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valentin_fp - 1 month ago
Furniture and material discovery prototype

Hello everyone!

Recently I was working on an experiment to improve discoverability of items and materials in our library. I've made a prototype available online at this address:

The working principle here is grouping similar items together, so that you can get a quick overview and, at the same time, quickly jump to a group of items/textures of interest. You can reach any item in a collection in just a few clicks.

Several collections were created for the experiment. Some of them have items of one kind (barstools), some - a mixture of various types. All of them were grouped automatically using only visual features.

Feel free to explore it! Your suggestions and feedback is of course welcome!

valentin_fp 1 month ago
21 replies
Valentinapenta - 1 month ago

I think it's a good idea, Valentin.  I believe a few years ago, members were able to do just that, but for some reason it stopped.   Off the top of my head, I can suggest you experiment with an item search specifically for  dining room tables.  As it is now, if you search for "dining room tables" you find chairs, coffee tables, side tables, sofa tables, and on and on and on.  It make a search  frustrating and tedious.   I wish you luck with your experiment.  It's a good idea.

Valentinapenta 1 month ago
starsector - 28d ago

It took me a bit to understand the 'numbers' associated with each swatch (guess that's # in any particular subgroup?).  Once I got the hang of it, very smooth and interesting.  But I would suggest some type of 'back' button to return to a previous screen of groupings so we don't have to start at the main swatch on the left panel.  Hope I said that in a way that makes sense! :)

starsector 28d ago
mz_little_bit - 28d ago

@starsector, I think if you look at the left hand side whenever you click on an image it is added to the list on the left. For instance I click on Ethan Allen with 2263 then I click on the flag in that group which has 94 items,  then another group in that has 20 items....etc.  If you watch the left panel each of those groups I clicked on are showing on the left, leaving you with the ability to go back to any of the previous pages

starsector - 28d ago

Yes, I know we can get back to previous swatch groupings by clicking on the swatches in the left hand panel, but then we lose ones we've already done.  It would be better if a 'back' button returned you to a previous grouping page, though, so we could easily return to a previous grouping to go down another path (without losing the ones we've already done, if that makes a little more sense), thanks :)

starsector 28d ago
starsector - 28d ago
Another thing that would really help the searching (whether it's this new feature or the original) is a 'smart' search that accounts for words ending in 's' (for plural), or 'ed' and 'ing', etc. (ie, rust, rusted, rusting). And, for instance, when typing 'Asia' it also brings up 'asian'; Japan includes Japanese; etc.
starsector 28d ago
valentin_fp - 27d ago

@starsector indeed, the swatches to the left of the main area (so-called breadcrumbs) are made specifically for the purpose of 'going back' one level. Perhaps I'm not getting it right, what do you mean by "we lose the ones we've already done"?

valentin_fp 27d ago
valentin_fp - 27d ago

As for other search-related questions in this thread, I think I have to explain the focus of this experiment a bit more :)

How does a designer find an item or a texture for his design?

If it is a well-known item: previously used item, an item from an online catalogue, an item recommended in the forum - the quickest way

to find one is by its name.

You can also use text search to discover something. For instance, if you search for 'dining table', you'll get some listed. But, in fact, it will only give you items which have either 'dining' or 'table' or both in the name. So you'll miss a lot of good dining tables and will get a lot of 'false positives' to scroll through.

Filter by category will help you in this case. You can just click the category (Dining room > Dining room furniture > Dining tables) to get to the set of dining tables. Additionally, you can restrict the set more by size and/or by colour. If the resulting set is relatively small, you can just scroll candidates in the sidebar and choose the one which fits the idea of the design.

All the above is well-known by Roomstyler users, I've made this overview to list the issues I see with search by text and search by category.

1. Designers can focus their search on particular kind of items by going deeper, to more specific category. But the number of subcategories is still limited, so it could be that there will be too many items even at the bottom level of the category tree. For instance, there are almost four thousand 2-seater sofas in our library. And the only way designer can browse these is to scroll a very long list.

2. The list of categories is fixed and represents just one way to group items. I assume that in quite many cases designers would prefer different split: classical vs modern, round vs edgy, fabric/leather and so on.

3. In case with wallpapers, we even don't have subcategories - so it's just 2800 images to scroll through to find a suitable one.

