How do you design a dream home? (The Sims 4)

What’s a nicer shade of pink: “sad piglet” or “burnt tongue”? No, I don’t know either. Luckily at Hey Lesson we make it our mission to speak to people who can tell us the answer to such questions. This week we’ve been building an expensive manor house in The Sims 4 and wondering, how should you really design your perfect home? So we spoke to Linda Merrill, a professional interior designer to find out what’s best practice when it comes to painting walls, choosing furniture and tricking visitors into thinking our tiny corridors are bigger than they really are. We also showed her some photos of our wonderful Sims house to see what she thought. Her response was polite.

With guest co-host Grimsevers!

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Click “read more” for a full list of links and transcription.

Links:

Linda’s interior design website

Follow Linda on Twitter

Watch Grim’s housebuilding on Twitch

Grim is on Twitter too

A video tour of Brendan’s manor

SFX and intro/outro music taken from Sims 4 promo trailers

Music is Sheep May Safely Graze – BWV 208 by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4345-sheep-may-safely-graze—bwv-208
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Episode Transcription:

Linda Merrill, interior designer: I’m sure there are people who have got glass roofs. It’s incredibly expensive and difficult to do. For me personally, it would be a lot for, you know, a whole house to have a glass roof.

Brendan Caldwell, host: I couldn’t decide which type of chimney I wanted. So I just put all six of those there. Do you think the chimneys are too much?

Linda Merrill: Yes.

[laughter]

Brendan: Not beating around the bush…

[intro ends]

Brendan: Hello and welcome to Hey Lesson, the podcast where we ask smart people stupid questions about video games. Every episode we underhandedly teach you things through the lens of popular video games, by asking an expert to explain some related real-world topic to us. This week, we’re talking about home-building game, the Sims. It’s a management game series that lets you make your own house, or your own apartment, and decorate it however you want. We’ll be talking to a professional interior designer later about the rules of designing a good room, and we’ll also be asking them to critique a Manor House that I have built in The Sims 4. So keep listening to hear what they think of my amazing creation… uh, that giggling you can hear is my guest co-host this week. We always have a guest co-host on to talk about the game itself and this time it’s streamer and Sims guru, Grim – or Grimsevers, as you might know her on Twitch. Hello Grim, how are you?

Grimsevers: Hello! I’m very good. Thank you. And yes, “manor” is one word for what you made. Yep.

Brendan: Um, we’ll get to that. I’ve sent you some pictures of my manor. My beautiful house, but we’ll get to that a little later in the show. For people listening, who might not know you, you stream the Sims pretty often, right? You probably play more than anyone I know.

Grim: I stream the Sims once a week for at least six hours. I’m a big Sims fan. We call it “Simsevers Sunday” which is, you know, like “Grimservers” but “Simsevers”. And yeah, I play it a lot and I’m quite embedded in the Sims community on Twitch now as well. So I have a lot of friends who are really good builders and I take a lot of inspiration from them. And I just… I play the Sims too much, maybe, but not as much as other people I know. So that’s good.

Brendan: For those who haven’t been paying attention for the last decade or so of video games, can you tell us: what is the Sims exactly?

Grim: So the Sims is a life simulation game. It’s where you can build houses. You create Sims who are basically simulated people. You can create them, make them look however you want – loads of customization options. You let them live out their lives. You give them aspirations, you give them hopes and dreams. You can kill them off in multiple ways. You can make them have families. And you can do all the mundane stuff like even doing their laundry. It’s… a life simulation game with a little bit of added sparkle because there’s like vampires, there’s ghosts, there’s mermaids, there’s witches and wizards. There’s a whole host of things. And cow plants. Yep.

Brendan: And you look at it like from the top-down, so it’s like this isometric view of having a whole house. You’re sort of hovering above it. Like a spirit.

Grim: Yes, you are an omnipresent God, I guess. You play with life.

Brendan: Is there some… is there like a goal of some sort or do you make your own goals?

Grim: You make your own goal. There are lots of Sims challenges out there at the moment because you can do so much with it. A lot of people do build challenges. There’s multiple types of different players in the Sims. The good thing about it is you can play it how you want. So if you are playing it in “live” or “live” mode (it is a debate how you say it) [ie. “I live like a King” vs “the TV show was recorded live”]… you can play multiple different challenges like “rags to riches”, where you start off poor, and then you work your way up the career ladder and get really rich. There are some like “black widow” where you marry and then murder your husbands and then continue the cycle. There are build challenges where people create the shell of a house, like the outside of a building, and then you make the inside look nice. And that’s a shell challenge and that’s building. And then there are things like “breed out the weird” challenges, which are where you make really strange-looking Sims. And you have to try and find people to have babies with, to make your Sims look less weird by the end of it. So there’s lots of different ways to play it.

Brendan: Whoa, that’s a bit near the knuckle.

