Introduction to Home Design Software
Given the popularity of HGTV, coupled with the ongoing do-it-yourself home-improvement boom pioneered by stores such as Home Depot and Lowe's, home design software is still popular. However, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal, and gauging by many user reviews we read at Amazon.com, visualizing your own kitchen remodeling by using design software isn't as easy as popping the disc into your computer. Reviewers tested home design software to determine how easy it is to draw a room layout, reposition a roof, or experiment with door and window placement. Owner-written reviews posted at Amazon.com are especially helpful in determining how well the various software packages work for users of differing skill levels. We also checked for reviews at Consumer Reports magazine, but editors have not yet covered home design software.
Once produced by Broderbund software, Total 3D Home, Landscape & Deck Premium Suite (*est. $40) is now sold by Individual software. We found lots of miserable owner-written reviews at Amazon.com for this version, and for all the earlier versions as well. Owners report system crashes and freezes, and pretty much every review we found complains about ease of use -- walls move around, cabinetry refuses to stay on the right wall, the only ceiling option is flat, and textures don't work correctly. Another version of Total 3D software also originally published by Broderbund, called 3D Home Architect Home & Landscape Deluxe Suite Version 9 (*est. $40), is now produced by Punch! and published by Encore. It gets equally miserable ratings for its design tools.
Although the Total 3D Home Design and 3D Home Architect series are inexpensive, we found much better reviews for other software, including Better Homes and Gardens Home Designer Suite 8.0 (*est. $100) for those looking for something fun and relatively easy to use. Punch! Professional Home Design Suite Platinum Version 12 (*est. $95) is also a good option for those who want something more sophisticated (with a steeper learning curve). If you don't want to spend so much, consider experimenting with free software like Google SketchUp, which will help give you a sense of whether you want to invest in better $80 to $100 software.