Do you wonder what tools interior designers use in their everyday work? We’ve asked interior architect Mariana Ramselius from Silander Holst what their go-to tools are, and what they can’t live without.
Interior design is an art form that requires a keen eye for detail and a creative mind. Whether you’re a professional designer or a DIY enthusiast, having the right tools at your disposal can make all the difference in the world.
So, grab your notepad and pen (also important tools for designers), and let’s dive in!
- Digital Efficiency: Interior designers rely on computers and design software for efficient communication, visualization, and collaboration with clients and colleagues.
- Precision Measuring: Measuring tools like tape measures and laser distance measurers ensure accurate dimensions, while scale rulers aid in proportional drawings.
- Visual Communication: Design boards, presentation materials, and reference books help designers convey ideas effectively to clients and stakeholders.
- Financial Management: Budgeting software and project management tools assist designers in tracking expenses, invoices, and project timelines.
- Cutting-Edge Technologies: From VR and AR tools for immersive experiences to lighting design software for proper illumination, technology is transforming the way designers work and present their ideas.
Computer and Software Tools Interior Designers Use
Computers and software are essential tools for interior designers as they allow designers to create and visualize designs in a digital format, making the design process more efficient and effective.
Obviously, a computer is a must for interior designers for several reasons:
- Communication: Computers allow designers to communicate their ideas to clients and collaborators more effectively. They can create digital presentations, share design files, and collaborate with others remotely.
- Efficiency: Computers can help designers work more efficiently by automating tasks such as calculations, measurements, and repetitive design elements.
- Access to resources: The internet provides designers with access to a wealth of resources such as design inspiration, tutorials, and design assets such as fonts and stock images.
- Digital storage: Computers allow designers to store their designs digitally, making it easier to access and organize their work. This also provides a backup in case of physical loss or damage to design materials.
Design Software Tools Interior Designers Use
Simply doodling on a paper towel from a café won’t suffice for long. To ensure that everyone involved, from vendors to builders, can follow your plans, you need to convert your sketches into well-organized, fixed plans.
This is where CAD (computer-aided design) software comes in. It lays the foundation for creating technical drawings and plans that adhere to building codes and regulations.
Accuracy and attention to detail are crucial to ensure functionality and prevent miscommunication or errors during construction.
Additionally, apps like AutoCAD 360 enable you to view and share drawings on-site using your phone. Design software is important for designers for several reasons:
- Visualization: Design software allows designers to create detailed 3D models and visualizations of their designs. This provides a more accurate representation of the final product and allows designers to experiment with different design elements before committing to a final plan.
- Efficiency: Design software can help designers work more efficiently by automating tasks such as calculations, measurements, and repetitive design elements. This saves time and allows designers to focus on the creative aspects of their work.
- Collaboration: Design software allows designers to collaborate with others more effectively. They can share design files, work on projects remotely, and receive feedback from clients and collaborators in real-time.
- Flexibility: Design software provides designers with a level of flexibility that traditional design methods cannot match. They can easily make changes to their designs, experiment with different colors and materials, and create multiple versions of a design without having to start from scratch.
- Professionalism: Using design software can help designers create more professional-looking designs. They can create high-quality images, presentations, and design files that are easy to share with clients and collaborators.
Project Management Software / Personal Planners
Interior designers often struggle with time management when they become too focused on the creative possibilities of their designs.
However, there are project management software applications available that can automatically calculate and alert designers of impending deadlines or schedule changes based on design decisions.
While there may be a learning curve involved in using this software, larger firms often have designated project managers to maintain the time and cost schedule.
One of the benefits of using project management software is that designers can prepare a timeline and flowchart that can be shared with everyone involved, including the client, promoting effective communication and transparency between service providers and clients.
Project Management Software Tools
Tools like Trello, Asana, or Microsoft Project are great for tracking tasks, deadlines, and progress.
Budgeting Software Tools Interior Designers Use
Software to track expenses, invoices, and budgets is used by interior designers to manage the financial aspects of their projects.
