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DreamPlan Home Designer review

Cheap and cheerful, DreamPlan Home Designer is best suited to straightforward projects such as planning decks or working out how best to fill a room with furniture.

DreamPlan Home Designer Review
(Image: © NCH Software)

Our Verdict

If you’d rather not spend a lot of money on your app, DreamPlan could be the app for you: it’s really cheap, and completely free for non-commercial users. It’s easy to learn, straightforward to use and its super-low pricing more than compensates for its limitations.

For

  • Easy to use
  • Simple to turn a 2D floor plan into a 3D model
  • Creating new structures is fast and simple

Against

  • Navigation isn’t great
  • Supplied object library isn’t huge
  • App lacks many features you’ll find in more serious architectural design apps

Here's all you need to know about DreamPlan Home Designer. We've done hours of research and tested a range of programs to create our in-depth reviews, which we've reviewed and rated in our comprehensive guide to the best home design software.

DreamPlan Home Designer: What you need to know

DreamPlan Home Designer comes in two flavors, one for commercial use currently around $35 on Amazon – and a free one for non-commercial use.

DreamPlan Home Designer: Features

When you run the app you’ll be asked whether you want to start a new project, open an existing one or view a sample. The samples give a good introduction to the app, good and bad: even a relatively simple structure like the Tiny House sample takes a while to load and feels sluggish in use. That’s partly due to the navigation, which zooms in and out with the mouse wheel but requires you to click on an on-screen navigation tool to move around. It’s not entirely obvious at first but it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it, and the simple interface – even when it’s busy there’s only a sidebar and two big, friendly toolbars on screen – won’t frighten off design beginners.

DreamPlan offers three views of your design. There’s the familiar 3D view, a 2D 'blueprint' view that gives you a bird’s eye view of the room(s), and a rendered 2D that shows it with all the detail. What’s unusual about DreamPlan’s views is that unlike many other home design apps, which require you to create in 2D before rendering the design in a 3D view, you can work in 3D all the time: there’s an optional grid overlay to help you position things accurately in your 3D space.

DreamPlan

Unlike many other home design apps, DreamPlan enables you to create your structure while working in 3D view (Image credit: Carrie Marshall)

The navigation may be sluggish but creating is very quick, even in 3D. There are five sets of predefined objects – building, exterior, interior, decks and landscaping – and context-sensitive toolbars for each, so for example tapping on Building gives you walls, windows, doors, floors, ceilings and so on. Selecting one of those items displays its properties including its style and color as well as item-specific details such as the slope and size of a roof or the width and tread height of stairs. Then it’s just a matter of putting it into place; for items that tend to repeat, such as walls or fencing, you select your start point and the item is automatically repeated as you move the mouse around. That makes creating a new room or structure incredibly quick. There’s also a useful landscaping brush that you can quickly use to deform the default flat landscape to add realistic hills and dips.

In addition to structural and landscaping items, DreamPlan also provides a small selection of fixtures and fittings - so for example there are four different kinds of bathroom cabinet, four kinds of bookcases, a good selection of office furniture and some useful options for planning kitchens and bedrooms plus some novelty items such as tiered birthday cakes and children’s teddy bears. It’s worth noting that while the app includes a number of electronics items you can add such as TVs and computers it doesn’t have any items to help you draw electrical wiring.

DreamPlan

Working in 2D plan view is simple and straightforward, with a small but reasonably comprehensive selection of objects to drag and drop (Image credit: Carrie Marshall)

The selection is considerably less comprehensive as some rivals but you can import 3D models from external sources and all the supplied models can be resized: let’s face it, it’s not the end of the world if a kitchen cabinet isn’t the perfect shade provided the dimensions are okay. DreamPlan’s 3D models support three file formats – .3DS, .STL and .PLY – and you can download models in those formats from the likes of archive3d.net.

It’s a similar story with decor: while the range of options isn’t huge – there are around 50 textures to choose from encompassing paint, wallpaper, brick, stone, wood and tiles – you can import textures and apply them to specific kinds of item. The app supports PNG and JPEG images.

DreamPlan

We found the user interface a little unintuitive, especially when it comes to moving around your design (Image credit: Carrie Marshall)

One of DreamPlan’s most interesting features is its Trace Wizard, which enables you to import any JPG or PNG file (such as a floor plan) and then trace over the top of it. To do that you’ll need to know (or guess) the dimensions of a wall, line or other feature in the drawing; if you can’t provide that, DreamPlan can’t work out what’s going on. You can then draw the 3D items on top of the plan and hide the original when everything’s in its right place.

When it comes to sharing your plans with others, the options are fairly limited: you can export your project as a model in Wavefront OBJ or Stereolithography STL format or share an image to your favourite social network.

Should you use DreamPlan Home Designer?

DreamPlan isn’t going to give the big-name CAD firms any sleepless nights, but then it isn’t intended to: it’s more like Sketchup than a dedicated architectural program and it’s aimed squarely at domestic users who want to plan that decking, experiment with extension ideas, plan their garden, see what furniture would look best in the front room or remodel their kitchen.

On that basis it does a really good job: it’s very simple to use, the results are clear enough if hardly photo-realistic and the ability to adjust the sizes of the supplied objects makes it easy to get an accurate idea of what you can and can’t do with your project. And of course, it’s free for non-commercial use so that’s one less bill to worry about.

If you’re only interested in landscape design, there may be a better program for you in our best landscaping design software buying guide, while if you’re more focused on inside the home, you may want to look at our best interior design software buying guide.