When it comes to styling a home, mood boards are immensely useful. They help you organize your inspirational references, create a visual for the finished look and get all involved parties on the same page. Best of all, anyone can use one, even if you're not a professional designer.
But what is an interior design mood board, and how do you make one? Find answers to these questions below, along with practical guidance and mood board ideas for every room in your home.
What Is a Mood Board?
A mood board is essentially a collection of curated images, materials, words and colors used to inspire a creative project. Sometimes called an inspiration board or an interior design mood board, the display can be physical (such as a poster board collage) or virtual (built on a digital platform).
In the context of interior design, people often use mood boards before renovating, decorating, or rearranging their homes. The visual arrangement helps to communicate objectives, combine different ideas and determine which pieces may not fit.
Since design is an art form, verbal explanations often feel abstract. For this reason, an interior design mood board can be especially useful in instances where concepts are hard to communicate through words.
Pro tip: Although interior designers use mood boards, they’re also a great tool for in-home use. We’ll start by explaining why and how designers use them, then give tips for using mood boards in your home or apartment.
Why Stylists Use Design Boards for Interior Design
Home stylists often use mood boards to showcase various concepts and get their clients' wheels turning. When clients already have an idea or a theme in mind, a board can help them visualize it clearly and get everyone on the same page.
Interior design mood boards can help with:
Ideas and inspiration
Collaboration (think decorating your apartment with a roommate)
Read on for detailed insight into how and why mood boards are used for home design.
Ideas and Inspiration
Mood boards allow you to gather inspiration and ideas from various sources before deciding on a specific style or concept. While it might seem like an unnecessary first step, an inspiration mood board can actually move a project along by helping you figure out which ideas to toss and which to keep.
Remember that inspiration can come from anywhere — architecture, art, nature, clothing, magazines, photography, you name it. Think of it as the brainstorming stage of the project. Bring everything to the table, and then home in on what works.
Once you've eliminated the pieces that may not fit the project, what's left should evoke the style or concept you're going for. Interior design mood boards offer visual storytelling in the sense that they showcase a person's lifestyle, personal history, signature style, taste and emotions, all of which will eventually be translated into their home.
Mood boards are all about providing clarity into what the finished result will look like. Home design projects can take weeks or even months to complete, and having a visual reference of the original goal can help it stay on track.
A mood board layout is a little more abstract than an actual floor plan or architectural blueprint. However, a board can provide visual guidance for different areas of a space, as well as what types and styles of furniture and fixtures you plan to use.
One of the most crucial benefits of an interior design mood board is that it encourages collaboration. If you're styling your home on your own without anyone else's input, you won't necessarily need the reference because the concept will be clear to you (though it can still be useful). However, most projects involve multiple people, and the imagery helps sync everyone's ideas.
Additionally, while some individuals can grasp a concept simply by hearing or reading about it, most people are visual learners, meaning they need to see something to fully understand it. And for the latter group, mood boards, mock-ups, layouts and other visual displays are tremendously helpful.
Another great thing about mood boards is that they help you stay organized. When you have all your ideas and inspiration in one place, you can create an orderly plan, visualize the next steps and stay on track. As mentioned above, this is particularly important when multiple people are involved.
Digital Mood Board vs. Physical Mood Board
Though there are myriad apps and programs for creating a digital mood board, a few of the most popular include Canva, Mophilio Board, RoomStyler, SampleBoard, Adobe Spark and Pinterest. Here's what you should know.
Canva is a beginner-friendly program, but professionals love it too. The platform boasts thousands of templates and images with near-endless styles to choose from, making it easy to find and organize inspiration for a project.
You can set up and edit a stunning collage in minutes from any mobile device. What's more, you can invite others to collaborate with you on your interior design mood board. The basic tool is free, though you can upgrade to Canva Pro to access more features.
Beloved by stylists and recreational design enthusiasts alike, Morpholio Board is among the best platforms for creating a mood board. The award-winning app can be accessed on a desktop, tablet or smartphone, allowing you to edit, collaborate and present from anywhere.
Morpholio flaunts a robust library of powerful yet user-friendly tools, including brilliant themes, smart text and image controls. You can pin ideas, explore brands, browse furniture, search by color palette or category, save favorites, organize your inspiration in folders, create spreadsheets and build multiple boards all in one place.
Not only that, but this interior design mood board app allows you to take color samples from the world around you. So if you see a gorgeous flower or a wood tone you'd like to replicate in your space, just snap a photo and save the hue to your board.
