Best Overall: SketchUp Pro
With its expansive feature set, advanced 3D modeling tools and online forums having everything from tutorials to discussions, SketchUp Pro is unquestionably the best home design software out there.
SketchUp Pro lets you effortlessly design highly accurate (to a thousandth of an inch) 3D models of homes (and other similar structures), all using simple click-and-release mouse actions. Just choose from one of the many preloaded templates, select a view and you’re ready to go. In addition to 3D models, you can also create plans, elevations, details, title blocks and a lot more, using the “LayOut” tool. It’s also great for making presentation documents, supporting everything from drafting to vector illustrations. The program makes it easy to turn models into animated walkthroughs and flyovers that explain every detail. You can also add elements such as line work, textures and shadows to 2D documents. Then there are the dimensioning tools, which snap to the edges of models and allow you to quickly set format, scale and precision level of displayed measurements. From architects and builders to engineers and urban planners, SketchUp can be used by everyone. The created design documents can be exported as PDFs, images and CAD files.
One of the most impressive features of SketchUp Pro is 3D Warehouse, a huge library of free 3D models. You can choose from a vast array of 3D objects, and use them in your home’s design.
Best for DIY Home Enthusiasts: Home Designer Professional
Don’t want to bother hiring an architect and would rather design your perfect home yourself? Look no further than Home Designer Professional, the best thing for DIY home enthusiasts.
Coming from the stable of Chief Architect, Home Designer Professional offers a truckload of tools for interior design, remodeling, outdoor living and cost estimation. These have commonly accepted defaults for most building practices, and thus make creating your own project a cakewalk. Whether you want to create a single room or an entire house, Home Designer Professional can do it all. It lets you add cabinets, place furniture and even paint walls.
The software has an extensive library of 3D architecture objects that can be added to designs. You can rotate symbols in different planes, and choose to have the CAD block refresh automatically as objects are modified. It’s possible to set heights by absolute or relative positions, and the program lets you reference adjacent floors for designing multi-tiered decks. You can customize room labels, edit multiple elements (e.g. all cabinets) together with one command, as well as create architectural blocks that can be moved as one and stored in the library. Other features include the ability to rotate and reverse plans, custom watermarks, live layout views and labeled callouts.
Home Designer Professional lets you backup the entire plan for easy sharing, set sun and shadow controls, record walkthroughs and more. There is a lot of CAD functionality thrown into the mix, too.Home Designer Pro (2020) Review
Best for Ease Of Use: Sweet Home 3D
Most of the home design programs are quite complicated and have a bit of a learning curve. That said, there are some that are fairly easy to use, and Sweet Home 3D is the best among them.
Using Sweet Home 3D, you can create straight, round or sloping walls with precise dimensions, with just your mouse and keyboard. The software lets you insert doors and windows in walls by simply dragging them in the plan. You can add furniture to your model using an extensive, searchable catalog, which is organized by categories such as kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom. For each added element (e.g. wall, floor), it’s possible to change the color, texture, size, thickness, location and orientation. While designing the home in 3D, you can simultaneously view it in 3D from an aerial point of view, or navigate from a virtual visitor point of view. Sweet Home 3D lets you annotate the plan with room areas, dimension lines, texts and arrows. The program can even create photorealistic images and videos with its ability to customize the lights. You can import existing home blueprints to add upon them, and export created designs as PDFs and vector images.
The features of Sweet Home 3D can be enhanced using a variety of plug-ins. The program runs on Windows, macOS, Linux and Solaris.Sweet Home 3D Review
Best Budget: Total 3D Home, Landscape & Deck Premium Suite
Teeming with options, the Home, Landscape & Deck Premium Suite software from Total 3D offers nearly boundless room for creativity while designing rooms and gardens. You can upload your own sketches of your dream home or choose from 14,000 samples to get your planning started. To see how your own furniture would look in different designs, you can import digital images of your current pieces and textiles or utilize a catalog of 20,000 brand-name products. Visualize nearly any possibility with custom windows, doors, floors, carpets, roofs, appliances, paint colors, and wallpaper. A how-to video library offers step-by-step instructions for navigating the software, and over 2,500 photos of homes and landscapes can provide inspiration or guidance.
Best for Landscaping: HGTV Home & Landscape Platinum Suite
There’s no point in having the perfect home if it’s not surrounded by plants and other forms of greenery. Landscaping is just as important (if not more), and to visualize it, you need a software that puts special emphasis on this crucial aspect of home design. Enter HGTV Home & Landscape Platinum Suite.
