Where do you find inspiration for remodeling projects?


Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of inspirational material there is out there? Sometimes it feels like you need all the time in the world to stay on top of the never-ending ideas and developments that sprout up in the home improvement field.

But of course we have to set a limit to the amount of inspiration we search out. Plus, we want quality over quantity.

Why We’re Asking:

It used to be that magazines were the primary source for inspiration in design and other topics related to the home. But now there are so many more options; magazines have moved online or morphed into websites, and blogs on every related topic are gaining readership daily. There are even websites related solely to cataloguing inspiration.

This wealth of knowledge can be overwhelming for those whose professions don’t rely on keeping up with these sources. So where are the best places to start?

So experts, it’s time to weigh in:

Where can homeowners find inspiration for remodeling projects?

Where do you suggest homeowners find inspiration for their renovation projects?
What inspires you?
Do you see a particular merit in any of the different mediums—like publications, websites, or blogs?
Are there any lesser-known resources out there for inspiration?

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!


  1. Ironically the answer is to get out of your house in order to get inspiration to improve it. When you do decide to leave your cave and see what’s out there to make your house the most “super-cool” place on the planet consider these places to check things out and to be inspired.

    Travel To Fine Hotels

    A friend of mine went to Las Vegas last spring and came back home with a frenzy of new ideas to remodel their home. They wound up building a new “pool house” complete with cabana as well as installing drapery that automatically opens and shuts with the push of the button. When you get to “try out” the latest and greatest features, you create desire and interest in making those changes to your own home. Go to the finer hotels for one or two nights and see what things may fit your lifestyle the best.

    Tour Model Homes

    Although this may be harder to do now more so than it was in the past, touring a custom model home in an upscale community can be a great source of inspiration and ideas to improve your home. Upscale builders ALWAYS load up the models to show the public the possibilities of not just the gadgets and features but also the lifestyle you want to live with you and your family.

    The bottom line is to get out and see the world in places you normally do not visit in order to get inspiration you normally would not have.

    • I second this! I am a homeowner, but I love going to open houses on the weekend in my area to see what my neighbors are doing. Plus, if I ever sell my home I know what my competition has in their homes.

    In spite of all the technology that’s out there (blogs, e-zines, apps, etc.) I recommend a lower-tech form of remodeling inspiration that’s available to all homeowners, regardless of location, and without regard to their technical expertise. “What’s this magical source?” you ask, it’s the good old-fashioned Open House.

    Granted, one of my personal favorite sources for open house information is the website, http://www.trulia.com, but you can get open house information from your local paper, realtor’s office, and many other non-technical resources. Because an open house doesn’t require an appointment, it’s a great way to explore fantasy homes, as well as homes that could actually be yours, without wasting anyone’s time. While technically created for potential buyers, the open house circuit offers a wealth of opportunity for would-be remodelers and DIYers to draw inspiration from the very real homes, apartments, and condos around them, rather than relying on two-dimensional images from publications or websites. If you still want a photo for reference, just grab a brochure or snap a photo using your mobile device. For the low cost of a little time and route planning, in just a few Sunday afternoons, you can develop an entire catalog of real-life renovation inspiration.

  3. I agree that visiting model homes and open homes is a great source of design inspiration, but so is the local bookstore. You can browse magazines for free and only buy the ones that strike your fancy, and my wife and I make an evening of that every week or two.

    But I’ve noticed a distinct lack of Universal Design ideas for making products or building homes that serve the needs of everyone universally, regardless of age and ability. It’s an important design concept for baby boomers and their parents wanting safe homes without accessibility features that scream, “I’m old and frail.” Think: Form, Function, Value and Investment. Here are some resources:

    • Ageless Design (http://www.mhealthtalk.com/2011/04/ageless-design/)
    • Need to Redo your Loo? (http://www.mhealthtalk.com/2011/05/need-to-redo-your-loo/)
    • Household Tips for Aging in Place (http://www.mhealthtalk.com/2011/03/household-tips-for-aging-in-place/)
    • Health Care Comes Home: The Human Factors (http://www.mhealthtalk.com/2011/07/health-care-comes-home-the-human-factors/)
    • The Center for Universal Design (http://www.ncsu.edu/www/ncsu/design/sod5/cud/)

  4. When it comes to inspiration I advise my clients to do one of two things.

    1. Find something you already own that you love. It should be something that has personal meaning for you. It can be art, sculpture, a rug, your grandmother’s dishes, etc. This way you are designing a space that will be a reflection of who you are as opposed to merely following trends. This can inspire you color scheme and mood of your room. It can also lead to a realization that you have naturally created a collection on a theme that brings you joy but that was done subconsciously. I have one client who realized that all of her favorite art had water in it.

    2. Be open to inspiration from unlikely sources. I have a client that based her entire home’s color scheme on a photograph of spices in a spice market and an olive oil ad that showed weathered green shutters against a worn yellow stucco wall. Neither of these were design-related sources but they spoke to her. She and her husband love to cook and entertain.

    There are many ways to find inspiration. You should choose the medium you are most comfortable with. If you prefer browsing on-line or with magazines, or visiting decorator show houses and model homes the medium is beside the point. The idea is to find what speaks to you regardless of what is trendy. Trends are changing faster than ever and you don’t want to be in a constant struggle to stay current. Also, the result will not reflect who you are and what is meaningful to you. That should be timeless and evolve over your lifetime.

    When I work with a client I try to leave room for change so that the spaces will continue to evolve and reflect what is happening in their lives.

    • Need, and comfort, should drive inspiration. Energy conservation fits that bill, yet comfort can exist and be part of the upgrade. No one likes an ugly anything, so do it right and get a pro. Don’t take the cheapest path. Quality speaks for itself. Do online searches, not just popular things like patios or kitchens, but just what you need. Example, “need to fix driveway.” Or “kitchen too small.” Or “have no sun in my patio,” or “want light for free in my house,” “easy payback alternative energy products.” “Get rid of that 80’s look house,” You get my point. What is the chief complaint you have with the status quo? I am a Spartan sort of guy, but I do like beauty and I know it when I see it. Trends are following, and bold statements of function are a leading movement right now. Alternative Energy is not as ugly as it was. Lifestyle statements are acceptable.

  5. I always encourage my clients to create a WISH BOOK (with dividers by room) or WISH FILE (preferably accordion style and organized by room) and suggest they look the following places:

    Decorator Showhouses (depending on the location, often held more than once a year)
    Decorating Magazines
    Online Blogs (Freshhome is a favorite)
    Catalogues (West Elm, Horchow, Restoration Hardware, Crate and Barrel etc.)
    Online Catalogues
    Pictures of Places/Hotels You’ve Traveled to and Love or Found Online and Love
    HGTV episodes You Love (links)

    The key is to get organized and circle whatever it is you like best in the picture, unless it is the overall mood and feeling. You won’t remember later so do the work at the front end. Then as you spread these out or look at them together you’ll start to see the common threads and have a clearer picture of your ideal when you go to put your project together.

  6. Keep your eyes and senses open when you are out and about. As many of us do these days, I have a cell phone with a camera. I take pictures of design ideas that I like or want to know more about. I still believe starting with magazines and books is a great first step. Find a magazine that speaks to you, then look at the advertisers. Generally speaking, the advertisers are target to consumers with similar interests as yours. See if you can find a local showroom to visit and explore the products or designs you are interested in. Many materials and products look and feel different in person than they do in print.

    Google reviews for the ideas you like, you can find forums of other homeowners speaking to how the ideas worked for them. You may even be able to reach out to these folks and ask more specific questions.

    Always get a quote or ask your query to at least three professionals in the field of what you are looking for. Even if you end up going with the first person, you will find inspiration and clarification on the projects by talking to people who do it every day.

    Lastly, keep a file folder (or box) with clippings, flyers, photos and business cards of the things that inspire you. Even if your project is not on the immediate horizon you will have a resource to return to when it it is time to get down to business. You will see if you have a trends in your preferences as well. If you prefer to go all digital, try out delicious.com it is a website that allows you to save your bookmarks and tag them for easy retrieval.

  7. I think many people find inspiration in their travels. Whether it is a resort, a lakeside cabin, or a hotel in a major city, homeowners often want to re-create the look and feel of a place where they were relaxed, pampered, having fun with people they love, or discovering something new. Travel magazines and hotel/resort websites are good places to find images to further shape that inspiration. Then homeowners can search the internet for catalogs and stores, or work with a designer, to find the items that will bring their inspiration to life.

