It’s amazing how much one vacation can change you. Whether by plane, train, or automobile, traveling somewhere new forces you to get out of your comfort zone and grow as both an individual and global citizen. A new culture or country can give you a life-changing experience, mouth-watering dish you can’t wait to try at home and, yes, a jolt of creativity.
From Morocco’s Beni Ourain rugs to the delicate Venetian glass you’ll find in Italy, the world is packed with plenty of design ideas that are waiting to be brought back home. That’s exactly why we asked 18 design experts about the destinations that have inspired their careers and aesthetics the most.
While their sources of inspiration come from all corners of the world, the stories below prove you’ll never really know where design inspiration will strike next...
“China, the authentic side has most informed my work. I fell in love with my American wife there, so it means everything to me. My wife and I lived in Beijing for three years, just out of college. We furnished our apartment from castaways, of remarkable quality, off the side of the road. What I found remarkable was the quality of workmanship—solid wood, interesting joiner—paired with time-worn patina. From the streets, we headed to the markets, which were vast, filled with old furniture collected from all over China that was either being restored or sold as-is.
“I lived in Italy for seven years, so that had a profound affect on my design sensibility. From the quality of Italian handcrafts to Italian modernism and the maximal architecture—frescoes in every room anyone?—Italian design has a huge place in my heart.” —Justina Blakeney, interior designer and founder of the Jungalow
“From the beautiful architecture to the stunning quality of craftsmanship and intricate details that Italians incorporate into every product that they create, Italy produces some of the most inspirational designs. Whether it be the sleek trim piece on the bottom of a sofa or the elegant curves of a chair, these details within the design are manufactured to perfection! " –Nina Magon, principal at Contour Interior Design
“I celebrated my 13th birthday in India, and it left a deep-rooted impression on my design aesthetic. The vibrant colors, textures, and spirituality, I find it so inspiring. Each trip I take to India, I come home with boxes of saree fabrics—they make beautiful custom pillows! My bronze statues of Hindu deities like Shiva and Ganesha are also part of my personal decor story. They have such interesting and meaningful significance and add an eclectic vibe. Also, the Indian hand-carved, hand-painted furniture is divine.
I like to layer it in among a neutral decor palette for a pop of intrigue." —Laurie Blumenfeld-Russo, interior designer and principal at LBR Home
"For me, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico is the most beautiful, magical and inspirational place I have ever been. I love the architecture, the colors, the gorgeous entries, the cobblestone streets. It is a perfect blend of old world Mexico, artists, open-air markets, modern shops and restaurants.” — Suzanne Ascher, designer and co-owner of Waterleaf Interiors
“Mexico is the country I’ve traveled to the most and has consistently inspired not only my work, but also my life. I was raised 40 minutes from the border in San Diego and grew up frequently crossing the border to Baja to eat, shop, and surf with friends. After I moved to New York City, I began traveling regularly throughout Quintana Roo, soaking in the sun during the cold winters. Eventually my husband and I were married there in a big house on the sea. Our many trips have uncovered so much beauty - friendships, food, music, and, for an interior designer with a bit of a tabletop obsession, craft.
I’ve found and brought back to my home and clients bedding, rugs, onyx candle holders, furniture, pottery, and, most importantly, a story.” —Bella Zakarian Mancini, interior designer
"The British have such an unapologetic appreciation for tradition and quality. I love seeing the use of heirloom china on display and layering of well-worn antique rugs that you find in those great country houses. London also has a beautiful formality and refinement. The exquisite metalwork, stone, and sumptuous fabrics at Claridge's are to me the epitome of this, but it's also executed in a way that feels fresh and never stale.”—Margaret Ash, interior designer
“London is the city that's really informed my design style! I love any city that preserves historic design and pairs it alongside modern design. It really shows how you can be so deeply connected to the past while still living a modern life, and invites you to mix antiques and contemporary pieces in your home and personal style. I actually purchased a victorian snake ring that is strikingly modern for being over 100 years old in London, so you never really know!” — Alessandra Wood, interior design expert and vice president of style at Modsy
"Bali is truly heaven on earth. It has incredible natural beauty from its surf breaks and beaches, to jade green rice paddies and lush mountains. Plus, it has this peaceful, spiritual feeling everywhere: In its ancient temples, artist studios, open markets and villages, as well as on the beaches and in its waters. Bali is my place of inspiration." —Jill Johnson, designer and co-owner of Waterleaf Interiors
