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AI design apps made my new apartment look weird

AI design apps made my new apartment look weird

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

AI-based design tools started popping up around the time ChatGPT came on the scene. They come in a variety of flavors, from platforms where you upload a photo and write a prompt that the AI ​​overlays with a new image, to platforms that suggest new styles for you to try.

One of the images I had redesigned by AI apps.
Photo by Emilia David / The Verge

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

I decided to try out a couple of 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 who had a prompt box: “Give me a storage solution for this area” and “Turn this image into a midcentury modern living room.”

Below is a quick summary of how each of them did.

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

ChatGPT and Gemini are (obviously) not specifically made for the design, so I expected at most some suggestions and maybe an edit of the photo with some information about the chosen items.

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

ChatGPT is free to use for a limited number of messages; otherwise it costs $20 per month. Gemini is free, but the advanced version with improved AI models costs $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, allowing shoppers to ask questions about decorating their spaces and get suggestions on styles and furniture. I uploaded a photo of a corner of my living room—which admittedly featured a cluttered pile of workout gear, vinyl records, a bookshelf, and general knickknacks—and perused the suggestions.

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

As expected, after suggesting storage solutions, Ikea wanted me to buy their products, so I gave it a rough estimate of the spot and told it that I wanted items that evoked 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.

A better option is probably Ikea’s mobile app that isn’t based on ChatGPT. This app uses augmented reality to show you what your space would look like by projecting the product into your home.

Ikea’s custom GPT is available for free from the OpenGPT Store.

Spacely was doing fine, but for some reason my lemon turned 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, decorate an empty room, or edit a photo using written prompts.

I asked Spacely to redesign my space in a mid-century modern design with mostly wooden furniture. Spacely is more customizable than other platforms, allowing me to determine how closely the model follows my cues (such as preferred style, color palette, etc.). However, the customization options are severely limited in the free version; if you want to do more than just try it out, you’ll need to subscribe to a paid plan.

Spacely had a basic understanding of what I wanted, but the images it generated didn’t really fit my brief. For example, I uploaded a photo of 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 is either a stone or rotten fruit. (Unfortunately, it’s still common for funny things to pop up in AI-generated images.)

Spacely AI Pro costs $20.75 per month for an annual subscription or $39 for a monthly subscription for unlimited prompts, watermark-free photos, and high-resolution downloads.

Decoratly’s attempt at designing my apartment felt more like a real room with its own style.
Screenshot: Decoratly

Decoratly also transforms photos into a specific style. It’s very limited for free users; before subscribing, all I could do was 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 accompanying image filter, which lets you provide instructions on what you want the app to create. Unlike other AI prompt builders I’ve tried, Decoratly didn’t let me write my own prompts. Instead, I had to choose from a pre-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 more like a real room with a clear style than the ones I got with the other apps, though some of the choices could be odd — like putting some sort of table thing on top of the cylinder it turned my electric fan into. It also put my monstera plant in a tiny pot that would have toppled over in five seconds.

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

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

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 few things to meet the brief — like adding a couch to a room that didn’t have one — but it also completely removed my TV and media console and never really 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 home. All they did was show me the types of furniture that would fit the vibe I wanted, which I could have done with a quick Google search anyway. None of them were able to come up with a new style for my space or really redesign my apartment. As with other things, AI isn’t really ready to design our living spaces yet.