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How Dakota Johnson’s House Built a Queer Cult Following

Limes! Limes! Limes! The ‘Fifty Shades’ star’s Hollywood home is a meme — and Gen Z can’t stop stanning

Dakota Johnson loves limes. So much so that she decorated her kitchen with fresh, vibrant limes in fifty shades of rotting, placing them in dishes on either side of her sink. In fact, her entire kitchen is lime-colored. She has dark-green cabinets where unused pink floral dinnerware collects dust. Next to her stove sits a dying houseplant in a cream-colored pot the shape of a human head. An incongruent blue-and-beige kitchen rug snuggles on the kitchen floor. The rug is now iconic.

The actress, most recently seen in The High Note, showed off her home in March on Architectural Digest’s Open Door YouTube series. Meandering around her house in an oversized blue double-breasted blazer and whitewashed denim, she epitomizes breezy L.A. cool girl, like the Haim or Rodarte sisters. Johnson shows us where her cat Chicken is buried in the backyard; her chairs, impossible to sit in but “made out of the wood from Winston Churchill’s yacht — I’m not lying”; and how her unkempt herb garden has grown only “wild shit. What are you even? Weeds.” You really must listen to it with headphones on.

There are nearly 100 Open Door videos, featuring celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Drag Race’s Alyssa Edwards, along with their lavish houses. Comics like Meg Stalter and the SNL cast have parodied the series, while YouTuber James Charles copied the format for his page.

Dakota Johnson’s leafy Hollywood Hills treehouse — formerly occupied by Ryan Murphy — is by no means AD’s most popular celebrity outpost tour. DJ Zedd’s and rapper Wiz Khalifa’s videos are top posts, each garnering over 43 million YouTube views. “I didn’t think the Dakota Johnson one got any more press than Zedd’s,” Danielle Shapira, who directed and produced Johnson’s video for AD, tells me. “But I guess there’s a whole world of Dakota Johnson memes out there I haven’t seen.”

There most certainly is. On Twitter, photos of her exposed-wood living room go viral with no acknowledgement of its owner, making Johnson’s home some sort of extremely online insider’s secret. On TikTok, Zoomers parody Johnson’s tour dressed in their best DIY versions of her signature curtain bangs, loose blazer and light-washed jeans. One user included photos of Johnson’s kitchen alongside Le Creuset, Sarah Paulson and Miley Cyrus’ “Heart of Glass” cover — indiscriminate cultural items that resonate with “Gen Z girls and gays.”

For a growing number of extremely online Gen Z queers, the video isn’t a mindless few minutes of YouTube screen time. Johnson’s home is a makeshift therapy session — cottagecore, but for queer cinephiles more interested in healing crystals than baking bread. 

“I don’t know why, but I’ve probably watched the video once a month,” Owen Beaver, 18, tells me. On TikTok, he posts about Johnson and her films. His favorite is Suspiria, but he went viral for parodying her home tour. His commenters called Johnson’s droll whisper “unintentional ASMR.” “She just has a special place in the queer person’s heart,” Beaver says.

If peaches are a symbol of lust, then limes are a token of sweet, sapphic desire for Dakota. “She’s one of the weirdest goddamn people alive,” Natalie Worcester, 22, says. Infatuated with Johnson, Worcester recently decorated her Milwaukee apartment to mirror the actress’ home. There’s a photo wall of the actress, an array of green knickknacks and, yes, limes placed sporadically through her space. 

What started as a bored quarantine hobby for Worcester to gain some TikTok clout turned into a shrine to her own queer identity. Johnson, who is dating Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, alluded to her sexuality in a 2017 Vogue interview that resurfaced this summer: “Can we make things really juicy? Can we say that I’m taking this time to explore my bisexuality?” The casualness of Johnson’s self-outing resonated with Worcester. “She [came out] like how I would mention my breakfast for this morning. Like it was just in conversation,” she raves.

For a star who epitomizes Hollywood legacies and can afford 1stDibs antique furniture, Johnson’s persona pleasantly lacks opulence. She’s the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson. Alfred Hitchcock’s muse Tippi Hedren is her grandmother, and Antonio Banderas her former stepfather. Johnson was even 2006’s Miss Golden Globe — i.e., Hollywood’s nepotistic coming-of-age ceremony.

Still, her Gen Z fans see her as relatable. She’s the latest in a line of apathetic nepotism icons parading as cool girls — an aspirational vibe that protected Drew Barrymore and Kate Hudson (and now Zoë Kravitz and Lily-Rose Depp) from being seen as undeserving of success. A sign in Worcester’s apartment reads, “Lily-Rose Depp is Hari Nef for girls whose Julia Fox is Dakota Johnson.” Deciphered, this means Dakota Johnson is an inspiration for sarcastic New Age alt-girls more likely to dream of vacationing in Joshua Tree than the Hamptons. 

Unlike Oscar-nominated actresses whose gay fanbases campaign for their awards each year, much of Johnson’s queer following focuses on the actress’ persona, not her performances. “To young people, she’s really funny,” Worcester says. “I think she unnerves older people a little bit — people over 35.”

Enter Ellen DeGeneres. Johnson’s adoration among queer people is tied to her unexpected showdown with the talk-show host. In November 2019, while appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Johnson rebuked DeGeneres’ coy aside that she wasn’t invited to Johnson’s 30th-birthday party a month earlier. 

With her chin down, side-eyeing the host, Johnson uttered what would become a rallying cry (and oversaturated meme) for calling out bullshit: “Actually, no, that’s not the truth, Ellen,” she said, cutting off the host of her own show to explain why she was factually incorrect. 

As DeGeneres’ reputation soured in the months to come, Johnson has become some sort of unintentional idol. Her deadpan delivery and ability to thrive in awkward interactions appealed her to a generation memeing its way through the apocalypse.

“Even though she’s not my generation, she’s the embodiment of the personality of Gen Z,” Beaver says.