As an interior designer, you’re the expert in all things home inspiration—from the big picture (“What’s the best living room layout for a family of five?”) to the tiniest detail (“Shouldn’t that bronze sunburst mirror go just a few inches to the left?”). The challenge for most designers isn’t having the interior design ideas; it’s communicating them to the homeowner in a clear and compelling way.
That’s where high-quality stock photography comes in! There’s no better way to express your ideas and get alignment with your client than a mood board built from gorgeous, evocative imagery.
To build the most effective interior design mood board, start with these quick tips and then stick around to the end to get some curated home inspiration on a room-by-room basis.
10 Tips for an Effective Interior Design Inspiration Board
Follow these 10 best practices to turn your interior design ideas into a beautiful format that gets your clients to give you a resounding yes.
1. Name Your Mood Board
Words have power, even when you’re working in a medium that has no words at all (like paint chips or floor coverings!). Using words to name your mood board will not only help the client understand your vision, but it can be a benefit as you source and curate imagery, too.
For instance, a home inspiration board for a seaside cottage might be named Coastal Elegance, Beachside Boutique, or Rustic Luxury. The overall vision might be similar, but the light nuance in wording will make a difference in which imagery feels right and how the client ultimately perceives the design.
Pro tip: Once you’ve landed on a name, use those words and their synonyms to form the basis of your internet searches. Inspiration begets inspiration!
2. Consider What Will Be in the Room
Unless you specialize in new construction homes, there are likely some elements that can’t be moved from the room either due to necessity (like a load-bearing wall) or to the client’s preference (like an heirloom bookcase that’s been in the family for four generations).
In cases like these, it can be helpful to snap a quick photo of that object and add it to your mood board. This will ensure that your new interior design ideas harmonize well with existing pieces and will also reassure the client that your design is definitely not generic—that it has been truly tailored to them.
Of course, you’re planning to add new items to the room, too! So you’ll want to include on your mood board a curated selection of furnishings and decor, such as:
- Lamps and overhead lighting
- Surface materials, such as marble, tiling, or brushed concrete
- Furniture like chairs, sofas, tables, and bookcases
- Rugs or other floor coverings
- Wall treatments, such as wallpaper, texturing, or wainscoting
- Hanging items like mirrors, clocks, or artwork
- Decorative items, such as pillows, vases, and knickknacks
3. Be Intentional with Color
You know the huge impact that color has on the overall mood and theme of any room, so it’s important to capture color accurately within your interior design board.
Many mood boards stick with simple and straightforward color representations, such as solid-filled rectangles to represent physical paint swatches and fabric samples. This is a great starting point, but one step better is to weave those colors into your imagery as well.
Reinforce the room’s color theme by selecting images that share the mood—both in actual hues as well as general brightness, saturation, and lighting.
Pro tip: If you’re finding images through Shutterstock, use the advanced search filters to search by general hue or even by specific hex code.
4. Add Dimension & Detail
Mood boards may be two-dimensional, but the end result is certainly not! Translate your interior design ideas into something more evocative and tactile by adding as much dimension as possible.
Whether you’re concepting a kitchen or curating bedroom design inspiration, you can boost the visual richness by adding the following.
- Texture: There are so many opportunities to highlight texture, from tiling and woodgrain to wall treatments, brushed metals, fabrics, and floor coverings.
- Pattern: Patterns add visual interest to a mood board in the same way that they add pizzazz to the room itself. Snap images that reflect the real patterns you’ll use, or curate photos that somehow evoke the patterns’ style or scale.
- Life: What kind of florals or botanicals will be in the room? Bringing a few pieces of greenery can breathe life into your mood board.
- Details: Small pieces like hardware, fixtures, tassels, vases, and trim can put that finishing touch on a mood board to make it feel much more layered and realistic.
5. Look Beyond the Interior Design World
Home inspiration boards do not have to use only home-related images. In fact, they shouldn’t!
Using too many images of real rooms can make it more difficult for the client to understand your vision, as they’ll naturally anchor on the rooms they’ve seen. They may like a design in the context of the room presented on a mood board…but then feel disappointed with their own room because it just “looks different.” Or conversely, they may hate a design seen in another room because they actually don’t like the room itself—and would actually have loved the theme in their own home!
To avoid this confusion, limit the number of strictly home-related images on your mood board. Instead, pull from a wide and even surprising range of sources to achieve the right mood, color, style, or aesthetic.
Here are some ideas for non-interior design images to include:
- Outdoor landscapes
- Florals, botanicals, or other plant life
- Foods, especially fresh produce or beautiful table presentations
- Abstract artwork
- Abstract photography
- Fashion collections or runway shots
- Close-up shots of textiles
- Typographic elements
- Patterns or motifs
- Architectural detailing
Home Inspiration for Designers: Ideas & Imagery for Every Room
Ready to start creating your client’s home inspiration board? Get inspired by these curated looks from Shutterstock’s massive stock library. (And for related branding tips that go way beyond mood boards, don’t miss our Small Business Brand Kit!)
Bedroom Interior Design Ideas
Show your client just how cozy and inviting their private spaces can be with bedroom interior design ideas like these.
Living Room Interior Design Ideas
Well-chosen stock photos will help your client picture themselves in their new living room, whether they plan to use the space to gather with friends on the weekend or to hop on their spin bike after a long day at work.
Kitchen Interior Design Ideas
Bright, warm, and above all functional—that’s the dream kitchen! With the right imagery, your clients will understand your design vision and get excited for the project to begin.
Bathroom Design Ideas
From master suites to shared half-baths, the right stock photography can bring to life the wide range of bathroom design possibilities.
Love the interior design ideas above? Want to discover your own? Either way, Shutterstock has you covered!
With Shutterstock Flex, you’ll have all-in-one access to millions of creative assets, along with the flexibility you need to select the right mix for every interior design project.
Tap into even more creative inspiration:
License this cover image via Followtheflow.