RoomStyler is another excellent mood board creator. The platform allows you to create a decor scheme with upwards of 100,000 pieces from top-rated brands. You can find inspiration by browsing popular templates, color palettes and designer collections, then save ideas and build a board of your own.
In addition to the mood board tool, RoomStyler’s 3D Home Planner feature lets you play around with different room layouts. When you add items or photos, they'll appear in a window on your screen, where you can click and drag to place them in your virtual space.
SampleBoard makes creating mood boards quick and easy. With user-friendly tools and free access to color schemes, design trends, fun textures and popular products, it's ideal for those looking to save time and money.
But that doesn't mean this app’s offerings are subpar. On the contrary, SampleBoard is beloved by design professionals, who use it to illustrate ideas for their clients. Decor hobbyists love it, too, as they can create pro-level boards with minimal effort and experience.
Adobe Spark is a bit more sophisticated than other digital mood board tools, making it a favorite of the tech-savvy set. The free platform includes access to professional themes, stunning imagery, thousands of icons and elegant typography.
You can generate your own designs, build a personal library of inspiration, manage multiple projects, share your creations with others and invite them to collaborate in just a few taps. Adobe Spark also has a premium version, which offers access to more advanced capabilities and effects for a few dollars a month.
Pinterest is a relatively basic platform, but that's kind of the beauty of it. Once you download the extension to your browser or get the app on your phone, you can pin ideas from all over the web and save them to various boards.
While you can share your Pinterest mood board with others and invite them to add to it, that's about as far as it goes. Having said that, there are lots of excellent mood board examples and design ideas on the platform, so it's a great starting point if you're looking for inspiration.
How to Create a Mood Board for Your Home Design
Anytime you have a home decor project on the horizon and aren't sure exactly where to start or what style to use, consider creating an interior design mood board. As mentioned above, there's no right or wrong way to go about it. But if you're a mood board novice, the following steps can put you on the right track.
Before you begin looking for inspiration, you'll want to figure out where to save it. Whether it's a giant poster board or a sophisticated app, have it ready to go so you don't end up forgetting your ideas (or where you saved them).
Next, you'll start gathering materials both online and from the world around you. Maybe you see an autumn leaf color you'd like to include, notice a seashell in the perfect shade of ivory or fall in love with the unique blue hue of a clear sky. Take a picture or, if possible, bring the inspiration home with you.
There's a reason online retailers allow you to save favorites while browsing. If you see something you love but aren't quite ready to buy it or aren't sure whether it'll complement the rest of your decor, you can save the item and come back later.
A digital interior design mood board works in the same way. You can collect inspiring ideas, images, color swatches, product links and even videos and save them all in one place. Once you have a library of inspiration, you'll have a clearer image of your personal taste and can pick and choose pieces for your space.
For seasonal design inspiration, check out these blogs:
Choose a Style
With materials gathered and inspiration saved, you can hone in on a style for your aesthetic mood board. You might have clarity upon seeing your favorites right in front of you, but if you're still unsure, consider separating them into different style categories and going from there.
From rustic, farmhouse and traditional to midcentury, modern and industrial, there are virtually endless routes you can take. And don't feel like you have to pick just one style. With the right approach, transitional design schemes can be beautifully alluring.
For expert tips on making a transitional space look cohesive, check out our guide on How to Create a Modern-Industrial Style Look for Your Home.
Select a Theme
Theme isn't the same as style, but the two are closely related. The theme of your mood board design is about honing in on a concept, whereas the style is much broader. For instance, you and your neighbor might both embrace a modern home style, but the finished appearance will likely look quite different.
Your theme helps define the project, provides direction and ensures consistency. It could be a specific concept or a descriptor, like beachy, boho, sophisticated, tranquil, energizing, welcoming, relaxing or organic. Additionally, you can access pre-curated themes on the digital tools mentioned above and browse by style or category.
For ideas on themes for your interior design mood board, take a look at these blogs:
Decide on Colors
Next, you'll want to decide on a color palette. A cornerstone in the world of interior design, the combination of hues acts as a visual foundation to define and direct a space.
There are near-endless combinations you can use for your color mood board. You might already have an idea of your palette based on your saved inspiration and selected theme, but it doesn't hurt to explore different ideas.
