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Having just moved house I was excited to get a copy of Interiors from Microspot. It offers the ability to create realistic 3D representations of your design plans. Well it does in theory, but in practice I found it wasn’t quite as simple as I thought.
Microspot is a small software company based in Kent. Its MacDraft product is well established, and Interiors is up to version 3.4, though this is the first OS X-ready version.
Interiors claims to be intuitive and easy to learn, but I would say that claim is a little over-ambitious. It isn’t terribly hard to learn, but I wouldn’t call it intuitive. It does come with a software manual, which is helpful up to a point, but a printed one would be welcome.
I would heartily recommend following the tutorial to begin with. That way you’ll understand the capabilities and limitations of the software.
The first thing to do is draw the walls of your room. There are two ways of doing this: either draw a box for a convenient square room, or use the Walls tool to draw an irregular room. Each length of wall you draw invokes a pop-up window so you can type in exact measurements. Unfortunately, there’s no convenient way to set scale, so you may find that your carefully measured room occupies a small corner of your workspace.
The next step is to add a floor. This is easy, as there’s a Floors plug-in to do it for you. The application is made up from a number of plug-ins. The Walls tool, the Floors tool, navigation and the rendering parts of the application are all plug-in-driven. This may be a great way for programmers to collaborate on a project, but it’s confusing to the user. Instead of these tools being under a normal menu, they’re all thrown together in the plug-ins menu.
Once the walls and floor are taken care of, you can use the Windows and Doors function. This is certainly easier than most applications for adding windows and doors to a model. There are accurate positioning boxes that make getting windows in the right place simple.
Next you can start dropping furniture into the scene. There’s an extensive library of hundreds of pieces of furniture for you to use, yet I still struggled to find pieces to accurately represent my own furniture. The other problem is that the size of the furniture isn’t necessarily the size of your real furniture. This can be adjusted by typing measurements into the info box. Frustratingly, the info box is rather cryptic: rather than simple measurements for length, breadth and height, you’re faced with XYZ co-ordinates and measurements. It’s not impossible to figure out what this all means, but for a piece of software aimed at non-3D-savvy people the XYZ co-ordinates might only serve to confuse.
The next step is to add lighting. This is simple, and will make your final rendering more realistic. Now we’re ready to add some textures. Again, there is a library of textures for floor and wall coverings, but it’s likely that you’ll want to add your own.
Around this point, you’ll begin to wonder what the final image will look like, so some test renderings may be in order.
I really wanted to like this program, as I wanted to use it to plan my new kitchen. However, I found it frustrating at times. The performance is quite sluggish, even on a 1.25GHz G4 with 1.5GB of RAM.
This jerky performance coupled with the almost patchwork interface of plug-ins makes it difficult to love Interiors. Even so, it’s still possibly the easiest way to plan your interiors on a budget. I don’t think it lives up to the claims of ease of use, but the alternatives are usually even more complex. There are a lot of things I would change about this application, but I’ll probably still use it to plan my kitchen.
As long as you don’t expect miracles from Interiors, you should get good use out of it. At the price, you won’t find any other 3D alternatives.