Summer holidays are the perfect time to get inspired, preparing yourself for the “new term” ahead. As September approaches I tend to develop a Back to School mindset and start thinking about life beyond school holidays! I often find September is when my clients re-emerge from a busy summer with a renewed focus on their homes again.
August is a great time to start gathering ideas and inspiration, ready for September. You have probably been bombarded with Instagram images of beautiful locations, holidays and colourful summer scenes. The challenge is how to take that inspiration and translate it in your home. And to also look wider than summer for your inspiration. As once your holiday memories start to fade you might not love the bright summer schemes quite so much!
Here are my top tips for getting inspired.
Don’t rely on social media
Social media can be great but it can also create a false sense of perfection. You can find yourself spending hours on Instagram and Pinterest only to feel even more overwhelmed and slightly inadequate. Don’t get me wrong. I think these tools are really useful but it’s easy to get sucked in and the key is to stay focused. I’ll come onto my tips for staying focused later in this article.
First of all, I’d like to highlight the other ways of getting inspired that evoke a much more emotional response. A flat-screen and scrolling is simply not the same as seeing inspiration in real life and experiencing it. Getting out and about and observing what you see is my best advice!
Try using a sketchbook
I have recently re-discovered the joy of using sketchbooks. It’s so much more fun to flick through old magazines and rip out images to put in a sketchbook. Just the tactile nature of doing this feels more satisfying than spending hours on Instagram or Pinterest mindlessly scrolling! Or a huge pinboard or large tray another good way to do this.
Tear ideas out of magazines and paste them into a large sketchbook with comprehensive themes spread across two pages. Don’t worry about curating them perfectly. When you are searching start with the feel, you would like to create – say “calm and relaxed” and use this as your filter for ideas. Most of all, go with your instincts and pull out pictures that resonate with you. Don’t just focus on images of rooms. Think about places you have visited or things you love, such as botanicals, food etc. You can be quite abstract about it, and you will start to see themes emerging – so textures, patterns and colours. Start to build up your own gallery of images by taking photos when you are out and about. Examples might be some lovely stonework, a shop sign or the tiles you like on the floor of a restaurant. Virtually anything you are drawn towards! I get a lot of inspiration from my garden and the Sussex countryside.
I’ve also rediscovered how much I enjoy hardback design books. My favourites are a Point of View by Veere Greeney (who I find hugely inspiring), English Houses by Ben Penreath (a twist on classic English Design) and An Eye for Beauty by Beth Webb (an American designer who creates calm traditional interiors). For colour inspiration, I love Recipes for Decorating by Joa Studholme of Farrow and Ball.
Use Instagram and Pinterest wisely
Instagram and Pinterest can be great for inspiration but can also be a significant draw on your time. I sometimes find that they induce a mild sense of panic – a kind of “fear of missing out” that there might be a more perfect image if you keep searching. Prioritise the number of accounts you follow and focus on the really inspiring ones. Some examples of Instagram accounts I love are Michelle Ogundehin (the former editor of Elle Décor), Soane Britain (for their focus on British design), Cheval Blanc St-Barth (a hotel in the Caribbean with interiors to die for), David Collins Studio (an interior architect who designs fantastic hotels and restaurants), Thomas Pheasant (another amazing interior architect) and Lawson Robb (for their beautiful use of colour and texture). These are just a few examples.
I personally find the product based accounts (sofas, lamps, rugs, etc.) a bit overwhelming on my feed, and they always make me want to buy things! You can end up fast-tracking to a buying state of mind rather than considering the feel you wish to create. It’s so important to get the concept right before you start racing ahead with sourcing specific items.
Visit historical properties
Historical properties are one of my favourite sources, for both the houses themselves but also the gardens. I love National Trust properties. One of my favourites is Standen in Sussex. Not only can the children race around in the gardens, but you can go inside the house for William Morris inspiration. It’s a short enough house tour that the kids won’t get too bored! Until I visited William Morris, I was never a huge fan and always associated it with fussiness and dark colours. My visit to Standen opened my eyes to the depth of his designs and also the fresher colour palettes. I’ve loved William Morris ever since. I recently chose this stunning wallpaper for my guest toilet after being inspired at Standen. Standen currently has a William Morris exhibition, which runs until November.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is also great for colour inspiration. It’s a good one to combine with children if you can bear the business in school holidays. I prefer to go on my own in term time to avoid the crowds! Don’t necessarily focus on the section devoted to the history of houses. Instead, visit the fashion section where the colours and patterns are more likely to resonate and inspire.
Travel is always a good idea!
It’s such an obvious point to make but so true. At this time of year, you can be overwhelmed with all the pictures of everyone’s beautiful travels! When you travel, focus on what you are drawn to and why, rather than looking at other people’s travels! But before you get drawn into the picture taking take some time to take it in and enjoy it. Consider what is it that brings you joy. Is it the colour or the way it feels? And what emotion do you feel? A beautifully calm destination on your travels may inspire you to create that feeling in your home.
I recently returned from a holiday in Greece and loved the interiors at my hotel. The calm simplicity of the interiors, the textures and clever lighting all combined to create a sense of relaxation I haven’t experienced on a holiday for quite a while. I took the time to look at details (which my husband found perplexing!) – for instance, the chunky linens they used and the kick pleats on the armchairs. Rather specific, I know! But it was these kinds of details that I was drawn to and plan on incorporating into the family room at my own home. Most of all, I think I was drawn to that aesthetic because of the relaxed, informal feel they created.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. The most important thing is to have fun when gathering inspiration. If you are considering appointing an interior designer doing this thinking in advance will provide an excellent foundation for a successful project. If you would like help to turn your inspiration into reality I’d love to hear from you.