Playhouse’s mobile interior design game uses real furniture to create

When I was a kid, one of my favorite pastimes was redesigning our living room, which for my 10-year-old self meant moving the furniture around to create a different layout every month. Today, a new mobile game lets you do just that without so much as getting off the couch (or annoying your parents).

Developed by a women-led entertainment company called Robin Games, Playhouse lets you move, rotate, and drop furniture into crisply rendered 3D spaces. After a soft launch last year, it is now available for both Android and iOS users in the U.S.

Technically, it’s a game, but it’s a lot more interesting if you consider its potential as an interactive Pinterest mood board with gems. That’s because the furniture you get to play with also exists in the real world.

The game includes 100 home and design brands—from The Inside, Tom Dixon, and Ruggable to startups like Sabai—and more than 6,000 furniture and decor items.

For the game makers, it’s an opportunity to bridge the gap between the virtual and real world, making the experience more compelling for users. And for the furniture brands, it’s a welcome (and free) opportunity to get more eyeballs on their products in what is certainly a more engaging experience than scrolling through a website.

Here’s how it works: Each day you’re presented with a number of interior design challenges like “design a boho chic living room” or “style this glam dining nook.” You can toggle filters to select the kind of furniture you envision for the space (by color, style, material, or brand) and let your imagination run wild.

The user experience is quite smooth, and allows you to design as freely as you want, from layering rugs to building a gallery wall—provided you have enough gems.

This is where it gets a little tricky, because if you don’t have enough gems, you’re often left with pretty rudimentary options like a beige rug or a nondescript couch. And while I have nothing against beige carpets, it’s hard to resist that gorgeously patterned rug I need 10 more gems for.

I suppose these kinds of tribulations also happen in real life (do I really want to shell out for a designer carpet?) but acquiring enough gems to build the interior of your dreams can get a bit frustrating. There are many ways to level up, including completing a design challenge or getting a high rating from other players, but if you really want that cool rug or some other item for your fictional space, you can pay up to $1.99 apiece for them.

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I’m not one to spend money on in-app purchases, so for me Playhouse works much better as a Pinterest 2.0 than as a game. As I was scrolling through a grid of art for my “boho living room,” I found myself enamored with an abstract painting from One Kings Lane. On a different challenge, I was drawn to a rug by the same brand, which made me click through the link and visit its actual website for the first time.

I didn’t buy anything, but as Jill Wilson, Robin Games’s CEO, points out, that’s not really the point. “It’s kind of this marketing opportunity that didn’t exist for these brands to get in front of people before the point of purchase,” she says. “You play around with couches for hours and hours, then one day you decide you want a couch, then you click on the link to be like ‘Who made that couch again?’”

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