CB2 Invites Pinterest Users To Design An Apartment In Real Time

CB2 harnesses the design sensibilities of the Pinterest community, led by five Pinterest influencers.

If social media platforms in general are catalysts for people to present their best selves, then Pinterest in particular is the granddaddy of the fantasy life visualized. People pin pictures of the perfect shoes, the perfect DIY project, or the perfect décor on their visual bulletin boards; whether real life measures up to the flawlessly curated ideal doesn’t really matter, as long as one’s able to dream–and share with their followers their most impeccable taste.


Home décor chain CB2, the more urban and youthful division of Crate & Barrel, wanted to turn aspirational online home design daydreams into reality with APT CB2, a five-day event in which five popular designers decorate one real-world apartment using furniture from the CB2 catalogue with the real-time input from the Pinterest community. Starting on May 7, each designer will have one day to transform one room in a vacant NYC apartment into a fully realized space, the progress of which will be shared over Pinterest and through a campaign microsite. Throughout the day, people can vote on a design choice an hour–for instance which chair or lamp or sofa to place in the space–all with the promise of winning $5,000 to spend at CB2 for their own dream apartment.

The project is the cornerstone of CB2’s “Modern Together” brand platform, created by Mother New York, and is the first major brand advertising from the company. Mark Aver, creative director at Mother says the brief for this campaign was simple; “They wanted an inspiring, exciting brand campaign that did something new and showed the world that they were a creative company. We imagined doing something in the social media space and bridging that to the real world was the best demonstration of that.”

Alicia Waters, senior director of marketing for CB2 says a social media campaign was not a directive, rather a result of giving the agency a challenge. “We asked Mother to design a campaign that was truly innovative, breakthrough, and engaged both our current community as well as qualified prospective customers. Given those parameters, social media was a good fit here for two reasons. By partnering with design tastemakers (the Pinfluencers), we directly touch an audience who shares our general modern aesthetic and passion for design, and by leveraging sophisticated digital media we can be really discerning and specific about who hears and sees the story of this campaign, and focus impressions and spend against consumers we feel will be receptive and energized by this message.”

The idea of “Modern Together” was the result of looking at how competitors in the category behaved, says strategist Daniel Edmundson. “A lot of times this word modern is co-opted by brands and has lost its meaning in a lot of ways. The core insight we ended up on is that the word modern is not about a product portfolio; it’s about a mindset.” That thinking is what Edmundson says led the agency to Pinterest. “That platform speaks so much to the core tenets of the brand. It’s a place for collaboration, for experimentation, for encouragement and getting people to play with what they want to do with their home.”

It also happens to be the place that design acolytes flock to swoon over in-a-perfect-world living spaces. “Pinterest is a social platform where every inspiring home decorator interested in design goes to find inspiration,” says creative director Daniel Carlsson. “People put together their dream apartments together with their mood boards. To be able to bridge this into the real world and execute the building of a dream apartment in real life is really exciting.”

And the space that people will help decorate is pretty spectacular. The designers have free reign over a sprawling five-room apartment near New York’s Union Square that only a lucky few could actually afford. “It’s an aspirational space but with a neutral backdrop for the designers to put their own aesthetic into it,” says Aver, noting the designers are given free reign to design how they choose. And while the furnishings are selected from the CB2 catalogue–the selection of pieces up for public voting are determined by designers in advance–they’re each allowed to bring in signature flourishes like vintage or bespoke pieces that truly cement their personal style. “We love that it’s really true to the design process and that CB2 is very cool about the fact that the rooms are not totally furnished with their own product,” says Aver.


Online, the campaign–which includes no TV–will live on Pinterest and a microsite that’s built off the Pinterest API. When the project is happening live, the agency will update Pinterest every 15 to 30 minutes with photos from the apartment. Updates will come every few minutes on the microsite. “When doing a live experience like this it’s really important to give transparent and direct feedback to the users so they really understand that everything that’s happening is happening live,” says Carlsson. “We’ve built a rich experience on the campaign site we’ll be transmitting pictures every minute about what’s happening with in the apartment. We’ll be generating a rich time-lapse from the day.

If it seems a bit odd that a “live-event” is being relayed through still photography, there are two reasons for the creative decision. “There was a bit of a limitation in terms of what you can do on Pinterest,” says Carlsson, noting that a live video feed wasn’t really feasible on the image-based site. “We really wanted to follow the rules and behavior of the platform.” The fact that Pinterest puts a premium on high-quality images also bolstered that decision. By releasing the progress in photos, people could capture and share individual images, or scrub through a timelapse to see the evolution in action.

In addition to voting for furniture or simply passively watching the rooms come to life, people are able to watch voting trends across the U.S. and Canada, or take part in the live social feed with the designers and other voters. And in a nifty paid media tie-in, for the five days that the apartment is being designed, live banners on home décor sites will allow people to vote for furniture pieces directly from the banner. Once the week is over, influential design bloggers and writers will be invited to actually live in the space for a day or two. “It’s one thing to design it in real time, but it’s another to live it in it,” says Aver.

For CB2, the benefit of being the first to use Pinterest this way and engage the designers in real time is great for its bragging rights, not to mention a strong way to actively engage people while cementing brand awareness.

“We love that this campaign will give people a chance to work together as a community to create a product that marries the digital and physical world,” says Water. “The Pinfluencers are mixing in their own unique items alongside ours … so consumers will see CB2 in context, which is how real people live. It’s a true exchange, we’re giving up control to the Pinfluencers and consumers and trusting them as we shepherd our brand’s communication together!​”

As Aver says, “There’s something really magical about bringing the digital space and a physical environment together.”


About the author

Rae Ann Fera is a writer with Co.Create whose specialty is covering the media, marketing, creative advertising, digital technology and design fields. She was formerly the editor of ad industry publication Boards and has written for Huffington Post and Marketing Magazine