A kitchen renovation is a MAJOR UNDERTAKING, and poor choices can cause lost money as well as a lifetime of cooking irritation. The new augmented reality (AR) apps out there allow you to use your camera or photos to see exactly how the tile, countertops, paint, appliances, and accessories will look and fit in your space—and you don't even have to step foot in the store.
AR is newly available—Apple's ARKit debuted in September 2017—so there are not yet a ton of apps out there yet, and some of those that have launched remain limited in their scope and abilities. Still, this technology is very, very exciting, and it will be fascinating to see how it progresses, and how ubiquitous its use becomes.
Are these five apps indicative of the future of kitchen design? Even if they have faults and limitations—and they all do—if I were to make any changes to my kitchen anytime soon, I would definitely use them. I would still bring home tile and paint samples, and double check all measurements, but being able to actually see each new element rendered into the space would provide much-needed peace of mind as well as a reality check.
Supported Devices: Any desktop or laptop computer
Features: Upload any photo and use the Visualizer to update the floor, countertops, tiled walls, and painted walls; use photo to shop for materials.
Pros: Being able to upload any photo is handy; using computer rather than a phone really allows room to do detailed surface outlining; viewing a larger image is helpful for visualizing.
Cons: Using the Visualizer requires registering, including sharing email address and actual physical address; requires manual definition of surfaces; defining surfaces is a bit finicky (see photo above).
Supported Devices: iOS 11 or later on iPhone X, 8, 8 Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, and SE; iPad Pro (9.7, 10.5, and 12.9) and iPad (2017)
Features: Scan your kitchen, add countertops and islands, undo and try out other options, repeat with scans from other angles to get a full impression of the new look, and save photos once you're satisfied.
Pros: Well-reviewed (4 stars on the App Store); clean and simple interface.
Cons: Can only render one surface at a time (so, island or countertops, but not both); requires manual outlining of surfaces.
Further Reading → The Best Free Apps to Help You Visualize Paint Color Changes
Supported Devices: iOS 8 or later on iPhones and iPads; Android devices with 4.0.3 and up
Features: Place appliances and accessories in photos of your kitchen taken with camera or uploaded from photo roll.
Pros: Sinks, faucets, stoves, range hoods, ceiling fans, and pendants coming soon; photo roll feature lets you play with options while shopping in-store.
Cons: So far only includes refrigerators, dishwashers, and over-the-stove microwaves; items must be manually scaled.
Supported Devices: iOS 10.0 or later for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV
Features: Shop items in the Houzz app—all those with the 3D icon (you can also filter by 3D-enabled options) can then be viewed in any space via your camera.
Pros: 300,000 items are 3D-enabled, including appliances, tile, lighting, flooring, fixtures, furniture, and hardware; shopping tool is easy to use (if you like an item once you've auditioned it in your space, just click the cart button); you can add multiple items to the same photo.
Cons: Rendering is clunky (not truly rendering at all); items such as tiles do not fill floor space, but rather a single tile appears and you can duplicate it; there is no scaling, so you have to estimate the size of each item in your space.
Supported Devices: iOS 11.0.1 or later on iPhones
Features: Places and arranges IKEA items in your space with realistic renderings.
Pros: Measures the space automatically and renders the scale of furnishings with 98% accuracy; includes over 2000 products.
Cons: So far includes only furniture and accessories, so you can play with tables, chairs, stools, rugs, and lighting, but not cabinetry, counters, and flooring.