Interior design software can help you, whatever project you have planned, whether it is planning your dream kitchen or building an extension for so you can have that home library that you’ve always wanted. The best interior design software will help you translate your vision into reality.
Interior design software is one of those funny areas where there is a lack of product knowledge and this means that it is extremely hard to make an informed buying choice. In this guide we will break down all the relevant feature of this software, explaining what they do and why. We will also identify programs that are easy to use – and you don’t need to be an architect to understand or use to a high degree.
Our reviewers have spent more than 120 hours evaluating and trying to determine what features when into creating a great interior design software. As we tested these programs, we considered which tools they include, how well their features work and how easy they are to use.
Thanks to its intuitive interface, vast object library and impressive toolset, Virtual Architect Ultimate is the best interior design application. This program not only allows you to build, furnish and decorate a room but it also allows you to build custom items like cabinets, fireplaces, windows, stairs and more. This gives your vision a realistic depth that other interior design software lacks.
In addition, you can import photos to use as a basis for your design. If you don’t know where to begin, you can customize one of Virtual Architect Ultimate’s sample plans to fit your liking.
Virtual Architect Ultimate
This program has all the tools we looked for, but so do several others – the difference is in how it executes them. Virtual Architect Ultimate is intuitive, smooth and easy enough for anyone to master.
TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Deluxe
If you don’t need lots of advanced features, TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Deluxe is worth considering. It has all the essentials and costs a fraction of our top pick’s price.
Home Designer Interiors
Very few interior design programs work on Mac computers. Of those that do, Home Design Interiors is the best because it includes all the tools found in our top pick.
Virtual Architect Ultimate
Easiest home design program to learn and use.
Vast object library with more that 7,500 items.
Cost estimator and material sheets useful when bringing your design to life.
Not compatible with Tremble 3D Warehouse.
No Mac version.
Tech support by phone costs extra
The primary reason our reviewers chose Virtual Architect Ultimate as their top pick is it’s extraordinarily easy to learn to use, even if you’ve never used design software before. Its exhaustive array of design tools allow you to drag and drop objects where you want them, import photos and floor plans, and add furniture, plants, appliances, electronics and more.
Its object library contains more than 7,500 items – the largest library of any interior design program we reviewed. In case you can’t find what you’re looking for in Virtual Architect Ultimate’s library, you have a couple options. It is compatible with the SketchUp database, which houses literally thousands more objects, including furniture, lighting, appliances and more. You can also design custom objects yourself. The software has designer tools for things like cabinets, fireplaces, windows and stairs. All in all, it’s one of the most versatile interior design programs we’ve ever reviewed.
In addition, the application has other useful tools, including a cost estimator and a materials list. Together, these two features give you a good idea of what it will take to bring your design from the digital world into the physical world. You can also export your finished designs in DXF and DWG formats, which are used by architects and contractors.
TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Deluxe
Costs about half as much as our top choice.
Lets you import photos of real objects into your design.
Includes more than 45 sample plans
Isn’t as easy to use as our top pick.
Cannot import items from Trimble 3D Warehouse.
Doesn’t have FAQs or live chat support
Some people don’t need every feature found in the best interior design software. If that’s you, consider TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Deluxe.
It’s about $50 less than our top choice and includes many of the same design tools. It has essentials like moldings, window coverings and a preprogrammed object library (4,700+ items) as well as custom designers. They’re not as intuitive or comprehensive as those in other programs we reviewed but still more than enough to meet the needs of most users.
However, you can’t import floor plans made with other professional design programs, trace floor plans, generate material lists, or export your plans in DXF or DWG file formats. Still, while these tools are very useful, they’re not essential to designing a home.
This software is a bit harder to learn to use than the best programs. In our ease of use tests, TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Deluxe earned a B grade. It’s by no means impossible for a novice to master, but you should expect a slight learning curve before you can use it to its fullest potential. If you have any problems using the application’s tools, you can always check out its video tutorials.
Best for Mac
Home Designer Interiors
Can import objects from both SketchUp and Trimble 3D Warehouse.
Includes comprehensive design tools.
Works on Mac and Windows computers.
Steep learning curve.
Only nine sample plans.
Drag-and-drop feature only works in 2D mode
This program has all the design tools found in our top pick, including fireplace and staircase designers, cost estimators, and material lists.
The biggest difference between the two programs is how easy they are to use. In our testing, Home Design Interiors earned a C+ grade for ease of use. While that isn’t the lowest grade our reviewers gave, it’s certainly in the bottom tier. If you’re a novice designer or have little patience for counterintuitive interfaces, you should look elsewhere.
