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Real Estate

How to turn your phone into an interior designer

| Sunday, July 5, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

Some homeowners are at a double disadvantage when it comes to home-design apps, because they're not especially comfortable with interior design or with technology. So we went to the experts, asking designers which apps they find most helpful, and how they use them. (All are free and available on both iOS and Android, unless otherwise noted.)

“People nowadays want to live in homes that reflect their personality and lifestyle,” says David Mitchell, owner, designer and blogger for David Mitchell Interior Design in Washington. “This is where apps come in. Apps inspire people. We refer to apps to get information that inform our designs.”

Mitchell likes to get a dose of design from Dwell magazine's app (content ranges from free to $7), which he calls a “well-edited and finely curated” supplement to the print edition. The app offers videos and slide shows, as well as product reviews and stories. It also provides links and detailed photos of products for purchase.

Designer Regan Billingsley, owner of Regan Billingsley Interiors in Maryland, says that homeowners who don't have a designer's prowess and who struggle to find a design vision can turn to online apps to get started.

“It's easy to feel overwhelmed and get caught up in today's trends when starting off,” she says. “But you can use these online tools to find colors and designs to build a better design direction and concept.”

Billingsley says she asks new clients to send her photos from Pinterest and Houzz to help articulate their aesthetic preferences. She has thousands of followers on Pinterest (, which she calls her “online library.” She said she is happy about the company's new “Buy It” feature for in-app purchases.

The Houzz app focuses more narrowly on home design than Pinterest, according to Billingsley, and provides open forums for community engagement and discussions with design professionals.

Billingsley also recommends the apps from retailers One Kings Lane and Joss & Main, which sell home goods at various price points and separate items by style genre.

Wing Wong, AIA project manager for Dep Designs of Takoma Park, Md., says that many homeowners want to be closely involved in their design projects even if they hire a professional. Like many designers, he relies on apps like Dropbox to save and share files with other architects and clients on the job.

Wong also recommends RoomScan (99 cents for iPhone), an app that can draw floor plans. “Simply go around your house and touch each wall with your phone,” he says. “It will automatically draw up the floor plan with dimensions.” This near-accurate feature comes in handy for quick estimates and rough sketches for remodeling.

Therese Baron Gurney, principal of Baron Gurney Interiors in Washington, said she relies on Sherwin-Williams' ColorSnap and Benjamin Moore's Color Capture, which provide instant paint color matches based on a photo taken by the user.

“Using this kind of attention to detail totally changes your lifestyle,” says Gurney, who employed the app to find a “happy, fun and sunny” apple green accent color for a “funky” modular home designed for clients by her husband, architect Robert Gurney. “It's not only a modern home — it's a modern way of living.”

Winyan Soo Hoo is a staff writer for The Washington Post.

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