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Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Tech Tools for Home and Garden Design

Many older adults have been forced to nest at home along with everyone else during the pandemic, spawning a wave of home improvement projects. App developers have responded with a variety of do-it-yourself tools.

Whether it’s a Japanese garden in a corner of the backyard or a full kitchen remodel, homeowners are updating their houses and landscapes like never before. It’s not surprising that seniors are a large part of this trend; 76.2% of households aged 50 and up own their own homes, according to a 2018 study. But there is no need to get out a pad of paper and a pencil to sketch out your design when there is a plethora of apps, many of them free, to help consumers visualize results.

Using these apps is largely intuitive, so seniors without a ton of computer savvy can still master them. It’s a huge help (and lots of fun!) to get started with the online tutorials to learn how to find your way around before digging into your project. It is addictive: some of these apps are the same ones professionals use, and your results will be startlingly realistic. It’s possible to create a file for different projects/rooms. You may find yourself playing with them even if you have no intention of an actual makeover, just to flex your interior designer muscles. Let’s look at some of the best tools, split into apps for inside your home and those for outdoor areas.

Home Layout and Design

  • Houzz can help you choose a new rug or redo every room in your home from ceiling to floor. It has a huge selection of furnishings, accessories, and lighting, as well as a photo gallery for inspiration. Even better, you can share your ideas with the Houzz community to get feedback and suggestions and even find a design professional on the site. Use Houzz for your outside areas too by uploading plant photos into your space.
  • Roomstyler 3D Home Planner has an extensive library of tutorials, but it is so easy to use you may not need them. Create a roomful of furnishings in just minutes using actual products from real brands - if you decide you want to purchase one or an entire room’s worth, it’s simple.
  • HomeByMe is completely free. You start by setting up your floorplan in 2D, then switch to 3D to add furnishings, which are actual pieces available from a variety of retailers. 
  • SmartDraw is a robust planning tool that allows users to investigate an endless variety of building materials and furnishings in thousands of possible templates and floor plan examples. It’s only free for seven days, so use that time wisely to decide if it’s worth it to ante up the $9.95 monthly fee.
  • Floorplanner offers a free demo of their design and decorating app. Like many other tools, you’ll start in 3D for the floorplan and switch to 3D for interior design. It’s simple to use for people who want to avoid a steep learning curve.
  • SketchUp is so much fun, you really should try it out. There is a free version for hobbyists that is so immersive you’ll feel like you are moving through your new home. Because SketchUp is 3D modeling software, artistic types can use it to create plants, patios, and water features in an outdoor environment.

Nearly every retailer of furniture and/or appliances provides a free design app for customers, including Home Depot, Lowes, and Ikea. These work well if you will be buying all of your products from the same store. 

Garden Layout and Design

  • Garden Planner is affiliated with The Old Farmer’s Almanac, and it not only creates a square-foot vegetable/flower garden plan but gives planting and harvesting dates for every plant. 
  • Home Design 3D Outdoor and Garden creates realistic 3D designs of your outdoor spaces including patios, sheds, and gardens. It enables you to introduce products and design elements, and you can share them with friends. There is a limited free version, while a paid variation costing $6.99 to $19.99 offers upgrades and the ability to import and export projects.
  • Home Outside allows you to create professional-looking CAD-type designs with tap-and-drag technology. The cost is $2.99, and if you want to improve your skills, the company will send landscape and garden design sessions for $99 each.
  • iScape works with Apple products, including the iPad, to create visually realistic designs that you can share with others. It’s easy to use, and free for hobby users. It’s the number one app for landscape design.
  • Planter is unique in that it helps you optimize growing conditions for the plants you choose to include in your design. Want to know about frost zones, spacing, or the best companion plants? Planter has you covered. Its best use is for vegetable gardeners, and it is free to download.