rowing up in this industry in the 90’s and 2000’s, it was pretty easy to select materials and products for interior design projects – mainly because there just weren’t a lot of options to choose from. There were the old standby finishes as well as furniture classics that would get used over and over without much need for variation. As the green building movement exploded and demand for natural and alternative materials became the norm, the market for FF&E products and finishes has grown exponentially. We are now also living in a more entrepreneurial time, where boutique businesses can be powerful players in the design marketplace. Design has become a topic of interest with the masses, and as such, there has been a boom in design related businesses. With the maker movement on the rise and the desire for unique products that are not mass produced, the interiors industry finally has a diverse and overwhelming amount of stuff to choose from. So how can an interior designer go about even finding relevant things for their own projects?
It’s not enough anymore to let reps bring products to your firm. Today space in firms is more limited than ever, as are billable hours, and of course everyone needs to rely on their local reps to bring in the latest products. However, everyone is seeing relatively the same thing, and so it’s necessary to take research into your own hands. If you want to find the latest, greatest products that are interesting, unusual, and inspiring, you will have to hunt for them. Luckily it’s easier than ever now that design has become a household word.
Start your Search
The best place to start your search is of course in the press. Design magazines, trade and general, are the first place to look. The web is next, with design blogs and Pinterest. While much of the world uses Pinterest to save images of cupcakes and wedding dresses, there are many amazing sources for furniture, lighting, materials, accessories, etc. that can add fresh and new things to your palettes. It’s important to curate your account well, having boards for the kinds of things you want to reference or specify in the future. Many design firms have a Pinterest account and curate boards for inspiration, FF&E, and finishes that they want to remember.
Bookmark your Favorite Design Blogs
As for design blogs, there are so many great ones—bookmark them, subscribe, follow, and add them to your Pinterest, as they are all on there. Many have great Instagram accounts too, which are visually rich with products and materials inspiration. There are also plenty of other visual sources on the web that are for imaging, a few will do and provide much needed material when visioning for a project.
Make the ‘rounds at Trade Shows
Another great source of inspiration is design trade shows and fairs. There are many around the world now, so it’s important to go and see what’s out there. It’s not enough anymore to just go to Neocon (which of course is essential) or local shows, because design has crept out beyond the boundaries of contract design. Design has become global, accessible, and interactive. The dialogue about design is now cross disciplinary and transcends market segments and borders. The industry has also become filled with emerging designers and unique brands that offer wonderful stories about process and materiality, so there is a lot to be gleaned just roaming around ICFF in New York, or Ventura Lambrate in Milan, or Designjunction in London.
If you can’t make it to the fairs, at least read up on them after the fact. The press is very good now about doing roundups from each show, so there is no excuse to not know what’s going on in Japan or Denmark!
Look Outside of Interior Design for Inspiration
As for trends, designers must look beyond our industry. Other areas of design are crucial such as fashion and industrial design. Trend forecasting houses like Trend Union and WGSN are helpful, as are color forecast resources like Color Marketing Group. The art world is also a wonderful resource for color and pattern information. Most importantly, however, is to look at cultural shifts happening in technology, politics, world news, consumer behavior, and human psychology. There are great insights out there into how culture affects design. You just have to pay attention, be open to inspiration, and put all the information into a usable context.