Using Tech for Living Space: 5 Apps to Improve Your Design Chops

Interior Design
Sunshine Drapery sliding glass doors window treatment

There’s a whole wide world of tech out there and if you aren’t using it to improve your living space, you’re missing out. From home automation -- including motorized window treatments you can control via a central app on your smartphone -- to applications and programs that let you visualize your space in an entirely different decor style, the technology that was only a dream 10 years ago is making our everyday lives easier, simpler and more accessible.

Smarter Homes

Smart home technology is the umbrella term for responsive fixtures, treatments, and furnishings that respond to your commands via remote control or using apps on your computer, cell phone or other mobile devices. Sometimes called home automation, these technological wonders streamline your everyday life, but the prospect of automating your home can be daunting. Motorized window treatments are an easy introduction to streamlining your home using technology. Motorized window treatments have been around for quite some time. The shades, blinds and even motorized curtains of the past featured bulky mechanical components and were only somewhat more convenient than their non-motorized counterparts. Today’s motorized window treatments make use of infrared signals to open and close the shades, blinds and draperies that you choose to adorn your windows. Some models operate with a dedicated remote control, while other models can be controlled by an application installed on your smartphone, tablet, computer or other mobile devices. Not only do today’s tech-friendly window treatments make for a safer environment, eliminating the worry of a small child or pet getting caught in cords, but they also make homes more accessible for the elderly, the disabled and the mobility-impaired. Motorized window treatments are just one way of automating a home for safety and accessibility, and can be a great way to get comfortable with the idea of controlling your lighting, heat, appliances and features with just the click of a button.

Design Technology

If you’re having trouble imagining your room with a certain window treatment, your professional interior designers can show you a digital mockup of your room with your chosen window treatment on a mobile tablet. By taking a picture of the room and adding the visual of your chosen window treatments, you can see right away what each option will look like in your home. But what if you’re not too sure you want to keep the room as is? That’s okay! Design tech -- specifically mobile apps that allow you to capture an image of your room and change the color, furnishings, window treatments and even architecture are available to help you improve your design chops. If you’re not sure where to begin, here’s just five that are worth your time and effort.
  1. HomeStyler Interior Design

This app is arguably the mother of all interior design apps. It allows you to take a photo of your room and then superimpose 3-D images of real products onto the picture, to scale. It takes the guesswork and heavy lifting out of the design process: no longer will you have to arrange and rearrange that cumbersome couch to see if it looks better up against the wall or angled to a corner. And if you’re hankering for a complete makeover of your space, the HomeStyler app lets you search out just the right products and actually see what they would look like -- and if they fit! -- in your space. The app also allows you to save your designs, browse other designs and hook up with local pros who can help bring your dream to life -- including sourcing the furniture, fixtures and decor you’ve used in your design or enlisting help for larger projects. The Easyhome Homestyler App is available for both iOS and Android for free. There’s also a handy in-browser version available for those who find working from their computer easier.
  1. Houzz

Houzz is one of the big names in interior design inspiration, and rightfully so. With their mobile design app, free for Android and iOS devices, you can browse thousands of images for inspiration. But it’s not just a source for eye-candy: from the app, you can also shop directly for the products you like, so if you see an easy chair that’s perfect for your living room, there’s no need to go on a wild goose chase for it. You can also link up with like-minded DIYers to get advice on your projects as well as get in touch with local professionals for help with more elaborate projects. The app also offers interior design tips, handy tutorials and even home remodel success stories from those who pulled off the looks you love. If you’re not inclined to use the mobile app, you can also browse most of the offerings on their website from your computer.
  1. Magic Plan

Are you one of those people who can never find a tape measure when you need to? Or maybe you find the idea of taking detailed measurements of every room tedious and boring. The Magic Plan app does all the work for you. Simply take a snapshot of your room and the app will calculate the dimensions for you. By using the app, you can have a nearly accurate floor plan of your room in minutes. Having this information on-hand is invaluable for any number of projects, from interior design right on up to a complete home remodel. By having your floor plan ready to go, you’ll never need to worry if you’ve bought enough paint to cover a room and can supply your window treatment professionals and general contractors with accurate measurements right from the very first phone call. The app is available on iOS and Android devices that have a gyroscope built in (not all do, so take a look at your phone or tablet specs before downloading the app.) Magic Plan offers a free version of the app which allows you to create plans. For more advanced features -- mostly those needed by professionals -- paid plans starting at 3.99 CAD per plan or 12.25-24.50 CAD per month -- billed yearly or monthly -- are available.
  1. MyPantone

The MyPantone app is an absolute asset whether you love or loathe playing with color. If you love the color, it’s the perfect app to let your creativity loose. If you can’t stand figuring out the intricacies of color theory, the app cuts down on frustration. It takes the guesswork out of what hue and shade a color is and gives you an accurate way to communicate your color needs to your designers and stylists. The app gives users access to the complete Pantone color library and can identify any shade in sRGB, HTML or L*a*b format, as well as the official Pantone name of the color and its identifier. As if all that weren’t enough, you can also use the app to isolate colors from a photo and get their exact shade correct. If you really love a color, you can also use the app to build a complete color palette around it -- letting you paint and decorate your space with ease. The app is available on iOS and Android. The Android version costs $7.99, while the iOS version is free to download, but its capabilities are more limited and require in-app purchases to unlock the full accessibility.
  1. iHandy Carpenter

If you’re a weekend warrior rather than a professional, chances are pretty good your toolkit isn’t stocked with all the tools you’ll need to embark on an interior design project -- and that’s okay! The iHandy Carpenter App by iHandy Software brings five valuable tools right to your cell phone or mobile device. This app grants you access to a plumb bob, a surface level and a bubble level bar to ensure your surfaces and lines are even. Once the levels are calibrated, you can also use then as inclinometers/clinometers to measure the angle of a slope or elevation change, too. The iHandy Carpenter app also includes a steel protractor to make measuring angles a breeze and a ruler that supports both inches and centimeters and enables swiping to measure things far larger than your phone -- handy in a pinch to stand in for those tape measures that always seem to run off! The app is available for iOS for $2.99 and Android devices for $1.99, and while some users have had trouble calibrating the measurements on the app, the price is such that it’s worth not having to run to the hardware store in the middle of a project or buying a tool you’ll only use once.

Using Tech to Improve Your Living Space and Interior Design in Home

Whether you’re working on a DIY project or enlisting the help of a professional designer, technology can make the process smoother. From visualizing new window treatments, sourcing new furniture or hanging art on your walls so it hangs level, technology can make every step of the process easier. And for everyday life after your project is done, smart technology, home automation, and responsive fixtures can make life simpler, more accessible and clutter- and hassle-free.
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