Use these room planning tools to test ideas before committing to a zebra-striped dance den

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Let’s jam on online design tools — you know, those web apps you can use to help you layout your furniture or visualize your wall color — they’re SUPER helpful when you’re planning decor, even though they seem completely boring at first blush. I know Homies can make good use of boring tools — how else are you going to figure out how to make your furry bean bag collection compliment a bright pink Space Invaders wall?

There are a number of planners on the web, and I’ve taken a test drive with five of them so you don’t have to.

A planner with flexible, interchangeable options

Raymour & Flanigan makes an interactive design planner loaded with the brands of furniture they carry.

Want to be the tenant who adds a quirky bathtub to your living room? We do that.

The branded furniture is less interesting than the overall flexibility of the tool. Raymour & Flanigan’s planner also provides less-descript furniture icons so you can plan around the bright green chair you’ve already got. The tool has options for creating a room from scratch, to your dimensions and shapes — including floor patterns, plumbing fixtures, doorways, and accessories like plants and even laptops.

Go all out with Google SketchUp

True to Google style, SketchUp is reported to be super easy to use — the easiest 3D rendering program out there. A post on Kamlau has the best possible walk-through with an incredible example of a rendering brought to life.

Panic-free paint choices

Sherwin Williams’ planner is slick and easy, and they’re my personal choice for the best paint out there.

If only my bathroom was this big. Protip: be sure to load in trim and accent colors, found at the bottom of the image.

Sherwin-Williams stores have extremely knowledgeable sales staff and the paint covers like mad. The planner is just as good as the in-store experience — pick a color you like the gist of, apply it to an imaginary wall and the site instantly loads options for you: lighter? Darker? More orange? Companion colors? All easy to find and apply.

I haven’t tried uploading my own photo — give it a go for yourself and let us know how it goes.

Don’t waste your time on these:

Better Homes & Gardens

You’d think BHG could make a better planner. Their program is very similar to Raymour & Flanigan, but jankier.

I call this creation 'the crappy bedroom under the stairs.' Note the lack of a door: I wasn't able to move a door into the correct position.

The controls are difficult and design options are limited. When you need to plan a room, ignore Better Homes’ brand name and visit Raymour & Flanigan instead.

Lowe’s Home Improvement

Enter if you dare, but I couldn’t get Lowe’s planner to load at all: neither in Chrome nor Internet Explorer.

Thanks to Homie Amanda for getting us started on this post. I’m totally feeling more prepared to tackle our very empty house. If you make a shareworthy mock-up, link it in the comments or upload it to the Offbeat Home Flickr group. Happy designing!

Comments on Use these room planning tools to test ideas before committing to a zebra-striped dance den

  1. To be honest I’ve always resorted to using The Sims, but these might just be better options. (More flexible/realistic anyway.)

    Although it did prove to be suprisingly effective when looking for a new flat. Hardly any of them had measurements online, but I found it was possible to estimate how many Sims squares across each room would be from clues like windows and sofa’s which allowed for some comparison.

    • What’s worrying is when you do that and then discover that the flat is too small for a Sim to live in!

      Do any of those planners cope well with rooms with chimney breasts jutting out or the odd diagonal wall? All the planners I’ve tried so far fail miserably unless the room is a “normal” rectangle and that shape just doesn’t exist in a period house! Actually, I tell a lie, the porch area inside the front door that we share with the downstairs flat is a regular shape and I think their kitchen is, but that’s it!

      • I’m not sure if it’s just because I grew up in a house like that but I’ve always liked period houses that have clearly been re-done a million times. All the random bits and angles make it more interesting and some how I have an easier time deciding what to do with it than when starting from a blank rectangle.

        It is a pain for any kind of planning though, with or without computer software.

  2. I gotta say – I’m a Benjamin Moore girl. Love the quality, thickness, low/no VOC options for decent prices and coverage of the paint (you can often get away with just 1 coat – awesome for lazy painters like me!). My dad has been painting houses as a side job for the last 10 years and tried all the brands. He now only uses Benjamin Moore.