While the object libraries found in most interior design software are very useful, there will be times when you can’t find what you want. Luckily, Home Design Interiors can use objects from both SketchUp and Trimble 3D Warehouse, which house thousands more items. In fact, it is the only program we reviewed that’s compatible with both services – several applications aren’t compatible with either, and the rest can only draw from SketchUp. So, if you want an exhaustive array of object choices, this is the program you want.
It’s worth noting that this program works on both Windows and Mac computers, something not all the products we reviewed do.
Best for Small Projects
Virtual Architect Instant Makeover
Has essential tools and is easy to use
Lacks an object library and can’t import third-party objects
Virtual Architect Instant Makeover is an excellent choice for quick projects and creating designs just for fun.
It has essential tools, such as window and door designers, and you can import existing floor plans and images into the software. In addition, it has nine sample plans you can use as jumping off points and a cost estimator that can give you an idea of how much it will cost to realize your plans in the real world. However, it’s missing advanced tools such as an object library and third-party object library compatibility. Also, you can’t export your plans as DWX or DWG files, the formats used by professional interior designers.
Most Sample Plans
Total 3D Home Landscape & Deck Premium
More than 1,000 sample plans
Very hard to use
All the interior design programs we reviewed come with a library of sample plans you can use to get ideas or to customize to your liking.
Generally speaking, you can expect an application to have anywhere from 10 to 50 sample plans. However, Total 3D Home Landscape & Deck Premium includes more than 1,000. If you like working with pre-existing plans, this is the program you want. It also has most of the features and tools we looked for, including cabinet, stair and fireplace generators. However, we found it very hard to use, and it isn’t compatible with third-party object libraries such as SketchUp and Trimble 3D Warehouse.
|Product||Price||Overall Rating||Ease of Use||Room Design||Planning & Construction||Help & Support||Ease of Use||Object Library||Import Third-Party Objects||Drag & Drop||Moldings||Window Coverings||Window & Door Designer||Cabinet Designer||Fireplace Designer||Furniture||Textures||Color Blender||Import Photos||Sample Plans||Import Floor Plans||Trace Floor Plan||Curved Walls||Stair Generator||Material List||Cost Estimator||Metric Measurements||DXF or DWG Export Format||Telephone Support||Video Tutorials||Community Forums||FAQs||Live Chat|
|Virtual Architect Ultimate 8||View Deal||4/5||5||5||5||4||5||7500+||SketchUp||A||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||B+||11||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||$||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Deluxe 2019||3.5/5||4.5||5||5||3.5||4.5||2100+||SketchUp||B||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||B||45||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||X||✓||✓||✖||✖|
|Virtual Architect Instant Makeover 2||View Deal||4/5||4||3||4.5||5||4||0||Not Supported||Not Available||✖||✖||✓||✖||✖||✓||✓||✓||A+||9||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✖||$||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Punch Interior Design Suite 20||4/5||4||5||3.5||5||4||4700+||SketchUp||B-||✓||✓||✓||✓||✖||✓||✓||✓||B||45||✖||✖||✓||✓||✖||✓||✓||✓||X||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|TurboFloorPlan Home and Landscape Pro 2019||3.5/5||4.5||5||5||4.5||4.5||4700+||SketchUp||B+||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||B||45||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||X||✓||✓||✖||✖|
|Punch Home & Landscape Design Premium 20||4/5||4||5||5||5||4||4700+||SketchUp||B+||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||B||45||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||X||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Home Designer Interiors 2019||View Deal||4/5||3||4.5||5||5||3||6500+||SketchUp, Trimble 3D Warehouse||B||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||A+||30||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||X||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Total 3D Landscape & Deck Premium 12||View Deal||2.5/5||3||4||4||5||3||800+||Not Supported||C||✖||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✖||C||1015||✓||✖||✖||✖||✓||✓||✓||✖||X||✓||✖||✓||✖|
|Punch Home & Landscape Design Essentials 20||View Deal||3.5/5||4||4.5||4||5||4||4700+||SketchUp||B-||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||B||45||✓||✓||✓||✖||✖||✓||✓||✓||X||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Total 3D Home Design Deluxe 11||View Deal||3.5/5||3||3.5||3.5||3||3||4600+||Not Supported||C||✖||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✖||C||1015||✓||✓||✖||✓||✖||✓||✓||✖||X||✓||✖||✓||✖|
Why Trust Us
Our team of expert reviewers spent more than 120 hours researching, testing, rating and ranking the best interior design software on the market. They evaluated each program’s tools and features and compared them to its competitors’. At the end of our analysis, each application was given an overall score based on its performance.
