Finally, a Home Decorator Everyone Can Afford: a Computer Program

By Veronique Greenwood | May 4, 2011 2:36 pm

Next time you get the urge to redecorate, hire an algorithm. A new program developed by computer scientists can take a jumble of furniture and arrange it into a variety of realistic configurations using just a few simple rules, like “the TV must be visible from the couch,” “the lamp should be near the desk,” and (important, but oft-overlooked) “doors must be able to open.” You can then choose your favorite arrangement without having to heave the couch across the room more than once.

spacing is important
Visibility constraints throw out any arrangements
where important views are blocked.

The program, called Make It Home, uses basic spatial rules gleaned from examples of pleasingly furnished rooms to come up with its interior designs. It first extracts the rules governing example rooms, including furniture spacing, the existence of pathways between doors, and the relationships between objects like the DVD player and the TV, which must be near each other, or the TV and an armchair, which must maintain a line of sight. Then it whips through successive iterations of the room to be organized, automatically adjusting each version’s failings until all the criteria are satisfied. Watch the video above (starting at 2:10) to see the process, which is basically musical chairs on speed. The team will be presenting at the SIGGRAPH 2011 graphics conference in August.

Above: a chaotic factory; below: beautiful zen palace


The team has tested the program with a variety of rooms, including a Chinese restaurant, a florist shop, the Yale University Art Gallery, and a clothing factory with rows of sewing machines, and the program’s work was deemed realistic by people asked to compare the computer-generated arrangements with ones designed by humans. When will we get our hands on the software? It’s not clear: The researchers say that Make It Home could be useful to video game developers and set designers, but there’s no mention of a time line for commercialization.

For the next version, may we suggest a feng shui add-on?

Image and video credit: UCLA and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

  • Cathy

    Contact EA and have this dropped into the next version of The Sims – they should marry beautifully, and allow for players to stuff extra furniture in their cluttered virtual homes.

  • Matt B.

    I’m assuming that the previews on the little book icons are stored, rather than referring to the website in real time. The preview of “feng shui” has the word “orientate” in it and I was going to edit that, but when I went there it had already been changed to “orient”. And it’s not a coincidence of timing; the preview still says “orientate”.

  • Catherine McGammie

    My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post’s to be exactly I’m looking for. Would you offer guest writers to write content for you personally? I wouldn’t mind publishing a post or elaborating on a few of the subjects you write in relation to here. Again, awesome website!


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

See More

Collapse bottom bar