Getting a new kitchen installed is an expensive proposition, so it makes sense to do as much research as possible before you hand over any money to the kitchen designer. Visiting a show-room to see a pre-built kitchen can give you some idea of what the fixtures and fittings look like, but it’s hard to beat seeing them in your own home.
Using 3D visualization software is a good way to visualize what your new kitchen would look like in your home, and gives you the chance to play with different colour schemes and layouts without having to spend time and money on re-decorating your kitchen for real. It’s a good idea to have an idea of what you want your kitchen to look like before you start ordering parts for it. Designing a kitchen on a computer, and then sharing that design with the copy that fits your new kitchen, is a good way to prevent misunderstandings and ensure you get the kitchen you want.
There are many online kitchen design tools that are free-to-use and ideal for doing quick and easy tests of your ideas. These tools should run on almost any internet-connection capable computer and do not require large downloads or complex installation processes.
Ikea’s 3D Kitchen Planner is an easy to use kitchen design tool designed for use in modern browsers. The tool comes in the form of a browser extension, which must be downloaded and installed. This means that the tool will not work on most office computers or computers in public libraries and Internet cafes, where the ability to install extensions is disabled. In addition, the tool requires a minimum screen resolution of 1024×768, so it will not work on most netbooks.
Those minor technical issues aside, it is an easy-to-use drag and drop tool, and all of the items in the tool’s directory are items from the Ikea catalog, so it’s easy to build your dream kitchen, then get a shopping list (complete with prices) from the “Your Selected Items” list.
You can use the tool without creating an account, however to take full advantage of the ordering and customer service options, you should register before you build your kitchen.
The Easy Planner 3D app is a Java-based app which runs inside your browser. The app is free to use, and no registration or login details are required. All you need to run this app is a modern browser, and the latest version of Java.
The Easy Planner 3D app lets you choose from a range of basic room templates, or create a new room from scratch. You can edit the room, change the furniture, try different paint colors and even change your tiles and splash-backs. The app is quite easy to use, however some users (in particular those with older operating systems) may struggle to get Java working correctly.
Autodesk HomeStyler is a 3D and 2D room planning app that should work in almost any web browser. The app is powered by Flash, which is something that most people will already have installed on their computers. This app is incredibly good looking and the 3D features are quite impressive, allowing you to pan, zoom and rotate the camera to get a good view of your new room layout.
The app allows you to define one or more rooms, set their shape and decorate them with a selection of the most popular items, including common fridge, dishwasher, microwave and sink designs. You can also change the colour and pattern of your floor, counter and walls.
Autodesk HomeStyler has a good range of options and allows for some sophisticated customization of your rooms, however, the app can run quite sluggishly, especially the first time you use it. It takes a while to move between categories for the first time, and loading 3D mode can also be slow. In addition, there are many customizations which can only be made in 2D mode, so if you want to view your kitchen as you customize it, you will find yourself swapping between 3D and 2D mode quite frequently to make adjustments.
4. My Deco
MyDeco is a free-to-use, browser based 3D and 2D home planning application that supports almost any room in the house. The app works in most browsers, and you can use it without creating an account. However, if you do register an account you can share your home designs with friends, save them for later, and post designs to social networks.
The interesting thing about My Deco is that it has thousands of items to choose from, ranging from counters and cabinets to smaller vases, posters and lamps. All of these items are real products, so if you like how they look, you should be able to find the real-world versions of the items online.
Having thousands of products to choose from could be seen as a downside, however. It takes a long time for My Deco to load its product listings, even if you have a broadband connection. It’s worth the wait, but it would be nice to have the option of loading only the basics the first time you load up the app.
Homebase does offer the option to schedule a design appointment from within the app, which is a nice bonus for someone who has almost finished their design and is ready to buy.
Browser-based tools are a good option for trying out new ideas, but they are not as sophisticated as traditional 3D home design applications. If you decide that you want to do a complete re-design of your kitchen, and you want to use unusually sized cabinets, or have a bespoke kitchen made, consider investing in a traditional suite such as one of the lower-end Chief Architect packages or Total Home Designer. These packages should run more quickly, be more stable, and offer more sophisticated customization options than their browser-based counterparts.