When planning a remodeling or decorating project, free interactive design programs can help you visualize your design. These easy to learn programs can help you pick out materials, choose colors, design floorplans, and try out different ideas.
Furniture Layout and Multi-Room Design Programs
Before you begin the potentially backbreaking work of rearranging heavy pieces of furniture, use a program like one of these two to experiment with different layout designs. Decide on a configuration that makes the room functional as well as attractive. Then finish the look by adding accents and decorative accessories. These programs can be used to design a living room or even design your own bedroom.
Pottery Barn's Room Planner is a handy online design tool you can use to quickly and easily plan out furniture arrangements and print out 2-D floor plans. You can start with an example floor plan of a predesigned room or patio which you can build on or edit as you wish or you can start from scratch by choosing the shape of the room. A product list containing furniture for various rooms in the home and accessories such as rugs, mirrors, lamps and plants is located to the left of the floor plan. Click on an item to add it to the plan or view its details such as the product's name, its exact dimensions and a buy now button.
With a tablet or smart phone in hand, you can use this tool at a Pottery Barn retail store to help narrow down your furniture selections based on the available space in the room you are decorating or if you're shopping online at home. You can also use it to experiment with furniture arrangements using the furniture you have on hand if you can find pieces in the product list of similar size. The biggest drawback is the lack of a 3-D viewing option.
Sweet Home 3D
Sweet Home 3D is an open source design program that you can download or use online. Although it was created and is used by many program developers who continually contribute their techie skills to update and improve its functionality, you don't have to be super tech savvy to use it yourself. On the left you'll find a user guide and video tutorials that will help you learn everything you need to know to create your own multi-room floorplans.
With this tool you can draw straight, round or curved walls and insert architectural features such as doors and windows. Once you add your furniture, which is categorized by the type of room it is found in, you can change the color, texture, size and depth of any piece. You can also navigate into your two dimensional floorplan for a three-dimensional virtual visitor point of view. When your design is finished, you can create photorealistic snapshots and videos with the ability to control natural lighting according to the time of day and geographic location.
Window Treatment Design Programs
Window treatment design programs can be complex and costly. However, some manufacturers offer simple, interactive online design tools that let you explore their window treatment options according to materials, colors and styles.
Design Your Own
See the latest styles in window treatments at Hunter Douglas with Design Your Own. Start by choosing a style such as cellular, woven wood, Roman or roller shades, vertical or horizontal wooden blinds or wooden shutters. Next you're presented with various options for colors, materials and patterns, if applicable, Conclude by selecting the orientation, whether it's vertical or horizontal and then enter the dimensions of your windows to dial in the final details and see examples on windows in various rooms.
Budget Blinds has showcased their Signature Series brand of window treatments with the Virtual Decorator. This easy-to-use online tool breaks it down into a simple three-step process:
- Select the type of treatment you want to see such as a shade, blind or shutter.
- Choose the color of your walls and flooring.
- Compare the various window treatment options against your walls and flooring, Print off the styles you like and then contact Budget Blinds for a complementary in-home consultation.
Now that's a new and fun way to window shop from home.
Paint and Color Programs
Many of the big paint retailers such as Sherwin-Williams, Behr and Valspar offer easy to use, point and click programs that make it easy and fun to try on different color palettes in any room of your home. All three of these programs give you the option of creating an account to save your favorite color palettes and designs which you can print out or e-mail.
Color Visualizer, offered by Sherwin-Williams®, provides color palettes and color ideas for interior and exterior paint projects. You can also search from over 1,400 colors for the ultimate custom color design. View your color selections on a variety of integrated room photos of the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, living room, or dining room. You can also upload your own photos to see how these colors will look in your home.
Behr offers a free program called Color Discovery where you begin by choosing a room to paint. The program will then determine the primary purpose of the room by asking you to pick the mood you want to create, such as calm and relaxing, bold and dramatic, warm and friendly or trendy and stylish. You are then presented with a list of colors to choose from and an amount, such as 1-3. With your final selections chosen, you can then view coordinating pallets, order samples and virtually paint a room with them.
With Valspar's Explore Colors, you can choose an interior scene or exterior scene or upload your own photo. Then choose a color and a room to work with. The tool will provide suggest color palettes or you can build one of your own. You can even change the lighting from natural light to incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs.
Flooring Design Programs
Deciding on the type of flooring you want doesn't need to be difficult when you use these programs.
Design A Room
Armstrong offers a free design program, Design A Room, that not only allows you to choose from different flooring options such as hardwood, laminate, or vinyl tile, it also lets you choose cabinets and wall color for kitchens and bathrooms. Other rooms you can design include living rooms and bedrooms. The program also allows you to choose from different decorating styles such as:
- European Country
FLORbuilder Design Tool
Flor offers a free virtual carpet tile layout program that allows you to try different flooring options with area rugs and wall to wall carpet. You can experiment with modular tiles in dozens of different colors and patterns. In addition to this design tool, Flor offers personalized design help from one of their expert design consultants and free rug templates that you can use to create your own custom rug design.
Kitchen and Bathroom Remodeling Programs
A dream kitchen not only makes the primary cook in the family happy, it helps add value to the home. Interactive bathroom and kitchen design programs make the work easy.
Bathroom upgrades are also a smart investment to boost your home's worth. Villeroy & Boch's Bathroom Planner is a straightforward program that starts by asking you to choose a room shape or draw one by clicking and dragging on a target point against a grid background. Each time you release the mouse button, the wall ends. However, it is easier to just modify the shape of an existing template. Click on size tab at the top of the screen and in the right hand column, you can specify the exact dimensions of the walls, including their height.
Next, go to the objects tab to find architectural features such as doors, windows, electrical outlets, light switches, etc. and place those items by dragging and dropping them. Then you can furnish your bathroom with products from the company's various fixture collections. It's a pretty bare-bones designing program that appears to be missing any real options for finished flooring and walls.
Virtual Room Designer
Lowes' Virtual Room Designer is a program you must download to try. The program is incompatible with Firefox so you will need to use a browser like Internet Explorer or Google Chrome to run it. You can start a room from scratch or load a template for a kitchen, bathroom or laundry room.
Once you have your room template loaded, the design tool is very easy to use. You can choose all the room's furnishings, including tile or stone flooring, wall coverings, light fixtures, toilets, bathtubs, shower enclosures, sinks and vanities, cabinets and more. You can save your design at any point and come back to it and once you are done, you can print it and head to your local Lowe's store to get started.
Project Planning Made Easier
New online design programs and tools are constantly popping up and getting better all the time. You can plan almost any home renovation project without spending a dime on design software. Most of these programs give you the option of creating your own account so that you can save your projects, share them and print them out. Many also offer free additional help through expert design consultants who can help bring your ideas to life.