CAD Programs for Interior Designers

Look no further for the best CAD software for your interior design business.  These are the top tools for your drawings and renderings.  

When I started in the architecture school at USC, computer aided design (CAD) was just beginning to be introduced into the curriculum.  Hand-drawing and drafting was still king and I had one class in drawing plans on the computer (which we saved on giant floppy zip disks).  It wasn't until years later while working for Michael Smith that I took an AutoCAD class and really started using it regularly.  

Now it is commonplace.  Your interior design firm can't survive without using CAD for 3D renderings or 2D furniture plans.  This doesn't mean that you yourself have to know the programs if you're like me and they were never an integral part of your design education.  There are lots of current students and recent graduates that are extremely proficient in CAD.  Sometimes it is better to delegate.  


AutoCAD - The premier CAD program used by architects and engineers.  This is the most widely used program and a standard in the industry, but it is also very expensive.  For that reason, I still use a version that is 10 years old.  But it does the job, as I use it minimally for furniture plans.  When you are working on large projects and new construction, this may be a necessary tool to be able to work on the construction drawings and architectural plans that are likely in .dwg format.


NanoCAD - The best alternative to AutoCAD I've found.  Feels a bit like AutoCAD lite.  There is a basic version that is free and can read those .dwg files.  Even the pro versions are well-priced. Good for beginners, those that don't need the full capabilities of AutoCAD, or if you need to open a .dwg file.  Great option for simple 2D drawings.


SketchUp - This program filled a void for those less technical.  It is fairly easy to learn and has become very popular.  While SketchUp is known for its 3D models, you can also do 2D plans.  Not only can you create static renderings, the Pro version has the ability to do virtual walk-thrus and fly-overs.  Complaints are that you may need additional plugins to get the full capabilities in this program.  While it can do floor plans the other programs on the list are better suited for that.

Chief Architect

Chief Architect has a large selection of programs that are geared specifically towards the home improvement marketplace.  This program is made specifically for homeowners, designers and contractors and that is very attractive.  A vast library of tools and settings so you're not drawing everything from scratch.  Great for virtual walk-thrus and visualization for your clients.  CA can be glitchy and may not run properly on some computers.

Book Giveaway!

While the computer may still be the future, there is a place for quality hand-drawings and renderings.  Whether you need to quickly present an idea to a client or spend time creating a beautiful color hand rendering to show how their space will feel these are still skills beneficial to an interior designer.

Recently I came across some vintage (and pre-loved) interior design books and thought I would pick up a few for you in honor of this dying art.  I'm hosting a giveaway for this collection of books.  All of these books will be a great addition to your design library.

  • Anatomy for Interior Designers and How to Talk to A Client by Francis de N. Schroeder
  • How to Read Buildings: A Crash Course in Architectural Styles by Carol Davidson Cragoe
  • Interior Design Illustrated by Christina M Scalise
  • Perspective for Interior Designers by John Pile
  • Architectural Sketching and Rendering: Techniques for Designers and Artists by Stephen Kliment

Enter now:

Giveaway for 5 great books on hand-rendering and drawing for interior designers

Official Rules: One random winner will get the collection of books listed above.  Sweepstakes starts 5/3/17 and ends at 5pm MST on 6/1/17.  Winner will be selected by from the commenters and notified via email by 6/8/17.  Winners have one week to claim their prize.  Prize will be sent to winner within a week of winners claiming prize.   By entering you agree to receive communications from us.  US Residents 18+ years only.  Void where prohibited.  No purchase necessary. Odds of winning are dependent on number of entries received.  

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