The Mood Board: How to Create A Feeling

For some, creating a mood board comes naturally. You save bits and pieces of your life; a card from a friend, an inspirational magazine image, an old photograph. These pieces get layered together and over time create a full board that tells a personal story or possibly a business story, much like the mood board pictured above. I find mood boards endlessly interesting, and have been able to see many different iterations in the studios of Women Who Make interviewees. This lovely layered board was from San Francisco florist Natalie Bowen Designs. Learning how to create a mood board for interior design is not overly complicated. There are really so many ways to create a feeling and impart your vision to others, clients, etc. Let’s look at some mood boards both analog and digital.

While a physical (real-life) mood board is always more interesting to me, it’s more practical to use a combination of digital and physical mood boards with interior design clients. I like to start with a digital mood board. It’s a great way to solidify the color palette and direction you’re going with the project. Think high-level here, broad concepts to convey how you think the space should feel. Pinterest is a nice place to gather inspiration images, but I suggest making the digital board elsewhere. I personally like to use Photoshop, but Power Point, Pic Monkey and Moldiv are also great applications for making quick collages. Here’s an old post on how to create your own color palette in Photoshop.

Digital Mood Boards

Here are a few examples of digital boards I’ve created at the beginning of a project to help inform the color palette or overall feeling we are trying to achieve. These may not be the exact colors or items we choose in the end, but they help the client and I remain on the same page for the vision of the space.


Physical Mood Boards

Pinterest makes it easy to gather images in one place and create virtual boards, but a physical board with dimension, fabrics, images and color convey your interior design message, or other story with even stronger feeling. Later in the design project, once selections are being made, I like to create a physical “board” or flay lay of samples so the client can touch and interact with the materials. Sometimes it helps me to decide on selections (fabrics, colors, etc) by using this process, and pinning things to a real bulletin board in my office. Here a board from Sophia Reyes Designs shows her inspiration for a new clothing collection. Images layered with fabrics, and the black background she chose for the boards imparts a sort of “tailored chic” feeling for me. For whatever reason, I find it much easier to look at items as a whole and decide if they are the right items when I can stand back and look at them together.

Pinterest or magazines are the perfect place to start gathering visual information, but don’t stop with an online board or a few tears. Print out your favorite images, and begin to notice the similarities and differences between them. Start to look for color, repetitive pattern, and brainstorm adjectives that describe the overall feeling of the imagery. Paint decks (easily picked up and usually free at any major paint store) are a great place to start cutting out swatches of color for your mood board. This Pantone swatch display at the Nate Berkus Studio Team’s office was to die for!

Here are a few of my flat lays (which just means laying things out in an organized fashion that can be captured with an overhead photo).

mood board interior design

Bringing all the physical materials together like this is so helpful to see where the project is going. You (and hopefully your client) can already see how beautiful it’s going to turn out!

I love looking to other designers for inspiration as well. Love this BLUE board from designer Mark Sikes, and this RED board from designer Summer Thornton.

Hope you are feeling the mood board inspiration, try one of your own!

XO – CLAIRE