Friday, September 30, 2011

Tools - SweetHome3D

Unless it is an apartment or other tightly strata managed property, home building is never a cookie cutter affair. Homes by nature are as individual as those who live in them. Whilst you can look at a plan and say that is a Rendezvous by Ventura, or a Monarch by National Homes, or a Nautilus by Dale Alcock Homes, you will always find differences between the base plan and the finished product.

Example 2-D sketches created
using Microsoft Paint.
Our Rendezvous has definitely been personalised. We have moved built in robes, extended the kitchen and alfresco areas, and completely re-designed the wet areas.

When we initially began changing the plans, we used Microsoft Paint to edit a picture of the standard plan that we downloaded from Ventura’s website. This method is not precise, because the image we were working with was not to scale.

Despite these limitations, the above method is an excellent tool for recording our ideas. It was helpful to be able to take these pictures to our first sales meeting. Being able to show someone your ideas is always easier than trying to describe them. I have continued this trend whenever we need to communicate ideas to the builder.

Once you have scale plans, you are able to start looking at the specifics of home design, such as the size and placement of windows, kitchen and bathroom cabinet configurations, size of the shower recess, etc.

At this point, we outgrew Microsoft Paint and needed to find a proper home design package. Some people may think that creating a 3D model was overkill. Initially I would agree, but it has been invaluable because it has helped us to avoid last minute variations and unnecessary changes. Obviously, the more changes you made to the original plans, the more important a 3D model becomes.

For example, earlier I posted about our shower screen dilemma. The builder’s suggestion to add a small wall seemed a good idea in theory, especially as it would have allowed us to have a hidden recess for shampoo and soaps; however, it was a significant deviation from our original design.

I do not know about you, but when someone who has been doing this for a lot longer than I have makes a suggestion, I tend trust them more than I do myself.

If it was not for being able to visualise these changes by use of a model, we may not have decided to stick with our original design, even though that it required some legwork to find someone willing to install the shower screen after handover.

Our ensuite design showing the raised
areas and large shower screen

Screen capture from Sweethome 3D
showingthe 2D modelling view
and the 3D walk through view.

3-D render of our bathroom created
using Sweethome 3D
As an aside, having a 3D image of how we wanted our ensuite to look, helped immensely when looking for someone to install the shower screen. Trying to explain a bathroom with steps here, and raised areas there, is a lot harder than showing them a picture and saying “it looks like this”.

Home design software packages are plentiful. At this point in time I have far from scratched the surface of what is available. When I started looking for design tools, I was short on time. I needed a free package that was quick and easy to learn, which was capable of producing both 2D and 3D floor plans.

Whenever this topic arises, Google SketchUp appears to be one of the most popular answers. Whilst it is very powerful package, Sketch up was more I was looking for. Realistically, SketchUp is a CAD program, not a home design program.

On the opposite side of the scale is My Virtual Home. My Virtual Home is very user-friendly program that allows its users to rapidly create 3D models of their home design. Most of the people I speak to have used this program, and recommend it highly. Unfortunately, it drove me up the wall. I wanted a program that would allow me to enter precise dimensions and would not try to fix things for me. What I was looking for was something with the precision of SketchUp and the usability of My Virtual Home.

The solution to my problem was SweetHome3D. It allows you to:

  • draw straight, round or sloping walls with precise dimensions;
  • insert doors, windows and other furniture;
  • change the colour, texture, size, and orientation of furniture, walls, floors and ceilings;
  • simultaneously view your design in both 2D and 3;
  • annotate the plan showing room areas, dimension lines, and text; and,
  • create photorealistic images and video to export in a number of standard file formats
(For a full list of features visit:

The only real downside I have found to Sweet Home 3D is the inability to draw a roof on your home. For the most part, this did not bother me, as I was primarily interested in the house’s internal structure. The furniture models it comes bundled with are limited, but you can import a wide range from Google’s 3D Warehouse.

What software do you use to create 3D models of your home designs?

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