Grim: Yeah, that’s a bit, um, questionable of a challenge, but there is no real set goal in the Sims. You can kind of just do what you want… your Sim could be alive for two days and then you could kill them off. And that could be how you play the Sims, if you wanted.

Brendan: We’re gonna talk some more about how you play the game and what your typical house-designing process is and stuff like that later. First, we wanted to know: what are the real-life rules of interior design. So to that end, I spoke to Linda Merrill. She is an interior designer with tons of experience. And I asked her to give us some guidelines and tips for designing a home. And she, as I said, even takes a look at a house that I’ve built in the game. So here’s what she had to tell us.

[Interview begins]

Narrator (soundbite): Welcome to Strangerville. This happy desert community is a great place to bring your family.

Brendan: Okay. Linda Merrill, could you please introduce yourself to our listeners? Who are you and what do you do?

Linda Merrill: Hi, I’m Linda Merrill and I’m a residential interior designer in the United States.

Brendan: Could you tell us exactly what an interior designer does?

Linda Merrill: In the residential space we work with homeowners, helping them pick finishes, tile, flooring, lighting, all through the decorating process. You know, furniture, window treatments, all that sort of stuff. And working with contractors, working with architects, just to help people make the most out of their home. You know, it’s your biggest investment. So make the most out of it, you know, not just to make it beautiful, although that’s part of it, but also just to make it functional and work really well for how people are actually living in their homes.

Brendan: What does a typical day look like for you then? Do you spend a lot of time, like interior designers do in the movies, standing around in rooms and going, “ahhh, hmmm”?

Linda Merrill: With the pandemic, it’s all been very different, but, you know… there is not really so much an average day because most of what interior design is, is working at your computer and you’re sourcing products and doing floor plans and 3D renderings and that sort of stuff. But when you are meeting with a client, yes, there’s some standing in a room saying, “Hmm”. And I tend to be that way because I like to take in the room. I’m not somebody who’s going to walk in a room and just immediately say, “Oh, well, you need to paint this red and you need to get rid of that. And you need to…” you know, some people are really good at that. I’d rather take my time and figure out what is truly needed in a space. During the pandemic there has been a lot more virtual design. So doing it with photographs and over FaceTime and that sort of thing.

Narrator (soundbite): Lavish gardens and opulent interiors await.

Brendan: I wanted to ask you about this. Yes. The virtual designs. You’ve been doing this for a long time, I think 10 years maybe. But can you tell me exactly what that is?

Linda Merrill: It’s using technology that we have to do an interior design for our project without ever actually necessarily having been in the space. So you rely on your clients to provide you with good floor plans, whether it’s because they have an architect or a builder, or they take measurements themselves. Photographs. I basically, on my computer, build the space. So I create the whole room or the whole house. So I can feel like I can walk around the space. Virtual design is, you know, it’s not as good as being there in person and it’s not as luxury as service, but it’s a great service because it’s also not generally as expensive for the homeowner.

Brendan: We’re playing a game called The Sims 4 at the moment. And it sounds like what you’re describing is almost the same thing. Maybe [the Sims is] a little less professional. I’m guessing your job has some more challenging elements than this easy-to-use video game. What’s the hardest thing when you’re trying to design a room or a house?

Linda Merrill: I would say it’s helping the homeowner translate what they want and what they need into something they really like. A lot of times people have preconceived notions of, you know, I will like this. I won’t like that. And as the professional, you need to, you know, be willing to sort of push back against that and say, well… why do you not like this? Or why do you want that? Sometimes people want what they see everybody else do. And that doesn’t always work in a specific space.

Narrator (soundbite): Sleeping pods, pet sharks, tiger everything!

Linda Merrill: Using the 3D, like the Chief Architect software that I use – and there’s a lot of professional softwares – it’s not unlike a video game, you know, and I can waste a lot of time playing around in a room. Which is why I’ve probably stayed away from the video games. Because I’d probably get lost in playing around, because it is fun.

Brendan: What are the basic principles of designing, say a living room? What are the golden rules that you shouldn’t break as an interior designer?

Linda Merrill: You know, we like to say… you have to know the rules so you can break the rules. So, you know, particularly for our living room, you generally have a focal point. For most rooms you have a task, like a kitchen, you know what you’re doing in a kitchen, a dining room, you know what it is you’re doing in a dining room. Whereas a living room or a family room, you know, you’re watching TV, maybe you’re looking at a fireplace. So you’ve got focal points that you have to sort of organize the space around, which may or may not work easily within that space because of how it was built. So the first task is what’s being done in the space, you know, what needs to happen in there. And then how do we get there? Some rooms are easy. Some rooms are a little more complicated.

Narrator (soundbite): The new aquarium looks great.

Brendan: It almost sounds like you’re playing a kind of Tetris or something with the, with the shapes of the room and the geometry of it.

