Interior designers get their ideas many different ways. But one that always tops their list? Visiting other places. “Travel is such a source of inspiration for me as a designer,” confirms Jill Croka of Jill Croka Designs. “As an observer, I get a lot of satisfaction learning about different ways to approve space, materiality, and function.” And it’s not only the obvious, well-known architecture-filled places they look to. No — the best destinations for design inspiration run the gamut, and are chosen by interior experts based on a wide variety of factors.
Of course, those include the art museums and buildings. But it’s also about much more. “Design-forward hotels and restaurants are particularly desirable when I travel,” continues Croka. Especially since any of those spots can influence every part of a designer’s work, from the fabrics they choose for their clients to the products they create. Croka herself designed custom candles based on inspiration she gathered from a stay in Paris.
While travel can influence the work of interior designers, they’re not the only ones who can benefit from a vacation filled with design inspiration. That’s why TZR got in touch with several experts in the industry to get their recommendations on where to visit for a creativity boost — including their favorite cities and the hotels, attractions, restaurants, and more worth seeing within them. Here’s what they said.
Why It’s A Design Haven: “New Orleans is such a spiritual experience,” Dominique B. Fluker, founder of DBF Interiors, tells TZR. “I love traveling there to witness the unique culture and architecture. It's a great city for design inspiration.” Some of Fluker’s favorite parts of the city include the antique French furniture, as well as the elaborate plaster featured throughout. “There's a lot to see and digest, like funky antique shops, contemporary art museums, and delicious restaurants,” she continues.
Inspiring Stays: Unsurprisingly, Fluker’s favorite accommodations in New Orleans pack serious style. Those include Hotel Saint Vincent, a colorful hotel in a historic building in the Lower Garden District, and the Ace Hotel, a spot in the Warehouse District with a sort of mid-century-meets-French Deco style.
Other Creativity-Provoking Activities: When it comes to exploring New Orleans, Fluker has endless recommendations. For delicious food and inspiring interiors, don’t miss The Country Club’s modernized take on traditional Creole cuisine; the French-Creole cuisine and old-school decor at Antoine’s Restaurant; or the wild-caught oysters in the classic Creole cottage of Seaworthy (in the Ace Hotel).
For pure aesthetic and educational inspiration, Fluker loves to visit fine arts institution New Orleans Museum of Art; the museum, bar, and distillery Sazerac House; and the The Backstreet Cultural Museum, which explores New Orleans traditions.
Why It’s A Design Haven: “London is one of my favorite cities for design inspiration,” Nicole Fisher, founder of BNR Interiors, tells TZR, citing its chic restaurants, beautiful neighborhoods, and fantastic shopping opportunities.
Inspiring Stays: “The Rosewood Hotel is the ultimate inspiration for the design maximalist,” says Fisher of the five-star spot near Covent Garden. “I have dreams about [its] carved marble staircase and black and white marble striped entryway floor.”
Other Creativity-Provoking Activities: One of the most important parts of visiting London for Fisher? “I always make sure to have a dinner reservation at Sketch, India Mahdavi’s masterpiece,” she says. “It’s so chic and playful at the same time.” In fact, the Instagram hotspot was actually the inspiration for her to use pink in her own kitchen.
Aside from that, Fisher says that London’s Chelsea neighborhood “is bursting with inspiration with its manicured brownstones, whimsical English gardens, quaint shops, and endless history.” And, don’t skip Pimlico Road, which she describes as having “endless antiques and shops perfect for any design lover.”
Turks And Caicos
Why It’s A Design Haven: “As a designer, I'm personally most creative when I have space and solitude,” says Leia T. Ward, founder and principal designer of LTW Design. “I make it a point to intentionally carve out downtime to explore and disconnect.” Her favorite place to do that? Turks and Caicos, which is near and dear to her heart. “I was actually married on the island 15 years ago and have been visiting ever since! The white powder sand, crystal clear blue water, and beautiful spirit of the islanders are always so inspiring.”
