Best interior design software
Computer-aided design was once the exclusive realm of engineers and architects, but not any longer.
There is now a wide range of easy-to-use applications that allow an existing or conceived building to be accurately modelled in 3D. Allowing changes and additions to be fully tested long before a builder’s truck has blocked the drive, or the new paint scheme approved.
Using virtual walkarounds, 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 utilised.
Here are some of the software products we’ve encountered that enable rooms to be redesigned efficiently, enabling the real changes to happen sooner rather than later.
- Also check out the best architecture software of 2019
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Software that doesn’t require a real architect to use
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.
All this functionality costs only $99, although we noticed that phone support requires spending $9.99 merely to ring support once, irrespective of how helpful the representatives are.
Inexpensive virtual planning
Avanquest Software sells a wide range of productivity tools for both home and business use, and Architect 3D is available in seven different flavours 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 colour 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.
The different versions are Express (£22.99), Silver (£35.99, Gold (£71.99), Platinum (£107.99), Ultimate (£143.99), Ultimate Plus (£233.99) and Architect 3D Landscape Design (£35.99).
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.
Interiors and exteriors in one package
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 remodelling 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 photoreal capable tools.
The lighting of rooms isn’t accurately calculated, and the representation of colours 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.
For commercial use, you need DreamPlan Home Design Software Plus, and that costs just $14.99, but home users can get the Home release, and that is only $12.99.
A professional tool for commercial users
The difference between Chief Architect X11 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, countertops and flooring all based on branded items.
These products are accurately modelled, 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 modelled for inclusion and that part stored for reuse in the future.
Buildings can be modelled 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, and this is a high one.
If you have a short but important project, then you can rent Chief Architect Interiors for $199 per month. Or, if you will be using it commercially, it might make sense to purchase it for $2,195. As an indicator of upgrade costs, moving from X10 to X11 currently costs $695.
The final frontier of interior design
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 photoreal, 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.
The cost is just $9.99 for a single plan, or if you use it all the time, you can go with a subscription plan starting at $19.90 per month. And, you can also license the application to be part of any website for a monthly fee.