We also reached out to architects and interior design professionals to get a better understanding of what it takes to make a great design. Gregg Hodson, principal designer at Gregg Hodson Interior Design, told us that he has his drawings produced on AutoCAD and also makes hand-drawn plans. Hodson warned against drawing plans on your own if you don’t have a firm understanding of what you’re doing. In fact, when asked how often he’s received a home-made plan he could work with, he said “never.”
Hodson went on to say that the biggest obstacle for DIYers is they lack professional knowledge, stating, “It’s challenging when people think they know but they don’t.” He also stressed that casual users have to have a creative mind and an intuitive feel space, layering and flow. Additionally, he cautioned against trusting the colors you get from a computer program. According to Hodson, “color on the computer never ever works…there’s no way, we’re not there yet…they haven’t got it to the point where I know I’m looking at the true color.”
The architects at Mountain West Architecture expressed similar sentiments. Lead designer Trevor Broughton told us of amateur produced plans, “My biggest concern with anything brought to me is it’s scalable and accurate.” When asked what lay designers should look for in design software, he said they “Need to be able to get up to speed quickly at it. Different people have different abilities. Consumer grade software allows the consumer to get a more solid concept, 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.”
How We Tested
Our review team considered more than a dozen interior design applications before they decided which programs are the best. They used each program to create a test design, which was made to use each feature and tool to its fullest extent. They noted how each product’s interface works and its workflow as well as considered how intuitive each software is to figure out and use. This all culminated in assigning each product an ease of use grade. For the most part, the programs had shallow learning curves, but some were much harder to use than others. The lowest grade our reviewers gave was a C-, and seven of the 10 products we reviewed received a B or higher.
As we evaluated each software’s common features, such as photo import tools and drag-and-drop placement, we compared them against their counterparts in other programs. We then assigned a grade based on how well these features work. Again, all the programs scored fairly well, with no application earning lower than a C. We factored the performance of the applications’ non-graded tools into our overall final scores.
What to Look for in the Best Interior Design Software
As we evaluated interior design software, we focused on the following criteria:
You need more than four walls, a ceiling and a floor to make a good room design. To be useful, interior design software requires several tools, chief among them an object library. These libraries contain a wealth of common household items for you to place in your design, including couches, televisions, lamps, plants, appliances and more. The bigger the object library the better. However, the best programs can import even more objects from third-party sources like SketchUp and Trimble 3D Warehouse.
If you have a unique item you can’t find anywhere but you still want to include it in your design, look for a program that lets you build objects from the ground up. The best applications include custom designers for things like fireplaces, staircases, windows, cabinets and more.
Planning & Construction
Creating a true-to-life design is very important but even more so is bringing your ideas into the real world. The best interior design programs include tools that import photos and floor plans from other software or even have features that let you scan blueprints and convert them for fine-tuning. Additionally, a good interior design program has sample plans you can use as jumping-off points, in case you don’t know what you want in the beginning. Further, the best programs also include a cost estimator and material list generator, which show you what it will take to actually build your design.
Help & Support
No matter how intuitive manufacturers make interior design software, there will be times when you need help. The best programs have video tutorials you can follow if you get stuck. Additionally, you can also seek technical and customer support via phone, forums, FAQs and live chat. Our favorite products have most or all of these options.
How Much Does Interior Design Software Cost?
The average price of the software we reviewed was about $60. Most of the developers create similar programs with different feature sets, with more advanced versions costing more. Most premium programs cost about $100, and their watered-down versions cost about $50. There are applications that cost as little as $25, but they are barebones and only good for small projects.
Online Interior Design Software
If the software packages we reviewed are a bit much for you, you may want to check out Planner 5D. It’s free and much easier to learn and use than all the interior design programs we reviewed. Even if you only have basic computer skills, you can learn the ins and outs of this basic interior designer in short order.
The free version provides the bare basics – you can build a floor plan and place doors, windows, electrical outlets and plumbing. It also comes with limited access to its library, which includes 4,000 household objects like furniture and appliances as well as room-specific items for kitchens, bathrooms, patios, garages and more. You get full access to the object library when you purchase one of Planner 5D’s upgraded plans, which cost as little as $10 for 30 days of access.
Since this interior designer is made for amateurs, it’s not nearly as powerful or useful as the programs we tested. However, it’s a good starting point to learn the basics without committing too much time or money in a piece of software you may never use to its fullest potential.
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