Paula Sutton's guide to mood boarding decor – and how it can be applied to your life

Creating a mood board will help you to plan a room scheme – or visualize the life you want to lead, says style influencer Paula Sutton

moodboarding ideas from paula sutton
(Image credit: Future)

Creating a visual mood board is one of the first interior design tips that expert decorators share. It's key to clarifying your tastes, so that you can curate the look you want in a space.

But in this column, style influencer Paula Sutton of @hillhousevintage (opens in new tab) explains how it can be so much more. 

Mood boarding – whether that's via a scrapbook, pinboard, or via a digital tool such as Pinterest (opens in new tab) – can help you to visualize not just how you want your life to look but where you want it to lead.

'Creative visualization can be a road map,' Paula says. 'If you want to live by the sea, or start a new profession, representing this goal in images can be a helpful stepping stone to guide you on the way.

Here, Paula shares how to make mood boarding work so that you can get your room color ideas just right.

Once you've thought about what you want your moodboard focus on, learn how to make a moodboard to help bring these ideas to life. 

1. Define the purpose of a mood board

blue moodbard with fabric and paint

(Image credit: Future)

'When I was growing up my father always reminded me that if you wouldn’t start a journey without knowing where you were heading, then nor should you expect to navigate life from A-B without having a clear vision or "life map".  

'It’s advice that has stayed with me, and I find today that it’s all about creative visualisation – in the most practical sense – by use of mood boards,' Paula says.

'The idea of "creative visualization" is nothing new and has long been practised in both Eastern and Western cultures. The notion of using our imaginations to help shape positive attitudes towards life, with the aim of creating a shift towards goals and ultimate happiness, is a technique that has been well researched and documented.

'However, mood boards don’t always have to relate to large or dramatic projects, and for the more sceptical among us, they don’t have to relate to life issues either. 

'I create mood boards for all of my home ideas, whether that's decorating a room or redesigning a garden bed. They’re an excellent way of staying focused while simultaneously helping to move on my ideas from wishful thinking to real-life projects with real-life results.'

2. Use it to curate your vision

desk with moodboard

(Image credit: Future)

'Seeing images and surrounding ourselves with examples of the ideas and lifestyle that we’d like are good ways of remaining directional and streamlining our thoughts and choices. The world is a noisy place, and there can be a million variations of how we wish to live. Listening to everything and acknowledging interior design trends can be interesting, of course, and can provide alternative viewpoints. 

'But sometimes we simply need to determine what makes us happy by ourselves, and mood boarding is an excellent way of harnessing our thoughts. 

'Start by getting a scrapbook, notepad or using an online board such as Pinterest. Get into the habit of saving and collecting images that you are attracted to. Whenever you see something inspiring online, or perhaps in a newspaper or magazine, cut it out or save it. 

'For design ideas, you can section your interiors based mood board into different rooms, such as country living room ideas. Perhaps it’s simply images of furniture in certain fabrics and styles, or perhaps we’ve lingered over stronger bolder colors in our interiors but have been unsure what to choose. 

'Once you start collating images, clippings and fabric swatches, you’d be surprised at how quickly you can achieve clarity of mind.'

3. Use moodboards to visualize the rest of your life

visualization moodboard

(Image credit: Rebecca Lee/Unsplash)

'If you like the idea, you can move it forward by visualizing the direction you wish your life to go in. Ever fancied living by the sea? Interested in a different profession? Seek out images that represent your dreams and desires, and pop them on your mood board. At worst, they will just be lovely and inspiring images to uplift you. At best, they will remind you to seek out the stepping stones that lead you towards a change. 

'You can also visualize your intentions and hopes by focusing on phrases, quotes and slogans. Even a single written sentence can help focus your mind on a project, dream or ambition.

'Most importantly, remember that your mood boards can evolve, mature and change along with your tastes, and can consist of a series of images collected over several years or more. After all, the kitchen ideas you want at 35 might not be the one you want at 55! 

'Sometimes it’s wonderful to look back on your old mood boards to see what came to fruition, and which plans you can set aside or renew. As my father said, it’s all about following a map for your journey – but there’s nothing to say that you can’t change your destination or stop off once in a while to admire the view!'

Andrea has been immersed in the world of homes, interiors and lifestyle since her first job in journalism, on Ideal Home. She went from women's magazine Options to Frank. From there it was on to the launch of Red magazine, where she stayed for 10 years and became Assistant Editor. She then shifted into freelancing, and spent 14 years writing for everyone from The Telegraph to The Sunday Times, Livingetc, Stylist and Woman & Home. She was then offered the job as Editor on Country Homes & Interiors, and now combines that role with writing for sister title homesandgardens.com.