Finding Inspiration

One thing I really enjoyed about Interior Design school was learning how to be inspired by the unexpected.  As a student I could easily be inspired by beautiful interiors, or fabrics or a piece of furniture.  But as I studied other courses in the arts that were not specific to interior design, I was forced to learn how to be inspired by shapes, or colors, or even smells.

My husband often makes fun of me for this, but I love to look up the definition of words.  Usually words that I know what they mean and how to use them properly, and may even use them often, but I want to know the actual definition, rather than the generally accepted understanding of the word.  So, as I looked up the word inspiration, it read as follows: “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” I was also intrigued about what the difference was between inspiration and motivation. Motivation is defined as “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.” Inspiration involves feeling. When we become inspired, we feel it. It’s usually an uplifting feeling. Inspiration leads to motivation.

So, why am I rambling on about inspiration and motivation? (other than because my first degree was in psychology and I just can’t shake it) Why aren’t I talking more about design? I get a little ga-ga over how powerful the built environment can be. Have you ever walked into someone’s home and it evokes a feeling?  You might even say, “It just feels so _____________ in here!” (you fill in the blank: warm, cozy, open, bright… ).  Our homes inspire feeling in us and in those who visit them. What kind of feeling are you trying to evoke; and then how do you use your furniture, and paint and lighting to evoke it??

Designing a space is like one big puzzle.  There are lots of pieces, but not every piece fits in just one place.  They can sometimes be interchangeable, but sometimes they can’t…and changing one piece will usually affect the others.  This part I love. But how do I make each piece fit?

Often I will find an inspirational piece for a space I’m designing.  It might be an item the client has in the room, such as a picture, or a chair.  It might be a new fabric that we plan on putting in the space.  It may even be the idea of something, like “football in the 1920’s.”  I will use this piece of inspiration as my touchstone.  As I’m selecting a style of furniture or a paint color or an accessory item, I ask myself, “Does this fit within the scope of my inspiration?”  If it does, great!  If not, then I may need to re-select.

Often, people will be inspired by a picture of a room they’ve seen on Pinterest (or more accurately a thousand different rooms they’ve seen on Pinterest) and start plucking ideas from all of them, and wind up frustrated that all these ideas aren’t working together.  Part of the issue is that you need an object of inspiration, a touchstone that informs the decision of which ideas to use and which ones to let go.

My sister posted something on Facebook recently that has stuck in my mind.  Now, she is a Marriage and Family Therapist, so it may have been meant for something more closely related to things of that nature; but I drew a connection to design, as everyday I work with people that feel overwhelmed by the number of choices they are faced with as they build, or design or redesign their homes.  She said, “Choices, choices, choices…Part of the essence of commitment is making a choice to give up other choices.  Of course, committing to a choice does not make the alternatives disappear.  That would be too easy.  Part of the work of commitment is letting other options go and investing your energy in the one you have chosen.”

So, as you search for inspiration for your home, choose an object that elicits the feelings you want for your home; and then frame your design choices around that object.  This doesn’t have to be strict, but let that object inspire you and inform the choices you make.

To demonstrate, I have asked my fellow designers here at L. J. Wagner Home Interiors to share with me an example of what they had used in inspiration in their own homes.  It’s always interesting to see what meaning others might derive from certain objects.  Enjoy the gallery below!


A fun find! An apartment piano, refinished, inspired my grayscale and warm wood tones color scheme.

A fun find! An apartment piano, which I refinished for my living room, inspired my grayscale and warm wood tones color scheme. — Lauren

We are a family that LOVES books! They inspire us in so many ways. Displaying our books, and demonstrating our love of dogs and horses, inspires much of our other decor.

We are a family that LOVES books! They inspire us in so many ways. Displaying our books, and demonstrating our love of dogs and horses, inspires much of our other decor. — Jane

My Mothers dishes, accented with Depression Glass pieces inspired my living room color scheme. I love decorating with dishes! — Cheryl













This locally found Oriental artwork inspired a new color scheme for our family room! — Ed

Inspiration Gallery

Vintage dishware, artwork, and other decor items really inspire me in all areas of my home. — Lori

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