A few years ago, I was asked by a former staging client to do a consult for her house. She had just purchased some pretty wallpaper and was wondering what would be the best room for it. We went through her house, room by room, to find its new home. Their house was a charming century old house with lots of personality, but it looked like it had been thrown together. Her home was filled with unique and interesting pieces of furniture & accessories. The challenge was, is that they many of them didn’t always work with each other and left some rooms feeling disconnected. We went into the family bathroom which was recently renovated and it was gorgeous. It looked like it came out of a magazine. Her daughter has piped up that she had taken the bathroom design upon herself to design and executed the plan. It was well thought out and all the elements of the room worked together which resulted in a stunning bathroom.
The #1 Decorating Mistake Most People Make
One of the biggest challenges homeowners have when they decorate a room is that they don’t start with a plan. They buy a stunning piece of artwork they see on their travels and put it up on their wall. They like a beautiful wool rug they find for a steal at Home Sense so they lay it on the floor underneath Aunt Mary’s oversized hand-me-down couch that is a little frayed on the arms. Furniture and accessories accumulate overtime as they an add item that they like and purchase, or add gifts from well meaning family & friends. It becomes a bit of this and a bit of that. You see rooms in Architectural Digest that have a “bit of this and a bit of that” but for most people, this method does not work. The challenge for most of us is, this method ends up being a hodge podge. And when you step back and look at the room, it doesn’t look great. It feels off. Its not Instagram worthy.
When designing a new space, or even adding some elements to a space, its always a good idea to start off with a mood board, or also called a design board. Place your ideas and thoughts of fixed elements like cabinets, flooring, tiles, hardware etc, plus any furniture & accessories on the board. Don’t forget to put your paint color options as this is key in making sure every part of the design flows together.
Don’t get me wrong, everything doesn’t have to be “matchy matchy” in a room. In fact, all the furniture and accessories should NOT “match” or your room will end up looking like a big box store ad with NO personality. But on the other hand, too much of “this and that” can make a room feel in-cohesive and disjointed.
What IS a mood board exactly and why do I need one?
A mood board (also known as an inspiration board or a design board) is a collage of collecting pieces together to create a look. A mood board plans the look and feel of the room. It can be a physical collection of pieces like you often see on HGTV shows, or can be digital collection of pieces. Its the process of gathering inspiring pieces together in the early stages of visualizing and planning a room design.
Designers start with a mood or inspiration board to help clients visualize the look and feel of the room before they start to purchase products or choose a paint color. That doesn’t mean there may not be surprises or changes as you go along. Some pieces may stay, some pieces may go, and some may be added to the board along the way. Its a process when gathering ideas for the board but the purpose is to help the homeowner visualize as much as possible, what the end product of the room or space will look like. The mood board will help you acheive the look you’re going for, show you what you need to do to get there, and help you budget and monitor the process as you move along.
You can create a mood board digitally in a software such as Canva or Powerpoint. You can upload a picture of a rug or couch etc that you are keeping from your room and add additional pieces, paint colors etc as you search online stores for other pieces to add to your desired look.
It is also possible to do this visual physically for those that prefer the actual look and feel of a product before you buy it. The next time you’re watching an HGTV show, see how the designers “casually” pull together a mood board at a store. For a kitchen renovation for example, they’ll bring the kitchen cabinet and paint colors for the kitchen they’re designing. At the store, they’ll add the counter top, floor tiles, backsplash, cabinet pulls, lighting, and voila, they’ve created a mood board on the spot. Yes its a TV show and a bit staged, but you get the point.
How to make a mood board for interior design
1. Start with an “inspiration piece” to design your room
So where do you start you ask? To start decorating a room, you need an inspiration piece. It can be an element of the room like a fireplace, an amazing view or stunning light fixture.
In a kitchen or bathroom, it can be a tile, a countertop or existing cabinet piece.
It can be a stunning picture, a family heirloom, or a drop dead antique that you’re going to refinish perhaps. Mementos from your travels like a high-end Moroccan carpet, a sculpture or memorable artwork could be your starting inspiration. When choosing your inspiration, be sure that your piece will be around for years to come.
Be cautious about basing your entire room design on a fabric cushion that could get easily stained and destroyed a couple of years down the road. If your inspiration piece gets destroyed, the reason that your room is pulled together will be gone. It can be difficult to replace an inspiration piece with the exact style and colors you need years down the road.
Now that you have your “inspiration” piece, you can pull your room together using a design board.
2. Define your style
The next step in designing a mood board is to define your style. This can be both fun & tricky. When you’re choosing items for your space,
The challenge my client had, is that she didn’t have a defined style. She picked out items at the store that she liked which alot of us. There was nothing wrong with the items she picked, and in fact, the wallpaper she had picked out which started this whole consult in the first place was gorgeous. But it was flowery & ornate which didn’t go with the area that she had bought it for.
This is where it can be both fun & tricky. Is it traditional? Contemporary? Transitional? Boho? Eclectic? Mid-century? Costal? Asian Zen? Industrial? Traditional? Scandinavian?
I created the above mood board for a coastal dining room that has an amazing view of a river. The gorgeous river view was the inspiration piece for this mood board, and the colors flowed from the coastal | beach look.
3. Decide on your color scheme
Let’s say you picked up a rug that you purchased in Morocco while on vacation. You want to keep your current sofa so we’ll add that into your design. The neutral couch can be “dressed” appropriately with the right accessories. Picking up the cream, copper and navy tones in the carpet, let’s search for fun and inviting accent chairs that would give the room a bit of pop since the couch is quite neutral. Using the rug, your inspirational piece, we need to develop Using blue and orange (or copper) is a popular complimentary color scheme that is easy to use and gives the room a vibrant look.
The accent wall design came next to create a focal point in the room. The paint colors were pulled from the carpet. The painting in blue, orange and cream pulls from the same colors of the carpet. Dark wide plank floor is recommended as it blends in with the style and accessories and is currently the leading trend in hardwood and vinyl flooring right now. With the mood board, it gives you a good idea of how your living room is going to look.
Let’s say you’re thinking of keeping your own coffee table. You can replace it with this cooper one to see what it looks like. You want a different picture? Search for different pictures and swap it out. You get the idea.
Mood boards are not just limited to a room. The above is a mood board I created for a client for their beachfront area. The picture on the top right is the current look of the property. We brainstormed ideas on furniture and landscaping to add too and keep the natural casual feel of the beach front.
Related reads to designing your space:
Does this sound simple or overwhelming? If that is simple for you, great! You’re off to the races for designing your own space. If this is overwhelming, I can help you with that!
I help busy homeowners, just like you, to style their house to make it a stunning retreat, where they can live and enjoy their home. I help homeowners, make money beyond their wildest expectations from the sale of their house by guiding them when they’re getting their house ready to sell.
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Hi! I’m Debi Collinson. I’m a interior design consultant, a color consultant and real estate investor.
My design advise to the world is … styling your home is the BIG secret in having an Instagram worthy home as opposed to a ho hum look.
My superpower is about styling to make your home stunning all while adding value to your home at the same time!
It all started back in 2006, where I nervously staged my very first home. The sellers liked their newly styled home so much that they turned down an offer for full asking price and stayed. I went back to design school and the rest is history. I’ve been working my “magic” with hundreds of clients to create a stunning retreat whether they’re styling to stay or staging to sell! In my spare time, LOL, I buy “fixer uppers” to fix up & either sell for a healthy profit or to rent. I’m currently looking for my 10th “fixer upper.” Sign up to receive my e-mails on how to make your home your stunning retreat, how to sell your house for top dollar AND how to become financially independent one fixer upper at a time!