Expense tracking software allows designers to record and categorize all expenses related to a project, such as materials, labor, and other costs. This helps designers to keep track of their spending and ensure that they stay within the project’s budget.
Invoicing software allows designers to create and send invoices to clients for services rendered. This software can also track payments and send payment reminders to clients who have outstanding invoices.
Budget tracking software allows designers to set and manage budgets for each project. This software can track expenses against the budget, alert designers when they are nearing their budget limit, and provide reports on the project’s financial status.
By using software to track expenses, invoices, and budgets, interior designers can streamline their financial management processes and ensure that they are staying within budget and meeting their financial goals. This can also help designers identify areas where they can save money and make more informed decisions about their spending.
Budgeting Software Tools
Here are some popular budgeting and accounting software for designers: MyDoma Studio, Freshbooks, and Quickbooks.
Measuring Tools Interior Designers Use
Measuring tools are essential for interior design, but taking a floor-to-ceiling measurement in front of a client can be uncomfortable and awkward. To make this task easier, laser distance detector devices are available. These devices provide a more efficient and less intrusive way of taking measurements.
Additionally, for more precise measurements such as moldings, standard steel tape can be used, while soft tape is better suited for measuring curves such as a rounded pillar.
Types of Measuring Tools Interior Designers Use
Essential for accurate measurements of rooms, furniture, and other elements. A tape measure allows designers to take accurate measurements of a space, furniture, and objects. This is crucial when it comes to designing a space that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
- Flexibility: Tape measures are flexible, which allows designers to measure curved or irregular surfaces. This is especially important when measuring spaces with unique architectural features.
- Portable: Tape measures are also portable and can easily be carried in a designer’s toolkit. This makes it easy for designers to take measurements on-site, which is important when designing a space that is tailored to the specific needs of the client.
- Low-cost & Low-tech: Tape measures are quick and easy to use and provide a cost-effective tool that can be used for a variety of design projects. They are an affordable alternative to more expensive measuring tools such as laser measures.
Laser Distance Measurer
A laser distance measurer is an advanced tool for designers that offers several benefits over traditional measuring tools such as tape measures. Here are some reasons why a laser distance measurer is important for designers:
- Accuracy: A laser distance measurer offers a higher level of accuracy than traditional measuring tools. It can measure distances up to several hundred feet with an accuracy of up to 1,5 mm (1/16th of an inch).
- Speed: A laser distance measurer is much faster than traditional measuring tools. It can take measurements in seconds, which saves time and effort.
- Flexibility: A laser distance measurer can measure distances and areas that are difficult to access with traditional measuring tools. It can measure distances over obstacles, around corners, and in hard-to-reach areas.
- Memory: Many laser distance measurers have a memory function that allows designers to store measurements for future use. This is especially useful when designing a space that requires multiple measurements.
- Multi-functionality: Many laser distance measurers offer multiple functions such as calculating area, volume, and Pythagorean measurements. This makes it a versatile tool for designers who need to take a variety of measurements.
A scale ruler is an essential tool for designers. It allows designers to work more efficiently, communicate their ideas more effectively, and create designs that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
- Accuracy: A scale ruler allows designers to create accurate and proportional drawings of a space. This is especially important when designing a space that requires custom-built furniture or fixtures.
- Planning: A scale ruler helps designers plan out the layout of a space. They can determine the best placement for furniture, fixtures, and other design elements based on the measurements they take.
- Communication: A scale ruler helps designers communicate their ideas to clients and collaborators more effectively. They can provide accurate dimensions and proportions, which helps others visualize the design plan.
- Efficiency: A scale ruler saves time and effort by allowing designers to create quick and accurate drawings. This helps them work more efficiently and complete projects more quickly.
- Precision: A scale ruler provides designers with a level of precision that is difficult to achieve with other methods. This is especially important when it comes to designing custom-built furniture or fixtures.
Drafting Tools Interior Designers Use
Drafting tools are essential for interior designers to create accurate and detailed drawings of a space, furniture, and other design elements. Among the most important drafting tools are the drafting board, T-square and triangles, drafting pencils, and erasers. These tools are crucial for creating precise and proportional designs that meet the needs of clients.
