Hi, let me explain the “gameplay” of Design Home to you. It will take about three paragraphs, because it is excessively intricate for a game that is basically about picking which turquoise Ottoman will work best in the outdoor dining room of a Turkish villa.
You probably know this already. Why else would would you read an article about Design Home? However, on the off-chance this article piqued your interest without knowing anything about Design Home, you will need to pay close attention. Also, thank you for taking a chance on me.
In Design Home, you are a designer presented with variety of briefs: “Townhouse on Beacon Hill,” “Goodbye UK, Hello Singapore!” or “Palace by the Sea.” These are mostly just rooms with varyingly hideous wallpaper, while the game decides where all the furniture goes, but you get to pick the styles of the furniture, ergo: the vibe of the place.
You pay for furniture in either cash or diamonds, because the game has two currencies, and they are equal in value. This means that while you sometimes have enough collective currency to buy a thing, you still cannot buy it because they are two different wallets with, theoretically, different functions. Still no word on why some things cost diamonds and others cost dollars.
To complete your design you must meet simple requirements, like “use two Luxe items” or “use a floral armchair.” Once the design submitted, you get $500. Unfortunately, here is the thing—the proverbial fly in the design ointment, if you will. That floral armchair will cost you at least $1,200, so you are actually losing money.
This is the trompe l’oeil that Design Home is founded upon: the illusion that you can turn a profit. You never, ever will. It’s the Great Freemium Lie. Soon enough, no matter how conservative your spending, you will burn through the cash Design Home gave you to begin with, and you will find yourself sheepishly, sheepishly purchasing the absolute cheapest white side table the game offers, a hideously small ceramic elephant which somehow still costs like $300, because you literally have to put it in the room to finish the challenge.
You started the game full of hope and joy, making really bold creative choices that you felt were true to you. You were just starting to develop a clear, coherent (yet unique) voice in the world of design. Then, just like that, the brief became your master. You used to use Eames replicas. Now you’re buying goddamn beanbags because they’re the only beige chair in the game you have the budget for, and that budget is approximately $48. You used to have fucking $18,000.
Anyway, that is the first strike in the Evil box for Design Home. That’s what we are trying to figure out: Is Design Home Good or Evil?
Good: 0, Evil: 1
The Premise, in its Most Basic Form
Design Home is essentially that part of The Sims where you put furniture in the house you’ve just built, which is the best part of the very best game. The second best part— or at least the part which I did most often—was putting in a cheat code that would let teen sims “woohoo” when ordinarily only adult sims could do it because I was SUCH a horny little fuck.
Score: Good: 1, Evil: 1
I do not care for each room’s aggressively floral backstories. They serve to outline the premise of your fictional hiring, which is completely irrelevant to the challenge itself. They also read as if they were written by Carrie Bradshaw, which actually makes quite a lot of sense because of courseshe had something commercial going on the side. Columnists can’t afford that lifestyle!!!
Score: Good: 1, Evil: 2
Kathy. Fucking. Kuo.
If you play this game, you will know what I mean. This woman is everywhere. Like, 80 percent of the furniture in the game is Kathy Kuo branded, and let me just say that this woman has not yet figured out her aesthetic. She’s all over the place. Some of it is nouveau rustic, some of it is made entirely of driftwood, some of it super Rick Owens flagship and made of just perspex and concrete. WHO ARE YOU KATHY? I believe Kathy is a ruthless populist, appealing to every faction of the Design Home community. (THIS IS HOW TRUMP GOT ELECTED PEOPLE!!!!! HIS BIZARRE AND SELF CONTRADICTORY POLICIES ALLOWED PEOPLE TO SEE IN HIM WHATEVER THEY WANTED!! THAT’S KATHY!!)
By the way, it’s all real furniture. The game designers did not invent this stuff, they are 3D renders of actual brand’s products, which the game gives you a link to buy IRL. So Kathy is making fricking BANK right now!!!! In fact, Kathy probably (dare I say, definitely) hired some incredibly fucking smart PR firm to design the game to promote her wares.
Score: Good: 1, Evil: 3
If you do not quit within two days of downloading Design Home, you will definitely end up spending money on the app. That is because all the good furniture costs upwards of $2,000 and as I said earlier, the game is engineered in such a way that you can’t make any fucking money off the the briefs. The cost of playing Design Home for a few weeks is roughly the same amount as studying a three year course in interior design at RMIT.
The way they hook you is kind of like the way UberEats did free delivery until everyone had completely forgotten how to actually cook, so on the day they threw in a $5 charge we all just went with it. You start with $18k and a dream, and you end up designing mediocre living rooms in Portland, choosing between the lesser of 50 incredibly evil kinds of foot stool.
Score: Good: 1, Evil: 4
The Voting System
You thought you just did this for fun? No. You also do it for fame. Every room in Design Home is scored out of five, and if you manage to get above four, the game gives you a free piece of furniture. If you do really well, your room is displayed in a sort of Instagram-style feed within the game, for all the Design Home world to see.
Here is the thing: You’re being judged by players of a virtual interior design game, which means they are 97 percent moms whose display picture is their kid, or a selfie in a car—like, always in the front seat of a car. They do not have the same taste as you. They simply do not. Plus, the game is doubly rigged because it always pits two very good designs or two really bad ones against each other. So you’re either made to downvote a good design, or forced to give some barely-there, weak-ass room 4.6 stars when it doesn’t even have a rug (rugs completely tie your rooms together, and should be considered an absolute necessity). Somehow, in this arbitrary process, you only end up with 3.8—even though you used like four different house plants to add life and colour—just missing out on the beautiful armchair you really really wanted.
Score: Good: 1, Evil: 5
Score: Good: 1, Evil: 5. Fuck. I expected this, and yet, I did not. But there you have it: playing Design Home is like going to Ikea to grab one thing and end up calling an Maxi Taxi home because you’ve just bought thirteen flat packs and will be drinking nothing but elderflower cordial for the next 18 months.
Will I continue playing? Yes, but with increasing resentment, until I end up hitting my phone screen so hard while I purchase yet another Kathy Kuo “accent table” that will shatter beneath me, much like my early design dreams.