  8. From what I have seen, and from my own experience, I believe there are two factors that inspire homeowners to take remodeling projects to the next level. Those two inspirational forces are “desperation and excitation.”

    For example: Some homeowners can be “inspired” to add on a screened in porch because they’re being eaten alive by mosquitos when sitting outside. Because of “desperation” they’re more likely to come up with a very creative and functional porch design. Homeowners with less of a bug problem usually overlook such details or may not be inspired to build a porch at all.

    On the flip side, if a couple loves to entertain and cook fancy meals for their friends, the “excitement” of having that professional gourmet kitchen can inspire them to pull out all the stops. This may include installing higher end plumbing fixtures and appliances, along with hiring a professional kitchen designer.

    Bottom line: Just like anything in life. You either have to need something or want something bad enough, to gain that inspirational edge.

  9. A few approaches I would recommend are “form follows function” – i.e. what is the intended use or function of the renovation? If it’s to add a home office or to upgrade a kitchen, how will it actually be used, and how “important” is that use to the people who live there? That should dictate 90% of what’s going to be done for example, a larger six-burner, high-end range for a heavy-duty chef – a smaller one if you usually “order in” – an island if the kitchen will be an informal gathering place for family or guests, a dedicated dining area if more formal events are the norm, considering plenty of electrical outlets; also taking into account well-designed shelving/housing for computers, printers, other equipment & a workspace that’s not in the middle of the entertainment area for a home office – and so on. Once you analyze the best way to serve the actual needs of the renovation, aesthetics (finishes) will be he icing on the cake.

  10. All of the above are great sources of inspiration, design books, magazines, blogs etc. I would also visit design show rooms as well as new construction projects where the developer hired a top notch designer with the latest, most fashionable trends. Finally, one can get inspired from art, movies, museums, theatre, travel and virtually any medium involving shape, space, color and beauty.

  11. The first thing that comes to mind is online communities. I think that social media has enabled the sharing of ideas on almost any topic, home improvements included. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook pages, Flickr, and even the standard PHP-based forums offer a treasure trove of ideas, both written and visual, that homeowners can put into practice. And all of those platforms provide interactivity that sparks that inspiration in all kinds of directions.

  12. Inspiration is everywhere! While I know many people who still turn to magazines and home decor television shows when they’re working on their projects, there are many, many resources for homeowners who want creative inspiration.

    Obviously, there are countless design blogs, store websites, architectural and design portfolios and people posting beautiful shots to social media networks, too. If you’re looking for a semi-specific idea – such as modern country kitchen, or even “green kitchens” – a google image search can bring all sorts of interesting ideas. It just will take some sifting. Along the same route, movie and television interiors offer stunning, carefully curated views, as do illustrations in novels and art books.

    In my opinion, though, nothing beats getting out of the house for inspiration. Look at neighbour’s places, scope out tucked away shops, visit museums and take photos to things that you like.

    Inspiration also doesn’t need to come directly from an architectural space! Pull colour palettes from fashion, nature or even a pretty scoop of gelato eaten on vacation. Anything that catches your eye can be translated, in some way, into your home decor, whether it’s a woven basket that reminds you of reeds from a camping trip, a pattern mimicking a favourite dress on your cushions, a blue from a beloved piece of art used as a table runner, or a sculpture with a pleasing shape that reminds you of a scene from a favourite movie.

    If you’re working on a project, seek inspiration in all these areas, and keep a camera (or camera phone) and notebook handy to preserve your ideas as you go along!

  13. Regarding exterior remodeling, I generally find most of my inspiration from traveling. It is fun to see how people are making the most of their space, specifically small spaces, found typically in larger cities. My very favorite homes to look at for inspiration are in San Francisco. The color palettes used, landscaping and the design of the front entry way work hand-in-hand in forming a terrific curb appeal; and curb appeal is typically what you should be looking for, especially if you are thinking about selling.

    I appreciate what was said above regarding taking photographs. Even if you just simply liked the way the colors worked well with each other snap a quick photo with your phone or camera and take it to your local, trusted home remodeler for advice. You would be surprised what ideas a contractor has up their sleeve just from the many conversations and intricate details they are exposed to. Give them a direction and they’ll give you their professional opinion on what is best for the structure of the home and curb appeal.

