The #1 Free Decorating Tool Every Designer Needs

Um…you guys. Get ready to have your decorating socks knocked off. I’m going to share with you literally The. Best. Decorating. Tool. Ever. Created.

Really? The best you say?

Yes! I’m so serious about this, I’ve resorted to conversing with myself in this blog post. It’s that good, it makes you go a little crazy.

The #1 Tool Every Designer Needs

What is this divine decorative gift from above? How could I possibly visualize a room any better than making a mood board or using Photoshop?

Oh ho ho, naïve little Anna! Such silly questions. The answer though, is SketchUp Make.

Before I explain, let me show you what I mean:

Below is a mood board I recently created for a client in New Jersey. She and her fiancé had just moved into a new apartment and were hoping for a fresh look in their bedroom. They both wanted a bright, fun look that reflected their modern/contemporary style, with a little exotic/boho thrown in for good measure.

They had also had gorgeous professional engagement photos taken in Paris and wanted them displayed, and I ended up designing the entire room around two of them. It always helps to have a beautiful starting point, and the saturated colors in the pieces perfectly fit the vibe this couple was going for.

Need affordable online interior design? Anna Smith and Decorilla have got you covered!

Several pieces of their existing furniture were kept: the rattan bed, Parson lacquer desk, Moroccan lantern, and bentwood chair, which you can see in the mood board above.

Here’s what their bedroom looked like when they bought the place:

The #1 Tool Every Designer Needs

I’ll admit, designing a bright, colorful bedroom around their dark, heavy bed was one tough cookie! I used a lot of white & metallic accents to lighten things up, and brought in tropical plants and bright, textured pillows to create a well-travelled feel. The floating nightstands, open desk, and a large floor mirror kept this smaller bedroom from feeling too claustrophobic (that bed didn’t help).

Want to see it? Want to see SketchUp in action?!

The #1 Tool Every Designer Needs

No, that’s not a photograph! That is the a-mazingness of SketchUp (combined with a plugin called Podium, which adds the photo-realistic effect). You can literally design an entire room and see it perfectly before you buy anything. Recreate any room in your house, to scale! Decorate using the exact pieces you want, and see for yourself what works and what doesn’t. Move things around, change paint colors, swap things in and out—you name it, you can do it in this program. But what’s the best thing about SketchUp?

It’s FREE.

You’re welcome. Go download it now.

There’s a learning curve for sure, but there are so many tutorials on the website (and the web) that I was able to master it in just a few weeks. Podium, the plugin that makes these images so pretty and realistic, can be downloaded for a 30-day free trial and then costs $95 to have forever. If you have a whole house to design, or are a professional, it’s worth the investment—but if not, you have 30 days for free.

And now, I need your help! This room is finished except for choosing the paint color for the wall behind the bed. Thanks to SketchUp, I could see all the different options but unfortunately I still can’t decide. That’s where you come in!

Here are the options:

The #1 Tool Every Designer Needs

The #1 Tool Every Designer Needs

The #1 Tool Every Designer Needs

Tell me, which is your favorite? I made a fancy-schmancy poll for you to cast your vote below. I’m leaning towards Benjamin Moore Mountain Laurel, but it’s so haaaaard.

[polldaddy poll=8632918]

Now I’m going to add a little self-promotional plug—if SketchUp seems daunting to you, if you don’t have the time or willpower, or if you just think this is really cool but want someone else to do it for you (which would most certainly have been my answer a few months ago), I do this for a living and I can do it for you! See my portfolio here and click “Invite to Project” under my photograph.  Need some time to decide? You can always find the “Hire Me” link at the top of the page.

*This post is not sponsored in any way by SketchUp, Podium, or Decorilla—I just love them all so much, I had to share!

How do you visualize a room you’re working on? Would you ever try a program like this? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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Comments (17 )
  • Vanessa
    | 5 February 2015

    Now this is a great program. Thanks for sharing and gives us great tips.

    • annabode
      | 19 February 2015

      You’re welcome Vanessa 🙂

  • Kimm at Reinvented
    | 5 February 2015

    Wow wow wow! This looks amazing. The room does too. 😉 I would love to learn and use these tools, thanks so much for sharing!

    • annabode
      | 19 February 2015

      Thanks so much Kimm! I hope you do!

  • Kristen
    | 5 February 2015

    Looks like an amazing tool! I’m so intrigued! Definitely want to try it out on the different rooms I’m struggling with.
    I love choices C and D – (D a bit more). The contrast is really dramatic. Option C is probably a bit more serene. Let us know which the client chooses!

  • Katie
    | 11 February 2015

    Holy crap! This is life changing! Gonna go download it now:)

    • annabode
      | 19 February 2015

      I know right! Let me know if you need any help with it. It can be tricky to get started but once you get the hang of it it’s pretty easy. 🙂

  • Hannah @ Eating with Alice
    | 11 February 2015

    It’s so realistic! Is the program easy to use?

    I’d love to see photos of the finished bedroom if you have them!

    xx Hannah

    • annabode
      | 19 February 2015

      Hey Hannah! Sketchup IS easy to use, but with the caveat that you have to watch all the tutorials first. It’s definitely not a download it and figure it out yourself kind of program. You should try it! I just posted the finished images on Facebook, you can see them here: 🙂

  • Jesica
    | 19 February 2015

    I seriously thought that was a photo at first! Amazing tool, thanks so much for sharing it! (scurrying off to download immediately)

    • annabode
      | 19 February 2015

      You’re welcome! Let me know if you need any help 🙂

  • Marissa Huber
    | 9 March 2015

    Wow, thanks for the great resources. Your rendering looks fantastic, and I voted for the Navy Blue wall. Glad to have found you via Little Farm Media!

    • annabode
      | 9 March 2015

      No problem Marissa–and thank you! The client actually picked the navy blue wall too :). In the end though she opted for all-white, to make things light an airy. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Christy * theharperhouse
    | 5 January 2016

    this is awesome! I just found your blog via Pinterest. My hubby and I flip houses and I’m hoping to start an e-design biz as well. I have dabbled in sketch up previously and got frustrated and quit, but maybe I just need the plugin? Does the plugin make it easier or is that just to get the realistic look? Do you have to model all your furniture separately or is there a catalog or library to import specific pieces from? For instance – the shelf over the bed (I think that’s from West Elm, right?) Does West Elm have it’s own sketchup pieces that can easily be placed in the program? I would love to master sketch up, but I’m used to using Chief Architect and SU doesn’t seem as user friendly. Approx. how long did it take you to make this mock-up? I admit, it IS super awesome looking! Great job!

    thanks for any info! Great blog too, btw 🙂

    • annabode
      | 6 January 2016

      Hi Christy!

      That’s awesome that you flip houses — my husband and I dream of doing that one day, so maybe we just need to pick each other’s brains! 🙂 The plugin does not make it easier, but it gives a photo-realistic effect to the image. I highly recommend buying the book “Sketchup for Dummies” — it’s the best way to learn from scratch.

      There is a free furniture warehouse inside the program that you can search to find anything from sofas to outlets to crown molding, and you download the models directly into your file. You can then modify them (color, size, shape, anything!) to fit your needs. Occasionally I do have to model something entirely from scratch, but it gets quicker with practice. Some brands do upload models for their products, but most of it is user-generated. You can search keywords like “west elm” or “cb2” and sometimes users have modeled exactly what you’re looking for.

      I consider myself still at the amateur level, so my renderings take several hours to create, and a couple more to render. Let me know if you have any other questions or need some help!

  • Kelly
    | 11 October 2018

    Thanks for th great info. I noticed tjat your pics say decoRilla. Does that software put that on evEryThing?

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