Best kitchen design software 2019: design your perfect space

(Image credit: Wren Kitchens)

Best Kitchen Design Software 2019 - Reviews for Mac and PC

After more than 240 hours of testing the best kitchen design software, Virtual Architect Ultimate was our top pick. This is due to its easy usability, exhaustive object library and full array of designing tools. It allows you to drag and drop decor wherever you want in your design in both 2D and 3D modes. Unlike other programs we reviewed, this program’s floating objects feature worked flawlessly. It also has a very useful materials list and cost estimation tool that lets you know exactly what it will take to bring your design into the real world. 

ProductPriceOverall RatingRoom DesignPlanning & ConstructionHelp & SupportStandout FeatureEase of UseObject LibraryImport Third-Party ObjectsDrag & DropMoldingsWindow CoveringsWindow & Door DesignerCabinet DesignerFireplace DesignerFurnitureTexturesColor BlenderImport PhotosSample PlansImport Floor PlansTrace Floor PlanCurved WallsStair GeneratorMaterial ListCost EstimatorMetric MeasurementsDXF or DWG Export FormatTelephone SupportVideo TutorialsCommunity ForumsFAQsLive ChatWindows 10Windows 8Windows 7Mac OS X
Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design 7.0View Deal5/5109.89.5Over 7500 ObjectsA+>7500 +SketchUpAB+11$-
Home Designer Interiors 2017View Deal5/59.41010Trace Floor PlansB->6500 +SketchUp, Trimble 3D WarehouseBA+30
Punch Home & Landscape Design Premium v19View Deal5/59.5108Compatible with CADB>4700 +SketchUpB+B45--
TurboFloorPlan Home and Landscape Pro 2017View Deal5/59.8106Automatic Cost EstimatesB+>4700 +SketchUpBB45---
TurboFloorPlan Instant Architect 2017View Deal4.5/59.596Compatible with SketchUpB>4700 +SketchUpB-B45----
Punch Home & Landscape Design Essentials v19View Deal4/597.88In Program Video TutorialsC->4700 +SketchUpB-B45---
Punch Interior Design Suite v19View Deal4/59.55.88Quick Start WizardB>4700 +SketchUpB-B45-----
Total 3D Home Design Premium v12View Deal4/57.586Name Brand ObjectsC+>4600 +Not SupportedC--C1015-----
Virtual Architect Instant Makeover 2.0View Deal4/55.899.5Photo ImportsB+0Not SupportedNot Available----A+9-$-
DreamPlanView Deal4/596.55.5Grid Lines in 3D ViewB>65Not SupportedA-C+1---$---

Best Overall

Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design

Reasons to Buy
Has every feature we look for in kitchen design software
Library of more than 7,500 objects to design your kitchen
Easiest program to learn and use
Reasons to Avoid
Phone support is not free
May take a few hours to become acquainted with all the tools
No version for Mac users

Our top pick blew the competition out of the water. It scored high marks in all the tests we put to it.

Chief among them was our ease-of-use test; we gave it an A+ grade because it’s the simplest program to pick up and go. It offers instructional videos and written guides that walk you through each feature step by step. It may take you a while to learn all the tools this software has to offer, but once you do, you will have a lot of design power at your fingertips.

The other main reason we chose this program as our top pick is its complete tool set. It has a library of more than 7,5000 objects to design your kitchen with, the most of any program we evaluated. It also comes equipped with a material list and cost estimator to let you know what you’ll need in order to bring your kitchen from the digital realm into real life. Its photo import tool isn’t perfect, but still useful. The floating object tools worked flawlessly. All the other tools work well, and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding what you need.

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Best Value

TurboFloorPlan Instant Architect

Reasons to Buy
Costs only a third of the best programs we reviewed
45 sample plans for a great jumping-off point
Good-sized library of 47,000 objects for your kitchen
Reasons to Avoid
Won’t export to DXF and DWG formats
No FAQ or live chat support
Not compatible with Trimble 3D Warehouse

If all those extras don't appeal and you want to save a few bucks, this program may suit your needs. It costs a fraction of our top pick – Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design – but still manages to pack in nearly every tool we look for in the best kitchen design software.

