There are many tools available to help you get kitchen layouts out of your head to where other people can see them, from paper and pencil, through cardboard cutouts, to desktop and browser-based software. This article looks at mostly free kitchen design software, interactive kitchen design tools which help you create a virtual kitchen design on the computer which you can then print out and discuss. You can also use them just for play - to carry out a virtual kitchen remodel when you can't do one yet in real life. After all, it's fun just to dream!
Many of the free tools for kitchen design online are available from manufacturers'; websites, and in that case they concentrate on products from that manufacturer, plus a range of things like appliances. A quick Google search for “free kitchen design tool" will bring up lots of hits - for instance, Cabinet Liquidators, Merillat and IKEA all have free online planners. If you've already picked your cabinet line, take a look at your manufacturer's or distributor's web site to see if they have a tool specific to your cabinets.
Most of these planner tools are browser-based and fairly slow as they are manipulating graphics information through your internet connection. If you're on a dial-up connection you're not likely to find them usable, and even a high speed connection may be painfully slow to use. The Cabinet Liquidators tool worked faster than most for me. The IKEA kitchen planner downloads to your desktop and runs from there rather than through your browser, so it's faster to start with, but it slows down once you have a kitchen full of cabinets set up in it.
Many of these tools work in a similar way: you choose a basic layout (galley, L-shape etc), customize the room size and door and window locations, then add appliances and cabinets. Some have an “auto-fill" tool for the cabinets which may be worth trying as a starting point, but definitely won't give you an optimum layout.
If you haven't yet picked cabinets, you'd be better served by a tool which covers a wide range. HGTV has a virtual kitchen design tool at their website (which unfortunately works only with Internet Explorer, not Firefox or other Mozilla-based browsers). I found it rather flaky and hard to use, but it does include a huge range of appliance and cabinet products from multiple manufacturers.
Another route to try is the free trials offered by many paid planning tools. Paid tools can be browser-based or desktop software. They include Plan 3D (browser based, you subscribe and pay by the month), Chief Architect, Softplan and Smartdraw (desktop-based tools which are quite high-level and have a price to match).
Finally, there is a variety of lower-priced home design tools available, such as Better Homes and Gardens, Punch, Turbofloorplan, IMSI and Home Plan Pro. These programs are often available at your local computer store or they can be downloaded.
Visit the Kitchen Design Online page at Kitchen Floor Plans and Layouts now, for more detailed reviews and links to these interactive kitchen design tools.