Grand Designs is a much admired TV program in this office. We all appreciate good design and admire the craftsmanship, ingenuity, and hard work of the people that are involved in making these dream homes. So, when we were offered the chance to take a look at a Grand Designs branded 3D CAD application with which to design ones own dream abode, we jumped at the chance.
Published by Eleco Visualisation Software and based on its fully fledged Arcon 3D Architect software, Grand Designs 3D is available in three different versions. There's the full blown Self Build & Development version which costs nearly £200, the somewhat knobbled Kitchen & Bathroom version available for £25, or the Renovation & Interior version we're looking at today that costs £50.
The limitations of the Kitchen & Bathroom version are fairly self-explanatory but the differences between the other two versions are more subtle. Essentially it boils down to the £200 version adding more options for adding custom features (walls, windows, doors, roofs, etc.) to ensure your design is entirely accurate to the final product and also having more potential for integration with a professional design workflow. That is, things like the ability to import models, more export options, and planning application-quality drawing output.
For the budding amateur just looking to mock up some ideas, though, the only thing you'll probably miss from the full package is it lets you view both the 2D layout and 3D model simultaneously.
As you'd expect, then, Grand Designs 3D lets you build up 3D models of your dream project by first laying out the structure in 2D. The interface is very much what you see is what you get so building up a simple structure is as quick as outlining a few walls, adding a floor or two and topping it off with a roof.
If you want to go back and change something it's a simple case of flipping back to construction mode, selecting the piece you'd like to move and dragging it to a new location. This is one area where the program's less than intuitive interface does cause problems though, as it took me ages to work out how to delete a roof so I could change the underlying wall structure. And before you tell me to read the manual - something so simple shouldn't require that.
Once you've laid out your main structure you can start filling your house with all the lovely furniture you'd like. Unfortunately the list of items is a little limited - there are no free standing baths for the bathroom, for instance - but there's enough so that you can quickly and easily get an idea of the sort of space you're going to be working with.
This was another area that seemed strangely unintuitive, though, as again I couldn't for the life of me work out how to delete items in 2D mode so instead had to resort to walking through in 3D view and selecting and deleting items of furniture that way.
As well as letting you design your dream house, Grand Designs 3D also enables you to plan out your garden and do some basic landscaping with ponds, parasols, and pavements all available to finish the look.