Best design software?

kailuamomNovember 30, 2012

Things have changed in the five years I've been away. I notice lots of lovely layouts, clearly computer generated. What is the best software to use? I'm likely using mostly ikea cabinets, but will have a couple of scherr's custom sizes, so not sure how to make their planner work for my planning purposes.


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Industry standard is 20/20, with Sketch Up also becoming well used for both architects and designers. Chief Architect is also popular. You can play with some layouts using a web based version of 20/20 on the Lowes website, but there isn't a version you can download and use at home. Sketch Up has a free version you can download and there are a lot of tutorials around for it but some people find it difficult to master. Better Homes and Gardens offers a couple of homeowner grade versions of the CA, some starting as cheaply as $100. It's probably the most popular software used on this site because it's relatively easy to learn and versatile.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 9:19AM
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    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 12:06PM
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The design students here are using Revit.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 12:25PM
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20/20 and Chief Architect ("CA") are expensive (thousands initial purchase, hundreds a year after that). A lot of pros use both, because 20/20 does not have CA's capabilities for structural work, but 20/20 is better for cabinetry.

"Home Designer" ("HD") is the brand name for a family of cut-down versions of CA - the more you spend, the more features you get. Cheaper versions of HD can be quite annoying - I worked my way up to the most expensive ("Pro") version - ISTR it costs around $500. The cheapest version is pretty much a toy, IMO - I would recommend starting one or two levels up from that. The good news is that HD has a good trade-up policy, so you can start with the mid-level version and see if you need to spend the extra to step up.

The biggest limitation of HD is that it can't do photo-realistic renderings. It also lacks comprehensive catalogues of cabinets. These factors taken together limit how clear an idea you can get of what your final layout will look like.

I would not call HD especially easy to learn/use - it has a number of quirks that can make a simple task take way too long, stuff like floor/ceiling heights are fiendishly obscure, the only way to get frameless cabinets to come out right is to NOT use the "frameless" construction option, etc.

I got a trial copy of Punch, and rapidly decided it was junk.

If I were building a complete house, I would buy CA; I can't justify the expense for our planned remodeling projects.

You can get trial copies of the various HD versions from the HD web site.

Top tip for HD - SET UP DEFAULTS BEFORE YOU BEGIN (Edit -> Defaults). Sorry for shouting, but if you plunge in and start designing without setting up default materials, styles, measurements, etc. you will be doing WAY too much work.

Here is a link that might be useful: HD web site

This post was edited by PeterH2 on Sat, Dec 1, 12 at 12:46

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 12:44PM
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Revit also costs thousands of dollars.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 12:49PM
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Chief Architect has a free iPad app.
You can find an emulator to use on your computer if you don't have an iPad.

My two cents- I have Chief Architect, 2020, Envisioneer, Sketchup, TurboCad (and a few older CAD programs I no longer use.) Have ProKitchen, AutoKitchen, and even once played with Home Designer for some reason and another home owner product called Floor Plan. Most of these are professional products, expensive with long learning curves (that don't translate one to the other). Getting photo realistic renderings out of any of them takes a bit.
BTW Revit is better suited to commercial Chief to residential and kitchens.

As noted the newer versions of Home Designer have a healthy learning curve as well. Floor Plan was a tad easier is my vague memory of it- it is cheaper.

Now I know how folks around here like control, and that you need to post your plans up here for discussion.

But my take would be- if you are already decent at sketchup, use that. IF not and you are starting from scratch I would suggest you take a clue from how many pros work- we very often start with a pencil and paper.

Get a scale ruler, a triangle, some tracing paper, and an eraser :) Grab a book at the library on drafting, you will only need part of one or two chapters. Short learning curve- you already know how to use a pencil, can pick up the basics of orthographic projection in a few hours, and most of us mastered the eraser at an early age.

Then as you refine your ideas, enlist a pro. Your going to have to go to one of us for your cabinets in the long run. Let them do the perspectives and pretty pictures. But heck, you might give a shot at sketching simple perspectives by hand, very gratifying, lot more fun than cursing at the monitor.

