Design Apps I Actually Use; the best and worst

There are obviously a ton of design apps out there, but I didn’t know if there were a bunch out there that I just wasn’t using because I didn’t know about them. Maybe, secretly, all these designers and bloggers use magic apps that shave time and legwork off their life, helping them gain followers fast, and just making them overall superior. But after doing some research, I’m not so sure. It seems like all the “designer-y” apps are just kinda silly and so much better on your actual computer, making the mobile app kinda unnecessary.

BUT, that doesn’t mean that I’m not using some that other apps that people don’t know about, so I figured I’d share what I’m doing so you can be in on it … if you want.


One King’s Lane: It’s a flash sale site — 3 day sales, no returns. What actually draws me to the site is their vintage market finds. Yes, in general these vintage finds are spendy — this isn’t eBay — but I like knowing what things are going for and who’s paying what for what. I can’t tell if I’m annoyed by their text messaging (which you don’t have to sign up for) or if I love it because usually I click on it. What sets them apart the most is the “Tastemaker” sales. As a designer, I don’t normally go trolling around to find amazing designers as much as i should. So OKL exposes me to their “Tastemakers,” which are usually designers or store owners, and then I start following them, check out their sites, and all kinds of stalkerish behavior. And yes, I have another one coming up March 10th, so start saving yer pennies.


Joss and Main:  Another flash sale site. Less expensive and instead of “Tastemaker” sales, they have more “curated” sales by designers, bloggers, and celebrities. Less vintage, more collections.

Fab: I’ve only bought from them twice, but I like to check it out in the morning to see what they are selling and for how much. Normally, they expose me to some designers I didn’t know about. They have more fashion, jewelry, and product design, less decorating stuff … did I just write “decorating stuff”?


Wunderlist: AMAZING TOOL. This app has totally made my life easier.


You can have a to-do list for everything. Check tasks off, priortize them by moving them around, share them with your assistants or kids/partners, and the lists are automatically updated on your phone. It’s totally amazing, has kept me way more organized and on task, and so many less emails back and forth to Orlando about what I need him to do. Get it.

iLevel:  A fun little app that tells you when something is level or not. Great for art or curtain rods. Nothing genius about it, just handy during installation.

Benjamin Moore Color Capture: Love this one. You take a picture of that wall color in a restaurant that you LOVE and the app tells you what it is — or at least the Benjamin Moore color that it is. This is exactly what an app should be.

You move the mouse around and it tells you what color it is, the different shades, etc.

CraftGawker: So fun. You can just peruse all these different projects and click on them if you like them and often they tell you step by step on how to do them. Of course, you can just do this online, but if you are at the airport and bored, it’s so fun.

Social Media

AfterGlow: Awesome photo app. You can pull pics from your phone or take new ones, lighten them, change exposure, add more filters, play with the borders, and then push “send to instagram” where you play with it even more and share it.


Instagram: Duh. But it’s my favorite. My user name is emhenderson, follow me.

Montaj: It’s the new video making app that I’ve been using and love. You don’t have to know any programs or even plug it into your computer – you edit it on your phone, set to music from your phone (or voiceover) and then share it like Instagram, with your followers. It’s awesome.


That’s a screenshot of a mini how-to I did about how I organize my magazine tear sheets. Riveting, I know. But basically, you just move the little five second clips around with your finger, shorten them to however short you want, and record your voice. Dunzo.


It just launched today, that’s why there are so few followers. Get it. I predict it will be very fun.

Here’s a recent one we did at the flea market. It’s the one set to One Direction so you may have already seen it last week on the blog:

Pinterest: Addicted, obviously. So long physical mood boards, you done got replaced. I don’t know where we kept all our ideas and inspiration before … oh right, cork boards. HA!!!!! I have my boards pretty well categorized now by “rugs,” “lighting,” “bedrooms,” etc., so it makes it so easy for me to find the ideas and products, and for others to do the same.

Facebook/Twitter: Facebook is a social media network that helps you connect with … JUST KIDDING. IF YOU DON’T KNOW THEN YOU MIGHT BE AN ALIEN. It’s still great, and such a good way to engage with people. Twitter is too, although less fun … I’m  a blabber.

Hootsuite: Schedule out your Facebook/Twitter posts. But when do I schedule my Hootsuite? It’s like if I was on top of it enough to actually schedule posts then I would probably just write them — although, I’ve hired a social media expert/assistant and she’s teaching me how to use this for more consistent Facebook posts (don’t worry, I still write them).

Houzz Interior Design Ideas: People love this; I’m just intimidated by figuring out how to use it and uploading my pictures and linking, etc. But I think if I had more time I would do it. My cousin said she redesigned her kitchen all from what she learned on Houzz. You follow people, get introduced to new products, find architects/designers. I think it’s shopping, tools, and social media all in one.

What I’ve Tried that is kinda ‘meh':

RoomHint: Nope. I tried to like it, and the theory behind it is good — you take a picture of something you like and it shows you other things you “might like,” but it came back VERY wrong and I was VERY offended by what it told me I liked. Like a bad pandora for decorating.


I took a pic of this lamp in my office and it showed me a crazy tacky chandelier. It says it has “designers,” but I’m assuming it just has spiders trolling the interweb picking up keywords like “lamp.”  So far unimpressed.

RoomPlanner: I’m bored just referencing this. It’s a room planning app that is soooo complicated you may as well be using Autocad. Pick up a pencil and draw the room; it’s soooo much easier. This is a good example of something that might be fine on a computer, but as a mobile app it’s just weird.

MagicPlan: Same as RoomPlanner. Too many numbers to plug in just to see if your sofa is too big for your room, when I think you can tell WAY better by just looking at it.

But most importantly, what do you guys use? What am I missing? What is going to make my/our life easier that I don’t know about?