The drafting board provides a stable surface for drawing and sketching by hand. Designers use a drafting board for several reasons:
- Stability: A drafting board provides a stable surface for designers to work on. This is important when creating precise and accurate drawings that require a steady hand.
- Angle: A drafting board can be adjusted to different angles, which allows designers to work at a comfortable angle. This is especially important when working on larger drawings or designs that require multiple angles.
- Size: A drafting board is typically larger than a standard desk, which provides more space for designers to work on. This is important when creating detailed drawings or designs that require a lot of space.
- Durability: A drafting board is typically made from high-quality materials that are durable and long-lasting. This ensures that the board will hold up over time, even with heavy use.
- Portability: Some drafting boards are designed to be portable, which allows designers to take their work with them wherever they go. This is especially useful for designers who work on-site or need to travel for work.
T-Square and Triangles
T-Square and Triangles are used for drawing straight lines and angles accurately. Designers use these tools for several reasons:
- Precision: T-squares and triangles are essential tools for creating precise and accurate drawings. They help designers create straight lines and angles that are proportional and consistent.
- Efficiency: T-squares and triangles save time and effort by allowing designers to create straight lines and angles quickly and easily. This helps designers work more efficiently and complete projects more quickly.
- Versatility: T-squares and triangles are versatile tools that can be used for a variety of design projects. They can be used to create straight lines, angles, and geometric shapes, making them useful for a wide range of design styles.
- Durability: T-squares and triangles are typically made from high-quality materials that are durable and long-lasting. This ensures that they will hold up over time, even with heavy use.
- Professionalism: Using T-squares and triangles can help designers create more professional-looking drawings. They provide a level of precision and consistency that is difficult to achieve with freehand drawing.
Drafting Pencils and Erasers
High-quality pencils and erasers are essential tools for designers who need to create precise sketches and drawings. Here’s why:
- High-quality pencils: High-quality pencils are designed to provide a consistent and smooth line. They come in different grades, ranging from soft to hard, which allows designers to create a range of line weights. Soft pencils are better suited for shading and creating darker lines, while hard pencils are better for creating lighter lines and details. High-quality pencils are also durable and long-lasting, which makes them a cost-effective choice for designers.
- Erasers: Erasers are essential for correcting mistakes and making changes to sketches and drawings. High-quality erasers are designed to remove pencil marks cleanly and without smudging. They are also durable and long-lasting, which makes them a cost-effective choice for designers.
Every designer needs an easy way to take notes. Sketchbooks provide a space for designers to explore their creativity and experiment with new ideas. They can sketch out rough concepts and designs without the pressure of creating a final product.
Some designers prefer to use digital sketchbooks, but most designers still use simple notebooks for drafting their ideas on the go.
Some Great Digital Sketchbooks
- iPad and iPencil: you need to have an app installed for sketching, some popular are Sketchbook®, Procreate, Paper
- reMarkable is a popular choice for a paperlike drafting experience and you can easily import your files to your business planning and management tool such as Notion (our favorite).
Color and Material Samples
Color and material samples are essential tools for interior designers. These samples help designers create a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing design by allowing them to see and compare different colors and materials. They allow designers to visualize, compare, communicate, and create accurate and inspiring designs that meet the needs of their clients.
A color wheel is a visual representation of colors arranged in a circular format. It is used to illustrate the relationships between primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, as well as complementary and analogous color schemes.
The color wheel typically consists of 12 colors, with the primary colors of red, blue, and yellow located at the three points of a triangle in the center of the wheel, and the secondary colors of green, purple, and orange located between them. Tertiary colors are created by mixing a primary color with a secondary color.
Swatch Books are collections of fabric, paint, wallpaper, and material samples for color and texture reference. Designers use swatch books for several reasons:
- Variety: Swatch books offer a wide variety of colors, textures, and materials in one convenient package. This allows designers to see and compare different options side-by-side, which helps them make informed decisions and choose the best colors and materials for a project.
- Accuracy: Swatch books provide a level of accuracy that is difficult to achieve with digital representations. They allow designers to see the true color and texture of different materials, which can be important when selecting finishes and fabrics.
