Judging by the popularity of current interior-design TV shows such as Trading Spaces and Surprise by Design, the do-it-yourselfer market is growing. Microspot Interiors 3.4, a 3-D interior-design application, provides a quick way of rendering layouts so both professionals and home owners can see their designs before they start painting or moving furniture around. And home owners will find Interiors a big help in keeping design and vision consistent.
The design process in Interiors is fairly straightforward. You start by laying out a room in its exact dimensions—you can draw 3-D walls with proper thickness and height as easily as you can draw a single line. Once you create walls, you can add doors, windows, furniture, and accessories from the program’s object library. Interiors is intelligent about helping you place objects logically. For example, clicking on a wall with a window object automatically places the window in the wall, orients the window properly, and sets the window to a typical height. You can then use the Windows And Doors palette to adjust the size and placement of the window. Throughout the process, you can view your model from any angle by using the View menu and the NaviCam palette.
The final step in the design process is to apply colors and textures to the surfaces of the room through simple drag-and-drop actions. While this worked great most of the time, we found intermittent bugs in the texturing of certain objects. For instance, some cabinets refused to accept a texture, but their corresponding hardware was textured instead; one countertop refused to accept a texture, while its backsplash texture worked fine. Microspot is aware of these problems and is working on fixes. Once the design is complete, the 3-D rendering engine does a great job of creating a realistic room.
The assortment of doors, windows, furniture, and cabinets included in the object library is fairly extensive. In addition, Microspot is making more objects available for free on its Web site every month. This works fine for do-it-yourself home owners, but professionals are going to want to use their own objects and will need, at the very least, to customize the design of furniture elements beyond color, texture, and dimensions. This customization capability is not currently included, but Microspot is planning a sibling application (in development as this issue went to press) that will give Interiors this capability. Also, since Microspot is a British company, American users will notice that the default library of objects is geared toward British cabinet sizes and appliances. The program offers an American-scaled kitchen library, but it’s limited. The introduction of custom object sizes will likely eliminate this problem.
In many ways, Interiors’ interface—for actions such as applying textures to objects—is easy and intuitive. But in other ways, it can be complex and confusing with its multitude of context-sensitive palettes that appear and disappear. Furthermore, trying to lay out architectural elements such as curved walls or non-90-degree angles is difficult. And the program was marred somewhat by its sluggish performance on a 400MHz Power Mac G4.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Overall, Interiors is a fun and useful interior-design tool. But Microspot has a tough job in trying to satisfy both the casual user and the professional at the same time. Current users should upgrade to this OS X version. New users should try it out first.