How AI is rebuilding the fantasy home
I was scrolling through Instagram recently when a new page slipped into my feed via a suggested post: @tinyhouseperfect, It seemed like it was designed to pounce on my frustrated longings for a space of my own. I want to own a home; I can't buy a house right now. But what if the house is too small? Very small, and yet perfect?
Soon I was roaming study halls and cooks' kitchens elfin cottageA Gothic Coastal A-Framea convenient “Loch House” In the Scottish Highlands. I had envisioned my future on a Scottish beach, wondering how much it would be to rent a house for a weekend, when I realized price was no object because the house didn't exist. Each of these teen houses were presented by AI software and smoothed with the help of more AI software. I was thinking of a fantasy.
Looking back, the nature of these houses was clear. Their interiors appeared incredibly spacious, offering organized pleasures in one room after another. It's not hard to imagine why Instagram might promote @tinyhouseperfect's computer vision to my sightline. I haven't hidden my passion for home ownership and renovation from the eyes of the Internet. At night I flip between Zillow and DIY Instagram accounts, stalk the hallways of homes I'll never visit, assess the work of contractor-influencers I'll never hire, assess aesthetic choices. Which I will never do. Now artificial intelligence has torn apart my domestic imagination, reshaping my desires to fit inside its phantom walls.
In recent years, the entire AI dream-house economy has come true. Search Pinterest for decor inspiration, and you'll find it's full of artificial bedroom memes that lead to websites selling cheap home goods. “House porn” accounts on TikTok and X churn out antiseptic loft renderings and impossible scenes from non-existent Parisian apartments. Website “This house does not exist“Creates random new homes on command. And dozens of AI-powered design services and apps — among them SofaBrain and RoomGPT — generate eye-catching images to your specifications.
A dangling set of house keys was once synonymous with American success: the ultimate reward for the one who strives. The suffering this idea has caused (see: the Great Recession) has not diminished its appeal. Now, with increased interest rates, inadequate supply, and corporate landlords draining that limited housing stock, home ownership is more unrealistic than ever. AI houses make that unreality clear. In the virtual market, the supply is endless, and the key is always in the lock.
from anywhere, everywhere
Housing voyeurism has always encouraged some degree of mental projection. On TV, there are celebrity house tours and home-improvement shows for people who are older than me. Magazines of aspirational domesticity are still out of date. In the 1970s, Architectural Digest transformed from a trade publication to a showcase for publicizing the private spaces of “men and women of interest, discrimination and personal achievement.” In the 1980s, viewers of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” were prompted to imagine how they might spend millions if they had them.
It was a poor compromise of American inequality: The rich got gorgeous houses, and everyone else got to look at the pictures, and experience the liberation that comes from seeing all their choices up close. At the end of each “Lifestyles” episode, Robin Leach bids his viewers “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”
The Netflix reality show “Selling Sunset,” a modern version of “Lifestyles,” focuses not on the people living in Hollywood mansions but on the glamorous real estate agents selling them. As these intricately crafted realtors prepare and stage the fancy homes, the audience is invited to imagine not just living in a mansion, but bringing it under our complete financial and aesthetic control. Artificial intelligence and predictive algorithms only enhance this feeling of personal ownership, making a dream home feel as if it was built just for us.
The Loch House on @tinyhouseperfect first caught my attention with the dazzling shore views from the huge windows, but when I looked again, I reluctantly admitted that it also appealed because it seemed to suit my personal tastes. was appointed. There was a claw-foot tub with pewter fixtures, a charmingly messy bookshelf window-seat, a kitchen painted cool green. In place of cabinets, it had open wooden shelves that held shapely glass jars of potions and preservatives.
I thought Loch House was remote, but actually it came from nowhere, or everywhere. It synced perfectly with the design touches that were on my Instagram and Pinterest feeds. The “personal interest” that attracted me was actually a profoundly impersonal interest: an aesthetic that so deeply dominates my Internet browsing, it's beginning to feel as if I've chosen it myself.
In “Filterworld: How algorithms ruined culture“Kyle Chayka describes “A sense of vaporousness and unreality” created by “the strange frictionless geography created by digital platforms” and the existence of barely distinguishable hipster coffee shops in every city in the world. This airless sensation has also captured our collective imagination, and is infiltrating the spaces of the mind.
Even as social media and artificial intelligence nudge us toward the ubiquitous megastyle, its products are often touted as hubs of creativity. an architectural digest Article on AI Design Tools They have been described as offering a “fresh perspective” that can “inspire architects to think outside the box”. Although AI prompts seem endless, the results are often mundane. Most of the AI decor you see on Instagram consists of the same ethereal images: liquid throw blankets, casually surreal wall art, stoves burning with idle fires.
