Making a dream home requires complete control of every facet. If you’re going to invest the exorbitant fees and tackle the countless tribulations, the least you ask is to get exactly what you want. The trouble is, knowing exactly what your special sanctuary requires and being able to explain it to the construction crew is no easy feat. Even architects and master builders can get wires crossed – figuratively and literally – so the layperson has little chance of explaining their vision. That’s the point of home design software.
Quality home design programs use a library of pre-loaded objects and common additions to a home. They help you aim for realistic goals, rather than requiring miracles of plumbing or carpentry to accomplish. You can see a rendered home in full color and dimensions so that there’s no confusion when drawing up a statement of work for your contractor. They also help you steal, so that whenever you see a cornice, framing, or cute little bay window build, you can rip that right off and add it to your mind’s little mansion. Here’s the 8 best home design software programs for planning your fantasy abode.
Sweet Home 3D
Most of the programs here are built to make expansive manses with exhaustive grounds. Sweet Home, as the name suggests, doesn’t adopt airs or claim professional grade work. It thinks inside the box, aiming small. 2D and 3D permits exact placement on the grid. This would be more impressive if the exterior work were more exact. Better for designing rooms, tiny houses, and anything focused on indoors work, the quaintness of Sweet Home makes it a small space master. Purchase: Free/Accepts Donations
DreamPlan Home Design Software
A bare-bones builder that gives you a single sample house plan to jump off from, you’ll also find object choices are fairly basic. Though the feature list is cut down, it operates on the same theory as brands like the In-N-Out burger chain. Don’t dress up and polish bad material, but rather craft an exceptional experience that isn’t laden with the pointless. Going in from scratch is not only doable, but a joy. The sense of really being able to create is strong with this program. You might not get all the fringe you hope for, but everything you design with this feels truly yours. Purchase: Free+
As much fun as a digital Lego set without any high costs to keep you out of it, SketchUp is the recommendation for anyone to start their project, since you can pop in and start tinkering in no time. The tutorials are quick, rendering is fun, modeling feels good. Naturally, you’re going to run into a point where the software runs out, but that’s a long ways off. The ability to do 2D models is helpful, especially for anyone coming in with some napkin sketches in hand. Searchable databases of objects make finding similar items to what you desire accessible, if you can often scroll through miles of the wrong architecture. For free, it’s a steal at 40 times the price.
Total 3D Landscape & Deck Premium
Sprawling is the term that comes to mind using Total 3D, and that’s double-edged. There’s a few that come close to the number of sample plans available, but not many. Having that many options up front can be a buffet, which is great if you’re starving, but excessive if you know what you want. Navigation is unfriendly, and the interface is sometimes convoluted as it tries to do a little too much. Streamlined, it would be great. As it is, it’s overly intricate, but there’s worse things out there to be. Purchase: $30+
Chief Architect Home Designer
Let the words “Chief Architect” stand out to you, as getting this is going to be a little bit of an undertaking. It’s extremely powerful, giving you spectacular 3D renderings, so long as you RTFM. Do not go in cold or you’ll find the feeling to be limited, since all the good stuff requires some fancy book-learnin’ to get right. The support is astonishing, and you can work with the community of other DIY designers to get input and advice that will save you a bundle when going to see the architect. Purchase: $59-$495
Home Designer Suite
The Home Designer Line is your Cadillac software. There are a few versions, and they are all damn good. The content is deep, giving you more than you could hope to need, unless you do this for a living. Dense and complicated, to reach all the glorious additions that come with Home Designer, you’re going to need to make a serious investment of time. From house to landscape, if you put in the hours to make this hop to your every whim it will reward you grandly. If you hope to put something together in an afternoon, or a week, this is a punishing mistress without mercy. Purchase: $80+
Virtual Architect Ultimate
With wizards for everything, from your kitchen to your roof, there’s a lot of sandboxes in which to play with Visual Architect. It’s complex, requiring a learning curve to master. Once you’ve gotten it, you’ll be able to fly along, crafting professional home layouts that are far above what most software can render. Beginning life as HGTV Ultimate Home Design, this program has gone through several changes. At each phase it’s picked up new tricks, building upon the past. Fat has been trimmed and the long development time in the saddle has truly paid off. If you can stand to learn to work it, Visual Architect can top anything else on the board. Purchase: $100
TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Pro
Focus more on the words “FloorPlan” than “Home & Landscape” in the title. It’s able to do layouts like a champion and has an interface that feels natural, the way you can always find things in a well-designed kitchen.
On the matter of landscaping and design, there’s a few holes. Namely, placeable objects and plants are lean, meaning you’ll get the broad strokes, but tweaking the refinements aren’t ideally done here. being able to start fast and get results, or painstaking plot every point is nice for the Sunday user and the purist. Purchase: $100