Two weeks ago Claude Taylor and Jessie Bahrey launched a Twitter account called Room Rater (@RateMySkypeRoom). In it, the boyfriend-girlfriend team comment on and score the background decor of broadcasters, pundits, and celebrities forced to do interviews from home during coronavirus physical-isolation orders.
In brief, pointed tweets, they weigh-in on art selection, bookshelves (content and arrangement), lamp placement, color palettes… you name it. Although neither has a background in interior design, their comments address some newly universal aesthetic questions: Will having a bookcase in the background make me look smarter? Is my wallpaper dorky? Am I force for good in the world during uncertain times?
Room Rater quickly accrued 100,000 followers and Taylor has appeared on Inside Edition and been interviewed by numerous websites. Subjects of their tweets have begun to tweet back, begging for higher scores.
Peter Baker of the New York Times added artwork to his walls after Room Rater pointed out an empty wall hook. They are still getting angry DMs about a 9/10 they gave Michelle Obama four days ago. “Come on. That’s a great score. We all need room to grow,” says Taylor.
Room Rater focuses mostly on TV pundits and politicians, but we asked them to take a look at a seemingly under-analyzed segment of home backgrounds—those of billionaires.
Like much of the rest of the world, moguls and titans are self isolating (in palatial compounds or aboard enormous yachts, but WFM nonetheless). Presumably they, too, grapple with the home decor-anxiety the rest of us face each day when we hit the Video On button.
“Lives in a museum. Has expensive taste but not made for TV. Get Diane’s input. 3/10 (no twitter?)”
“No glitchy software here. Good angle on library. Dial back depth of field. 8/10 @billgates”
“It looks like a hostage video. Unsure if he’s kidnapper or kidnappee. 2/10 @finkd”
“Billionaire needs new chair, bigger room and practice debating. 6/10 @MikeBloomberg”
Overall, how are the billionaires doing? “I hold certain people to a higher bar,” admits Taylor. “I mean, if you have that kind of money and you mess this up….”
Like the rest of us, Taylor would like to know more about what’s hanging in the background of these grainy TV and Zoom appearances. “When you see art in the background of a billionaire’s houses, you can kind of assume they didn’t buy it from a damage sale,” says Taylor. “My next project will be to figure out how much it costs.”
Taylor also has some advice on maximizing your possible ratings: It all starts with your background, of course. “‘Am I going to go book?’ is the first conversation you should have with yourself,” says Taylor. “We could almost have two rating systems, one for book dominated and one for not. I will never get sick of books, but they aren’t the only way to go. And if, if you do it right. Present them at an angle, not straight-on. Depth is very important.”
Will we see more from the the team behind this feed? Taylor’s full time job is running Mad Dog PAC, a left-leaning political action committee. “Room Rater is a completely separate project. It was supposed to be something to do for fun. I need to get back to work.”