Interior design mood board color palette examples include:
Moody hues, such as black, charcoal, greys and blues
Plant-inspired colors like leafy greens and autumn foliage
Earth tones, such as brown, surplus and clay
Warm hues like terra cotta, mahogany and rust
Calming colors like light grey and seafoam
Romantic tones, such as blush and burgundy
Retro tones like ochre and kelly green
Sunset-inspired tones like gold, soft orange and vibrant red
Fresh, minimalist colors, such as white, off-white and ivory
When you select two, three or more colors, remember that one will act as the base and the others will be used to complement and accent. For instance, if your palette includes charcoal, light grey, and white, charcoal might be the base, accounting for larger furniture items, bedding or potentially the wall color. Then you'd incorporate light grey and white throughout the space.
If you're drawn to all-white, pared-down design themes and are interested in exploring this concept, read these blogs:
Once you've landed on a style, theme and color palette, you can begin coordinating pieces. Bear in mind that people often have opposing ideas of the same style, so a midcentury sofa from one brand may look entirely different than one you'd find at another retailer.
With this in mind, you'll want to play around with various pieces and textures to figure out what works. The goal is to create a consistent aesthetic with items that complement one another but don't match exactly.
How to Create an Interior Design Mood Board for Every Room in Your Home
So, what does a mood board look like for a bedroom, living room, kitchen or bathroom? That depends on your personal taste, interior decor style and platform of choice, but you can find insight into each space below.
How to Use a Whole-House Mood Board
Some people find it useful to create a mood board for their entire home before branching out into different rooms. While each area will have a unique theme, this will help you design a cohesive space that flows from room to room.
For instance, your home design might include a range of neutral hues, like black, charcoal, grey, sand, ivory and white. The base color for your bedroom could be black with the other hues as accents. Your kitchen could be primarily white with deeper shades sprinkled in here and there. Then in your living room, the base might be grey with darker and lighter accents.
For a deeper dive into which items you'll need when moving into a new space, take a peek at our New Home Checklist.
How to Use an Interior Design Board in Your Bedroom
A bedroom mood board might include a peaceful color palette, soft textures and ideas for ambient lighting. Since the bed is the centerpiece of the space, your board should reflect that.
Highlight the textiles, dimensions and layering technique you have in mind, then build the space from there. For example, you might save inspiration for end tables, over-the-bed art, bedside lighting, curtains and plants, alongside other bedroom furniture items, like a dresser, storage bench and vanity.
Our guide, How to Layer and Style Your Bed Like a Stylist, offers expert tips and ideas for selecting bedding items and materials.
How to Use an Interior Design Board in Your Living Room
Whether your home has a formal living room, a family room or a great room, a mood board can help you style it. Beyond furniture items, you should save inspiration for window coverings, rugs, throws and decorative pillows, shelving units, plants, art and other home accents.
Instead of purchasing a matching furniture set, your interior design mood board can help you select complementing pieces that exude a little more character. This allows your space to tell a story about your family while presenting your unique quirks and charm.
How to Use an Interior Design Board in Your Kitchen
If you're renovating your kitchen and starting from scratch or are just looking to make a few updates, a mood board is a perfect way to kick things off. Instead of textiles and furniture items, you'll be looking more for flooring finishes, paint colors, cabinet styles and countertop materials.
What will your backsplash look like? Are you installing planks or tiles on the floor? What is your base color? Be sure to consider all aspects of your design, then save ideas that align with your vision.
How to Use an Interior Design Board in Your Bathroom
A bathroom mood board is similar to a kitchen board in that it doesn't call for furniture inspiration and may be more restrictive in terms of layout. However, you'll definitely want to consider textiles.
Explore different materials for towels, shower curtains, rugs and mats, saving fabrics and colors that stand out to you. You should also think about the colors and materials you want for the flooring, backsplash and wall paint, as well as the mirror style, sink, faucets, towel hooks and other fixtures.
How a Parachute Stylist Can Help Your Mood Board Ideas Come to Life
At this point, you should be ready to get started with your interior design mood board. But if you're new to the concept or want personalized guidance, the expert design consultants at Parachute are here to help.
During a complimentary one-on-one phone or video consultation, an experienced stylist will review your space, consider your goals, ask about your preferences and offer custom design suggestions. Whether you're looking for advice on how to layer textures, need help deciding on a color palette or want to learn about blending decor styles, you can count on a Parachute stylist to lead the way.
For more home styling inspiration, read on in these Parachute interior design guides: