Virtual interior design services had limited use before the pandemic, but with an ever-heightening emphasis on zero contact and socially distanced living -- not to mention the increased amount of time people spend in their homes -- these services are of more interest for multiple reasons: They're fun to experiment with when stuck at home weeks on end; they offer a low-cost way to improve your living environment, and they're much less of a virus exposure risk than shopping or bringing a designer into the home.
Here are some of the services to check out next time you're restless and ready to turn half the nursery into an office or decorate the porch in the style of a French patio café.
This tool converts smartphone pictures of rooms to 3D virtual reality rooms. Also used and promoted heavily for virtual staging, this app allows users to select images of home furnishings from the inventory of Pottery Barn and Wayfair (NYSE: W), drop them into the virtual space, and "design the room" for a full virtual walk-through. Its access to a wide array of mass-market upscale pieces is very useful, especially when combined with the ability to pull half those pieces from one store and half from the other to get an idea via augmented reality (AR) of how the look comes together.
Like its competitor above, this is an app-based tool that allows people to virtually design rooms using an iPhone's camera and AR technology. It also offers users the opportunity to shop from existing popular furniture e-tailers and buy items that show well in the virtual room design environment. However, with DecorMatters, the design takes place in real time as you hold the camera facing your room, not in a 3D rendering created after you film the room. Also, and perhaps most interesting from a human standpoint, the company utilizes university partnerships to bring design programs and students into the virtual mix.
For consumers who don't want to attempt DIY designing -- even in a tightly confined virtual space with hundreds of (virtual) furniture items (virtually) at their fingertips -- Modsy has designers who will do it for you. Shoot over pictures of the spaces you want designed, with budget and style parameters, and an assigned designer will take on your project. This involves multiple layouts and furniture shopping rounds if necessary, but of course all of that is much easier and less expensive when no physical labor or product procurement is necessary.
This is an extremely low-cost way to engage a professional decorator -- one room costs just $79, and according to the site, recommended furnishings don't have their price tags marked up.
Like Modsy, this service promises to have professionals do the real work for you. Just show them your Pinterest (NYSE: PINS) dreams, and then let them do the tedious labor of figuring out how those visual daydreams can actually cross over to real life. This site won early praise for making virtual interior design smooth and easy, although by nature, home decoration is almost never smooth (homeowners want to live in their idea of perfection but have no idea how to achieve it). Havenly's way to ease consumers into it is by having them sit back and just say "Yes" or "Not exactly" as the professionals work away.
This service is inexpensive as well -- just $129 for a full room design -- and only gets spendy once you start ordering all the chosen furniture items through the site.
This is the biggest, busiest, most comprehensive interior design resource on the internet -- with the possible exception of Pinterest, which is more of a user-generated jumble sale. Houzz, on the other hand, is a giant virtual marketplace of design studios, product lines, decor inspiration photos, home improvement professionals, and everyone else in the residential design/decor industry. Houzz is set up to connect homeowners with professionals and products from far and wide -- and however you use it, the site also provides a lot of industry-specific information. It may not virtually design for you, but it'll connect you with dozens of talented professionals and companies who probably can.
The bottom line: These services could still hit their stride
For most people, interior decor is a splurge service that only starts to make sense after too many DIY room design attempts fail to spark joy. But bringing in an actual decorator also risks massive failure -- and at significant expense. That's why many investors and entrepreneurs have staked a lot of money and effort into creating a virtual service that would actually find popularity.
It hasn't happened, exactly, just yet. But once we're all stuck at home for another several months? Wait and see. At least at this moment, we can say that of all the proptech categories out there, virtual interior design apps have turned out to be trailblazing in real estate's long-delayed tech adoption.