Much like fashion changes, décor preferences change over time — even when they’re your own. In big and small ways our preferences are constantly evolving to reflect what we see on TV, in design magazines, at places that we visit or simply the phases of our lives. So whether you are actually planning to redo or build a new home or business space, or you’re just dreaming about the future, it’s a good idea to start an inspiration file.

An inspiration file is a collection of photos of rooms that you like. A photo doesn’t have to be of an entire room. Maybe you see a fixture you love, or a color scheme that pops, or a mood that you want for your space. Print it or clip it, put it in a physical file or a virtual one on your computer desktop, and attach a note about what you love.


These two photos are from rooms that I’ve done for different clients. One reflects a rich, dramatic color palette and mood. The other one of the lamp illustrates a timeless fixture with lots of personality that might inspire you — and just goes to show that even the smallest element can be your inspiration.


Over time, as you keep adding elements that catch your eye, you’ll see what constants you’re drawn to. Redesigns and new builds can add up, so it’s important that the styles, colors, fixtures and moods reflect your underlying preferences. If you don’t have a clear idea of your tastes, chances are you’ll tend to go with what’s trendy.

When you’re ready to begin your project, your inspiration file will show not only the evolution of your tastes, it will show the constants that define your style, whatever it may be — and you’ll be able to easily communicate it to your designer, contractor or the best friend who’s going shopping with you.


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. For more info and inspiring photos of design projects, visit And keep up with Cathy’s dream home makeover at her photo blog, Homefront.