When it comes to traveling for design inspiration, cities like Paris and Rome are no-brainers. Even farther destinations like Marrakech and Copenhagen constantly seem to catch the eyes of curious creatives—and manifest in trends and collections stateside. But there’s plenty of inspiration to be found somewhat closer to home.
We asked several of our favorite designers for the most inspiring cities right here in the United States, a.k.a. the land of the free, home of the brave.
From the Art Deco buildings of Miami Beach to the Shingle-style homes of Provincetown, Massachusetts, and the midcentury bungalows of Palm Springs, these cities offer design, architecture, and hospitality that’s downright inspiring. The best part? They’re much more accessible than an international flight. So the next time you’re looking for the right destination for a weekend trip, consider these cities first.
“I think New York City is the most inspiring city in the U.S.,” says designer Grace Rosenstein. “I moved here two years ago and find myself walking down new streets every day feeling incredibly blessed to live here. Between the culture, the architecture, the museums, and the fashion, there is endless creativity and passion that radiates in this city.”
Jon Maroto and George Nunno, founders of Soho-based Flair Home, agree. “New York inspires us every day,” they say. “It is constantly in flux: neighborhoods, people, businesses. New York City is the dynamic balance of respect for the traditional juxtaposed against the desire to be new and individual. There is a new barrage of imagery and inspiration every time you step out your door.”
“I’m inspired by Chicago’s dense, unique architecture history,” says designer Rena Cherny of RC Studio. “The city is filled with landmark buildings designed by the greats: Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Chicago Seven. The multicultural food, art scene, and creative energy of downtown is incredible!”
“Provincetown’s light has drawn artists to this storied peninsula for decades,” says Eddie Ross, designer and style director of ATGStores.com. “After spending a Sunday morning on the lawn of my favorite inn, painting the play of light where sky meets water, I know why. There’s a particular brilliance of light in this place that inspires me to dream.”
“I love the pastel color palette and Art Deco architecture,” says Sasha Bikoff of Miami Beach. “It is a real throwback, as you are immediately transported to the glamorous Miami Vice and Scarface era.”
“The scale of 18th-century Beacon Hill, with a background of a vibrant rising skyline, is so inspirational,” says designer Marshall Watson. “There is a sense of the city being grounded in thought and principle, where education, history, and preservation are cherished.”
Watson couldn’t choose just one city, though: “With a preservationist organization so strong that it literally saved its own city from the intrusive gas developers, I have to say Charleston, too.”
“Portland is a fantastic city to visit for a weekend away,” says designer Emilie Munroe of Studio Munroe. “It provides a uniquely wonderful intersection between urban and natural environments, with a thriving cityscape nestled by the Willamette River, the Columbia River Gorge, and Mount Hood. The food, bar, and coffee scene is incredible, and there are great design shops set within each of the unique neighborhood districts.”
“For color and light inspiration, I love San Francisco,” says Anne Hepfer. “The hues at different times of day are awe-inspiring.”
The American West
It’s not technically a city, but globe-trotting designer Michelle Nussbaumer says, “While New York is at the top of my list, because it is the most internationally diverse city in the world, I still find unparalleled inspiration from the open spaces of the Great American West.” Here, mountains in the Professor Valley, near Moab, Utah.