Light Bulb moments...

Some American bloke called Thomas Edison once said (quite famously if you believe all the hype on the WorldwideInterweb) that...

‘Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.’

Now, don’t get me wrong, he sounds like a pretty smart guy, but given that he only invented (amongst other things);

The electric light bulb (incandescent and not the energy efficient nonsense with the strange eerie white light)
The phonograph (gramophone for the older generation, record player for the middle aged and Technics 1210s for the younger folk), and
The moving picture camera (used to be called a camcorder in the good old days when everything had a single purpose; now it’s merely a secondary function on a mobile phone...)

...I’m not sure he really knew what he was on about when it comes to interior design...

Inspiration is at the absolute heart of the design process - there’s perspiration, yes (and lots of it), but designers thrive on inspiration. It’s the spark that ignites the flame. It’s the key ingredient. It’s the Critical Success Factor (or CSF for the corporate types). It’s the Simon Cowell on the X Factor (for the Saturday night prime time televisual types)... I could go on with this, but you get the idea.

The purpose of this shorter than normal blog (did you read the tome on tiles last week??? - I deserve a little break...) is to highlight just how important everyday inspiration is to all designers and, more importantly, to illustrate that you can find inspiration and design concepts absolutely everywhere...

Let’s start with the basics. The starting point in the development of any interior design scheme is a concept. Concepts are a fundamental element of the design process as they form the basis for the colour schemes and the feel of the overall design. Across all disciplines of design, from fashion designers to graphic designers to garden designers (green and leafy is a big thing for them...), we all use concepts to provide us with that initial spark of inspiration.

The concept helps to convey the feeling and mood that the proposed scheme will create. It is also the overarching anchor for the project. For me personally, it is absolutely critical as a colour reference - more often than not I will take the original concept for my design with me when sourcing to keep me on the ‘straight and narrow’ when selecting fabrics and finishes.

Concepts can be taken from anything... paintings (old and new and created by the great, the ordinary or your two year old child), pictures of other interiors (often taken from magazines and, importantly for legal reasons, not plagiarised), innocuous photographs (of food for example) or, as is the case for me at the moment, high fashion! Many designers are also inspired by some of the great artists - for example, Matisse (due to his extraordinary sense of colour) has inspired everyone from Tricia Guild to Paul Smith. Have you ever noticed the strong correlation between the Paul Smith signature lines and ‘The Snail’ by Matisse? I suspect that Matisse came up with the original concept and then Sir Paul added the naked ladies...

A strong concept image can be hugely beneficial when designing a scheme to the point where, if it is a powerful and compelling enough image, the scheme can actually design itself... (not literally and I should point out that this does not diminish the need for the hugely cost effective services of a top interior designer - nobody in particular springs to mind).

As I alluded to above, recently I have been using high fashion imagery as concepts for many of my projects. More specifically, I have used the images as the inspiration for the colours in the schemes that I have been using in each of the rooms that I have been designing.

In the images below I wanted to illustrate how effective this can be as a relatively straightforward principle... I have paired high fashion images with interiors to demonstrate how a designer can use an image as the inspiration for their design...

(Images from Greige and The Style Files) 

(Images from Girl of the Sun by Sigrid Agren & Patrick Demarcheier and Ruby Rhino)

(Images from Griege and Plastolux via The Diversion Project)

(Images from Style Bust by Chris Benz and Fresh Home)

So, back to an inspirational closing statement from Mr Edison - I fear that I haven’t given him quite enough credit for all he has accomplished. After all, he did come up with the basic principles of mass production that now dominate our world and we couldn’t live without... I’m thinking Top Shop, Zara and H&M rather than Ford or Toyota...

‘Hell, there are no rules here - we're trying to accomplish something.’

Not a bad missive to bear in mind when seeking out your source of inspiration...


  1. Hi! Really enjoyed reading your post! I think fashion and interiors trend definitely do go hand in hand when you look at colours, textures and shapes! Fashion is great for inspiring more daring and innovation in interiors as well. I actually blogged about something similar, with Azzedine Alaia's couture designs, you may want to have a look!

  2. Right with you... I find it is really important keeping mood boards at hand because inspiration is something that takes some managing. Never let them stray far because they help convey that crucial subtle emotion to artists and partners etc. Having said that I worked with Tricia Guild for a decade and something I picked up on was her ability to pop in and just say a few words about the project... so having clear client input is also crucial. But in the article you have reminded me how each project needs that anchor... the effort comes from drawing on our creative experiences and focusing them into the scheme. The more range of experience in design we have the more dots we have to join up. Thanks so much will subscribe to you right away, Nick Garrett


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