- Portability: Swatch books are portable and can easily be carried in a designer’s toolkit. This makes it easy for designers to take swatches on-site, which is important when selecting finishes and fabrics for a space.
- Communication: Swatch books help designers communicate their ideas to clients and collaborators more effectively. They can provide physical samples that clients can see and touch, which helps them visualize the design plan.
- Inspiration: Swatch books can provide inspiration and spark creativity for designers. They can see new colors and materials that they may not have considered before, which can lead to innovative and unique design ideas.
Pantone Color Guides
Designers use Pantone color guides for several reasons:
- Standardization: Pantone color guides provide a standardized system of color identification. This means that designers can communicate color choices accurately and consistently, regardless of where they are in the world.
- Accuracy: Pantone color guides provide a high level of accuracy when it comes to color matching. They provide a consistent and reliable reference for designers to use when selecting colors for a project.
- Inspiration: Pantone color guides can provide inspiration and spark creativity for designers. They can see new color combinations and shades that they may not have considered before, which can lead to innovative and unique design ideas.
- Communication: Pantone color guides help designers communicate their ideas to clients and collaborators more effectively. They can provide physical samples that clients can see and touch, which helps them visualize the design plan.
- Versatility: Pantone color guides offer a wide range of color options, from basic primary colors to complex shades and gradients. This makes them a versatile tool for designers who need to select colors for a variety of design projects.
TIPS: Collect swatches of the items you often use in your work, such as:
- Fabric samples: Most online and brick-and-mortar stores sell fabric swatches. You can also get fabric swatches from the manufacturers and their sales reps.
- Carpet samples: Carpet retailers frequently offer small pieces of carpet samples or sell obsolete carpet samples that can serve as a reference for color and texture.
- Tile samples: Tile shops sell individual tiles, and tile manufacturers often sell swatch books.
- Floor samples: You can buy floor samples at the brand stores or directly from the manufacturers.
- Wallpaper samples: You can buy wallpaper books from wallpaper manufacturers or samples from all wallpaper retailers.
- Paint chips: Paint stores always have paint chip samples.
Digital cameras are handy for several reasons:
- Documentation: Digital cameras allow designers to document their work and progress throughout a project. They can take photos of the site, materials, and finished work, which can be used for reference and record-keeping.
- Communication: Digital cameras help designers communicate their ideas to clients and collaborators more effectively. They can provide visual examples of their work, which helps clients visualize the design plan.
- Accuracy: Digital cameras provide a level of accuracy that is difficult to achieve with hand-drawn sketches. They can capture precise details and colors, which can be important when selecting finishes and fabrics.
- Efficiency: Digital cameras save time and effort by allowing designers to quickly and easily capture images. This helps them work more efficiently and complete projects more quickly.
- Inspiration: Digital cameras can provide inspiration and spark creativity for designers. They can capture images of new materials, finishes, and colors that they may not have considered before, which can lead to innovative and unique design ideas.
Some designers like to use modeling materials and foam boards to present their design concepts.
Foam Board and Cardboard
Foam board and cardboard are materials commonly used in interior design for various purposes.
Foam board is a lightweight and versatile material that is made up of a foam core sandwiched between two layers of paper or plastic. It is commonly used for creating presentation boards, models, and prototypes.
Foam boards can be easily cut, shaped, and glued, making it an ideal material for creating 3D models and mockups. It is also available in a variety of colors and finishes, which makes it a popular choice for creating visual displays and signage.
Cardboard is a durable and inexpensive material that is commonly used for creating temporary structures and displays. It is made up of layers of paper or pulp that are pressed together to create a stiff and sturdy material.
Cardboard can be easily cut, folded, and shaped, making it an ideal material for creating temporary walls, partitions, and displays. It is also eco-friendly and can be recycled, making it a sustainable choice for designers who want to reduce their environmental impact.
Glue, scissors, X-Acto knives, and other materials are commonly used in model-making for interior design.
