Finding Inspiration in Unexpected Places

I was leaving the Architectural Digest Home Design Show last month with a designer friend when we both were stopped in our tracks by the most extraordinary lighting sculpture. It looked like a waterfall, only with lights and crystals instead of water. “This would be perfect for a project!” my friend exclaimed as she whipped out her iPhone and began snapping pictures.

“What project?” I asked.

“I have no idea…I just love the concept,” she replied. “But sooner or later, I’ll find the right project, and figure out how to translate the idea to a kitchen or bath design. And when I do, it will be amazing!”

I know what she means. Five years ago at KBIS, I saw a stunning desk/telephone station/furniture piece that made me salivate. It was not only stunning, it was so incredibly organized, with half a dozen compartments, roll-down panels, hidden storage spaces and an end cap where keys and leashes could be hung…and I remember thinking, if I had that in my home, I could become the uber-organized person I’d always dreamed of being.

Unfortunately, the only way I could have that in my home office would be to knock down the walls, since it was big enough to fill my home office and half my deck. But the concept of it resonated…and now, as I begin work on a home office renovation, I find myself looking for ways to incorporate those design ideas in a scaled down, more space-efficient version.

Of course design shows aren’t the only place where inspiration can be found. Rather, great ideas can be found nearly anywhere.

Hotels, spas and resorts – designed to provide a memorable luxury bath experience – offer a wealth of design ideas, many of which can translate beautifully to the high-end residential master bath. In this month’s Trend Spotting story (see story, Page 22), designer Jamie Gold shares just a few of these ideas from top hotels around the country.

Manufacturers’ new products can also provide inspiration. KBDN’s annual Directory and Buyers’ Guide (see Page 41) provides a listing of hundreds of companies that manufacture a wealth of kitchen and bath products designed to offer design inspiration and solutions.

Inspiration can be found in totally unexpected places, too. For instance, my holistic veterinarian has an office designed to evince a home/spa-like feel and, as such, it features a doggie massage table, pet whirlpool, furniture-style storage, refrigerated medicine cabinets and custom compartments for pet supplies. This idea inspired a designer/client to replicate some of the design elements in a bath project she was working on for a dog lover who’d come to her looking for a bath remodel that would accommodate both her and her aging dog.

Sometimes the inspiration comes from a client’s ethnic background, favorite locale or collectibles. Sometimes it comes from a painting or architectural element in the home. Other times it comes from the client’s clutter. For instance, a client with a plethora of small appliances inspired a designer to create a countertop-level cabinet behind a lift-up door, providing an updated and more user-friendly take on the appliance garage of old (see story, Page 32).

Inspiration can even be found online, like in the case of the Philadelphia designer who eliminated his showroom to focus on a growing Internet customer base – a move that has seen his business grow 35% per year ever since (see story, Page 28).

In the design world, there are numerous events that can provide inspiration for future projects. But creativity isn’t static: Great ideas and solutions can also be found everywhere from a museum exhibit to the golf course.

Have a story about a unique design inspiration you’d like to share? We love to hear where your best ideas come from! Send them to us at