insights on creating innovative spaces

Try This Exercise to Get Inspired

Designer Showhouse, Upper Brookville, 2011

One of my instructors from the Parsons design school, the world-famous interior designer John Saladino, taught me an especially important lesson: He pointed out that travel offers the most important influence a designer can have.

Travel allows exposure to different cultures, histories, colors and textures that will inevitably inspire and enrich any project. Saladino’s belief has influenced me to this day – and I encourage many of my clients to open their minds to travel, too.

If you’re looking for a design change in your home or office, then I encourage you to think about the following:

  • Do any photos from your travels especially move you?
  • What colors and textures have caught your attention while traveling?
  • Has any music – or have any instruments – helped you find a sense of escape?
  • What books have made a mark on you, and why?
  • Do you have any family mementos, from your local area or abroad, that you feel strongly about?

Collecting these points of influence can inform your design ideas. If it helps, write your ideas down, and then consider why each of your favorite elements is important to you. You might be surprised where you find inspiration.

Sometimes, the travel and lifestyle of a home’s previous owners can inspire you. Take this welcoming guest room, for example. I designed it as a refuge for the worldly traveler.

In this room: chandelier by Arteriors Home, headdress and stools by Tucker Robbins, valance by Pollack Fabrics, lamps by Palacek and carpets by Michaelin & Kohlberg. Full product list on request.

The room pays homage to the home’s original owners, Charles Oliver Iselin of New York, a noted yachtsman and philanthropist, and his wife, Hope Goddard of Newport, a yachtswoman and racehorse owner. They married in 1894, and in 1895, she became the first female crewmember in the 32nd America Cup competition.

In deference to this prominent family, I used early 19th-century elements. The elegant period writing desk that rests on the Oriental-design rug is enhanced by the classic color palette of the period. The family’s passion for sailing is referenced through 20th-century boating pictures.

Combining history and travel, I added the style of the next owners of the house: the actress and singer Pia Zadora and her husband, Meshulam Riklis, whom she married in 1977. The window and canopy treatment of the bed highlights Hollywood glamour. Zadora is famous for her love of color; using the hot accents of orange, pink and red, which were rampant in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I blended two historical periods with the styles of two very different couples.

As you fine-tune your own design inspirations, I encourage you to think of your travels, the pieces that move you and the history of the space you’re in. Combining those influences, you just might stumble on your next great idea – and if you need any advice along the way, I’m here to help.