The biggest problems (and the best solutions) in kitchens are in the details- you will have a better understanding of them, be able to expend your energy on design instead of being the family IT person. Drawing by hand will also improve your ability to visualize, thereby making better decisions.
As I write this I have to go back to a detail sketch I was working on since it was faster than solving the problem in Chief.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chief Room Tuto

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 1:29PM
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Thanks for the detailed responses..... I was not planning to spend that much on a drawing of 20 cabinets, 19 of which will be ikea, 1 Scherr's and probably lowers will all have scherr's doors/fronts.

Unfortunately for me, I can't draw a straight line with a ruler on graph paper. Fortunately, I do have an iPad, so I will start looking at chief architect.

The last time I did this, I started with a home depot plan and worked from there. This time, I'm positive I'm not going that route, so need to begin differently.

The exciting part is that last time we went through this birthing process (dont ya think?)I was in Hawaii, where the options were so limited and expensive. This time I feel like there are so many more fun options that I wanted to try before, and now I can!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 3:23PM
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I have been using th iPad version of CA, Room Planner. It's pretty good to give you an idea of what things would look like. Here are a 2d and 3d rendition of my plan.

You can change the color of things. You can change the size of things, though it is very frustrating at times because it jumps sizes a lot. I find that enlarging the item a lot makes it a bit easier. You cannot adjust heights. You cannot adjust styles, those glass uppers are not what I want, but it's how they appear and it's good enough to get an idea of what the layout is like. You cannot import patterns, textures, or color swatches to "paint" onto the objects.

But, you can play with the layout all you want instantly, without waiting for your designer to email back to you. And it's easy to try things out. That said, it would be frustrating to spitball ideas with this. You are far better off starting on paper, then taking the time to use the software when you have something promising. Just draw one really nice outline of the room in graph paper with all dimensions and windows, etc labeled, but NO cabinets or appliances. Then make about 50 photocopies to draft on. It goes much quicker when you have a template to start with.

Btw, to get my shape kitchen, I had to start with the L shape. You can't add walls to a square room, hence my utility closet is just a tall object stuck in the corner.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 4:25PM
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Thanks - that was super helpful!

I wish I took your graph paper advise last week! I love the idea, it seems so obvious, but I didn't think of it before I added cabinets.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 5:10PM
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Kailuamom- just use trace over your existing layout to redraw- we get a 12" wide roll of "yellow trace" at art store, (cheap)tear it off (literally) as needed. Hold down with drafting tape which is easy to remove.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 5:34PM
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I need to find that app! - thanks williamsen!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 6:09PM
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> enlist a pro. Your going to have to go to one of us for your cabinets in the long run.

Err, no. I don't see a net benefit in involving a KD in our project, and we plan to get our cabinets direct from someone like Scherrs. From what I have seen here, I am far from the only one; indeed, the OP appears to be avoiding the KD path.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 6:12PM
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Lowe's and IKEA have pretty nice basic, free planners that include a 3D feature.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 8:26PM
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Room Planner is free too.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 9:56PM
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You could use the ikea planner and just put a cabinet + filler to fill in the odd space where the scherrs cabinet will go. I hate the ikea planner, but the folks at ikeafans can tell you how to make it do what you need.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 10:26AM
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I will start with the app, since I have my iPad with me when Im working on the kitchen. The ikea planner doesn't work on my iPad, so it's my second choice, but hadn't thought of just adding filler to get my size. Thanks.

PeterH2- you are correct, we aren't going the designer route this time. After going through one gut kitchen remodel, I learned a ton. Learned what I needed and what I didn't from the designer. This is a straightforward small space. I need to keep the cost down, so will be mostly DIY.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 10:39AM
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Ok, been playing with room planner and LOVE IT! I can't find the kitchen sink that I see in your drawing, but otherwise have put together my prelim plan in about half an hour.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 1:29PM
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Most people can change their own oil in their car if they are at all remotely handy. Some could even venture to diagnose why it was making a certain sound. Very darn few will have the knowledge and ability to repair their own transmissions or replace a fuel pump. The knowledge is just too esoteric, even if you have driven a car every day for 40 years. It takes a specialist.