Inspiring Stays: According to Ward, Grace Bay Beach and the Amanyara Resort are “as good as it gets” for solitude, self-care, and reconnecting with nature. “Not to mention, Amanyara has my favorite color palette — white, wood, and texture (yes, for LTW Design, texture is a color!). The architecture and materials used throughout the resort are so calming and there is a new detail at every turn.”
Other Creativity-Provoking Activities: For Ward, getting off the resort to eat locally at da Conch Shack is always an important part of her trip. There, “they pull the conch right from the ocean in front of you and prepare it,” she says. “[It] is an experience everyone should try once. The locals have such a love and spirit that is contagious and always inspires me to create.”
Why It’s A Design Haven: “The streets of Paris alone are full of inspiration,” says Elisa Baran of Elisa Baran LLC. “It's a designer's dream to have time to get lost in this city!”
Other Creativity-Provoking Activities: Baran highly suggests visiting museums and furniture galleries when in Paris. Her list of must-sees includes the Musée Picasso Paris, Musée Rodin, Galerie Patrick Seguin, and antique store À demain. Design-Only.com. To fuel up (on food and more interior inspo), the designer also recommends checking out Brach Paris, Mamie Bidoche, and Pink Mamma, among others.
Why It’s A Design Haven: Bermuda, for Elizabeth Gill of Elizabeth Gill Interiors, is special — and not just because it’s where she fell in love with her husband. “As a creative person, Bermuda is such a wonderful place to gather inspiration from, courtesy of its historic architecture, brightly colored homes dotting the shore, sparkling natural beauty, and rich culture,” she tells TZR.
Inspiring Stays: For Gill, there’s no question of where to stay — Rosewood at Tucker’s Point is her sole recommendation. “A sybaritic property in a beautiful part of the island,” she says. “Try their gin cocktails — amazing selection!”
Other Creativity-Provoking Activities: Gill loves to walk the streets in downtown Hamilton, where she shops the boutiques along Front Street while taking in the historical details all around. At the end of the day, she heads to the Waterlot Inn (which opened in 1670 and has “the best beef”) or The Beach Club at the Rosewood for its fantastic seafood.
Why It’s A Design Haven: Interior designer Liza Reyes says traveling is her favorite way to find inspiration, and Madrid is one of her go-to destinations. “It’s a city with both a contemporary feel and old European charm, full of art, impressive architecture, tradition, history, and intimate walkable neighborhoods,” she tells TZR. “I just love roaming around, since there’s such thoughtfulness to design in Spain.”
Inspiring Stays: Reyes says that she prefers staying in the Salesas neighborhood, which is small but has great energy and interesting shops. As for accommodation, she recommends the Only YOU, a “thoughtfully designed boutique hotel” with a blue- and white-tiled elevator that’s “a joy to see.”
Other Creativity-Provoking Activities: If you’re interested in shopping, Casa González & González, a shop full of “well-curated housewares and beautiful cleaning tools” that Reyes loves is near the hotel. As for other sights, “The Prado is an Art History major’s dream,” she says, though the designer also recommends the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. And while she explains that she’s not usually into touristy experiences, “the Corral de la Morería is famous for all the right reasons. It’s tucked into a corner of a quiet neighborhood, but some of the best Flamenco talent in the world performs on its small stage.”
Why It’s A Design Haven: “I enjoy visiting Alys Beach [in Florida] and the surrounding area when I’m in need of design inspiration,” says Lauren Sullivan of Well x Design. “I love the shadow play across the all-white stucco structures that makes you feel as though you’ve been transported to Santorini, Greece.”
Inspiring Stays: Though Sullivan doesn’t name any places in particular, you can find tons of vacation properties in the tranquil style she described on Alys Beach’s own website.
Other Creativity-Provoking Activities: While Sullivan says just taking a walk around the area is beautiful, you definitely can’t miss a stop at Charlie’s Donut Truck. And, of course, there’s plenty more to do.
“Whether you’re enjoying the public art installations sprinkled throughout the town, or a day at the community’s private beach, you can’t help but feel inspired by nature itself as well as the [large] amount of architectural beauty,” she says. “The Caliza pool complex and Zuma Wellness Center are so thoughtfully designed and offer a truly luxurious experience. But really, what’s actually better than the glorious sunsets along 30A?"