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Best interior design software of 2021

Best interior design software
(Image credit: Pixabay)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

The best interior design software can make it simpler and easier to manage design projects for indoors.

The best interior design software

Interior design software has become increasingly accessible, especially as people turn to building their own homes, not least to implement green initiatives and other environmentally-friendly designs they could not apply to a normal modern home.

Computer-aided design was once the exclusive realm of engineers and architects, but not any longer, and there are a wide range of easy-to-use applications that allow a building and its interior to be accurately modeled in 3D. 

Using virtual walk-arounds, obvious problems can be identified, costs better controlled and multiple options compared.

These tools might not make you an architect or identify load-bearing walls, but they do enable those with a creative flair to explore internal space and how it might be better utilized.

Here are the best interior design software platforms we’ve found, that enable rooms to be redesigned efficiently, enabling the real changes to happen sooner rather than later.

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(Image credit: Nova Development)

1. Virtual Architect Ultimate

Software that doesn’t require a real architect to use

Reasons to buy
+Easy to use+Metrics for insight and analysis
Reasons to avoid
-Phone support is a gouge

To give the full title of this software, it is Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design with Landscaping and Decks 9.0.

That title hints at the scope of Nova Development’s tool. It isn’t limited to interior spaces but also handles external ones and the transition areas between them.

A typical user might be redesigning internal spaces, or designing extensions to existing buildings, or a completely new home or office.

To reduce the designer workload, Virtual Architect uses a series of wizard-based processes that can add doors, windows, layout kitchens and bathrooms, and even garden ponds.

It comes with a substantial library of commonly used items that include sinks, showers, baths, seating, lighting, fountains, waterfalls, barbecues and patio furniture. There are even 7,500+ plants in the system, with additional information about lighting and watering requirements available.

Another special feature is the ability to capture furniture and soft furnishings using a camera and then have those items appear in the newly designed rooms.

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(Image credit: Avanquest Software)

2. Architect 3D

Inexpensive virtual planning

Reasons to buy
+Cheap and cheerful+Excellent support content+2D and 3D output
Reasons to avoid
-Plants are those common in America

Avanquest Software sells a wide range of productivity tools for both home and business use, and Architect 3D is available in seven different flavors that cover a wide range of renovation and development projects.

One use of this tool is to help design interior decoration projects, where you might want to make changes and see what a room will look like with a new color scheme or layout.

With the room layout fully defined, furniture can be dragged and dropped into it, and then accurately represented for a specific time of day.

It’s easy to explore new palettes, fabrics, floor coverings and blinds, as the system has thousands of different ones to apply.

Once you’ve made the changes, the system will estimate the cost of the upgrade, based on floor and wall areas and the items added to each room.

But these activities only scratch the surface of what Architect 3D can do. Depending on the version chosen, it can also provide landscape modelling, design pools and patios, place security cameras and motion detectors, design fireplaces and home cinemas.

Different versions are available, but we’d recommend getting Gold or better, as you get lots of extra features over Express and Silver for a modest amount of extra money.

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(Image credit: NCH Software)

3. DreamPlan

Interiors and exteriors in one package

Reasons to buy
+Easy to Use+PC and Mac+Very cheap
Reasons to avoid
-Limited object library-Visuals look dated

Not everyone is looking to redesign a venue for thousands of people or renovate a French chateau, and for much smaller projects DreamPlan might be perfect.

It doesn’t have the exotic features of more expensive tools, but it includes all the critical ones that allow you to model a building, create floor plans, and experiment with interior design options.

The software can also handle remodeling an existing room with wall and window alterations. And, it can also be used externally on landscaping exercises.

Our only reservations are that the furniture library is very limited, and the 3D visuals that it creates look dated compared with some other photo-real capable tools.

The lighting of rooms isn’t accurately calculated, and the representation of colors and textures is very basic. It also doesn’t estimate any costs for the proposed changes, unfortunately.

But, if you want to make some plans quickly and use them to scope some room changes, then DreamPlan won’t impact the budget much to use.

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(Image credit: Chief Architect)

4. Chief Architect Interiors

A professional tool for commercial users

Reasons to buy
+Professional output+Raytraced visuals+Accurate models and textures
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

The difference between Chief Architect Interiors and some of the cheaper interior design tools is massive. This solution has been tailored for construction professionals to create accurate designs and costings that won’t leave them out of pocket or with a delivery time overrun.

To achieve this, the creators have included a substantial library of cabinets, appliances, doors, windows, counter-tops and flooring all based on branded items. These products are accurately modeled, enabling the finished designs to be as close to the concept visuals as might be reasonably expected.

If what you need isn’t in the thousands of items included, then it can be modeled for inclusion and that part stored for reuse in the future. Buildings can be modeled using 2D wall elevations, house plan views or in 3D from the outset.

Once the room structures are defined, it can be furnished and virtually painted to reflect the completed renovation. A finished project can generate virtual tours and 360-degree views that can be freely distributed online for others to see.

The drawings and visuals that this software creates are some of the best we’ve seen and could easily be the difference between a designer getting a renovation contract and not.

Having such nice tools comes at a cost, though, and this is quite an expensive option.

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(Image credit: Space Designer 3D)

5. Space Designer 3D

The final frontier of interior design

Reasons to buy
+Online application+Web presentable models
Reasons to avoid
-Slow, even on a powerful PC-Limited complexity

Space Designer 3D is a cloud-based floor planning application to create architectural spaces and share those designs online.

Without the need for an installed application, Space Designer 3D can work on any operating system with a compliant browser and be accessible from any computer connected to the Internet.

The online tool allows you can create wall, floors and roofs. Then take those rooms and populate them with furniture, and then digitally decorate. The resulting models can be walked through in real-time and distributed for anyone to experience with web plugins.

Where other packages are aimed at builders and homeowners, this one is better suited to real-estate marketing and event planning. Because it is online, the level of model complexity is limited, and the moving visuals aren’t photo-real, but you can have those rendered as still images.

These are easily good enough to present a plan for changes or a proposal for an event.