Linda Merrill: Yeah. That’s a good way of looking at it. Because it is. It’s like, how to get this little piece to fit in. In that case you want to light, I mean, it’s cozy, you want lights, but you also maybe want to sit on your sofa and read. And ceiling lights, recess lights on the ceiling, are helpful, but they don’t necessarily provide what’s called “task lighting”, which is lighting to do something by, like reading or knitting or, you know, whatever it is. So those are the challenges. So if you don’t have a room that’s got… really neatly laid out architecture, you then have to figure out: how am I going to make this space work so they are comfortable?

Brendan: Are there any more basic principles of designing that are more universal? That would apply throughout the whole house?

Linda Merrill: People say, “Well, if you love it, it will work.” And it’s not always true because you might love things that are all completely different from each other. And they don’t all work together. The easiest way of going about it, particularly if you’re not using a professional or not a professional, is come up with either a color or a palette of colors that you like. Do you like dark dramatic things? Do you like light, airy things? Come up with something you can hang your hat on, so that you can say, “this is the thing that’s going to work”. And it doesn’t mean every room has to look the same or be the same colors, but come up with something that you can start as your jumping point and, you know, kind of go from there.

Narrator (soundbite): You can knock down every wall, build a rooftop garden, a pool, or even your own basketball court.

Brendan: I’ve heard of this rule for colors, the 60-30-10 colour rule. Can you tell us what that means?

Linda Merrill: I’m not sure I know that [laughter].

Brendan: I’ve read… in my very brief, uh, research window, that if you want to pick three different colors, you’d have 60% of one color, 30% of another and 10% of another. Is that something… have I just read some nonsense?

Linda Merrill: I wouldn’t say it’s nonsense, but you can do a beautiful room that’s all monochromatic, which is basically one color. We see that a lot with gray rooms, which are really popular right now, or white rooms. If you start getting into more saturated colors, that probably kind of makes sense. If you have three colors and… you have as much red as you have blue, as you have yellow, you know, they could fight against each other. So I think that sort of goes to my “pick your color” [advice]. So your primary color, you know, maybe it’s red, for example, and then a little bit of blue and a little bit of yellow. Maybe a little less yellow because yellow is tiring to look at. It can be. There’s a lot of stuff to do with color theory, how colors interact with each other as a whole science related to that.

Brendan: That’s so interesting that you say yellow is tiring to look at because sometimes I will see a room. It will be very golden yellow, and I’ll just feel like, “Oh, that’s a bit much.” Is that a natural thing that all humans feel? Or, or is this something that we’ve just kind of adopted?

Linda Merrill: Imagine with something like yellow, it depends on the vibrancy of it. So if it’s like a really bright sunshiny neon yellow, then that probably is just a little overly stimulating. Um, there is a lot of science around the fact that red is very stimulating. I mean, reds, aren’t that popular right now, but it makes for a nice dining room color because it’s stimulating. Whereas blues are soothing, which is why they are nice in bedrooms or kitchens, bathrooms. You know, they’re just more, they’re clean feeling and also soothing.

Narrator (soundbite): Woo, golden throne! There’s plenty of ways to spend money and plenty of sims to spend it with.

Brendan: In the video game, The Sims, there is this sort of a challenge that players undertake to make a very small apartment look good. People will often say, you can trick someone into feeling a space is bigger. You can use mirrors for example. Are there some other ways to do that? Do you have any mind tricks that you could teach the players of the Sims?

Linda Merrill: Just color. There are colors that are “receding” and colors that are “advancing”. So meaning they come towards you. So a bright red comes toward you. A pale blue goes away like the sky. So for instance, if a room was like long and narrow, you might want the far wall that’s kind of far away, but it’s not very wide to be red or to be a more advancing color. Yellow is advancing. Like it just comes at you. Whereas you might want the sidewalls to be much paler because they will sort of float farther away. And that might make the room feel not quite as long and narrow. If they have a short room, people often think, “Oh my room’s not that tall. I don’t want to have crown molding” which is the moldings at the top of the wall, at the ceiling. However, what that does is it draws the eye upward and gives a feeling that the room is taller. If you put everything at eye level or below in a room, like six feet tall and below, then the whole room feels like it’s six feet tall. If you have things for people to look at – draperies hung to the ceiling, crown molding – things up higher, people will look at them and it’ll trick them into thinking the room is taller than it is.

Narrator (soundbite): Eureka moments unlocked. New ideas will feed your Sims imagination.

Brendan: This is something I wanted to ask you about. There is this joke that, you know, wealthy people have no taste because when you look at mansions or the houses of extremely wealthy people, you sometimes see that there’s garish or ostentatious things. I’m thinking of Donald Trump’s gold-plated rooms. Have you ever worked with someone whose tastes clashed with your own sensibilities in that way?

