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The Virtual Designer Showhouse

With staff meetings, client conferences and even trade shows going virtual, it should come as no surprise that a virtual showhouse opened its (online) doors in early December.

Sponsored by the Austin, TX-based Seasonal Living magazine and featuring the work of 11 top designers from all over the country, the 20,000 sq.-ft. CA home overlooks the Pacific with a host of luxury features, from a dedicated Zoom meeting room to a three-floor solarium, along with a stunning kitchen, baths, COVID-era laundry/decontamination room and more. But while the location is real, everything else is digital, making it a unique and affordable way for designers to showcase their work.

The all-digital project offers 720-degree views, so people “visiting” can tour the house virtually, looking up, down and all around, with clickable links to all of the featured products. The participating designers’ one million plus social media followers will ensure that it gets plenty of visitors far beyond the local audience of a typical showhouse.

In recent months, several hybrid showhouses have cropped up, with rooms designed in real life and then photographed in 3D to be attended virtually. However, this is one of the first showhouses to be created entirely online.

And the idea is definitely trending.

Architectural Digest, in conjunction with the Black Interior Designers Network, launched The Iconic Home in November. The virtual showhouse, which features the work of 10+ Black designers and 15 fully appointed rooms, includes a home office and a wellness space, with 360-degree photorealistic renderings that link to product ecommerce sites. Sponsors include Gaggenau, Caesarstone, The Shade Store and others.

It may seem like a stretch to take the actual house out of a showhouse, but others see it as a way to make such projects affordable and accessible to all. Not only are consumers from all over the world able to view the completed showhouse, but designers can participate, regardless of where they’re located, allowing for a mixing and matching of styles that transcend regional trends.

The downside, of course, is that half the fun of showhouses is the opportunity to touch and feel the products and materials, and virtual isn’t quite the same as being there in real life. But in a time when gatherings are still prohibited in many states, it’s an interesting concept that may well have legs long after the pandemic is over.

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