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'Design Home' lets you play interior decorator with expensive furnishings

There’s no end to the apps and sites you can use to help design your home, but but Design Home (Android and iOS) is a bit different. Sure, you can place lamps and chaises in a virtual room, but your designs are ranked by the community, giving you the opportunity to win prizes, in the form of currency that lets you buy more virtual furniture.

Here’s how it works: You scroll through a list of challenges, with names like “Preppy Calgary Home,” “Lavish Palace Living,” and “Own Private Island.” Many of the homes look like they have a minimum of five bedrooms each, but your task is to decorate a single room. The challenge will include requirements such as “two turquoise items” or “three pieces of furniture from Design Within Reach.” Entering a challenge costs a certain number of keys, so you can only enter so many before you need to vote on other players’ submissions.

When you vote, two versions of the same room appear on screen, and you click on your favorite. Whichever player gets the most votes gets prizes, which could be a piece of furniture or “diamonds,” which you can use to buy more furniture or exchange for “cash” to buy other furniture. I could never really understand why some items cost diamonds and others cost money. If you run out of diamonds, you can spend real money to buy more. For $2, you get 3,000 diamonds, which might get you a couple of sofas or might fall short of others.

More: How an online interior designer made my apartment look magazine-worthy

When you start a design challenge, you’re met with a series of little bubbles with little furniture icons inside. The blue ones are pieces of furniture that you have to put in the room to complete the challenge, while the purple ones are optional things like lamps and paintings that will add more ambiance to your room. Your job is to balance the diamonds and cash you have with the requirements. Once you buy a piece of furniture, you can use it for other challenges, so while that hot pink couch might be perfect for the modern loft you’re decorating, you might want to choose something more versatile for future use.

In some ways, all the requirements and preselected placement of furniture sucks some of the creativity out of the game. Sometimes the designs I was voting between looked almost identical. And budgeting for everything you want to put in a room is just as hard in the game as it is in real life.

Overall, Design Home is fun, and I can see people getting sucked in and spending money, Candy Crush style, on more options. And if you fall in love with an accent chair in the game, of course there’s a link for you to buy it in real life. Just prepare yourself for a reality check when the 1,500-diamond chair actually costs over $1,800.