4. Irene’s Harlem Brownstone
A lot of attention was paid to the filming location for Irene’s townhouse. In fact, half the shoot took place at this brownstone, located in Harlem. The home is filmed on the exterior and on the interior and needed to accurately represent Irene’s physical life and her psychological life. It was important to Nora and director Rebecca Hall that they shoot in a real brownstone, rather than recreate it (compare this to Woman in the Window starring Amy Adams, also set in a Harlem brownstone).
First, the exterior of the brownstone at 236 West 137th Street was painted in a very distinctive red so that it would pop in black and white. Nora says, “we did a fair number of tests to think about what would look good in black and white, but not be too overly jarring. Where we landed was this red that was so rich and so saturated, and then we made it glossy so that there was really a shiny aspect to it.” For the interiors, which were filmed at 356 West 121st Street, Nora went to look at the archives of the New York Public Library to see what the layouts of New York brownstones were originally like so she could situate the living spaces, and the service spaces correctly. She tells us that the brownstone they filmed in had two working fireplaces.