Learning the art of design through observation

Learning the art of design through observation


I know some people question the value of looking at beautiful homes in photos. Perhaps they really don’t understand the value of observation and learning from photos. And that is OK. We are all wired up differently and for some people this is not as fun as it is for me! Plus, I understand that sometimes looking at something beautiful can lead to discontent with what you have or a fixation on perfection, and that is certainly not a desirable effect. It all comes down to perspective, and what it is you are looking at.


I choose to study certain types of beautiful photos because they inspire me. I learn a lot from observation of details. While on the surface you may think, yeah, looking at beautiful photos inspires me to want something I cannot have! But I think there is value in studying something that is well done but not OVER done. You can absorb an ability to replicate beauty and ideas (on any budget) by studying the right kind of images.

Having an eye for beauty doesn’t mean you are obsessing over material things, or desiring something you cannot have. Obviously we don’t want to make beauty an obsession. Rich or poor, fancy or simple, in every different decorating style, we all have a need to find beauty in our life. Some of us find more pleasure in beauty than others, I realize that. For those of us who appreciate beauty, the ability to recreate appropriate beauty in our homes should lead to contentment, peace, gratitude, joy and a desire to share our home through hospitality.

Learning the art of design through observation


There is beauty in the simple things of life, the way light pours through a clean window in the morning. The way a collection of white dishes look all piled behind a glass cupboard, the way a reading chair can invite you in to a moment of solitude because of the way it positioned in a room, the beauty of simplicity when you see a pleasing arrangement of beautiful objects on top of a console table, the joy of a burst of color in a mostly neutral room. The serenity of a certain color scheme. The contrast between an antique and new. The balance of texture in a room, or the way a room comes to life with a bouquet of flowers. The way a colorful table creates a festive atmosphere for company. The feeling of peace when you see a room free of clutter. The intrigue of a pile of beautiful books on a bedside table. Lovely photos can reveal creative ways to accomplish a beautiful composition or pleasing space and even a well-lived life.

All of these things can be inspired by simply looking at a photo. Whether you are setting up a table for a party, decor for a wedding, designing a blog or a room, good things come from observation.


You can duplicate beauty on a budget, using & arranging what you already have or can find at a garage sale. But first you have to understand what looks pleasing to your eye. You can learn by observation. Have you heard the saying “garbage in, garbage out?” Ok, then. If you spend a lot of time looking at things that are poorly done or poorly designed (even in your own home) in an effort to keep yourself from discontent, you will not develop your eye for beauty. And your surroundings will reflect what you look at everyday. If you get used to clutter and junk, and refuse to look at clean, pretty & orderly rooms, your home will reflect that.

We all might have a different perspective on what is beautiful, of course. But you can learn from the composition, even if you were to change a few things for your own taste.

I love to look at rooms that are imperfect but yet still lovely. Those rooms are attainable and are the most intriguing to me. If I look at perfect or sterile rooms, I get a little squirmy. I have to look at rooms that people, kids, and dogs could actually live in! Furthermore, I learn design principles from photos that don’t even show actual rooms. We can learn from all sorts of lovely photos, if we allow our minds to stretch to see beauty.

Learning the art of design through observation


So, let’s start a new game on The Inspired Room. One I like to play myself. A learning game. I will share photos for you to observe from time to time on my blog. Sometimes I might share them for a whole week in a row, sometimes just on occasion here and there. So when you see the word “Observation” in the blog title, that means it will be a single photo for you to observe.

I will choose photos that have inspired me in some way (both new to you and maybe some from previous posts). I may or may not share some commentary on the photo, but either way, your job is simply to observe. You don’t have to love the room, the style, or the colors, but try to learn something from each one. If you enjoy this little exercise as much as I do, I’ll keep doing them.


Here are some things to consider:

What is inspiring about the image? What could you duplicate in your own home? What feelings does the room conjure up in your mind? How was a mood created? What makes the photo or room unique or special? What draws you in? Notice the colors, the textures, the placement of objects. Notice the layers. The accessories. The mix of patterns. The lighting. How they hung the curtains. The small details. The overall effect of the room or composition.


During our “Observation” posts, after you have studied the photo for a few moments, share your observations in the comments. There is no right or wrong here, just simply observing to hone our eye for beauty. We can learn from each other if you will all share a thought or two about what you noticed or what inspired you. Sound good? Aw, come on. Give it a try. It’ll be fun.


Country Homes & Interiors via House to Home
Scott Sanders via Desire to Inspire
Decorative Country Living