Starting a new project can be overwhelming. Even when you have a general idea, it's still hard to know where to begin. So instead of looking at the project on a broad level, I like to pick a very specific starting point. Sometimes I don't even know what that is until I see it. Inspiration can strike surprisingly and sometimes even strangely--an interesting texture, a graceful shape, a color in a piece of art. (Read here for how the handle of a mug determined the color of my dining room.)
Months before this project was even on my radar, I spotted a piece of art in a magazine. The colors were so vivid yet somehow also subtle, and the textures it evoked were interesting and unusual. I wanted it. But I didn't have anywhere to put it. So I filed it away in a mental list of cool things and moved on.
Then (long story short), we decided to buy a beach house. It was a blank canvas. Sort of. The house was new construction but we bought it just as it was completed so had no say in color palette, tile, etc. Luckily, the designer did a great job, especially with light fixtures, and there are only a couple things I would change if I'd been involved from the start.
But I soon realized that my "blank canvas" wasn't as freeing as I'd thought. Though the paint and floors she chose were neutral and gorgeous, I started to worry that traditional beachy styles and tones would undo the graceful palette she had gifted me. And so I started to feel overwhelmed because my original (and undoubtedly more generic and expected) idea wasn't going to work.
I spent a solid week floundering--I pinned a variety of furniture, art, textiles, and decor to Pinterest boards that weren't working together or with the canvas of the house. And then I remembered my painting from months back. It didn't scream beach, but it had a sort of tropical desert vibe. I liked that it wasn't an obvious choice but rather evoked a feeling of place and time while hinting at the actual location. The color palette complemented the house's vibe, but more importantly, it gave me a direction to go on textures and pops of color amongst a sea of neutrals.
Much of what I ended up going with has a sandy/white/stone tone (beds, linens, accent chairs, dining furniture, etc.), but all the colors--the natural greenery, soothing pinks, and my personal favorite, the cheery teal used throughout the house--are direct references to that painting. Even the shape of the botanicals ties back.
As a side note, I wouldn't have personally selected black tile in the kitchen (or master bath), but I didn't want my design working against the house. And unless I want to convince my husband to do a lot of retiling, the black is there to stay. So I found cool pieces with black legs, a black console with sandy woven doors, etc. to make each choice look intentional and part of a cohesive (but not matchy matchy) design.
Lesson learned? When you start to feel like you're swimming in the wrong direction on a project, stop! Focus in on one specific idea that you can't live without and then take the rest of the design cues from that particular piece/concept/color/texture/what-have-you .