“I create through adventure, and never want to be without something I enjoy. This is my mantra to design and why my summers in Aspen are so inspiring. They are working vacations, but I always bring my family. In the mornings, my husband and I bring our laptops outdoors to enjoy the mountain scenery and beautiful weather as we work. In the afternoons, we go on long hikes with our girls. The connection residents have with their homes and their surroundings has had a great impact on the way I view functionality, aesthetic, and structure.”—Laura U, interior designer
“As a young designer I was taken on several trips to France while working on a chateau in Normandy. It was through those trips that I fell in love with French culture and European design sensibility. I’ve always left France feeling enriched, after combing through flea markets in Paris and Nice and all those late night dinner conversations over bottles of rosé in quaint sidewalk cafes. I feel like that mixture of history and beauty combined with casual urbanity has become the foundation for my style.” —Kevin Dumais, interior designer
“Paris is bursting with art, culture and history. We can’t walk the streets without taking a million photos of inspiring fashions and interiors that we know we’ll want to reference when designing Studio Gild projects. From Monsieur Bleu—with its gorgeous interior inspired by Art Deco glamour, the work of Yves Klein and the minimalist style of Adolf Loos—to Dries Van Noten, a clothing store offering the latest fashions of Paris,inspiration can be found at every turn in The City of Lights.” —Melissa Benham, principal at Studio Gild
“For those who live in a highly visual world, the Souks of Marrakech are a wild ride into a treasure trove of color, smell, texture, chaos, ingenuity, craftsmanship, and brash hustling. The Medina is not for the faint of heart, but an organized shopper can conquer the meandering and confusing corridors of vendors and the rewards are well worth the sweat equity. I strongly recommend a guide on your first foray. Many seasoned travelers opt for a guide on every visit. They can be easily booked through your hotel or travel service.
The rugs, punched metal lighting, and woven cotton textiles are not to be missed.” —Janie Molster, interior designer
“The colorful mix of cultures feeds my soul and the handcraft are absolutely incredible. From the textiles (kilim, handira, Beni Ourain, oh my!) to the Tamegroute pottery, to the mosaic tile and the tadelakt plaster finishes on the walls—I just can't get enough.”—Justina Blakeney
“I’ve traveled so many amazing places and have experienced beautiful cultures, but a recent trip to Morocco stands out. Home to an overwhelming array of design inspiration, I’ve taken cues from the bold colors, rich flavors, elaborately geometric Zellige tile, and delicately intricate architecture. Still feeling the Moroccan vibe to this day, my team and I have designed everything from carpet collections to wallcovering textures, to fabric and furniture inspired by this trip.” —Stacy Garcia of Stacy Garcia, Inc.
“My current collection of textiles and wallpaper was inspired by a recent trip to Tanzania and South Africa. Whenever I travel, I'm always on the search for local textiles for inspiration. The colors, textures, and various animals found across the continent are spectacular. My ‘Kubb’ pattern is my interpretation of mud cloths that I've collected throughout the years, a local handmade cotton fabric dyed with fermented mud. ‘Sugarbush’ is derived from illustrations of beautiful foliage found on a small island off the coast of Tanzania!"—Melinda Marquardt, designer and founder of the Vale London
“South Africa is one of the most aesthetically and culturally beautiful countries I have ever seen. I love a beautiful landscape, which is partly why I decided to visit, but I also went to visit the brilliant and smiling children at the Nobantu Township School. These kids, who are a big part of Education Without Borders’ mission, are the reason why I chose EWB as the charity behind my furniture and accessories line.The pieces—a selection of accent tables and trays—are made using sustainably sourced ostrich leather, and a portion of the sales directly benefit Education Without Borders.
Of course, I also felt massively inspired by the brilliant colors and textures of Cape Town because it sits in a valley between some of Africa’s tallest peaks. It’s the only city where you can trek to the top of a mountain, hike back down and already be right on the beach ready to sunbathe. It somehow has a tropical, luxury and outdoorsy feel all wrapped up in one.” —Anne Hepfer, interior designer
“Denmark provides me with constant inspiration. From the colorful Copenhagen architecture, charming museums and booming cafe scene, Denmark is one of my favorite countries to source new ideas. In particular, Copenhagen’s Thorvaldsens Museum is one of the best spots to provide design inspiration.” —Alexander Doherty, interior designer
“I love Japan. I visited Tokyo and Kyoto several years ago and it changed my outlook on design forever. The attention to detail is stunning and everything is so well thought out. Now I always think twice when designing products to make sure to add special details that give our products a little something extra.” —Joy Cho, founder and creative director of Oh Joy!