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We Tried It Four Online Interior Design Sites People Magazine

We Tried It Four Online Interior Design Sites People Magazine We Tried It Four Online Interior Design Sites People Magazine

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More about: | interior design | Furniture | home renovations | Decorating | home improvements

Verdict: For a basic upgrade — which is exactly what I was looking for — this site checks all the boxes. Choosing a designer yourself is a little bit of a risk, but I felt like Jessica kept things within my tight budget and captured Jeff and my youthful aesthetic. I also love how Havenly has “Alternates” (see below for example) for many of the items, so you can truly personalize the design.

A few notes: I provided floor plans, measurements, photos of the room and inspiration ideas to each service. I also answered questions on topics ranging from how the space is used to color preferences.

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Process: After filling out a design brief, I was matched with Nancy. She first created a concept board where I could give thumbs up or down on items and leave comments with my thoughts on each.

The 360 view, which verges on virtual reality, allowing the user to look around the room as if you’re in it, was undeniably satisfying and fun. You can view four variations of my room: the two original designs, here and here, and two featuring my real sofa and chairs, here and here).

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Modsy creates realistic 360-degree virtual rooms, allowing you to swap furniture and change colours (Modsy)

Next, I uploaded eight of the most amateurish photos ever taken of my existing, empty living room from the angles dictated by the site. (One is above for your reference and my embarrassment.)

Verdict: I love that you can pick and choose from different options as opposed to having one finished product, but I would have liked to see the design portrayed in the context of the room. Unlike others, however, we were sent multiple ideas for art placement, which is helpful because the struggle of a gallery wall is real. Crystal made it clear that if I needed assistance ordering, with delivery, or with anything really that she was available to make the process seamless, which I’m sure any busy homeowner would be #blessed to have.

The first designs come with specific questions to direct my response, such as: “What do you like about this concept? What do you not like about this concept? Is the overall direction and style good? If not, what specifically would you like changed?”

Not all of the sites were willing to say how they make money with such low design fees, but the ones who did said it was through a commission on the furniture you buy – just like traditional interior designers. Which explains another thing the sites have in common: after you sign up, they email you mercilessly with offers and encouragement to buy stuff.

The sites ask additional questions about considerations such as budget, which items you want to keep, which you will toss, and whether you need lighting or storage. Are you open to new paint or wallpaper? And what are your design goals?

Process: After providing the necessary info, I was matched with Baylee who turned out two style boards depicting rooms I would move into, like, yesterday.

What I’d buy: We loved the gold floor lamp. In fact, it’s on its way to our apartment right now!

To get the scoop, I tested four of the top options out there: Havenly, Laurel & Wolf, Decorist and Homepolish. Here’s how they proposed upgrading my impossibly teensy home.

Verdict: The 3D rendering (above) is unreal, and would be incredibly beneficial to those who struggle with visualizing. I can see how only having two concepts to choose from could be limiting, however they do offer more intensive packages for those looking for something a bit more involved.

I wanted to incorporate a Moroccan-inspired theme, such as layering tribal-print rugs (Washington Post)

What I’d buy: We haven’t ruined our current area rug yet and therefore can’t justify purchasing a new one, but if someone *happens* to stain it I wouldn’t be mad about subbing the black tassel one in as a replacement.

Enter, the growing roster of online interior design services, which pair users with a professional interior designer and help them outfit their space, completely online. With a bevy of celebrity clientele and a range of packages for those who have small budgets, like myself, I was curious about how successful these tools are.

I was pleasantly surprised by Modsy to say the least (and so were my skeptical designer friends). But perhaps more importantly, the process relieved my stress about actually buying a few pieces I desperately needed, and affirmed my faith in this room one day looking really good.

Modsy is best for people who find it difficult to picture a finished room from a two-dimensional drawing. Modsy creates fairly realistic-looking 360-degree virtual rooms. With your computer and mouse, you can spin the room to any angle. It lets you digitally swap furniture around yourself, using the style editor tool. If you have the higher-end package, a designer will do it for you.

Each site then pairs you with a designer. Modsy, Laurel and Wolf, and Decorist chose my designer based on my quiz and questionnaire. Havenly narrowed the field to a group of designers categorised by icons indicating their specialities, such as “Colour Connoisseur”, “Pattern Mixologist” or “Couples Therapy”. All of the sites say they vet their designers, but how isn’t clear. Some designers will have academic or industry credentials, such as an American Society of Interior Designers membership, and others just a portfolio.

