Finding Your Muse

The gardens in France rekindled my desire to make changes in my own garden.

How do you fuel your creativity? What do you do to keep yourself inspired? When it comes to making your home fresh and beautiful, where do you find your ideas? Through the years, I’ve discovered some failsafe ways to ignite my creative spark. Here are a few of my favorite muses, which not only inspire my decorating but also enrich my life:



Dan and I had a blast exploring Normandy on our most recent trip to France.

Travel just juices me up. No matter where I’m going, whether it’s for work or pleasure, I come back bursting with ideas. In the past few years, Dan has been stuck on traveling to France, which is not a problem for me!

Our friends Kate and John peek out from our rooms at a hotel in the French countryside.

Everywhere I turn in this breathtakingly beautiful country, I’m in awe. Mentally, I’m making a million notes of the things I want to replicate, from the gardens in Normandy to the shop windows in Paris, to the fare in the bistros in Nice. When you travel next, go into it with a sense of wonder, and I bet you will find ideas galore for your home, garden and table.


Features on Beautiful Homes

You’ll find stacks of decorating magazines and books at my house.

When I go on a grocery store run, I’m the girl at the checkout with two food items and three decorating magazines. I figure a magazine or two is my reward for putting some food in our fridge. The take-me-away photos of the gorgeous homes and gardens in my favorites, like House Beautiful and Elle Décor, inspire me for years. I keep them for a few years and flip through them when I need a spark. You’d be surprised how often you see something there – some little nugget you missed before – that sets a great decorating plan in motion.

The same is true for decorating books. I have stacks around my home, from old favorites to new loves. And whenever I have a few seconds, you’ll find me on my phone, getting lost in Instagram. It’s a terrible time suck, but I love to scroll through all the talented designers I follow to see what they are doing.



I love the flower lined path from our cottage to the lake.

I’m not an outdoorswoman. You will never find me camping or backpacking. Still, I love to be in nature, when it’s a bit more tamed. My happy spot is sitting in a beautiful garden. I have no gardening ability, and cannot tell you the name of almost any of the plants in my garden, but seeing them every day fills my soul. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The earth laughs in flowers.” I could not agree more. I think that’s why I always have fresh flowers in my cottage, little bouquets here and there, just to brighten the day.



Movie sets are loaded with great decorating ideas.

When most people go to movies, they get absorbed in the plot. For me, it’s the set. I don’t think I’m the only one, though. When The Holiday and Somethings Gotta Give came out, we had so many customers come in to Nell Hill’s in search of ways to make their homes resemble those featured in the movies. My all-time favorite is the house in Out of Africa, with its English colonial feel. Robert Redford wasn’t too bad, either!


Fellow House Lovers

My friend Andrea’s beach home is the stuff of decorating dreams.

One of the many perks of my job is getting to spend my days surrounded by people who love to decorate their homes. My staff always inspires me, and so do my customers. It’s fun to see their before and after photos, and to get a chance to visit their homes. One of my favorites was helping my friend Andrea bring her style to life in her beach home. The home’s dramatic exterior helped inspire the interior, with its views of the sand dunes and sea.

My friend Marsee’s homes are always a source of inspiration for me.

Honestly, I can’t go to a friend’s home without ogling their decorating. I take my time drinking in everything I see. I’m like a little sponge, soaking it all in. This voyeuristic habit started early, when I first visited my dear friend Nancy’s home. I was a new decorator back then, trying to find my style. Nancy’s unique way of showcasing the natural world in her everyday décor blew me away, and became a foundation of the Nell Hill’s look.


Antique Shops

These fish plates were one of my favorite finds at a local antique store.

When I travel, one of my favorite things to do is visit antique stores. I enjoy wandering through little shops, partially to see what amazing treasure is waiting there ready to come home and live with me, and partially to enjoy how the merchandise is displayed. The fish plates in the photo above were an antique store find. I love them in my cottage.


So here’s your assignment today: Make a list, like I’ve done here, of the things that fill your creative tank. Then, pull out your calendar and schedule in time to indulge!

Next Week … I’m getting the family guest cottage next door ready for a girls weekend.