The best home design software can take a simple thought and turn it into a reality. In fact, the right software can take all your ideas and transform them into a virtual design for you to see, so you can plan your perfect home setup before you even go near your toolbox.
The idea behind this software is to help you see what your ideas might look like. This allows you to better plan the layout and design of your home, right down to the details, before you start working on it. This can save you money and time in the long run, as you have a detailed design plan that you can share with your renovator or work with yourself.
Thanks to powerful 3D rendering tools, you will be able to see your new or updated home as if you were in the room – not just images, but models to move about within. The way this is done varies from one software to the next, as the number of objects available to place in rooms differs between them. Some programs are easier to use than others, so your level of expertise or willingness to learn can also play a part in deciding which is the best software for you.
The best home design software in 2022
This was our favorite home design app in 2019, and the latest version retains its crown. It's a little more expensive than some rivals but not by much, and that extra cash gets you a ton of extra features including a massive library of objects for indoors and out. For example, if you wanted to put in one of the best hot tubs but are unsure where to place it. This is the Landscape and Decks version of the app so it's just as good outside as it is for the inside.
One of our favorite features in Virtual Architect Ultimate is its wizards. There are lots of them, and they make it easy to create even fairly complex results – so for example there's an entire House Builder Wizard that takes you from foundations to a finished building in no time at all. You're not limited to the wizards, though: the design tools in the app are well thought out and sensibly organized.
There’s no doubt that Home Designer Pro could complete any home design task you wanted, from sunken swimming pools to walk-in wardrobes. It creates visually stunning 3D images and renderings, as well as ultra-realistic walkthroughs, and it’s also pretty practical, with built-in cost estimating sheets. And don’t get us started on the extensive furniture and object library available, which has thousands of branded items ready to place into your virtual home.
If you’re a professional, then you’ll likely see the price of Home Designer Pro as an investment considering just how extensive it is. But for the casual user, the price point is likely to be a little staggering. Plus, it might be a little daunting if you’re brand new to this type of software without automatic tutorials to guide you through. Overall in terms of the software however, it’s hard to see Home Designer Pro beaten.
- Read our Home Designer Pro review.
We've given TurboFloorPlan two gongs here: one for its quality as a Mac app, and one for its value for money on both Windows and Mac platforms. At $49.99 it isn't a lot of money but you get an awful lot of features. TurboFloorPlan comes from the same stable as the famous TurboCAD design app, and it's a very polished and mature product: it doesn't suffer from the interface quirks or performance and stability issues that plague some of the cheaper apps out there.
It's easy to learn, its drawing tools are very good and it feels more like using an illustration program than a home design one. We mean that as a compliment, as it's easy to create fairly complex designs with the minimum of effort thanks to the format painter and object distribution tools.
We also liked the Build Green option, which can help you make more environmentally responsible choices when you design your project. It won't turn an environmental horror into a hero, but it does help you find ways to make your build a little more efficient and reduce its environmental footprint.
HomeStyler is the product of two huge retailing names, Alibaba and the Easyhome group, meaning there’s little surprise that this app goes big when it comes to furniture and merchandising. Available on both browsers and on an app, there’s also a free version of HomeStyler that’s unbelievably easy to use. You’ll be able to have it up and running in no time, with a neat template to help you make your first steps.
Using HomeStyler is a lot like playing the Sims, without the Sims themselves. It’s a lot of fun building your structures, with drag and drop walls and floors, and there’s, even more, to enjoy when it comes to decoration, with an extensive prop library. We especially liked the option that allows you to explore a whole trend’s worth of furniture, which would be particularly useful to anyone lacking inspiration for their decor.
- Read our HomeStyler review.
Sweet Home 3D proves that you don't always get what you pay for. With a price tag as low as zero, it's nevertheless a really useful app. You wouldn't want to use it to design a skyscraper, but it's brilliant for small projects such as studio apartments and simple outbuildings.
Sweet Home 3D comes in two versions. There's the free download, and a paid-for version that costs around $13. That latter one is the same app but it comes with a much bigger library of objects (1,400 compared to the free one's 100) that you can drag and drop into your creation.
It's not the prettiest app but it's pretty good. The 3D view updates in real time as you change things in 2D, it's really easy to create even fairly complex structures and you can import photos to make things look more realistic. The export options aren't brilliant and creating realistic 3D images takes a very long time if you want anything bigger than a postage stamp, but these are very minor niggles in an app that doesn't cost any money.
