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10 home makeover tech tools

  • Article by: PAUL DUNCAN
  • Star Tribune
  • September 18, 2013 - 1:01 PM

There are hundreds — thousands? millions? — of websites, blogs, apps and more to help (or confuse) the home remodeler. Here are a few that you might actually find useful — some of them started right here in Minnesota.

1. Try a makeover before you start. If you want to virtually redecorate or even rebuild your home, Idaho-based Chief Architect, Inc. offers a free trial download of its Home Designer software at www.homedesignersoftware.com. There are apps for that, too: Home Design 3-D is available for iPad and iPhone in free and paid versions, and for Android there’s BuildApp.

2. Find other do-it-yourselfers. HouseTalent is a social networking site for the do-it-yourself home improver. Created by two Twin Citians, it allows you to post and share photos of your work online, and check out other users’ projects for inspiration (www.housetalent.com).

3. Pick a window on your iPad. Another Minnesota company, Andersen Corp., this year launched a pair of free apps that offer virtual versions of its popular Home Style Library pattern books. Homeowners can browse through different architectural styles, find one that matches their own house, then click on appropriate options for window frames, hardware, sills, etc. You can even “paint” them by clicking on color or wood combinations. The full Home Style library is also available on Andersen’s website: www.andersenwindows.com/home-styles.

4. Turn your home into a smart home. Minneapolis-based SmartThings, which sells Internet-connected home automation and home security technology, has now opened an online store for those who want to turn their house into a web-connected smart home but never knew how — until now (www.smarthings.com).

5. Furnish your room — virtually. Ikea recently launched a free app that allows you to “place” items from its catalog around the room to figure out if they’re the right size, fit, color and style before you buy — simply by using your phone’s camera. Called Ikea Catalog, it’s available for iOS and Android.

6. Get 2 million ideas. Houzz.com allows you to browse a vast library of photos from top designers and save your favorites. If you know what you want, but don’t know how (or don’t want) to do it yourself, Houzz also has a searchable directory of home improvement professionals in your area.

7. Get creative — really creative. We’re not sure how practical this is for most do-it-yourselfers, but if you’re looking for ideas from some really wild and wonderful designers, check out the blog IcreativeD.com. If you’re into floating staircases or open to crystal chandeliers shaped like a skull and crossbones, this is the virtual hangout for you.

8. Get inspired. Designspiration.com describes itself as “a resource to help you discover and share great design.” (Somewhat bizarrely, it also describes itself as “a nudity-free environment.”) You can browse 300 pages of cool designs and save your favorites — architecture, illustration, typography, etc. — into collections to find later.

9. Go global. A blog run by an expat American living in Europe, decor8blog.com dishes up everything from favorite Norwegian living rooms to trends from the Milan Furniture Fair. Founder and blogger Holly Becker is the author of “Decorate: 1,000 Inspirational Ideas For Every Room In Your Home” and also runs design workshops out of her studio in Hannover, Germany, if you feel like stopping by.

10. Don’t try this at home. Still in Europe, after all the inspiration, try a website that tells you what NOT to do. On the British site www.diydisasters.co.uk, hapless do-it-yourselfers (and their suffering spouses) share tales of nails hammered into water pipes, kitchen cabinets sawed in half, and two-year-olds covering TVs in paint. Laugh? I nearly dropped my drill.

Paul Duncan • 612-673-4410

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