Glue is used to hold materials together and create a sturdy model. There are different types of glue available, including white glue, hot glue, and super glue, each with different strengths and drying times. White glue is commonly used for paper and cardboard models, while hot glue and super glue are better suited for more durable materials such as wood and plastic.
Scissors are used to cut materials such as paper, cardboard, and foam board. They are available in various sizes and shapes, including straight, curved, and serrated blades. Scissors with serrated blades are ideal for cutting through thicker materials such as foam boards.
X-Acto knives are used for precision cutting and trimming of materials such as foam board, cardboard, and plastic. They are available in different blade shapes and sizes, including straight blades, curved blades, and chisel blades. X-Acto knives are ideal for creating intricate details and precise cuts.
Design Boards and Presentation Materials
Design boards and presentation materials are used by interior designers to visually communicate design concepts and ideas to clients and stakeholders.
Design boards are physical boards or digital files that contain samples of materials, finishes, colors, and textures that will be used in the design project. They can also include sketches, drawings, and photographs that help to illustrate the design concept. Design boards are used to give clients a tangible representation of the proposed design, allowing them to see how different materials and finishes will look together in the final design.
Presentation materials, on the other hand, are used to showcase the design concept in a more formal setting, such as a client meeting or presentation. These materials can include digital renderings, 3D models, floor plans, and elevations, as well as written descriptions and explanations of the design concept. Presentation materials are used to provide a comprehensive overview of the design project, including its scope, timeline, and budget.
Both design boards and presentation materials are important tools for interior designers, as they help to communicate design concepts and ideas to clients and stakeholders in a clear and concise manner.
By using these materials, designers can ensure that everyone involved in the project has a clear understanding of the design concept, which can help to prevent misunderstandings and ensure that the final design meets the client’s needs and expectations.
Furniture and Fixture Catalogs
Now, this is one of the best parts – all the gorgeous catalogs designers get from their suppliers! In the age of digital-first, remote offices, collecting catalogs is probably not what seems smart, but designers still use them and don’t we all love them?
If you are a manufacturer, you need to create physical catalogs as part of your sales assets. Even if you have all your products online!
Lighting tools are essential for interior designers to ensure that their designs are well-lit and visually appealing. Two important lighting tools are lighting design software and light meters.
Lighting Design Software
Lighting design software is used to plan and visualize lighting layouts. This software allows designers to create a virtual model of a space and test different lighting scenarios to determine the best lighting plan for the room.
Lighting design software can also calculate the amount of light needed in a space based on the size of the room, the type of activity, and the desired mood.
Light meters are used to measure light intensity and ensure proper illumination. Light meters measure the amount of light that is reaching a surface in units of lux.
This information can help designers determine if a space is too bright or too dim and adjust the lighting accordingly.
Light meters are especially useful in spaces where precise lighting is required, such as art galleries or photography studios.
Reference Books and Magazines
Reference books and magazines are important resources for interior designers as they provide inspiration, guidance, and knowledge on design principles, trends, and techniques.
Interior Design Books
Reference books offer a wealth of information on a wide range of design topics, including color theory, space planning, furniture design, and lighting design.
They provide detailed explanations and illustrations of design concepts, as well as practical advice on how to apply these concepts to real-world design projects. Reference books also offer historical context and insights into the evolution of design styles and trends over time.
Magazines, on the other hand, offer a more current and up-to-date perspective on design trends and styles.
They showcase the latest designs and products, as well as provide insights into the creative process and inspiration behind these designs.
Magazines also offer practical advice on how to incorporate these trends into real-world design projects and provide a platform for designers to showcase their work.
Interior designers have been required to wear masks, gloves, eye shields, and safety helmets long before the coronavirus pandemic. Wearing masks, gloves, eye shields, and safety helmets is mandatory for interior designers to protect themselves against harmful dust particles, toxic fumes, and other particles commonly present at construction sites.
Jobs such as marble cutting, carpentry, and painting can release toxic fumes and particles that can result in severe illnesses such as asthma if exposed to them regularly over long periods.
It is also important for the core worker team and clients to wear face masks at all times while on-site, if possible, to minimize the risk of exposure to harmful particles.
