Pinterest is one of those websites that we all secretly (or not so secretly) hate, but can’t seem to stay away from. Between the gorgeous pictures of rooms that we can’t possibly afford and the DIY projects that promise ease and simplicity only to leave us sobbing in the corner after a weekend spent mod-podging (whatever that is), Pinterest can sometimes seem like a reason to give up on design all together.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.  Reading through Sandra Nunnerley’s gorgeous design book Interiors (powerHouse Books, $70.00) inspires a new approach to interior design. The book is on the one hand a record of and advertisement for Nunnerley’s work as a designer, but beyond that, its structure and narrative provide some general guidelines for pursuing your own design projects.

Based on the descriptions of her projects, Nunnerley appears to be a practical designer, beginning any work with a focus on function and a desire to solve problems through design. She writes, “One of the major impulses behind all of my projects is to get people to really live in their environments by designing something that suits and supports their lifestyles. Before we start drawing up any plans, my associates and I spend a lot of time talking with out clients to find out what they need and how they want to live.”

This is something you can do by examining carefully the way you use your space and determining what adjustments need to be made. For example, Nunnerley asks her clients how many dinner parties they throw a year. If the answer is only a few, she counsels against a formal dining room and instead looks for ways to design the dining room so that it is used more regularly.  Providing another example of problem solving through design, Nunnerley tells of clients who spent all of their time in the kitchen, leaving their living room empty. Therefore Nunnerley’s task was to make the living room more inviting, which she did in part by painting the walls a warm, buttery yellow.

Once you identify the real uses of the room you’d like to redesign, and any problems you need to solve, you can begin to think about the mood you’d like to convey in your redesign. The structure of Nunnerley’s book, divided according to moods such as Serenity, Elegance, and Subtlety, suggests that this is her starting point for any design. The book includes photos of Nunnerley’s inspirations—a sweeping panorama of a Tibetan plateau inspires the section on Serenity, for example—and suggest how you might search for such inspiration on your own. There is no right answer, here; if you are trying to invoke Tranquility, you might find inspiration in a photograph of your sleeping cat, or an Impressionist painting at your nearby art museum.

The photos of Nunnerley’s design work can themselves be inspirations, as each section is filled with interior photos that certainly evoke the mood she set out to create. If you’re looking for glamour, for example, the photographs of the contemporary Art Deco apartment might serve as an inspiration for own projects. This is also the stage of the design project where Pinterest might be a source of help rather than despair. Focus not on recreating photos exactly as you find them, but on pinning images on a dedicated Pinterest board that inspire your desired mood.

As you prepare to redesign your space, remember that you can make big changes without necessarily spending big bucks. Painting your walls, for example, can drastically change the mood within a room, and rearranging furniture can alter the way you use a room. As you look for new furniture or accents to add to your room, take your time and think about how each of the elements relates to the others. As she pulls together elements in a room, Nunnerley is “looking for what they have in common—color, texture, even something as intangible as character—or focusing on how they differ in order to play them off against one another.” This is something you can do, too, as you incorporate those pieces that are important to you.

What rooms are you looking to redesign, and what inspires you? Leave a comment below and let us know.


Photo Credits:

Cover Image from Interiors by Sandra Nunnerley, published by powerHouse Books.

Sandra Nunnerley Portrait: Scott Frances

Rooms designed by Sandra: