May 28, 2024

Top Interior Design Tools: Insights from Industry Experts

When it comes to interior design, the right tools can make all the difference in bringing a vision to life. We interviewed three professional interior designers - Michael Graham-Smith, Stacy Thorwart, and Venus Williams - to discuss their must-have design tools and how these items influence their creative processes. Here’s a breakdown of the interior design tools that they can’t live without!

AI-powered tools for ideation and efficiency

“At a high-level, I use AI tools like Midjourney and Palazzo in the brainstorming and ideation phases of a project or to quickly be able to visualize an idea that I have.”

- Michael Graham-Smith

Photo: An interior design material palette created by Stacy Thorwart using Midjourney.

Midjourney: Quick Concept Brainstorming

Midjourney is an AI-powered image generation tool that turns text prompts into detailed digital artwork. Michael Graham-Smith and Stacy Thorwart both highlighted it as an essential tool for ideation and quick visual exploration. Michael shared, "Midjourney allows me to see different ideas visually in a very efficient and real way. As an example, if I’m coming up with a concept for a mid-century bathroom and want to incorporate certain elements rooted in history and see how that may look with a colorful tile, I am able to get a temperature check on my idea very quickly or to be able to show a client something that I am brainstorming in my head in the early stages of a project."

Stacy emphasized the efficiency and novelty of the tool, "Midjourney gives me the ability to explore a lot of different options in a way that is extremely realistic very quickly. In the past, I've gotten really frustrated with tools like Pinterest or Google search because I feel like you just see the same images over and over again. With image generators, I love how quickly you can explore a variety of options that have never been seen before.

Photo: A kitchen designed by Michael Graham-Smith using Midjourney.

Palazzo: Real-Time Redesign and Visualization

Venus Williams highlighted Palazzo, an AI-powered design tool that allows users and businesses alike the ability to upload and redesign photos of actual spaces. “AI is now essential in design – there are lots of different tools out there depending on your use case. What we are doing here at Palazzo is front and center for real spaces in real time. And then you have tools for imaginary spaces like Midjourney to help make your design cleaner.”

Michael also mentioned Palazzo as a helpful AI-powered tool during the brainstorming and ideation phases, particularly when changing specific elements of a design. "I’ve had the opportunity to use Palazzo, as an example, and I am so excited for their feature that will allow me to segment specific elements of a room and see how they look as they change. Currently, tools like Midjourney can be incredible from an ideation standpoint - that said, it’s harder to specifically tweak individual elements without parceling together a range of tools.”

Photo: A bedroom designed using Palazzo.

ChatGPT: Efficient Content Creation and Revision

Stacy relies on ChatGPT, one of the most popular AI language models currently available, to make her daily work more efficient. "I use ChatGPT all day, every day for improving drafts, speeding up content creation, and enhancing client communications. It helps me refine emails, write lesson scripts, and create promotional content for my online education platform. 

One of my favorite ways to use it is taking things that I've already done and making them better. I can create a base, then feed that to ChatGPT and ask it to improve it for me in a matter of seconds.”

Traditional tools for sketching on the go

Pen, Paper, and Architectural Rulers: A Design Staple

“It's fun to be able to sketch places quickly to get design ideas down in scale, at any time.”

- Venus Williams

Photo: A sketch of a designed kitchen created by Stacy Thorwart.

Venus Williams emphasized the enduring value of traditional tools alongside the digital: the humble pen, paper, and ruler. “I definitely can't live without a pen or markers, a sketch pad, and my architectural ruler. Those are things I always travel with. It's fun to be able to sketch places quickly to get design ideas down in scale, at any time.

Pen and paper are so invaluable, and not just for interior designers. I have a sister who’s always working on her house, and she actually is one of the best people I have seen sketching. She has no formal education in design, but she understands space planning. All she needs is a pen and paper to get her ideas across with architects and designers.”

Digital design tools for project inspiration and management

Canva: Simplifying Graphic Design and Project Management

Michael frequently uses Canva, a user-friendly and accessible graphic design platform, for creating mood boards and managing his design projects. "Canva has become a go-to resource for me in my business because it’s so simple to use – I use it every day. I love to create my mood boards in Canva, which is a huge way that I communicate visual ideas with my clients. It’s also how I project manage when we are selecting furniture and decor.”

Instagram and Pinterest: Sources of Inspiration

For inspiration, Venus turns to Instagram and Pinterest. "I keep a bookmark folder on Instagram and use Pinterest for design inspiration. Both platforms are super important for staying inspired and finding new ideas."

SketchUp: Scaling Virtual Design Projects

SketchUp - a 3D modeling software for creating detailed architectural and design models - was mentioned as another helpful tool by Michael, especially for scaling virtual design projects. "When it comes to sketching out spaces, furniture or decor items, or floor plans to scale, SketchUp is one of my go-to resources – though I work with a rendering specialist for large-scale kitchen and bathroom or full home renovation projects. SketchUp is incredibly helpful for me, in particular, when I am working with clients outside of LA. 

As an example, I designed a client’s apartment in Chelsea, New York virtually and we were able to avoid any scale or return issues by being able to see everything we had chosen in the appropriate scale. Small spaces can be a lot harder to design - years of living in the West Village before I moved to LA serve me well in maximizing space.”

Photo: A 3D modeled home interior created on a tool like SketchUp.

Evolution of tools and future trends

"AI tools are indispensable, and I look forward to seeing how they continue to revolutionize the design process."

- Venus Williams

As technology continues to evolve, so do the tools that interior designers rely on. The must-have items in a designer’s toolkit are constantly changing to meet the needs of designers and clients alike. Our experts shared their insights on how their go-to tools have evolved over time and what they are most excited about for the future.

Michael noted that the changes in his must-have items are in part driven by his background in Finance and Technology startups. "Part of growing startups is getting used to constant change and always improving my process and the experience for my clients with each opportunity. I am always looking for tools and systems that make my work more efficient, improve the outcome and more importantly, that enable me to provide top-tier service to my amazing clients."

Stacy has observed a trend toward more condensed tool stacks, with multifunctional tools like Notion replacing multiple single-purpose apps. When asked what she is most looking forward to in future design tools, she noted the potential for further customization within language models. "I'm most excited about custom GPTs within ChatGPT, which will make AI tools even more tailored and useful for the design industry."

Venus sees AI continuing to play a central role in the future of interior design, from creating imaginary spaces to enhancing real-time designs. "AI tools are indispensable, and I look forward to seeing how they continue to revolutionize the design process."

Meet the design experts

Michael Graham-Smith

Michael Graham-Smith is an LA-Based Interior Designer.  He founded his design firm, Graham-Smith Designs, after working in Finance and Technology startups for over a decade. He has been obsessed with design since childhood and after launching his business in 2023, now works with fantastic clients on luxury residential projects in LA and on the East Coast. 

Stacy Thorwart

Stacy Thorwart, the founder of The Intelligent Designer, empowers interior designers to unlock the transformative potential of AI in their design process. Leveraging her expertise in both residential and commercial design, Stacy has created an accessible online education platform that equips designers with the skills and knowledge to seamlessly integrate AI into their workflows. Her course has empowered hundreds of designers globally to embrace AI’s potential.

Venus Williams

Venus Williams, widely known for her revolutionary tennis career, has won 4 Olympic Gold medals and has earned 7 Grand Slam singles titles. In addition, she holds multiple degrees in fashion and interior design, and she founded a South Florida-based full-service interior design firm in 2002 called V Starr. Her extensive background in the arts and interest in technology recently led to the next stage in her design journey: co-founding a new company called Palazzo.

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© 2024 Palazzo. All rights reserved.

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© 2024 Palazzo. All rights reserved.

© 2024 Palazzo. All rights reserved.