- Read our Sweet Home 3D 6.2 review
This is very much aimed at home and hobbyist users, and it's cheaper than its similar rivals. It's easy to learn and to use, its 3D mode is fine and while the included library isn't as large as some other apps' libraries, it covers the essentials and it's easy to adjust the dimensions of the supplied items to get them just-so. It's a decent app for straightforward projects such as planning a deck, experimenting with ideas for extensions or working out how much furniture you can stuff into the front room.
- Read our DreamPlan Home Designer review
For a software setup that offers you near limitless details, the Chief Architect Home Designer Suite is ideal and will serve you well for bringing a detailed vision to life. It works for both internal home design as well as external yard planning, and it’s usable across both Mac and PC. While all the details it offers can seem daunting at first, it is actually a very easy platform to learn that allows everyone to get a really good experience, thanks to self-correcting design and lots of detail.
You can build a 3D model that can be viewed using the 3D viewer and, thanks to CAD tools, is usable by professionals to create a useful export to work from. There is a very affordable base level version of this software, but you can also spend more and go for the Architectural or Pro versions to get even more features.
The library of items you can furnish the design with is very impressive, but you can also download more directly from the company's website. Plenty of these items are free, but there are also items that will be charged at a small fee.
For a software that will allow you to create floorplans in both 2D and 3D, the Floorplanner system is fantastic. To be clear, this is a free to use setup that offers a great way to create your designs without spending anything. But, as you'd imagine, that does have its limits. There are options to pay for extras which allow you to expand and customize your design as needed and within your budget.
From a single room to a floor or an entire building, this software has a wide reaching ability through its expansive and easy-to-use interface. Since it's all web-based, it can be accessed from nearly any device and isn't reliant on your having a powerful processor. The helpful Wizard tool allows you to be guided through the design process, a bit like using a template, to make things easier and in many cases faster too.
The free version has 57 doors and 22 windows available to pick from, to give you an idea of scope. But you can expand this and get more options like a greater number of exports by paying the various tiers in the paid versions available. It's also possible to get a 3D model of the room and even add in objects – all very impressive for a free software. Aside from the odd glitch when viewing in 3D, this is a very capable and powerful tool that is easy to access for all, making it one of the best options out there for beginners.
RoomSketcher may well be the easiest home design software we've ever reviewed. It has a simple, fast and intuitive interface and it delivers silky-smooth performance even on underpowered hardware. There is a free version but it lacks too many key features to be genuinely useful; the paid-for versions include every feature you're likely to need and they're designed well enough that even complete beginners can use them.
The downside, and it's a big one, is that buying the app doesn't mean you get unlimited use of it. Despite the price being an annual subscription it limits what you can do with the app, so for example the $49.99/year plan only gives you enough credits to save five different plans before you need to buy more.
- Read our RoomSketcher review
SketchUp Free is a cut-down version of SketchUp Pro, which you may have seen on home renovation TV programmes. It can do pretty much anything its $299 sibling can do, but the import and export options are much more limited.
SketchUp isn't just a home design app; it's a 3D design app that you can use to design homes. That means it lacks the wizards, samples and objects of dedicated home apps, and while there's a giant online selection of other people's plans and objects it can be very tedious to navigate. But if you're willing to put up with that, SketchUp Free is easy to pick up, fast to use and includes superb camera options that enable you to see your design from every conceivable spot.
- Read our SketchUp Free review
What to look for in the best home design software
Before you buy it's worth thinking about what you need. If you simply want to see what some new furniture might look like in a room then the best interior design software could suit your needs quite completely. But if you want a lot more, then you may want to spend more and have a greater range of options available to you.
Do you need to work on the outside? If it's just that then the best landscape design software could do the job. But if you want a bit of everything then you may find home design software is best suited.
Be sure the option you're looking at works on your machine as, despite many working across multiple platforms, you may find some that work on PC or Mac only. Whichever you go for, make sure you have enough processing power in your device to handle the software.
2D or 3D?
If you decide to go for a 2D modelling system only, this will save you money and could work on older machines. But if you want the fully immersive experience, you'll need to make sure you get an option that renders in 3D also. This also breaks down into software that create 3D images, and those that allow you to move about virtually within the space.