Of course, many of the catalogues these services represent, such as West Elm, Pottery Barn, and Crate and Barrel, for instance, also have design services that are sometimes free. But you get only a limited selection through them, not choices for many of them, as the third party services do.

4.) Homepolish Price: Rates start at $130/hr (Includes customizable options depending on your needs.)

What It Is: Online interior designing Who Tried It: Megan Stein, PEOPLE Home and Travel Associate Editor Level of Difficulty: 6/10

Based on my answers, she created a first go take on style board. Although beautiful, it felt like a lot of furniture, and there were a few pieces that didn’t quite fit.

Modsy decks out the renderings in furnishings, decor and art from hundreds of partner vendors like West Elm, Article and Anthropologie. But it’s up to the client to pull the trigger on pieces — a process Tellerman calls “supported do it yourself,” and one that will appeal to anyone who wants to take an active role in decorating their home.

Several interior design startups offer services similar to Homepolish at even lower prices, providing design advice, shopping services and some project management, with fees starting at less than $100 for the whole shebang. One even offers simple consultations – such as, “Should I buy this couch?” – for free.

It’s almost impossible to guarantee that a piece of furniture you loved in the store or online will look just right in your house, even for decorating pros. So what hope is there for the rest of us?

There are reasons, besides design quality, to consider an online designer. They offer the same sales and discounts as the catalogues they represent, but consolidate the purchasing and shipping for you. You can buy from multiple stores using the one site.

Overall Verdict: Each service has its strengths, and you really can’t go that wrong. My number one suggestion, however, is to be meticulous with measurements and photos. As you can tell, these layouts differ from one another, which is a direct result of my not submitting clear enough information. But overall, each grasped my style, took my small room (and strong opinions) in stride, and presented a group of designs of which my New York apartment is not worthy.

Do you suffer from decorating paralysis? You know, that debilitating fear that no matter how many hours you spend saving pictures on Pinterest or browsing furniture sites or staring at that wall of paint chips at the hardware store, you’re always one click away from making a huge, costly mistake. I do. And I think about decorating for a living.

Reader, I loved them. Seeing my room free of drying cabinet doors and snow boots alone would have been a joy, but the renderings were also shockingly realistic and the designs were not far off from what I’d have picked for myself. (Anyone who spends less than all day every day looking at and writing about home design would likely find a near-perfect representation of their taste.)

Living in New York City has its perks: proximity to the best museums, unbeatable shopping, Shake Shack. But one thing it’s desperately lacking is space. My two-bed, one-bath apartment is certainly not the smallest I’ve seen, but the combined living room/kitchen leaves just a little to be desired (like legroom, for instance). My roommate and fellow PEOPLE editor Jeff Nelson and I struggled with how to make the eight-foot-by-ten-foot space, which contains our kitchen on one wall, feel homey with such a tight layout.

The third concept is closer, but still not there. To her credit, Mikayla requests a phone call. Although the other services also offer the option of calling your designer, Mikayla is the only one to proactively contact me. With an in-depth explanation of preferences, such as why I want a three-tiered end table (top shelf for a reading lamp, middle shelf for magazines, bottom shelf for books), she returns a design much, much closer to what I want.

The Insta-perfect Hackney interiors fair you won’t want to miss

Laurel and Wolf is best for a quick result, but create ‘inspo boards’ rather than realistic photos (Laurel and Wolf)

Process: As one of the first sites I tried, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After taking their style survey, I was matched with a several designers and could then choose one based on their profiles. I was worried about picking the wrong person, and could see how someone who doesn’t look at celebrity homes for a living could feel overwhelmed. That said, my success with Jessica makes me confident that you can’t really go wrong. Based on my initial preferences, she presented me with three design boards. I chose a few things from each to give her a better sense of my taste and what I was looking for.

This conundrum is exactly why I was so intrigued by a new online decorating service called Modsy. The site, launched by Google alum Shanna Tellerman in 2016, uses 3D imaging tools to create a photorealistic rendering of your space, then lets you “try on” different pieces of furniture within the model. Of course online interior design services are nothing new, but the thing that peaked my interest about Modsy is that everything is shown perfectly to scale — in my opinion the trickiest element for an amateur decorator to get exactly right.

