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Furniture design software can help with strategizing, purchasing, and/or building the best items to furnish your home, whether you want to build a table from scratch or see how a store-bought couch might look in your new living room.
The best furniture design software depends largely on what you’re using it for. The top software for hobbyists looking to DIY a piece of furniture won’t be the number one choice for someone seeking assistance in purchasing a living room set that fits their new space, and the top professional furniture design software won’t be a fit for beginners looking to try out furniture design for the first time. Still, any great furniture design software should have good reviews, a wide number of functions, and good value for the cost.
Best Overall: SketchUp
Why We Chose It: SketchUp’s ease of use, range of affordable pricing plans, and capability to provide value in a wide variety of projects make it a top choice for beginners and experts alike, making it our top choice.
Free version available
Robust support forum
Slightly different workflow than other design software
The bottom two tiers do not offer a desktop app
SketchUp has been building its reputation as top design software for nearly two decades, offering the opportunity to efficiently plan and visualize small- and large-scale three-dimensional projects to amateurs and professionals alike. Reviewers praise the app’s ease of use, especially for users who are approaching design for the first time—even if its structure and workflow may be a little different from its competitors.
In Sketchup’s most basic (and free) version, users can run the company’s core modeler through their web browsers, eliminating the need to download any external software or share credit card details to start creating a new design. Free users also receive 10GB of cloud storage, access to a wealth of free 3D models, and the ability to preview designs on their mobile devices.
Still, if you upgrade to SketchUp Shop for about $120 per year, you’ll cash in on unlimited cloud storage and other perks, like the ability to upload your own custom photos and textures to better visualize your work. The second paid tier, SketchUp Pro for about $299 per year, offers a desktop app for easier use. Industrious users can pay nearly $700 per year for the software’s most advanced offering, SketchUp Studio.
To ask questions about using the platform, you can contact customer support by filling out a ticket online, but for faster results, many common questions can be answered in the app’s robust and active community forum. The software is known for being user-friendly: It’s certainly an easy application to pick up quickly, and a perfect opportunity to expose a curious beginner to online design. Some aspects of the app, such as its toolbars and menus, are customizable, enabling users to add or delete commands depending on how often they’re in use.
This tool is best for users who are looking to DIY their own three-dimensional project as well as professionals who are looking to streamline their design workflow. Consider Sketchup for furniture design, developing and visualizing a floor plan, or sketching a larger three-dimensional project.
Best for Woodworking: Sketchlist
Why We Chose It: Sketchlist offers tools that provide specific value to woodworkers, from cut lists and shop drawings to material layout diagrams and photo renderings.
Easy to use
Specific tools for woodworking
High price point for casual users
No in-browser option
While many different software options exist to help professional designers and DIYers build furniture, Sketchlist offers software specifically for woodworking. Reviewers rave about how much easier the software makes woodworking jobs, from settling on a design to pricing out materials and making exact cuts. Sketchlist’s virtual three-dimensional boards can replicate the tools and materials you already have in your shop, and users can visualize board shape, joinery, and even countertops with just a few clicks. Expect to come away from the design process with a detailed material list—cutting measurements and all—as well as a clear design.
The most basic package, Sketchlist Hobby, comes with a one-time cost of about $200. For more advanced features—a customizable interface, part list generator, the ability to import photos, and more—users should invest in the more expensive Sketchlist Pro. Sketchlist Hobby customers can learn more about the software through blog posts, video tutorials, and a detailed FAQ archive, but support is also accessible via email. Those who purchase Sketchlist Pro can also rely on live support for any troubleshooting—a great perk for professionals who use the tool for their livelihood.
Sketchlist is compatible with Mac and PC desktop computers. The company prides itself on a user-friendly process, so getting started is easy. All users receive a 30-day trial, during which time they can look at tutorials and sample projects to see what kinds of woodworking tasks might fit their skillset or interests. Sketchlist can be used for visualizing rooms and designing cabinetry in addition to planning freestanding furniture projects, but beginners may want to stick to smaller undertakings until they’re more comfortable with the software and the building process.
Best for Professionals: Solidworks
Why We Chose It: Solidworks is a top-of-the-line software option with a wealth of capabilities for anyone designing three-dimensional products—furniture or otherwise.
One of the most revered names in design software
Extremely advanced software with many capabilities
Not wholly compatible with Mac OS
Can be very expensive
Not for beginners
In business for more than two decades, Solidworks helps users design any kind of three-dimensional product using whatever set of parameters they wish. Plenty of professionals use Solidworks, and for good reason: It offers top-notch visualization features, workflow assistance, and time-saving functional tools, like the ability to produce a full cut list for materials.
Solidworks is continuously held up as an ideal program for modeling and parametric design, although most users concede that there is a high level of skill and/or practice needed to use the software efficiently. It is not a good app for beginners or hobbyists, and would likely be the best fit for students or professionals who hope to make a career in some form of three-dimensional design.
The system settings and functionality of the app are highly customizable. Still, for all the rave reviews this software has earned from professional engineers and designers, its high satisfaction may come with a high price tag. The software pricing is available by request only, although discounts are generally available for students and members of some professional networking groups. Customer support is available via chat, phone, email, and social media.