Linda Merrill: Not too much, because I think most people hire the designer that they’ve seen your work and on your website, you know, your portfolio that speaks to them. I’ve certainly had people who want to hold onto something that’s really ugly because it has sentimental value and maybe ugly only because it’s old and run-down and beat up. There’s sometimes things like that. I think if you’re… someone who wants the Trump tower, gold kind of look, you’re going to look for the decorator who does that Russian oligarch kind of look.

Narrator (soundbite): The crown jewel of this European-inspired world is the Von Haunt estate.

Brendan: I played a little bit of the Sims, this video game that we were talking about recently. And I’m going to show you some screenshots of a house that I have made in it. And I just want your honest opinions on the rooms, the layout, the house itself, I guess we start in the lounge, the middle of the house. This is a room with brown sofas, very plain, beige carpet, gray doors. I’ve put some mirrors on the side walls here. What are you… what do you make of this space?

Linda Merrill: Well, it’s imbalanced in that you’ve got the furniture all on one side and nothing on the other side. It seems a fairly large room. So I don’t think you need mirrors.

Brendan: My thinking was I would make a sort of infinity of mirrors by putting one on one side and one directly opposite.

Linda Merrill: It would do that. Yeah. What’s… now, there’s a light fixture hanging. What were you thinking was going to go under there? Like a dining area?

Brendan: I thought it was done. Just… empty room.

Linda Merrill: Oh. I would look at that and say, well, what’s the point? It’s a wasted space there, unless you’re wanting to turn it into a disco or, you know, have a dance floor, which is totally fine or something like that. But just a big empty space sort of seems a waste of real estate.

Narrator (soundbite): It’s easy to pass an afternoon, exploring the grounds of this magnificent chalet.

Brendan: Well, let’s head over to the bathroom and what I’ve done here is… it’s sort of red walls, a nice checkerboard tile, a bath with a television, a widescreen television, on the wall opposite. And uh, a few windows. I think there’s a few… ten windows. Is that too many windows?

Linda Merrill: There’s a hedge out there. Right? So it’s got privacy? I mean, you know, you’ve got a bath, you’ve got windows floor to ceiling, so you’ve got privacy issues. So as long as there’s nothing out there, then you don’t have to worry about privacy. I don’t love windows on the floor, just because I feel like, what if you kick it by mistake? But you know, it’s an interesting concept, having a lot of individual windows.

Brendan: Uh, how do you feel about the widescreen TV?

Linda Merrill: I don’t actually see the TV.

Brendan: It’s in the second picture of the bathroom.

Linda Merrill: Oh, I see where it is. I thought that was a window.

Brendan: There are already enough windows.

Linda Merrill: There’s a lot of windows. Yeah. Um, yeah. I mean a lot of people have TV sets in the bathroom. That’s very common. Yes.

Brendan: You said privacy was an issue. If we… if we look at the garden picture…

Linda Merrill: All right. I wouldn’t want to see faces looking in, even topiary faces.

Brendan: The garden has hedges outside the bathroom, like you were saying, but through each of the windows, a small hedge animal is…. my thought was that it would block the light, but yes, they are facing inward to the bathroom.

Linda Merrill: Somebody with a really good sense of humor would probably find that very humorous. Um, it’s not my personal style. I would not like even, as I said, I wouldn’t even want topiary faces looking in at me.

Narrator (soundbite): It’s best to find your way out of the hedge maze before the sun sets.

Brendan: We’ll maybe go to one of the bedrooms. The big bedroom.

Linda Merrill: Is that the red bordello looking bedroom?

Brendan: That’s correct. This is a room that was actually built by the GM. So the GM did this room itself and I just plopped it on the edge there. So if you could describe it and say whether or not you feel like it’s good or not.

Linda Merrill: When you say “good”, what do you mean?

Brendan: I don’t know. Is it…

Linda Merrill: You know, it’s a start. I mean, you’ve got the double doors and then on the left of the double doors, what is that? Is that a mirror? Is that a window?

Brendan: It’s another window.

Linda Merrill: Okay. Yeah. I mean, one, the two windows don’t match… architecturally, that’s all.

Brendan: Yeah, you’re right. That… window is the only thing that I put into the room.

Linda Merrill: Oh, okay. Yeah. I would get rid of it. Otherwise, I mean, uh, you know, a bed on an angle in a room is tricky. It’s done a lot of times.

Brendan: If we look at reception, this is a water feature that I added to the inside of the house, which I understand is unconventional.

Linda Merrill: I mean, you do see them, there are houses with water features inside, like goldfish ponds, koi pond, kind of indoor versions. So it’s done. Not often or traditionally, because that’s a big, expensive thing to do. But, uh, it’s done.

Brendan: So this isn’t that bad then? These two fishes spurting fountain water into a larger fountain that reaches the ceiling.

Linda Merrill: Well, I mean, I guess again, I would say what’s the purpose? And that’s a lot of what interior design is. You know, what’s the purpose of doing this? Who’s looking at that? It’s a focal point. It’s not just, you know, living on its own in a room. What are people doing to interact with that? That would be my question

Brendan: That’s a valid question. I just put it there.

