If you’ve got the urge to brighten up your current space, but don’t know where to begin, relax. Inspiration abounds, and there are great home design resources all around you. You just need to know where to look.

1. The Internet: Google, Pinterest and Instagram 

These days, it seems like everything begins with the Internet, and Pinterest, Google and Instagram are great places to begin your search for home design inspiration. In fact, creating a Pinterest account and pin board may be a good idea for this project, as it allows you to quickly find, keep and potentially share the bits of inspiration your searches turn up, whether it’s midcentury drapery or Spanish revival paint colors. The search terms you use in Pinterest will work in Google Image search and Instagram, too.

When browsing interior design around the Web, check out popular sites like Apartment Therapy and Remodelista that offer home tips and advice

Finally, if you’re looking for more than inspiration, the Internet hosts lots of free online courses – many offered by serious real world design colleges and institutions.

2. Open houses

You don’t have to peek through windows to see how the Joneses live – just wait until they’ve put their home on the market. An open house provides an opportunity to see how other people live – and design – offering you the chance to see things in a slightly different way. Even better, many home sellers hire professional stagers to design their rooms to sell, following fundamental design principals about color, light and space.

Another way to look into real people’s homes for free design inspiration is to browse Airbnb and other vacation rental sites like VRBO. The listings usually include lots of photographs, and many owners spend a great deal of time and effort designing their spaces to make them more attractive and comfortable for themselves – and for their paying guests.

3. Catalogs

Stop tossing all those home goods and furniture catalogs into the recycle bin! The retailers behind those catalogs have gone to great expense to present their goods in the most appealing way possible. When you’re thinking about color or layout of your rooms, take some hints from Ikea, Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn.

You don’t have to buy the stuff to get the look and feel you like. You don’t even have to clutter up your home with stacks of catalogs – tear out the pages you like and keep them in an inspiration binder for later.

After that, you can send your catalog on its way to the recycling bin.

4. The local library

Your local library has stacks and stacks of home design inspiration, but you’ll find the real goods in the 700s (that’s where the Dewey Decimal System classifies the arts). You can browse through the history of art, architecture and sculpture to get some ideas, or you can dive right in to classic and contemporary interior design books (look in 729 architecture: design and decoration).

Over in the magazine rack, journals like Dwell and Architectural Digest feature beautifully illustrated stories about the homes of the rich and famous – they’re great sources of design inspiration. Other influential design magazines and journals to look for include Architectural Record, Azure, and Luxe Interiors + Design.

5. The local design center

If you live in or near a large city, you’re likely to be near a burgeoning design center, such as the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles or the Design Center in Chicago. Places like these are filled with showrooms stuffed with furniture, art, textiles and everything else a home needs from professional designers of every style and sensibility.

Working designers rely on these spaces to source furniture and knickknacks for their clients – but anyone can visit and stroll the aisles for inspiration. Also keep an eye out for special events and workshops at your local design center for even more home design inspiration.

5. Arts and crafts fairs

Chances are there are scores of craftspeople and artisans at work in your area, creating beautiful, useful objects for your home. Seek them out at arts and crafts fairs and admire their work. You don’t have to buy to be inspired by what you find.

6. Free store classes 

Many furniture, home and craft stores, such as Pottery Barn, Michaels and Ethan Allen, offer free design classes and skill-building workshops. Their goal, of course, is to sell you the products, tools and materials required to make design inspiration a reality. But you won’t have to pay a cent for the inspiration, knowledge and skills you’ll gain in an afternoon workshop.

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