Woman sitting on ladder and using smart phone during kitchen renovation

These handy tools will help you get a better visualization of a space. (Getty Images)

When making a design plan for a new house, a simple sketch on a piece of paper rarely shows the detail needed to get the project going. Even for something as simple as replacing furniture in a room, it's easier to plan your new look using technology to help you visualize the finished product. Fortunately, there's a growing number of software and online tools that can help you design a room or home, whether you're an amateur or a seasoned professional.

From professional software that requires a larger investment to free or cheap options you can have fun with while planning your home renovation, there are plenty of room design tools to help you get a visualization of a space.

Here are some of the best virtual room design tools to consider:

[Read: 8 Kitchen Remodel Costs to Consider]

Virtual Architect Professional Home Design 9.0

If you’re looking for an option that makes it easy to showcase home design plans, paid software is more likely to provide the variety and details you’ll want, from farmhouse sinks to exact measurements for floors, cabinets and windows.

Visual Architect offers detailed virtual modeling capabilities with floor plan templates, customization options and extensive catalogs of sample furnishings to make a home design as true to reality as possible.

Autodesk

If you’re looking for computer-aided design software, or CAD, that provides professional-level technical details, Autodesk offers plenty of software products that cater to different needs.

The suite of products is used by design, architecture, engineering and construction professionals, with specific software that caters to civil engineering, interior rendering and more. AutoCAD, one of the most recognizable products from Autodesk, and 3DS Max, which is often used for interior renderings, each cost roughly $1,500 for a one-year subscription, though there are monthly and multiyear options as well.

[See: The Best Time of Year for Every Home Improvement Project]

Chief Architect X11 Interiors

Designed for professionals, this software aims to provide extensive furnishing, product and design catalogs combined with presentation capabilities that make it easy to show off a design to a client that may not have much knowledge of architecture or design. Chief Architect is designed to be fairly simple to use for anyone regardless of his or her level of experience, but the software also offers tutorials to help users utilize all the features offered.

Chief Architect also makes it easy to show renovation plans for an existing space in both 2D and 3D, rather than focusing on new construction homes.

Room Sketcher

If you’re looking to focus on floor plans, Room Sketcher offers a free, user-friendly platform that can be accessed with a traditional computer or through an app. To use Room Sketcher, users create a free account to make floor plans with various levels of detail, including basic 2D options, 3D plans with color and specific furnishing details.



Planner 5D

For a user-friendly mobile app option that just about anyone can use, Planner 5D offers interior design tools that allow you to create floor plans and 3D models from your phone or tablet as well as on a desktop.

One limitation that appears in reviews of the app is its inability to import existing floor plans. While any models or plans you create within the app can be exported, you cannot upload a plan of your home and edit it; plans must be recreated from scratch in the app.

DreamPlan Home Design Software

DreamPlan Home Design Software by NCH Software allows you to create a floor plan for a house, condo or apartment and design both the interior and exterior of the space. Details allow you to show texture in brick walls or carpeted floors, or add topography outdoors if your home is in a hilly area.

[Read: How to Save on Hardwood Flooring Costs]

Floorplanner

Floorplanner is another simple tool that’s easy to master even for inexperienced designers. You can create a room from scratch, with easy scales to adjust room dimensions.

If you want to see how a space will look furnished but don’t know exactly what to put in it, Floorplanner has a “magic layout” feature that decorates the space for you based on a few style criteria. From there, you can adjust furniture placement and add or subtract walls

SketchUp

If you need an online tool for designing but want options to do more than floor plans or room modeling, SketchUp offers the tools to design the fine details of even individual pieces of furniture. SketchUp’s specialty is 3D modeling, but it also offers detailed 2D floor plans for interior projects and nitty-gritty product plan details, like the exact measurements, material and estimated cost for various home features.

SketchUp is a primarily web-based design product and free to use if you’re just looking to do some 3D modeling. For more advanced features and the ability to create detailed plans, subscriptions start at $119 per year. SketchUp Pro costs $299 per year and includes a desktop software option in addition to web access.


The Best Free Interior Design Apps

Use tech to get creative with your next interior design project.

Shot of a smiling middle aged woman holding in hand a cup of tea and using her handy while painting wall in her new home under construction.

(Getty Images)

Sprucing up your home, or even building a new addition, is best done with some planning. Fortunately, plenty of apps are available for Android and Apple smartphone or tablet users to help with the design, planning, professional consultation and even buying stages of freshening up a space – whether that means a full room renovation or a simple paint color change. Read on for the seven best free interior design apps for consumers.

