Mood Boards 101

Unlock the magic of a mood board, the trusty design tool that helps capture a vibe and set a vision for transforming a space.

March 6, 2023

No matter the style of home project, there’s one thing all successful projects have in common: a shared vision between the builder, designer, and homeowner. Getting everyone on that proverbial same page often starts with literally creating one called a mood board. Here’s a quick 101 on why you might want to create one, what kind of things to put on a mood board, and how to go about making your own.

Why Create a Mood Board?

At the start of any home project, a shared understanding of the dream you’re hoping to realize is critical. Here’s where words can fall short as “elegant,” “bold,” “airy," or “cozy” can mean different things to different people. A mood board, on the other hand, makes your individual imaginations collectively tangible with a variety of shared visual references that create your project’s metaphorical North Star.

And mood boards do more than inspire at the beginning of the process. They can be life-savers along the way, helping you avoid costly re-dos due to miscommunications. Take it from Terese Isaacson, art director at Marvin, “Mood boards are essential before the project gets into the tactical and execution phases. They ensure that key elements are sorted right away, which helps save you lots of back-and-forths that can really slow down your timeline and break your budget.”

What Goes on a Mood Board?

Ultimately, anything that helps crystalize the feeling you want to feel in the space belongs on that mood board. The branding of a restaurant or coffee shop, an image of nature you found on Instagram, a quote or words that resonate, paint chip samples from your local hardware store or color chip samples from your local Marvin dealer, or even a page from a magazine can all be incredible sources of inspiration.

When it comes to architects and interior designers specifically, they look to “include textures, colors, materials, and finishes, so they can see how everything looks together for the space,” Isaacson said. “A big part of what can inform those choices is based on trends and how they align with a homeowner’s personal vision.”

“For example, today many homeowners are looking for the modern boldness found in darker hues—all without it feeling too severe, so we introduced the Gunmetal color in our Modern collection a few years ago. Based on its success, we paired the Gunmetal finish with a variety of patterns, textiles, and substrates to ensure it effortlessly transcends styles, which is why we’re now extending it to our Elevate and Essential collections.”

No matter the desired aesthetic, mixing and matching is a big part of the mood board process to bring a project to life. “You’ll move into more of a physical mood board as you pull in those samples like tile and flooring swatches, even the hardware for cabinet knobs and faucets,” Isaacson said.

How Do You Create a Mood Board?

“Just start.” That’s Isaacson’s advice when it comes to creating a mood board. She believes that everyone has an innate sense of where to begin. “Start with something that is meaningful to you—an heirloom, inspirational art. Don’t over-think it. Just feel it. And trust that you will edit, refine, and curate some more inspiration as you figure out how you really want the look and feel to be,” she said.

First used in the fashion and interior design industries, mood boards took shape as creators often physically pinned paint chips, fabric swatches, or illustrations to their studio walls. Lucky for us, computers came along and spared our walls from a few nails. With just a few clicks on Pinterest, Houzz, or Zillow—or even image searches on Google—you can be well on your way to curating images for your mood board.

“Pinterest really kind of started this phenomenon,” Isaacson said. “It allowed the kind of access that everyone can do this,” she said. If you’re looking to collaborate with multiple people, there are so many new web-based tools that have the ability to workshop ideas real-time with your team.”

So, what do you say, are you going to give mood boards a go for your next project? If you do, be sure to follow us on Pinterest for the latest window and door inspiration.

Join our email list to feed your design curiosity, find solutions and stay inspired.

Related Content