My Newest Obsession: Virtual Apartment Tours

Over the past few months, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time living vicariously in others’ apartments. They invite me in, show me through each room, detail their purchases and finds, and send me on my way anywhere from 5-40 minutes later. Somehow, in my anxiety over the pending vague-possibility of moving, I’ve latched onto these spaces and places and people far away. I’ve found them mostly on YouTube, but here and there on TikTok too. And it’s become an obsession.

            I don’t really know how it started – what was the first video? Who took me in first? All I do know is that, inevitably, my passion for interior design, homes, and all that found a natural niche with these tours of peoples’ apartments. The influencers—those with some level of platform where a tour was “expected”—had chic and obviously curated tastes. Others varied from the minimalist to the maximalist. From bohemian to vintage or retro to one-of-a-kind vibes. All they really seem to have in common was an overwhelming presence of plants.

            In the span of a night, I could travel all over the country and visit apartments in Portland, San Diego, Tucson, New York (overwhelmingly), Pittsburgh….Or leave the country and see what places such as Paris or Toronto held. Each of these spaces is, basically, the same. Apartments usually are. They’re blank walls meant for each tenant to breathe some kind of life into. Some these tours are examples of that. How do a hundred different people take the same kind of living situation and make it their own?

            Over the last year, I—and I’m sure many others—have felt trapped in our walls. So we’ve spent more time than usual thinking about what we surround ourselves by and with. We redecorated, changed things, shifted. I changed what I could but, even with my anxiety, I’ve found these tours new sources of inspiration for what I do and don’t like in terms of design or living. I admire people who can keep their homes “magazine-ready”, but then it doesn’t look lived in to me. And sometimes, even to me, an apartment can be too messy. I prefer color, pattern, and things to the bare basicness of minimalism.

            Apartment tours are kind of like the last five minutes of a home show. The faux drama and conflict about if they’ll love it or list it or if it’s marriage or mortgage are over; now it’s just people settled into their space and showing off their homes. It’s like MTV Cribs but for the everyday. These are products you could own. Designs you could try. Organizing tips or tricks worth stealing. It’s accessible and real in a way home shows or celebrity culture don’t quite match.

            The realism of the tours is one of the many facets I admire. Some people have second bedrooms or closets they don’t open because they’re stuffed full. They show off their fridges, sometimes empty and sometimes full of the random products of real meals. They laugh about bad views or lament about paying for parking. Some have collections of crystals or books, pets that hog the spotlight, or friends who help film the tour. It feels inherently voyeuristic but personal too. You’ve been invited into their lives and made a part of it for this small moment.

            One of the little benefits, at least for me, is seeing how my budget matches up against others in different parts of the country. The rental market right now—especially in Reno—is hard. However, when I see someone paying more for less space in a place I wouldn’t necessarily live or living their best life in a small, cramped apartment I feel better. I’m less anxious about my current situation or about the possibility of future changes—whatever they may or may not be.

            The obsession has even outgrown the initial video tours and found its way onto my social media. I now follow accounts for designers and home-posters. My favorites are: Moda Misfit, Tiny House Movement, and Bungalows & Cottages. My recs are rooms in others’ homes or apartments—colorful, clean, bright—and it gives me hope for how I can bring some of that to the Bramford and future places too.

            I imagine this is an obsession that will stick around for a while, or at least as long as people continue giving tours of their gorgeous apartments. It takes everything I liked already, boosts it in just the right ways, and provides some soothing almost-ASMR for a bit of self-care and relaxation in this hectic world. Every time I’m welcomed into someone’s home, I can’t wait to see what they want to show me.