If imaginary kitchen floor plans are ever going to see the light of day, they have to get out of your head to where other people can see them – onto paper, usually. There are several tools to help you do that, from good old paper and pencil, through cardboard cutouts you can place on an outline of your kitchen and move around and 3D kits to help you make models, to desktop and browser-based software. Here I’m going to review mostly free kitchen design software, interactive kitchen design tools which help you create a virtual kitchen design on the computer which you can then print out and discuss with your team. You can also use them just for play – to carry out a virtual kitchen remodel when you can’t do one yet in real life. After all, we can dream, right?
Many of the free tools for kitchen design online are available from manufacturers websites, and in that case they concentrate on products from that manufacturer, plus a range of things like appliances.
- Free, browser-based
- Works with Foxfire and Internet Explorer
- How it works: choose a basic kitchen shape, customize to match your kitchen, choose cabinets.
- Cabinet and appliance selection is limited
- Printed plans are basic but clear.
- Create an account and plans can be saved as a template (so you can make multiple kitchen layouts for the same space) or a plan.
- This tool worked well and quickly, and was simple to use.
- Free, browser-based
- Internet Explorer only (requires download of an ActiveX control)
- How it works: there are three pathways. You can use a wizard to walk you through an initial kitchen design, you can start with a template, or you can start from scratch in the advanced designer.
- Wizard is simple to use, though slow. Layout designer non-intuitive, very similar to HGTV below, with a slightly different interface.
- Create an account and plans can be saved.
- Link goes to a multi-planner page which allows you to download the kitchen planner as well as those for bedrooms and offices
- Free, downloads to your own computer
- Easy to use
- Allows you to enter custom sizes for appliances, you’re not limited only to IKEA’s
- If you’re considering an IKEA kitchen, check out the IKEA Kitchen Secrets ebook
If you’ve already decided on a cabinet line, check the manufacturer or retailer’s website to see if they have a kitchen planner tool featuring your chosen cabinets.
The next option includes products from a wide range of manufacturers, not just one.
- Free, browser-based
- Works only with Internet Explorer, not Foxfire or other browsers, and requires installation of an ActiveX tool.
- How it works: you choose a basic layout (galley, L etc), then choose from a range of pre-built plans for that layout. You can then customize the products (appliances, etc) used in your plan, but not the layout. The separate layout planner tool is used to create a plan for your own kitchen: I was not able to see a link between the two modes.
- Very product-oriented
- You can save your designs and product lists by creating a free account. You are supposed to be able to do this after creating a plan, but I had problems doing it this way round and recommend you create your account first. Signup requires a valid US address and zip code.
- Slow (even on high speed cable)
- Flaky – refused to display my chosen base plan until I’d viewed the tutorial, then every time I tried to save a plan, it told me the name was in use, no matter what I typed in.
- If you have a small kitchen, you’ll need to choose a larger size to begin – minimum size in the Layout Planner is 10′ x 10′ – then adjust the size downwards later on.
- Definitely not intuitive to use.
Paid tools can be browser-based or desktop software. Most have a free trial available so you can try before you buy.
3D Home Design Tool: Create custom kitchens, bathrooms, landscaping, etc. online www.Plan3D.com
- browser-based, paid tool
- Much more detailed and powerful than free tools
- You don’t buy this software outright, you buy a subscription to use it on the web.
- Cost depends on length of subscription, but you can subscribe for just one month
As well as kitchen design online, there are other paid tools which run on your own computer, including Chief Architect, SoftPlan and SmartDraw. A followup article will describe these tools.