Updated on Jan. 27, 2020: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Best for connecting with professionals: Houzz

Best for connecting with professionals: Houzz

(Courtesy of Houzz)

Houzz has a strong reputation for helping people plan and prepare for home remodeling and design, as well as providing access to a network of professionals and a marketplace for home decor products. It’s no surprise the Houzz app offers all the features available on its website, including access to your saved ideabooks and 3D virtual room staging. Houzz app users can also participate in forum discussions with other users to share advice and experience. Compared with other home design apps, Houzz offers the best way to connect with professionals and includes customer reviews, project budget ranges and contact information.

Best for creating floor plans: magicplan

Best for creating floor plans: magicplan

Deutschland,Baden-Wurttemberg,Mannheim,umziehen,lifestyle

(Getty Images)

There are many floor plan creator apps available to smartphone and tablet users, but magicplan offers the most user-friendly experience. This app allows you to create floor plans based on your existing home or room, or you can create one for a future space. Your planning can get more detailed and realistic by including plans for electrical outlets, flooring types, appliances and other items. The app even allows you to import existing floor plans from elsewhere to use as a template or recreate an existing floor plan for future renovations. Once you’ve created a complete plan, you can export the floor plan as a PDF and get a 3D model of the plan via email. Your contractor can even calculate the estimated total cost of the project within the app.

Best marketplace: Wayfair

Best marketplace: Wayfair

(Courtesy of Wayfair)

Wayfair says it offers more than 14 million products in its marketplace, and its app allows you to benefit by planning what will fit best in your home while also shopping for it. App users can take a photo of their room and insert photos of furniture and decor for sale through Wayfair to try out the placement and overall look before adding items to their cart. You can also visualize select rugs, linen and furniture products in your room through augmented reality. You can order directly through the app and track packages as you wait for them to arrive at home.

Best for choosing paint colors: Project Color by Home Depot

Best for choosing paint colors: Project Color by Home Depot

Project Color

(Courtesy of Home Depot Inc.)

If you’re looking for an app that will help you make decisions when it comes to painting walls, trim and other parts of your house, look to Project Color by Home Depot. The app allows users to explore color swatches as well as preview paints and color combinations in your own room by snapping a photo. The augmented reality isn’t perfect, but can give you a feel for how a new paint color would work in the space. If you’re out and about and see a building, plant or even fabric color you think would work well in your home, you can take a photo through the app to find the closest color option sold by Home Depot. You can even order paint samples with free delivery, or buy paint for in-store pickup through the app.

Best for trying out room design: Ikea Place

Best for trying out room design: Ikea Place

IKEA announces the launch of IKEA Place, an augmented reality app that lets people virtually place furniture in their home.

(Courtesy of Ikea)

The Swedish home goods store known for its flat-pack furniture and Scandinavian design places a particular focus on where the user is. If you're in the room you want to design, the augmented reality feature allows you to virtually stage Ikea furniture to see how it would look. In addition, if you're at a friend's house, and he knows he got his desk at Ikea but has no clue what it’s called, snap a photo and the app will search the Ikea catalog to identify it. There is no in-app ordering, however, as users must visit the website or an Ikea store to purchase items.

Best for designing for fun: Design Home

Best for designing for fun: Design Home

Design Home app

(Courtesy of Glu Mobile Inc.)

There are times for serious planning for a new room design or renovation, and there are times you just want to pretend you’re an interior designer. Users can tackle design challenges when they open the Design Home app, such as a hypothetical client scenario in which you must design a beachfront living room for a vacation home in Australia for a college professor. All items you put to use are real, with brand and pricing information available. To complete a challenge, the app gives you a fake budget to spend on decor, and you can earn play money for completing a challenge. However, users warn against using real money to expand your budget in challenges – the app notes that you can turn off in-app purchasing in the settings.

Best for calculating project cost: HomeAdvisor

Best for calculating project cost: HomeAdvisor

HomeAdvisor app

(Courtesy of HomeAdvisor)

Whether you’re planning a kitchen renovation or simply need a drain clog fixed, HomeAdvisor offers the same in-depth analysis of project scope and cost on its mobile app. You can store plans and contractor information for your project in the app, and also be put in touch with local contractors who will contact you directly and bid on your project. HomeAdvisor’s app doesn’t allow you to browse local professionals and choose who to contact yourself, but by providing your contact information and some basic details on your project, you can find pros who will help you get started quickly.

Here are the best free interior design apps:

Here are the best free interior design apps:

Person At Breakfast With Decorating App On Digital Tablet

(Getty Images)

  • Houzz: Best for connecting with professionals.
  • magicplan: Best for creating a floor plan.
  • Wayfair: Best marketplace.
  • Project Color by Home Depot: Best for choosing paint colors.
  • Ikea Place: Best for trying out room design.
  • Design Home: Best for designing for fun.
  • HomeAdvisor: Best for calculating project cost.

Read More

Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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