Decoding Inspiration Images

Nothing is more helpful for us as designers than a client who comes armed with loads of inspiration images. But sometimes people get intimidated by how to choose imagery that accurately reflects what they are hoping for in a space. Many feel that the images they show us have to be of the same type of room we’re working on, but that’s not true at all.  It’s all about certain aspects of a room, or a feeling conjured by the space, that’s important- not that the sofa, rug and wall color are all what you like exactly. Perhaps it’s the overall mix of antiques and modern pieces, or the way a certain color combination feels to you.  Being literal is not necessary, and it may just be “I like how this room makes me feel”.  We can work with obtuse emotional reactions to a space the same way we can use an inspirational antique to find something more affordable.

Here’s a good example- I saw this image the July issue of Architectural Digest and  I LOVE this situation- the bold color mixed with neutrals, antiques and modern pieces combined and the use of accessories (I, however, cannot explain why this girl is sitting like this …)

But I liked the idea of this scheme as a bedroom instead of a living area. And so I pulled together a scheme using the aspects of this room I loved but in pieces for a bedroom. Things I specifically liked:

*the light wood tones and natural textures

*the nailhead and white antique style chairs

*the mix of modern and traditional, as well as mix of soft curves and straight lines

*the serene vibe

So here is a bedroom using these points as a map for the decor:

drapes // dresser// bed // rug // nightstands // chair // bust // tray // geode // lamp // bedding // art // faux fur stool // lumbar pillow // floral pillow // chair pillow

Just a little illustration of how we work!  Hope you found this helpful! And now I want to redo my bedroom :)






  1. This is so cool- I love the idea of just liking how the room makes you feel. That girls pose is killing me though :)

    Xo, brittany
    Easy tops for nursing in the heat on my blog today!

  2. Very good points. I use to consult with my clients using different images that would give me clues to what they liked and how the room made them feel was paramount, that probably said more than anything to me, gave me a direction. You gave the perfect example of like elements and how to use them in another application. Great job.

  3. Agreed! So many photos inspire me in the way they feel, even if the style isn’t exactly what I want. And that’s awesome that you’re able to understand emotional inspiration from a photo rather than just thinking than that a client wants a copy of that in their own room. I always worry about that when sharing inspiration with someone creative!

  4. The girl is sitting like that because she is tired of stubbing her toes on that rock!! ;o)

  5. This was an incredibly helpful analysis to me, as someone who is hopefully moving to a smaller home this summer. (Ugh, moving.) I know I want a different feel in my new home, but other than describing it as “not so country”, it has been difficult to put into words why I like the various images I’m putting on my Pinterest board. It is possible to look beyond the specifics and see themes, and your post is a great guide to that. Thanks (and also thanks for the source for the art, which I loved.)

  6. She is sitting like that because she is a tween and that is what they do. But her stance also mimics the shape of the chair so the photographer was being creative! To a mom of a girl, it did not strike me as unusual at all…what does that say about me?!

  7. This is relevant not just for interiors but also for other things, from food to hair styles and clothing. Often the point about “how this photo makes me feel” is the most relevant. Is it the freedom of walking around in shorts and barefoot, even in a place with sculpture busts and antiques? Too many people just shop the photo, thinking they will be able to buy the vibe. But ambience (or personal style) is more than the sum of its parts.

  8. I love that rock! It must weigh a ton – literally. I wonder how they got it into the room.

  9. Lol! That is one of many universal ways tween girls sit — but usually because the chair is hard to pull out or uncomfortable. It is sort of interesting they used the image because it inherently highlights a functional problem in the chair/table set up (albeit one I only catch because of my experience with a tween daughter). Then again, maybe function doesn’t matter because the form sure is pretty! ;)

  10. Wow, that’s very cool . There’s where the talent and expertise come in. It’s not just the what of the things but the why of the things . That said, what about a mirror over dresser? Nothing to leap from in original photo for us not talented like that :/
    Also , furry stool not on storyboard but linked ?

  11. I am curious about the texture app. Would you have to go through every magazine imaginable to look for that picture or is there a way of narrowing it down ? I never knew you could get all magazines online That is really great !!

  12. I think a key ingredient that makes this photo is also the light! The excellent light in this room is made even better with the warm but airy pieces and colors.

    When I freelance or use creative services, I also find “I don’t like this” boards helpful. It helps me/my stylist/my designer home in on some of the details. While I may like chartreuse curtains, I don’t like sunshine yellow, etc. I’d be curious to hear your take on if this is helpful (or TMI)!

    1. YES, its so helpful to also see what people REALLY don’t like too! I always ask for patterns and colors people don’t like because I can never assume that they will like everything I do!

  13. Love seeing how you make that work , Erin. Do you prefer clients to have a lot of inspiration images or try to narrow it down to one that has the most elements they are looking for?

    1. I think the more the better because then it’s easier for us to see repeated patterns in the imagery that maybe the client doesn’t even notice they like!

  14. I love this, Erin! When designing rooms in my home (I’m not a professional) I take a similar approach to mapping inspiration to the elements of the room. Where I struggle is paint! I have a hard time seeing the perfect paint color to give a room the feel I’m going for. Would love to know how you approach this.

  15. I saw the story this week,also. It featured a family with 3 darling daughters. I liked the whole house, will check my Texture magazines

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