Picture your dream home: what does it look like? What colors and textures define the space? Go ahead and move from room to room, envisioning furniture big and small and décor choices galore. As clearly as you can picture it, you can replicate it in real life—just use a mood board.
A mood board is an age-old design method gaining traction today on apps like TikTok and Pinterest, where it's simple to tap, save, and create a mood board right between your fingertips. Mood boards are visualizations of aesthetics, colors, and textures that tell a story and help the user picture what their reality will look like. This method works great for style, beauty, and of course, interior design.
Designers often rely on their mood board beginnings to imagine a complete space filled with color and life. On the blank slate of a "board," designers begin to experiment with layering paint colors, furniture pieces, decorative accents, and textural elements to see how they coincide. The final project creates the perfect diving board to jump into their design.
"As my brain is constantly thinking of creative design ideas, I find it important to mock up the visuals in my mind to make them realistic and practical," Lindye Galloway, the founder and chief creative officer at Lindye Galloway Studio + Shop, tells MyDomaine. "It helps the vision come to life, seeing the fabric choices, the style aesthetic, individual products, and décor items specified for the space."
Designers Share Their Tips for Creating Mood Boards
Designers are sharing their best tips for drafting a mood board, so you'll be able to take your visions into your own hands and craft the space of your dreams—it looks amazing, we can see it already.
Leah Alexander, Beauty Is Abundant
Alexander suggests these tips when working on a mood board.
- Try to get the same perspectives/angles for all pieces. For example, all front-facing, all angled to the right, or angled to the left.
- Place things that will be near each other in the room in close proximity on the board. For example, place a bedside lamp on a nightstand, a fan or light fixture above a dining table, or an area rug below a bed or sofa.
- Incorporate plants as much as possible where appropriate to bring the board to life.
Stephanie Watkins, Casa Watkins Living
"Mood boards can be a sounding board to either have inspiring photos to guide as you pick out items for a space, or in my case, to create a visual of the items I'd like to include," Watkins shares. "My mood board also includes what type of mood or vibe I'd like to have in the space. This serves as a reminder when I choose pieces to ask myself, 'Does this item contribute to the vibe I want in this space?'"
Watkins also notes that often, designers can get swept up with items they find and love, so much so that they lose sight of the original vibe they wanted. A mood board acts as that guiding principle—it creates a concrete plan and serves as a reminder.
Doris Roberts, Doris Roberts Interiors
Roberts too relies on mood boards to get the complete picture of a space, down to the artwork and tabletop décor. Her tips for drafting a mood board are as follows:
- Add furniture pieces specific to the client's design aesthetic.
- Establish a color scheme by using objects and paint swatches.
- Layer in lighting, decorative pieces, and artwork.
- Add architectural details and textures with items like flooring, pillows, and rugs.
- Group like objects to maintain a cohesive look.
Joshua Smith, Joshua Smith Inc.
Smith uses a mood board to ground the ideas floating around that he has for a space. They also help him capture how the space is going to look as well as feel, which is of equal importance to him.
"Most people do think about the visuals of the space first, but I often start my clients with the question, 'How do you want to feel in your home?" he shares. "And that guides the way—precisely why a mood board is so important: to make sure that it captures the feeling we want to evoke as well as the visuals."
His steps for creating a mood board include:
- Starting with a key image, often something found in nature. A crystal or gemstone, a patinated piece of wood, a mossy rock.
- Decide if the mood board is purely visual, or textural as well. Key components would be color as well as textures—texture adds richness, so layering that into the board is essential.
- Visualize the various elements that might be in the room: the wood tones, glass, mirror, stone, etc.
Smith loves seeing a mood board visualization come to life in a space. "I love to imagine and envision all the possibilities of a space—it’s like working with a blank canvas," he says. "It's one of the most fun moments of our jobs: seeing a mood and visions come to life, the conception to completion is like an artist finishing a painting. We are artists of spaces, and our rooms are sculptural."
Anne Sage, Anne Sage Home
Sage's way to begin a mood board? Pinterest, of course.
"I start the conception process by saving dozens (or even hundreds!) of images to Pinterest and Instagram folders," Sage explains. "Then, when it comes time to make the mood board, I drag about 30-50 of the standouts to a Google Slides file. From there, I'll choose the top 10 or so that create a cohesive vision. I'd always rather start with too many inspiration images than too few."
David Quarles IV
When coming up with design plans for clients or his own design, Quarles notes that a mood board is a perfect way to conceptualize the initial "sell" of a concept.
"I create mood boards by including one to two key pieces of furniture, digital paint, flooring, and fabric swatches, as well as any light fixtures and hardware that will form part of the design," he explains. "As a next step, I'll create a room board that is much like a 2D placement layout for the overall design. This is usually the step before a 3D rendering."
Often, Quarles has brought a design concept from plan to fruition solely based on a mood board. "For me, it is important to capture as much detail as possible during this phase of the design process so that the client can begin to see their vision of any given space—but without feeling overwhelmed," he notes.
His tips for mood boarding include:
- Hand-draw renderings when possible.
- Create mood boards in Canva. It's a user-friendly, cloud-based program, and one of the most useful tools is the "remove background" capability, Quarles notes. Backgrounds are completely removed with a click of a button, leaving you with a crisp image of the furniture you're including in your concept.
Ursula Carmona, Home Made by Carmona
"Mood boards are everything!" Carmona shares with us. "It's almost easier shopping online than in person because you can get a feel for how things will work together. Sure, not every item looks the way it is depicted online, but when it does, it all comes together like a charm."
Carmona explains that most of her designs rely heavily on mood boards, as it helps her meet tight deadlines, just in case there isn't time to return items or the opportunity to view pieces in person. She shared several of her tips for creating a mood board below.
- Pinterest is a goldmine for searching specific shopping items. Once you click on the pin of a product you like, it shows you a slew of similar options. Even better, it's easy to do a quick screengrab of products right there in Pinterest, drop it in your choice of editing app, crop, and go.
- Treat the digital mood board the same as you would when decorating a physical room. I drag my selections onto the board and toggle my selects on and off to determine which works better.
- Don't feel like you have to use fancy editing software. There are a ton of great apps that are easy to use and free.
- Whenever possible, use screenshots of products with a white background rather than the ones already staged in a space.
Laura Genevieve, Blanco Bungalow
Genevieve of Blanco Bungalow is a serial mood board-maker.
"I swear by mood boards—I have so many ideas floating around my head at any given moment, and so many different ways I can design a space," she shares. "I love a mood board because it allows me to physically or digitally try out those different combinations, or even see what they would look like in a space."
Contrary to many designers' processes today, Genevieve loves creating old-fashioned, physical collages to kick off her mood board process. It is as follows:
- I created this little space in my fireplace for all of my interior design magazines. Anytime I’m in need of inspiration, I pull them all out, make a huge mess, and tear and cut and make piles, and it’s such a fun process for me.
- Once I have my pile of tear-outs, I tack them up on my office bulletin board randomly, and after a few days of looking at them, start to take things away, group things together.
- I like to take my time thinking about spaces, so this gives me the time to really think about how certain elements make me feel.
But, if she decides to go digital, Genevieve is another huge proponent of Canva.
"Canva is so much easier than Photoshop, and they have this great little feature called 'background remover,' so you can literally layer furniture, fixtures, wallpapers, rugs, anything you want," she explains. For me, this is the quickest most straightforward way to make a mood board if I’m short on time."