Fandom Homes: Inside the Houses Where Fictional Universes Come to Life

For Azusa, a 41-year-old social media personality and nail artist who goes by the name Azusa Barbie online, creating a home based on a fandom couldn’t be more simple. “If we have a right to choose where we live, I want to live in the place that makes me the happiest,” she says. And nothing makes her happy quite like Barbie. “I moved from Japan to the United States because of Barbie,” she says. “I wanted to be closer to her.” For the past eight years, she’s been DIY’ing her apartment in West Hollywood into her own Dreamhouse, complete with countless shades of pink and an ever-growing collection of Barbie memorabilia. “Everyone who visits my space loves it,” she says. “It seems like it doesn’t matter if they’re Barbie fans or not. I get compliments on my ideas, especially those around organizing a small space.”

Maria Volk in her Secret Garden–themed office.

Photo: Maria Volk

However, not every fan chooses to go bold when displaying their passions. Maria Volk, an interior designer and TikToker based in Northern California, has recently seen incredible success in a video series she’s put together called the NerdCore Home Series, which has racked up over 213 million views on TikTok. In it, she offers viewers ideas for honoring their favorite pop culture references in their homes in less obvious ways. “I love being able to help people incorporate things they love into other areas of their lives,” Volk tells AD. She’s created videos showcasing decor ideas inspired by a gamut of source material including Little Women, Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and even Winnie-the-Pooh. “For people who like to nerd out on things, there’s just this passion that is so much more than just a normal home design. When it’s connected to your fandom, there’s an added excitement to it,” she adds.

Volk displays what she calls “subtle nerd prints” in a gallery wall.

On her bookshelf, she displays subtle nods, like a Grogu figurine, to her favorite fandoms.

Photo: Maria Volk

In her home, she recently redesigned her office using The Secret Garden as inspiration, though there’s also a gallery wall made up of “subtle nerd prints.” Here, she has references to Star Wars, The Royal Tenenbaums, and the anime series Fruits Basket stylized as graphic prints, sketches, and even oil paintings. Since starting the NerdCore Home Series, she says followers have begun reaching out to tell her they’ve incorporated her ideas into their own homes too.

“Fans tend to be very creative, and designing the spaces and emphasizing certain aspects of the text or universe in their designs would be pleasurable for many,” Dr. Bennett adds. “Some of the activities engaged in by fans can be deeply passionate, and work as a testament to the rich connections that many fans feel towards their favorite people or texts.”

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