For me, travel isn’t about getting from point A to point B or checking something off my bucket list, although it’s always nice when that happens. Rather, travel is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. I often return home full of ideas, whether it’s a new recipe, a new book, or a design feature I want to incorporate into my own home.
Much of the inspiration comes from where I stay. When planning trips, I can spend hours scouring the Internet for the perfect home away from home. I’ve saved up to stay at a few luxury hotels, but I also love quaint bed and breakfasts, funky roadside motels, and thoughtfully curated Airbnbs.
Whenever I needed a mental escape during the pandemic, I planned a virtual vacation, getting lost in the Instagram feeds of hotels I can’t wait to one day visit. Not only has it served as a temporary cure for my wanderlust, but it’s allowed me to source design inspiration from around the world. Here are a few of the places I can’t stop studying.
Textures as Patterns
If you want a lesson in layering textures, look no further than the Raya Heritage in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In this photo, channeled bolsters are juxtaposed with the vertical lines of the tufted cushion next to the straw-colored accent pillows that have a weave similar to chainmail. In the background, the overlapping reed curtains create even more depth. And in the foreground, there’s the glass-like water feature and wood tables that appear to be hand-carved. Even on the other side of the world, you can imagine what each object feels like.
I’m not much for pattern in my home, but this is a great reminder of how textures in neutral colors can have a similar effect—an idea further enforced by the hotel’s assortment of throw pillows and this beautifully woven chair. Now, I'm on the hunt for similar materials to cozy up my own space.
I’d kill to be at Le Sirenuse on the Amalfi Coast right now with an Aperol spritz in hand. Until I can make that happen, I’ll be here trying to figure out if the space above is indoors or outdoors. Vines stretch to the ceiling, weaving around sconces and antique paintings. The light coming in on the left makes it impossible to discern if those are windows or doors, so it could just be an elegant covered patio? This optical illusion is carried throughout the rest of the hotel, from the bar to a dreamy dining room complete with foliage-inspired chandeliers.
Mounting a trellis to the living room wall may not be landlord-approved, but this Italian beauty has got me thinking about how to incorporate plants at different focal points. In the townhouse I share with my boyfriend, we are blessed with high ceilings and cursed with an empty four-foot gap above our kitchen cabinets. I haven’t wanted to use that area for storage because I worry it’ll look cluttered, but seeing these photos has me rethinking that area as a little green oasis.
I never really liked geometry in school, but now I know it’s because I didn’t have Kelly Wearstler as my teacher. So often, you hear designers talk about incorporating different shapes and this snapshot of the Wearstler-designed Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills is a masterclass in how to do that. In another Instagram post, the hotel quotes her as saying, “I look at every piece of furniture and every object as an individual sculpture." It shows.
I can’t get over how hard edges—the chair’s frame, the frame around the artwork—contrast with the softer shapes of the rounded cushion and pleated bed frame. And let’s talk about that nightstand situation: waterfall edges envelop the square nightstand, making it a visual pleasure.
Should you need further proof that this hotel is a geometric marvel, please see this groovy moment in the lobby featuring a wavy couch, this pool scene, and this sitting area. Even the hotel’s exterior has a strong shape game. I finally see all those "lines" designers talk about and I keep referring back to these photos when thinking about how to reshape my own space.
Some hotel amenities don’t quite translate into a home, like an elevator or a giant wraparound bar, but that doesn’t mean they're not chock full of practical ideas. Take the bathrooms by the boutique hotel chain Artist Residence in England. The one pictured here from the Artist Residence Penzance in Cornwall isn’t necessarily the most beautiful of the bunch—that honor could go to this copper looker or this one with colorful tile work—but what I love about it are all the little touches that undoubtedly make for a more relaxing experience.
Reading by candlelight sounds appealing until you realize you can’t actually see anything. Notice that little wall sconce? It sits at just the right angle to double as a task lamp. Observe how rather than affixing the faucet to the wall, it’s connected to a wood build-out that also serves as a shelf for plants, products, or that well-deserved glass of wine. Your mind may not automatically pair palm trees with England, but they do grow there, and I love that the print above the tub tricks the eye into thinking it’s a window.
Lastly, it's interesting how they used tile sparingly, setting the tub apart from the rest of the room and making that area feel extra special. With a space that small, you can opt for a bold pattern or perhaps even spend more on higher-quality, hand-painted tiles. I currently rent, so I can’t implement all of these ideas, but you better believe I saved this photo for future reference.
Speaking of future homes, I’d love to one day have a house in the mountains. I grew up in Wyoming, and it’s the ideal place to escape the sweltering summers in my adopted home state of Texas. I was daydreaming about this imaginary cabin when I spotted a cozy fireside scene that looked like it belonged in the Rocky Mountains. Upon further inspection, I learned it was actually thousands of miles away in the mountains of Rwanda, specifically at Bisate Lodge.
I’ve always wanted to visit Rwanda to get a glimpse of the majestic mountain gorilla, and now I have one more reason to visit: to see the craftsmanship of Bisante Lodge up close. The room captured above made me think differently about the beams you might see in a mountain home. The curved lines and the contrast between the lighter wood and black ceilings feel particularly modern.
I also took note of the wide wood arches, concrete floors, and green accents—presumably a nod to the surrounding forest. In another photo, you can see how the same beams mix with herringbone and exposed brick. Of course, the outdoor living space is stylish, too.
I'm looking forward to the day when I can dust off my passport once more and be surrounded by the beauty of faraway places, but for now, I'm content being an armchair traveler and soaking up all the design inspo my Instagram feed has to offer.