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Lifewire / Jeffrey Daniel Chadwick
Anyone can use it
Imports existing blueprints
Less than $20
Very small object library
Limited outdoor design tools
Sweet Home 3D is a decent program to start your home design journey. It’s simple and cheap, so there’s not a lot of risk to trying it out, but you won’t be able to make anything too complicated.
Sweet Home 3D is a great entry-level program for people who want to design their own home. It’s a simple, one-window application that allows anyone, regardless of design experience to create a home plan in just a few minutes. However, this program doesn’t deliver the heft and depth required to make an actual, buildable plan for your home. Sweet Home 3D is where you start your home design journey, but unless you just want to treat it as a fun game it shouldn’t be where you stay.
The Sweet Home 3D interface is one window divided into four panes: The furniture catalog and home plan are on top while the furniture list and the 3D view are on the bottom. The simplicity of this layout is convenient because it gives you immediate access to all the program’s tools. However, it can be frustrating because while you can resize and collapse individual panes, you can’t rearrange them or pop them out. This often results in a wonky workflow.
The Home Plan pane is pinned in the upper left quadrant of the interface. This is where you’re going to do most of your work. The tool ribbon at the top of the window has all the basic design tools you need. And when you click on them, a tip window pops up explaining exactly how to use them. So, before you even lay down your first wall or form a room, you know you’re doing it right.
Sweet Home 3D is where you start your home design journey, but unless you just want to treat it as a fun game it shouldn’t be where you stay.
Right under Home Plan is the Home 3D view. This shows you what your design will look like when it’s built—more or less. This software is rudimentary in what it models, with a level of graphic design that may have wowed you 20 years ago. But today, you’d expect far more from even a video game. Nevertheless, it’s helpful in visualizing your plans as you create them.
Pinned in the upper right corner is the Furniture Catalog. This is where you’ll find more than 1,200 objects to furnish your design with. In the catalog, you get a selection of the basics like beds, desks, dressers, couches, sinks, and showers. There also fixtures like counters, cabinets, cupboards, stoves, stools, and chairs, and electronics like televisions, video game systems, and projectors. Finally, there are accents you can add like beer bottles, bowls, ashtrays, staplers, and many more.
These are all very nice and give your design a more realistic look. But it’s extremely limited compared to what you can get in other home design programs. Products like Home Designer, Virtual Home Architect, and TurboFloor Plan all have object libraries with thousands more objects than those offered by Sweet Home 3D.
It’s fun and functional so it cuts down on the frustrations that often come with learning a new skill like interior design.
Underneath the Furniture Catalog is the Furniture List which catalogs all the items in your design. This is convenient for when the time comes to go shopping. Unlike other home design programs, Sweet Home 3D does not include a cost estimator to help you keep your project budget-friendly.
Getting Sweet Home 3D on your computer is a simple affair, no matter what operating system you use. If you use a Mac, it’s probably best to go through the Mac App Store (although you can buy it elsewhere), simply because you’ll get updates in real-time and can install it on multiple machines without worrying about getting more licenses.
Windows users can buy it directly from the Sweet Home website, or from sites like Amazon—it’s the standard installation process that you’ve done hundreds of times before. Sweet Home 3D doesn’t have any special hardware requirements. Any computer built in the last 10 years will have zero problems running this home design program.
There are two ways to start a new design with Sweet Home 3D: you can create a blank slate and design from the ground up or you can import one of their demo designs. There are nine demo designs built in the program, ranging from plans for a simple studio apartment up to a four-bedroom family home.
There’s also a gallery of 16 free demos online that you can access from the interface—and more still in their user forums. These are fully realized designs that you can use as jumping-off points or inspiration for your own designs. And you can even share your own designs of the forums.
One of the more nifty features found in Sweet Home 3D is the ability to import scanned blueprints into the program. This is an invaluable feature if you’re looking to recreate your existing home in the program. This saves enormous amounts of time over recreating the blueprints manually or even measuring your home to get the correct data. Though you probably should double-check your measurements before you get too far into your redesign plans.
This software is rudimentary in what it models, with a level of graphic design that may have wowed you 20 years ago. But today, you’d expect far more from even a video game.
Every element in your plan has its own specific panel that shows its exact location, orientation, and size while allowing you to fine-tune its properties. For example, if you want to make a non-standard sized couch, simply place a couch from the object library in the plan, then double click on it. When the window opens you can adjust its width, depth, and height to within 1/8th of an inch. You can then rename the item from “Sofa” to something like “Sofa Ultra,” and it will show up as such in the Furniture List. You also have the ability to alter its color and texture, allowing you to tell it apart from other sofas in your design.
Sweet Home 3D provides two additional ways for you to visualize your design. You can take a virtual photo or capture a virtual video walkthrough of your design. They’re simple enough to make: for photos, all you have to do is select the place and angle your “photographer” would be standing, and you’ll get a nice, detailed image of what your design will look like from that angle. It will be exported as a standalone image file that you can use with other programs or send it to someone who doesn’t have Sweet Home 3D.
You can also create a walk-through video of your design. You simply set the path you want to “walk” through your future home and the program will generate what it would be like to take that path. But it is a bit difficult to pick a path that doesn’t involve walking through walls. And while it’s interesting to watch, you mostly feel like a ghost instead of a person in the home.
One thing to note about Sweet Home 3D is that it’s nearly exclusively an interior design tool. There is little to no functionality outside the four walls of your home. There are tools for putting in pools, hot tubs, and patio furniture, but when it comes to things like managing the yard’s topography and landscaping or designing an intricate garden—you're out of luck.
One thing to note about Sweet Home 3D is that it’s nearly exclusively an interior design tool. There is little to no functionality outside the four walls of your home.
Sweet Home 3D is a pretty basic program that’s light on your computer’s resources. You should be able to run it easily, even if you have an antiquated computer.
You can buy Sweet Home 3D for about $15 which seems about the right price for this app. Anything more would feel like a swindle considering what you get. Compare Sweet Home 3D to the ultimate DIY home design program—Home Designer Pro—and there are some pretty stark differences in features. The latter offers much more complexity, but it will run you more than $500, so if you’re itching to design a home, it’s best to start out with the $15 program to see if it’s something you want to shell out hundreds for.
While $15 for a home design program is great, if you decide to spend just a few extra dollars, you can get the budget-friendly Total 3D Home, Landscape and Deck Suite 12. It has thousands more objects to furnish your home with, more in-depth tools, and a bevy of landscaping tools to help you complete your home design. The list price is only $30, but you’ll get plenty of value out of it. It might even be a better place to start if you’re serious about making buildable home designs.
Affordable home design software with an easy learning curve, but limited features.
If you’re casually wading into home or interior design and don’t want to spend a lot of money, time, and effort just yet, Sweet Home 3D might be what satisfies your curiosity. It’s compact, intuitive, and doesn’t get bogged down in huge object libraries. It’s also fun and functional so it cuts down on the frustrations that often come with learning a new skill like interior design. That said, when it comes time to actually build something, you’ll want a beefier application.
Home Designer Pro (2020)