The Many Benefits of Using a Style or Inspiration Board

5 Jun

Recently I have been all about style boards. I don’t know if it’s increased awareness of their utility that inspires me to be this way or the abundance of online tools for not only creating but sharing awesome style boards that has begotten this trend. I think it may be a chicken-and-egg scenario. I probably was drawn to the online stuff first because I like playing with color and pretty things, and was using the available tools more to create collections than actual style boards, but then I realized they could be useful, and created useful style boards, and those were pretty, and then I had to create more and more and more.


So what exactly IS a style board anyway, and why is it useful? It may be easiest to start by describing what it’s not. A style board is NOT a collection because a style board relies on common themes. But wait! You say. I collect miniature matchstick houses. That’s a theme. OK, that’s a theme. But that alone isn’t enough. A style board relies upon multiple complimentary themes interacting together to achieve a holistic end goal. And if it’s an inspiration board the idea is that it inspires you. But wait! You say. I find my collection of miniature matchstick houses to be plenty inspirational! And that’s ….great. But theoretically the idea behind an inspiration board is that you will one day eventually actually be inspired to do something in response to it. Even if you never do, it’s the tangible embodiment of “oh, one day I’m going to do this and this and this. Totally. It’s going to happen. I swear. After I eat this bag of potato chips.”

So, for instance, if you need to organize your home and so you start amalgamating various clever home organization tips, that’s a collection. But if you decide you’re going to organize your craft room, and you’re going to do it using items that all go with your pink Parisian decor and that everything you do is going to be upcycled, then you’re starting to verge on style board. But style boards can be used for anything: event planning, home decor, fashion, art projects, poetry inspiration. They can sometimes also be called mood boards, which is an actual industry term in a number of design-oriented fields.

A great example of using inspiration boards to help visualize an end product is the knitting book Inspired to Knit, in which the author divides the offered patterns into four seasons and creates an inspiration board for each one using the colors and textures she associates with it.


This blogger, from whom I ganked the above image, opted to follow in the author’s footsteps and create her own seasonal inspiration boards for knitting projects. Note that the boards aren’t simple collections of similar items like a collection of matchstick houses or organization tips but a collection of normally very different things that are united by something abstract like a color, a season, an emotion, or an association.

Traditionally a style board is an actual board, one which you could create with an actual cork board or perhaps a journal or three ring binder. But there is now a plethora of tools out there online that makes styleboarding infinitely more sharable, convenient, accessible and dynamic.

What immediately comes to mind is, which allows you to surf around the Internet pinning anything that strikes your fancy to one of unlimited boards that you can create for yourself. This means that Pinterest is useful both for making collections and style boards. Here’s my Style Board for Laura. I put it together using as perameters what I know are the most iconic elements of my friend Laura’s style. Laura likes pink, glitter, girly things, animal print – she’s basically Betsey Johnson with more affordable taste.

Here is a practical inspiration board I put together to illustrate all the possible ways to explore a peacock theme for my friend Alison’s wedding. Not all of the items posted there are with the intent that she mimic them; Rather, they provide a ballpark mood to shoot for. Meanwhile there are a number of practical ideas as well.

This is a fantasy inspiration board that I put together as a kind of vicarious realization of my dream winter wedding.

This board, however, is really just a collection of Stuff I think is rad and doesn’t qualify as an inspiration board because it serves no practical purpose. While each individual item may be inspirational on its own, the board as a whole doesn’t have an end game.



The style board option at (they call it a collage) is perhaps the truest embodiment of the traditional mood or style board. The idea is to collect items together that form a single cohesive outfit or at least coordinate within your wardrobe to create a number of different outfits together.

Etsy treasuries are a bit perplexing and they may very well be a hybrid. Etsy refers to them as curated collections. They are limited to twelve hand picked items selected by the Etsian “curator” and typically one selects items that share a common theme, frequently a color theme or motif. The items themselves may have nothing to do with each other and treasuries are mainly put together for their aesthetics, but there is no reason that an Etsy treasury couldn’t make for an excellent mood board, particularly for producing your own DIY projects since the treasury is presumably composed of handmade, artisan products.


And a nautical themed style board from

If it hasn’t become immediately obvious to you how these can be helpful, it really just boils down to one thing: They keep you from going crazy. When you’re planning a big project and you have this fuzzy idea in your head of what you want it to look like it’s easy to get overwhelmed with options and find yourself veering off track. The style board is a constant reminder of what does and doesn’t go. So perhaps “inspiration board” is a misnomer; At a certain point it isn’t intended to inspire infinite new possibilities but to whittle them down into a cohesive whole.

They’re also helpful reminders of what shades of what colors you’re looking for, design elements you can incorporate into something…for instance, if you’re mid-project and find it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi, you can quickly reference your inspiration board for a texture, new color variant, motif or flourish idea that is still in keeping with your original vision. It can also be the Internet response to window shopping, as in my fantasy pinboards. And with Internet style board tools in particular it enables to you to cultivate and share ideas with others, as in my peacock wedding board. I found everything I thought suitable and now Alison has the option to pick and choose from my list. It’s a way to mess around with different combinations of colors, themes, and styles until you get it just right. Or if you’re really in a slump and you know you want to create something but you have no idea what, pick a theme that you’ve always loved (bumblebees, English tea gardens, winter berries, tropical luaus) start grabbing images and get to it. It’s a way of cultivating what makes us happy.

As always, Emily


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