Surveys show that 81% of buyers say home staging helps them visualize the property as their future home. And, once staged, homes spend an average of 73% less time on the market. To achieve these goals, interior designers and home staging professionals use interior design software to help create visual room layouts complete with furniture and fixtures and present a realistic view of any space.
We reviewed over a dozen interior design software programs and chose the best based on how easy it was to create and layout a room, the overall cost of each platform, and how detailed and realistic of a layout each could present. Here are our top seven picks.
The 7 Best Interior Design Software Programs of 2020
Best Overall: Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design
Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design gained popularity when it was marketed as HGTV Ultimate Home Design through the HGTV network. Since its name change, the software has added many more features and is popular among design pros as well as beginners. We chose it as the best overall since it is easy to use thanks to its drag-and-drop design wizards and a huge library of premade household and landscape objects.
Virtual Architect makes it easy to get started by importing home photos or floor plans or picking one of nine customizable floor plan templates. The software’s best feature is its design wizards that walk users through creating stunning 3D renderings of kitchens, bathrooms, decks, staircases, and more.
Virtual Architect features a huge library of objects, including brand name furniture and appliances, that can be customized with any color or texture and dropped into place. The library even contains over 7,500 plants with lighting and watering requirements useful for landscape designers.
The software also offers other useful tools for home design, including a cost estimator, a materials list, 3D virtual tours, and day and night lighting conditions.
Virtual Architect is available as a download for Windows computers only and costs $99.99.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: SketchUp
SketchUp was developed in 2000 to make 3D modeling easy and fun to learn. It’s commonly used by architects, interior designers, landscape architects, and civil and mechanical engineers. We chose it as our runner-up because it’s easy to learn, has an intuitive interface, and offers a free web-based trial version to help users learn the basics of 3D modeling.
SketchUp offers three paid versions of its web and desktop software: Shop, Pro, and Studio. SketchUp Pro is best suited to interior designers and lets users plan and design accurate 3D models using an extensive object library featuring materials with unique surfaces and textures. Users can easily turn 3D models into 2D presentations and offer clients virtual walkthroughs by integrating with VR applications like Oculus and Microsoft HoloLens.
Because SketchUp is web-based, it can be used on both Windows and Mac computers from anywhere and at any time. Users can import and export multiple graphic file types, view 3D models on mobile devices, and enjoy unlimited cloud storage for project sharing and collaboration.
SketchUp Pro costs $299 per year and comes with a 30-day free trial. Users can also play around with SketchUp Free, a no-cost web-based version that offers user-generated and manufacturer-produced models that can be viewed on a mobile device. SketchUp Free also comes with 10GB of online storage.
Best for Beginners: Easyhome Homestyler
Homestyler was originally created in 2010 by Autodesk, the makers of 3D software AutoCAD, REVIT, and 3ds Studio Max. It was sold to Easyhome in 2017 as a free online tool designed to make interior design “easier and more fun.” We chose it as the best for beginners because it’s extremely simple to use, offers a large library of brand-name furniture and fixtures, and is completely free.
Like much interior design software, Homestyler lets users start by importing an existing floor plan image or starting from scratch. An intuitive floor plan builder makes it easy to create 2D floor plans and view them in 3D with just a click. Users can then select name-brand furniture and fixtures from a library and drop them into the floor plan.
Users looking for inspiration can also view a gallery of designs created by over two million Homestyler users. They can also add their designs to the gallery or share them with others on social media. Finally, users can snap a picture of any real room with the Homestyler app and decorate it with 3D objects from the software’s library.
Homestyler is completely free and allows users to earn “points” that unlock advanced features like HD panoramas and aerial renderings.
Best for Intuitive Use: HomeByMe
Originally created as a side project by Paris-based 3DVIA, HomeByMe was built with the belief that designing floor plans should be easy and fun. We chose it as the best for intuitive use because it allows users to quickly build 2D floor plans and turn them into photorealistic 3D models using just a browser.
Users can start with a scanned floor plan, enter the size of a room, or simply draw one using HomeByMe’s pencil drawing tool. Windows and doors can be added easily from a catalog of products from HomeByMe’s partners.
Switching to 3D mode allows users to rotate views and move objects around with ease. HomeByMe offers a catalog of 20,000 products from brand names like Habitat, Maisons du Monde, and Ligne Roset. Users can also select from a variety of floor coverings, paint and wallpaper, as well as plants, vases, picture frames, and pillows to add the finishing touches.
HomeByMe offers a free plan along with a one-time purchase and subscription plans:
- Three projects
- Three realistic renderings
- Five projects
- 15 realistic renderings
- Three 360° images
- $29.99 per month
- Unlimited projects
- Unlimited realistic renderings
- Five 360° images
- Professional usage rights
Best Price: Floorplanner
Floorplanner was developed in 2007 by a group of architects and civil engineers who wanted to create a simpler, lighter, and more accessible 3D model software. Theirs was the first browser-based 2D and 3D planning tool and currently boasts over 20 million users worldwide. We chose it as the best-priced program because it offers two low monthly subscription plans with all the features needed in interior design software.
Floorplanner users can import an existing drawing or start from scratch using the software’s simple drag-and-drop interface. In addition to offering an extensive library of 3D objects and furniture that can be dropped into any design, the software also features a Magic Layout option that decorates an entire room with just one click. Another button quickly converts a 2D floor plan into a 3D model, complete with adjustable camera angles and lighting. Users can also export a photorealistic shot of any room and create interactive and 3D floor flythroughs for clients.
