In an essay penned for Domino magazine’s Fall 2019 cover story, the Girls creator, 33, recalls the memories she has of the house that she thought she and Antonoff would start a family in, as well as the heartbreaking moment they decided that she would move out, and he would stay.
Dunham and Antonoff, who is the frontman of the band Bleachers and has famously collaborated with Taylor Swift, were ready to find “a place where we could build a future” and “consider children,” Dunham writes of their Brooklyn Heights apartment, which they moved into together a few years after they started dating. The pair met on a blind date set up by Antonoff’s sister and comedian Mike Birbiglia in 2012.
Dunham recalls that she wanted a place that was unique and had a feeling of “decrepit glam,” but Antonoff was “afraid of dust,” so they bid on an apartment that hadn’t even been built yet. In the interim, Dunham made scrapbooks of her dream home, carefully planning out every detail, from the wallpaper down to the pillow covers.
Dunham decorated their new apartment while Antonoff was on tour, excited to unveil the finished project. But when he returned, she writes, “he hated it.”
“He didn’t want to hate it,” she says. “He tried not to hate it. But he didn’t like living among the insides of my mind.” Antonoff wanted a simpler home, something that went against Dunham’s creative vision. She agreed to make some changes, hoping to make him feel comfortable in their shared space.
“I felt sick every time I made a design concession or covered up pink with dove gray,” she remembers. “Love can only survive so much. At night, I mapped out my dream space in my head.”
While they collaborated on many creative ventures while they were together — including the Bleachers’ LP Gone Now, which features spoken-word contributions by Dunham — their different styles in home decor ultimately drove a wedge between them. They continued to live in that same apartment together until their split.
“The last time I saw that apartment was when we agreed, with love, that someone had to go,” Dunham recalls. “‘You can finally eat in the bed without anyone getting mad at you,’ he said through tears.”
Antonoff stayed in the apartment post-split, while Dunham quickly purchased a new place of her own — a decision she soon regretted.
“I made a massive real-estate mistake, the kind that nightmares are made of,” she writes, noting that she never even moved in to the apartment she bought, instead selling it at a loss and bouncing around from friends’ houses to hotel rooms to her father’s office. “I bought something in a state of panic, feeling like if I didn’t put down roots soon I’d float away.”
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Now, more than a year and a half later, Dunham tells Domino that she has happily settled down in an “eccentric” second-floor Manhattan rental that finally makes her feel like she’s home. Decorated with the help of a designer to her exact tastes and plenty of personalized touches (including a color-coded bookcase and pillows custom embroidered with images of her cats, both pictured above), she says she doesn’t want to ever leave.
“Across from me is a luxurious brownstone, but I’m not sure how it’s decorated,” she writes. “I’ve stopped looking in other people’s windows… I’m finally home.”
Read the full story in the Fall 2019 issue of Domino, on newsstands September 3, and on domino.com.