Linda Merrill: Yeah.

Narrator (soundbite): Dedication to design that offers both purpose and beauty.

Brendan: This is the next photo. And the final photo I’m going to show you. It is an exterior shot of the whole house.

Linda Merrill: Yeah. With the, uh, I… you know, I think it’s… for me personally, it would be a lot for a whole house to have a glass roof. I’m sure there are people who have got glass roofs. It’s incredibly expensive and difficult to do.

Brendan: Do you think the chimneys are too much?

Linda Merrill: Yes

Brendan: [laughing] Not beating around the bush. I mean, I couldn’t decide which type of chimney I wanted. So I just put all six of those there.

Linda Merrill: No, I mean… you can’t put chimneys on top… chimneys actually go to a fireplace.

Brendan: Yeah. I think you make a very valid point. I don’t think I have a single fireplace in the home, but I have six chimneys.

Linda Merrill: I would get rid of everything but that one with… the more of a cupola? And stick that in the middle.

Brendan: Okay. That’s good advice. I’ll do that. Thank you very much for helping me with the design of my new home.

Linda Merrill: Yeah. I mean, my pleasure. I think it really comes to: what is the purpose? How am I going to interact with this thing? And does it make sense? Because you can have totally whimsical things, like your topiary. I mean, those are really cute. If it’s your house you can do and should do whatever you want.

Brendan: Linda Merrill, thank you very much for talking to us.

Linda Merrill: My pleasure. It’s been fun.

Brendan: We’ve learned an awful lot.

Sim (soundbite): Okay. Now let’s see… wait! What’s happening!? [static] They found me… I’m losing you [static] This is just beginning. Solve the mystery of Strangerville! [Static]

Narrator: Experience all that this community has to offer, and more. Strangerville – it changes you.

[Interview ends]

Brendan: That was Linda Merrill, interior designer. If you want to hear an unabridged version of that chat in which Linda goes into more detail about her job and about our unique Sim house, you can hear that by becoming a supporter. For $2 a month, you’ll get longer versions of the interviews with all of our experts that we do. And there are some other parks available to you, just head to patreon.com/heylesson, or click the link in the show notes to find out how to keep our podcasts going. Grim, having seen some of the screenshots that Linda was looking at, pictures of my lovely abode, do you think that her critiques were fair?

Grim: Yes. I think she was almost too polite if anything.

Brendan: Okay.

Grim: Just because… it’s… it’s the bathroom for me, I think, that really catches my eye. Just…

Brendan: What’s not to like? You’ve got plenty of light in there.

Grim: We’ve got a glass door going into a bathroom for a start.

Brendan: Oh, that’s true.

Grim: You’ve got a TV in there, which I guess is quite, you know… bougie, I guess.

Brendan: Oh, excuse me.

Grim: The color scheme is fine. It’s the windows as well. It’s the windows. Why do you have so much glass in this bathroom? Why do you have a glass door into a bathroom? And then why do you have… one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten windows – in that bathroom?

Brendan: I thought it’s good to, you know, air out the room. Bathrooms get stinky sometimes. You have to open a window. What’s better than opening one window? Opening ten windows.

Grim: Right. Okay. Um, but why do you have hedge animals looking into your bathroom?

Brendan: It’s just sort of… you know, sometimes you go to a house, you see a hedge, you don’t think anything of it. But you see these animals, you see the llamas or little cats, hedge cats, looking in from below at your ankles. And you think: “That’s interesting. I’ve got a memory now”.

Grim: Right. Yeah. I’ve just finished reading The Shining recently, for the first time ever. So I’m really not about that life. But I mean, sure. If you want… hedge animals looking into your bathroom, then why not? This house reminds me of one of my first ever builds I would build in the Sims 1 or the Sims 2. Just because… like, what is going on? There was no real… Playing in this house would probably be quite, it’s probably quite a good house to play in. There’s so many doors. I don’t think there’s any places a sim could get stuck. So it’d be quite good for playing in. However, who could afford this? Like, it must be so expensive.

Brendan: I mean, I used the cheat to get enough money to build it. You use cheats in the Sims, you type in “motherlode” and you get a load of money. That’s how people play the Sims as I understand it. So that’s what I’ve done.

Grim: I mean sure. So walls in the Sims are so expensive. Like, you’ve got so many walls and for what reason? Your bathroom doesn’t need to be as long as you’ve made your bathroom, neither does your kitchen or your study. I just don’t understand… I used to make houses like this in then Sims and I used to build a box and then I would be like, right, that’s it. And then the furniture would be so far away and I would have so little… I’d have so much room to furnish and they’d end up looking like this.

Brendan: Okay. Well, please tell me that you think at least my art room, which is also the dining room, you at least think this is nice. I’ve sent you some pictures. What about that one?

