With Brett Morgen’s documentary Montage of Heck playing at the Tribeca Film Festival and on HBO on May 4, the intimate details of Kurt Cobain’s life are getting a fresh look. And now fans of the late musician have a new, even more intense way to experience the Nirvana icon's life: the Los Angeles apartment he shared with Courtney Love from 1991 to 1992 is currently an Airbnb rental.
The apartment, located on Spaulding Avenue in L.A.’s Fairfax district, is where the grunge couple resided at the height of Nirvana mania, while Love was pregnant with Frances Bean Cobain. The current tenant, Brandon Kleinman, 31, who works at Laurel & Wolf, an interior-design software start-up, has lived in the apartment since 2011, and has rented out Cobain and Love’s bedroom on Airbnb for the past couple years.
“The day I signed the lease, I was sitting with the landlord,” Kleinman says, “and as soon as I signed on the dotted line, he said, ‘Okay, now I can tell you the real story behind this apartment.’ He kept it a secret because he wasn’t getting great tenants when he advertised the apartment’s backstory. He went on to tell me about what it was like having Kurt Cobain live here, and what to watch for. It’s been funny. Once every 60 days or so, I’ll get a weird, older gentleman, a rocker-type dude, sort of a burnout, knocking on the door, saying, ‘Do you know what used to happen here?’”
According to a 2004 Los Angeles Times article by journalist Charles R. Cross, what used to happen was heroin and painting. While Nevermind was climbing the charts, Cobain turned down offers to tour in favor of creating art in the 1,500-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath apartment. Cross writes, “Their time on Spaulding represented his greatest immersion in painting.” And some of Cobain’s artwork may still exist in the apartment.
“There’s latex painting over the fireplace,” Kleinman says. “I know there’s tons of art painted on the actual mantel of the fireplace. I want to see if there’s a way to get under the layered paint, to see what he painted under there.”
Last year, photos surfaced of the apartment, taken just after Cobain and Love moved out. The couple appeared to be living in squalor, with trash strewn everywhere and graffiti on the walls paying tribute to Nation of Ulysses and Matador Records honcho Gerard Cosloy. Kleinman says the apartment was in good shape when he moved in, and he’s done extensive work to improve it. “I tried to get to the original hardwood floor in the hallway, but I can’t,” he says. “It’s damaged because the bathtub leaked while Kurt and Courtney lived here. That’s why they moved out. I’ve been told that he wrote ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ in that bathtub.”
While the "Heart-Shaped Box" bathtub story may be apocryphal, Cobain did in fact move out when Love was eight months pregnant with Frances Bean due to faulty plumbing and a leak that damaged guitars, artwork, and journals that he was storing, perhaps unwisely, in the bathtub. Fear not, future renters: Kleinman reports that plumbing has been fully repaired.
Because he lists the property as “Kurt Cobain’s Private 1b + 1bth,” Kleinman mostly rents to Nirvana fans, though there hasn't been a ton of demand. “It gets rented out about four or five times a year,” Kleinman says. “I think Airbnb buried the listing for some reason. I don’t get a lot of interest in it. I had one person from Germany who was visiting every place Kurt stayed in L.A. I’ve had a couple young college students from Europe. I’ve had a couple of American people who want to post up and experience the place. It’s always two- to three-night stays.”
Cross’s 2001 Cobain biography Heavier Than Heaven reported that Cobain and Love rented the unit for $1,100 a month, and that Cobain enjoyed making the five-minute walk to eat at nearby Canter’s Deli. “It’s a quirky apartment, and it’s a great neighborhood,” Kleinman says, giving the soft sell. “It’s very walkable.” It fluctuates, but the Airbnb price is currently $150 a night. Not bad, and rest assured, it's been thoroughly cleaned since Kurt and Courtney last visited.