4. Moreover, the way things are ordered doesn't help to discover them - you get some geometric patterns, then some patterns with gradients, trees, flowers and so on. So designer doesn't know if he's seen all the available geometric patterns until the moment he/she reaches the end of the list.

Now about the way I'm trying to improve this situation. What if instead of using bits of information attached to every item (name, size, categories) we just use the visual representation - the image. There are ways to tell how similar is one image to another - so we can have similar images closer to each other and less similar items - further.

Next, instead of scrolling one big list of items - let's split them into multiple subgroups, where items within one subgroup are more similar to each other. Let's do the same split in each subgroup and continue splitting till the whole group can be displayed on one screen.

This way, instead of scrolling through a long list of unsorted items, designer narrows his/her search to a small list of items in just a few clicks. For group size of 16 and 4096 items it will take just two clicks to get to any group. And you can also explore items from adjacent groups, in case you're looking for something slightly different.

I'm still thinking about the ways to combine this search with filter by category and search by name, but I think it's quite useful for wallpapers even in the way it works now.

It would be very interesting to get some insight into the way users choose items to use in a design. Does it start with a vague idea about the shape/texture of an item? Do you prefer to use multiple filters to specify size/colour/category or just explore things visually for inspiration? If we set aside technical restrictions, how would your "dream search" work? :)

valentin_fp 27d ago
kitty - 27d ago

My dream searches would come under a few options 

1;Brands . I know we do this to a degree anyway but for instance I know if I go to Vitra I’ll find things in a style that’s right for a certain kind of design. 

2; periods and styles. 

Art Deco,Mid Century, Arts and Crafts.. I do often search under these ‘period’ options but  the results are often far from what is available. 

Also ‘styles’ Bohemian,Gothic,Shabby Chic,Minimalist. Vintage,Feminine 

I’ll think of more and post again in awhile 

kitty 27d ago
kitty - 26d ago

In answer to your question regarding how we search for things I tend to either do it by brand name of things I remember I like (e.g.;Vitra,George Nelson,Squint etc)

or I search for a 'style' of item I want for instance 'chaise' 'brass bed' you mention the main frustration is a search for something like 'brass bed' brings up everything that lists either of these words.

I do love however the surprise of discovering new items I hadn't thought of using before which may be lost if the search criteria becomes too 'narrow'.

I think the main thing is to sub-group properly in styles for instance;

BEDS;then give us modern,classic,wood,metal,4poster, etc 

or perhaps do headings then sub groups for items;


ANTIQUE; then list beds/sofas/bookshelves etc.

VELVET; Sofa,Chair,curtain,bedcover,cushions etc etc

truth is that creatively I often have an 'idea' of what I want and if the search becomes too restrictive and literal it may limit the creative output and discovery of new brands and items that the tool affords us.

kitty 26d ago
mz_little_bit - 26d ago

My search techniques can be so random.  Sometimes my search is antique, modern, aged, boho, chic...etc.  Other times my search is color specific or pattern specific such as stripe, chevron.  Or when all else fails I search by item name: bed, table, blanket, chair...etc. 

I think this concept looks amazing.  The only thing I could see is that how one person might categorize items vs how another person might categorize items could be completely different.  A part of me would love to have items split by color.  For example all black sofas, all white sofas, all red sofas...etc.  While another part of me would like to see all types of the same kind of furniture put together. 

I can see this will definitely be a challenging undertaking.  But am looking forward to the possibilities and perhaps finding hidden treasures with which to decorate.

starsector - 26d ago

Thanks for the great explanation, Valentin :).  I do love the concept of visually similar images for our searches.  I always do that on Google for inspiration rooms, or textures, etc.  

For myself, I'm always on the hunt for 'patina' ie, aged, weathered, rusted, cracked or crackled, whether it's shabby chic style or industrial!

But secondarily, I tend to search for colors, more than pattern.  I use the color filter quite a bit but I know it leaves a lot out (and includes things that shouldn't).  So I also use search words for color names like coral/pumpkin/tangerine/peach/salmon (usually all at the same time).  But of course most items in the catalog don't include a color name in the description.

