This fall I instructed the certification program for Interior Decorating at the local college.

During my lectures I tried to sprinkle in tips for the students on running a design business.

One of them was the importance of collecting inspirational images to inspire both themselves and their future clients.

It got me thinking about how important my process for collecting inspiration has been for my design career.

In todays post I will outline how my Vestabul Design inspiration library has evolved over the years and why I believe it is important

I have seen kitchen & bath design change tremendously over the past several decades.

When I first started practicing there was not a lot of choice available in the market.

Honey oak cabinets dominated, laminate countertops were the go-to choice, most appliances were free standing and tile backsplashes were almost non-existent.

Every showroom featured the same set up.

As a designer, I knew that it would be my job to inspire my clients to break out of this “cookie-cutter” design philosophy.

Design Magazines

At that time, design magazines or shelter magazines would occasionally feature a kitchen within their pages and I was always on the look out for those articles.

I subscribed to every home design magazine I could and began purchasing European publications from specialty book stores.

Soon I had stacks of magazines taking up space in my apartment, but I just could not part with them.

That is when I got the idea to pull them apart into separate pages and file ideas for future reference.

To begin with, the categories I would file under were quite broad.

They included:

  • Traditional Kitchens
  • Country Kitchens
  • Modern Kitchens
  • Bathrooms

But, as I started collecting more clippings I started seeing that there were interesting details within the images and my categories began to expand.

Additional categories included:

  • Glass door cabinets
  • Pantries
  • Appliance garages
  • Painted kitchens
  • Stained kitchens
  • Islands
  • vanities

The variety of design magazines began increasing in the nineties with a lot more inspiration to be had.

Soon, I had so many folders of inspirational images that I dedicated a full file drawer in my desk to these clippings.

At first I would search through these images on my own prior to working on a client’s design, but when I began bringing clippings to client meetings I began to see some interesting results.

The results were my clients were allowing me to help them push the boundaries on their kitchen designs.

Because I was able to show them clippings representing examples of ideas that were not in the showroom, I could convince them that it was OK to do something different.

This showed me how important these inspirational images were to moving along a sale and producing more interesting projects.

I continued to collect magazine clippings and my collection expanded into hundreds of images.

I needed a new way to organize them.

Scanned Images

The solution was technology.

The printer I purchased for the business had scanning functionality.

I had my assistant scan all of my clippings and organize them into folders on our computer network.

This allowed easy searching by myself and the team.

This became a great resource for the design staff and a we continually added to the inspiration library.

With this great resource, that had been building for over 10 years, I implemented a new design process to utilize these inspirational images.

As part of our design presentation to our clients, we would insert appropriate images into our PowerPoints to illustrate our design concepts.

This allowed our clients to visualize what the floorplans we were drawing for them would produce.

Even though the team had a showroom with multiple displays, these inspiration images really helped to produce unique projects for our clients.

Some of these folders contained images for:

  • Display cabinets
  • Storage solutions
  • Bake centers
  • Moulding applications
  • Custom finishes
  • Decorative hardware
  • Pet areas in the kitchen

Our inspiration library was a big asset for the firm and it was used with almost every client.

Project Photos

As technology advanced we were able to begin including digital photos of my firm’s work as part of this inspiration gallery.

Along with the “money shot” we would take a lot of pictures of details and upload them to the inspiration gallery.

We were now able to capture all the fantastic details our custom kitchens included.

Again, our images expanded and now we also included folders like this:

  • Beverage bars
  • Eating areas
  • Lighting
  • Hoods
  • Furniture pieces
  • Wall paneling
  • Universal design
  • Countertops

Clients loved that they could see both images we had collected and actual work we had designed and installed.

The firm became known for this inspirational library!

Pinterest Boards

Fast forward to today, and you will find most of my inspiration on my Vestabul Pinterest Page.

Even though I only take on a few personal design clients a year, I use my Pinterest boards with all of them.

Most of the boards a very specific featuring a type of room, a decor style or a detail.

These boards often feature images of my past projects mixed in with other designers work.

You will find boards featuring:

  • Kitchens
  • Bathrooms
  • Laundry rooms
  • Home offices
  • Closets
  • Mudrooms
  • Hallways

I like to zero in on specific things so there are boards on:

  • Apron front sinks
  • Bathroom walls
  • Bathroom islands
  • Backsplash storage
  • Kitchen counter mix
  • Greenery in the kitchen

Since I am know for functional kitchen design these topics are covered:

  • All the food flow zones
  • Charging centers
  • Pullout tables
  • Tray storage
  • Shower niches

Of course I still have the “standard” styles represented such as:

  • Traditional
  • Craftsman
  • Farmhouse
  • Modern
  • French

But I also include:

  • Black Kitchen Designs
  • Kitchen Gold
  • Vestabul Kitchen Style

To date I have over 100 public boards and dozens of private boards.

I keep my specific boards hidden to protect client privacy or if I am working on a NDA related project.

What I love about collection inspiration on Pinterest is that I can pick a topic, start a board and have tons of images pinned to it in an evening.

I have found over my 30 year career as a professional kitchen designer that inspiration is everywhere and it is really helpful to share it with your clients.

If you have not started collecting images I highly recommend you do.

It is so much easier and quicker than spending hours clipping and filing magazine images!

Having said that though, I still purchase tons of shelter magazines and if you have met me in person, you know I have a “mag bag” for the beach!

I’d love to hear how you are inspired. Please leave me a comment below.

For those of you that read my blog weekly, I will be taking the rest of the year off to regroup to switch to a new CRM and email provider.

Happy Holidays and watch for new articles in the New Year!

Founder Vestabul School of Design, Jan Rutgers

Jan Rutgers has been designing kitchens and products for over 25 years and is a recipient of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Top Innovators in 2020 for the Kitchen & Bath Industry. She has designed more than 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! Her experience in Kitchen Design, Millwork Manufacturing and Product Development has led her to create VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.

2 Comments on “How to Build your Inspiration Library as a Kitchen & Bath Designer

  1. Hey Jan, hope all is well in your world.
    Another great article! Once again this article proves how much alike we are haha. My home computer is a treasure trove of photos.
    Hope you have a fantastic Christmas season and all the best in the new year!

    • Thanks Celeste! Those images are priceless to have. I am sure there are some gems in your collection.
      Merry Christmas, Jan

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