Using a designer doesn't add to costs. In fact, it can save you a lot of money. They know all of the cost effective ways of putting together cabinetry to get the look you want. There are so many choices that you don't know what you don't know, and you have no idea what's you're missing by getting the input from someone who's done this hundreds of times before. Even a small semi-custom cabinet line has a spec book with thousands of choices in it. There just is no way that any lay person will be able to fully utilize the capacity of a cabinet line, while still being mindful of a budget, without having that specialized knowledge.

Using a designer is not an adversarial relationship. It's a collaboration that lets your kitchen be more yours than you ever thought possible.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 4:42PM
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> Using a designer doesn't add to costs. In fact, it can save you a lot of money.

Says the person with a huge vested interest in having people use professional KDs. I think that a thread centred on IKEA & Scherr's cabinets is probably not the best place to try to sell that idea.

This forum has showcased many very successful DIY designs. It's pretty arrogant to imagine that all those projects would have had better cost+feature results with your assistance.

All that said, I think the vast majority of people should get professional assistance with their kitchen remodeling projects. But I, like the OP and many others here, am not in that group.

I very carefully said I didn't see a net benefit to using a KD, not no benefit. I'm sure a KD would bring some interesting/useful ideas and information to our project, but I don't believe those benefits would justify the substantial additional cost in both money and time.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 5:22PM
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Since i am ABSOLUTELY getting Ikea cabinets, how can you say a designer won't add to the cost? Its cabinet commission or a fee, right? My last kitchen redo, was much more complicated AND I hadn't done it before. I paid a designer on a fee basis since I didn't want to change designers if I wanted a different line. It was fine, and I learned a LOT!

My new "old" house is as basic as they get. I have just about two alternate layouts, depending on how much kitchen seating I want. I want to purchase and assemble my own cabinets because this time I have more time than money (not living there yet, probably not until next Fall). Last time we lived in Hawaii and RTA wasn't an option. Even then, I researched like mad and sourced most of my materials, still saving money.

Frankly, last time going through this, I had learned so much here that I drove my designer crazy, and kept catching the cabinet guy's mistakes.

All of that said, there is huge value in using a KD. Just not this time, for this house for this homeowner.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 8:26PM
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Just wanted to add that ikeas design software doesn't support windows 8. :(

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 3:35AM
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yes found that out lol

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 9:20AM
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Speaking about professionals, I once went to a design-build firm for my hall bath remodel. All I told them was updating fixtures and re-tile the room, install new vanity and lighting. I have $8000 cash available to start. after I told a young women my budge all she said is that was not enough and turned away from me . we did that bathroom ourselves. Now I am doing master bed/bath/closet, I am DIY again with the help of GW.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 7:14PM
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Hi all.

I read through the post so didn't want to start a new thread with a similar question but I was wondering if someone tell me the best free web-based program to re-create a challenging part of my kitchen. (Tried to load photo but didn't work)... (Sketch-up crashed my computer & I'm too low on disk space anyway).
MyDeco appears to be a great program (just look at the rooms some have done!), but after spending a ton of time using it, I learned that it doesn't let you do half walls/pony walls or stairs to a lower level so I couldn't re-create the landing area by my back door. Another program I tried (forgot which) had too many bugs and wouldn't allow you to delete or move a wall if you made a mistake.
Sorry...I wouldn't have started this post without my photo but I'll add it when I get can see it here though...
If you click on the tiny picture, it will open bigger...sorry!
Basically need to know if anyone has come across a program that is easy to do a split level like this and includes 1/2 walls?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 4:56PM
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Has anyone tried this Virtual Planning Tool?

Here is a link that might be useful: Virtual Planning Tool

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 6:28PM
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i used better homes and gardens. it is cheap and pretty easy to use. i dont think a pro would use it, but it was good enough for me.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 1:19AM
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The best software money is Sketch Up. For the production is undoubtedly the Production Module software only $ 65

Here is a link that might be useful: Module Production

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 1:52PM
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