How A.I. Is Remodeling the Fantasy Home

Amid an intractable real estate crisis, fake luxury houses offer a delusion of one’s own.
How A.I. Is Remodeling the Fantasy Home

I was scrolling through Instagram recently when I found a new page slipped into my feed through a suggested post: @tinyhouseperfect. It seemed designed to poke at my frustrated longings for a space of my own. I want to own a house; I cannot currently buy a house. But what if the house were very small? Very small, and also perfect?

Soon I was navigating the reading nooks and chef’s kitchens of an elfin cottage, a gothic coastal A-frame, a cozy “loch house” in the Scottish Highlands. I had projected my future self to the Scottish seaside, wondering how much the house might cost to rent for a weekend, when I realized that price was no object because the house did not exist. Each of these teensy homes had been rendered by A.I. software and smoothed with an assist from more A.I. software. I had been fantasizing about a fantasy.

The nature of these homes was, in retrospect, obvious. Their interiors appeared improbably expansive, offering room after room of curated delights. It’s not hard to imagine why Instagram might boost @tinyhouseperfect’s computer visions into my sightline. I have not hidden my obsession with homeownership and renovation from the internet’s all-seeing eye. At night I wander between Zillow and D.I.Y. Instagram accounts, stalking the hallways of homes I will never visit, assessing the work of contractor-influencers I will never employ, weighing aesthetic choices I will never make. Now artificial intelligence has breached my domestic fantasy, reshaping my desires to fit inside its phantom walls.

In recent years, a whole A.I. dream-house economy has materialized. Search Pinterest for décor inspiration, and you’ll find it clogged with artificial bedrooms that lead off to websites hawking cheap home accessories. “House porn” accounts on TikTok and X churn out antiseptic loft renderings and impossible views from nonexistent Parisian apartments. The website “This House Does Not Exist” generates random new homes upon command. And dozens of A.I.-powered design services and apps — among them SofaBrain and RoomGPT — churn out slick images tuned to your specifications.

A jangling set of house keys was once synonymous with American success: the striver’s ultimate prize. The misery produced by this idea (see: the Great Recession) has not dampened its allure. Now, thanks to elevated interest rates, insufficient supply and corporate landlords snapping up that limited housing stock, homeownership is more unrealistic than ever. A.I. houses just make that unreality explicit. In the virtual market, the supply is endless, and the key is always in the lock.