I last played around with the housing years ago, during my first stint in the game, and things have changed massively since then. For a start, there are whole new housing areas and houses, each of which is an instanced place you can decorate, use as a base for selling items, and store your treasures in. There has been a massive increase in the number and type of housing items available from merchants, quests and festivals in game.
Consequently a quite large subculture has sprung up centred around housing and decorating the houses, with an incredible amount of imagination being displayed. The release of a housing layout editor has enabled some incredible creations, with people building boats, islands, and even houses from scratch. Several website communities have developed based solely around the housing system, including the official Homeshow forum, EQ2 Decorators, and EQ2 Traders (where you can get some idea of the breadth of items available for decorating in game now). I guess the whole system satisfies the same kind of itch that makes games like the The Sims so compulsive. And it is also something that EQ2 is unique in offering - the housing systems in other MMOs come absolutely nowhere near the complexity and design of the EQ2 system. It is a mini-game all of it's own.
My own forays into the system began when I visited one of the five bedroom mansions in New Halas, that were added into the game recently. You can see a tour of the basic mansion in the video below (before any items have been placed into it). It includes a basement, fireplaces, outdoor balcony, and other little nooks and crannies, and is impressive enough a home for your character in its own right.
New Halas 5 Room Mansion
Initially I just started plonking down items I had won as quest rewards, eventually bringing them together in themes areas. So I now have an office, bedroom, library, dining room, merchant area, trophy room, and so on. I'm also starting to design a small shrine in the basement. You can see some of these in the screenshots below, though it is far from finished.
Since then I've started trying to build an aquarium from scratch, inspired by one in the Acolytes of Valor guild house. By using mirrors, hedges, platforms and the like I have build the main frame, and will soon be filling it with fish, plants, and lighting effects. It's a strangely compelling and relaxing way to get away from the grind of levelling for a while.
Next up I'm going to try playing around with the layout editor, which allows you to rotate, resize, roll, and move items very accurately. To give you an idea of the sort of thing that can be achieved using the layout editor have a look at Daenies thread in the official Homeshow forum. For those that don't know, the buildings and everything in them have been built completely from scratch. In game the area is normally completely bare. Very impressive stuff.
I'll be keeping you informed of how I get on.
The housing system in EQ2 is really completely unique. It's hard to describe how flexible and expansive it is compared to other MMO housing solutions, and it's yet to be equalled, let alone bettered. If only decorating in real life was so much fun!