Let's imagine for a minute...
That you're planning your dream vacation abroad in some far flung, amazing place you've never been before. How do you ensure that it will be the best trip EVER? You plan, right? You research the you-know-what out of it, line up your flights, study maps of the area, and plot out your days to make sure you don't miss anything. I think we can all acknowledge that when you don't plan, things tend to go awry, your travel buddies get frustrated, and all of that stress eats away at that whole "dream" aspect of the trip.
So why am I talking about planning your dream vacation on an interior design blog? Because the process of planning a decorating project has a lot in common with planning a sweet trip. You may not need a literal road map, but you do need a figurative one to keep your project on track, and ensure that you're headed in the right direction. One piece of that road map is gathering inspiration for what you want your space to look like when it's all done. Today we're going to chat all about that and why it's a critical part of the project planning process.
But first, let me tell you a little story about a mistake I made with my very first e-design project to demonstrate just how important it is to find those inspiration images. My client hired me on to furnish the living room and bedroom of his new apartment in Center City Philadelphia - I was so excited! He filled out my initial informational survey to assess his needs, desires, and budget for the project, as well as to get a sense of his style. I took all of that information in, and thought I had a good idea of what he wanted, so I moved forward with selecting pieces for his space, and sent the design over for his review. Unfortunately, the feedback I received wasn't very positive - what I sent over didn't align with his vision at all, and we basically had to start from scratch! I realized in that moment that because I didn't require him to send over any inspiration photos (it was an optional part of my process at that point), I was relying only on words alone to figure out his style, and that didn't provide enough data to pinpoint his style. Words are important, but it may be the case that your version of modern, for example, might in fact translate to contemporary or transitional in my head. Photos can communicate style in a way that words just can't. So, learn from my rookie mistake and make sure to gather that inspiration before you get started so you don't do what I did with that client! :)
Whether you've hired a designer, or you're taking on a room makeover yourself, you need to have a vision for where you want to end up. This is especially true if you've brought someone else in to help design your space, but regardless of whether you're doing it on your own or not, having images to refer back to is like having markers on a trail. They're a valuable reference to keep coming back to when you're out shopping and purchasing items for your home. If an item doesn't align with the inspiration, put it back (this'll reduce a lot of frustration and mistakes down the road, trust me!). I can't tell you how often I reference a client's inspiration photos during the design process. They're one of the keys to keeping me on track.
So how do you find and gather those oh-so-important inspiration images?
There are obvious ways, such as using tools like Pinterest and Houzz, but don't forget about shelter magazines (my favorites are Domino, HGTV Magazine, House & Home, and Better Homes and Gardens), retail stores, and the great big world around you! In a coffee shop that makes you go, "oh wow!"? Snap a photo. In a friend's home that's beautifully decorated with items you love? Snap a photo. The internet and technology have enabled us to find and keep record of things so easily that there's no excuse for not being able to find inspiration that matches your style.
Where do you keep all that inspiration once you've found it?
While a folder of images on your desktop or phone is ok, that method doesn't allow you to see everything at once, which is really important! (See the next section for why.)
I have two favorite methods: create a Pinterest board dedicated to your project (don't just add them to that general "home" board I know you already have!), or create an inspiration board in a software like Photoshop, PowerPoint, or Keynote. All of the inspiration boards you see here were created in Photoshop - I like it because I can remove backgrounds from products easily, and alter perspective on items to make them look more realistic. I know many folks don't have access to or use that program, but I can bet you have PowerPoint or Keynote (Apple users) on your computer.
Ok, now what do I do with it?
Once you feel like you've amassed enough photos of spaces you love (I'd suggest ten images or more to start - you can always narrow it down later), it's time to look at them all together and see how things are shaping up. Take note of what they have in common, and see what comes up over and over again. Look for patterns. It may be certain colors (navy blue, perhaps?), motifs (hello Persian-style rugs!), styles (clean lines #ftw), or even certain feelings/emotions that the images evoke. Once you've identified those commonalities, the project's direction and end goals will be more focused and defined.
This definitely takes some work on your part up front, but it's 100% worth it to minimize costly mistakes and to keep that ultimate vision of a beautiful room in mind!
If you're working with a designer, you can let her (or him!) do some of the hard work for you on finding those patterns among all the images (after all, that's part of why you hired one right?). Just hand that Pinterest or Photoshop board over and fill them in on anything you've noticed about your style before you get started on the design. They'll thank you for it, I promise!
That's it for today, folks! I hope this little lesson on inspiration photos was helpful! Want some additional pointers on how to plan your next project? I've got a free guide with ten questions you should ask yourself before getting started. You can click the button below to grab your copy! Make sure you follow the directions after hitting "submit" to download it. :)