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How to create the perfect interior design mood board for your next project

They are the backbone of the interior design process, and we know why: the perfect mood board will set you on track to fulfil your clients’ wildest dreams.

Interior design mood board. Sketching. Colour palette.
How to create the perfect interior design mood board for your next project
Clara Carlino de Paz
October 21, 2022

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This article was originally posted on Making Space, a Substack penned by our Cofounder, Matteo Grand. Subscribe below to receive more content just like this.

When you’re first chatting to a client and getting to know what they want, images will start flickering behind your eyes. From obscure references to yesterday’s Instagram post, a museum of imagery will forge itself in your brain, ready to be dissected and reconstructed for them to see. Of course, those abstract ideas in your head don’t always translate into your mood board. Sometimes the colour palette is slightly off, or the images you chose aren’t exactly matching your vision, and without some help it can feel like things are simply not working.

Now, now, out of the mental spiral. Mood boards don’t have to be rocket science, or another tedious task on the mind of an interior designer. Sometimes they can be just a load of creativity, fun, and investigation: if done with the right mindset and tools. Let us guide you through the steps of creating the perfect mood board, every, single, time.

First thing: what is a mood board?

A mood board is a digital or physical canvas where interior designers mix and match aspirational visual elements for specific projects. Mood boards rely heavily on photographs, but often include text, sketches, samples, prints and any other types of relevant media. The general objective of mood boards is to present an overarching vision for a project, so that the client can have a feel for the interior designers’ ideas and suggest any edits.

Once a mood board has been agreed upon between a client and the interior designer, the latter can start sourcing the products that will bring that mood board to life. For instance, if the green lit mood board consists of mid-century homes and California chic furnishings, an interior designer will feel confident that a Saarinen Dining Table by Eero Saarinen will hit the right notes.

Ultimately, mood boards are a great way to convey ideas before any money or real products have been purchased. This helps interior designers understand and work on a vision that feels true to the clients’ taste, and it also helps clients be involved in the project from the beginning.

Step 1: Decide what it is you want to accomplish

Every interior designer has a different way of getting around moodboards. For some, they are inspiration boards that capture the broad strokes of the aesthetic and feel they want to create in a particular project. For others, they are concrete plans, full of sketches, 3D renderings and furnishing ideas. Talk to your client to understand what they expect at each stage of the project, so that you know the kind of detail they need. No point in creating sketches for a project if you still haven’t figured out the aesthetic they’re looking for.

So, depending on what stage of the project you’re at, figure out a list of objectives that you need to accomplish in this particular mood board. Is it setting a clear aesthetic? Or perhaps explaining how you will utilise the space in the project with some nifty sketchings or renderings? Whatever it is, have that objective be the guiding light for your mood board creation experience. 

Step 2: Hone in your vision

Now, before you start rampaging through your usual inspiration sites, make sure you have a clear idea of what aesthetic you’re trying to emulate. It is not enough to be let loose and pick out inspiration without a plan: that’s how you end up with mismatched mood boards that don’t tell a story.

Sit down and think of three to five words that you wish people entering your project space for the first time would describe your design as. Whatever feels in line with your’s and your clients’ vision works. Classic words include: sleek, neutral, calm, serene, eclectic, minimalist, architectural, edgy, industrial, colourful, cosy, mid-century, classic, refined, chic, luxurious and many more.

If your vision is already in your head and much more specific, let yourself be guided by that. If your idea is truly “Pride and Prejudice” meets “Gwyneth Paltrow’s Montecito home”, then that’s it for you – just make sure to write it down and let it guide your inspiration-finding process.

Step 3: Find your inspiration

The step of all steps, the crux of it all! No matter if you’re in an advanced state in the mood boarding process, an array of inspiration will be necessary for you to create something referential yet original. There are hundreds of ways to find inspiration, but here are some of our favourites:

  1. Films and pop culture. Your own and your clients’ visual imagination is probably plagued with references from pop culture. Dakota Johnson’s iconic house tour, Harry Potter’s main hall, Clueless’ aesthetic, Tony Stark’s lab… We’ve all been mesmerised by a fictional or real setting, so return to those moments for some irreverent inspo.
  2. Social media. Yes, yes, a classic but necessary source. We know it is overdone, but social media does have a huge array of images that you might be inspired by. Whether it’s Instagram, Pinterest or TikTok, there is certainly a plethora of inspiration! Our biggest advice would be to be picky about the people you follow. Don’t bother following everyone in the interior design world – those whom’s style you don’t enjoy will not be helping you out any time soon.
  3. Curated interior design publications. One look through our journal will show you the value of curated and organised information. Through our titles, you’ll see the type of style that we’re collating images of, so you can go only to the articles you’re most interested in for your particular project. Architectural Digest and House & Garden also have beautiful, extensive imagery, so make sure to use their search bar to allow you to curate your search.
  4. Vintage publications. Older magazines and coffee table books are fantastic places to find antique inspiration where other people might not be looking.
  5. Your favourite suppliers’ images. Your tried and true brands are likely to be involved in the final design, so you can include their lifestyle images from the beginning, to make sure you’re putting in inspiration that you can actually bring to life. 

Step 4: If relevant, get sketching!

Say you want to give your client something more concrete when discussing mood boards. I am happy to say you have so many options to do this well. There are many tools to do this, but many go for Foyr, CAD, SketchUp or Infurnia. If you have any doubts about trying a new one, make sure to book demos and ask for examples and tutorials before you commit to anything.

Step 5: Organise those images and files into visually appealing boards

Most interior designers now save the images in the thousand tabs they have opened, and then turn the compilation into a pdf, sometimes using Canva or InDesign. While this method has been working for years, there are some big downsides. Firstly, the information is dead once it’s on the pdf. If you wanted to keep specifications of a product shown in an image, you wouldn’t be able to. Second, after the moodboard is done and approved, many designers will get rid of the raw images to make space in their desktop. That generally means that the files are lost, and that next time a project comes through the inspiration finding process will need to start again.

If you’re up for trying something new, we have you covered. With our Chrome extension, you can clip images and products with live information and descriptions from every place on the web. This will help you gather your images with helpful descriptions in just a few clicks, making the scheduling process later on much, much easier.

Once you have clipped your desired images or products, you can save them directly into your inspiration boards for the whole project or even by room, depending on the folders you decide to create.

Once you’re ready to share your boards filled with images and descriptions, you can do so via the “share button” in the right hand corner, which will allow you to give your client a live link with the most up-to-date information. Interested? Join our waitlist to be onboarded by filling out a 2 minute questionnaire.

If you decide to opt for the traditional method, no worries! To make it feel special, we suggest playing around with the fonts, backgrounds and branding, so that you can create something special that your clients will be excited about. Remember to imprint your own brand identity into the mood board, as you might be showing other clients what they can expect.


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