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My house and office are filled with books. Piled with books. There are books stacked on coffee tables, side tables, bookshelves, desks, and chests. You name it, there’s probably a stack of books on it. And the amount of inspiration in all of those pages is endless.
Books on architecture (Roman, Greek, Mid-century modern, Classical, Neo-classical, Arts and Crafts, Art Deco, Bauhaus); books on fashion; books on the Hamptons; books on palaces; books on window treatments and slipcovers; books on every designer and design style this century; auction catalogs and copious amounts of magazines.
While I love to decorate with books (stacks of books on coffee tables are always very chic), I also find inspiration in them.
Everything can be interpreted into your home. If you’re trying to start a design project, it’s important to start looking for what grabs you, what draws you in. It could be a shape, a pattern, a color that strikes you; whatever it is, it can translate into your design project.
Before I start a project with a client, I ask them to cull through magazines and books, and mark everything they like and don’t like. This could be a paint color, the lighting in a room, a sofa style – anything. Essentially, they are pictures of a dream they have. I use their selections to hone a design scheme that is a reflection of them and their lifestyle.
Then I pour through endless pages of books looking for inspiration based on their feedback. Before I make a custom piece of furniture, I bring lots of photographs to my upholsterer, explaining that I want a pleat like this, a banded skirt on a sofa like that. Soon, a custom piece of furniture becomes original through an infinite source of ideas.
A muse for your design project can be found in anything. Books are just one source to find your motivation.
I once found a fabric while I was out shopping one day that had a lovely octagonal pattern on it; this became the inspiration for a railing I designed for a balcony.
Some of your favorite photographs can inspire you to create a beautiful room. A photograph I had taken of a neighbor’s tree became the source of a design scheme for a guest room. The leaves on the tree were turning a magnificent orange, and this was set off by the clear, bright blue sky in the background.
The color of the sky became the color of the walls in the guest room, and the orange of the leaves on the tree became an accent color for the room, found in the throw pillows and accessories. We even painted an old dresser orange with a high-gloss finish.
A bouquet of flowers can give you color inspiration. Pink roses in a silver julep cup can be a lovely scheme for a feminine bedroom. The soft green of leaves and the pale pink of a flower petal can inspire wall color, fabrics, floor coverings, anything. The silver of the julep cup can translate into elegant and glamorous accessories for the bedroom.
Fashion is another way to inspire a design scheme in a room. If you have a favorite designer or see an original look on the runway, you can easily create that look in a room.
One of my favorite projects was inspired by fashion. To create a stylish and smart bachelor pad in San Francisco, we looked to the client’s favorite wool suit as a guide. By mimicking the colors and tailoring of men’s clothing, we were able to translate this handsome look into his flat. We even upholstered the walls of his den with men’s suit fabric – the light wool ticking helped create the perfect retreat that was sophisticated and masculine.
Look through your closets to see what colors you are drawn to, what shapes you like to wear. Are they loose and flowing, or fitted and tailored? You may not want your home to be as tailored and pulled together as your work clothes; but it’s a great way to start noticing the details and awakening to your preferences.
So before you start any home project, find your inspirations. Spend some time studying what you like and don’t like (that’s just as important!). Pour over books and magazines, photographs and pictures. The force for your design project is right there under your nose, and this exercise will open up your creativity and help you find exactly what you want.