These renderings are cheap, and yet it seems as if the flatness of design affects the homes of the rich the most. I don't use AI software, but I have a little game I play to focus my habitat determination on absurd and impractical locations. I dial up the price settings on the Zillow app so that the city map shows only properties that are listed for over $10 million, over $50 million, over $100 million. As costs rise, the profiles of potential buyers become more vague and mysterious until they seem not to exist at all in my world, and the tastes on display themselves, begin to look mechanically programmed. .
Watching old episodes of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and its spiritual successor, “MTV Cribs,” it's striking how similar the homes of the rich look. In the 2004 episode “Cribs”, Snoop Dogg opens the door to his courtyard, revealing a parlor with granny furniture and a huge urn; the room can fit debbie gibson's house, profiled on “Lifestyles” in 1993. Now, every property on “Selling Sunset” feels laser cut from the same blueprint, every mansion a flat box of ostentatious minimalism. The $195 million Manhattan penthouse currently occupying the top of my Zillow feed is a gorgeous version of the glass-box look replicated in every luxury condo building in New York City.
A very wealthy person has the resources to dramatically change a space in response to trends, making wealth itself an artificial aesthetic. An Architectural Digest tour of Drake's Toronto mansion looks like it was designed by a bot, with its cartoonish proportions, glass surfaces and random, click-and-paste patterns. And the magazine's tour of the influential Emma Chamberlain's home seems filled with strange designs: the bulbous sofa, the egg-shaped stone dining table, the wavy velvet armchair. Even unexpected details seem deliberately programmed. Now, as I walk through the bedrooms of an AI-rendered home, I can create that same mechanical sensation.
no people, no animals
The loch house I wanted was built by ben myhreA Norway-based designer who started combining architectural concept art with AI software a few years ago and posting it to Instagram, where he has amassed over 500,000 followers. Unlike some of the unique productions that make waves on social media, Myhre's special images take several hours to create, using his own photographs of buildings, the generative AI program MidJourney, the AI-powered photo enhancement program Topaz, and Photoshop. Apart from adorable tiny houses, he also creates pictures of houses inspired by harry potter, Santa Claus And “Lord of the Rings,
I reached out to Myhre and spoke to her on Zoom. “I love using it to unlock dreams,” he said of artificial intelligence, which he sees as a “collective imagination that anyone can access.” was curious to learn about the design of the fantasy, and he shared some of the prompts he used to create Loch House. He guided the software to create a “cozy whimsical home kitchen in the beautiful Scottish Highlands,” with “beginners Window scenes overlooking a vast natural lake with “autumn nature”. He called for “rustic detail,” “depth of field,” “warm tones,” “genre raw.” Deportees said: “No people, no animals.”
Neither people, nor animals. One reason why Myrhe's images may seem “real” is that they are created in the style of online home tours, like you might find on Zillow or Airbnb. But I didn't fully understand the appeal of his work until he said these words; The imagination is of places wiped out of living things. The home-sale slideshow and its AI counterpart have a postapocalyptic feel. The houses feel instantly abandoned, a book torn out on the armrest, the fire still glowing. When I “toured” Loch House, I was inspecting the shelves of corked jugs, wondering where the residents hid all their practical kitchen items, when I finally realized there were no residents there. . There is no need to cook anything for anyone.
Myhre told me that his images sometimes upset people who were expecting photos of real homes. “When people realize they're not real, they feel a little betrayed,” he said. In his caption, he pleads with those (like @tinyhouseperfect) who broadcast his work: “If you share please be sure to attribute and clearly label who they are to avoid any misunderstandings.” “There are imaginary AI assisted visuals for the game.”
But there is also a charm in the unreality of these images. My travels through Zillow are inspired by my envy of the actual residents of houses I can live in with only my mind. There's nothing “real” about my fantasy of living in a place I can't afford, even if my mind is busy studying the floor plan and working out how to arrange my furniture in its rooms. . Touring a gorgeous home, whether it's on Zillow or “Selling Sunset” or @tinyhouseperfect, distorts my vision in another way: It makes me feel as if I'm lacking something, when I have more than enough. is more.
No humans live in Loch House, but increasingly this is true of real dream homes too. several of New York's luxury apartments lie vacant, Some are acquired as property by the super rich. They don't exist for anyone, even people sleep outside on the streets. Prying at home has always been a form of misogyny, a wonderful diversion from our inability, or denial, to shelter everyone. This prompts us to think of housing as a lifestyle choice, not as a right. AI houses complete the trick. They represent a habitat that is finally freed from any responsibility towards humans. No shelter, only waves.