Best for Interior Design: Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design
Why We Chose It: With its point-and-click functionality, photo upload capability, and expansive 3D image library, Virtual Architect should be a top contender for anyone mulling over a major redesign or large series of furniture purchases.
Easy to use
Upload your own photos
Handle any design project or renovation
Paid phone support
Compatible with Windows only
Sold by Nova Development, a company founded in 1984, Virtual Architect has emerged as one of the top software choices for interior design thanks to its point-and-click features, photo upload capability, and enormous 3D graphic library. Users rave about how quickly the software is to master, with many using it to recreate their existing home and preview major renovations or design changes before embarking on a project.
Some of Virtual Architect's main features include its “wizard-driven interface,” which offers lightning-fast changes to your designs, and its enhanced three-dimensional technology, which can create incredibly realistic models. To use Virtual Architect, you simply point and click to change aspects of a model, drawing from imported photos or elements found in the app’s extensive 3D library.
Some customer support is available for free via email, but to access support by phone, users must purchase a “support code”—one for about $10 or three for around $20. Aside from costly customer support, Virtual Architect’s other major drawbacks are compatibility—it’s only available for Windows—and the lack of any free trial.
The software is relatively affordable at about $100, and its ease of use justifies the expense for any user planning major design changes at home or a professional looking to streamline the design process at work. It’s also cheaper than hiring a professional, although you’ll lose out on the style advice, institutional expertise, and potential savings on furnishings that can come when you work with a professional interior designer. Overall, Virtual Architect is great for projects that involve major renovations, total redesigns, or purchasing lots of furniture.
Best for Room Design: HomeByMe
Why We Chose It: With a sliding scale of affordable subscriptions and the option to have the company draw up a three-dimensional model of your home, HomeByMe is the perfect application to help you visualize a room for design or furnishing purposes.
Free and low-cost design solutions
Option to work with interior designer
Browser and mobile app
Not particularly advanced
Free option limits the number of projects allowed
Users hoping to get a simple, straightforward look at the layout of their room or home should look no further than HomeByMe, a free (or low-cost) option that allows you to test out new floor plans, colors, and styles. Reviewers are commonly surprised at the low price of the app for all that it can do, and many users comment on how easy it is to preview new furniture, decorations, or paint colors in their own homes with lifelike accuracy.
HomeByMe is available via browser and mobile app and commonly receives praise for its ease of use. HomeByMe’s primary features involve interior design, whether you’re working on a floor plan or looking for new furniture to add personality to a space. While the program itself is technically free, users can pay more to get additional services—the best of which might be the option to have HomeByMe transform your floorplan into a three-dimensional rendering in just three business days or less.
The user interface is pretty straightforward and doesn’t have many highly customizable bells and whistles, and customer support is available via online form or email. But don’t let its simplicity fool you: Plenty of professional designers pay about $30 per month for the program’s “Unlimited” offering, which allows for as many simultaneous projects and realistic renderings as a user wants—and lets them have professional usage rights to the images.
To use the program, first sketch out a two-dimensional floor plan of your home. Then, easily turn it into a 3D plan to add furnishings and test out new touches. You can browse HomeByMe’s catalog to add new items to the model or enlist the help of the company’s designers for a small fee. Using HomeByMe to help furnish your space is going to be a much more DIY experience than working in-person with an interior designer, but it could be a great fit for those who want the option of design assistance while mostly moving forward independently.
There are lots of options when it comes to furniture design software, and the best choice depends entirely on how you’re planning to use it. Some programs, like those offered by HomeByMe and Virtual Architect, offer low-cost ways for users to visualize different furniture and finishings in a room or space. Others, like Sketchlist, allow users to design their own furniture, with solutions that help them source exactly the materials needed for a job. The software that came out as the best overall, though, was SketchUp.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does Furniture Design Software Cost?
Furniture design software can be free (for no-cost in-browser programs online) to thousands of dollars per year (for professional-grade design programs).
Is Furniture Design Software Easy to Use?
Furniture design software is generally quite easy to use. There are many tutorials available—especially on YouTube—that can guide you through your first few projects on almost any software you choose. Still, some software programs have a steep learning curve, so consider testing out your skills with a free trial before committing to a purchase.
Is Furniture Design Software Worth It?
If you’re working on a single DIY project or taking up woodworking as a hobby, free and low-cost furniture design software can save you money in the long run, especially when you consider the high cost of lumber and other materials. Knowing exactly what supplies you need to purchase can also save you time. More expensive design software, like that of Solidworks, may not be worth it unless you are a student or professional pursuing a full-time career in design. Ultimately, you will need to weigh the cost of the project(s) you have in mind with the cost of the design program.
To choose the best furniture design software, we considered programs with two different overarching purposes: building furniture and arranging furniture.
We considered which program would be the best for various needs, from woodworking to room design, and also highlighted industry leaders in the furniture design space—even if they are too expensive for the average hobbyist to consider. We also looked for providers with a large number of positive reviews and a long history of consistency.