Want to decorate a room, but need inspiration? In the second part of his article Interior Designer Jamie Hempsall explains the importance of keeping an open mind.

In our last column, we looked at where you could physically find inspiration, but for this to work you must view things with a fresh pair of eyes. Consider this..



Try stepping back from the task at hand (i.e. a trip to the shops) and consider your environment – not just the traffic. Look out for colours or textures that catch your eye and use them as the base for an overall colour scheme.

Once in a store look at displays and feel the texture of things around you. Window-shopping is generally free and by browsing outside your comfort zone you might experience a texture you had never considered or a fabric used in an unusual way. Merchandising displays are carefully planned, so look at the tricks that have been used. The success of a design is often in the detail – little items that appear inconsequential, but actually meld the scheme together.



Again when visiting restaurants and hotels take a moment away from your experience and drink in the environment. These areas are rarely left to chance so borrow some of those ideas, particularly clever use of layout and lighting design (which special environments use to create the perfect mood).

Many people think when the central lampshade is up, the job is over, but lighting needs to be carefully considered. If a room is used throughout the day, different groupings (wall, ceiling, table lamps) help create different experiences. You will find ideal examples of this in multi-purpose hotel venues.

Restaurants and hotels are also fantastic for ideas on styles of seating and tables that are not your standard High Street offering. This is the opportunity to benefit from the thought processes of some very careful designers.

Also, look to at how they layer different but complementing items together (for instance carpets and rugs with wood or tiled floors) for maximum effect.


Art exhibitions are another great source of inspiration – particularly how colours work together. Choose a favoured painting and try to identify what it is you like or dislike and use that knowledge to develop your scheme.

Galleries of china and porcelain are also good sources for style and colour. Do not just consider the individual items, but look at how they are grouped together. You will quickly see it is not always necessary to match tone or style through out a scheme. In fact, a total match often looks contrived and impersonal.


These can be more random options, so take time to search and explore. Do not be afraid to bury yourself in detail.

If you are using the internet, avoid just opting for the page one search results, but look at links and allow yourself to delve deeper. Remember to print or save pages so that you can re-visit areas to avoid wasted effort.

Interiors magazines are always a good starting point, but fashion photography is a wonderful source of style, colour and textures. They are current and the photos are carefully orchestrated (fashion stylists can also be your key to understanding why the little things matter). They can also be great to consider when theming or giving the room a mood or certain style.

Reality Check

When all this lovely sourcing and dreaming is done, it is time to take stock and apply the inspirations to the actual project. In reality you may have to work with existing flooring or furniture. The important thing is not to consider these a hindrance, but something to be embraced.

Options are often easier with furniture that can be renovated or re-upholstered. Unless you are looking at a priceless antique consider updating furniture with different finishes or colours to make them more contemporary.

If you are working with a multi-coloured object as your base (perhaps a rug or vase), but do not like the main colour, look at the lesser background colours to find something that appeals. Picking one of these as a highlight tone will help emphasise them in your scheme and add a professional twist to your design.

Once you have these thoughts set in your mind begin collecting images and samples to form the basis of your design board.

Turning Inspiration Into Design

There are a few tips to help you translate inspiration into a design:

  • Seek advice, but do not ask the world and his wife. Design by committee rarely succeeds.
  • Mix styles and periods – good design or quality usually stands the test of time.
  • Don’t rush your design, but avoid procrastination. When you are happy with something stick with it and move on.
  • Don’t be afraid to throw out an idea that is not working.
  • Stay strong –mistakes are made when people lose confidence and dilute a design. Have courage!
  • You cannot please everyone, so please yourself!

Jamie Hempsall is a multi-award winning interior designer.