Sometimes the best way to get inspired is to get up and get away

What’s the definition of inspiration? It’s the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially something creative.


I am constantly looking for sources of inspiration for my store and for clients’ homes and businesses. Although we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, I find myself most inspired when I travel.

Darrell, Nicki and I recently returned from a trip to the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu. It was adventurous, exciting, spiritual and a great source of inspiration on many levels. I’m going to share a few tips that I hope will help spark some creativity for your home.

Let’s start at the airport. Whenever I travel, I like to peruse newsstands for home and design magazines. Large cities have local publications that showcase their own style of design, and when you are in a foreign country, it gets even more fascinating. You may not be able to read the articles, but good design transcends language!


Next, go exploring. Of course you’ll want to take note of the design, decor and architecture in the places you visit. Museums, cafes, hotels and markets are obvious places to find interesting options in finishes and color schemes.

But don’t stop there. You can find inspiration almost anywhere. No one paints a better canvas than Mother Nature, which is why I snapped these photos of the swallowtail gull and golden iguana in their natural habitat in the Galapagos. They’re on full display here, perfect combinations of color, texture, sophistication and edge. Many spaces could benefit from that combination!

Finally, keep in mind that the best inspiration comes from within. Every trip is a new opportunity to stretch and grow in some way. I am not an outdoorsy person and when the three of us took a break to view Huayna Picchu, our hike for the next day, a large part of me was terrified. I forced myself to not look down, prayed a lot and somehow made it to the top of the mountain. At that moment, I realized three things: one, I could overcome any obstacle with my family at my side; two, the view from the top is really great; and three, I was ready to get back to Hawaii.

So take it all in. Make time to experience and appreciate the sights, design, culture and food of the region. At the very least, you’ll expand your horizons, and you might gain an even greater appreciation for what you have at home. I’ll attempt to serve pisco sour and shrimp ceviche at my next dinner party. One thing that won’t be on the menu: cuy, or guinea pig, a traditional Andean entree!


Cathy Lee is a home style expert, speaker, president and designer of Cathy Lee Style. Her redesigns of residential and business spaces have been featured in local and national publications and on HGTV. reStyle Hawaii, her new-concept furniture and home accents store, is open daily at 420 Keawe St. in Kakaako. For more info and inspiring photos of design projects visit