How to go from mood board to making selections for your reno or new build

Mood boards are a great tool to use to hone in on your individual style. But how do you go from mood board to deciding on products and materials, such as flooring, and locking in selections for your reno or new build?

This is a question many readers have asked for help with! They say they can create mood boards but struggle to proceed to the next step of selecting materials and finishes. And we totally get why — often your mood board is brimming with beautiful images that contain different colour palettes and variations on a theme (or just completely luxe finishes that are well out of budget)!

Today top interior designer Sarah Leeson from The Mill is sharing her expert tips on how to decide on selections for your next renovation or new build.

Related article: Do you know what your interior style is? Take the quiz!
Related article: Designing the ultimate laundry, all the tips and tricks you need!

Open plan dining and kitchen
Interior design by The Mill, architecture by Stewart Architecture, benchtop by PDA Marble and Granite, kitchen cabinetry by Tesrol and timber cabinetry by Polytec

She suggests starting with any elements you really love and MUST include in the new space.

For some people that could be a feature wall (such as recycled brick), a ceiling detail such as exposed beams, or particular colour palette as this will set an element you’ll need to work around. If you don’t have any must-have features and simply want to create a type of aesthetic, she recommends starting with your floor finishes.

“As a designer I love all styles of design, however when it came time for me to build my own home, I all of a sudden found myself having to find a style I wanted to live in,” explains Sarah of a struggle many of us can relate to!

Mood boards begin with a simple idea. You need to have a path that you want your home to follow.

“When we put together a scheme, we always start with floor finishes as there are more selections in paint colours and cabinetry than there are in flooring. Get a base right and then work your way up.”

Materials flatlay for The Mill Design
Materials and finishes flatlay by The Mill Design for home renovation
Renovated laundry by The Mill Design
Bringing the scheme to life, this laundry renovation by The Mill Design shows how the materials come together

Deciding on the other finishes is where we often see people become stuck — will that cabinetry go with that flooring? Are there too many ‘loud’ elements in the space or not enough and it’s lacking character?

On this issue of creating layers of materials that work together, Sarah says “Your home has to be harmonious”. She suggests selecting a primary wall colour that will form the colour palette throughout the home.

“Every room needs to feel like it flows seemingly from the other. You still want to create contrast and texture which stems from your main wall colour. For example, your main wall colour should be used on at least 50 per cent of your internal walls while other rooms could play on that colour. You could paint some rooms a few shades darker to create mood (perhaps a guest room you want to feel more cosy or a theatre room) or select similar toned wallpaper, or even create a highlight feature fireplace or wall.”

Once the flooring and walls have been selected, she suggests looking for ways to create features or use highlight materials that can become your hero element.

“If you have fallen in love with a stunning pendant light that you want to hang over your dining table, don’t think that you need to find an equivalent pendant to place in your kitchen. They should complement each other, not compete with each other.”

On things to look out for, Sarah says it’s important to think about materials that will sit together and touch.

“One of my biggest pet hates is two timbers next to each other. For example installing a beautiful timber floor and then selecting a timber for your kitchen cabinetry — big mistake.

“This comes back to where you want to select your features. Don’t spend money on a stunning solid timber floor if it is going to be clash with an alternative timber product.”

Interior design scheme
Interior design scheme by The Mill for Bond Projects

And finally, to piece it together you can create your own selection board similar to the ones pictured here by ordering your own samples where possible.

While a mood board generally consists of a range of images that inspire a concept or overall direction, a selection board contains one of each material you want to proceed with. Create your own by placing carpet or flooring samples, tiles, paint chips, feature materials and any other products together and see how they look.

“Gather your sample selections, lay them out together and see if they work comfortably together. You should get a feeling for how your home will look and feel. If there’s something that stands out because it’s not quite the right tone, then take it out and find an alternative as on a larger scale it’s likely to stand out more — and for the wrong reason!

“Again pick your feature material for each room and make sure all the other elements in the room are complimentary not competing. Also think about scale. For example, knowing that proportionally you will have more wall colour than door colour so when laying out your samples show less of the door colour so you get an accurate overall vision.”

Thank you Sarah for these great tips and inspiring selection boards! We hope this will help you when making selections for your reno or new build. To see more work from The Mill, visit their website or connect on Instagram.

More design tips

Luxe materials palette by The Mill Design
Another dreamy materials and finishes scheme by The Mill Design

This article was first published in August 2017 and has been updated with new information and images.

Gina Beschorner Style Curator

Welcome to Style Curator, your destination for daily interiors inspiration, styling tips, reno advice, home tours and DIY projects!

We're on a mission to help you create a home you love. And with plenty of tips and tricks, tutorials and other home inspo, we give you all the tools to achieve it!

I’m Gina, Founder and Interior Designer, and you can read more about Style Curator here.


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    1. Renovations can be challenging – when keeping floor finishes that are good-enough but not ideal, and have to match everything with them. That’s why “Your home has to be harmonious” is my favorite line. Because it’s really not about choosing your favorites, it’s about creating a joyful ambiance.

      Like always, amazing post that convinced me to actually create a mood board 🙂

      • You’re so right, working with existing flooring is a major challenge – particularly beige floor tiles and people want to create a crisp white Scandinavian look. What to do?!! A mood board is always a clever way of consolidating ideas and getting examples of how people have tackled similar issues. I just discovered an incredible new mood board tool that I’ll be sharing later this month, stay tuned!!

    2. It can be quite overwhelming trying to pick the right finishes that go together. Mixing timbers together is one of my pet hates too! Lots of great advice in this post, thank you 🙂

      • It can be totally overwhelming, can’t it! So glad you found these tips helpful and if you have more suggestions or advice please do share it here! x


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