Design Inspiration in the Unexpected

Sometimes when I am decorating a room, I just get stuck. I feel completely clueless as to what I should do next to move the room in a good direction. I don’t want to choose a bad color, or pick the wrong pillow that will just sour the whole darn effort. When I am just feeling totally stuck like this, I like to try to find some inspiration. Sometimes that means perusing Pinterest, looking at other blogs, Googling around or visiting other folks houses. However, it can be tempting to take those inspirations a bit too literally, and my house just ends up looking exactly like everyone else’s. In times like this, I find it necessary to turn to more unexpected forms of inspiration. This could be a park, a botanical garden, a restaurant or anything really. To give you an example of what I mean, I want to walk you through our recent trip to Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The museum is really neat, and provided me tons of inspiration in a relatively unexpected place.inspiration stampTowards the beginning of the museum, you learn about the history of the earth (geology, fossils, etc.) In this area there was a giant map of Pennsylvania that showed the geologic makeup of the state in a neat marbled pattern (p.s. I apologize upfront for the yucky phone pictures):pa mapWhy not try achieving a similar look with this DIY marble nail polish technique from Design Mom? She marbled pretty much anything in sight! You could do this in an outline of your home state (for a more literal interpretation), or you could more loosely interpret it by making some other sweet marbled art!

Next we moved along to the gems/stones (keeping with the geology theme). There were so many inspiring shapes and colors, it was hard to narrow it down to just a few. Here are some of the ones that stood out to me: Gem CollageI loved the tangerine color in the top left, the mint and white combination next to it, the spiky shape of the orange stone in the top right, the rich teal on the bottom left, and the bold royal blue and pretty yellow in the bottom right. (Sorry, I didn’t write down what any of these stones actually were.)

Check out this tangerine colored ceiling by Brown Davis Interiors here. I love the unexpected use of the bright orange. You could easily take similar inspiration from the orange gem above. Painting your ceiling a bright color is unexpected, and draws the eye up to that fabulous tiered ceiling. It can be a great way to bring some new flavor to a boring room too.

Here is a beautiful mint and white kitchen that could have been inspired by the similarly colored gem.

This spiny project from Make Them Wonder could bring the shape of that spiky orange gem right into your living room! You could get color inspiration from the stone too!

How awesome is this deep teal window trim from Vintage Renewal?? What an awesome and unexpected way to use the color!

Check out how Bossy Color used royal blue and yellow in a bold and fabulous way on her living room here.

From the gems we moved to the dinosaurs. I am always fascinated by their sheer volume, length and teeth. It’s hard to believe animals like that ever existed. But this wooly mammoth creature actually inspired a color palate:mammothI it’s really a “lack of color” palate. For ages, the mantra was always that black and brown should never EVER be put together. Black belt + brown shoes= laughing stock of the office. However, I think the color combination can be really sophisticated. See examples here, here and here.

The dinosaur hall connected to the insects. I have always found insects so fascinating (I mean, bees basically run the world!) But they can also be beautiful. Check on these color combinations:insectsYou’ve got some jewel tones, classic black and white, and my personal favorite, the red black and tan combination on the top set of beetles. That combination can look really 90′s, but check out the sophisticated version here.

In the insect section, we also saw this cool wooden tree that housed a variety of insect habitats:treeI thought this could definitely inspire a DIY playhouse for kids, or maybe even something for a nursery or child’s room. The possibilities are endless! Try something like this coat tree from Ana White, or this tree bookshelf from Shawn Soh.

While walking through one of the hallways of the museum, I look up at the ceiling and saw this beauty:coffered ceilingSince the light is blaring, it’s hard to see it’s cool modern flare, and the coffered ceiling was just to-die-for! You could DIY a similar fixture by following this tutorial from One Kings Lane featured on Little Green Notebook. And even though most of us probably can’t have a fabulous window-paned ceiling, you CAN follow with Thousand Square Feet to get a similarly fantastic coffered ceiling.

Off of that beautiful hallway there was a gallery of old, weird and interesting furniture. This chair caught my eye right away (sorry for the strange angle):modern chairAlthough it’s not everyone’s taste, I am fan of the sort of Danish modern style of furniture. I love the curved arm pieces of this chair! You might get lucky to find something like this at a thrift store, or you could up your chances of getting a fabulous piece by shopping at a retail store. This style is pretty popular these days, so you could get hooked up with something curvy like these from One King’s Lane or this from Vive Decor.

At the end of our museum journey we were headed back to the car, and I spotted one last piece of inspiration in the parking lot:sculptureI thought this sculpture was simple, yet graphic, and you could purchase something similar for your garden here, from Sean McClellan on Etsy (or DIY something to look like the original, which would be ultra sweet!)

And there you have it. My inspiring trip to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. I love those times when I just get really inspired by everything around me, and it makes me want to hop to work on my house! Where is anyone else getting their inspiration from these days? Is it somewhere you’d expect, or is it more unique? Inspiration can come from anywhere!


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