Getty Images; Melissa Hebeler / E! Illustration
There are many complicated steps to a breakup, but a celebrity’s uncoupling adds a whole extra level of complexity to the matter. There are so many things to think about: When to file for divorce (#FridayNewsDump), whether to issue a joint statement, what to wear the first time you step out post-split, when to start dating again, what to say in your first interview post-split. The possibilities are endless.
But perhaps one of the most life-changing aspects of a celebrity breakup is one that affects everyone no matter their level of fame: Moving out. Of course, A-listers don’t do it quite the way that regular people do—they have teams for that. And when they do decide to permanently go their separate ways, there are certain guidelines that they often stick to. Each star is different, but there is a pattern to how the most visible stars go about it.
This is the art of the breakup house.
Seclude yourself. In Hollywoodland, that usually means move to Malibu or to a remove section of the Hills. A little place on the beach or high above the city offers up privacy, protection from paparazzi, a completely new daily routine and also the comfort and calm of the beach. These are also typically rentals, which means you don’t need to commit to anything long term, and you don’t need to buy anything you don’t want to.
When Jennifer Aniston moved out of the sprawling Beverly Hills estate she shared with Brad Pitt, she went straight to the comforts of the seaside. She covered the entire place with white furniture, white flowers and white candles, creating a safe haven to entertain sympathetic friends or simply curl up with her dog.
That being said, for celebrities faced with co-parenting challenges sometimes the best option for a breakup house is to stay local. That can mean not moving at all, like Jennifer Garneror Brad Pitt, but rather doubling down on the home you’ve always owned. That can mean moving down the street, to keep separate spaces from your former spouse but allowing for easy shuttling back and forth of children and as little change in routine as possible.
And sometimes staying local is truly literal, meaning that nobody moves. The breakup home is also the original home. It’s a choice that isn’t for everybody, but for couples like Garner and Affleck or Chris Pratt and Anna Faris, who split amicably and want to make sure they don’t do anything too rash, it can make sense. And it also allows both parties plenty of time to double down on their eventual move strategy.
Redecorate. Get into Feng Shui. Sage the crap out of the place. Discover your own personal tastes that belong only to you and do the entire house up to match. These are all fantastic ways to master a breakup house. Just ask the ex-wives of Brad Pitt, who couldn’t wait to overhaul their aesthetics. Aniston famously pointed out that he preferred furniture that was more like a piece of art and less like anything remotely comfortable, telling Vanity Fair that the one thing she was looking forward to in her single life was a “comfortable couch.”
And Jolie alluded to the same trait of preferring museum-like home items, throwing the slight shade that decorating was “always Brad’s thing.”
If you want sympathy from the press, go modest. Nothing says I was wronged by my famous spouse/partner more than giving up your fabulous manse in Bel-Air and trading down to a small cottage in the Hollywood Hills. We don’t want to say that celebrities play the martyr, but they also wouldn’t be unique if they did. There are two types of people in a breakup: Those who tend towards playing the victim, and those who want revenge.
For victim-leaning celebrities, that’s where the small house, the apartment or even (gulp) the hotel room comes in.
For revenge-leaning celebrities, that’s where the huge home comes in. This isn’t to say that they’re vengeful; anything but, really. But think of this as the real estate version of getting a fierce new haircut after a breakup: A way to make you look and feel better, and also present to the world that you are here.
Khloe Kardashiandid this when she bought up Justin Bieber‘s former palatial pad after her split from ex-husband Lamar Odom, and whatever her motivations it was impossible to look at pictures of the sprawling estate (or watch clips of it on Keeping Up With the Kardashians) and not be impressed with what she’s done post-divorce. It’s like her very own Revenge Body.
And perhaps the most important and most prestige step in the art of the breakup home is to give an interview to a magazine at your new house. This often means Vanity Fair, but really any glossy that puts you on the cover will do. The breakup interview is a time-honored Hollywood tradition and it’s made far more powerful when the star lets the reporter into their home to witness their new post-relationship life firsthand.
Like when Aniston let Vanity Fair in to the “Malibu bungalow she’s been holed up in.” Most people who just went through a breakup don’t want to explicitly tell their ex about their new pad, so why not let the magazine do it for you? Just look at this wordsmithing:
“Although the weather is gloomy, the ocean is calm; waves lap gently at the shoreline, making a soft shushing sound that Aniston has found soothing lately. ‘That’s quite a backyard, in my opinion,’ she says as we stand on her deck, watching the hypnotic rhythm of the waves. ‘Just being able to go to the water’s edge and scream.'”
And that’s how it’s done.