Sometimes when I start a new design project for a client, I will sit back with a sketch pad in my studio, maybe play some music that inspires me and usually I go back in my mind to what I imagined for the home space the first time I walked in. That first reaction is usually what I use to begin the creative journey...
With the sketches, I can play with layouts and certain details - but the mood is always at the backbone of what I am creating. I always ask and remind myself - What is the essence I am trying to capture? What are the elements and layers that will help bring that essence to life - from what I see in my mind?
Sometimes, I will walk away from the sketches and head out to see what comes my way visually - whether I'm out in the countryside somewhere or in a city environment. If I have the initial mood I'm going for in my mind or the feeling that I am trying to capture - I start to look for details and the layering of those details that can be part of the end result I'm going for. If I am designing an exterior, I may take a drive and see what I see along the way. If it is an interior, I may head out to some stores to see the props or accessories that could be good for the end result of the project. I view the designing process as building a tapestry. It's a matter of seeing not only the sketching and planning phase but also thinking ahead to those final touch "life layering" moments that will make it feel like home in the end.
It's important to remind everyone that I do not enjoy shopping. However, if I have a purpose or goal in mind - then I go out with a sense of direction. The creative flow takes over and I am focused on what I am trying to accomplish. There is nothing worse for me than wandering around with no plan or idea of what I'm looking for. I believe this is why so many people get stuck designing their homes. They go out and there are so many options out there, so they end up not making choices because they are overwhelmed.
I recently was working on a project and decided to head out on a field trip - my creative term for shopping. I had a purpose and a sense of what I wanted to accomplish, but I was looking forward to visual inspiration and surrounding myself with things that I felt would motivate my design. All about capturing the essence of what I would be going for once the project was completed with the layering of life details and props...
I've talked before about the importance of using a Look Book (see this short video) for yourself in designing or planning your own designs. If you have a Look Book or vision board of what you want for a room - sketches, tear sheets from magazines or catalogs or color schemes that you like - then you can go out with a purpose too. Whatever you have to do to empower your own creative shopping journey is key.
I brought along my camera to give a documentary-style approach to what I was seeing. First, to give my self visual reminders - but also to share the process with you.
Maybe there is some insight you can gain from how I go about seeing things or maybe there will be something that you will see that will speak to you and your own home. If not, at least you can enjoy an array of images from my afternoon out.
Walking the streets of New York City - I am always inspired by the design and style ideas that are in abundance just by being in the city. The varied architecture alone is so amazing and energizing. However, for this project, I was looking to be inspired by interior details....elements to bring a warmth, a sense of character and a tapestry of home to life. So I headed to Pottery Barn on this day to give me a variety of options to see what might be right.
As I walked into the store, I start noticing layers of detail...taking notice of how things are put together, the shape or form of things, noticing the lines before noticing the colors...Working with color all the time, I've learned to see shape and form first - then I notice the colors. If the lines work for me - then I can see that particularly piece working in a room I'm designing. If doesn't - then I simply move on.
For example, I love this island because of its lines and size. The natural-looking materials used to build it were what caught my eye first. Once, I could start seeing it work in a room - then I took in the colors and tones of the wood to see if that would be right for the area I was thinking about.
As I walk around, I always am taking into account how the people I am designing for will be living in the space eventually...What are the details they would have around themselves everyday? How would they entertain in that space and what might that look like? In my Parenthood On Location feature last week - I talked about making rooms feel like real life even though they were sets for characters. In the case of designing for real people - real characters - there is a certain amount of "setting the stage" for their real lives as well. All in the details.
I also take notice of small details that bring in character. Could be a drawer pull, a cabinet knob or even a simple finishing details like on this farmhouse table. Little things you may not spot right off, but they are part of the layering.
In my design talks around the country, I am always talking about the importance of creating moments in our homes. Yesterday, I talked about using apples that are in season as a simple styling prop for your home now. I am a firm believer in taking time to create something that looks great for your to enjoy - whether it be a foyer entrance table with stuff you love on it, a coffee table with great books and pieces you have collected or setting the table for an everyday family meal with some style. As part of creating the tapestry of the client's life and setting the stage for them too - I'm thinking about that big picture of those things that can make you smile or moments that just invite you to linger in a room for awhile. That's the fun part of design for me.
I had to shoot these because I love baskets. I know storage is a big thing for many people - especially with kids or teens around. Yet, you can still have a mud room, family room or shared space that looks good by how you store everything.
Part of what I get from going on the road and into stores is that I get to see the seasonal mood. Certain colors wash over you as you enter a store at various times a year - so that is something that I gain a great deal from. It may inspire a wall paint color, a window treatment fabric or the color in a plate or piece of pottery could inspire a room's accent color.
Even when I was in this store, as I snapped this picture actually, someone came up to me to ask "Are earthy tones in this year?" I said to her, "Do you like those tones?" She said, "Very much so." So she had her answer. It is certainly what you are drawn to. Yes, warm, earthy tones are in this time of year, but I always go back to what you personally respond to - that is your guide.
The other thing that shopping on location does is that it reminds people of how to pull a look together. You can see "moments" brought together...You can see throw pillows of different styles and colors used together... You can see how natural fabric slipcovers look great with a sisal area rug...Maybe it's how the sofa is placed - with a console table behind it - which then allows for frames or lamps to be displayed as another layer...
You might see creative ways of displaying things on a wall or on a surface...
You see also that it is okay to mix and match details...All frames do not have to match...Throw pillows can be a simple way to give new color to a simple sofa or a warm, earthy paint color on the wall may strike a chord with you...
Maybe you are trying to figure out simple ways to add some detail to your bedroom...You can see how a bed can be styled with layering...How mixing patterns or textures adds interest...To even how to bring a look together on a nightstand...
Tables or coffee tables to me are such a great way to bring your personal style or personal interests into a focused area... You do not have to do a major renovation or redesign just zoom in on a tabletop to give it new style.
This coffee table "moment" in the store invites you in. You can see the elements of what makes it work - a framed picture as the tray base, topped with staggered pillar candles and then a few small accessories. Simple and stylish.
As I stepped back away from this visual area - I again took note of the placement of things. The console table at the back of sofa, the mixed styles of furniture for seating and the simple fact that you could remove all the throw pillows and replace them with a new color or style to get an instant new look. That is very appealing to me and is something you can use to your advantage at home too or when you are buying new pieces.
I kept going back to this wall grouping. I love art and photography, so any way of showing how to display those things is always inspiring to me. I've been into many homes where one picture is hung up on the wall - but it is hung up too high. Part of being on location and shopping is that you can see how things can be done differently and in new ways. Let yourself be inspired.
As I said before, the earthy, warm colors are in this season. Wood tones and wood accents are always in. To me, these things say you are home.
The fun part of all design projects is the last day, when all my props and accessories are gathered. I go into the house I've designed and set it all up. I love that because it is bringing the life into the house...the elements to make it a home. As I walked away from my creative shopping time - I was excited about those elements that I would eventually come back and get to set the stage for the home and the people I was designing for.
Check out some more things to inspire you here: Pottery Barn
More creative shopping on the road coming soon from Designer Dad Stephen Saint-Onge - Family Circle Magazine's Contributing Home Editor.