Because I have lost my mind and started writing fanfic, I was watching Iron Man recently with the sound off so I could refresh my memory on the details of the house. I, er, got sucked into it a bit and couldn’t decide if this is really interesting set design or just really weird. More fuel for the What the Hell Even is Tony engines.

Warning, this is LONG. Also, per usual, movie-verse only. (I’m not even sure where one would start doing this kind of thing with the comics, if it would even be possible given restarts, redesigns, ret-cons, alternate timelines, whathaveyou.) All crappy screen grabs are my own.

I had thought going into this that we don’t see a lot of the house interior, but it turned out that I had forgotten a lot of the Iron Man 2 sets. (A lot of those get trashed during the fight with War Machine.)

To start with the obvious, the place is HUGE. How many thousands of square feet does one guy need?

Let’s start upstairs and work our way down.

Bedroom: There’s a rather nice telescope in his bedroom. Not only do the windows polarize, they’re part of JARVIS’s display system, and in Iron Man 2 we’re getting some kind of fancy mirror effect in the dressing room (which has its own bar and the only book I’ve spotted anywhere in the upstairs, under that table).

I’m pretty sure the foyer is on the same level, that it’s the bit off to the uppermost right in the wide-angle view. Rather, it was on the same level.

Well, it was a boring room anyway. Moving down.

Living Room: The second-most-used set after the workshop, surprisingly organic. Everything is curves, light neutrals and natural materials. There’s a wall fountain, a couple of low-profile plants, gobs of natural light. As ostentation goes? Pretty understated.

The existence of the piano (off to the left in this shot) fascinates me. The only person we ever see play it is Obie, an interesting bit of characterization for him. A fic I read recently brought in the notion that Tony, like most rich kids, was made to take music lessons as a child, which doesn’t strike me as unlikely.

What’s missing here? Any trace of conventional American masculinity, and anything remotely personal. The house in general looks like a classy hotel.

Gym: Takes up a fair chunk of that square footage, and it’s implied that it sees regular use. Until it gets comprehensively wrecked, anyway.

There’s also the “party room,” which is basically a public area, so we’ve covered all of the living space that we get to see.

None of which looks like anyone lives there. I think we can discard the possibility of lazy set design, given the attention lavished on minutia like the suit interface. I haven’t made up my mind how to interpret it. On the one hand, the house has to have been built or at least extensively remodeled to order, because even rich people don’t build a garage that could serve as aircraft hangar as a matter of course, not to mention all of the wacky wiring etc. for JARVIS. So you’d think that the living space reflects what Tony actually likes because why wouldn’t it? On the other hand, across both films we almost never see him up there alone, so it could well be that the entire house is Public Tony, the things people expect of him, and he doesn’t care one way or the other. (In which case, possibly it’s Pepper’s taste we’re seeing? The NY penthouse has a darker palette but a lot of design elements in common with Malibu.)

Moving down.

Workshop/Garage: This is the part of the house we see the most of by far. It’s largely opposite to the upstairs: concrete, fluorescent lights, metal, loud music, and much more actual stuff.

Someone liked that ocean view enough to put a massive bank of windows in the garage, though.

Aside from a few fixtures like the holographic drafting table, the furniture changes constantly, so I decided to stick to what strikes me as characterization details and realized that even here, there aren’t many. There’s cars, robots, computers, a jukebox (surprisingly retro) and ten thousand tools. The personal stuff that is down here is not Tony’s; it’s Howard’s

I have seen references to that hot rod Tony’s fussing with in the flashback as a perpetual project, never to be finished.

Same car? The airplane propeller on the wall is presumably a Howard relic as well. There is a photograph of him and Tony on one of the desks. There’s the model/prototype/whatever Captain America shield that shows up in both movies. Yep, entirely free of nostalgia you are the world’s worst liar Tony. (1)

What’s missing? Any evidence that his mother even existed. Anything—with the notable exception of Dummy and the others—that speaks to Tony’s own forty-odd years of life.

Dude, WTF?

A couple of things about the workshop strike me in contrast to a lot of fics. Maybe there’s bleedover from the comics continuities to explain it, or maybe it’s just the clearly-widespread impulse to write Tony as more of a disaster than he already is. (Please note: I adore the Toasterverse and its cousins as much as the next person. I do movie analysis for my own entertainment, not because I have any negative thoughts about anyone else’s stuff. Write/read whatever you want and have fun.)

First off, there is nothing in the entire place that I would call frivolous. When it comes to toys, he seems to restrict himself to things with engines and theoretically useful, semi-sentient robots.

Second, the place is usually clean. When he’s in full-on obsessive work mode, it’s full of stuff, but it’s stuff that has a purpose, and in between projects the place is freaking spotless. Generally speaking, movie-verse Tony is a tidy person and careful of his things. In that flashback workshop scene? He’s got his watch on upside down, which you do when you don’t want to get it dirty. (He’s also wearing it on his right hand for some reason.) There isn’t so much as an oil stain on the floor.

Granted, the deeper we go into the first movie, the more space the armor takes up.

Wow no, that’s not metaphorical or anything. Still, neither the space nor his person is by any means disorganized.

By the time we get to Iron Man 2 there’s been some remodeling, and the armor has its own dedicated area.

This actually strikes me as borderline out of character, in that we’ve seen Tony’s not one for mementos. The armor is, presumably, different.

They also gave the workshop a new, black floor for IM2. The look for the entire movie is darker, much more of it takes place at night, and color when present is hyper-saturated. At least, until we get to the Science! part, where they turn the sun back on; I did mention lack of subtlety?

This is a reference post, not so much a thinking post, but I do suspect that those windows are there for a good reason. It would have been easy and even practical to make the room windowless. The fact that they are there at all makes this not the Batcave, because Tony isn’t Batman.

I’m still a little upset that they’re going to blow up the house in IM3 (2), but looking back on this post, I guess there’s nothing there that’s going to be missed.

1 From coined 1668 by Johannes Hofer as a rendering of Ger. heimweh, from Gk. nostos “homecoming” + algos “pain, grief, distress”

2 Why you have to be rich to be a superhero; he’ll never be able to buy insurance again.

UTTER EXCELLENCE. You know, in case I haven’t Tony-spammed you enough already today.

A couple notes on the stark-ness (lol pun) of the design; interesting that they rely so much on that sort of mid-century feel which I think is both a reference to his comics legacy (in our world) and his father (in his), as well as being that sort of aspirational-mid-century-feelgood-space-and-science thing. It’s also a part of him being filthy rich, I think. When you look in “Architectural Digest” and stuff, the houses and things are props and cleaned up and organized properly and rarely feel lived-in (and that is why I hate that magazine).

Yet at the same time, I think it’s a part of, well, like I said, “modernism”, as well as him being an engineer, that he wants everything laid out very obviously and linearly. Like a CAD drawing, or a periodic table, where the information is all very accessible, and a sort of natural organic design sensibility comes about out of the presentation and organization of information. But maybe that’s just my engineer voice speaking.

Source: thisisevenharderthannamingablog