Inspiration from the Internet

Once upon a time, new clients would come to architectural design meetings with piles of magazines or stacks of binders stuffed full of photos, each one representing an idea. A concept. A possibility.

And every so often, an inspiration.

Sometimes, a client finds just the right image: a picture that evokes a feeling or a mood that somehow calls to them. It may not be a specific design feature, or color, or style of window, but something about the image conveys a feeling. It may be the way the afternoon light falls on clapboard siding, or the orderly spines of books arrayed on built-in shelves. Whatever it may be, that feeling, that sense that this is what my house should feel like, can serve as a sort of compass for a project, a way of making sure to stay on course.

Of course, it’s hard to find that one special image; an element of serendipity often comes into play. The best approach is to simply look at a lot of pictures. Over time, you’ll start to see patterns in what you’re attracted to, and that deep feeling of being just right can emerge from the overall sense of a collection of photos.

While some clients still prefer to gather their images with paper and scissors, the internet – specifically sites such as Houzz and Pinterest – has made a nearly infinite volume of imagery easily available. Search functions allow you to quickly locate images of particular interests, whether styles of architecture, applications of a material you love, or combinations of colors.

Algorithms for each site will even make suggestions based on past searches, allowing you to find variations on an idea that may not have occurred to you otherwise. Of course, this may lead you into searching and scrolling for hours – but that can be fun too.

But the best part of these sites may be the ability to organize the images you find. Sort by style, feature, color, component – whatever method you choose, you can group photos so they can easily be found and shared with the design team. As the design evolves, clients and architects alike can refer to these images again and again. Some collections may be important references early in the project when the overall design and style is being set, while others are useful later on for selecting finishes, colors, and details.

When reviewing your imagery with the architect, be sure to explain as clearly as you can exactly what in the photo appeals to you. It’s not always the most prominent or important thing in the picture, and you might be surprised how easy it is for two people looking at the same image to focus on entirely different aspects. Imagine the confusion if you were attracted to the color of the siding, but your architect was looking at the proportions of the windows. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, it pays to be sure everyone is listening to the same phrases.

When that happens, and the elements culled from thousands of images coalesce into a new, unique design that captures that amazing feeling of being just right – images can, almost by magic, turn into inspiration.

Written by Alan Cook, studio manager at PCA

Architecture & Interiors