Kitchen Design Software Review
Why Buy Kitchen Design Software?
Home renovation is a hot trend right now, thanks in large part to several popular home remodeling shows. One of the biggest changes you can make to a home is a complete kitchen makeover. This is, in part, because the kitchen tends to be the heart of the home, where families come together and spend a lot of time. It is also typically one of the most extensive, costly and time consuming renovation projects.
Kitchen design software is a neat tool that lets you create a 3D mockup of your kitchen. Using 3D objects, textiles and lighting options, you can recreate your kitchen to include modern tile patterns, new appliances and updated paint colors. You can also make drastic changes like knock out a wall or two to open up your kitchen to make it look more inviting and give you more room.
We tested kitchen design software and narrowed down the competition to the top 10 best kitchen design programs. Of these 10, we chose Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design, Home Designer Interiors and Punch Home & Landscape Design Premium as our top three.
Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design is our Gold Award winner because it’s easy to figure out and has an object library with over 7,500 modern items. It’s easy to drag and drop décor items in both the 2D and 3D views, and we didn’t have any problems with floating objects in our test design. The software also provides a detailed material list and cost estimation for your project. The only real drawback is that you have to pay for telephone support.
Home Designer Interiors is the only kitchen design program in our review that is compatible with both SketchUp and Trimble 3D Warehouse object databases, which give you access to even more furniture items, appliances and design styles than are already included in the application’s 6,500 plus object library. It’s drag-and-drop feature isn’t as easy to use as those in other programs, and it includes a lot of functions and tools most DIYers don’t need. Still, Home Designer Interiors is a top-notch program and our Silver Award winner.
Punch Home & Landscape Design Premium rounds out our top three picks as our Bronze Award winner. Its QuickStart tools make it easy to recreate the room you wish to update without having to freehand draw straight walls. It has a healthy selection of materials and textures to update your kitchen with a more contemporary look as well as see how it goes with other aspects of your home. While its object library is limited compared to our other top picks, Punch Home & Landscape Design Premium is compatible with SketchUp to supplement the in-program offerings.
More Home Design Solutions
While kitchen design programs focus on kitchen renovations, interior design software focuses on other rooms. Like kitchen design software, interior design programs can be used for simple updates to wall colors, window coverings and furnishings. You can also use them to plan drastic changes like expanding doorways, adding a bay window or constructing a fireplace. Final models can be shared in both 3D and 2D with others to get feedback or to create official blueprints for professionals to follow when carrying out the renovations.
If you want to update the outside of your home, consider investing in a landscape design program. This type of software lets you create a template of your yard and add landscape features, such as decks, gardens and flowerbeds, to enhance your home’s overall curb appeal. Some of these programs include tools to create water features. You can check out our top picks on our landscape design software review.
To design multiroom projects or a new, custom home with the right flow and features that reflect your personal style, you’ll want to pick up a home design program. Using home design software, you can create a very detailed plan of your dream home, complete with furniture and landscaping, that you can then share with a general contractor. As with the other design software we mentioned, we have spent hundreds of hours testing and researching the best programs, which we list on our home design software review.
What We Found Helpful in Kitchen Design Software
One of our main considerations as we tested kitchen design software was how easy each program is to use. We looked at how easy it was to find the tools we needed to create our dream design. When had questions, we looked at the in-program help features and evaluated how useful they were. In addition, we took the software’s layout in to account. For example, we favored applications with logical, well-organized interfaces and icons that are placed in natural spots, both of which make it easy to navigate through the program. Here are some other factors we considered in our review:
As we worked in each program, we noticed some have features that make the process of creating rooms easier than others. For example, Home Designer Interiors has a feature that lets you upload images of plans for your current kitchen or plans you find online, and you can then use a trace feature to recreate the parts you want to incorporate into your final design. Virtual Architect Instant Makeover also imports photos, and it can change decorating features in the image itself so you can see how the adjustments will look in your actual room.
Some products include a useful quick-start wizard, which explains construction requirements, such as how tall your walls should be or how far off the ground windows should be placed. This type of tool also includes tips for placing furniture and deciding on paint colors. Punch Interior Design Suite takes this feature a step further by providing premeasured rooms you can drag and drop onto a grid so you don’t have to freehand draw outer walls.
Objects & Decor
In our kitchen design software review, we also considered how many 3D objects are included in each program’s library and whether the items can be edited so you can customize the look of your kitchen. Most of the products we reviewed come with impressive object libraries that typically include a variety of furniture, cabinets, appliances and window treatments. Those with larger libraries, such as TurboFloorPlan Instant Architect, come with more customizable tiles, flooring and countertops to help create the exact finish you want. This makes it easy for contractors and interior decorators to purchase the exact materials and items you want, since you don’t have to rely on vague descriptions or detailed ones that may be misinterpreted.
As you look for a kitchen design program, check to see if it allows you to import additional 3D objects from popular third-party websites like SketchUp and Trimble 3D Warehouse. Both databases have a healthy selection of free and for sale items you can import into your design program to use in your plan. This is especially helpful if you choose an application that isn’t updated as often as others and the object library needs to be supplemented with items with more up-to-date styles.
As part our testing, we looked at each program’s drag-and-drop feature, which lets you select an object and drop it into your design. The best programs let you add objects in both the 2D and 3D view. We noticed that some programs had issues with floating objects, where an appliance, table or décor item hovered over the floor rather than sit on flat against the ground. This happened most often when we dropped the item into our design in one view and then switched to the other. Usually, we could just switch the view and replace the object to fix the problem, and the final score reflects this. However, there were instances when we couldn’t resolve floating object issues, no matter which view we were using or how many times we tried.
After you create your layout and add furniture, it’s time to change the textures, materials and colors of the objects you included so you can see what your completed room will look like. Specialty designer tools, such as cabinet designers, let you change objects to update their styles. The best kitchen design tools let you change the materials items are made of as well as their finishes, allowing you to experiment with different wood grains, tile patterns and paint finishes. A color blender tool lets you select a color you like from one object, even if it is just a small part such as flowers on the curtains, and apply it to other parts of your design – throw pillows, backsplashes and walls, for example – so you can see if you want to feature the color more prominently in your room.
Programs that have a stair generator, such as DreamPlan, can create an area that has a sinking floor or a raised area to create a more dramatic look. It can take a little practice to get the hang of using this kind of tool in small rooms instead of to create a grand staircase to a second floor. As with other custom building objects, you can change stairs to have carpeting or wood flooring to match your design style.
Sharing Your Dream
One often overlooked, though important, feature you should consider is the file formats the program can save your design in. Certain formats make it easier to pass your plans along to professional contractors, architects and interior decorators. These professionals use more advanced CAD software to turn your ideas into official blueprints that can be submitted along with permit and loan applications. If you plan to have a professional help you with your renovation, look for a kitchen design application that saves files in either DXF or DWG format, as these are the two most common CAD files. All three of our top picks are all compatible with CAD programs. TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Pro also saves its plans in a CAD-compatible format.
Our Final Thoughts on Kitchen Design Software
Kitchen design software is a valuable tool whether you plan to complete the remodel yourself or want to hire a contractor. These applications have creative and practical features and tools that can help you design your kitchen down to the smallest detail. Each of the programs we reviewed have their own strengths and some unique tools, but best including thousands of objects in their libraries and save your design in a CAD-software-compatible format, which makes it easy to share your ideas with professional contractors and designers.
Contributing Reviewers: Linda Thomson, Noel Case, Renee Shipley