“Tropic is the coolest cat ever and a real human being,” Sara says. “It is spreading all around the house. The kids love him.”

In decoration, inspiration is paramount. Yes, you can just throw a bunch of matching furniture and accessories into a room and live there. But if you build a room around a specific treasured object or feeling, you’ll create a place that truly captures your personality.

“A lot of things help tell the story of a room,” says Newton, Massachusetts, designer Liz Caan. “Typically I try to focus on a feeling and then support that story with personal items a client owns.” These pieces could include an antique or a favorite piece of art. “Everything we specify, design and collect for a space plays a role and helps support the story and the feeling,” she adds.

new york designer Alfredo Paredes says it’s important to tell a client “what they dream of” for a space. He once worked with someone who wanted his cliffside Caribbean beach house to look “like you’ve been in the sun all day and jumped out of the shower and, still, your hair was wet. , for putting on white shorts”. This idea became a jumping-off point for Paredes’ vision for the place, which he describes as “a beach house in Mykonos where you’re barefoot” and staring at sand and water.

Interior designers can find inspiration in just about anything: museums, travel, fashion, movies – or even Instagram. Some clients show decorators a sentimental element that informs the color palette, mood, or style of a room. It could be the purple and gold of a favorite Minnesota Vikings sweatshirt, a hand-woven textile from a Santa Fe, NM flea market, or shimmering gray mineral of a precious collection of precious stones.

Then, of course, there are pets. The wood floors were chosen to match the sandy color of a Labrador; Tropical naps in a sunny window on a bench upholstered in a suzani-like fabric (Helike Medallion by Fabricut) embroidered in the colors of his fur.

When Dixon met the O’Keefes, Tropic came to the door to greet him. The chat quickly became part of the space color conversation. “We found lots of colors and textures of the Caribbean sky,” Dixon says, but it was the pungent colors of the cat that really spoke to the family. “We took the colors from the orange tabby, then added pale blue and sea grass,” he says. Dixon wrapped the room’s walls in color and pattern using Acorn from Morris & Co. wallpaper. He added Chromatic by Phillip Jeffries in opalescent orange on the ceiling.

“When we look at Tropic, we think of the Bahamas,” Sara says. “The dining room is full of that energy.”

A few years ago, the Richmond designer Janie Molster saw flowing dress in pink and red silk online from Brandon Maxwell that she must have. “It’s one of my favorite color combinations,” says Molster. “It looked like an incredibly comfortable dress that looks elegant but not stuffy.”

It’s the same vibe that Molster cultivates in her renovated 1903 farmhouse in the city’s West End, which she uses as a design testing ground for her decorative work. “My house is constantly changing,” says Molster. “Nothing is ever really finished or done. It’s a permanent laboratory.

She had this dress in mind by putting together bold Moroccan rugs, vintage Murano glass lamps, a bench covered in faux fur and pink paint (Benjamin Moore Confetti) for his lair. Linen Sofa Lee has a red and pink suzani style quilt on it. Everything is comfortable and durable, as she has five children and four grandchildren, and she loves having friends over.

Looking to her closet for inspiration was a no-brainer for Molster, who often looks to a client’s fashion choices to determine a room’s colors, patterns and textures. She writes about it in her recent book, “Dressing the house: interiors for a colorful life.”

Using fashion, says Molster, “takes the confusion and intimidation out of people’s design decisions a bit. You make a design decision every day of your life when you take your clothes out of your closet.

“I am drawn to the combination of pink and red. Growing up with a sister, my mother’s take on our color preferences was that I was a pink lover while my sister preferred red,” adds Molster. “I remember the day when it occurred to me that I didn’t need to choose. I could have it all.

Molster says she’s still drawn to the lair and it can turn her mood. “When I’m here in this room, it doesn’t matter if it’s very hot or freezing,” she said. “It’s always warm and happy here.”

A jack-in-the-box nursery

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was devastating for the designer Penny Francois, owner of the Eclectic Home store in New Orleans. Years later, an unexpected treasure that resurfaced from that painful time became the inspiration for her grandson’s nativity scene.

“My whole family was affected,” she says. “All of our homes have been flooded to some degree.” Her own two-story bungalow, which she shared with her husband and daughters Casi, then 17, and Camryn, then 4, took on three feet of water which sat in the house for 10 days . “With 100% humidity and a temperature of 95 degrees, the house was completely covered in mold and had to be emptied,” says Francis. The girls have lost almost everything in their bedrooms.

After a three-year renovation, the family moved back in. Life went on, Casi got married and just before the pandemic hit, she got pregnant. “It was both a joyful and a scary time,” says Francis. One bright spot was working with her daughter on the design of a nursery. “I wanted it to be a really happy place reminiscent of when she was little,” Francis says.

The inspiration for the bedroom came one day when Francis was cleaning out a closet. A long-forgotten jack-in-the-box his two daughters had been playing with popped out of a storage bin. It was an emotional moment.

“It’s kind of a classic American toy that was a token of my childhood,” says Casi, now Casi St. Julian and a decorator se.

The jack-in-the-box primary colors of the 1980s “got our juices flowing on the nursery color palette,” says Casi. French blue and yellow with touches of green and red became the theme of the room. Francis found a wallpaper pattern of hot air balloons (Schumacher balloons) in the colors of the toy, and she dressed the windows in yellow and white interior-exterior fabric (Schumacher’s Blumont Tape). The baby quilt and Crested Adelaide the blue swivel rocker and ottoman brought it all together.

When the St. Julian family moved from New Orleans to Texas last year, son Oliver’s bedroom was lovingly recreated, with the jack-in-the-box sitting above a white armoire. “He has a lot of toys now,” Casi says, “but he still likes to play with this one.”