Grim: It’s… I’m… sure. It’s great. Yes. I think you’ve done a really good job, a sim would walk into that room and be like, “Wow, this is well decorated.” So, you know they would have – apart from the clown, tragic clown brings moods down – but everything else in that will bring their mood up. So well. Yeah.

Brendan: Well, I mean, you’ve been a lot harsher than Linda was. I’ll say that much.

Grim: I think Linda was really nice about it. Like, really nice about it, but I mean, it’s good, you did a good job. You didn’t even paint the outside walls though, but you did a good job. Otherwise…

Brendan: It was on my to-do list, the outside walls. Right. Ignore my house for now. We’re just gonna talk about the Sims, the game itself. I want you to tell me, having played an unholy amount of hours of the Sims, what’s so good about it? Why do you keep coming back to it?

Grim: So I used to have a really terrible relationship with the Sims. I would get hooked on the Sims for about a month straight, only play the Sims, and then ignore it for six months. That… tended to be my pattern with it during like the Sims 2, the Sims 3, and then even actually the Sims 4, until I became a games journalist and I, you know, could get things for free. And then I would be less about taking breaks from it because I didn’t have to pay for it, any of the expansions, which are really overpriced. But that’s a whole other thing. But I just love… building in the Sims. I love building in games in general. So Planet Coaster and Planet Zoom, my favorite things to do in them are building, over the actual management of it. But the Sims, I just find new ways to unleash my creativity, I guess. And I love to build in it and that’s pretty much all I do. I don’t really make Sims anymore. I don’t really play on live-slash-live mode. I just build… I love looking at other people’s builds, getting inspiration. I do a lot of shell challenges as well. So I just take other people’s shells and then I make them look nice on the inside. I also find it quite relaxing, just as a comfort game. I think at this point it’s a comfort game. I find it relaxing. Until I find a wood swatch that doesn’t match another word swatch. Even though in the swatch picker, it looks like it’s the same color. And then you pick it and they don’t match. That’s when I start getting stressed with the Sims.

Brendan: This is like, if one floorboard doesn’t match with another floorboard right next to it? And… it’s the only thing that sticks out in the room.

Grim: Yeah. Pretty much.

Brendan: Are you into decorating your home in reality in the same way? Is that something that Sims taps into for you?

Grim: Yeah, I’m big on decorating our house and I have recently changed up our bedroom a little bit by adding another wall color in there. Because it’s a bit more complementary to what I want to style to look like. Adding new pictures and stuff. Choosing a theme for my study and for our bedroom has been really helpful because it just helps you put your little imprint on it. And I’m now quite fussy over things in those rooms. Every room I’ve not decorated and not touched, I’m not really bothered about. But if I put my own mark on it, I am fussy when it doesn’t look right. And I really wish that I had maybe gone into doing something like interior design as a career, or… I love architecture as well. So anything to do with buildings, I am all over it. Now it’s seeped into my every day. I have friends moving into houses being like, “can you help me design my new bedroom”? Or like, “can you help me figure out how my kitchen should look”? And I am honoured.

Brendan: It’s great that you got so much training for this, through this video game.

Grim: I know. Do you reckon if… could you put me in touch with Linda and then maybe she might be able to offer me a job?

Brendan: I think if you can move to New England, it might work for you.

Grim: Yeah. Maybe I can’t relocate right now.

Brendan: She was saying she works with virtual design and how they basically do a sort of version of the Sims whenever they’re designing something for a client. So you could… you could do that. You could just send Sims pictures to people.

Grim: So actually, it’s funny you say that because I’ve actually… when we moved into this house, I built it in the Sims to figure out where things could go and figure out what would fit.

Brendan: Whoaaa.

Grim: Yeah. But the Sims isn’t very true to real life in terms of sizing.

Brendan: [Laughter]

Grim: So it’s actually very frustrating to build a real house in the Sims because all the walls, like, as you can tell, there’s obviously the grid system, as you put things down. And the walls have to be the full length of the grid, however objects can go anywhere. They can go in the quarter tile, half-tile, three-quarter tile, full-tile… But you can’t do that with walls. And I wish you could do that with walls because you need it. Because alcoves are not a full tile long. Do you know what I mean? They’re like half a tile long. It’s just really stressful to build in the Sims if you’re trying to copy a real-life floor plan. I just did one, a few weeks ago. I had built a million pound house in Bath – which obviously is only a four-bedroom semi-detached because it’s Bath – but I built that copying the floor plan off of Rightmove and stuff. And it was so difficult to get it to actually look right. Some of the rooms were too big and some of the rooms are too small, just because of the way that it works. It’s a lot harder to actually make your dream house in the Sims 4, because I don’t know, it just doesn’t… nothing adds up properly, but I’ve tried it.

