Oddly Peter Lynch, he formally of the Fidelity Investment Magellan Fund fame, offered some sage advice to investors that translates nicely into this discussion. In his bestselling book One Up On Wall Street Lynch suggested that investors interested in beating the street simply 'pay attention to your surroundings: ideas are all around you!' Once again, he's right! Though specifically talking about cataloging buying habits and hot retail trends to parlay hot companies into growing portfolio positions, Lynch's advice works perfectly in both the design and constructions arenas. It is all around us! We just have to be savvy enough to recognize that we are stimulated by some things that we see.
Generally ideas come out of an identified need. Few ideas are cutting edge and new. Most are something that has already been done. A few are nothing more than a re-combination of materials used to re-create an old idea with a fresh look. I have found through time that several goof proof methods can help us get more of what we want. Let me suggest a few:
- Collect what visually stimulates you!
- We like old magazines. Normally I can find a picture or two of something someone else has done that gets me excited. Architectural Digest; D Home; Veranda; Elle Decor; House Beautiful; and Southern Living to name a few are filled with fabulous ideas! Once you have found some things that you like, group them by the areas or rooms for which they are intended. Even if you can't put your finger on what it is about a picture that you like, still tear it out - sooner or later the attraction will come to you.
Molly may have taken this to the extreme, but we sure know where our ideas are!
Notice how she has indexed the folder so that she is grouping pictures by areas where we might someday use them....
- Frequent internet sites and blogs where great ideas and design abound.
- I am currently tracking Urban Grace Interiors, Inc. and her sisters blog Fly Through the Window. Both sites are populated by twin sisters in the southeast who have an eye for a clean, southern influenced look which is pleasing to my eye.
- Mobilize to find your inspiration.
- Shop both your town, and your area. Now that you are attuned to things that stimulate your senses, you'd be surprised what you will find! Here locally when I need to be creative, I shop "Lots of Furniture" on Riverfront Street downtown. It is impossible to go in there and not see something which gets me going....
I found three pairs of these gorgeous walnut doors at Lots of Furniture. They were originally used in one of the old Gold Coast homes in Chicago. Two of the door units were used as shown, and one we converted to the face for an entertainment center - now there's an idea!!
- Draft off your friends! Sometimes friends can have the best ideas. Have they incorporated something in their lives which gives you a buzz? Here is a baseball trophy case that my brother-in-law had made. We have knocked it off in several locations.
- Discuss ideas with shop owners. Many are very creative in their own right - and more that happy to share.
- Seek wise counsel from architects and interior designers. These are the really creative people! Veritable "idea machines." If they weren't, they wouldn't be in the business!
- Some of my clients have actually asked architects and designers to draw what they think might be best in a given area so that they can react to the idea. Sounds expensive, and it usually is, but often times it can get the client out of a rut.
- Not only is it way fun, but you get to experience different cultures who have solved different needs with different ideas! I love southern architecture so often I will visit Charleston, South Carolina; Hilton Head; and Savannah, Georgia to get my "idea bucket" re-filled. Below is an inspiration for a brick and stucco wall which came out of Charleston and found it's way into my backyard.
I am not sure my wall looks as good as Charleston's, but it ended up being as cost effective as we had hoped. Our stucco is installed over concrete block which is substantially less than brick.
- Different regions use different materials. We found beautiful hand painted concrete (below) in Napa Valley, and old - very old terra cotta fired tile in the French countryside. Both are variations that we have used from time to time on different projects.
Properly sealed these products will hold up well to lots of traffic. Neither are cheap but most likely will last a good long while.
- Finally, take calculated risks!
- "It is better to have tried and failed, than to never have tried at all!" Since I am not sure who said that I won't put it in italics. But, truer words have never been spoken. My home is a virtual laboratory for ideas that I want to try before suggesting it to a client for consideration. Some guys offer very limited options to clients - we offer the universe. In my mind there is no greater risk than having a client go to a dinner party, see something that stimulates them, and remark "I never knew I could have that!" Ouch...now there's a risk!