“Inspiration does not come like a bolt. Nor is it kinetic, energetic striving. It comes into us slowly and quietly all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.” – Brenda Ueland
I was reading a photography site that I follow and came across an article about photographic creativity. It got me thinking about using creativity in our homes and the similarities of struggling to find inspiration. We all experience inspiration/creative blocks. How can we overcome those down times of creative energy? Just as photographers, artists and authors struggle to find a fresh idea, so do those of us who love to forever tweak our home decor. Here are some of my tried-and-true designer tips for jump starting your creativity.
Have Your Creative Juices Dried Up?
Build a Library
Create a library of reference photos and sources. Whether you create an online collection of photos or use notebooks filled with magazine pictures, include some photos of rooms you’re not particularly fond of, but there’s one small element that you kinda-sorta like. Do you know why? Your taste will change and grow, your home and furnishings will change and as you look back at these inspiration photos you’ll see something new in them every time. I discussed this in more detail and you can read about it here.
As a designer I refer to my inspiration notebooks often. I had a client who wanted a custom reception desk, so I browsed through my files. This kitchen gave me the direction for the desk design. The cone shape at the end of the island (a prep sink for the kitchen) became the strong design element for the desk.
Find a Muse
Break out of the creative doldrums by doing a little reading. There are hundreds of coffee table type books out there on every aspect of home decorating. Branch out and read a biography to learn more about the ideas and inspiration that shaped designers of different eras. Choose a book with more technical information about light, color or style eras so that you become more knowledgeable in an area of interest to you. Reading about the topic of home decor will get you motivated to create the home of your dreams. There are some great design books featured on our Bookshelf page above.
Learn Something New Every Day
Take a class, read a design book, watch a television design show, surf the net. Home decor advice and information is readily available in a huge range of sources. You’re out of ideas? Answers are as close as the nearest computer, your library or TV so take advantage of all that information to expand your knowledge base. There are literally hundreds of home decor blogs and newsletters. All the major magazines and TV design shows have websites filled with photos and information. If you’re tempted to try some DIY (do-it-yourself), there are myriad resources filled with how-tos on everything from updating a lampshade to refinishing a china hutch, from how to make a wreath to how to slipcover a sofa (see this how-to roundup). Learning and observing will help broaden your perspective, give you a new outlook and boost your confidence.
A note of caution….those of you addicted to HGTV design shows (like me), need to keep in mind that shows claiming to redo a room for $1000 or a house for $2000 or whatever can give the wrong impression. Remember that the cost for the staff they bring to the job that does all that building and sewing is not figured into that $1000 – that’s just for materials (and often at greatly reduced costs). You can achieve similar results with creative and persistent bargain shopping, but unless you have a carpenter, electrician or handyman in your hip pocket, your costs WILL be more. Just sayin’……
Sometimes our creativity just needs a push. Get out of your comfort zone and try something totally new. Start small so there’s a small investment of time and money, but start somewhere.
- Experiment with color. Buy a couple of inexpensive canvases at a craft store, a couple of tubes of acrylic paint in colors you like and play with color. See what happens when the colors blend on the canvas. Add water and see what happens when it dribbles down the canvas. Put it on thick and see how the sheen and intensity of the color interacts with the other tones. Play.
- Experiment with furniture placement. One day while you’re cleaning house and moving things to vacuum/mop/dust, put them back somewhere different. See how easy? You’ll be learning about spacial connections, about scale, about function. What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t like it, move it back!
- Experiment with accessories. This one is SO easy and almost always breaks me out of the creativity drought. Pull everything off your cabinet tops, bookshelves, potshelf ledges and start over. A great start for spring cleaning but also will help you look at color, shape and texture in a fresh way.
- Experiment with a DIY project. Personally, I have no interest in refinishing a piece of furniture or making slipcovers (you all know my opinion of those!) but there are lots of other things that I’ve found online that are appealing: stenciling, a lampshade update or I might try a paper covered accent box. Having something in your home made by your own hands is exciting and fulfilling.
Visit Art Galleries & Showrooms
Galleries and furniture showrooms and even arboretums are great places to boost your creative energy. Visit the local art or even history gallery. See how artists and craftsmen used color, line, form, shape, silhouette to make their statement. Visit a garden and absorb mother nature’s style and blending of color and shapes. Go shopping (not buying) and visit furniture showrooms for the more concrete translation to your particular interest. (Keep in mind though that just because it’s shown in a showroom doesn’t mean it’s right or great – develop your own eye and your own style.) Even if you don’t care for the style (modern vs traditional, etc), there will something to learn. Take a friend and make a day of it; take a notebook to make little sketches or notes to yourself when you find yourself drawn to a particular style or color.
Find New Places
Often we’re in a rut. We go to the same grocery store every weekend, hang out with the same people, walk to the same neighborhood park, drive the same route to work, leave our home stuck in a time warp. Sometimes revving the creativity engine is as simple as giving it new fuel. Go to a new grocery store and pay attention to their displays. Instead of walking the dog to the same park, walk the other direction….what’s over there? Take a different route to work, to school, to the movies, to the mall. And while you’re headed in the new direction, pay attention. Notice house colors, notice gardens (symmetrical and trim or lush and overgrown), notice clothing, notice signage. You never know what will spark an idea, so give yourself lots of opportunities to see and experience something new.
I noticed the front of this slot machine in Vegas – signage. The colors are great – look how the darkest blues fade to purple and then blend to red. The lighter blue is a great addition to calm the heat of the jewel tones. What a great palette – all figured out for you!
Use Your Camera
With phone cameras and those tiny little digital cameras so affordable, try to always have a camera with you. It’s a great way to catalogue your visual inspirations wherever you find them – at the mall, on a hike, at the zoo, at preschool, wherever. Then when you find yourself in a slump, browse back through your snapshots of things you found intriguing. Plus, taking photos is fun!
How Do You Recharge?
What techniques do you use to push yourself creatively? When you are feeling restless and in need of change, how do you determine a direction? How do you feed your creative side? I’m always open to new ways to feel creative, so I welcome your ideas.