Planning & Construction
Help & Support
Best Interior Design Software
Why Use Interior Design Software?
We spent more than 120 hours researching, testing, comparing and ranking the best home interior design programs. At the end of our analysis, we chose Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design as our top pick because it’s the easiest program to use and has the smallest learning curve. It comes with over 7,500 3D objects in its library, more than any other interior design program we reviewed, so you have plenty of options to choose from when you decorate.
Our best value pick is Punch Interior Design Suite. It costs much less than our top pick but still includes a wealth of interior design features. In fact, it’s only missing a handful of the features we look for, including tools that import and trace floor plans, materials lists, and export options for DXF and DWG formats. Everything else is there, and while it may not be as great as other programs, it’s good enough to get by.
If your primary concern is having a wide variety of objects to decorate with, check out Home Designer Interiors – it’s the only program we reviewed that can import objects from both SketchUp and Trimble 3D Warehouse. All the other applications we tested can only import from one or the other. Additionally, it has a great trace feature. During our testing, we imported a photograph of an existing dining room, then used the trace tool to recreate the room’s dimensions and add a fireplace and windows. The result was a great 2D replica we could renovate and redecorate in the 3D view.
What Is Your Project? Which Program Do You Need?
Interior design software helps you renovate an existing house, whether you need to knock out a wall, add a mother-in-law room or simply change out the bathroom wallpaper for a new coat of paint. There are many other home design programs available for smaller projects like adding a deck as well as those for large-scale projects like building a new home. We’ve reviewed the best programs for projects both large and small to help you find the right one for your particular need. Here is a list of the types of software you can buy and some ideas on how to use them:
Home Design Software – These are the ultimate design programs, and they include tools for every aspect of designing a new home from the ground up, including interior design tools. Home design apps are generally used by individuals who wish to build a new home rather than update their current one, and the design plans created with the software can be shared with contractors and other professionals. Many home design programs have a Mac version, and you can learn more about them here.
Kitchen Design Software – This type of program focuses specifically on kitchen remodels. Interior design software has the same tools, though a kitchen design app may be a cheaper option if you plan to focus exclusively on updating that room.
Landscaping Software – Landscape design programs use the same object-placement and design tools as interior decorating software, but they focus on the land around your home. Their object libraries have garden necessities, fencing and water features you can customize and place around an image of your house to create a landscape design that enhances the beauty of your home’s exterior.
Deck Design Software – Several landscape design programs, as well as most home design software, include tools for designing decks and patios. However, deck design apps make these projects their primary focus and tend to have additional design and construction tools that make it easy to pass your plan on to a professional builder.
Why Trust Us?
We spent more than 120 hours researching testing, rating and ranking the best interior design software on the market today. We evaluated each programs tools and features and compared them one with another, and at the end of our analysis each program was given an overall score based on their performance.
We judged the best interior design software by comparing the room design, planning & construction and help and support features. The manufacturers of these programs had no input or influence over our testing methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available by reading our reviews. The results of our evaluations were not provided to manufacturers in advance of publication.
What We Learned While Testing the Best Interior Design Software
Each interior design software is broken into two parts: construction and design. The construction tools are used to plan demolitions, additions, new walls, window relocations, doorway resizing, etc. This part of the program is important, especially if you intend to share your plans with a general contractor, electrician, plumber or other professional. Interior design programs that create blueprints make it easy for professionals to recreate your vision and acquire the necessary permits and licenses to do the job. You can tell if a program creates true blueprint renderings by the export file formats it supports. Those that save in DXF or DWG create actual blueprints.
The room design tools are found in the interior decorating part of the program, and they mainly focus on the colors, textures and arrangement of the furnishings in the room. It’s common for DIYers to purchase virtual interior design software simply to figure out a new color scheme or visualize updated furnishing, without any need for the construction tools.
The room design and decorating portions of home interior design programs have libraries full of 3D objects, such as furniture and appliances, you can place in your room to see what it will look like after the actual renovation. Apps with drag-and-drop features let you pick a table, chair or window treatment from the library; drop it where you want it in your design; and immediately view the change in both the 3D and 2D views.
As we assessed each program, we looked at the number of items included in its object library. The more objects available, the more choices you have to create the room design of your dreams. Most of the programs we reviewed are compatible with either SketchUp or Trimble 3D Warehouse, two popular 3D object databases, so you can add additional items to their libraries.
Texture tools let you see what a smooth wall will look like versus one with an orange peel, rosebud stop or trowel-type texture. If you find a pattern, texture or color you especially like on an object, you can use the color blender tool to capture it and then apply it to other parts of your interior design plan. This lets you see if an accent color would look better as the main color or visualize if it would better to match the walls with a piece of furniture or the flooring.
Some programs include other fun tools like a window and door designer, a cabinet designer, and a fireplace designer. They let you do more than just insert generic placeholder objects – you can use them to create custom designs, with options for marble or granite countertops, shiplap or stone fireplaces, sleek or craftsmen cabinets, and French or wooden doors. The best design tools come with lots of color options, too, so you can visualize a specific grain in the marble or pattern on the wall tile.
Virtual Architect Instant Makeover works differently than other programs we reviewed. While most apps let you recreate your room using 2D blueprint tools, this one requires you to import a photo of the actual space in your home. After designating specific areas in a room, which the program calls layers, you can adjust colors, materials and patterns in each part to see how making simple changes affects the overall look. Because you change existing textures, Virtual Architect Instant Makeover doesn’t have an object library or many of the design tools found in other programs. However, because if its simplicity and unique uses, we found it to be an impressive and very easy-to-use option for interior decorating projects.
Planning & Construction
As we tested interior design software, we looked for common tools that make designing your dream home easy. In addition, we evaluated how easy each program is to learn to use and navigate. Several of the programs, including Total 3D Home Design Deluxe, include premade templates and floor plans to help you get started without having to go through the process of recreating a room from scratch. These templates include the interior and exterior features, such as appliances, flooring and window treatments, and you can swap these elements out or change them to reflect you decorating style.
Other programs, like TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Pro, have a quick-start feature that lets you begin with a premeasured empty room consisting of just the outer walls. You can then place windows, doors and décor items right where you want them. This feature is helpful if you are thinking of adding on a room to your home rather than simply changing the color scheme of an existing one.
We also looked at tools such as those used to import photos and trace floor plans. Importing photos of ideas you find online or snap with your camera is a helpful way to bring them all together in one place – you can mesh the ideas together and get an idea of what the finished product will look like. Programs with a tracing feature allow you to trace over floor plans and design ideas, and your outline then automatically generates as a 2D design so you can see how it will flow in real life. There are a few programs that have both photo importing and floor tracing features, but we had difficulty getting them to work together properly.
Material lists and cost estimators are also helpful features. The best home design software options, for example Total 3D Home Landscape & Deck Premium, take your design and generate a list of materials you need to complete your project, including quantities and measurement information. Some programs, such as Punch Interior Design Suite, also provide you with a cost estimate so you can put funding aside or know how much to ask for when applying for a home improvement loan.
Our Final Say About Virtual Interior Design Programs
Interior design software is a helpful tool when you want to try out new room designs, layouts and décor before investing the labor and money required to complete the project. It can help you plan renovations and designs before you build, whether you’re constructing a new addition or renovating a current living space.
Contributing Reviewer: Renee Shipley