  1. I love Joss and Main and Fab. Ordered stuff from them recently. Great tip on that Benjamin Moore app. And I level, downloading that one asap. So feel you on Room Planner. Jezus H I pulled my hair out with that one. I'd recommend Fabri Calc which tells you how much fabric you need for that chair you're about to upholster. I also use Houzz Ideabooks – a LOT. I share it with clients in the early design stage to get a sense of what they love/hate in certain rooms. They love it and love the interaction.

  2. the montaj app is so much cooler than i ever thought! i am making a video of my dog today….lol!

  3. OMG WUNDERLIST…where have you been all my life? I've been using Workflowy (which I love) but I'm really liking the look and feel of Wunderlist. Gonna try it out for a few days to see if it's worth making the switch.

    Other useful apps I love:
    Google docs – for obvious practical reasons.
    Waze – for commuting and travelling – so handy to help you avoid slowdowns/accidents.
    Calendars ( – waaaay easier to sync a Google calendar/calendars from multiple users on your phone than figuring out iCal. Totally worth the price to have my schedule and my husband's all in one place.

  4. Lauren B.

    Oh afterglow. LOVE. Been wondering where those adorable circle instagrams were coming from. Thanks a million and ten!

  5. RMC

    I love the Autodesk app too. It lets you open cad files on site so you have access to all your project drawings while discussing items with the client, other consultants, contractor & trades.

  6. kaycee

    Never used WunderList, but I am a big fan of SpringPad. You create notebooks, and in each notebook you can add things like a checklist, note, videos, files, contacts, etc. You can also share these notebooks with people. I have a Measurements notebook with all my house measurements, one called Wedding for all the MOH duties I need to do in the next few months. One for my dog, I keep track of his food, treats and allergy symptoms (Frenchie = horrible allergies). I even have a notebook just for movies I want to see, it's pretty awesome. Theres so much you can do with SpringPad, I recommend it to everyone.

  7. I just downloaded measures lite! It's amazing! You take a photo of a room and then draw the dimensions right on the photo! No more sketching out an entire room hoping the dimensions all make sense! It has helped me a bunch!!

    Loved all of your suggestions by the way! We use the same apps :)

  8. Elizabeth

    Yep, love OKL, Houzz, my level and also the ebay app is good. Also, and this one isnt necessarily design focused, but can be used during some home projects….the flashlight app. I know it sounds silly/simple, but it comes in handy way more often than i expected.

    I love the Pinterest app because it's like taking your mood boards on the go!

    Thanks for some of the new recos….I'm going to check out Wunderlist for sure.

  9. Helen

    I'm a fan of Hipstamatic – gives a similar analog look to photos, but has a TON of options and great for photos that you don't want to share on Instagram.

  10. emily henderson

    @Kaycee…..OH that's awesome!! Springpad. I'll try it. @Nikki Fabriccalc is awesome. never heard of it and i'm going to get it now. Thanks, guys.

  11. I like camera plus and vscocam for pic editing, plus Instagram, always. Also, I'm not in the market for a house yet, but realtor and zillow are fun apps for pretend-house hunting. Fake house hunting is like porn for girls, ya know?

  12. I use Olioboard to make up Inspiration Boards for my clients. That plus specific pinboards really help my clients visualize my designs for them and also helps them make better choices moving forward in our design. I'm still doing furniture layouts with pencil and graph paper!

  13. Katie

    Any recs for an app that keeps track of your time you spent on a project, like a time sheet app?

  14. Jeanine

    Look at the UK (or is it eu?) version of Fab. Somehow I got subscribed to both this and the US version and the eu version blows the US version out of the water. I had to unsubscribe to the US version it was predictable and I had seen most of it before.

  15. Wow – fabulous post. Thanks for links and explanations to all these goodies! I think some will change my life a little.

  16. Sarah

    Thank you so much for all the insider info posts! I think you are awesome and fabulous and I am so thrilled to get these windows into your process. I second @Katie's request for a time sheet app recommendation – or other time sheet ideas.

  17. Hmm, sorry if I double post. But I wanted to point out Skitch an app that lets you take a picture and then jot notes on it, use arrows and generally lets you remember why you took or saved the picture to begin with…great for pointing out details in a picture or using when shopping.

  18. Amy

    I really like afterglow as well. It's so simple and pretty. I just started playing with EyeEm and Snapseed and really like them both as well! Both photo editing apps, You may enjoy Photosynth too. It is a super simple click click click and then you've got a stitched together 360 panorama that is uploded to the web and easy to plop in a website or share. Might be nice for you to remember how an entire space feels. On an unrelated note, I've been loving the Stitcher app. Another app that makes it super simple to type in a radio show and listen to streaming at any time. In my case I get caught up on Radio Lab, Fresh Air, etc. Thanks for the post!

  19. Amy

    PS: For those of you looking for a simple time tracking app… I haven't used the app version, but I use the online version of Harvest Time & Expense Tracking. It's web experience has been super simple, let me know if the app is any good! :)

  20. Oh so many great tips! I have made a list and will be checking them out! I use Timewerks for my time billing and product purchasing for clients. It is only on my phone… so sometimes long quotes can get tiresome to write on it. The app even creates an invoice and will email a PDF with a company logo etc. I love it!

  21. Bonnie

    What a great post and great timing. Thanks to your recommendation, I'm using Wunderlist and feel so much more organized and focused on my tasks.

  22. The new Vine app is fun – like instagram but you create 6 second videos.

    Also MeasuresLite let's you take a picture of a room and add the measurements – kinda nice especially for interior design when you might not have access to a client's house all the time and can't remember your measurements or what something looked like.

    ps – I love everything you do!!! Shout out from PDX :)

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