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How to make a mood board from scratch

Close up image of a mood board with different fabrics and a Lick green sample

Hands up who else has that decorating itch at the minute? That’s January for you – the month that gets you ringing the changes like no other. If you’re chomping at the bit to get creative in your home then one of the best tools to have in your arsenal (aside from a paintbrush and tin) is a mood board. We’re talking the analogue kind with magazine tears, fabric swatches and paint samples pinned onto it rather than the digital sort (as much as we love Pinterest, it’s doesn’t quite cut the mustard in the same way as a hands-on board). Over to Lick’s lead colour expert Tash to reveal the seven steps she followed when creating a mood board for her own home’s renovation.

But first, why is a mood board going to help me decorate?

Good question. All that gathering of ‘inspiration’ to cut out, sift through and stick up on your newly-acquired cork board sounds like a fair bit of faff, so is it really worth it?

We say 100% yes. Unless you’re the incredibly decisive sort, most of us are torn between this colour and that; this style of scheme that you’ve swooned over for months on end or that new one that you spied only a few days ago on Instagram but is now all you can think about; or what selection of fabrics is going to work best with your now-decided colour palette.

Point being, there’s an awful lot of fabulous inspiration out there, and therefore a whole bunch of decorating decisions to make. A mood board is your way of making sense of it all. A mood board is how interior designers curate, visualise and present back a scheme to a client so they can get a real feel for how everything hangs together. A mood board gives you focus, confidence and can even help you manage your decorating budget.

Need further convincing? Hear the reasons why Tash, our Lead Colour Specialist swears by mood boards and how she used one when decorating her own studio flat in South London.

Seven simple steps to creating your own mood board

Unsure of where to begin? Tash breaks down the process she went through when designing her mood board so that you can collect and curate like a pro.

Step one: lay out your workspace

A physical mood board asks for, you guessed it, a board. Whether that’s your classic cork noticeboard, a pretty and padded fabric one, or even something as simple as an ultra-thick piece of cardboard torn, this is your backdrop to stick everything onto. So clear a space, have that in front of you, some glues, some scissors, and everything you’ve gathered so far, from fabric cuttings to photos you’ve printed off or snipped from a magazine.

If you haven’t started collecting inspiration, then add to your workspace a generous stack of magazines ready for scouring through.

Tash’s tip: “try not to rely solely on magazines from the same month or your inspirational will be too seasonal and could hone in on the same trend. Ideally, you’d want magazines from across the year, or a few months back at least, so you get a rich and varied bank of imagery.”

“Try not to rely solely on magazines from the same month or your inspirational will be too seasonal and could hone in on the same trend. Ideally, you’d want magazines from across the year, or a few months back at least, so you get a rich and varied bank of imagery.”

Tash Bradley

Step two: get inspired

Now for one of the most fun parts to mood board-making – gathering inspiration. Even if you already have a thick wad of cuttings you’ve collected, there’s absolutely no harm in searching for a few more – what better excuse to sit back with a tea and lose yourself in interiors title after interiors title?

Remember, you’ll want a nice mix of photos that show full schemes but also detail shots, product images that you’re keen to source and so on.

Tash’s tip: in terms of paint, I suggest starting with six-eight paint samples and as you move onto step three, you’ll be ready to cut that number down to your perfect palette.

“In terms of paint, I suggest starting with six-eight paint samples and as you move onto step three, you’ll be ready to cut that number down to your perfect palette.”

Tash Bradley

Step three: curate

Time to don that decision-making hat. Step three is about refining your choices so that you’re left with an edited selection of what’s inspired you. Take your time to really consider everything you’ve collected and be realistic with what sort of look is going to best suit your home and your lifestyle. For example, if you’ve got lots of silk velvet fabric cuttings but you have a kitten and a toddler at home, then you’d be wise to park that upholstery dream for now – unless you’re mood-boarding for your master bedroom that is.

By the end of step three, you should feel more confident about the direction your room’s going to take – the colour scheme, the design influence, and your shortlist of fabrics and furnishings.

Tash’s tip: this is the stage to really decide what you want your base colour to be – the one that you might want to carry through to the main features of the room from paint to tiles to carpeting. Even if you don’t have the full palette picked out yet, knowing your core colour is a great start.

“Even if you don’t have the full palette picked out yet, knowing your core colour is a great start.”

Tash Bradley
A display of Lick Green and White paint samples

A beautiful paint sample fan courtesy of @yetiproperties

Step four: find your hero images

Now you get to move onto the board itself. The best place to start is deciding which image, out of all the ones you’ve earmarked, spoke to you most? Which made your heart beat a bit faster, made your face light up, and made you think most of all that you wished that were your home? Decide which that hero image is and get that placed onto your board.

Tash’s tip: stay away from the glue and the pins for now. Nothing’s set in stone just yet so you want to be able to freely move pictures on and off your board.

“Stay away from the glue and the pins during step four. Nothing’s set in stone just yet so you want to be able to freely move pictures on and off your board.”

Tash Bradley

Step five: layering

Your mood board is a bit of a playground – a safe space to experiment where everything can be easily tried, tested and swapped around in a flash. So have fun and get creative with your inspiration pile as you lay everything out, piece by piece, onto your board, and you’ll gradually start to see what’s working well together and what might need vetoing.

Tash’s tip: I find that by placing that hero image you picked in step four in the centre of your board, the next move is simply to layer in your paint samples to see which work best with your hero image and will help you to achieve a similar look. (Psst… skip to 5.50 in Tash’s interior design mood board video to learn about picking dominant, subdominant and accent colours).

“By placing that hero image you picked in step four in the centre of your board, the next move is simply to layer in your paint samples to see which work best with your hero image and will help you to achieve a similar look.”

Tash Bradley
A mood board of fabrics and Lick Teal 01 and Purple 01 paint samples

@this_styled_space combines fabrics with Teal 01 and Pink 01 paint samples to get a feel for how they work with each other

Wood table showing a mood board of paint samples, fabric swatches and textiles.

The beginning of the layering process!

Step six: accent and accessorise

With your room’s colour palette settled and mirrored through your paint and fabric picks, make sure you leave some brain space (and board space) for considering accents.

  • Do you want one accent colour or more?
  • Do you want somewhere in the room a contrasting accent fabric, maybe on an occasional chair or lampshade?
  • Do you want a piece of furniture from a different era so everything isn’t completely matching?

Your mood board is there to make sure your end scheme is full of texture and variety so it feels as though it’s developed over time, from your furniture and fabrics to your room’s smallest accessories and finishing touches.

Step seven: hit save

With everything in place just as you like it, stand back, take it all in and be sure you’re happy with your final selections, their placement on the board, and how your room’s going to look in 3D. Then, grab that glue and stick everything down.

Tash’s tip: I always advise taking a picture of your finished mood board too. That way, you have two copies – one digital and one physical. What’s great about having a photo on your phone is that you can refer back to it when you’re away from home. This is hugely handy if you’re out shopping and see a piece and want to be sure it works with the rest of the scheme.

For more advice from Tash and our other colour experts, discover all our how-tos, answering the most frequently asked decorating questions.

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