an interview with the A.V. Club, the film’s location scout recalled that Anderson decided on the house because it evoked New York City but not in any sort of obvious way. “It feels like New York” he said, “but you don’t see it every day because it’s a little bit out of the way … It’s hidden in plain sight.”
Abigail Covington is a journalist and cultural critic based in Brooklyn, New York but originally from North Carolina, whose work has appeared in Slate, The Nation, Oxford American, and Pitchfork
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