Brendan: Linda was telling us about some of the general rules to follow, regarding color for example. When you’re playing the Sims, do you have any rules like this that you try to follow or do you just decorate according to what you unconsciously think looks good?

Grim: Yeah, I don’t think I have any rules. I definitely just go with a vibe. I tend to put a backstory to the SIM that I’m potentially building the house for, and what kind of personality they might have. And then that kind of helps me choose the way that the rest of the house is going to be furnished or decorated. Or I’ll find objects that I really like. And then I’ll take colors from that and I’ll just complement rooms with that. That’s kind of how I do it in real life as well. I see colors I like, and I’m like, right. I like that color. That’s all. An item that has got this color on it. And now I can incorporate both those colors into this room. That’s kind of how I do it. I have no technical or… I have no technique or theory behind it. And yeah… I am not an interior designer, as much as I wish I was one, but I just go with the flow.

Brendan: In some of your streams, you talked about doing these challenges, shell challenges, and that’s when you get the shell of a house, it’s floor plan, its basic shape, and then you fill it up… Is it difficult? Do people make it intentionally difficult by making like tiny rooms or something?

Grim: So you can usually, with a shell challenge, you can choose the floor plan, however you want. However, some people do have different rules for their different shells. The main rule that goes through all of them is you can’t change any exterior walls, but you can do whatever you like with the inside. And you can add exterior walls to the outside if you wanted to, but you can’t extend any rooms, but there are often other things with the shell challenges that people put in. So sometimes you have to make a room for a Sim that likes music. You have to definitely have a room that incorporates an instrument in some way, or sometimes you have to use the llama hedge in like every room or one room, or it has to be on there at some point. There are loads of different things that people do. One room… has to be a specific color. There are now tiny homes in the Sims as well with one of the packs that came out and they are tile-limited. So you can only have an amount of tiles down for a micro, mini, and tiny home. And that obviously makes them a lot harder because they are… when I say “tiny”, the biggest tiny home you can have is a hundred tiles. And that’s… that’s not much. But if you aren’t very good at building in the Sims, you don’t actually have to follow the competition rules. If you want to just get better at designing the inside. That’s what I did anyway. I would download people’s empty shells. Sort out a full plan, not necessarily follow any of their other rules, and then just build from it.

Brendan: As a result of all this. You’ve probably seen a lot of other people’s designs and houses.

Grim: Yeah.

Brendan: Is there anything that you’ve seen that has absolutely offended you, something you can’t stand to see? Apart from my manor.

Grim: I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that I’ve been particularly offended by. There’s a lot of… It’s always fun to see people who aren’t, you know, aren’t builders in the Sims, give a good building challenge. You go because they end up making things look similar to yours. And it’s fine because the Sims can be… the Sims four has got the best building tools out of all of the Sims series so far, it’s the most straightforward and it’s the easiest to figure out and use. However, that doesn’t mean that making something look good in it is easy. It just means that doing the actual putting-everything-down-that-you-need is really easy. So I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything that massively offends me. There were like a few things in Sims 4 building, which kind of annoyed me, but it’s nothing that I’ve ever seen anyone build. It’s just the way that the Sims works in general. I guess the thing that annoys me the most. Okay. I think the thing that annoys me the most is how people do their stairs. I don’t know why it is. I just get really frustrated with stairs. There’s… if you put stairs down and they’re not directly to a wall, it does like a little jut-out thingy, like a little landing at the top. And sometimes that landing can look really gross if there’s nothing underneath it. And I hate that. And I’m just looking through your pictures now, and I can see that you’ve got stairs, but no upstairs.

Brendan: I was getting planning permission at that point, really, to create what became a tower. I have since worked on this house and I created a tower and within the tower is a throne room for cats. And that’s where the cats live and have all their toys and stuff. And then on the far end of the throne room, there’s sort of a hole that the “King of the Cats” can cast you down into a sort of a pit. And it’s got… I couldn’t figure out how to make a fire pit. So I just put eight barbecues in there. So if you imagine a pit with eight barbecues, a gravel floor, one cactus. I thought this would be a kind of “hell zone” for the humans to get cast if they disobeyed or were bad to their cats. What actually happens is, because there’s eight barbecues, the Sims think they must cook every meal on the barbecue. And the house just fills up with sausages and hot dogs. Big, you know, spreads of meat. And then the cats eat all that off the tables. So you just kind of have to imagine that extra bit of the house.

Grim: Wow. Okay. Um, but if you want to set your Sims on fire really easily, I’ve got a top tip because it happens to me. Put a rug really, really close to a fireplace and it will just set on fire every time. So yeah.

Brendan: Top tips.

Grim: Top tip.

Brendan: Top tips, Sims players. Linda said that it was all right to have rooms with different styles throughout the house. Do you do that or do you try to make a theme for your whole house and have a consistency from room to room?

