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

Magnolia Home Furniture, by Joanna Gaines

If you are familiar with HGTV’s hit show Fixer Upper you have definitely heard of Chip and Joanna Gaines.  The Gaines’ have made television magic; working as house-hunting and remodeling counselors for families in search of the perfect home.  With Chips’ experience and management of the construction process, and Joanna’s fantastic eye for design and decor, they have helped many families in their search for a dream home.  Their passion has inspired millions and has catapulted Fixer Upper into becoming one of cable television’s most widely watched programs.  Fans have flocked to Magnolia Market, Joanna’s home-style store in Waco, Texas; falling in love with her unique personal design and fun decor ideas.

Building on the appeal of their show, and her own design style, Joanna has released a new line for the very first time: Mangolia Home Furniture, by Joanna Gaines.  Inspired by Jo’s unique style, and designed under the direction of Joanna herself, Magnolia Home Furniture is now available here at L. J. Wagner Home Interiors, in Nappanee!  Stop in anytime; we would love to show you her fun new designs!

With styles ranging from Primitive to French Inspired, Industrial to Traditional, Farmhouse to Boho (an eclectic style mix of Victorian Bistro and Mid-Century Modern) Magnolia Home Furniture, by Joanna Gaines, offers pieces for every room in your home.  Pair this with the many Magnolia-style accessories we carry, and our designers can help you achieve that unique look of which even Joanna herself would approve!

Farmhouse Dining
Shiplap Bed
Primitive Colonnade Metal Bed
Carpe Diem Chair

If you are interested in checking out more, click HERE for a Magnolia Home Furniture Gallery!


Life & Design: A Fresh Coat of Paint

Life & Design:  A Fresh Coat of Paint

As a design enthusiast, I am constantly examining my home and imagining all the changes I’d like to make.  Some are simple, like adding a new accessory that brings the colors in the room together.  Others are more elaborate like re-purposing an old dresser to make a new bathroom vanity (which I hope to accomplish when the weather gets warmer!).  My husband says I have a “look” when I do this.  He can tell when I’m in “designer-zone” in my head, as I roam around the house and stare at the walls.   Am I the only one?

One simple fix that I have been wanting to make in my home is re-painting our bathroom.  If I’m honest, I’d love to rip everything out of that bathroom and re-do it all, but alas, a project of that magnitude is not on the agenda at this point.  But one thing I knew I could handle was paint.  Changing the paint in a space is a way to produce dramatic results with little financial investment and some good old-fashioned elbow-grease!


This pattern was lovely when new; but I’m ready to change it up!

When we bought our home the bathroom was in obvious need of some TLC — and no, I don’t mean the 90’s R&B girl group… but their hit single “Waterfalls” does bring back some great memories of singing in the mirror with a hairbrush microphone 😉

But that is neither here nor there.  The walls of our bathroom featured a background of lilac purple with a damask pattern in white over-top.  While I mean no offense if you find this combination pleasing, it was in no way my style and I was ready to be rid of it.

So, my big Valentine’s Day weekend plans… paint the bathroom.  And with a toddler boy who is potty-trained, but in no way great at aiming… this was going to prove to be a gritty task.  Let’s just say I was pretty thorough with the first step of cleaning everything out of the bathroom and wiping down all surfaces!  For my new paint colors, I went with a neutral and relaxing greige called “Old Soul” and a deep chocolate-charcoal accent wall called “Ebony Fields.”  The accent wall behind the sink is a semi-gloss, because it reflects light to help against the dark color’s absorption of light, also for cleanability.  The rest of the walls were done in an eggshell.  I had previously painted the vanity white and I liked the idea of having a dark wall with the white accents.

Here at L. J. Wagner’s we carry PPG Pittsburgh Paints. PPG not only has a wide variety of colors to select from, they offer low-VOC or no-VOC products; and they are also a company that supports buying local and partners with great foundations, such as Make-A-Wish.  (One of their Make-A-Wish colors, “Screaming Safari”, is in my boys’ room and makes for a bright and exciting room for the littles.  I love it!)

So Saturday night I busted out my trusty paint tools and got to work.  When painting an accent wall in a room it requires a little extra precision to ensure your edges are crisp and don’t detract from the effect you’re going for with the accent wall.  Here are some of my own personal tips when you begin your own painting adventure.

My tips to get a professional-look for do-it-yourself painters:

  1. I choose to forego drop cloths all over and tape on every edge. I use them sparingly. Sometimes when I use the drop cloths and tape I get reckless, thinking I’ve got extra protection, so I can be a little sloppier. Using less to “protect” the areas I don’t want painted makes me more cautious overall and more precise on my edges.
  2. When I do use the painter’s tape for the trim, I make sure that my brush is not dripping with paint. Too much paint on those edges can start to ooze under the tape causing a mess that you don’t see until it’s too late.
  3. In this room, I made sure to do a coat all the way around with a good primer. When changing colors drastically or painting over a pattern, it’s a good idea to use a primer or get a paint that has a primer in it.  Our Pittsburgh Paints Manor Hall line is a Paint, Primer & Stain Repellent in One!
  4. Remove the tape once all your coats are done and the last coat of paint is still wet. If you allow it all to dry, when you remove the tape it could pull up some of the paint on the walls. Then just go back and touch up the areas that need it.
  5. I also usually paint bare foot; and not just for agility 😉 but if I happen to step in dripped paint I know it right away and don’t track it all over the house.
  6. ALWAYS do at least two coats of your color. I know most paint companies will tell you to do three. But I find that for 99% of color applications, one coat is just too thin

    My Painting Project:    Before……and…..After!

    but two seems to give you the proper amount of coating for a solid, finished look.

Sweet relief!  The new colors create a much more subdued and calm environment.  I installed my new metal pipe towel bars, put up my white accents, a few vintage prints and voila: a whole new room!  My husband tells me he’s still shocked every time he goes in there by how much better it looks.  Yay me!  🙂

The bathroom is a great place to be loud with your design and try something you’ve been a little scared to do, such as using bright paint colors or big prints on wallpaper. This room is typically one of the smallest in your home, so it takes less to accomplish the new look; and you are only in the bathroom for brief amounts of time. So I say, go for it!  Be brave and get your hands dirty.

We have recently redesigned our women’s restroom at L. J. Wagner Home Interiors; and used a beautifully large floral print, alongside an accent wall that features a small-scale cheetah print.  It is big, bold and lovely!  With new a vanity, flooring, lighting, and freshly painted stall dividers, it is a whole new oasis for folks of the female variety here at Wagner’s.  While it seems odd to invite you to come in and see our new bathroom, I am.  And you should!  It’s well worth the trip. and you might even be inspired to be bold in your own design!


If you’re not sure what colors to use, check out PPG Pittsburgh Paint’s color ideas page HERE for ideas.

Or click here to see PPG Pittsburgh Paints color of the year HERE.  Who doesn’t mind finding Paradise?  

Or come into L. J. Wagner Home Interiors and get some personal advice from one of our lovely designers!  We would be thrilled to help you accomplish a new look, just for you!  Like all things design, your walls should reflect your personality and personal style.  We, at L. J. Wagner Home Interiors, can help you create the look that shows off who you are!