App

When your home’s looking tired, use these apps to measure up and make it look brand new

Time was, an iPhone or iPad wouldn’t have helped much with home redecoration. You’d have perhaps created the odd list in Notes. Camera would have been used to capture problem areas and things you fancied buying. Then at some point, you’d have tried to combine everything in your head.

With modern iOS apps, you can move beyond mental pictures by creating actual ones to store and share. In this roundup, we explore apps for inspiring home refreshes and seeing changes live on your iPhone’s display. We then look at apps for the practical side of renovation, which help you measure room sizes, and keep your budget on track.

Houzz Home Design & Shopping

Free • v18.3.0 • 121.3 MB • By Houzz Inc.

When you think about being inspired and collecting clippings and ideas, your mind likely gravitates towards Pinterest – and that is a solid app. But when you’re working on improving your home, Houzz is a better bet, due to that being its entire focus.

Sign up for an account and you can store whatever you find in Houzz “ideabooks”. These can contain annotated images, saved products, links to professional help, and bookmarks of relevant forum discussions. Because you can import your own photos, ideabooks can also become mood boards, housing snaps of materials and colors.

The meat of Houzz for most people, though, will be its 16 million high-resolution photographs. Tell the app what you’re wanting to refresh and you’ll be met with magazine-like features, beautiful design ideas, and furniture that might look the part. If a section of a photograph takes your fancy, use Houzz’s annotation tools to sketch over the relevant area. Should you like the look of some furniture, superimpose it on to a photo.

The only minor snag is the app’s something of a walled garden. It’d be great if you could quickly output an entire ideabook in a format you could use offline. Still, you likely have your iPhone on you at all times anyway, and Houzz is far more convenient and useful than juggling a dozen notepads and hundreds of photos.

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IKEA Place

Free • v2.0.0 • 80.1 MB • By Inter IKEA Systems B.V.

Going shopping for flat-pack furniture isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but it’s often a lot better than putting the stuff together when you get home – only to find what you bought doesn’t work in the way you’d hoped. With IKEA Place, you can avoid such problems by placing virtual IKEA products in your home.

The app’s friendly demeanor puts powerful technology behind a straightforward interface. In short, you select a product, ensure your iPhone knows where the floor is, and then put the item down. It can then be moved, and scales accurately to its surroundings. You can add multiple objects if you wish, although note they do not interact (so no stacking chairs in the corner).

Even if you don’t intend to splurge at the big blue shop, we recommend downloading IKEA Place – the app’s AR smarts are great for figuring out whether specific types of furniture will work in a room.

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Paint Tester

Free or $2.99/£2.99 • v4.5.0 • 34.7 MB • By Luminant Software, Inc

We’ve all been there: you spend a day painting a room with an exciting, vibrant new color, and the end result looks terrible. Paint Tester is designed to help you see what colors would look like on your walls before you go near a brush.

The app’s straightforward to use. Load a pic, choose a color, and then tap where you want the paint to go. Sliders and virtual masking tape enable you to tweak things a bit, and although the app’s not blazingly accurate, you at least get an impression of what the end result would look like. A one-off pro IAP removes ads and enables higher-resolution photos.

Note that if you’re in the UK, check out Dulux Visualizer instead, which offers a live AR view of virtual paint on real walls.

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RoomScan Pro

Free + IAP • v6.12 • 32.3 MB • By Locometric

RoomScan Pro is – as its name suggests – about working out the dimensions of rooms. It can do this by way of augmented reality floor scanning, you touching an iPhone against walls, or drawing manually using a laser.

The AR scanning worked well enough during testing, and because the app doesn’t force you to ‘draw’ a plan – you instead align a horizontal line with wall edges – it’s much faster than its contemporaries. You can subsequently edit the walls on your plans, to add doors and windows.

AR is not totally precise, and so this app should be used for approximate measurements when budgeting for things like flooring. But for taking the guesswork out of room sizes during those early periods in home renovation, it fits the bill. (Note that RoomScan Pro does have IAP, but that’s only necessary if you want high-res export; you can output floor plans to Photos for free.)

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TapMeasure

Free • v1.0.3 • 26.6 MB • By Occipital, Inc.

This app also offers floor plan creation, but is slower than RoomScan Pro, because you need to define room corners. Where we found the app useful was in capturing point-to-point measurements. Two taps is enough to figure out the distance between two places on any horizontal surface.

Again, take the measurements with a small pinch of salt – AR apps aren’t accurate enough if space is tight to a fraction of an inch. For more general mapping out of spaces, though, TapMeasure is ideal. (Note that if you want to measure vertical surfaces, try AR MeasureKit’s Ruler tool, which works well if used with care.)

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Photo Measures

$6.99/£6.99 • v4.0.1 • 17.1 MB • By Big Blue Pixel Inc.

If you’re more concerned with smaller spaces within your property – finding a painting to improve a particular spot on a wall – then you might need more than vanilla measurements. That’s where Photo Measures comes in, adding context to a sea of figures.

It does this in an obvious and helpful manner – you import a photo, and then draw lines and measurements over it, which subsequently remain editable. If you’re not sure on splashing out, try the free Lite version first, which limits you to a few documents and adds watermarks to your exports.

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Home Design 3D

Free + $10.99/£10.99 • v4.2.1 • 222.5 MB • By Anuman

We’ll be frank here: Home Design 3D is for a certain kind of home renovator – namely, the very patient, possibly slightly obsessed kind. It’s in effect an app that provides the tools to create – or recreate – an entire property in 3D.

Whether working on a 2D plan or 3D visualization, you draw walls (and can adjust their thicknesses), and then add in doors and windows. When happy with your structure, you can populate it with furniture and paint the walls. There’s even a compass function, so you can see how light will fall at different times of day.

For most people, this will be overkill, and we’ll add that the app’s a touch fiddly on an iPhone (it seems more suited to iPad). Still, if you fancy yourself as an iPhone architect/interior designer, this is a great app. The download’s free, too, so you can play around with it – upgrade to unlock save functionality.

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Soulver

$1.99/£1.99 • v2.6.3 • 26.2 MB • By Acqualia

Unless you’re rolling in cash, money will be the main consideration when it comes to refreshing your home. When you’re buying bits and pieces, costs can rapidly spiral without you realizing. Soulver’s a great bet for keeping a handle on your cash.

The app is a halfway house between a calculator and a spreadsheet. It has much of the power of the latter but without its complexity; it offers the simplicity of a calculator, but adds context through you being able to tap out sums in plain English.

For home budgeting, this means you can write out multiple-line calculations that name what you’ve bought. Line endings are dynamic and can be used in subsequent lines, resulting in an easy to create but powerful, dynamic document. This can be regularly updated in Soulver as you buy new things, but also exported to a range of formats when you need to share your spending habits with someone else.

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