When quarantine began, it didn’t take long for us to come to the collective realization that we’re a bunch of Zoom voyeurs: During those endless video conferences, haven’t we all been checking out what the inside of every house we see looks like, casing each joint from afar? Nice gallery wall, by the way. Everyone from the New York Times to CBS Sunday Morning has reported on our new pastime of peeping into living rooms, kitchens, offices, and beyond that belong to both people we know and people we don’t.
But because this is happening in the context of the internet, we can’t stop at peeping. Around here, we quantify and rate things: We gives stars to our purchases; we count how many likes our Instagram posts get; on dating apps, we take only seconds to decide which direction to swipe in; once upon a time, we declared people hot or not. So it only makes sense that a more finite way to analyze and critique other people’s homes would emerge from all this. It now exists in the form of a Twitter account, Room Rater, that collects a bunch of living rooms and home offices in one place and makes a snap judgment about each one. For instance, it pronounced former chairman of Starbucks Howard Schultz’s backdrop “Ikea-ish.” It found Stacey Abrams’ space wanting. Actor Mandy Patinkin’s background, meanwhile, was praised for its light and depth. The account is a hit—after less than a month, it’s already up to more than 100,000 followers.
Room Rater’s instant buzziness owes more than a little to its well-connected creators: The raters in chief are Claude Taylor, who heads up a liberal PAC and is known to be loudly anti-Trump on Twitter, and his girlfriend, Jessie Bahrey. It’s quickly become something of a point of pride among media and pundit types to have your room praised—or roasted—by the account: Obama administration health care official Andy Slavitt celebrated his 8 with a retweet, while Axios reporter Jonathan Swan—facetiously, let’s hope—responded to his score, also an 8, with some lingering huffiness about an earlier TV spot that had only gotten a 3. CNN’s Jake Tapper flat-out asked to be rated. (He also got an 8.)
And come to think of it—that’s kind of a lot of 8’s. Perhaps a suspicious amount of 8’s. Is it possible that Room Rater is just handing out 8’s to Washington insiders? Do I detect some bias in how these ratings are doled out? Sorry to say, but I think it falls on me to provide some checks and balances. I must rate the Room Rater.
Before we get into it, it’s worth noting that Room Rater tends to post pretty low-quality pictures. They look like photos that a phone might take of a TV screen, rather than crisper screencaps. This is especially odd because Taylor, who runs the account, is a former photographer. But I also think this is what enables the account to post at such a breakneck pace—last I checked, it had rated more than 50 rooms in the past 24 hours. While I certainly don’t envy anyone who has to watch that much cable news, I concede that the account’s crude photos might be the most practical path, and we will therefore not dock Room Rater’s ratings for including crummy pictures. Now, onto those ratings:
We begin with Room Rater’s very first rating: It’s pretty darn accurate. I give this rating a 9/10. Why not a 10/10? Because unlike certain Twitter accounts, I want to save that rating for true excellence. So yes, the Room Rater was correct in giving this room a low score, but can we really say that it was definitely, without a doubt a 2, rather than a 1 or a 3? No, we can’t, hence the 9. I also want to point out that the account gave a subsequent TV appearance by this same woman an 8. She had improved, but did the more recent tableau deserve a full 8? Seems an awful lot like Room Rater might be a little too eager to appease its subjects.
Here is a good example of an extremely bad picture—it’s so blurry. But the bigger problem with this is that this guy in no way deserves an 8! Another example of grade inflation! I give Room Rater’s rating of 8/10 a 2/10. This doesn’t mean that I give the room itself a 2/10, just the rating. I know this is confusing.
Here the Room Rater gets a 0/10. It forgot to rate the room.
It has been said that Room Rater’s “partisan tilt” is part of its charm. However, I think the Room Rater should strive to tell it like it is. We all know that the room former Gov. Mike Huckabee is sitting in here, while it isn’t a 10 or anything, is nicer than a 0. If the account wants to have any integrity, it should call a spade a spade. I give them a 4/10 for this.
This is Room Rater at its best. Room Rater is not pulling any punches just because this room belongs to Lady Gaga; she deserves a 2 so she gets a 2. 9/10.
A 4 is about right for erstwhile presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s room. (Chasten says he’ll take it!) But I think it should have been a little higher by the standards the account’s previous ratings have set. 7/10.
We can’t give people 10’s just because they’re astronauts! God, Room Rater can be such a starfucker. The room is fine, but a 10? No way. 3/10.
This is exactly what I was afraid of. Room Rater initially gave NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden a 6—but then quickly rolled over when McFadden complained, raising it to an 8. Have the courage of your convictions, Room Rater! That said, the initial score really should have been higher than a 6. The bias against lime green in this country is completely groundless. 4/10.
Hmm. Once again, Room Rater failed to rate a room. 0/10.
A 10 for Ellen? First of all, read the room. (Wait. That’s sort of … what Room Rater already does. But I mean read in the figurative sense too.) Second of all, this room is nice, but it’s hardly a standout, among celebrity homes especially. The table on the left looks cluttered, but the right side looks strangely bare. 6/10.
Sometimes Room Rater is on the money. This is a solid 7. And the matching jacket/orchid are, as the tweet rightly notes, responsible for a lot of it. 9/10.
Room Rater gave this a 9, but I think it’s either approaching or already crossed into “too many plants” territory. 4/10.
Just as we must be honest about Ted Cruz’s beard, we must be honest about Ted Cruz’s décor.
This isn’t Versailles, but it’s not a disaster. 7/10.
At last, something we can agree on: Room Rater knows that John Legend and Chrissy Teigen’s house is a 10, and I know that Room Rater is 100 percent correct on that. 10/10.
Correction, April 28, 2020: This post originally misspelled Chrissy Teigen’s first name.