As designers, we are hungry for inspiration to feed our creativity and keep our designs fresh, and we are surrounded by limitless resources to meet this need. Sources of inspiration play an important role in the design process – as triggers for idea generation, in expressing design concepts and sometimes in solving design challenges. Whether to broaden the base of a newer designer or to refresh the more experienced designer, exploring sources of inspiration should be considered critical to the design process.
On top of the incredible subject-specific library of photo inspiration available to us online, design shows and show houses offer further stimulation, as does exploration of things outside the singular focus on the kitchen and bath. Recent experiences at several of the spring trade shows and show houses, and traveling New York City with a designer friend, have reminded me of the wealth of design inspiration out there and recharged my design vision. Our observations prompted this chance to share some of that inspiration, some of the sources and a few of our trend-related findings.
When asked to consider sources for inspiration, we can all list the obvious and valuable websites, blogs, magazine collections and books of photo inspiration directly related to our design focus. Reaching outside these resources takes time and sometimes money, but it can be well worth that cost. Kicking off with KBIS and IBS, I took advantage of the chance to experience several great design shows here in New York this year. The Architectural Digest Design Show involves art and interior design, including some kitchen and bath concepts, targeting the luxury market. The International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) was amazing in its own right and also serves as the anchor for NYCxDesign – almost two weeks of opportunity to experience the best of design in the city. Amazing opportunities like this exist near and far, and researching and participating in those in your own backyard can save time and cost while offering a wealth of insight and vision.
We are exposed to wonderful and unexpected opportunities for design inspiration in our everyday happenings. Our wander in New York City took us from a park through some back streets of shops to a museum. We then walked the Highline, which is the restoration of an old elevated train track, now a park and walkway and the most-visited site in the city. We ended at a new development that included applications of technology that provided space-age features, which was in total contrast to the character of the neighboring Highline.
Nature, being so good at lighting, color, balance and all the elements of design, makes a great catalyst for fresh ideas and directions. Retail shops can be as amazing as the proprietor who dresses the space (see photos, above and below). Architecture in total – and especially in the details – can inspire a rich approach to design features. Finally, a conversation about unique aesthetics in New York would not be complete without a nod to the amazing people walking the streets, absolutely offering more motivation for a novel design approach.
Findings & Observations
Throughout these experiences, there were several themes in the details that seemed noteworthy. First, there was the suggestion that the kitchen has evolved to be a social space where sometimes someone cooks. Second, Moroccan patterns were everywhere in fabrics, floor and wall surfaces, and used and new tiles, particularly at the luxury level. Third, design across the concepts and product categories is supporting the commitment to decluttering and simplification.
Moving to more major inspiration points, the first was biophilic design, or design that connects people to nature and the environment, addressing our interest in environmental issues and in health and wellness. This connection to nature is showing up in the use of natural materials or the replication of the textures, colors and patterns of nature. It is also behind the movement to increased physical connection to outdoors, green or living walls and indoor gardens, and lighting that provides a sense of natural light and that can be programed according to circadian rhythms.
Interest in health and wellness and physical activity is another mainspring for design, apparent in Universal Design fixtures, water-saving and water-therapy fittings, appliances incorporating improved food preservation and healthier cooking methods and in lighting, as well as in space planning in public and residential spaces.
Speaking to both wellness and technology, the KB Homes/Builder Magazine Project Home at IBS included such things as a residential wellness technology platform, or a robot called Darwin that, among other things, roamed the house passively managing air quality and controlling lighting to simulate natural sunlight according to the time of day and location of the home. Yes, technology – again in the massive new performing arts center, the Shed at Hudson Yards, the development that we visited. Technology enables this space to expand and contract on giant hardware, according to the size of the crowd or the event taking place.
The desire to personalize is also apparent in the design of everything from fabrics to appliances, so like never before, there are amazing options for mixing and matching the parts and pieces that make up an appliance or a fitting, or beyond the kitchen and bath, a fabric or finish choice, many of which involve saturated colors and bold patterns, especially Moroccan, where neutrals once ruled.
Most of us begin a client survey with questions about the client’s design inspiration, and certainly we all need to be inspired to maintain fresh ideas and creativity. Whether from our office files, or from the client, inspiration images help them to convey their vision to us, help us to expand our frame of reference and stimulate creativity, and help us to communicate our design concepts to them. I have the sense that the old saying “one picture is worth a thousand words” can be applied to this discussion, and that pictures would be better than any words at all, but I hope this serves as a challenge to you to get out and be inspired. ▪