    If you’re planning an IKEA kitchen or even just thinking of one, there’s an online IKEA kitchen planner – it’s annoying and buggy but gets you there in the end.

  3. I haven’t gotten to play with the Sherwin Williams tool yet (SO GOING TO) but the Behr tool offers color combination suggestions along with your selections and lets you color up example rooms in pretty basic ways. roll over “Find Your Color” click on “Launch ColorSmart by Behr”

      • Sometimes paint coverage can just depend on the color you are using. Reds and yellows seem to have more trouble than other colors. (According to my grandpa who used to paint stuff for a living) I have never used Behr though…

      • I’ve always used Behr, and I get great coverage… weird. Their new paint-and-primer-in-1 covered the serial-killer-red walls the last tenant had left all over my house in one coat. (And my paint-over color was pretty light.)

        Although I have to admit the main reason I use Behr is their online ColorSmart planner – and it doesn’t do have the things it looks like Sherman Williams can do! So now I’m off to spend the rest of my day on the SW site 🙂 This might be bye-bye Behr….

      • BEHR Paint was the FIRST to put work into their test labs to come up with including Primer into their paints and they are SUPER!!! IF I hire someone to paint a condo, I ask for his estimate, then I say, I WILL buy the paint, now what is your estimate? When I die, I trust my family won’t let me go without one gallon of Behr paint. You never know when you will need it? If there is a snow storm predicted, some people go out and buy milk/bread.I buy BEHR paint to do two rooms. Then I know I will be fine, not looking out at the stormy skies. Such a Deal! Elnyr

  4. If you can find a really good similar layout tool for planning a garden, I’d be really happy. I hate all the ones I’ve come across so far… they are limited and/or product-based (this includes the BH&G one.)

  5. In terms of software, I had some difficulty with PUNCH! Software, but I think they’ve ironed out kinks in the past few years. I’ve heard good things about HGTV’s software, as well as Chief Architect Software (found at but I have yet to try either – $100 is a little steep for someone who only wants to dream about interior design.

    Of the free software out there, I think there’s more of a learning curve to SketchUp than most people think – it’s user-friendly to someone who’s familiar with CAD, but it’s not exactly helpful if you don’t know much about 3-D design software. You can search Google’s database of user-created furniture, and put those items in a room, but if you don’t know how to make a room, it can be difficult – plus, the furniture you find can be a crapshoot.

    I am happiest so far, for value, with AutoDesk’s free online designer, called “Homestyler” at It comes with both branded and unbranded products.

    A number of product websites will let you “try out” their products in a beautifully neat photo of a room they supply (I really like the rooms they supply at Armstrong Flooring’s website). I believe, though, that Behr Paint will let you use photos of YOUR house.

  6. I didn’t have any issue with loading the Lowe’s software in Firefox. It’s a bit limited in the types of rooms you can fiddles with (bathroom, laundry room, or kitchen) but it does a good job for those rooms. You can dictate room size and shape, opt for a 3D or 2D top or side view, fill it with appliances and counters, then decorate. Shame my bathroom and kitchen aren’t what I have to redo.

  7. and once you have your room planned out you HAVE to rearrange all the furniture to ensure you can cover and block every door and window with heavy furniture incase of ZOMBIE ATTACK!!!!!!!!!!
    (i actually did this on the mybobs room planner and my husband laughed at me sooooo hard)

  8. Thanks for posting!!! I literally just got done using the Icovia planner (after seeing the link here!) to prove that we CAN fit every piece of furniture into an apartment we’re looking at moving into 😀

  9. !!!!

    I am the kind of person who will measure everything and then make ‘to scale’ graph paper cut outs of all my furniture so I can move it around the ‘room’ in different arrangements. Like, for weeks before I move… So when I found this site that lets you do all of that online for free?! Needless to say I was in heaven. You can make angled walls and customize the furniture dimensions and colour. The site was originally meant to make actual floor plans so the wall thickness is calculated as well which makes it much more realistic. Ermagerd! Try it!! 😀

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