  14. My personal favorite is foreign design magazines. They always bring me tons of inspirations! Also traveling is a great source of inspiration as well. You can get a lot of color inspiration, cues as well as decorating ideas through observing how others live. I love the Flickr forums/ groups as well!

  15. To find inspiration for you renovation start with print – The 2D Experience

    The obvious resources such as books, magazines, online design sites, blogs and digital magazines are the easiest and most accessible. These particular sources are terrific for details and overall themes, and design aesthetics of spaces within a home.

    It could be a window style, a staircase detail, or a paint color you’re in love with. Is it the 6-burner stainless steel stove, the gorgeous entry doors, the cabinet detail or the sophisticated outdoor living space that you can’t live without?

    This is a great start – yet it’s only 2-Dimensional inspiration. From these pages it’s difficult to experience the physical feeling volume and space.

    So venture out and about for the 3D Experience!

    Get yourself out there into your community and walk into some open houses in and around your neighborhood. Seeing and feeling the way others live and the ideas they’ve implemented into their homes may actually inspire you in some way.

    The 3-Dimensional experience of physically walking into a home and experiencing the environment provides a truer perspective overall.

    How do the homes of your friends who share similar lifestyles to yours feel – and how could you implement those “must haves” into your home and make them your own?

    Drive around and notice the homes’ exteriors as well.

    In fact just yesterday after a site meeting, I hopped into the car with my client and took a quick drive through her gorgeous neighborhood looking at porch, trellis and pergola details – which we will be incorporating into her home as well. It really is the best way to see the plethora of design possibilities and details in a 3 dimensional environment.

    Take as many digital photos as you can, print them out immediately and scribble notes while your thoughts are still fresh and your memory sharp – and be specific with what inspired you. Then pop then into that file!

    Finally, don’t forget:

    Home Builder Shows
    Kitchen and Bath Shows
    Designer Showhouses
    Contemporary Fairs
    Antique Marts

  16. Recently, I’ve been drawing inspiration from boutique hotels around the world. They can be so dramatic in the way light is drawn to a space or the combination of different eras used in one room. When I am working in a small and unique space, like my new apartment in Brooklyn, I tend to tour hotel rooms in the area and online (most hotel sites have virtual tours) to see how they really use every inch of space. It is amazing how armoires can turn into kitchenettes as seen in the Dream Hotel in NYC. So look outside the box, or magazines that is, and take a tour of a local boutique hotel or look around online, like at Apartment Therapy, I guarantee the creative juices will start to flow!

    Also, my favorite designer that gives me inspiration as of late is a women from Australia named Jessie Lauren! Check out her stuff!

    – Bess Wyrick, owner and artistic director of Celadon and Celery

  17. Although magazines are still my preferred place for inspiration, there are literally hundreds of other spots that you can find inspiration for your next renovation or decorating project. Here are just a few of my other favourite sources:


    You can get some fabulous design ideas by looking around. Check out the lighting, flooring, wallcoverings, finishes, paint and accessories they’ve selected. You may come away with more than just a doggy bag. You’ll have a lot of new ideas for your own home. As a matter of fact, even the food itself can be a source of inspiration when deciding on colours.


    These are also great places to get inspired. Showroom displays will pull an entire room together for you to see the finished product. You’ll leave with ideas on how to arrange your furniture, the type that will work well within your space and how best to accessorize. In home improvement stores, the various kitchen cupboard choices will be displayed in mini-kitchens which can be quite helpful to the selection process. Since these same stores will also carry the hardware, slide on over to that section of the store and bring over a few knobs and pulls to see what you like best with your cupboard choice. You’ll even be able to check out the kitchen faucets while you’re there too. Oh, and let’s not forget the countertops – everything under one roof to inspire you. Sometimes I’ll even roam around home improvement stores looking for interesting items, that with a little imagination, can be turned into unique, “custom”, decorative pieces.


    If you have a favourite piece of clothing it can also become a source of inspiration for you. Pull a colour from it and use that as the main colour for your room. If the fabric has a few different colours within it, you’ll get an idea of what other colours look great with your main choice. Use those as your accent colours for accessorizing.


