Design and Decorating Apps & Programs


Now that the new iPhone 7 is out and iOS10 has been released, we’ve spent a lot of time  thinking about technology and design these days. I frequently hear from clients, friends, and family that they have trouble imagining what space would be like with a different paint color, new flooring, or different furniture arrangements.

There are now several design apps, room planners, and 3D visualization programs on the market that can help solve this very problem; often, the programs are free and require little more than a tape measure, photograph, and some time to put together your virtual space. In fact, there are so many that it’s hard to know where to begin and which ones are best for what. Let’s take a quick look at some of our faves for testing out living room decorating ideas!



While Autodesk is best known for its powerful programs geared towards professional designers, Autodesk Homestyler is a free, easy-to-use tool that’s available for even the most basic of planning and decorating projects. Users can begin with pre-existing design templates or create their own design either natively in this room design app or upload their own floor plan. On the app version for mobile devices, users can snap a photo of a space and add in furniture, lighting, and floor coverings to the image.

Pros: The program is very precise -- the location of everything, from furniture to windows, can be dimensioned. Aside from showing your model in 2D and 3D, you can create renderings of the spaces you’ve created to really get a feel of what the space would be like!

Cons: Many of the items in the furniture and component catalog are real items, and therefore you can’t change the color or size unless the product manufacturer provides different color or finish options.





Planner 5D is a tool similar to Homestyler, and is also available for mobile use. Its interface is set up similarly to Homestyler, and its furniture library boasts over 3,000 objects to chose from for your space -perfect for coming up with living room decorating ideas!

Pros: The program also allows for users to design exterior elements, such as gardens and landscaping. Additionally, a robust Ideas page provides inspiration for a variety of spaces and styles.

Cons: While the site is indeed easy to use, there isn’t much in terms of technical support or FAQs on the website.




Given Ikea’s dominance in the furniture and design market, it’s no surprise that they have taken the time and money to create their own set of “planning” tools, as they call them. Depending on your project, you can use their kitchen planner, wardrobe planner, storage planner, office planner, and children’s storage planner.

Pros: The room design applications work well for planning complex, hard-to-envision pieces and spaces, like kitchen cabinetry and closet space planning. The programs are also free and very easy to use!

Cons: All programs exclusively use Ikea furniture, so the library of furniture and items to choose from is quite limited in that sense. It might work, however, if your home is full of Ikea pieces!




Armstrong is best known in the design and construction industry for their flooring products, but their Design a Room tool is versatile and fun. The program focuses more on floor and wall colors and materials than furniture within a space, but has thousands of paint colors to choose from.

Pros: The home design app is a quick and easy alternative to Photoshopping an existing image you might have, and is so flooring-focused that you can even pick the grout color in your images!

Cons: Users can’t create their own floor plans -- they must either select a preloaded space provided by Armstrong, or upload a photo of their own room. The selection of decorating styles is also quite limited.



All in all, there are tons of great options out there to help you visualize your space, and most of them are free and even accessible on your cell phone! While it’s very difficult to recreate the exact space virtually because of camera angles, lighting, and other factors, these programs and tools are still a great resource for giving you an idea of how a space might look without spending big bucks or making a serious commitment.

Kate R.

Kate is a New York-based architect and preservationist, with a love for all things design! 


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