Autodesk Homestyler for iPad review: Computer aided room design goes mobile
Based on photographs of your room, Autodesk Homestyler will apply and align a grid for placement of furniture and repainting the walls
Room planning design software has been around for some time on the desktop and Web, like a life-size version of The Sims, with real credit card bills and no parties. You have to be online before doing anything with Homestyler though, signing into the service using an email address or your social media ID. A friendly wizard walks you through the process - you can start with a photo from your iPad's camera gallery or better still, take a photo with the iPad camera. For best results, you're advised to include the floor and two walls in your shot. Once taken the application overlays a rough 3D grid and allows you to refine the results by aligning the walls with the room corners. Doing this by hand on an iPad screen turns out to be much simpler than messing around on a computer. The App suggests measurements based on parts of the room, the height of a door frame for example, in order to calibrate itself. You can adjust the measurements to the correct scale using the onscreen tumbler. We found this latter element to be a little less responsive than the rest of the software, but it worked with a little perseverance.
The next stage is styling the room. Painting a wall is simple - just select a swatch from a paint chart and squiggle-paint with a finger on the wall. If the Auto setting is on, the rest of the wall area will be painted quickly and effectively. You can doodle with the Remove tool in case part of a radiator or pet is included in the paint job. It's not precise, and the skirting may be a problem, but it does a decent job. The Catalog is where content is available to be selected and dragged into your room - in common with the paint swatches, the assorted rugs, beds, wall sconces and so on, are brands from the USA, but you can perhaps use them to visualise your own designs. A 'Professionals' directory is similarly lacking in international content.
If you decide to save your masterwork, a pop-up box appears that prompts you for a title for your design and then demands that you jot down some thoughts about it and select the room type. Rather annoyingly you have to comply or stroppy red words remind you until you do so. A slider is also present for saving your work publicly, if you set the slider to Off, the design is still saved to the MyHomestyler gallery for you to retrieve. Leaving it on adds the room to the Design Stream. This is an online Pinterest-style gallery of grand designs by other users. You can add comments, or select any room to save to your own MyHomestyler gallery and redesign/ruin/take inspiration from it.
Homestyler is free, and fun and some of the few rough edges can be forgiven. If more international content was included it would be even better. You need to be online to do anything useful with it, but we don't like the default Save option being set as Public, nor the nagging for descriptive text to be added.