Friends playing on Nintendo Switch.

6 Things You Can Learn About Interior Design From Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Katie Ziraldo9-Minute Read
March 11, 2022

When people choose to devote hundreds or even thousands of hours to a game, you start to wonder why. And while some of these games have a linear story, objectives and a finale to reach, others are evergreen – meaning they have no firm end point. Animal Crossing is one of those games with no clear finale.

But without a clear path to follow, why do so many choose to devote their limited free time to life simulation games like Animal Crossing? The answer may be more firmly rooted in reality than you’d think.

What Is Animal Crossing?

Animal Crossing is a life simulation game created by Nintendo. It is the fifth most popular franchise in Nintendo’s catalog. Since it’s first iteration was released in 2001, the Animal Crossing franchise has grown to include five games spread across Nintendo’s systems.

The basic formula of these games is relatively simple. You create a character who moves into a town filled with villagers – who are (spoiler alert) animals – and take on certain responsibilities to help things in your town run smoothly. This includes everything from picking up weeds and trash to building relationships with your neighbors and selling fish and bugs you catch to buy items at the town store.

Animal Crossing Homes

Another huge part of any Animal Crossing game is your home. Throughout the game, the player takes out loans to build and expand upon their house. As time passes, you’ll acquire more furniture, decor and other things to make your Animal Crossing house feel like home.

Priscilla Moiseoff, the lead stylist and interior designer for Walker Edison Furniture, is a self-described Animal Crossing enthusiast and spoke to the benefits this element of the game can provide.

“Animal Crossing has the unique mechanism of the Happy Home Academy, which rates your home on the cohesion of your furniture and how well it works together,” explains Moiseoff. “I don’t understand the algorithm exactly, but I know that it runs off of similar types of furniture, matching colors, and coordinating things like your wallpaper and flooring to your furniture pieces as well. So even though the game allows for complete freedom, it does have that subtle feature in place to gently guide you into matching your design better. This can help newbies to better understand how certain things may work or not work.”

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Happy Home Academy isn’t a new concept to Animal Crossing, but there’s a reason that almost 50% of the franchise’s lifetime sales have happened in the last 2 years. In March 2020, Nintendo released the latest Animal Crossing game – called Animal Crossing: New Horizons – for the Nintendo Switch console. With people across the globe stuck inside their homes in the midst of a global pandemic, avid gamers and amateurs alike flocked to the life simulation. After all, what better way is there to escape the monotony of your daily life than by jumping into your simulated one?

New Horizons kept the basic structure of the series intact but added a modern twist by increasing the ability for customization and creativity. While you could previously only find or purchase furniture, now you can collect materials to complete DIY projects. And with more options to choose from than ever before, the opportunities for customization are truly endless, with almost 250 wallpaper and 200 flooring options in-game, not to mention an inventory of approximately 1,900 furniture items available for use in multiple colors.

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What Animal Crossing Can Teach You About Interior Design

The Happy Home Paradise expansion of New Horizons, which came out in November 2021, takes the home design element of this game to the next level with a slew of new design features and the addition of one brand new concept: designing vacation homes for villagers.

As a designer in Happy Home Paradise, villagers from all over will come to you and the Paradise Planning team to create their ideal vacation home. While some of these in-game clients have a very specific vision for their home – see: Puck the penguin who wants a house entirely made of ice – others have dream homes that leave more to the imagination, like Eloise the elephant who is looking for a relaxing reading room. The client gives the player a handful of furniture items they want included in their home’s design for inspiration – then the rest is up to you.

Everything from the home’s layout, design, decor and even the landscaping is in your hands with Animal Crossing: New Horizons – and as players have learned to truly push the limits in these imaginary homes, some have also learned to take what they know about in-game design and apply it to their real ones.

Wondering specifically what you can learn about interior design from Animal Crossing? Keep reading to find out.

1. Know Your Aesthetic

Whether you’re flipping a house, designing your dream home or trying to breathe new life into a specific room, it’s important to know the aesthetic you’re aiming for before you get started.

Example of the cottagecore aesthetic.

In Animal Crossing, there are certain aesthetics that are particularly popular, like the cottagecore aesthetic. Cottagecore homes are reminiscent of the classic cottages found up and down the English countryside. This home decor style tends to be somewhat eclectic, meaning the furniture items and design elements used don’t have to be perfectly matched. Cream, peach, olive green and brown are popular colors in these homes.

Other popular aesthetics include dark academia, which takes on a gothic, historical tone, and Americana, which embraces the idealistic American home of the 1950s and ‘60s.

Example of dark academia decor.

Whether you’re a minimalist or maximalist, classic or contemporary, there’s a home aesthetic to fit any mindset and budget. And if you can’t find an aesthetic that fits the vision in your mind? Create your own! There’s no rulebook saying you need to stick to one style, so feel free to mix elements or even embrace different aesthetics in different rooms of your home.

2. When In Doubt, Design Around Your Furniture

Sometimes the most difficult part of designing a space is figuring out where to start. In that sense, the idea of taking a few key furniture items and using them as a starting point for the rest of the design isn’t a bad one. At the very least, this can give you a clear idea of the main purpose of the space.

Take Clyde the horse, for example. Clyde was looking for a wood-burning bungalow. He brought along a wood-burning stove, a rocking chair and a magazine rack for inspiration. These items set the tone for Clyde’s vacation house, though there is still plenty of room to get creative on what the items are paired with.

