Shopping for furniture is nothing like shopping for clothes. Once you get that pair of shoes home and discover that they don't work with that dress in exactly the way you imagined, returning them is as easy as plopping them in the mail or swinging by the store. But when the sectional that looked great in the store turns out to be a behemoth when it lands in your living room, returning it can be a lot more time consuming and complicated.
While classic overhead room planning tools, such as the one Janel played with recently, are great, it can sometimes be difficult to get a good sense of what a room will really feel like from a tool that only gives you a bird's eye view. If you're planning to buy a piece from Crate & Barrel (or even if you have your eye on a piece with similar dimensions), check out their new 3D Room Design tool, which allows you to "try on" a piece of furniture in your room before buying it. I had the fun of experimenting with it the other day.
The way it works is this: email a photo of your room (which, like my original photo, should be a good shot that shows the room with its floor, two walls and ceiling) along with dimensions of the room (length, width and ceiling height). The photo is uploaded into the program and "scrubbed clean" of the furniture you're considering replacing. Choose a piece from their online catalog, place it in the room, and the program magically gets the perspective right. (Those of you who work with AutoCad every day may be yawning at the simplicity of this, but those of you who don't will enjoy it as much as I did.)
Since I'd always been curious to see how a sectional would work in my space, I picked the "Downtown" sofa in oatmeal and, for laughs and giggles, added other items — a lamp, a credenza, a chair, a coffee table and a starburst mirror (to sub in for where I'm planning to hang the tv). A few clicks of the mouse later and I was looking at how the pieces fit in my living room.
It was an eye-opening experience. Though I play with floor plans all the time, this took it to a whole new level, and it gave me a real and very satisfying sense of how the pieces would visually play off of each other and the architectural features of the room. I was astonished, in fact, to discover that the large sofa, instead of dominating the room and making it feel smaller, actually opened it up, reorienting the space towards the kitchen and dining room/office so that the three rooms actually join in "conversation". While I'm not ready to redecorate, it did give me a few ideas to play with; I feel pretty certain I'll be moving around the furniture in my living room this weekend. (And you can bet that I have sectional on the brain).
By mid-fall, Crate & Barrel hopes to have tweaked the program so that you'll be able to perform disappearing acts on your rooms right from your home computer without the assistance of a sales associate. They're also hoping to integrate items from the CB2 catalog as well. Even if you don't have any immediate plans to purchase an item from Crate & Barrel, consider checking out this program. It will save you time, money and heartbreak. Oh c'mon, what am I saying? It's fun!
For more info: 3D Room Designer
(Image 2: Abigail Stone; Images 5&6: Crate & Barrel. Other images created in collaboration with Crate & Barrel)