The object library can be an important factor to choose the right software, as some are packed full of useful items like wallpapers, furniture, window types and more. Depending on how much detail you want to go into, keep an eye on this feature as it can be limiting if you find the library lacking.
Exporting the finished product can be helpful, especially if you plan to send a digital version to your architect or contractor. Make sure you have something that creates the result in the format they use.
Best home design software FAQs
What is the best home design software for Mac?
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In our search to find the most useful home design software programs, we found that the best home design software for Mac by far was TurboFloor Plan Home & Landscape 2020. It has a dedicated Mac app, and wins out due to its extreme level of detail. You can keep mood boards assigned to different projects, and even see how particular plants will look when they’ve grown in a few years time.
TurboFloor Plan Home & Landscape 2020 also has an extensive object library available, with 4,700 items for you to play around with. That means you can truly envision how your renovations will take shape, and have fun testing out different color schemes and styles.
What is the best home design app for iPad?
There are several home design apps you can download on your iPad. The highest rated app in the iOS app store is Home Design 3D Gold. It is quite intuitive and feels more like a game than an architectural or interior design application. It allows you to create both 2D and 3D floor plans by placing doors, windows, walls and more. The app also has a sizable library of furniture, plants, decorations and other objects.
In addition to displaying a photo-realistic 3D preview of your design, this app has augmented reality features. You need the ARKit to make it work, but once you have that installed, you can take a tour of your design as if it were already built. This is invaluable for spotting flaws and getting a better idea of how you want your home to look.
You can download this app for $11.99. However, if you're reluctant to purchase the app, you can start out on Home Design 3D for free. It's a watered-down version of the program, but it still has many of the great features found in the Gold version.
What’s the best home design software for kitchens?
Using home design software for the first time might seem daunting, especially when it comes to creating plans for a new kitchen, arguably one of the most important rooms in your house.
That’s why we think that Virtual Architect Ultimate is your best choice when you’re on a mission to get a brand new kitchen. It has a built-in tutorial window to assist you as you design, as well as features such as one-click window placement, so you can get the groundwork done easily.
Virtual Architect also has an extensive prop library, including a range of different appliances, so that you can try out multiple kitchen styles before you spend any cash on those expensive purchases. You can even add in pictures with this design software, and mock-up designs of your family sitting at your new breakfast bar if you wanted to.
How much does the best home design software cost?
That depends on what you want it to do. You can pick up a really good home design app for free, but it's going to be very limited compared to the paid-for products. For home and hobbyist users the sweet spot is currently around $49 for a do-everything app, rising to around $99 for a home design app with a really big object library and lots of advanced tools. It's possible to spend much more but we think that for most people, there's no need to go beyond $99 unless you intend to make a lot of plans.
The majority of home design apps are one-off purchases, but some are moving to the same subscription model we've seen on smartphone and tablet apps. If one of the apps we've reviewed is subscription-based, we've made that clear in our review.
Watch out for extra charges, too. One of the apps we reviewed charges a subscription but also limits key features such as how many plans you can make. Once you hit the limit you'll need to get your credit card out to get more. We're not fans of this approach.
What home design software do the pros use?
When you ask home design professionals about their chosen app, you tend to get the same answer: AutoCAD. It's been the industry standard for designers since the earliest days of computer-aided design, and it's continually evolved to take advantage of ever-better hardware. It's the best in the business but it has a price tag to match: expect to pay more than $1,000.
What home design software do they use on HGTV's Fixer Upper?
Fans of the hit show Fixer Upper will be desperate to know which software Joanna Gaines uses to layout her designs before the renovations begin. The home design software in question is in fact SketchUp Pro, which is the rather pricey professional version of the free SketchUp program.
Given its extensive prop library and models to pick from, it’s no surprise that this software made its way onto one of the biggest home design shows around. And if you want to recreate the Fixer Upper experience yourself, you can even try your hand at the free SketchUp software that’s available on web browser.
What home design software does HGTV's Property Brothers use?
The identical twins who find and renovate run-down homes use very impressive computer-generated walkthroughs made in an app called Neezo Renders, which is well out of most people's price range: we understand that the Property Brothers pay around $10,000 an episode for their walkthroughs. If your budget can't quite stretch to that, many of the apps here can generate 3D walkthroughs for considerably less money.
Finally, you might be interest in our 10 top tips for smart home design.