Set up a "resource center" that you can visit when you have a creative lapse or need motivation for a home-decorating project. Once you have a system set up you can add to it over time. My "inspiration storage system" consists of:
* a scrapbook in which I have pasted craft and art projects I'd like to do, along with quotes and sayings about the creative process,
* a sketchbook with drawings and notes from visits where cameras are not allowed,
* a binder of articles torn from magazines on topics ranging from countertops to mantelpieces,
* manila folders stored in an accordion file with categories such as house projects I'd like to copy, accessories and furniture I'd like to buy (when I win the lottery), things to do with found objects, interiors which appeal to me, etc.
* a bulletin board on Pinterest.
When you have a system and a place for stashing your decorating ideas, start scouting. I love anything and everything about creating a beautiful home, so I always keep my eyes peeled for decorating inspiration. I use every opportunity to gather ideas that I can use in my home and with my clients. Here's where I look:
Friends. You probably have a friend who can make a purse out of a sow's ear or who has a green thumb. Next time you visit his or her home, take your camera and a notepad. Some ideas I've gleaned: One friend hung several old windows (her husband is a carpenter) along a featureless fence in her garden. Another created a Zen-like soap holder — she placed a handful of beach glass in a glass dish by the sink with a scented bar of soap resting on top.
Home furnishing stores. Window dressers and stylists spend a great deal of time creating vignettes to showcase their store's wares. Copy them! Bedding shops have easy-to-implement ideas for treating the area above your bed. One quick and inexpensive idea is to screw a series of brass hooks on the wall behind the bed and hang tab curtains from them. Crate and Barrel (Palo Alto), The Gardener (Berkeley), Be Civilized and Casa Casa (San Jose) have unique ideas for accessorizing coffee tables and dresser tops, many of which incorporate found objects. In one shop's living room vignette I spotted a large rustic ceramic pot filled with tree branches with a bird nest dangling from one of the limbs.
Showcase home tours. Take a sketchbook to capture the trendiest, most original displays from local designers. Ideas from last year's tour: a glass vase filled with water and plums and a bouquet of flowers; a broken urn at an angle in the soil of a garden with flowers planted in it as if they were pouring out of the container.
Magazines and catalogs. The set-ups in almost every home decorating catalog have ideas worthy of adapting. My favorite sources are Pottery Barn, Exposures and the Horchow Collection. Shelter magazines with practical, easy-to-copy ideas include Better Homes and Garden, Sunset and Home.
Antique shops and flea markets. Some vendors have a real knack for placing their treasures (so good that when you get your purchase home it looks like something you picked up off the street!). Notice how they position boxes and books to display accessories at various heights, the abundance of tassels, the placement of shawls or scarves under silver and glass collections and the mixing in of live plants and flower arrangements to give their vignettes life.
Open houses. Even though you may not be in the market to buy a new home, pay a visit to those in your neighborhood. You'll not only pick up alternative ideas for dealing with your design challenges, but also see what not to do.
The library. Design books are very expensive, and they take up a lot of space. I'd rather spend my money on stuff for my house, so I borrow books from the library. I photograph, photocopy or sketch the image I want and past it into my scrapbook.
Pinterest. Go to Pinterest.com and visit other people's bulletin boards — you don't have to be a member to just explore the site. There are boards for every kind of dˇcor. But be careful — it can get addictive!