Design Lover, Must Travel

By Kate Riley December 12, 2017

During the Cyber Monday sales, I booked several trips for the beginning of 2018 because flights were cheap. I can’t help it, travel is my healthy addiction, but I also know it’s beneficial to my design work.

I was asked by a friend who has some fears of traveling, why is it that you love to travel so much? I said to her, it’s not just to sink my toes in the sand on a beautiful beach, everybody loves that. I do take time to relax when I travel, but in truth I book so many trips because I seek to be inspired. It’s why I find I can’t sit still for long wherever I go because I’m curious what lies just around the corner or down the road. I’m a design lover who simply must travel.

That may sound exhausting for many, but for me it’s thrilling. Traveling is not so much about being on vacation, rather it’s about filling my brain with as much stimulation as possible, much of it driven by my passion for design. I always want to see something new. For me, travel and design are intertwined, and I must have both.


nimb hotel, copenhagen

Art is the ultimate expression of creativity and immensely inspiring to me. I’m always up for a museum stroll in any new city. It’s incredible witnessing the masterpieces of iconic artists. There is always a lesson to learn from them, the stroke of the brush, the palette they chose, the curvature of a sculpture. I respect the thought and emotion and work poured into each piece.


musee l’orangerie, paris


I try to support local artists when I can. Sometimes it’s $10 spent on a sketch or watercolor purchased on the street, but I’ve also spent more on original paintings or drawings found in small galleries or at exhibits in the park. It feels good to praise and support artists. Purchasing a work of art is my favorite way to recall the memories from that adventure. I bring it home and then the art becomes a part of my life forever.


rue st. amable, montreal


A favorite perk of traveling to new places is the exposure to so much architectural inspiration. Seeing unique buildings or structures or bridges is another one of the reasons I like to walk or bicycle in a city instead of rent a car.

public library, new york city



federation square, melbourne, australia


tower bridge, london


I can walk for hours if I know I’m going to see some amazing buildings or residences. Going at a slower pace that I control allows me more time to see the details on the exteriors of residences as they unfold around every turn. Staircases, shutters, window boxes, hardscapes, I just can’t get enough.


savannah, georgia


quebec city, canada


santa barbara, california

I’m a student of design solutions. I’m constantly studying structural supports, pipes and electrical wires, how to work with sloped terrain or with limited square footage, or the smartest floor plans to capture views or the best natural light. I notice it all. What I see when I travel teaches me so much about design, when I witness the innovation of creators around the world, the architects, landscapers, designers, engineers, artists.

Wherever the tourists go, the shops are always there. When I travel, I shy away from department or chain stores. I’m only interested in the unique, the local artisans, the makers that aren’t selling mass produced objects. While I do appreciate a well curated collection of goods, I do seek boutiques or shops that sell objects from the region.


shop window, munich, germany

In this modern world we’re all connected though the web. As a result I’ve noticed more globalization and I see what are now cross cultural similarities in shops, hotels, cafes, and pubs. I once walked into a brewery outside Melbourne and it surprised me just how much it looked like one in my hometown in California.

The internet allows us to all share design ideas and it can’t help but influence, so designs are infused in other countries. It’s another observation I’ve made as I travel, you see a lot of differences, but I also have noticed that one cafe can look very much the same as another I’ve seen on the other side of the globe.


shop in stockholm

Another favorite about travel as it relates to design is the unexpected details that reveal themselves to me. For example, I love when I check into an AirBnB or hotel and they hand me a set of old fashioned keys. I’ve had my share of hotels with modern keys, some so innovative that you cannot activate the lights until you insert your card into a slot inside the room (smart, it saves electricity!). I welcome that unexpected nature of travel and the fact that you never quite know what you’re going to see until you get there. It’s part of the charm.


hotel corridor, nice, france

Flooring inspiration is another thing I love to photograph. I’ve walked on the most beautiful river rock installations in Hawaii, gorgeous polished wood floors and stone patterns in Europe, and seen unexpected tile installations from Mexico to Australia to the Mediterranean. Tile and textiles stop me in my tracks wherever I roam, the mosaics, the patterns, the colors, the textures are all so intriguing.


surfer’s paradise, queensland, australia

Something as simple as a wall mural or tree trunk can inspire me too. This wave wall I saw in Oahu became the inspiration for one of my summer fabric designs a few years ago.


ko olina, oahu


Why do I keep planning trips to new places? Because I believe inspiration is born out of risk taking and it comes from putting myself in a new destination in a foreign place. At any given moment I can find myself in the sanctuary of an art gallery or museum, or somewhere more daring like an unknown city street that beckons me to come around the corner. I’m eternally curious.

In 2018, I’m headed back to Norway, also to Austin, Texas; Seattle, Washington; Charleston, South Carolina; also Czech Republic, Belgium, and perhaps Peru in the fall. My list of places to go is long and it keeps growing.

I believe good design is everywhere you look if you seek it and traveling provides endless sources for inspiration. I want to be exposed to as much of it as possible and for as little as it will cost me and I plan on sharing it here as I continue my journey in this big beautiful world.


Weekend Reading

By Kate Riley December 9, 2017

Hello! Just like you I’m busy with all things holiday this weekend between baking and shopping. Saturday night I met some friends to share a drink and watch a lighted boat parade. Today I’m finishing up some last minute decorating then meeting another group of friends for another holiday party. ‘Tis the season!

I’ll be sharing more images of my holiday home in the coming weeks, meanwhile here are just a few favorite links spied online this week.


10 festive holiday front doors.

How cool: a DIY copper pipe reindeer.

Arched doorways are a classic detail, some great examples here.

30 handmade DIY gift ideas to consider.

I love National Geographic’s annual best travel and wildlife photos.

Did you hear? You can officially have Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

I discovered this new podcast on women who travel.

An interesting perspective on what self care really means.