Scrolling through Pinterest will only get you so far when it comes to dreaming up an interior, and sometimes there's just too much to look at. Sure, seeing photos of places you really like can kickstart an idea into motion, but when we asked 15 interior designers where they most frequently turn to for inspiration, we got a mix of responses.
Though their days are spent being creative masterminds for a wide array of clients, even the most innovative of interior designers can benefit from a little outside inspo from time to time. So where do they turn to generate the best new ideas and recharge their artistic batteries? Travel, books, museums, and television are all go-to answers for the pros. Read for how they stay inspired.
“There is nothing better than romancing with design when you need inspiration. Pouring a coffee or a wine and sitting down with some amazing design books or magazines is what really helps inspire me. I need to clear my mind to let all the visual candy fill me as I turn each page.” -Sallie Lord, founder and principal interior designer, Grey Hunt Interiors
“For inspiration I often turn to print publications. I love the publisher Assouline, and I think there is nothing more beautiful than a wonderfully curated coffee table book filled with stylish shots from talented photographers. It also gives a more international perspective on design that is important for a frame of reference and a great counterpoint to mass retailers who offer a more spoon-fed, transitional aesthetic.” -Anne Mueller, principal, Briar Design
“My favorite source of inspiration is travel! I have been so inspired by the things I’ve seen on my trips to Europe, the Caribbean, and other parts of the U.S. Since the pandemic shut down my ability to travel for a while, I turned to other sources of inspiration that were more accessible. The first source has been my collection of design, travel, and photography books. I love the textures, colors, and cultural references I find in these books! I have also developed an affinity for buildings with character. Whether it’s an old bank that’s been repurposed into a luxury hotel or a library with soaring ceilings, or a restaurant with an ultra-chic bathroom, I’m somehow able to find inspiration all around me!” -Arianne Bellizaire, founder, Arianne Bellizaire Interiors
“Pre-pandemic, I always got the most inspiration through my travels. Experiencing different cultures forces me to think outside the box. The last places I traveled to were Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa. These days I don’t travel internationally for inspiration. Instead, I have found great joy in taking local trips. Admiring the architecture in downtown New Haven, CT and visits to museums (MASS Moca in Massachusetts and the Guggenheim in NYC are my faves). I really love finding vintage books from used bookstores and flea markets. Lately, my extra dose of inspiration has come from the pages of Caribbean Style and The Apartment Book—so good! A true testament of ‘everything old becomes new again!’” -Naïka André, principal designer, founder, and CEO, NJA Interiors
“I turn to travel, museums, and conferences/conventions for inspo. The architecture of museums, from the Whitney to LACMA to the Asheville Art Museum, inspires me as much as the art within each museum. Lighting, framing, and space planning all catch my eye. Each city’s energy inspires me—the landscaping, street style. Conferences like High Point Market and Future of Home allow me to see the latest and greatest in furniture and innovation.” -Leah Alexander, founder of Beauty is Abundant
“My absolute favorite dose of inspiration comes from travel. I love absorbing all the details, whether it's a European village or a sleepy beach town. Travel was quite difficult for a bit, so I found myself watching all kinds of movies for inspo. Traveling with my eyes only—and it actually worked!” -Molly Machmer-Wessels, co-founder of Woodland Design Company
“When I’m looking for some inspiration I like to browse Instagram. I follow many of my favorite vendors, magazines, trade shows, and designers, and they tend to post the latest and most up-to-date designs, new products, and trends.” -Dawn Ianno, owner, Dawn Interiors
“I am currently very attached to instagram. I follow product manufacturers, designers, builders, photographers, and artists of all kinds….Our industry is all about what is pleasing to the eye and senses. The photos on Instagram are of the highest quality on the accounts that I follow. A few of my favorites are @dominomag, @benjaminmoore, @prettydomesticated, @audreycrispinteriors, and @hudsonvalleylighting. -Christina Miller, owner and lead designer, Christina Lynn Interiors
“I’m really inspired by film and television these days. Sometimes when I’m stuck on a particular aspect of a project it helps to watch a period piece or even a Nancy Meyers movie. I binge watched The Pursuit of Love on Amazon Prime and couldn’t get over their brilliant use of color.” -Whitney Riter Gelinas, principal, Wit Interiors
“When I’m feeling stuck creatively, I love to turn on an old movie. I’ll often watch with the sound turned off and get lost in the set design, fashion, and cinematography. I’ve watched Rosemary's Baby a million times rewinding for a glimpse of the lemon yellow draperies in the apartment set design. for example. I love the mood and the light of the apartment and how Rosemary lays out the furniture. Don’t get me started on Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums! Red walls, pink walls, and that unforgettable Scalamandre zebra wallpaper!” -Christina Kim, founder, Christina Kim Interior Design
“When I need an extra dose of inspiration I tend to visit my favorite local shop, Sleepy Poet Antique Mall. It is jammed-packed with story-telling goodness that is enough to keep me walking around for hours. I often kick-start design ideas with unique pieces with depth and narrative.” -Marie Cloud, owner and principal designer, Indigo Pruitt
“When I’m in a creative slump or if I need inspiration for a project, the first thing I like to do is get out and go window shopping. Call me old school, but in a world where everything is ordered online, I still like to go into stores to see and touch items in the flesh. Of course the D&D and A&D buildings in New York are go-tos, but even better is a vintage or antique store. There’s a great little row of shops on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill that I’m fortunate enough to be able to walk to from my apartment—my favorite being Collier West and CW Annex.” -Alexandra Nino, principal, Alex Nino Interiors
“When I need a little extra inspiration when designing my projects, I tend to turn to stores like ABC Carpet & Home and magazines like Elle Décor, who always have great sources to spark my creativity. Instagram is definitely a good source, too…and Paris, always Paris.” -Blanche Garcia, founder of B.Garcia Designs
“I often find inspiration in nature, whether it’s in the form of a color palette I come across or simply disconnecting, allowing my mind to wander, letting go of the ongoing to-do lists for a bit. I’m fortunate to live in Oakland, where I have easy access to hikes and water.” -Melanie Love, owner and principal, Love and Interiors
“I love seeking out and making a day trip of a historic home tour. For one thing, who doesn't love to peek into the life of another artist?! And, of course, learning the background behind iconic people, places, and time periods leaves me feeling inspired. Some of my recent favorites are the Gropius House in Lincoln, MA and the Zimmerman House in Manchester, NH. Next up on my list are the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, CT and The Marble House in Newport, RI.” -Elaine Burns Thompson, founder of Pistachio Designs
Where do you turn when you're at a loss for how to decorate? Tell us your secrets below!