Swedish designer Christoffer Jansson created a virtual apartment and pretended to live in it while renovating as part of a social experiment he was exhibiting at this year’s Stockholm Furniture Fair.
Through a series of 12 rendered images shared on Instagram, Jansson shot a story as part of the Uncanny Spaces project about buying and renovating a house he designed based on a real apartment on Stockholm’s Heleneborgsgatan.
The digital replica was created from the actual dimensions of the 89 square meter apartment – ascertained during an on-site inspection – and filled with virtual copies of some of the designer’s personal belongings to complete the illusion.
He even went so far as to photograph details such as cracked wallpaper and oddly placed electrical outlets found in the real apartment, to recreate them using 3D modeling and rendering software.
“My intention was to explore the home as a tool for communicating status and identity on social media, and to discuss the impact of rendered images on interior design,” said Jansson.
“I also wanted to challenge my rendering skills and see if I would be able to convince the viewer that the apartment physically exists.”
The ruse proved so convincing that a major Swedish interior design magazine asked to photograph the non-existent apartment. And fellow students at Konstfack University asked Jansson how he could suddenly afford a multi-million pound apartment in central Stockholm.
Over the course of two months, he posted the results on a special Instagram account designed to mimic the separate profiles homeowners sometimes create for their renovation projects.
The earliest renderings show the apartment as an empty shell that is slowly being filled with boxes and IKEA bags, as well as similar recreations of Jansson’s personal items, such as his marshmallow table, each and every one of his books, or the jacket he wore on that particular one Day.
Jansson also populated the virtual home with internet-famous design objects such as Ettore Sottsass’ wavy Ultrafragola mirror or Axel Einar Hjorth’s Lovö dining table to comment on the rise of the “Instagram aesthetic”.
“The constant flow of images on social media impacts our attention spans, and finding ways to quickly capture the viewer’s attention is becoming increasingly important for interior design,” he told Dezeen.
“A clear consequence of the rapid flow of images is the so-called ‘Instagram aesthetic’, characterized by geometric or curved shapes, striking color schemes, tiled floors forming graphic patterns, and clear contrasts between glossy and matte,” he continued.
“It’s not the physical aspects of the space that are prioritized, instead the ability of the interior to function well in the image is most valued, negatively impacting the physical experience of a space.”
Throughout the project, Jansson worked to provoke the account’s followers and engage them in the design process, for example by conducting a poll on the color of the hallway or pretending to paint a priceless piece of antique furniture bright pink.
Towards the end of the experiment, the designer began accelerating the fictional renovation’s schedule, making the renderings more and more eerily perfect to see if his followers would notice the apartment was fake — although it never did.
By examining these responses, the designer hoped to draw attention to how we use images of our homes to present idealized versions of ourselves, which in turn sets unrealistic standards for our real-world living spaces.
“Today we have access to observe the everyday lives of others and to show our own to the public via social media,” he said.
“Constant exposure creates unattainable ideals and gradually shifts the barrier between private and public, making it more important than ever to showcase every single part of our home in a beneficial way.”
At the Stockholm Furniture Fair 2023, Uncanny Spaces was presented as part of the annual exhibition Ung Svenkst Form with works by young Swedish designers.
To represent the project in real life, Jansson created a wood relief representing a flattened image of his 3D virtual house, realized using Rhino digital modeling software and a CNC milling machine.
The project does not touch on the rise of the metaverse, for which designers are increasingly designing virtual furniture, clothing, buildings and entire cities. But Jansson reckons that the advent of a parallel virtual world is likely to exacerbate the problems his project examines.
Uncanny Spaces was on display at Stockholm Furniture Fair 2023 from February 7th to 11th as part of the Ung Svenkst Form exhibition. Browse our digital festival guide or visit the Dezeen Events Guide for more architecture and design events around the world.