    Look back over your favourite vacation photos. Perhaps a certain country that you visited holds fond memories. If so, you may wish to use that as the theme for decorating your room. Photos from a trip to the Grand Canyon may even give you the inspiration to buy a canvas and paints within that colour spectrum and try your hand at an abstract painting for your living room.

    As you can see, with a little imagination, the sources for inspiration are all around you and pretty much limitless.

  18. I am an Interior Designer who has had a high end showroom for 18 years. When the recession hit and I had time on my hands, I began to look around and see where marketing was going. What I came up with was the internet. The internet puts ALL information right in the palm of our hands. With my new found knowledge I began to restructure how I was doing business. I started a virtual design company by opening http://www.professionalkitchenandbathplans.com. Through the use of SKYPE I could work with clients all over the world on their room design. I also created an online home furnishing site that allowed my clients to shop for all their products. By guaranteeing the lowest price and hand selecting product for my clients it gave them everything they needed to remodel their home right from their computer. IT eliminates the running around gathering prices and working with numerous people. By connecting with me they had their designer and could do all their shopping with no hassel. I also, created http://www.digthisdesign.net which is my design blog where I answer design questions and give design tips on everything DESIGN! The computer is where most of us turn for inspiration because it is all there at our finger tips!

  19. Similar to buying a home, home improvement and remodeling ideas can come from looking online, reading print publications or by listening or watching other media. But, nothing takes the place of in-person, hands-on, experience and knowledge. Real estate open houses, or charitable tours of high-end neighborhoods, paintings in friends houses or museums, childhood memories of family vacations, hotel rooms stayed in over the years, all will provide far greater creativity and inspiration. That said, there is one caveat: TV shows like “International House Hunters” whereby you get a look at the homes of our friends from around the globe offer valuable glances into the creative minds of other cultures and peoples.

  20. Homeowners can get inspiration from anywhere, and should look for inspiration everywhere – not just in homes or pictures of homes!

    •Your favorite restaurant – there are certain things that make your favorite eating establishment appealing to you, besides just the food. Maybe there are colors, certain pieces of artwork, or furniture that attracts your attention. Restaurants today work hard to create an experience for guests, so think about what it is that appeals to you in that experience.

    •A spa – spas traditionally are places of retreat, where one goes to relax, feel better, and be pampered. There are many elements that go into the décor of a spa to give you that feeling. And spa décor doesn’t stop in the bathroom. Think about the furniture, the wall colors, the softness and the natural elements around you. There is much to create inspiration here.

    •Commercial buildings – in many cases, commercial architecture and design incorporate modern elements that create an open, functional space. Visit the lobby of that new office building or hi-rise in your community. Take a look at the layout, the materials used, and the style and feeling it creates and think about what it might mean for your home.

    •A garden or park – Many local gardens and parks create “rooms” outdoors through the placement of benches and seating areas, canopies of trees, or plantings of flowering shrubs and bushes. Take note of how that arrangement works, and the natural colors that are brought together to create a cohesive, defined space. This use of texture, light, and natural materials can inspire design.

    At the end of the day, inspiration comes from what you love, so look everywhere and take the time to notice what you love and why you love it. This will help you find that inner inspiration.

  21. Here is a tip that I learned about 20 years ago from a top designer. Send your clients to the model homes in high rises and condos. These units usually make exceptional use of space and are decorated and furnished by top designers in your area. OK–nothing new with that. However, here is the really helpful part–take a 20 foot tape ruler. You will be amazed at how small the spaces really are. Many high rises are two bedroom, two bath units with less than 1,000 sq. ft. Most owners of older homes can work in at least one or two extra rooms in their existing space by using some of the design tricks used in these high rise units. Another amazing use of space using built ins can be seen on luxury yachts.

  22. One might tend to look for websites, books and other physical resources to answer this question…but I would encourage you to mine your own memories! The best projects are always the ones that strike you as the tree fort you always wanted to build as a child. There is something about a physical tree fort, or even draping sheets over sofas and chairs, that make spaces that really resonate with us. My daughter once cleaned out her closet to make a delightful, enclosed adventure space that was only 2×8 feet. This or some other significant memory can provide a delightful way of thinking about a renovation because it makes you think about space, degree of enclosure, light, adventure, etc., etc. These strong memories create a framework for then solving the more practical aspects of remodeling…THEN you can go to Houzz.com and observe with a child’s eye!