But once I have some color groups, I then look more toward style (ie, contemporary, urban, farmhouse).   Hope that helps :)

starsector 26d ago
Valentinapenta - 26d ago

Re; "Filter by category will help you in this case. You can just click the category (Dining room > Dining room furniture > Dining tables) to get to the set of dining tables. Additionally, you can restrict the set more by size and/or by colour. If the resulting set is relatively small, you can just scroll candidates in the sidebar and choose the one which fits the idea of the design."

I've done exactly that, but still get bookcases, chairs, etc.   I will also add the color spectrum is a bit hard to read, especially when it comes to hardwood pieces such as dining tables.

Understanding that the, " The list of categories is fixed,"  I guess my wish to search for pieces based on established furniture terminology isn't viable. 

As far as my searches - I search for items that are pieces that appear realistically rendered.   I find items rendered  recently look plastic. 

I've asked about this before, and was told it was due to changes made to the rendering process.  Suspect it has do with costs - software for realistic 3D renders is expensive, which is understandable from Roomstyler's view.  A business needs to make money.   

kitty - 24d ago

@valentinapenta I totally agree re;plastic looking renders I find I'm very limited for instance when I want a leather chesterfield sofa or similar they look atrocious!

Ditto nice wooden wardrobes or cupboards many look shiny and plasic I end up using the same items over and over!

kitty 24d ago
TV Renders - 20d ago

Hi @valentinapenta and @kitty, I would like to add something about the 'plastic' look of old items.

Thing is, that things are always getting better, and not worse. :)

Back in the day, due to different render engines, and simpler settings, materials could not be as intricate as they can be today and renders, as you know, were not nearly as good as they are today. Many things we use today to make the look of materials more realistic, we could not use.

I want to emphasize the fact that we are constantly investing (spending more money) in new technologies and in general investing for better quality renders. 

Clearly, this means, that some of the old items became almost unusable with current settings, and we understand the frustration, but it would be impossible to think to go back and fix them, 90% of which have long been discontinued by retailers (except for the iconic pieces of course). 

By all means, you guys can always report specific items in the usual 'FURNITURE TO BE FIXED - ONLY FURNITURE' thread for 'bad looks' and we will do what we can to catch up and fix them... just don't go too crazy lol

TV Renders 20d ago
kitty - 19d ago

@TV Renders Lol! Yes you don't want to open the floodgates!

kitty 19d ago
Valentinapenta - 19d ago

Thanks for replying to our posts, TVRenders.  I'm glad to read that you're constantly investing in new technology, but I still think some older pieces are rendered more realistically due to the detail.  For example, 2 of my favorite sofas, the white modular sofa, left and right, the Albert sectional, and all the Saarinen tables.  I certainly admit many of the recent renders are good, such as  the Halden Power Recliner.   Also, I love the Wendover art collection.   Is there any reason why you can't purge the old items that aren't usable?

Thanks again,


TV Renders - 19d ago

@Valentinapenta. The reason why we cannot purge old items, is because they were used in designs in the past and you don't want to open an old design and suddenly find the room almost empty.

Furthermore, they do not look all bed anyway, like the white modular sofa for example, which happens to be one of the very first items I remember modelling back in 2008/2009 :)). 

TV Renders 19d ago
Valentinapenta - 19d ago

TVRenders, can't believe it's that old - it still looks fresh.  Excellent job:).

Valentinapenta - 19d ago

BTW, thanks for rendering the model, Myriam, I requested.  

TV Renders - 19d ago

No Problem :)

TV Renders 19d ago
Orionaute - 4d ago

I hope I'm in the subject, but my main problem is this: find the correct word in English. Google helps but sometimes does not translate correctly, or the word is too specific for my search.

It should be so nice and useful to have a few more languages, French for me, I admit. Sometimes my brain can not understand, so I pause.

I also see a lot of mistakes when you ask for a living room for example - each country does not define it in the same way. Here in Quebec, a living room is a separate room, without kitchen, etc.

When I search for an article, I use the "search button" and Google translation together. I've been part of this community for 6 years and it's important to me, but it could be so useful to understand all the main lines of the inventory! I think small icons could be added, at least for items ...

You could win money from different countries, not blowing English and not just professionals ...

I know that my comment is not what you are really looking for but as it is at the very base, before any search and/or addition of items, I post it anyway: to you to remove if I'm too out of order ...

Thank you

Orionaute 4d ago