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Update Your Home in a Snap

Refresh your space easily with the help of virtual reality



En español | Your youngest son has finally moved out of the house and you’re hoping to turn his room into a deluxe meditation space. Or maybe you’re more than ready to replace the threadbare recliner that has been with your husband longer than you have. Either way, it seems, you’re ready for a design update.

Thanks to today’s technology, there is a raft of new sites and apps that offer virtual- and augmented-reality tools so that you can see exactly how design upgrades will look before sinking a bunch of money into them.

How do they work? Typically, you first upload photos of the space in question, determine your style by taking a quick survey, and explain what you are hoping to change and improve. Then you are presented with images that show what a variety of upgrades would look like in your particular room.

If you’re tech-savvy enough to snap a photo with a smartphone, you can do this. Bonus: Test out these sites and apps from the comfort of the sofa you’re looking to replace.


“Our Design Bar is a great resource for one-off advice when you’re shopping for new decor, picking paint colors, trying to arrange a gallery wall, and more — and it’s completely free,” says Jessica McCarthy, creative director for online interior-design service Decorist. “Design questions are usually answered within 24 hours. After submitting your design question and any photos, you’ll receive personalized advice and a mood board to help you visualize any recommended updates.”

Decorist also offers an “accessory refresh” service for $99 per room; it's a simple way to get professional picks for a quick facelift. It offers a more in-depth redesign, created by an in-house designer, which takes about two to three weeks, starting at $299 per room. Along with your final room design, you receive a virtual shopping list. The Decorist team also helps facilitate the purchases, coordinates delivery and helps with any returns. 


Get out the smartphone and the tape measure (or a measuring app). This design service begins when you take measurements and photos of your space. You then answer questions on a style quiz and explain your project, the furniture you already have, and what your budget is. In return, you receive two 3-D options of your room, which you can edit and refine until you’re happy with your plan. Then you can buy all of the new pieces straight from the site. Modsy offers two levels of service: For $59 per room, you work with a design “team”; for $149 per room, you work one-on-one with a particular designer.


Unlike other design apps, this one (available on iOS) lets consumers noodle around with the technology — without the assistance of a designer — in order to choose which products and upgrades they like best. Users click on products to place them in their room using Hutch’s “real-time 3-D visualizer,” and then are shown the results to scale so that they can conceptualize how the entire space would come together. Once your choices are made, you can purchase all of the items — no matter if they are different brands — from one spot. 


IKEA’s 3-D software doesn’t include a variety of furniture brands. This is IKEA, after all. But it uses similar technology so you can see which products would look best and in what configuration. You first upload a photo; then you drag and drop IKEA products into the space. You can maneuver the pieces until you find a satisfactory arrangement. The final design can be printed with all measurements — and total cost — included. The products must be picked up at an actual brick-and-mortar IKEA location and, when necessary, assembled at home.

Home Depot’s Project Color

After uploading an image of what you want to paint (walls, floors, a deck), Home Depot’s app (available on iOS and Android) lets you see exactly what the end result will look like. You can try out stains and paints on any surface, and even can find a color to match something else in the room. Many individual paint companies offer a similar service — Sherwin-Williams, Dutch Boy, Benjamin Moore, Behr — but Home Depot allows you to explore its entire paint and stain inventory in one place.

“Nothing has quite as much visual impact, or gets you more bang for your buck, than switching up your paint color,” says Decorist’s McCarthy. “Whether it's a bold accent wall or the complete room, a fresh coat of paint is sure to inject a new look to your space.” Her favorite colors? Dusty blush, a crisp, clean white, or even a deep moody blue. Now is the time to give them a try.