Is there an object that delights you, that sparks a flutter in your heart whenever you see it? Maybe it’s a painting, or a fabric, or a favorite dress? This object might come in very handy while designing an interior space. No, not to include it in the space (thought that’s a possibility), but as inspiration.

People often wonder how an interior designer can make choices for her clients. Even those who are comfortable designing spaces for themselves are surprised that we can make spot-on choices for others, when people’s preferences are so personal and subjective—ranging from bohemian to traditional, from subtle to vibrant.

How do we do it? Some clients know what they want in a space, though they can’t always describe it. Others have no clue and put their trust in us to take over the space. Either way, I often like to look for something that brings joy to my clients to act as the inspiration for their design. That object becomes an important piece of the puzzle I’m putting together while designing for them. (Other important pieces include the function of a space, what it needs to do for you.)

For one client, this single piece of beloved art inspired an entire kitchen design:

Interior Design Inspirations Iowa Paintings

The picture inspired the overall color scheme of creams and mushroom colors. Note how splashes of blue (on the doorway walls, on the table setting, in the upholstered chair fabric, and even in the veining of the island top) mimic the splash of blue in the painting.

Kitchen Design Inspiration Cedar Rapids Iowa

But color isn’t the only thing I referenced from the painting. I borrowed its drama, too. The overall feel of the room is similar to the painting, don’t you think? Notice the spectacular play of light on the ceiling from the reflection of the hanging lights, and the verticality of the floor-to-ceiling cabinets. If you love the painting, you’re likely to love this kitchen, too!

While the painting doesn’t hang in the kitchen, its placement in the adjacent dining room ties the rooms together perfectly.

Interior Design Kitchen Inspiration Iowa

If you’re feeling a little clueless about how you might want to design a new space, take some time to post items you love on Pinterest, or create boards on Houzz. You might find a single piece of art that delights you so much it will function as the sole inspiration for the space. Or you might detect themes popping up again and again. You might discover that you like textural elements, for example, or large proportions, or splashes of blue amidst creamy colors. (Be sure to share these pins and boards with your designer!)

Then again, your next inspiration may just come from a visit to your local art museum or artist’s fair, where the perfect painting awaits.