Grim: I think I normally do a consistency. But that’s purely because I’m lazy and I can’t often be bothered to build a house… for more than one Sim. But I have made houses that are different throughout. Like if you’re doing a house with a lot of people in it and a big family, not everyone’s going to want the whole house to look exactly the same. So it was quite interesting to add people’s different touches and styles to it. Like I said, if you give your Sims a backstory, it kind of helps with making their rooms look different and then… those bits of those different rooms can come through into other bits. But I am quite a fan of sticking to a theme. So like what you’ve done… offends me a little bit. But I mean, some of them really work together. Some of them… the kitchen is disgusting. I’m just going to say it. I don’t like the kitchen, but the kitchen works with the bathroom and the bedroom because of the red. The red sticks with it. So there’s a little bit of, you know, there’s a little bit of consistency – have you got pots and pans in your bathroom!?

Brendan: I mean… they’re decorative. I’m from Ireland. You can hang up pots and pans anywhere. They’ll look decorative.

Grim: And you’ve got a menu in there as well. Why is this in your bathroom?

Brendan: It’s just to give it a bit of character, you know. I have since put in an extra bath, by the way… I do recognize that I need to take up some of that space. So there’s now two baths side by side and the two people can watch TV together. If that’s bougie, as you say, so be it. That’s how my Sims enjoy their life.

Grim: Okay. No, that’s fair. I’ve actually just thought of another thing that offends me, in a sense.

Brendan: Oh no.

Grim: It’s roofing, but that’s because… so what made me think about it was actually having a proper look at your roofing… You’ve done a good job of it with what you have, you know. It’s a box, it’s not hard to roof. I’m going to be honest. It’s not hard to roof. You somehow made it look like it was a chore to roof… You got chimneys, you’ve got six chimneys. Um, you don’t need that many… Okay. You don’t, it’s just… Oh, I’m looking at it now. I wasn’t really looking at the outside much, but now I’m looking at it, there’s a lot of glass. It’s going to be a very hot house. It’s a really tall ceiling as well. Imagine, if you’ve got any condensation or mold up there, you would have no hope. Oh my God. It’s just… So roofing in the Sims is really difficult when you have a house that’s not a box, but you had a house that was a box. And yet you still made it look like it was hard.

Brendan: Okay. Well, you know, feedback has been received. I understand. I have a lot to learn. I’m going to withhold my instinctive defensiveness.

Grim: I just think you don’t have to do it all glass either. You could do a little bit glass and not all of it glass.

Brendan: But how would the light enter, say, the bathroom. If there’s only 10 windows in the bathroom, I need more light.

Grim: No. I know what you could do to get more light in the bathroom. Remove the hedge animals.

Brendan: But then how would they see in?

Grim: How would who see in? The hedge animals?

Brendan: The hedge animals.

Grim: The hedge animals don’t need… The hedge animals don’t see, for a start. They’re made of… of plant. So, I mean…

Brendan: Your critique of my manor has been so much more proscriptive than what Linda has told me. But if the listeners want to see this house… I did a walkthrough of it on one of the Twitch streams. And I’ll cut that out and I’ll put a link to that. So you’ll be able to see everything in this house if you’re listening.

Grim: Nice.

Brendan: If you’re interested. But for now that’s all we have time for, I’m afraid.

Grim: I’m so sorry, Brendy.

Brendan: I’m not gonna stand for anymore than this.

Grim: I’m so sorry.

Brendan: You’ve been listening to Hey Lesson with me, Brendan Caldwell, and my guest co-host this week, Grim. Thank you for joining us Grim.

Grim: Thank you for having me. Sorry I was mean.

Brendan: That’s fine. If our lessoners have enjoyed your Sims thoughts and want more of your expertise, your guidance in all things Simlish, where can they find you?

Grim: You can find me on Twitter @grimsevers_ with an underscore at the end. You can find me on Twitch with the username. Grimsevers. You find me on Instagram with username Grimsevers, but Sims is usually just on my Twitch. So go there for Sims stuff, if you want more.

Brendan: Cool. I’ll put a link to all those as well in the show notes. If you’ve enjoyed this episode of Hey Lesson, please consider becoming a supporter of the show. We don’t have any adverts. We have no sponsors. We’re totally reliant on you, our listeners. Regular donors get extra goodies, including longer interviews like I’ve mentioned, but you can also get monthly bonus episodes in which I and a guest chatter about games more generally, without any experts at all. There are some short behind-the-scenes video updates from me as well every month, just head to patreon.com/heylesson, or click the link in the show notes to learn how to become a good person who supports us. Noted good people include Bok Choy, an incredibly good person, Horrendomonas, a superbly good person. And also Milk Is Gross And Bad For You is another good person, albeit one with a very specific anti-dairy username.

Grim: I like that username, I’m a fan of that username.

Brendan: Once again, Grim, thank you so much for chatting to us about all things Sims.

Grim: Thank you for having me.

Brendan: And to everyone out there: thank you for lessoning.

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