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Best Home and Interior Design Software for Mac
Why Use Mac Home Design Software?
Best Overall - Home Designer Architectural
Home Designer Architectural is a good program for beginner and veteran designers alike. Arguably the best feature for both groups is the Plan Assistant tool. It provides thousands of preprogrammed floor plans as a jumping-off point for your home design. It also contains a library of customizable house plans, another great way to get started. You also have the option to start a design from scratch or import scanned floor plans into the application.
The automatic roofing tool makes easy work of choosing the roof style for your design. The program automatically calculates and displays all your dimensions while your design is in progress. The program also calculates the materials needed to construct your design and gives you an estimate of the cost.
Walls, roofs and floor plans are just the beginning when designing a home. You can use this program’s pre-programmed library of 8,000 objects to populate your home design with everything from doors, windows and cabinets to furniture, appliances, fixtures and more. If you want something in your dream home, there’s a high likelihood this application has it.
Read the full review here: Home Designer Architectural
- Pro: This software includes an automatic measurement feature that adjusts dimensions as you add walls, install windows and more, which simplifies the design process.
- Con: It takes practice to control the virtual camera.
Best Value - Home Designer Suite
If you want to design your fantasy home but don’t have a lot of cash, you can pick up this program for less than $100. It’s a great deal considering other programs we reviewed can cost twice that. There are programs that cost as little as $15, but there’s not much to them. This program is both affordable and gives you the tools to make an effective design.
Home Designer Suite comes with much of what’s included in Home Designer Architectural, such as a wide-ranging library of home objects. It’s not as comprehensive, but with 6,500 objects to choose from, you should be able to find what you’re looking for. You also get the cost estimator, so you’ll have a good idea how much it would cost to build your design.
One of the most useful tools in this home design software for Mac is the virtual walk-through. This allows you to plot a path through your home, and the computer will show you, in 3D, what your design will look like. This is a great way to see exactly what you can expect and provides a better idea where you can make improvements.
Read the full review here: Home Designer Suite
- Pro: You get a handy feature that lets you import a floor plan and then use a free-hand drawing tool to trace over the walls from your imported plan onto your working document.
- Con: It comes with a smaller object library than our top-ranked program.
Best for Beginners - Punch Home Design Studio Complete
Although the two previously mentioned products are simple to use and learn, Punch Home Design Studio Complete scored the highest in our ease-of-use tests. So, if you’re a greenhorn, this is a great program to start with. You can begin your design by choosing one of the sample room templates, complete with appliances and furniture, then customize it until it’s exactly what you want.
You can choose to start from scratch with the QuickStart tool, which allows you to drag and drop rooms and snap them together. This saves a lot of time and effort, because you don’t have to design the whole house at once. And it lets you shift your rooms around the house with ease until you figure out the layout that works best.
Punch Home Design Studio Complete comes with a library of 5,000 objects, including appliances and furniture, but far fewer choices than the best programs we reviewed. However, this program has more than 5,000 plants to place in your design. Other high-ranking products offer just 1,500 plant options. You can build custom fireplaces, cabinets, windows and doors. And the tools are all quite intuitive and easy-to-use.
Read the full review here: Punch Home Design Studio Complete
- Pro: You can make use of some excellent landscape templates to create the yard, garden and home exterior you want.
- Con: The help section on the manufacturer’s website is hard to navigate, especially if you are looking for a general customer support phone number.
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.
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.
Why Trust Us?
We spent more than 160 hours using 12 home design programs to help you decide which is the best for you. We designed dozens of homes and hundreds of rooms. We carefully combed through all tools, and every program was subjected to a series of tests to measure utility, versatility, ease and user experience. Personal experience was also calculated into the scores. We took meticulous notes during our testing phase recording likes and dislikes. These were all weighed in reaching a final verdict for each product.
Every Mac home designer application we reviewed was either provided by the manufacturer or bought outright. Furthermore, the manufacturers were not provided with our testing methodologies, nor had any influence in our evaluations.
We also reached out to professional designers and asked their opinions about casual users designing plans. Trevor Broughton, lead designer of Mountain West Architecture, expressed some concerns about DIYers' abilities to make workable plans. “My biggest concern with anything brought to me is it scalable and accurate,” Broughton said, but he added that the products we reviewed can help.
“Consumer grade software could allow someone to really grasp how much space is absorbed by each architectural element,” Broughton said, while still cautioning that users need to understand how plans come together before trying to bring them into the real world. “From a bathroom to a stairwell, people struggle to understand the square footage required to make these elements function properly in any given plan,” Broughton said.
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.
The best home and interior design software for Mac can cost as much as $200. And if you’re going to use the application regularly, we recommend getting the best product you can afford. However, if you’re planning on tooling around with a design from time-to-time or simply want to see what your dream home may look like, you don’t have to go with the top-of-the-line software. The cheapest program we reviewed, MyFourWalls, costs less than $30 and has a surprisingly large feature set for the price. If your ambitions are small, it may fit your needs.
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 Thompson, Danny Chadwick