It’s not as easy to learn, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly enough. It has a library of 4,700 objects to work with; not nearly as many as some other applications, but more than enough to get the job done.

This software is relatively easy to learn and use – not as intuitive as our top pick, but you should get the hang of it without too many problems. There are 45 sample floor plans to use as starting templates and customize them until you get exactly what you want. After a little experimenting with the sample plans, you’ll be able to build a kitchen from the ground up. It also comes with design tools for cabinets, furniture, fireplaces and more. The SmartWand tool allows you to experiment with different colors and materials for every aspect of your kitchen.

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Most Compatible

Home Designer Interiors

Reasons to Buy
Can fetch items from both SketchUp and Trimble 3D Warehouse
Outstanding photo importer
Mac version available
Reasons to Avoid
Only a few sample plans to choose from
Buggy drag-and-drop tool
Not as easy to learn and use as most other programs we evaluated

SketchUp and Trimble 3D Warehouse are third-party databases of objects for kitchen design. Home Designer Interiors is the only program we reviewed that can draw from both.

Others can only use SketchUp, and some can’t use either. This drastically expands the program’s native object library from 6,500 to essentially unlimited.

Additionally, this program is available for Macintosh computers, something most of the other programs lack. It also has the best photo importer we encountered. You can scan pictures of existing rooms into your computer, then use them as the basis for your kitchen design. This is great if you plan to expand an existing kitchen, or simply want to copy or build on a kitchen that you like.

Unfortunately, the drag-and-drop tool leaves much to be desired. Compared to the other programs we reviewed, it’s buggy and slow. Additionally, it scored relatively low in our ease-of-use tests. You’ll still be able to learn it without too many headaches, but it will take you longer than most of the other programs. If you ever need help using a tool, you can consult the video tutorials on the software’s official website.

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Best for CAD Users

Punch Home & Landscape Design Premium

Reasons to Buy
Works great with CAD software.
Reasons to Avoid
No live chat customer service support.

Professional designers and architects use a program called CAD to create their visions. But CAD programs are complicated and require years of training and practice to master.

Punch Home & Landscape Design Premium incorporates CAD elements into its interface and allows users to export their plans into a format they can take to a professional designer or contractor. And, in our experience, this program does that the best of all the kitchen design programs we compared.

As its name implies this product is not just for kitchens, but for your whole home. From bathrooms, studies and bedrooms to landscapes, gardens and more, this is an all-in-one solution. If you’re looking for a comprehensive program, this is the one to buy.

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Best for Quick Projects

Virtual Architect Instant Makeover

Reasons to Buy
Redesign an entire room in just three steps.
Reasons to Avoid
Object libraries and custom designers not included.

If you’re looking to see what your dream kitchen or home may look like, but don’t want to spend a lot of cash on the best design software or spend several hours learning the ins and outs, then Virtual Architect Instant Makeover is definitely worth considering.

This program only costs about $24 and can completely reimagine any room in your home in just three steps. It’s very easy to use and offers a great jumping-off point for more involved endeavors.

Of course, it doesn’t come with some tools such as object libraries and designers for cabinets and fireplaces. But for the price you pay, it delivers a lot.

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Why Trust Us?
During our testing phase, we obtained 15 kitchen design programs. We either bought them or had the manufacturers send us testing copies. We simulated the hands-on experience of a typical consumer. Manufacturers had no input on our testing methodology, and our results were not released to them ahead of publication.

We spent more than 240 hours designing dozens of kitchens. Our reviewer team noted how easy each program was to learn and use. They also compared common tools found in each program. When testing was complete, our reviewers weighed the hard data they collected against their subjective experiences to determine which programs are the best and why.

We also spoke with professional designers about what people should know before making their own kitchen plans. Trevor Broughton is the lead designer at Mountain West Architecture in Ogden, Utah. He told us that novice users probably lack the skill necessary to design a buildable plan. “My biggest concern with anything brought to me is that it is scalable and accurate,” Broughton said, adding that the most common problem people have is grasping spacial flow. “Most people do not speak that language,” said Broughton.