Floorplanner offers one free and two paid plans:
- $1.25 per credit
- Full library of 3D assets
- Full functionality
- Exports/renders in 2D & 3D
- $5 per month
- $1.25 per credit
- All Basic Plan features
- No timelock for renders
- $29 per month
- $.90 per credit
- All Plus Plan features
- Custom room type sets
- Quick exports
Credits can also be purchased separately and give users access to more models and export options.
Best for 2D Drawing: SmartDraw
Originally developed in 1994 as an all-purpose drawing tool for Windows, SmartDraw added a web-based version of its software in 2016 that can be accessed on any Windows or Mac computer or smart device. We chose it as the best for 2D drawing since it allows users to create detailed 2D floor plans using architectural standards for a low monthly price.
SmartDraw is easy to use for beginners but also advanced enough for more experienced interior designers. Users can begin with Quick-Start floor plan templates that can be customized quickly and easily. SmartDraw also lets users use common standard architectural scales, change the scale anytime, and even use a printed scale that doesn't match the drawing scale. These features are found only in advanced computer-aided design (CAD) software and make it easy for anyone involved in a project to view a project to their exact specifications.
SmartDraw also makes sharing easy so users can collaborate on projects or share ideas. Floor plans can be exported in a variety of formats including PDF and PNG or shared with other users via Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, OneDrive, or with a simple link. SmartDraw also integrates with Atlassian's Confluence, Jira, and Trello for easy collaboration.
SmartDraw offers two monthly plans based on the number of users: $9.95 per month for one user or $5.96 per user per month for five or more users. Both plans also come with a seven-day free trial.
Best Free Option: Roomstyler 3D Home Planner
Roomstyler 3D Home Planner is a free, online interior design app created by Floorplanner. Its primary function is to allow brands to showcase how their products will look in any floor plan design. We chose it as the best free option since it allows users to create simple floor plans using video tutorials and a library of thousands of objects, all for free.
Roomstyler is probably one of the easiest to use of all the interior design platforms we reviewed. Users simply drag and drop an existing room shape and pull it to any size, shape, and dimension. Doors and windows can be added with ease and textures can be changed with a click using a simple paintbrush tool.
Roomstyler’s best feature, however, is a library of over 120,000 branded furniture and fixture choices that can be dropped into any floor plan. While some users don’t like that objects can’t be resized, others feel that this limit creates more accurate room designs. Any items added to a room are also added to a list, making it easy to view the details of any item and create a shopping list.
While Roomstyler lacks a true 3D viewing mode or walkthrough, It does let users create a 3D rendered “photo” of a room to see how a 2D design will look in 3D. Roomstyler also offers no local save or export options, but users can add their designs to the online Roomstyler community.
What Is Interior Design Software?
Interior design software is primarily used to help home buyers visualize what it would be like to live in a particular home. However, the software can be used by architects who want to give clients a realistic picture of their home during the design process or by realtors or home staging professionals who want to help buyers visualize themselves in their new home. It can also help anyone looking to redecorate or remodel play around with colors, furniture, and fixtures using accurate dimensions and designs.
How Does Interior Design Software Work?
Interior design software lets users create rooms or whole house layouts using a simple drawing tool. They can then place doors, windows, and interior decor and create realistic 3D visualizations of any space. Most software allows live editing, letting users drag objects and even walls and doors to see a space change before their eyes. This is more useful for remodelers who want to see what a room would look like with a wall removed or added or a new set of doors or windows.
Most software offers some sharing options so multiple users can collaborate on the same project.
How Much Does Interior Design Software Cost & Is It Worth It?
Interior design software typically ranges from $10 to $250 per month. While one program we reviewed offered a download for $100, most are available as online-only software. The advantage of online software is that users aren’t limited by the power of their computers to create high-quality 3D models. Subscription plans also offer access to huge libraries of furniture and fixtures that are stored online and frequently updated.
High-end interior design software is usually better suited to architects and engineers who need to build accurate 3D renderings for clients to help estimate costs based on materials and labor as a project changes. Most other software is better suited to individuals or interior designers who want to create photo-realistic 3D models to “sell” a look or experience to their clients.
When Is Free Interior Design Software a Better Option?
Free interior design software is becoming more widely available and can be useful for individuals looking to remodel their own homes. While some can create visually stunning 3D images or walkthroughs, most lack decent sharing or export options. This can make it hard for realtors, interior designers, and home staging professionals to share their designs with their clients.
How We Chose the Best Interior Design Software
We looked at over a dozen interior design platforms in our review. Since most users of this software are not architects and lack architectural drawing skills, software that was intuitive, highly visual, and easy to use was at the top of our list. We tried to focus on programs that made adding elements quick and easy using a library of pre-made objects that could be resized, retextured, or recolored as needed.
We also looked for software that made creating custom 3D models and room renderings a snap. While many offer photo-realistic, high-definition images nearly indistinguishable from a real photo, realism wasn’t necessarily at the top of our list.
Finally, we made sure to identify programs that fit the different budgets of most customers, ranging from individuals redecorating and hobby designers to professional stagers and architects. From creating a beautiful virtually staged home to presenting different design and layout options for a client, we found the best interior design software to fit any need.
MHM Professional Staging. "10 Amazing Home Staging Statistics That May Surprise You." Accessed June 3, 2020.
Best Review Guide. "Virtual Architect Ultimate Review." Accessed June 3, 2020.