Reel Estate

Reel Estate: Does nobody want Holly Golightly's townhouse?

By Virginia K. Smith | November 7, 2014 - 9:59AM

When a movie or TV show is set in New York City—and if the people making it are savvy—real estate becomes part of the story itself. In Reel Estate, we look at some of the more memorable domiciles to grace the screen.

A lot of classic New York movies lean heavily on nightmarish neighbors, whether it's for comedic purposes (Ghostbusters, As Good As It Gets) or something more sinister (Rear Window, Rosemary's Baby). For this week's installment of Reel Estate, we'll submit another one to the annals: Holly Golightly. 

Breakfast at Tiffany's is beloved as a classic for a lot of reasons, but if you rewatch it as an adult who's ever lived in an apartment building, it gets pretty tough not to roll your eyes at Holly (Audrey Hepburn), who 1) constantly loses keys to the building 2) loudly buzzes the landlord at all hours 3) throws raucous, smoke-filled parties 'til the early morning, then disappears when the cops show, and 4) climbs up the fire escape and into the window of her neighbor's apartment, totally uninvited: 

Stop it.

This particular incident happens mere hours after she meets her new neighbor Paul Varjak, and when he does let her in, she pours half her whiskey on one of his house plants then crawls into bed with him. Only in the realm of fiction would this end with the two of them falling in love. The less said about Mickey Rooney's stupefyingly racist portrayal of her Japanese landlord, the better, but it's easy to end up sympathizing with all his rants at Holly for ringing his buzzer at 4 a.m., and when he eventually turns her over to the cops for her involvement with a mobster, well, it's hard to blame him.

Questionable character choices aside, her apartment is iconic, and reasonably realistic—note the tiny kitchenette and shakily-installed window A/C. We don't know if we'd go as far as one of her party guests who calls the place a "dump," but it's not at Friends fantasy-apartment-level, either.

Of course, as On The Set Of New York points out, the interiors were shot on a Hollywood sound stage (and, presumably, designed by someone with an intimate knowledge of beige-intensive, poorly-lit New York apartments). The actual building is very real, though, and still looks more or less the same as it did back in 1961 (minus the famous green and white awning). Instead of an apartment building like Holly's, it's actually a single-family house converted from a set of two duplexes. Here's what the real life interiors look like:

It's even got a solarium! Located at 169 East 71st Street, the building has actually changed hands quite a few times over the past decade or so. It was purchased for just $1.8 million back in 2000 by an owner Curbed describes as a "disgraced Merrill Lynch broker," who then sold it for close to $6 million in 2012. In May, the new owners put it on the market for $10 million, clearly hoping to pull off a major flip. Apparently there were no takers, though, as it was just relisted last month with the price knocked down to $8 million. Not exactly what most people would consider a bargain, but surely there's some movie buff with extra cash who'd buy the place for bragging rights? That is, unless there's a tenant like Holly in place.



Reel Estate: Rosemary's Baby (and her rent-stabilized digs)

How to Marry a Millionaire? Shack up in an $8,000/month apartment

Reel Estate: Keeping up with Khloe Kardashian's rental budget

Reel Estate: Manhattan Love Story's puzzling housing setups

Reel Estate: The Upper East Side (and Urban Haute Bourgeoisie) apartments of Whit Stillman's Metropolitan

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.