  23. All of these are great ideas. In our area (Columbia, SC), there are some great resources sponsored by our local home builders association.

    We have two home and garden shows per year. The one in the spring – that CoMar has been doing for over 35 years – is basically for new construction and the one in August is geared more toward remodeling. Both are excellent venues to see the latest items on the market and talk to the local vendors in one spot.

    The Greater Columbia HBA also annually sponsors the Parade of Homes (new construction in one particular subdivision) and the Tour of Homes (new construction in various parts of town). All of these homes are decorated professionally and usually have the latest and greatest products donated or seriously discounted by vendors to get them out in front of the public.

    The only other advice I have is to try to imagine yourself in the new or updated space. How convenient will this new area be when you …. bring in the groceries, put away the laundry, etc. Looking good only goes so far!

  24. Inspiration comes from all different places, but my personal favorite place to snag designs ideas is from inspiring design television shows like House Hunters, Clean House and Design Star. With their clever tricks and thrifty designs, it’s no wonder they’re increasing in popularity.

    Blogs are next on my list. There are a lot of great resources out there now to explore; pulling design ideas together from all over the country. Visit http://padstyle.com/top-25-interior-design-furniture-blogs/810 to see the top 25 design blogs for inspiration to fit any style!

  25. I think where you get your inspirations may have something to do with your age and passions. I happen to still like magazines, both hard copies and on line. Take a broader view and look at the styles and patterns in magazines that feature things you are passionate about. I enjoy cooking and gardening and find inspiration for design and color outside of the traditional design magazine. I look at those too but you shouldn’t be limited.

    I am also a huge fan of visiting open houses; new condominiums, restaurants and great hotels. Projects that had great designers and architects, maybe people you could not afford to hire. Find out what they are doing with color, materials and products. Take a look at the big picture, even though sometimes you see one thing you like, try and take it all in. How could some of a great concept work in your home?

    Design and inspiration aren’t out of reach, many times its right in front of you.

  26. I still get great ideas from magazines like Traditional Home and House beautiful. I definitely agree with visiting open houses in your neighborhood. Usually the layouts are the same/very similar. It’s a good way to see how some of the problems you, as the homeowner, are running into, are solved.

    I like apartmenttherapy.com, too, because it shows homes with a good range of sizes and budgets.

  27. As a designer, I really like large-format coffee table books. It may sound old-fashioned, but the large format of photos on paper are easier to see detail in than a computer, and easy to flip back to. Choose books according to locales or designers that inspire you – a book about Italy is great inspiration for a Mediterranean home, even if it isn’t a design book. Interior Designers’ books usually are fantastic for information about the process and rules of design. Good interior design is really about how we live, so be inspired by the lifestyle you have (or want) and create your home to achieve it.

    That being said, a clippings file, either online or from magazines, is the best resource because it is a collection of things that speak to you viscerally; no one can make a clippings file for you. Sometimes the clippings may seem unrelated, but if you look closely, you’ll see that they have a common thread. Perhaps you are attracted to uncluttered rooms, humble rooms, or rooms with collections; they may look completely different from each other, but there is a way in which they relate that will reveal your taste to you.

  28. When it comes to re-modeling your home, things go in and out of style all the time. Nobody wants their grandmother’s floral kitchen and plastic covered furniture from the 1960’s. However, one thing that never goes out of style is conservation and energy efficiency. Browsing green products will help you find a range of looks to inspire any taste, from a clean modern look, to the old world feel of rustic reclaimed wood furniture.

    Its easier to be green than people may think, and green can come in any style, not just the modern energy efficient lighting that the market was born on but inspiration can come from what you care about most. Find an issue that speaks to you, whether its environmental conservation, energy efficiency, or simply saving some green, search for products that suit your needs and style and build inspiration from that. Searching for green products and furniture online will allow you to discover a range of styles that will lead you in many different directions while at the same time reflecting that which originally inspired you – something you actually care about, and at the same time will ensure that you are doing your part to help save the environment!

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