Every spring, I start getting the landscaping bug. As the snow slowly melts, revealing the brown grass and limp leaves that I never got around to raking in the fall, my mind starts running through all sorts of landscaping ideas. Would a stone walkway look good in the front of the house? Would a pool take away from the outdoorsy feel of my back yard?
If you’ve had similar landscaping ideas, then you know that it’s very hard to gauge whether a project will end up looking good or not until you’re halfway through it. For projects that can cost upwards of a few thousand dollars or more to complete, finishing such a landscaping idea and realizing that it looks horrid is not a very good feeling.
In the spirit of spring and for all of you homeowners (and even renters with a backyard) I would like to present a very cool, new online tool called Showoff the Visualizer.
Test Indoor Decorating Ideas as well as Landscaping Ideas
Showoff the Visualizer is a photo editing tool that lets you take images of the inside or outside of your home, and then overlay your home decorating or landscaping ideas on top of the actual image. It’s a brilliant concept, because unlike Project Dragonfly, reviewed on the MUO directory or unlike Floorplanner, which I reviewed earlier, Showoff the Visualizer allows you to immediately start testing your ideas without the need to build a 3D model of your home or backyard from scratch.
After you register (all you need is an email address), you’ll be greeted with the main menu, where you can either upload your own photos, test drive the app with sample photos, browse through the Visualizer’s showroom of available design and landscaping products, and also view images of some of the landscaping ideas other users have submitted – a great way to find landscaping ideas for your own house when you’re stumped.
There are a few minor details I noticed about the site right off the bat. While the overall design is fairly professional, there are a few minor mistakes that give it that “fresh and untested” feel. For example, the links on the main menu are bolded black, so you don’t really know they’re links unless you place your mouse cursor over them. Another thing is that many of the showcase products don’t have any vendors yet. Finally, I noticed a few misspelled words around the site, like the main menu link offers “Real Estate Listinings.” Still, due to the functionality and usefulness of the site (and the fact that it’s free) – it’s easy to overlook these minor flaws.
Backyard Landscaping Ideas
If you do use your own photos, make sure to set your digital camera on one of it’s highest resolution settings, because the Showoff Visualizer really lets you zoom in on the photo so that you can add very small details, like flowers (which I’ll show you further down).
The online app works perfect if you’ve taken a very nice, crisp and clear photo of your yard with your digital camera. Don’t forget to take different areas of your yard so you can plan out your landscaping ideas and make sure they really look the way you imagine.
Choosing an item from the catalog is so easy – and unlike so many other online applications like this, your selection isn’t limited to just a few items. Browsing through the catalog items is a lot of fun – and in all honesty, that’s the brilliance of this marketing scheme. You see, this entire application is free because it’s a way to market landscaping and home decorating products to you. By providing a useful service for free to you, the Internet user, the makers of this application have a captive audience. Then they turn to vendors of these products and let them advertise as a integrated part of the tool.
When you select the product to use as part of your landscaping (here I chose poppies), a box of vendors where you can buy those items shows up in a place that isn’t really in the way of your main window. The one thing that’s still a little bit “off” is that when you rotate the smaller image to make it look right, the perspective is a bit off – try rotating the pool and you’ll see what I mean. The rotation takes place in 2D, looks rather silly with some objects.
Like how the item looks? Click the “Buy” button on the item you’re placing and you can purchase it immediately. It’s an excellent marketing approach using free software offered to the potential customer – I only wish I’d thought of it first!
Interior Decorating Ideas
In addition to testing out your landscaping ideas on images of your back yard, you can also play around with different decorating ideas using photo snapshots you’ve taken inside your house.
In the photo above, I’m trying to see how a candle holder will look on the kitchen counter. If you don’t have a photo of the inside of your house, or you’re moving to a new place that’s going to be empty and you just want to play around with rearranging furniture, then just select one of the empty room templates.
The, just start placing furniture and playing around. By the way, rotating objects like chairs or sofas is a joke – unless you want a chair hanging upside down from the ceiling!
Overall, this free online application is very fresh and very new – so expect that things may not work perfectly. However,the fact that you can overlay pre-made objects onto photos of your actual house rather than a fabricated 3D replica makes it very useful to getting a much better idea of how something may look. In fact, doing this, you may realize that your landscaping idea would be a total flop, and you could avoid some pretty costly mistakes.
So give it a try and leave your experiences and feedback on the ShowOff Visualizer in the comments section below.