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Zoom commentary by Port Moody woman became a viral sensation; her first book is now up for pre-order

The Room Raters' Twitter account that is half produced out of the living room of a Port Moody condo, has accumulated more than 400,000 followers of its pithy critiques of Zoom backgrounds and sharp political commentary.
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Port Moody's Jessie Bahrey, left, and Claude Taylor, who's from Washington, D.C., have published a new book based upon their Room Rater Twitter account that scores the backgrounds of politicians, pundits and TV news personalities during virtual interviews.

A Port Moody office manager’s deep dive into interior design for virtual meetings is now available for pre-order.

Jessie Bahrey, whose day job is managing affairs at Muldoon Greenhouses in Port Coquitlam, is one half of the Room Raters.

With her partner, Claude Taylor, a political operative based in Washington, D.C., they’ve created a social media phenomenon of critiquing the background environs of pundits, experts and commentators being interviewed remotely on television.

Since launching their part-time project as a lark to amuse themselves during long-distance phone calls in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, their Twitter account (@ratemyskyperoom) has attracted more than 400,000 followers.

It’s also caught the attention of people like former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, TV host Jonathan Capehart and former advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, as well as spawned off-shoots, like the Lockdown Book Detective (@BookLockdown) that examines the reading material populating the shelves in Room Rater backgrounds.

In fact, the room ratings — that are often accompanied by a bit of sharp political commentary — are so well read, targets will often stylize their backgrounds so they can improve their score the next time they’re on camera. And a perfect score of 10 is frequently celebrated with great joy and relief.

“My wife @JosephineThinwa said this would make me insufferable,” tweeted CNBC contributor and former U.S. prosecutor David Henderson when he was recently awarded the Room Raters’ prize for Best Composition 2021 for his background is comprised of a shelving unit displaying a myriad of books, vases, framed photos and other decorative knick-knacks.

That kind of influencer clout attracted the attention of Voracious, an imprint of publishing giant Little, Brown and Company, that signed the Room Rater duo to a book deal last summer.

In an interview with the Tri-City News, Taylor said the book will be “fun,” with a wider scope than just interior design critiques, including recipes and guest appearances from some of their favourite targets.

According to the publishing company, How to Zoom Your Room: Room Rater’s Ultimate Style Guide offers “practical advise that speaks directly to the home office user,” like how to create good lighting, the perfect camera angle, getting rid of clutter and add “aesthetically pleasing touches.”

Bahrey and Taylor’s critiques are renowned for their enmity for errant electrical cords that haven’t been properly hidden from view and their love for pineapples — real or artefact — placed discreetly on a shelf or countertop in the background.

The pineapple affectation has gone on to become a core design element of a line of offshoot merchandise Bahrey and Taylor have created, like coffee mugs, coasters, lapel pins and ceramic renditions of the spiky tropical fruit. Proceeds from those sales go to fund various projects like providing PPE masks to struggling hospitals and communities, as well as the Navajo Nation in the U.S. southwest, along with art kits for another First Nation community in Colorado.

Bahrey and Taylor, both first-time authors, started work on their book last summer while encamped in her Port Moody condo for several weeks. It features illustrations by Ohio-based Chris Morris, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, LA Magazine and ESPN. The book will be officially released on June 21.

For more information, or to order a copy, go to Voracious' website.