Helmets provide protection for the head and reduce the risk of head injury in case of accidents or falls. This is especially important for designers who work on construction sites or other hazardous environments.
In many countries, helmets are mandatory for workers on construction sites and other hazardous environments. Designers who work in these environments must wear helmets to comply with legal requirements.
Wearing a helmet can help designers project a professional image. It shows that they take safety seriously and are committed to following best practices when working on a project.
A Pair of Good Gloves
Interior designers may wear gloves for a variety of reasons, such as to protect their hands from chemicals or other materials during the design process.
For example, if you are working on a project that involves painting or staining furniture, you may wear gloves to protect your hands and prevent stains or chemicals from coming into contact with your skin.
Besides, designers tend to need to move a lot of things when visiting a job site, so having a sturdy but stylish pair of work gloves in the purse is a great idea!
VR and AR Tools Interior Designers Use (Optional but Growing)
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) tools are becoming increasingly popular in interior design as they allow designers to create immersive and interactive experiences for clients.
Virtual Reality (VR) Headsets
VR tools allow designers to create virtual environments that clients can explore in a 3D space.
Clients can wear VR headsets to experience the design as if they were actually in the space, allowing them to get a better sense of the scale, proportions, and overall feel of the design.
VR tools can also be used to test different design scenarios and make changes in real time, allowing clients to see the impact of different design decisions.
Augmented Reality (AR) Apps
AR tools, on the other hand, allow designers to overlay digital information in the real world.
AR tools can be used to show clients how a design will look in their actual space, allowing them to see how different finishes, colors, and materials will look in their home or office.
AR tools can also be used to create interactive experiences, such as virtual product demonstrations or interactive design walkthroughs.
Frequently Asked About Tools Interior Designers Use
What computer and software do interior designers use?
Interior designers use computers for communication, efficiency, access to resources, and design software. Design software, like CAD (computer-aided design) tools, allows them to create 3D models, visualizations, and accurate technical drawings.
Why do interior designers use design software?
Design software enables visualization, efficiency, collaboration, flexibility, and professionalism. It allows designers to create accurate 3D models, automate calculations, collaborate remotely, and create professional presentations.
What is project management software used for in interior design?
Project management software helps interior designers manage time, deadlines, and project schedules. It automates calculations and alerts for impending deadlines based on design decisions. Tools like Trello, Asana, or Microsoft Project are commonly used.
How do interior designers manage budgets?
Interior designers use budgeting software to track expenses, invoices, and budgets. These tools help them record expenses, create and send invoices, and set and manage project budgets. Examples of budgeting software include MyDoma Studio, Freshbooks, and Quickbooks.
What measuring Tools Interior Designers Use?
Interior designers use measuring tools like tape measures, laser distance measurers, and scale rulers. Tape measures offer flexibility, laser distance measurers provide accuracy and speed, and scale rulers ensure proportional and accurate drawings.
What are the essential drafting tools for interior designers?
Interior designers use drafting tools like drafting boards, T-squares, triangles, drafting pencils, and erasers. Drafting tools are crucial for creating accurate and detailed drawings of spaces, furniture, and design elements.
Why do interior designers use design boards and presentation materials?
Design boards and presentation materials help interior designers visually communicate design concepts to clients and stakeholders. They include material samples, sketches, digital renderings, and other visuals to provide a comprehensive overview of the design project.
What is the importance of lighting tools in interior design?
Lighting tools, such as lighting design software and light meters, are crucial for ensuring well-lit and visually appealing designs. Lighting design software helps designers plan and visualize lighting layouts, while light meters measure light intensity to ensure proper illumination.
What role do reference books and magazines play in interior design?
Reference books offer in-depth knowledge of design principles, techniques, and trends, while design magazines provide up-to-date insights into the latest designs and products. Both resources serve as inspiration and guidance for interior designers.
Are VR and AR tools used in interior design?
Yes, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) tools are becoming more popular in interior design. VR tools create immersive virtual environments for clients to experience designs, while AR tools overlay digital information onto the real world, allowing clients to visualize designs in their actual spaces.