Villa Becomes Village
December 29, 2015 8:41 PM   Subscribe

Seeking fiction and non-fiction accounts, as well as real-life anecdotes, of buying a mansion and renting out the rooms to friends and/or strangers (or, otherwise, of living in such an arrangement)

I always thought it would be an interesting idea and was wondering if anyone had ever done the same (and documented the experience somehow) or otherwise thought the same thing and came up with a story about it. I am not specifically seeking books on the subject: anecdotes, articles, blogs, interviews, films, documentaries, etc. all welcome. As noted above, it doesn't matter if the story is from the perspective of the mansion-owner or one of the tenants. Though seemingly similar, I am not interested in stories about a group of people renting a large house, together, that the owner does not reside in. (Happens all the time in college towns.) Thanks!
posted by sevenofspades to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You mean like housing co-ops? A lot of co-ops are owned, so if that suits you, housing co-op/cooperatives might be a good search term.
posted by aniola at 9:15 PM on December 29, 2015

Die Zweite Heimat is a 1992 miniseries by Edgar Reitz, partly about a Munich mansion rented out as a young student/artist's colony and there's a weird twist ending...
posted by ovvl at 9:16 PM on December 29, 2015

I read this article in the New York Times when it was first published in 2010, and I've thought of it often since then. The mansion was inherited rather than being purchased with the intention of renting out the rooms, so it doesn't exactly meet your criteria. The owner does live on site with an eclectic mix of family and friends.
posted by terooot at 11:15 PM on December 29, 2015

from Vancouver BC
posted by chapps at 12:01 AM on December 30, 2015

The first half of the "New York After Rent" episode of the podcast Theory of Everything! While the focal point is on AirBnB, this specific part talks about a man who buys a place and tries to make an artist's community for friends, friends of friends, and so on.
posted by estlin at 12:06 AM on December 30, 2015

The only thing that springs to mind is Pacific Heights, but it's not quite "a mansion".
posted by kariebookish at 5:07 AM on December 30, 2015

How to Marry a Millionaire is close to what you're aiming for.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:38 AM on December 30, 2015

I read an article...a few months ago? about a group of friends in....Connecticut? who did just that. It was an interesting read - talking about who took on what responsibilities, how some were singles and others were dating and others were married with small children, and how the children affected the dynamic, and how pissed off the neighbors were. And also how, once it was established, how it grew organically, etc.

I just tried to find it by searching "connecticut friend house" but unfortunately, no dice.

I did, however, come across a few other articles in my search that might be helpful: Dorms for Grownups: A Solution for Lonely Millennials?, Why Communes May be the New Retirement Home, and The Millenial Commune.
posted by firei at 5:39 AM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Emily Carr's The House of All Sorts is almost spot on, with the caveat that the house she rented out was adjacent to her childhood home, not the exact same building.
posted by Beardman at 7:28 AM on December 30, 2015

There is Rokeby in New York, which is now kind of an informal (as I understand it) artists' colony, or "an ever-changing assemblage of family and friends" per the first NYT link. Here is another NYT piece about it.
posted by witchen at 8:08 AM on December 30, 2015

Amanda Palmer talks about an "artists collective" type of place she lived in that seems to fit your criteria. It's covered in "The Art of Asking", but not in great depth.
posted by cosmicbandito at 11:53 AM on December 30, 2015


31 Dream Street by Lisa Jewell

Also, it's more of an apartment building (... sort of) than a mansion, but do consider Tales of the City, which is the first of a series of books; the first three were filmed as a miniseries. The apartment building (you can see a picture of the building in the miniseries) is very much like a large, rambling, Victorian home, and the tenants are very involved with each others' lives and with their landlady, Anna Madrigal (who does indeed leave there and tends the garden).
posted by kristi at 5:44 PM on December 30, 2015

I grew up in more or less a mansion with lots of people. It did a variety of social services over the years -- I wasn't around yet for the homeless shelter or unwed mothers time in the 70's, but I remember some refugees living with us until they could find a long term place, and I remember some of the boycotts -- supporting the Farm Workers grape boycott in particular.

I don't know if it's quite what you're thinking of. There were 8-15 people living there at any given time, but not generally just to rent a room. Most people living there wanted to work on social justice and did a lot both together and as jobs. Making dinner in the industrial kitchen was a shared responsibility and there was a chore chart for things that needed doing in the house. When the house was sold, it went to an agency doing AIDS hospice work, so it stayed a group home for quite some time.

As an adult I lived in a shared house, but with only 5 bedrooms, so not as mansiony.

I don't know if this is what you're looking for, but I could answer questions if you have any.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:51 PM on December 30, 2015

Daphne Phelps inherited a house in Toarmina after the second war. She had intended to spruce it up a bit and sell it. Instead she made it a go-to rest and relaxation spot for generations of friends and strangers. She wrote about it in A House in Sicily
posted by BWA at 6:11 AM on December 31, 2015

Thanks all! I've had a good time perusing these so far. So many of these I could have never come up with on my own either. The wonders of MetaFilter!
posted by sevenofspades at 6:00 PM on January 23, 2016

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