Question: As a designer, where do you find your inspiration? Even if you use Houzz or ...
Updated: Feb 11
Pinterest or watch television shows, how do you know where to go from there?
(Originally published in the Napa Valley Register)
To answer the heart of your question, I will bypass a few common givens. That is, I usually take cues from my clients, any existing furnishings that will be incorporated into the new design, and their budget. But even so, you’re right, I still need to be inspired.
I don’t look to Houzz, Pinterest or the television for inspiration. I don’t want to be influenced or swayed by another designer’s work. I want my ideas to be fresh, original, and mine. I also don’t wait for a project to appear and then look for inspiration. I am inspired most days and in many ways. I store the ideas in my head and use them when the right occasion arises. Just this morning, I heard a fitness expert say that we have to find our flexibility. She said that we don’t change our flexibility but only find it. I’m filing that notion away and know I will think of it when working with a future client who may have timid design sensibilities.
I’m inspired by nature, food, travels, modern art and architecture, ancient art and architecture, history, Design Centers, and quotes (like the one about flexibility). Nature, which I suppose includes food, is my biggest source of inspiration – especially when it comes to color. Imagine a purple-leaf plum tree next to a chartreuse maple tree. The color combination and contrast are striking. If you don’t know your trees, think of an eggplant next to an artichoke heart. Sticking to food as color inspiration, think of a bowl of citrus, a missile Popsicle, a blueberry smoothie. Imagine a white Russian before mixing the cream and Kahlua.
I’m inspired by water. The ocean is a favorite destination of mine. During the day, the white sand and turquoise water is soothing, peaceful and clean. At sunset, the purples, reds, pinks, and oranges are vibrant combinations. I’m intrigued by old, middle eastern fountains. I’m mesmerized by their mosaic tiles, colors, and shapes. I get lost in abstract paintings. What are they conveying?
I’m also inspired by the catalogs manufacturers send me throughout the year. I learn ahead of time what new product will be on the market. Sometimes a piece of furniture or a found object can get my wheels turning. Along these lines, a trip to the San Francisco Design Center is almost overwhelmingly inspirational. Thousands of unique and customizable furnishings, fabrics, accessories, and textures.
Given all the above, I can still get designer’s block. I rely on three techniques to break through. Sleep, a walk, or a quote. When I’m relaxed and mindless, I can allow inspiring images to enter my third eye. If all else fails, I turn to a few of my many collected quotes. Not all are about design. Some are about being bold and brave – a notion that opens up a wide range of creative possibilities.
You can be inspired by many things. The key is to relax and look at things in a different way. Be receptive and for an extra boost to your creativity, be a little daring – and flexible.
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