Anyone who was stunned by the virtual reality home renovations, as showcased in the BBC's Your Home Made Perfect series (if you've not seen it, check it out for the VR alone), might have thought their prayers had been answered. Home renovations and extensions are always difficult to visualise in the flesh – but just imagine how much more confident and in control of a project you'd feel about embarking on a costly project like an extension if you knew not just what it looked like when complete, but what it would feel like to be inside, thanks to virtual reality.
However, while the show cleverly features architects helping home owners transform their properties with the help of virtual reality sets, we're not quite there yet – although it's only a matter of time before we will be planning our own home improvements in this way.
So, while we wait for technology to catch up with our ambitions, what's on offer now for home owners who want to get as real or virtual an idea of what their project might look like when completed as possible? Good news: the latest powerful and sophisticated software you can install on your own computer can provide plenty of very realistic representations of your planned home improvement project, with customisable layouts, 3D views, and literally thousands of objects and materials to experiment with as part of your home improvement plan.
Two programmes stand out for their sophistication and flexibility. Virtual Archiect is probably the most advanced home design software you can currently get, and has a top rating from TopTenReviews. The programme comes with pre-designed room layouts, but also allows more experienced users to build 3D models from their own plans. The programme then calculates the materials you'll need for your chosen room and design, as well as approximate costs. The easy drag-and-drop interface allows you to populate your 3D room plan with appliances and furniture.
But why stop at building projects? Those keen to redesign their gardens need to check out Realtime Landscaping Plus, a virtual landscaping software with a gorgeous interface, which allows you to try out your landscaping ideas layered over a photo of your own garden, or in 3D mode. There are a mind-boggling 11,000 objects in this software, from garden lighting to hot tubs, and over 5,000 plants. And the Plant Growth tool will even allow you to see how your garden will look in several years' time.
It's not quite virtual reality. But it's a start.