It's one thing moving into a new house but it's another actually designing a home.
Of course, planning, budgeting, moodboarding and the like, is essential to any home renovation project (whether you're planning an extension, new kitchen or bathroom, or finally getting round to landscaping the garden) but designing your dream space isn't as daunting as you think, thanks to plenty of professional home and interior design software that's readily available, user-friendly, affordable, and in many cases, free.
Regardless of what home project you're working on – and the tradespeople you choose to hire – you’ll want to communicate your ideas with everyone involved as accurately as possible, from the layout of your room to the paint colours for each space.
'Using a room planner or design app is the most accurate way of fleshing out your ideas visually,' says Cory Powell from DBS Bathrooms, who talks us through some of the best free interior design software, alongside some tried and tested apps and tools by the House Beautiful team.
Here's our pick of some of the best interior design apps currently available to home designers and interior decorators. Dreaming up a new home has never been more fun...
SketchUp is the most comprehensive free 3D design software you’ll find on the web, says Cory. This powerful home design tool is immersive enough to make it seem like you are moving through your future home, while being flexible enough to make it feel as if you’re working with pen and paper.
The free version is perfect for hobbyists, while the pro version is more suited to professionals in architecture, construction, engineering and commercial interior design.
Whether you’re building an extension for your home, a treehouse, or conceptualising your debut on Grand Designs, the thoroughness of this software will help you bring every aspect of your design to life.
2. Planner 5D
According to Cory, Planner 5D is the best-looking home design tool. Like the free version of Sketch Up, this tool is immersive, which means you are able to explore your design with your feet virtually on the ground.
With Planner 5D you’ll be able to start from scratch or use a template which is perfect for throwing together a quick floor plan if you don’t have the time or don’t want to make a complex design. What's especially great about this software is that it works on iOS, which means you can create plans on your phone or iPad while you’re on the move.
Getting started couldn’t be easier either. Start by adjusting the floor shape, size, materials and colours. Then add furniture and accessories, switch to 3D and add windows and doors. Add a second floor if you want to, and then the roof. The only downside, Cory says, is that if you want to use the in-app furniture, it can get expensive for anything other than the most basic beds, chairs or sofas.
All aspects of the design can be changed in terms of colour and texture and, when you’re ready to share your plans, it can be printed in a photorealistic format.
Floorplanner lets you design and decorate your space in 2D and 3D, which can be done online and without having to download any software. While its interior decorating function is an excellent feature, Cory says the strength of this tool lies in its functionality as a floor planner. Then, once the floor plan is completed, you can switch view and decorate the space in 3D mode.
It’s simple to use and easy to get the hang of, so if you’re after something that doesn’t require a steep learning curve, Floorplanner is a good choice.
SmartDraw is another powerful tool in the world of floor planning. It’s easy enough to learn so no one is excluded from using it, while being advanced enough to facilitate intricate designs for more advanced designers.
With a seemingly endless selection of furniture, cars, building materials and thousands of templates and floor plan examples, you’ll be able to explore an infinite amount of possible designs and layouts for your new space. For Cory, the only downside to this tool is that it’s only free for the first seven days, so if you plan on using it for longer or for multiple projects, it may be worth the upgrade.
HomeByMe is one of Cory's favourite home design tools. As far as we can tell, it’s genuinely free throughout and so are all its features. The way it works, is brands add their products to its catalogue, which means you’ll be using actual products to furnish and decorate your home. The perks of this is that you’ll be able to plan your design through to the very end and have access to the actual furniture and decorations you used to create your space imaginatively.
Like with Planner 5D, you’re able to switch from 2D to 3D after you’ve finished your floor plan and designed the look and feel of each room. Or, you can start with the décor and hit 'summary' and the software will produce a floor plan with all your furniture and appliances in the right places.
There's a lot to like about Roomstyler. Like HomeByMe, it's very easy to use. In fact, it's so intuitive that there's almost no need for the tutorial videos available, which is another plus for this software. Of all the home design tools, this one has a tutorial video available for every question you might have.
The greatest benefit is that you can create a custom room in a matter of minutes. This app also allows you to furnish your space using products from real brands, so you can literally shop the look when you're ready for your design to materialise.
You'll often find that some of your favourite brands and retailers have their own room 3D room planners online, which offers even more scope to visualise your space, and enables you to 'try before you buy'. Take a look at our top picks below...
This is a very easy to use app for iOS and Android that transforms the paint colours of any room. All you do is tap on the area you want to see in a different shade, then drop down to the paint chart menus, choose the one you like and see immediately how it looks.
It's so simple you won't be able to stop yourself pointing it at a wall wherever you go. There is also a useful 'masking tape' function that lets you compare different colours at the same time. The only drawback is the saturation, which can struggle a bit to fill in gaps around ornaments and awkward corners.
This is a really easy to use online kitchen planner that allows you to see in an instant the transformation of colours and patterns for walls, work surfaces, tiles, cupboards, splashbacks, and even drawer trims.
Experimenting with different combinations to create a different look is a breeze; simply click on the area and select a different colour or finish – and there are lots to choose from.
There is a wide range of modern and traditional styles to explore, including our very own House Beautiful kitchen range, all presented in a clear and visually engaging way. The pricing tool is a boon; you can add and subtract units and items to keep within a set budget.
A sofa is one of the most important investments you'll make for your home, so while browsing for your new sofa at DFS, you can also redesign your room. You can use a 2D view or 3D view and from there, choose a room shape, input measurements, and decide on a wall colour and floor covering. You can even add accessories to enhance the space, plus play around with decor to complement your chosen sofa.
If you're thinking about investing in new flooring, Carpetright's flooring visualiser will help you envision what your room will look like with carpet, vinyl, wood or laminate flooring. Simply take a photo of your chosen room (or select a sample room) and upload it onto the visualiser. You'll be able to customise the wall colour and flooring type. From there you can save your rooms and order swatches, bringing you one step closer to your dream room.
11. Villeroy & Boch
A boon if you're really struggling to visualise how to make the most of your space in an awkwardly-shaped bathroom, this online planner allows you to create the dimensions of a room exactly, including sloping ceilings.
It's quite technical, with the design tools at a professional standard. The quick switch 2D/3D function allows you to 'fly' through the room. A useful twin screen allows you to see measurements and visuals at the same time. Notably, however, the challenge comes with adding everything you need to create a bathroom. The interface between 'select a style' collections and adding items is slightly awkward; it would be improved if there were a straightforward drop-down list of baths, sinks, showers and so on under every collection heading.
Let your imagination run wild with this interactive online garden design planner. The high graphics quality is akin to a video game, and it's almost as much fun.
There is a huge choice of garden features that are easy to add and subtract, including outdoor fireplaces, parasols, sheds and summerhouses. There's no awkwardness either if you want to move them around to see how they look in different parts of the garden.
A handy horizontal and vertical repetition function allows you to fill areas quickly with plants and flowers. One caveat; there's a slightly limited selection of botanicals. A bigger choice, including taller varieties such as bamboo, would be good, to help create the garden of your dreams.
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