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Mood Boards: Everything you need to know about Design Boards for Interior Design

There are several phases of the design process, and each phase requires different tools and strategies to help communicate the design concept with the client. Here, I’m talking about Design Boards. These are tools that I use in every project, in multiple phases, that help me effectively get across my design ideas to my clients and contractors.

I’m sure you’ve heard or used the term “Mood Board” once or twice in a conversation about interior design. If you haven’t, let me explain: basically, it’s design jargon for either a digital or physical “board” of images that convey a certain feeling or mood of a space. If you’re a little confused, I understand. You may have been under the impression that a Mood Board is a board of design materials and fixtures that will be used in the design of a certain space. I often see the term Mood Board used interchangeably with Concept Board and Material Board. They are all actually different tools and used at different times in the design process.

Let’s break it down a little more and go over the whats, whens, and hows of each type of Design Board, shall we?

*Disclaimer: this is the way I use and define Design Boards in my firm based on my education and experience in interior design, I’m in no way telling you this is the correct or only way :)

Mood Boards

What is a Mood Board

A Mood Board is one of, if not the first thing we do to kick off the design process of a new project. A Mood Board is a tool used by interior designers to visually communicate how they intend the space to feel. And feel is the key word here. (You could call this board a Feeling Board but Mood definitely sounds better. But I digress.) The Mood Board of a project can be used internally or be shared with the client- it all depends on how a certain designer works.

How to Make a Mood Board

Making a Mood Board is easy. Compile a set of images that convey the feeling of the space. Those feelings could be: sophisticated, inviting, cozy, romantic, playful etc. The images you collect don’t always have to be design related and often I make them not related to interiors and I really try to hone in on the feeling and mood.

Below is an example of a Mood Board I have created for a dining nook project that I want to have the feeling of a French Cafe. You can see that I haven’t used ANY images of interiors but only photos that relate to the feeling or mood of a cafe.

Mood Board for French Cafe Inspired Dining Nook

Concept Boards

What is a Concept Board

I create a design Concept Board during the Schematic Design phase and typically present it to my client as part of the Schematic Design presentation. This design presentation is where we discuss the concepts for the design as well as inspiration images. I may add a few select materials and fixtures that will be used in the final design. During this phase, we haven’t yet made final decisions on materials and fixtures while we’re more focused on layouts, floor plans, and getting our construction drawings finalized.

Included in the Concept Board is typically an inspiration image for the space as well as some preliminary sketches that show the design direction. I may include a material or fixture if I have found something that is driving the concept.

In the Concept Board example below of the same French Cafe inspired dining nook project, I have a preliminary sketch of the envisioned space as well as the floor tile and light fixture that I will propose to the client. The sketch along with the tile material and light fixture communicate the concept of the design that shows the direction we are going in, however, there is still plenty of room for adjustments.

Concept Board for French Cafe Inspired Dining Nook

Material Boards

What is a Material Board

I use design Material Boards in the design development phase. Here is where I incorporate most, if not all, proposed materials and fixtures for a specific space. It is so helpful to see all the design elements together on one board to get a feeling for the entire space.

Material Boards can be digital or physical. Physical Material Boards will have samples of tile, paint, hardware, fabrics etc. I always recommend having physical samples to get a true feel for the colors and textures. In my design presentations, I typically have a physical material board along with a the digital.

In the Material Board example below of the French Cafe inspired dining nook, I included all of the furniture, materials, and fixtures that will be included in the space. I’ve even added some styling elements with artwork that bring it all together!

Material Board for French Cafe Inspired Dining Nook

Each of these Design Boards have a clear purpose, but all are tools that visually communicate design ideas. Each designer has their own preferred way to convey their designs with their clients. At Mountain Ave Interiors, we use all three Design Board techniques as well as realistic 3D renderings so that our clients feel confident in moving forward with their design concepts to a space that Feels Like Home.

- Kati


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