In 1992, the average rent for a Manhattan one-bedroom apartment was $1,475, and the last remaining Automat had just recently closed. Between that February and May, seven 20-somethings and one 19-year-old, all strangers until then, lived together in a Soho loft with a camera crew — and when The Real World debuted on MTV later that spring, the reality-casting industry was born. Nearly 30 years later (average Manhattan one-bedroom rent: $2,750), the cast from that first season is back in the same loft for a bit of pure, uncut Gen-X nostalgia bait called The Real World Homecoming: New York, which begins airing March 4 on Paramount+. The cast members, now all in their late 40s and early 50s, are still fighting about race and sex, but we at Curbed are, of course, most interested in the loft itself.
The 6,500-square-foot, four-bedroom apartment with distinctive cast-iron Corinthian columns and a 1,500-square-foot mezzanine is at the corner of Broadway and Prince Street and is currently under contract for $5.5 million after first being put on the market in 2019 for $7.5 million. The most recent owner is the artist Edwina Sandys, a granddaughter of Winston Churchill.
Done up anew for Homecoming, the loft has familiar Real World touches: black couches with red pillows in the living room, the requisite pool table, and a fish tank (the blue neon trim, alas, was left in 1992). Compared with the original decorating, it looks far more like the multimillion-dollar home it has become, and everything is just all-around nicer with what seems like a fittingly middle-aged furniture budget, rather than the postcollegiate Ikea feel of the original show. “We didn’t have such glamour back then,” cast member Norman said in a tour of the loft. “We did not have the glamour.”
Here’s a first look at the Homecoming set.
“At one point, we wanted it to not be at all like the original because it was about bringing a new audience in. And then we thought about trying to do a full replica,” said James McGowan, the production designer. But after he and his colleagues exchanged screenshots of the original set, which was much more of a knocked-together, assistants-with-paintbrushes affair, McGowan said they settled on something in between: picking up references from the original show and re-creating some details exactly (the same species of fish), all while making the space feel generally more contemporary and grown-up.
“We realized that we could, for the most part, have something that felt comfortable and modern and aspirational but still remind us of what came before,” he said.
“They’re older — they’re adults,” McGowan said of the cast. “They want a little more comfort. So the team pulled the same color schemes from the original show and had new custom furniture built, including headboards and couches. There are now even duvet covers and pillowcases, instead of the bare mattresses the cast found upon arriving in 1992 — though two or three twin beds are still crammed into each bedroom.
McGowan, who has designed elaborate houses for a host of MTV shows, tried to keep the bedrooms simpler for Homecoming, with monochromatic color schemes and no art on the walls.
The pool table sits in a windowless space, which is probably why the tall, blank walls were covered with draperies in ’92 — another motif, along with the similar pendant lights over the pool table, that was picked up for the reboot.
The entire loft has been remodeled since 1992, which you can see most clearly in the kitchen. It now has updated countertops, open shelving, and a higher ceiling. The fridge is differently stocked too. “We definitely catered to a more grown-up crowd,” McGowan said. “We bought so many organic vegetables for them to cook with.”