I am assigned to Lexie. As with others, the initial designs include many au courant elements, including an accent wall. I think accenting the oddly sloped wall draws attention to an unfortunate feature. Lexie responds by suggesting a wall colour between kelly and hunter green. With the red in my tribal rug, which I intend to keep, the whole thing appears a bit… Christmassy? The next option is plum walls that will, she suggests, pair well with teal. Having lived through the Miami Vice style craze, I veto the use of pink or teal. I feel uncomfortably fussy, but we end up closer to something I might like. 

You can take the style quiz for free, here. Two fully rendered designs (and getting your decorating groove back) will cost you $99.

We took a look at the highest-profile services, giving each the same bedroom to redesign, to see what, exactly, clients might expect.

After that, she presented my final board (above). Although some of the furniture pieces are probably too big for my space (for which my admittedly bad floor plan drawing is at fault) I honestly would buy everything in this room. She also incorporated our current ottomans and TV stand, which made it instantly more comfortable.

Verdict: The initial concepts included large furniture pieces and light fixtures that didn’t quite take into account that I’m a renter, which I felt stalled the process a bit. But after clarifying, Nancy offered very clever ideas, like a visually light small side table and pouf for extra seating, that I wouldn’t have come up with myself. For larger projects, particularly for those who need guidance, Laurel & Wolf won’t disappoint.

Havenly offers the most variety in selecting a designer as a standard part of the setup, giving you several to choose from after you take the quiz. (Others allow you to choose from many designers by skipping the quiz or by paying extra.) Designers have up to 17 badges designating special expertise (the aforementioned Colour Connoisseur, for instance). It gives profiles and portfolios for the designers, and when they will be available.

A few years back, the interior design industry was shaken by an internet upstart called Homepolish, which connected style-challenged homeowners with interior designers for a three-hour consultation at a comparative bargain price of $350 (£250), and $130 an hour thereafter. Now, the shaker is getting shaken.

So how good were the final designs? We asked Jonsara Ruth, a professor of interior design at Parsons School of Design in New York, to evaluate them. “None of these feel very sophisticated,” she says. “They feel cut-and-paste. More like beginners’ school projects.” To be fair to the designers, she says, creativity may have been stifled by the “clunky” software that renders the rooms, and by the limited selection of products in the catalogues.

3.) Decorist Price: $299/room for Classic package (Includes two initial design concepts, final room design and floor plan, online shopping list, complimentary purchasing service, direct messaging with your designer.) I also received a 3D rendering, which is available for any project for an additional $199.

Users can also have the Modsy team sub in any piece currently available from an online retailer. I asked them to switch out the dining chairs for some black Windsor chairs I already have from Target.

1.) Havenly Price: $149/room for Full Package (Includes designer, 3 initial ideas, 1 design concept and two revisions, shopping list, concierge buying service, 2-3 weeks design time, 4 weeks post-design support, 3D room visualization, floor plan.)

Ten days later I received an email that my room designs were ready. I clicked apprehensively.

Process: Homepolish is still a virtual experience in many ways, but it differs from the other sites in that the matching happens through what they call a Queen Bee, who is your design fairy godmother of sorts throughout the process. I opted for a video consultation with Crystal — although you can do in-person as well — who asked me to walk her around the space so she could get a feel for it.

I went back to Nancy who then revised the look based on my suggestions to create this final product. One aspect I really liked is that each item had a corresponding number, making it simple to critique certain pieces instead of writing a long paragraph where I might have forgotten something in the shuffle.

To my eye, design differences among the services were pretty subtle. Satisfaction with the final designs probably has less to do with the particular site than with the designer it pairs you with. As good as an algorithm might be, there is some luck involved. None of the designs made me want to spend $10,000.

Decorist seems to do the most to encourage a useful dialogue. After being paired with designer Mikayla, who specialises in “classic design”, I am sent two concepts. One has the ever-popular accent wall in grey, with the rest of the room an off-white. The other has an accent wall of subtly patterned wallpaper. With white furniture, and woven basket accessories, I can see she has taken my thought about French Morocco and run with it, but the result is too much of an Aladdin theme.

She was super open to listening to my opinions and even agreed to incorporate pieces Jeff and I already have and want to keep, like our ottomans and TV stand. After sending me a final design board, she created a 3D rendering which was a great way to imagine how everything would actually look.

When filling out the questionnaires, I set the design goal to refresh a bedroom, keeping the existing wardrobe, poster, rug and curtains. The bed and end tables could go, and I had been experimenting (and failing) with layering tribal rug patterns. I was thinking loosely, not literally, of French Morocco. I set the budget to $10,000.

