It’s Time to Renovate the Royal Tenenbaum House

The Psychology of Interior Design: A Case Study of Wes Anderson’s Interiors in The Royal Tenenbaums

Royal Tenebaums Wallpaper in Adulthood

Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums premiered over 20 years ago in 2001, and I must say that it is time to renovate the Manhattan estate. Before the fans come for me to defend the Scalamandré zebra-print wallpaper in Margot’s room, the mahogany-paneled dining room, and the delicately curated Tenebaum paintings that grace the ballroom, I want to ask you a question. Wouldn’t you want to renovate your home after living in it for over 20 years?

Wes Anderson Artwork
The Royal Tenenbaums Home Illustration by Max Dalton

Wes Anderson has undoubtedly earned fame and recognition along with his set decorator Kris Moran for their interior design plans that have created their own niche style in the design world. Some publications have dubbed Wes Anderson an “accidental interior design icon of the 21st century” for his spaces that transport viewers to other worlds and give deep insights into the minds of his characters. This character insight is the reason why I think it is finally time to take a (figurative) sledgehammer to Tennenbaum’s estate and make way for something new. People change, and our spaces should change with us.

The Royal Tenenbaums film stills
The Royal Tenenbaums Film Stills

What Our Decor Says About Us and How Interior Design Affects Our Daily Lives

I recently saw that the Royal Tennenbaum house was for rent for the first time since Wes Anderson filmed there in 1999. I immediately remembered the fond nostalgia of the warm rose-colored interiors lined with books, artwork, and nods of anachronistic luxury from unknown eras and locations. While Wes Anderson has pioneered a unique design style adored by fans, I couldn’t help but imagine how the Tenenbaum family would be living in their original abode. Are they still clinging on to the past, or are they ready for a fresh start?

The Royal Tenenbaums house
The Royal Tenenbaums House/Sourced from Curbed

The interior design of our homes not only conveys a message about who we are as people, but it also affects how we operate in our day-to-day lives. For those of you who need a quick refresher on The Royal Tenenbaums plot, the three grown Tenenbaum children return home as their adult lives are in shambles and retreat into their childhood bedrooms reminiscent of a time when they were destined for greatness. In short, they cling to past comforts instead of forging something new. The design of the house plays a starring role in the regression of the Tenenbaum children. After 20 years of watching this film, my team of Austin interior designers desperately wants to renovate this dusty period property and bring new life into the home for the Tenenbaum family!

The Royal Tenenbaums film still
The Royal Tenenbaums Film Still

The Psychology of Interior Design

The role of the designers on my Austin interior design team expands far beyond filling a room with beautiful objects. Interior design examines the psychology of space and how interiors impact our behavior and lives. Since we spend most of our time in our homes, it would be foolish to assume that the lighting, colors, scale, and materials didn’t affect our emotions and lifestyle. When we design for our clients, we consider not only their aesthetic style but also their functional and creative needs within the home. While watching The Royal Tenenbaums, it is clear that the dysfunctional family has new requirements that aren’t being met by the design of their home.

The Role of Balance, Color, and Light in Interiors

The psychology of interior design is a delicate balance of many elements, with color and light playing two of the largest roles. Colors have a direct impact on a space and the feeling of its inhabitants. For example, warm colors like pinks and reds can inspire creativity and comfort, but they can foster a gloomy mood when they get too dark. In the Tenenbaum house, it appears that the rose color palette that inspired the family in the past has become a dismal reminder of what once was. Increasing natural light and brightening the color scheme could usher in a refreshing space that promotes productivity and rejuvenation.

Margo's Bedroom from The Royal Tenenbaums
Margo’s Bedroom from The Royal Tenenbaums
Margo's Bedroom from The Royal Tenenbaums
Margo’s Bedroom from The Royal Tenenbaums
Living room from The Royal Tenenbaums
Living Room from The Royal Tenenbaums

The Tenenbaum Children are Mentally Trapped in Their Childhood Bedroom Designs

When the Tenenbaum children flee the problems of adulthood and flock back to their childhood home, they take up residence in their childhood bedrooms, leading them to regress into an era that is no more. The characters begin to define themselves by their past experiences and fall into a cycle of self-loathing and pining for the past. The interior design of the Tenebaum house captures a specific time and place, which is not necessarily working in anyone’s favor.

Bedroom Doors from The Royal Tenenbaums
Bedroom Doors from The Royal Tenenbaums
Bedrooms from The Royal Tenenbaums
Bedrooms from The Royal Tenenbaums

Design Captures a Time and Place—Which Can be Positive or Negative

Interior designers work to create spaces that capture a time and place that inspire the homeowners. In the case of the Tenenbaums, it may be time to visit a different time and place. While an interior space may be beautiful, that does not necessarily mean it is functional or empowering for the residents inside. The Tenebaum children are blocked at every turn by their own past represented through cluttered collections, and yes, some very posh wallpapers.

  • Chas’s Room

    Chas’s room reads more like a corporate office, featuring filing cabinets, checkered tile floors, and a drab color palette of grey. Clearly, the room no longer functions but instead serves as a reminder of failed business ventures from the past. It sounds like it’s time to renovate to me!

  • Margot’s Room

    While Margot’s room features elements of a creative retreat, such as rich wallcoverings, dreamy curtains, and a library of plays, the warm color palette no longer feels lively. Instead, the space reflects past interests that are not aligned with her current goals. It is time for a refresh.

  • Richie’s Room

    Richie’s room is one of the only lively spaces in the home, but it still feels empty. Complete with storybook murals, a drum set, and a toy car collection, the bedroom hardly feels fitting for an adult. Again, can we start this remodel already?

Design Inspires Change

Interior design provides more than a beautiful backdrop to our lives and the functional floor plan needed for day-to-day living. Good interior design also inspires change and better living. Unfortunately, in the case of the Tenenbaum children, they have retreated into a dated cocoon that no longer serves to inspire. Would a remodel give them that needed push and a fresh start?

Dining Room from The Royal Tenenbaums
Dining Room from The Royal Tenenbaums
Dining Room from The Royal Tenenbaums
Dining Room from The Royal Tenenbaums

Wes, We Need to Renovate the Tenenbaum Home and Update the Interior

I always wanted to be a Tenenbaum.” Well, that may have been true until you tried living in a dysfunctional interior for a week! Wes, before anyone starts moving back into the Tenenbaum house, we desperately need to plan the renovation.

The Royal Tenenbaums Film Still
The Royal Tenenbaums Film Still

Needs Change and So Should Interior Design

Our homes’ interior spaces reflect our moods, aspirations, and needs, which change throughout the decades. So, it only makes sense that the Tenenbaum house should be renovated to meet the family’s new requirements. While a formal dining room may look beautiful, is it really functional for a couple who no longer entertains? Should a childhood bedroom serve as an unused time capsule, or should it be reimagined into a practical office or inviting guest retreat?  As interior designers, our job is to discover the client’s needs and balance the home’s function, aesthetics, and aspirational nature. I think it’s clear that the needs of the Tenenbaum family, like our own families, have dramatically changed over the past 20 years.

The Royal Tenenbaums Film Still
The Royal Tenenbaums Film Still

Want to learn more about residential design?

Check Out Design 101


Amity Worrel

Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.