While I may choose to lean into the magazine rack of it all by lining an entire wall with bookcases, other players who don’t share my affinity for books may go in a different direction. When you look up wood-burning bungalow designs, some players have chosen to go full rustic with cabin walls, while others have achieved a more modern bungalow look featuring clean brick walls and windows of falling snow.

Example of home office with wall bookcase.

Stefan Becur and his wife Maegan use their interior design, home decor and home improvement skills to influence their blog, The Rhythm of the Home. Becur says it’s important to keep a room’s purpose front of mind when you begin designing.

“As opposed to what most people think, feng shui is not about designing a zen home, but rather creating environments with specific energies to support activities, whether it be a living room to relax in or a home office to concentrate in,” explains Becur. “And that’s where the game can really nudge players in the right direction by actually offering a good perspective on what interior design elements really mean and how they can be successfully incorporated.”

3. Trends Are Subjective

There are trends for everything. Clothes, hair styles, and even your home. But while interior design trends can be a good source of inspiration, it’s important to remember that every fad will eventually fade. And for every home style driven by mainstream culture, an equally valid style can be found in counterculture.

“The inclusion of interior design and DIY in Animal Crossing came from an increasing appetite in the mainstream market for pleasing aesthetics,” says Becur. But he notes that what might be deemed pleasing can vary drastically between players. “Things that were previously disregarded in the mainstream culture have been popularized by TikTok trends that ‘venerate’ styles like cluttercore and liminal spaces.”

Example of trendy home.

So how do you settle on a style? If you’re the type of person who will want to refresh your space once a year, embracing annual trends might be a good idea. But don’t feel pressured into choosing a style just because it’s popular. It’s your home, so the most important thing is making it feel homey – whatever that may mean to you.

4. The Ceiling Is The Fifth Wall

Decorating the walls in your home is sometimes a delicate balance. Bare walls leave something to be desired but going too far in the other direction can make the room feel small and cluttered. A well-placed light fixture, a piece of statement art, or a hanging wall planter can add a lot to a room, but when you’re thinking about your space’s walls, don’t forget about the fifth wall – your ceiling.

Example of ceiling as fifth wall.

The November update of Animal Crossing made great strides in this area, adding 39 unique new ceiling decor items, including everything from lighting to hanging shelves and curtains. These elements bring a new level of realism to in-game home designs. When you’re designing your home, take this lesson to heart by considering different ceiling types, colors, and fixtures and what they can add to the space.

5. Don’t Undervalue Curb Appeal

We know what you’re thinking. This article is about interior design, but we would be remiss not to mention the importance of a home’s exterior as well. In Animal Crossing, you have just as much control over a house’s exterior colors, fixtures and landscaping as you do inside the home.

Example of curb appeal.

Curb appeal serves as the first impression of any home. It refers to the overall attractiveness of a house when viewing it from the street. Because this is the first impression, you want to make choices for the exterior of the house that will fit with the tone of the interior.

Take Bill the duck, for example. He dreams of a home that makes every day feel like a summer vacation. There’s a lot that can be done to achieve this goal inside the home – leaning into bright, beachy colors, incorporating flowers and greenery, and of course, prominently featuring Bill’s requested shaved-ice maker.

But stopping there would be a missed opportunity. By choosing color palettes that celebrate the season, planting trees, shrubs and flowers and adding decor on and around the porch, you can elevate your home’s design and more easily attract prospective buyers. And as an added benefit, embracing curb appeal will probably make spending time in your yard more enjoyable for you as well!

6. Designing Is Easy When Money Is No Object

Example of decorating without a budget.

One of the best parts of designing a home in Animal Crossing? Your wallet isn’t impacted if you have expensive taste. While you’ll have to find, build or buy furniture to use in your own in-game house, as a Paradise Planning vacation home designer, you have access to the full item catalog. This means you can design to your heart’s content without worrying about breaking a budget.

“This game has the unique feature of mimicking real-life but without all the struggles that no one enjoys,” comments Moiseoff. “There are no consequences, no conflict, and no difficulties. Even though there’s a racoon that you may owe thousands of dollars to [for your home], he doesn’t pressure you or rush you. If you decide that you never want to pay that back and just live in your small house forever, you can. You are the only person who decides what you have to do, and it’s relaxing to enjoy that freedom.”

Of course, in real life, the process of designing a home isn’t quite so easy. It will take time to design your dream home, and if you wait until you have enough money to style the entire house, you might be waiting a while. Instead, consider tackling the project one room at a time.

The Bottom Line

Life simulation games are popular for a reason. When real life gets a little too real, living vicariously through a video game character can provide a welcome break from life’s challenges – giving you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the surreal over the real.

But games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons can be good for more than just escapism. Though they serve as an example of what our lives might be in their most idealistic form, these games still contain enough real-life elements to keep them rooted in reality.

From wallpaper to flooring, furniture and landscaping, playing Animal Crossing can teach you a lot about interior design and provide a sandbox to try new ideas. Not sure if a color palette will work in a certain space? Try testing it out in your Animal Crossing home first!

If you’re looking for more interior design inspiration, check out our homeowner guide for more tips and tricks!

Get a professional opinion.

Find local interior decorators to help on HomeAdvisor.

Katie Ziraldo

Katie Ziraldo found her love of writing through her experience working with various newspapers, such as the Detroit Free Press. Her financial literacy stems from her four years as a Recruiter, when she learned the details of every role in the mortgage process. As a writer, she uses that knowledge to create relevant content for homeowners to help them reach their goals.