Home and Interior Design Software for Mac Review
Why Use Mac Home Design Software?
Mac home design software has all the tools you need to put your dream home down on paper, whether you want to build a brand-new house or renovate your existing one. This type of software can help you make detailed digital models of major landscaping projects and home remodels, and it lets you see how different wall coverings and upholstery look in new settings. You can arrange and rearrange furniture in your digital plan without breaking a sweat physically moving the items around your home – just click and drag each piece to a new location to get a feel for what looks best.
The best home design software for Mac computers has a wealth of features, design tools, and customizable objects and materials to help you create your 3D floor model. You can learn more by reading our reviews of and articles about Mac home and interior design software. Here are our top three picks and some of their standout features:
Home Designer Architectural is our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award winner. It comes with over 8,000 preloaded 3D objects and several home and room templates you can use as a starting point for your own design. The electrical and plumbing databases are far more advanced than those in any other program we reviewed and give you the ability to not only place intricately detailed fixtures, but also plan where pipes and wiring will run throughout your home. As you create your design, each aspect automatically measures out, so you don’t have to worry about including exact measurements later when you export and share your plan.
Home Designer Suite has a neat feature that lets you import floor plans and blueprints of your current home or dream designs you find elsewhere. Once you open the images in the program, you can use the wall-drawing feature to trace over the design and recreate the floor plan with any additions or custom inclusion. While it doesn’t have as many objects in its library as Home Designer Architectural, you can import items from both SketchUp and Trimble 3D Warehouse. Home Designer Suite is our Silver Award winner.
Punch Home Design Studio Complete includes a healthy number of landscape templates to help you quickly start designing the outside of your home. The plant library includes over 5,000 types of foliage, with many grouped together by planting zone. The interior design tools and home construction planning features are easy to use, so you can create a beautiful dream design of your house, both inside and out. Punch Home Design Studio Complete is our Bronze Award winner for the best home and interior design software for Macs.
These home and interior design programs work just as well as home design programs for Windows operating systems. The same tools and utilities are there and the functions are similar. In fact, many developers create programs that work on both operating systems. For more ideas on designing your dream home, check out our articles on Mac home and interior design programs.
What Type of Software Do I Need?
Home and interior design programs are all encompassing and typically used to creating new homes from the bottom up. However, if you have an existing home you want to update, either inside or outside, there are programs that are less cumbersome and have just the tools you need for a fraction of the cost of full Mac home design suites.
Interior design software focuses on the decorative aspects of your home. You can use it to simply change the curtains and rearrange the furniture or for a project as extreme as knocking out a wall and creating a more open floor plan.
If your only focus is updating your home kitchen, there are specific program dedicated to this type of project. Kitchen design software has advanced tools for creating custom cabinets and plumbing lines.
What to Look For
Home and interior design software has three main functions that we looked at closely during our review: construction design, interior decorating and landscape planning. Here is what we found helpful while using these programs.
Home & Floor Plan Design
One of the main reasons to use a home design program is to create 2D floor plans that can easily be converted into blueprints. These plans include marks for windows and doors as well as separate levels with their own measurements.
Photo import features are really useful because they allow you to open one or more pictures of a home you like and save them to use as inspiration while constructing your own plans. These can be images you find online or pictures you snap with your camera when you see a home you like.
You can also use this feature to upload floor plans or copies of your current home’s blueprints. Programs like Live Home 3D include a tracer tool you can use to copy the images’ lines while the software automatically creates both a 2D image, or blueprint, and a 3D image to help you visualize how the two concepts mesh together. If you open a blueprint of your home in the program, the trace feature can help you attach a room addition that scales nicely to your existing home.
A cost estimator is another valuable tool. As you design your home, it provides you with a list of materials and the average cost of each, along with an estimation of the total project cost so you have an idea of what kind of funding you need to secure. Not all the programs in our review have this feature, but Punch Home Studio Design is one that does.
Other features we looked at closely while testing Mac home design software are roof wizards and electrical- and plumbing-planning tools. Most of the programs we tested included some variation of these tools, though some included extra feature that gave them an advantage over the rest.
