Devising a new room layout is one of those strange design activities which manages to be both creatively rewarding and deceptively tedious. There’s no question that it’s exciting to recreate a living space. With just a few tweaks to furniture layout and color, it’s almost as though you’re living in a brand new space!
On the other hand, let’s be honest here. It’s work. Unless you’re astoundingly lucky and get that perfect aesthetic balance on your first try, chances are you’ll be shifting furniture and swatches around a lot.
You know how it is—the couch might protrude too far into a walkthrough area, the TV might not quite work in that corner, that perfect shade of eggshell wall paint may suddenly look bleak and institutional when combined with your glass coffee table.
Getting it “just so” requires a solid dose of trial and error.
This is where design and space-planning resources make a world of difference. Let’s look at three design and space-planning websites and apps which allow you to enjoy all the experimental playfulness you desire with none of the heavy lifting.
Amikasa - 3D Room Design Without The Frustration
A few years ago, using an app to virtually create a three dimensional room or house layout existed purely in the realms of science fiction. These days, 3D room visualizing apps are thick on the ground.
They all operate on similar principles:
They’re pretty good. They do give you the ability to bring your idea into virtual reality before you lift a finger. However, they also come with a downside. Most of these apps are incredibly fiddly to use and require quite a bit of practice to master. Put bluntly, you’re trading grunt work for brain work.
But then, along came Amikasa! This app is arguably the best way to visualize a 3D space on the market right now, and for one simple reason. It’s incredibly easy to use.
Instead of relying on smartphone optics to guesstimate the dimensions of a room, or having you generate blueprint like dimensions from scratch, Amikasa starts with a simple question: what’s the rough shape of your room?
From there, it’s a simple matter of tweaking that shape to more closely resemble your room’s specifications. It’s beautifully intuitive and I found I could do in minutes what took me up to an hour in other 3D design apps.
But that isn’t Amikasa’s most significant selling point. What makes this app perfect for me is that you can then use 3D models of actual furniture shapes. You’re not locked into using abstract representations of your stuff. Instead, you’re working with virtual objects which are close enough to reality to make visualization a breeze.
Another big bonus I found is that you can also easily place your surround sound speakers into the equation, finding ways to maximize their utility and aesthetic appeal just as you would with standard furniture.
It’s a thing of beauty and available both for iOS and Android. Give it a try!
PHOTOCOPA - Creative Color Picking
You’d think there’d be a plethora of decent color visualization resources out there for finding that perfect color palette. But it’s actually surprisingly hard to find something genuinely useful, for a few reasons.
A lot of the apps and websites out there focus on (admittedly pretty cool) augmented reality to virtually “paint” your room with your chosen color. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great idea in theory, but I’ve yet to find one which works flawlessly enough to actually help me visualize a room and make sound color decisions.
More critically, screens won’t display color the same way a paint chip does. Your phone or monitor’s luminance, contrast and brightness settings all subtly alter how a color looks. Without an expensive color calibrated monitor, there’s simply no way to get perfectly accurate color matching on an electronic device.
As an aside, if you are contemplating extensive design projects requiring true color and serious graphics-processing grunt, I’d highly recommend investing in a computer system and color smart monitor which is fit for the purpose. If you’re near Northern California, check out Nerds On Call's Sacramento computer repair shop. Nerds On Call can provide solid advice on how to upgrade your computer to accommodate heavy design work.
But back to PHOTOCOPA. The reason this app works so well is that it neatly side-steps these design problems by focusing on what really matters—generating a pleasing palette of complementary and contrasting colors you can use as a starting point. Once I have that winning color combination, calibrating my chosen shades against paint swatches is a breeze.
PHOTOCOPA works by keeping it simple.
I start by taking a picture of a color I want to begin with. It may be on an existing piece of furniture, but just as easily it could be a color I stumble across while I’m out and about.
Most recently it was an unusual leaf I found on the sidewalk. But I digress.
You can then have PHOTOCOPA use this shade as a starting point, generating a beautiful assortment of color combinations which all work in different ways for different reasons.
What I love most about this site is that it refuses to be prescriptive. It doesn’t lead you down a false path of choosing one particular color based on a screen’s false rendering. Instead it focuses on what a design app does best: giving you ideas.
Once my creative eye is bumped in a new direction by a surprising color combination, I find it that much easier to see beyond what’s there to the possibilities lying beneath.
This app works by fixing your sights on all the wonderful color possibilities.
Pinterest - For Flashes of Inspiration and Clues You Can Follow
In every design project, whether large or small, there’s a moment where you might find yourself staring into a void. I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve begun a home design upgrade with literally no inkling on the first step I should take.
When these dire, blank moments settle over me, invariably I turn to Pinterest.
Pinterest is to out-of-the-box idea generation as YouTube is to embarrassingly endearing cat videos.
It’s just a vast, eclectic soup of different tastes, styles and disciplines. Every time I delve through its images I find something I hate and something I love—both of which are invaluable in crystallizing where I want to take a design next.
Of course, there are thousands of boards in Pinterest dedicated to interior design, but you’ll be richly rewarded if you gate crash into completely new visual categories you know nothing about.
Try jumping into clothes design boards and look for colors which speak to you. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, try phrases like “scientific art” and “sacred geometry.”
If just one idea in a hundred leaps out of the screen at you, note it down! It’s just one more quirky design possibility. And who knows? It may become the seed of an amazing design path for you to pursue.
The truth is, there’s thousands of tools out there which may bless you with that one golden design idea you’re searching for. Ideas and inspiration come from the oddest of places. However, if you’re going to play it by the numbers, I think these three products represent a fabulous place to begin.
They’re practical without being prescriptive. They’re unusual without being obtuse. Most importantly, they’re great fun to use. Happy designing!