With not much left to do than stay inside and watch TV, I’ve been looking for that perfect show to binge while purposefully avoiding turning on the news. And since Netflix’ middle name is Keeping You Distracted (or sure as hell should be), I didn’t have to look all that far to find the perfect bingefest-worthy show to get my mind off reality.
And it comes with lots of drama (you know, the expensive prep school type that leaves you longing for the good old days), headbands, and lavish Upper East Side homes.
Gossip Girl, the immensely popular TV series of the late 2000s, ran for six seasons and got us all hooked on the posh lives of its leading characters, with Blair Waldorf, Serena van der Woodsen, Chuck Bass, and Nate Archibald acting as modern royalty of sorts.
Which basically makes Gossip Girl the mother of all fancy pants homes; in fact, I dare you to find a single episode that doesn’t feature Upper East Side penthouses, glamorous townhouses, and ritzy interiors (and no, Serena’s grandmother’s house in the Hamptons doesn’t count).
So there’s no way we could stop at just one of the apartments featured on the show — and went out looking for the scoop on ALL the posh pads on Gossip Girl (you know, just in case someone out there wants to go looking for their own Nate Archibald).
Now, before we go snooping into the original crew’s digs, it’s worth giving a nod to the new generation of Upper East Siders coming to HBO in the Gossip Girl reboot; here’s to you guys winning over a generation in the same way your predecessor did, we’re rooting for you. But in our hearts, there will always be a special place for Serena, Blair, Nate, Chuck, Dan, Jenny and Vanessa.
The Van der Woodsen penthouse
Otherwise known as Serena’s lair or Lilly Bass’ penthouse, this penthouse was one of the most heavily used sets on Gossip Girl, not to mention one of the most stylish. Showcasing Lilly’s impeccable taste in art and decor, the Van der Woodsen penthouse served as home to the entire extended family, with Chuck, Rufus, Dan, and Jenny all calling it home at one point.
In the first season of Gossip Girl, the Van der Woodsens live at the Palace — the Bass-owned hotel, courtesy of Bart Bass — while their penthouse is being redecorated. They move back into the penthouse towards the end of the season, with Bart and Chuck Bass joining them.
The modern living room of the Van der Woodsens, home to many, many scenes throughout the show, is done up in red, white, and turquoise, and is a delight to look at.
It’s a mix of sharp modern lines (the white sofas, the coffee table), touches of Asian influence (red pillows), and even a glimpse of traditional flair (like the armchairs). And let’s not forget the finishing touches: a pop art portrait and a shrine to the all-mighty Prada.
As the story goes, the fictional apartment is set in a high rise on the East Side, not too far from the Palace Hotel. Cece Rhodes (Serena’s grandmother) bought the penthouse as a gift for Lilly’s first wedding with Serena’s father, William — for tax purposes, of course. Towards the end of the show, the penthouse becomes the subject of a bitter ownership battle, as Cece leaves it as inheritance to her fake granddaughter, Ivy, but the Van der Woodsens manage to get it back.
In real life, the apartment used as home for the Van der Woodsens is set in the Milan Condominiums at 300 East 55th Street — which isn’t technically in the Upper East Side, but we’ll let that one slide just because we’re happy to hear it exists in the first place, and we weren’t daydreaming of a cardboard filming set. The easiest way to recognize the surroundings is by looking at the lobby of the building — bound to look extremely familiar to fans of the show.
The Milan Condominium is a 32-story tower designed by Peter Claman of SLCE Architects, and features 118 condo units (most of them two-bedroom), with a penthouse at the top that has three fireplaces. The lobby and atrium club room, featured in many scenes on Gossip Girl, were designed by Jay Valgora of STUDIO V Architecture and the outdoor bamboo garden was designed by Ken Smith.
Blair Waldorf’s luxurious apartment
In Gossip Girl, Blair Waldorf lives in a penthouse apartment on Fifth Ave., owned by her mother, Eleanor Waldorf, a highly successful fashion designer. Naturally, their home exudes all the elegance Eleanor’s profession commands, complemented by Blair’s own impeccable taste.
