The Whys and Whens of 3D Models in Our Process

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One of our jobs as interior designers is to provide enough presentation stimulus to a client so they can visualize the recommended design. No matter how detailed a 2D CAD elevation drawing, how artistic the hand-drawn perspective sketch, or how thorough a designer has been in providing materials samples, some clients just can’t “see” how it will look when the project is done. It’s a bit like showing you lots of jigsaw puzzle pieces without also showing the picture of what it’s supposed to look like after it’s been put together. 🙂 Technology has stepped in to provide more complete vision of what you’re buying ahead of writing the checks, whether that’s digitally applying a fabric onto a chair frame, or creating a model with all the correct materials, like the custom fireplace and media unit we designed for a client, above.

Every design firm’s process varies. So why does SAI use 3D models and how do they fit in our process?

Designs in this post by Sabrina Alfin Interiors. 3D models of SAI designs courtesy of     EP Visualz   , 2018.


To avoid confusion in reviewing technical drawings

3D Architectural Design Service

I like a good technical drawing as much as the next designer. It’s what separates good design from the rest. But let’s face it: unless they are in the building trades themselves, few clients are trained in how to read a specification drawing meant more for the fabrication of the design. Without that understanding, knowing that the above 2D elevations will turn into the 3D model at the top is a leap most people can’t make.

Confirming materials selections

At SAI, we tend to use computer renderings toward the end of the design process, after layouts and “look and feel” have been approved. It’s a great way to show clients how different materials options can look. In the above 3D model of the fireplace, we’ve shown large format porcelain tiles with solid surfacing for the hearth and niche frames. And in the second rendering of the design, below, we’ve eliminated the frames, but added textured field tile and contrast tile for the rear of the niches. We’ve also enlarged the display niches on the side to two large ones instead of four smaller ones. The basic design is the same, but having the ability to show different configurations in a lot less time is helpful and keeps the project moving.


Example of  3D Model LINEAR


Multiple perspectives to check functionality

Having the ability to see a space from multiple angles is important, particularly when you’re dealing with kitchen layouts. The two renderings below helped SAI make the case that the refrigerator was best located at the end of the cabinet run, not in the middle of it as the client had requested. Having the fridge where it’s shown below would have impeded traffic flow when more than one cook was in the kitchen.


3D kitchen design
3D Kitchen design model


Photo-realistic or not?

Our opinion is that photo-realistic computer renderings tend to have a look that feels “off”: a little too perfect to feel real. It also hinders a designer’s ability to talk in conceptual terms. If the concept looks too “finished”, we believe it inhibits clients from saying how they really feel about it. It already feels like a done deal, with no chance to make changes. With more artistic and loosely rendered computer models, clients tend to open up more about their preferences. We’d rather know our clients’ concerns at the drawing board stage where changes are less expensive than after we start construction.

Our goal is to make the design process efficient and more collaborative with our clients. Three-dimensional models are just one more tool to help realize their vision for remodeling and design.