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Your Smartphone Can Help You Remodel Your Home

Your device can inspire, level, measure and help pick colors

spinner image a smartphone displaying a living room

Change is good. And when it comes to home decor, even small changes can make a big impact.

But before you run to the store for paint samples or dig out your tools, consider checking out what your iPhone or Android device can do. Through built-in features or downloaded apps, that pocket-sized computer you rely on for almost every facet of your life can also be leveraged to help you decide on a color palette, determine where to place furniture, get room dimensions and even Facetime your interior designer for immediate advice.

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Whether you’re looking to freshen up a powder room, make over a bedroom or are considering a move and want to update a space, a first step may be to look at ways your smartphone can help you in the process. While convenient, it’s also a great source for ideas and inspiration.

Hang a picture straight

You don’t need a traditional level, the kind with a bubble, to hang a picture straight. Your smartphone’s accelerometer, which tracks motion, can perform this task for you.

On iPhone

1. Download the Measure app if you don’t have it already, and open the app.

2. Tap Level, and then hold the phone against an object, such as a framed picture.

3. To make an object level, rotate the object until you see green on your iPhone.

4. To match the slope, tap the screen to capture the slope of the first object. Hold the phone against another object and rotate until the screen turns green.

On Android

1. Open the Google app and type bubble level.

2. When prompted, tap to give your phone permission to access motion and orientation.

3. Place your phone up against an object, like a framed picture and slightly turn the phone. When the yellow bubble is inside the black marker, it’s level.

Note: You can also download and use level apps but be aware of advertisements and invasive permission requests.

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Use a virtual tape measure

If your iPhone or Android has a LiDAR sensor, it can take measurements of objects in your room, like a virtual ruler or measuring tape. LiDAR stands for light detection and ranging and uses invisible lasers to do the measuring.

1. On iPhone, download the Measure app if you don’t have it already and open the app. It will launch your camera.

2. An iPhone automatically detects the dimensions of rectangular objects in its camera view, or you can manually tap to set the start and end points of a measurement for other shapes.

On Android, download the free Google Measure app from the Google Play store.

Pick paint colors

How many paint samples have you picked up over the years? Too many to count? You may even own a paint sample wheel that gives you every color and hue under the rainbow.

Not only can you save yourself a trip to the paint or hardware store, but you can also explore hundreds of paint colors by color family, multihue palettes and coordinating collections on your smartphone.

These unique programs, available through most paint manufacturers or standalone apps, also let you apply colors to your designated room by uploading a photo of the space. Popular apps from paint brands, including Behr, Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams leverage your smartphone’s camera and augmented reality technology to seemingly splash a fresh coat of paint on your walls.

And they let you play around with coordinating hues for the ceiling and trim around windows and doors to create combinations to express your personal style.

1. You’ll have to upload an image of an interior room or exterior shot from your browser or smartphone to start.

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2. Select your desired color or use your camera to capture a color you like from any image.

3. Use your finger to tap the wall you wish to change to that color.

While not perfect, these apps can often “paint” around furniture and objects to let you visualize a finished room. Other good apps for virtual painting include Home Depot’s ProjectColor, Luminant Software’s Paint Tester and Variable Technologies’ Color Muse.

Video: Three Ways Apps Make Decorating Easier

Virtually place furniture, visualize floor plans

Just like you can virtually paint your walls, you can visualize 2D and 3D floor plans and superimpose 3D furniture into your rooms to give you inspiration for furniture layout and design.

Several mixed-reality home design apps digitally insert new 3D furniture into the room you’re seeing through your camera lens. In most cases, you can rotate a sofa, set of chairs or tables using your fingertips, enlarge or shrink them by zooming in and out, and snap a photo to share with your decorator, family or friends.

Free apps include those from retailers such as Ikea, Wayfair and West Elm, as well as Amikasa, Home Design 3D, MagicPlan, Planner 5D, Room Arranger, Room Planner and Room Sketcher, among others.

Be sure to read reviews before you download an app. Some apps and websites can also connect you with professionals in your area for renovation and remodeling projects.

Sketch ideas, play games

If you love to be inspired but want to create your own vision, several apps are at the ready — from Instagram photos to Pinterest posts and TikTok and YouTube videos. Be as descriptive as possible in your search, such as “mid-century modern kitchen with hints of farmhouse.”

You’ll be surprised at what comes up — pages and pages of ideas that may hit the mark. They’re sometimes combined with past search results.

Other apps let you play around with spatial design by sketching ideas directly on your smartphone. Using your fingertip or a stylus pen, you can sketch using the Notes app or invest in another popular note-taking app such as Evernote, Notability, Notion, Obsidian or OneNote, which may have more design features.

And if your budget doesn't include decorating this year, you can play at home decorating with dozens of home design games. Augmented reality, tile and mix and match games such as Home Design Makeover, Home Designer — Makeover Blast, Makeover Dream: Tile Match, My Home Design Story, Property Brothers Home Design and a ton of others are available in the Apple App and Google Play stores.

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