What inspires you? It is one of the most common questions designers are asked because their response carries great weight. It reflects their knowledge of the industry and who they are as a person. It can be qualifying for someone looking to hire an interior designer and offers deeper insight into how the designer might approach the design of the client’s home. It also is simply interesting to learn from where creatives draw their creativity! So… what inspires Liz Walton?

I was recently on a family vacation to the Bahamas, a land of lush green palm trees, clear turquoise waters, and bright blue skies. A few months ago, we enjoyed bluebird skiing atop snow capped mountains. Back home, I catch myself daydreaming out my office window to admire the tall poplar trees that surround me as the sunlight flickers through the leaves. While it is the most cliche answer, there is no denying nature is a beautiful source of inspiration for me. I strive to make interiors feel light, bright, and easy-breezy, like a breath of fresh air on a warm spring day. I want them to feel welcoming and inviting, the way it feels when the sun warms your face for the first time after a long, cold winter. Spending time outdoors helps me reflect, reset, and re-energize.

However, there is another source of inspiration that is of equal if not more importance than nature, and that is people. People may be my greatest source of inspiration. The longer I am in this business, the more I believe this to be true.

My customers, for example, whom I value and am so grateful for, are some of the most interesting people I have had the pleasure of meeting. Getting to know them on a personal level and learning the details of their lives is the best part of my job. Every customer is different, not only in their preference for color or style, but also in the way they use their home; no two jobs are ever the same. My customers, while highly educated, are down to earth, good hearted people, and I am inspired by their stories, struggles, and sincerity. I want nothing more than to give them a home that is functional, beautiful, and reflective of their personal taste.

Industry leaders and other design professionals offer exceptional inspirations to me as well. It’s easy to get set in your ways when creating a furniture arrangement, designing a kitchen, using a certain material or fabric, etc. Some of the methods used to achieve balance in a room are almost formulaic, which is not always a bad thing. However, it is important to shake things up a bit too, which is why I love seeing what other designers are doing. Take Nate Berkus, for example. He is a designer I saw for the first time on the Oprah Winfrey Show back in 2002 and now is a national and global brand. I love his approach to interior design: “I think the home should rise up to greet you, but people should rise up to greet each other.” I identify with Nate’s mission to design spaces reflective of the people living in them. I also admire the way he has persevered through times of adversity and continues to shine a spotlight on those in need. Let’s face it, Nate Berkus just seems like a cool guy to hang out with!

Another design professional that provides me with inspiration is LuAnn Nigara. She began her career more than 30 years ago as co-owner of the award-winning window treatment company Window Works. She also wrote The Making of A Well-Designed Business ® and currently is a renowned speaker and the host of one of my favorite podcasts A Well Designed Business. I had the pleasure of hearing LuAnn at a conference organized by the NKBA this past fall, and I can honestly say her speech still resonates with me today. Her approach to business, everything from customer service and employees, to accounting and succession planning, had me excited and feverishly taking notes so that I could make my business even better upon my return. I share her passion and drive for the interior design industry and hope to encourage and support other design professionals rather than tear each other down. Having a positive attitude and outlook feels a lot better than a negative one.

Passionate people are inspiring people. Take my good friend and neighbor, Sarah Ohanesian, for example. Sarah is the chief marketing officer for the prestigious Julian Krinsky Camps and Programs located along Philadelphia’s Main Line. She loves her job and is really good at it. I had the pleasure of accompanying Sarah to Milan, Italy this past winter and listened to her speak with parents from other countries and backgrounds about why Julian Krinsky Camps and Programs is a superior camp experience for young minds. Sarah is meticulous with the planning, organization, and execution of their marketing and campaign strategies, and I love talking with her because she always says something that inspires me. And isn’t that what great interior design is all about, meticulous planning, organization, and implementation? It is for Liz Walton Home.

I’d be remiss if I did not include part of my daily routine: reading interior design magazines. Publications like House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Architectural Digest, and Traditional Home, to name a few, inspire me to give my customers an interior that is truly unique and pushes them outside of their comfort zone (just a little, I promise!). Each morning after my kids get on the bus, I sit down and flip through the glossy pages while sipping a hot cup of coffee; it’s a real indulgence and helps fuel my creativity for the day ahead.

Yes, design is everywhere but so is inspiration. Sometimes what inspires me the most comes from the most unexpected places and people. The key is opening yourself up to receive the message. So now I must ask, what inspires you?