HGTV Home & Landscape Platinum Suite provides an easy way to plan your home’s outdoor surroundings, exactly how you want them. From pathways and plants to decks and gazebos, you can customize anything and everything. The deck builder wizard makes it easy to create a new deck or patio, which can be then spruced up with plants, fences and much more.
Speaking of, HGTV’s plant encyclopedia has reference information for more than 7,500 trees, plants, flowers, shrubs and ground cover options. It also contains information about the plants’ light, water and soil requirements. For garden design, HGTV Home & Landscape Platinum Suite lets you add lighting to flowerbeds and pathways, and even insert pop-up sprinklers with varying spray ranges. You can scan digital photos of your yard to easily add garden design elements to them, and take a 3D tour it once done.
It’s worth mentioning that HGTV lets you design home interiors too, and comes with many powerful design tools for the same.
Best Online: Space Designer 3D
If you think only desktop programs are great for home design, you couldn’t be more wrong. Space Designer 3D is a web-based app that lets you plan and visualize your ideal home, using just your Web browser.
Getting started with Space Designer 3D is a walk in the park, and all you need is an account. The app lets you draw floor plans from basements to the roofs, and you can customize your interior design with more than 5,000 different furniture and materials, suitable for both residential and commercial use. The Web app makes it simple to visualize your created project in real-time, both in 2D and 3D. Space Designer 3D can simulate natural lighting realistically, depending upon the GPS coordinates and time of the day. Its rendering engine can transform 3D objects into photorealistic images with just a click, and levels are editable independently through the 2D floor plan visualization. It’s possible to have multiple options for the design of the floor plan or interiors, which is why Space Designer 3D includes different versions of a single project, with the ability to quickly switch between multiple designs.
Space Designer 3D offers multiple plans, and you can choose the one that best suits your (or your organization’s) needs.
Best for Mobile: Homestyler
Want to get some home planning done when you’re on the move? There’s no need to lug around a laptop, as your smartphone will do just fine. Just install Homestyler, and get started.
A powerful home design app, Homestyler offers a myriad of features. Simply take a photo of your space, and try out multiple wall colors, decor items and furniture products from actual brands. You cannot only place high-quality 3D models of different items in the virtual room but even hang light fixtures from the ceiling. The app makes it exceedingly simple to visualize different product combinations, and lets you see how realistic models of branded rugs, paintings, mirrors and more will look in your space. Since Homestyler is a community-based app, you can browse the designs submitted by other users to get some inspiration. Of course, you can also post your own creations and share them via e-mail and Facebook.
Homestyler is a free app, and available on both iOS and Android mobile platforms.
Best Splurge: Chief Architect Premier
Primarily geared towards professional architects and home planners, Chief Architect Premier is arguably the most comprehensive home design software you’re going to come across. If budget isn’t a concern, it’s the best that there is, period.
Chief Architect Premier is fully capable of handling all types of residential and light commercial design projects. As you draw elements (e.g. walls), the software automatically creates a 3D model. It can generate a list of materials and use powerful building tools to produce construction documents, complete with site and framing plans, section details and elevations. Chief Architect Premier’s 3D rendering and visualization features let you view created models from different angles. You can also explore 360-degree spherical views locally and in the cloud, as well as embed them in websites for interactive navigation. For cross sections and elevations, the software can add automatic labels and populate camera callouts with layout information. With nearly unlimited options for everything from rooms and walls to foundations and even electrical/HVAC systems, Chief Design Premier lets you make the most intricate home designs, with minimal effort.
The software has a vast catalog of 3D objects and lets you export/export data in a wide variety of formats. Chief Architect Premier is available for both PC and Mac.What to Look for in Home Design Software
Object library – The best home design software packages include libraries of free objects, like furniture and fixtures, that number in the thousands. For more flexibility, look for home design software that supports importing even more objects from SketchUp, Trimble 3D Warehouse, or both. Some software also lets you buy additional objects as add-on purchases.
Cost estimator – Home design software makes it easy for your dreams to outpace your realistic budget constraints. Look for software that includes a built-in cost estimator that can keep track of the projected price tag of your construction or renovation.
Roof wizard – When you’re designing a home from the ground up, the roof plays a huge part in the overall look of the structure. Some home design software requires you to have a lot of specialized knowledge, or go through a complicated process, to design the roof. Look for software that includes a great roof wizard that’s capable of automating the process of designing a roof that meets your aesthetic goals while remaining structurally sound.