While in the first season, a different setting was used as home of the Waldorfs (then again, for the first couple episodes, even Blair’s mom was played by a different actress), the glamorous apartment that perfectly embodies the lifestyle of the Waldorfs was introduced in Season 2.
The same set was used throughout the show, and served as the backdrop for many iconic Gossip Girl scenes, particularly in later seasons when the characters were past the school age and started spending more time at home, in the company of loved ones. Or foes. Or whatever, depends on the episode, I guess.
However, it was Leighton Meester herself that broke the spell of Blair Waldorf’s apartment, by sharing a video tour of the Gossip Girl set. And it’s just that: a set, with the dreamy staircase leading up to… nothing.
Buuut, while the interiors may be fake, the shots you’ve seen filmed outside of the building were as real as they can be — and you can stroll past Blair Waldorf’s building anytime.
A pricey apartment building at 1136 Fifth Avenue, on the corner of 5th Avenue and 95th Street in the Upper East Side served as the building Blair and her family lived in; the 15-story building, which houses 43 different apartments, was built in 1925 by architect George F. Pelham, Jr., who also designed the Castle Village apartment complex in Hudson Heights.
The building itself has quite the history; it appeared in Chris Rock’s 2001 movie, Down to Earth, as the residence of Charles Wellington, whose body Chris Rock inhabits after his untimely demise. The building was also home to celebrity couple Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid who owned a seven-room unit on the 12th floor (later sold $6.5 million).
The Humphrey loft
Now here’s one TV home that’s very close to my heart. The Brooklyn loft owned by Rufus Humphrey, home to Dan and Jenny, is arguably the most inviting, lively, and cozy crib on the show.
Sure, it may not have million-dollar art pieces hung on its wall, but I’ll take Rufus’ records and Dan’s bookcases over posh furnishings any day. And then there’s also that unique layout, with a garage door separating Dan and Jenny’s rooms, that I personally loved from the very beginning.
While specially picked (and designed) to highlight the striking contrast between the living arrangements of privileged Manhattan prep schools students and those of every other teenage out there, the Humphrey’s loft would by no means fall under “cheap homes”.
The Humphrey loft is set at 455 Water Street in Brooklyn, has three bedrooms — two of them separated by a crafty garage door — a spacious kitchen, and opens up to great views of Manhattan. Well, that may not have been seen as all that luxurious before 2007, but thirteen years (and many price jumps) later, the Humphrey loft would be quite an unaffordable piece of real estate these days.
Chuck Bass’ suites at The Palace and The Empire
Oh, The Palace, Chuck Bass’ first den of sin. Fans of the show will be happy to learn that the luxurious four-and-a-half star landmark hotel said to be owned by the Bass family exists in real life, and it’s located along Madison Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. It is one of the real New York City landmarks used in the show, and one you can actually catch a glimpse of when visiting New York.
In Gossip Girl, Chuck Bass lives in a suite of the hotel his father owns, sustained by the fully stocked bar and room delivery service (with perks). He only leaves his bachelor pad towards the end of the season, to move into the Van der Woodsen penthouse with his new family — but that doesn’t last long, as he quickly gets himself kicked out and moves back into the suite at The Palace. He lives there all to the end of season 3, when he acquires The Empire to build his own… well, empire, and moves into his new hotel.
The Empire Hotel, Chuck Bass’ next home and business venture, is also a real life, ultra-luxurious hotel on the Upper East Side, neighboring Central Park. Its richly appointed suites and never-ending list of amenities make it the perfect place for Chuck Bass to call home, so no wonder Nate Archibald was quick to join him. Nate lived with Chuck at the Empire on and off for the remaining seasons.
More iconic TV homes
Is it Real? The Story Behind Carrie Bradshaw’s Apartment in “Sex and the City”
The Dream House Derek Built for Meredith in “Grey’s Anatomy”
Monica’s Apartment in Friends — The Place Where Friendship is Forever
The Magical House in Locke & Key, Inspired by Stephen King’s Eccentric Home