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HomeTechAI design apps made my new apartment look odd

AI design apps made my new apartment look odd

Emilia David

When I moved to a new studio apartment last year, it was my chance to live out my DIY YouTube girly dreams and design it to my heart’s content. But it turned out to be harder than I thought. Since I couldn’t afford an actual designer, I decided to try out some of the generative AI-powered design apps I’d seen floating around the internet.

AI-based design tools began cropping up about the time ChatGPT burst onto the scene. They come in different flavors, from platforms where you upload a photo and write a prompt for the AI to overlay a new image on top of to ones that suggest new styles for you to try.

One of the images I asked AI apps to redesign.
Photo by Emilia David / The Verge

The second photo I uploaded, showing a corner of my living room.
Photo by Emilia David / The Verge

I decided to try out a couple of straight AI chatbots (ChatGPT and Gemini), a retail-based AI assistant from Ikea, and three design apps (Spacely AI, Decoratly, and RoomGPT). I uploaded photos of my apartment to the platforms and wrote two prompts for those that had a prompt box: “Give me a storage solution for this area” and “Transform this image into a midcentury modern-style living room.”

Here are short summaries of how each one fared.

My conversation with ChatGPT about redesigning my apartment.
Screenshot: ChatGPT

ChatGPT and Gemini were (obviously) not made explicitly for design, so the most I expected were some suggestions and maybe an edit of the photo with some information about the items it chose.

I got some of what I hoped for. Both ChatGPT and Gemini gave me storage suggestions, with ChatGPT telling me what materials I should look for to keep the room in the midcentury modern style. Neither chatbot was capable of changing my photo or generating its own living room designs in my chosen style. 

ChatGPT is free to use for a limited number of messages; otherwise, it’s $20 per month. Gemini is free, but the advanced version with improved AI models is $19.99 with a Google One membership.

Ikea’s chatbot gave me some furniture ideas.
Screenshot: Ikea

Ikea created a custom version of ChatGPT last February so that shoppers could ask questions about furnishing their living spaces and get suggestions about styles and furniture. I uploaded a photo of a corner of my living room, which admittedly showed a messy pile of workout stuff, vinyl records, a bookshelf, and just general bric-a-brac, and checked out its suggestions. 

To store my yoga mat (and a travel pillow it mistook for a yoga mat), Ikea’s chatbot suggested I get a storage rack and other “decorative items.” (It also suggested that I add a bookshelf even though there was already one in my photo.) 

As expected, after suggesting storage solutions, Ikea wanted me to buy its products, so I gave it rough measurements of the spot and told it I would love items evoking a midcentury modern feel but with dark wood. It responded with photos of the items and told me where to find them. Despite all that, it still felt more like a search tool than a design app. 

The better option is probably Ikea’s non-ChatGPT-based mobile app, which uses augmented reality to help you imagine what your space would look like by overlaying its product in your home. 

Ikea’s custom GPT is free at the OpenGPT Store.

Spacely did an okay job, but for some reason, it turned my lemon into a blue egg.
Screenshot: Spacely AI

One of the most recommended AI-based design platforms on social media is Spacely AI. After uploading a photo or choosing from a template, users can redesign a space, furnish an empty room, or edit a photo through written prompts.

I asked Spacely to reimagine my space in a midcentury modern design with mainly wooden furniture. Spacely is more customizable than other platforms, allowing me to control how much its model follows my prompts (such as preferred style, color palette, etc.). However, the customization choices are vastly limited in the free version; if you want to do more than just try it out, you’ll need to go for a paid plan.

Spacely had a basic understanding of what I wanted, but the images it generated didn’t really fulfill my brief. For example, I happened to upload a photo that included two plastic containers and a lemon, and the AI generator transformed the two objects into… decorative items, I guess. The plastic containers became wooden cylinders and the lemon either is a rock or rotten fruit. (Unfortunately, it’s still normal for funny things to show up in AI-generated images.) 

Spacely AI Pro is $20.75 a month for a yearly plan or $39 for a monthly subscription for unlimited prompts, watermark-free photos, and high-resolution downloads. 

Decoratly’s stab at designing my apartment felt closer to a real room with a distinct style.
Screenshot: Decoratly

Decoratly also transforms photos into a specific style. It’s very limited for free users; before I subscribed, I could only upload my photo and tap the quick redesign button to generate a generic design filled with white and black furniture and zero character. 

When I upgraded to a Pro account, I was able to use Decoratly’s “Build a Prompt” feature and its image filter, which lets you give instructions on what you’d like the app to make. Unlike the other AI prompt builders I tried, Decoratly wouldn’t let me write my own prompts. Instead, I had to choose from a prepared set of words to describe what style, color, material, and texture I wanted to see in the transformed photo. 

I chose the words “midcentury modern,” “dark,” “gray,” “wooden,” “metal,” “smooth,” and “neutral” for my room. The new photo it created felt closer to a real room with a distinct style than those I got with the other apps, although some of its choices could be weird — like putting some sort of table thing on top of the cylinder it transformed my electric fan into. Also, it put my monstera plant in a teeny-tiny pot that would have fallen over in five seconds flat.  

Decoratly costs $12 / month for unlimited designs and additional features. A 24-hour ($3) and seven-day ($6) trial is available. 

RoomGPT’s attempt added a blur filter to my apartment.
Screenshot: RoomGPT

Out of the dedicated AI design platforms I tried, RoomGPT was the most disappointing. 

I felt like the app did the bare minimum in redesigning my space. It did change a couple of items to fit the brief — for example, adding a couch to a room that didn’t have one — but it also removed my TV and media console entirely and never transformed the room to fit the style I wanted. 

RoomGPT runs on a credit system, where each render is one credit. The free version offers two free credits. After that, there are three paid tiers based on the number of credits or room designs: $9 for 30 room designs; $19 for 100 designs; and $29 for 200 credits.

Waiting for better

In short, none of the AI apps I tried really helped me design my place. The most they did was show me the kinds of furniture that could fit the vibe I was looking for, which I could’ve done with a quick Google search anyway. None of them were capable of figuring out a new style for my space or truly reimagining my apartment. As with other things, AI is not really ready to design our living spaces. 

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