For example, all the program we reviewed, except for Interiors Pro, have tools to place a roof over your home. However, most of the apps create a standard-looking gable roof over the entire structure. You must then use a cutaway tool to remove sections of the roof that overhang too much because of odd extensions, such as a garage, that aren’t exactly square with the rest of the house. Additional steps are required for more elaborate roof designs or to fuse several roofs over different home sections. Live Home 3D has a smart perimeter tool that instinctively knows if your home design has several different sections and places a perfect roof over your home so you don’t have to take extra steps to make it look perfect.
Electrical and plumbing planning tools also vary by program. Each interior Mac program we reviewed includes fixtures such as outlets, bathtubs, hanging lights and faucets. While this is helpful, especially when designing your home’s decor, more advanced tools let you indicate exactly where to place pipes or run electrical wires. If you are only using design software for interior decor updates, these advanced planning tools are not necessary. However, they are important if you need to make changes to a room, such as a bathroom or kitchen, where it may be necessary to move pipes and electrical wiring.
Interior & Room Design
Some interior design tools are used for structural changes – for example, when you want to open a room by knocking out a wall or to add or update stairs. However, most are fun tools that allow you to add custom-designed kitchen cabinets, textured walls or tiled hallways.
The object library houses 3D furniture and décor items you can set up to visualize what your new rooms will look like decorated in the latest craftsman, vintage or sleek stylings before you head out to the store. We really liked the object-placement and editing tools in MyFourWalls. They were the easiest to use and the most intuitive. With this software, you don’t have to highlight an object and then choose a resizing or rotating tool from the dashboard. Instead, you can grab the object, edit and rotate it freely in one step.
Each app comes with a set number of objects in its library, but you can add additional programs to increase it to an unlimited number of items. Most of these objects are found through Google’s SketchUp and the Trimble 3D Warehouse programs. In these third-party databases, you simply download and save an object file to your desktop, then import it using the home design software’s import feature. We note which home design software accepts objects from which database. Most only work with images from one or the other, though Home Designer Architectural is compatible with both.
Landscape & Garden Design
Landscape tools help you design the gardens and lawn surrounding your home. Look for a program that has a plant encyclopedia. This tool lists plants that thrive in your specific growing area to ensure you have a beautiful, healthy yard all year long. It is important to note that while each of the programs we reviewed has some plant objects available, not all of them are outdoor plants. You can always increase the plant object library by uploading additional items from various third-party object databases and creating an outdoor plant list.
We found that it took a long time to download the Mac design programs we tested because they contain thousands of objects and components. Some programs took only a couple of hours, while others took five or more. Once installed, though, there weren’t any issues with lag or function during testing.
Saving & Sharing Your Designs
As you look at floor plan software for your Mac computer, you should try to find one that is easy to use but also renders your designs in a format you can share with professionals. Architects and contractors typically use professional Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs that create official blueprints. These blueprints are used to secure permits and licenses and also serve as the official instructions for building your dream home. The best 3D floor plan software for Mac computers lets you have fun creating designs and shows a good visual representation of what your dream home will look like as well as creates a 2D design that includes measurements for contractors to refer to.
Something to be aware of when choosing a program is the file types the finished designs can be saved as, especially if you intend to export and share your ideas with an architect, general contractor or interior decorator. Professional software is compatible with only a few types of files, and even then, it depends on the program. If you know the format your builder uses, you can look at our comparison chart to ensure the program you purchase creates a compatible file. Typically, CAD software accept DXF and DWG file formats.
Our Final Thoughts
Don’t let your lack of interior design experience keep you from undertaking a remodeling project. Even with minimal experience, you can plan kitchen renovations, bathroom makeovers, bedroom refreshes and color-scheme changes throughout your home using one of the packages we reviewed. You can even design landscapes, potentially changing the look and feel of your outdoor space and the exterior of your house. Using one of these programs, you can turn your digital designs into reality.
Contributing Reviewers: Renee Shipley, Noel Case, Linda Thomson