He went on to say that kitchen design software made for non-professionals could help. “Consumer grade software could allow someone to really grasp how much space is absorbed by each architectural element,” Boughton said. “It lets them work through some of the issues before they come to us so we can get a more concise interpretation on our end.”

We also spoke with Gregg Hodson of Salt Lake City, Utah. He is the owner of an independent design firm and has been designing commercial, health care, retail and residential interiors for 27 years.

We asked him about the most critical aspects of interior design. Hodson said, “I don’t do anything without a space plan. I want everything to the inch. That’s what makes the difference in a well-designed space. Every inch counts: the arm height of the sofa, the table, the height of the side table, you’ve got to make all those work so in the end it all comes together flawlessly.”

We asked him about his experiences being given home made designs by potential clients. He pointed out that most people don’t have the knowledge or experience to understand how to create a proper plan. Hodson indicated the programs we reviewed could be helpful. “I think [they] could be very useful to a lay-person," he said, "because that’s where they need to start.”

How We Tested
Our expert reviewers gathered 15 separate kitchen design programs and used them to make several test plans. They evaluated how easy each program was to learn for someone who has no previous knowledge of design software. They also graded several features, such as the drag-and-drop tool and photo importer. They took meticulous notes about their personal experiences, what they liked and didn’t like about each program. They also evaluated each program’s custom design tools that allow you to create objects such as cabinets, fireplaces, windows, doors and furniture.

Each program was used to create a test kitchen. This test design was duplicated across all the programs we reviewed. Our reviewers noted how long it took to create the design, what tools were required, and how easy it was to put together. They exported each design and compared the resulting plans with what was in the computer, noting any differences or deficiencies. They also meticulously combed through each product, evaluating every tool they found; nothing was left unused during our evaluation phase.

We also reached out to the manufacturers’ customer help and support services. We asked them common questions, and posed issues regarding their software. We noted how informed and friendly the support staff was, and how easy it was to find information on the companies’ websites. 

If you don’t have much experience with kitchen design software, pick a sample plan to customize as a jumping-off point.

Key Features to Look for When Buying Kitchen Design Software

Create Quickly
When we used each of the kitchen design programs, we took note of how easy each one was to use. Each program has unique features to make them accessible to typical users. Home Designer Interiors has a tool that allows you to import images of existing plans for kitchens and other rooms. This lets you build on existing kitchen designs, which is great if you’re remodeling. Some programs also have a quick-start wizard that shows construction requirements for things like walls, windows and doors. This feature is helpful for those new to kitchen design. 

Objects & Décor
Kitchen designs are more than just floor plans. You’ll want to include everything that belongs in your new kitchen, such as appliances, cabinets, plants and tables. Each program comes with a library of preprogrammed objects that you can place in your design. The best programs are also compatible with third-party object databases such as SketchUp and Trimble 3D Warehouse. The more objects available, the more versatile the software. 

Customize
Once you have your designs in place, you can customize them until you get exactly what you want. The best kitchen design software not only allows you to add furniture and other objects, but also change their color, texture, materials and more. Some have specialty design tools such as cabinet designers that let you fine-tune small details like paint finishes and wood grains. 

Construction Tools
Planning a kitchen that is functional as well as beautiful involves determining what goes inside as well as outside of the walls. If your kitchen remodel is a complete overhaul, look for software that lets you plan HVAC, plumbing and electrical configurations. This way you know where to put outlets, light fixtures, heating and air vents. Without planning for these essentials first, you will not know if your ideal plan is even feasible.

It's always a good idea to enlist the help of licensed contractors for tasks involving electrical and plumbing work. Whether you are an expert at construction or need professional help, consider using kitchen design software either way. The best software lets you save your finalized plans to a PDF file, so that you can share them with a contractor via email for quotes and feedback.

How Much Does Kitchen Design Software Cost?

Expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $100 for kitchen design software. But before you buy, you should consider what you need and what you don’t. For instance, Virtual Architect Instant Maker only costs $24, but lacks many features compared to the $100 Punch Home & Landscape Design Premium.


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