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Patti Lorenzi Cowger.jpg

Patti Cowger

Dear Readers, this column is just for you. Every other week I’ll answer one of your interior design questions. Just send me an email with your question and I’ll reply right here. This week’s question:

We lost our home in the fire and are now working on our new plans on the same lot. We belong to an HOA so much of the design is predetermined. But the interior style is completely up to us. Our last style was mixed because neither my husband nor I knew how to choose one. We like many and want to do it right this time. My question isn’t about implementation but creativity. As a designer, where do you find your inspiration? Even if you use Houzz or Pinterest or watch television shows, how do you know where to go from there?

I’m sorry to hear about your home but happy you have made some difficult decisions and are moving forward. To answer the heart of your question, I will bypass a few common givens. That is, I usually take cues from my clients, any existing furnishings that will be incorporated into the new design, and their budget. But even so, you’re right, I still need to be inspired.I don’t look to Houzz, Pinterest or the television for inspiration. I don’t want to be influenced or swayed by another designer’s work. I want my ideas to be fresh, original, and mine. I also don’t wait for a project to appear and then look for inspiration. I am inspired most days and in many ways. I store the ideas in my head and use them when the right occasion arises.

Just this morning, I heard a fitness expert say that we have to find our flexibility. She said that we don’t change our flexibility but only find it. I’m filing that notion away and know I will think of it when working with a future client who may have timid design sensibilities.

I’m inspired by nature, food, travels, modern art and architecture, ancient art and architecture, history, Design Centers, and quotes (like the one about flexibility). Nature is my biggest source of inspiration especially when it comes to color. Imagine a purple-leaf plum tree next to a chartreuse maple tree. The color combination and contrast are striking. If you don’t know your trees, think of an eggplant next to an artichoke heart. Sticking to food as color inspiration, think of a bowl of citrus, a missile popsicle, a blueberry smoothie. Imagine a white Russian before mixing the cream and Kahlua.

I’m inspired by water. The ocean is a favorite destination of mine. During the day, the white sand and turquoise water is soothing, peaceful and clean. At sunset, the purples, reds, pinks, and oranges are vibrant combinations. I’m intrigued by old, middle eastern fountains. I’m mesmerized by their mosaic tiles, colors, and shapes. I get lost in abstract paintings. What are they trying to convey?

I’m also inspired by the catalogs manufacturers send me throughout the year. I learn ahead of time what new product will be on the market. Sometimes a piece of furniture or a found object can get my wheels spinning. Along these lines, a trip to the San Francisco Design Center is almost overwhelmingly inspirational. Thousands of unique and customizable furnishings, fabrics, accessories, and textures.

Given all the above, I can still get designer’s block. I rely on three techniques to break through. Sleep, a walk, or a quote. When I’m relaxed and mindless, I can allow inspiring images to enter my third eye. If all else fails, I turn to a few of my many collected quotes. Not all are about design. Some are about being brave or realizing what is truly important — notions that open up a wide range of creative possibilities.

You can be inspired by many things. The key is to relax and look at things in a different way. Be receptive, and for an extra boost to your creativity, be a little daring — and flexible.

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Patti L. Cowger is a credentialed, award-winning Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. For more information about her design services, visit her website at plcinteriors.com call (707) 322-6522; or email plcinteriors@sbcglobal.net

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