The designers were faced with a room about 18 by 13 feet, with an 8ft ceiling at the windows that rises to 14 feet by the bedroom doors. Walls are a medium-dark red, with a brown trim so dark it appears black. Large bi-fold closet doors eat up one wall, an art deco armoire fills another, and there is just room for a queen bed and bed stands on the long wall opposite the closet. It would be a challenge.

What I’d buy: “Ugh” really sums up Jeff and my outlook on life, and we look forward to incorporating that art piece into our gallery wall. We also love the updated bar cart.

Cheryl Durst, chief executive of the International Interior Design Association, an interior design trade group, says she is confident that online services won’t replace interior designers, and in fact might be the gateway to bringing in more clients. In the meantime, Durst says, “from a convenience standpoint, these sites are incredible”.

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All of the sites required me to make a rough drawing of the room’s floor plan with measurements, and to take photos of the room and furniture.

The catch is that these companies work strictly over the internet. You won’t personally meet the designer who will decorate your home. The design is based entirely on photos, measurements and guidance that you provide online, or in some cases, by phone.

But if it is, as Ruth says, beginner level, it’s a level higher then I possess. If I had an empty room, and didn’t have the time or inclination to find and buy everything to pleasingly fill it, any of these services would be a vast improvement over what I might do myself. 

Sure I can make a 2D mood board and fill it with complimentary pieces. But will the side table be too high for the sofa? Will a piece of art look lonely on that giant wall? Will I be falling out of bed trying to put my phone on a pint-size night stand?

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This site is optimum for people in a hurry. The designers take a room from concept to completed drawings in 10 days, including initial consultation and revisions of what are commonly called “inspiration boards”. Those are a sort of montage drawing with the elements – furniture, fabrics, paint – that go in your new room. It is not a photo-realistic, literal image, like some others offer.

The services all have a few things in common. For one, a quiz. To determine your personal style and to pair you with a simpatico designer, the sites ask you to select from pictures of things such as rooms, furniture and decorative items, pointing out what you like. They then label your style. The quizzes variously determined me to be “traditional”, “eclectic with a touch of glam” and “contemporary”.

Modsy offered to let me test drive the tool, and the results were undeniably impressive and so, so satisfying.

The Modsy designer makes only the changes I had said I was open to, which is good and bad. I am comfortable with the result, but by not pushing my boundaries, the room isn’t much different from what I have. Modsy does offer one radically different design in grey and white. It looks great, but reveals a problem with these services. Most of my house is already grey and white. I want the bedroom to be a radical departure from the rest of the house. Having not visited my home, no online designer could know that.

I took a short quiz on their site that determined my style was “Atomic Industrial.” (I agreed with a little less than half of that description and skepticism set in.)

I felt she really grasped my personality, and even incorporated art pulled from my Pinterest board, which was a cool surprise and made me feel like I had some semblance of taste. She provided lengthy explanations about why she chose each product, and from there I rated the two concepts and made tweaks.

Or, for a fee of $10, Modsy’s team will create a rendering of a vintage, one-of-a-kind or custom piece you already own. I asked them to recreate the exact configuration of my modular sofa from IKEA, which is one of the few major retailers not in their network. (See both new pieces added in the renderings below.)

Havenly’s questionnaire asks questions the other don’t, asking me to rate patterns, materials such as acrylic, wood and steel, and to name my favourite clothing. Presumably, this gives designers more insight into my lifestyle.

2.) Laurel & Wolf Price: $149/room for the Classic package (Includes designer, 10 days design time, unlimited revisions, space planning, shopping list and floor plan.)

What I’d buy: Jeff loves this rustic TV stand, and I’d love to wake up to that leather pouf any day of the week.

The result again features an accent wall, this one in grey, which must be having a moment. That aside, the Havenly designer, Andrea, does the best job of zeroing in on my taste on the first try, although I don’t think all of the items work – such as the bed with a headboard too tall to accommodate the poster over it.

After chatting, Crystal presented me with a proposal that outlined the work, and gave a recommended design time frame. In this case, it was 10 hours. What really stuck out to me about this service was how I felt like I could easily communicate with her — she was very responsive, and definitely dedicated to making this small space totally gorgeous. From the initial call, she created a multi-page presentation that outlined her ideas. As with the others, I made some suggestions to her and she came back with a variety of options, with these two being our favorites.

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