Have you tried Houzz?

Original Ideabook


Once upon a time, long before there was Pinterest … before there was Houzz … before there were so many ways to bookmark and share your ideas on the web instantaneously and effortlessly … there were ideabooks: binders with plastic sleeves for saving magazine clippings and writing down our ideas for our remodeling projects or our dream houses.

And before binders with plastic sleeves, there were notebooks and style-boards– for collecting bits of fabric, paint samples, drawings (remember hand drawing?) of furniture styles and window treatments, decks, patios and container plantings. We made notes with hand lettering, detailing why we liked a certain photo of a room (the wall color, flooring or light fixtures… the way the light streamed in from large windows, or the cozy reading nook) or where we would buy that Persian rug or dining room set.

Origins of the Houzz Ideabooks -- Analog Ideabooks

Designers used ideabooks long before Houzz existed. They made style boards to present to their clients. They often asked clients to clip and save their own ideas, gathering them into ideabooks that would help the client and designer be on the same page when it came time to narrow down things like color, materials, style.

I love Houzz. I really like using Pinterest too, though I try not to get too sucked in to the Pinterest vortex. It can be a huge time waster if you aren’t careful. Houzz has made architectural, garden and interior planning so much easier. And easier to share with others.


When I work with a landscape design client, I often ask them to open a Houzz account to share their ideas with me. They can also browse around my Houzz ideabooks to get a feel for my signature style, as well as other styles they might like to consider. It sure beats buying alot of garden magazines and cutting them up, then wondering what to do with the remains!


Houzz is specifically set up to gather ideas when you are planning a remodel, refurnishing or redecorating your home, or designing new construction. I’m pretty sure the Houzz founders used designers’ ideabooks and style boards as the basis for their online format.


On Houzz, you make ideabooks remarkably like analog ideabooks. You can “clip” images to your ideabooks as references or inspiration. You can have multiple ideabooks, based on function (lighting, flooring, layout) or by room (kitchen, bath, bedroom, garden.) Your imagination is the limit.

Clip images from anywhere on the web to your Houzz ideabooks, or just browse other people’s Houzz ideabooks and clip images directly from theirs into your own. It’s a great way to share ideas with people you know, with strangers who have similar taste, and with your architect, landscape designer, or interior designer. It’s also a fun way to collaborate with others who involved in your project such as family members and friends.

You can keep your ideabooks private or make them public. When you comment you can mark your comment as private if you like. How much you share is totally up to you.

The photos in this article are my mother’s analog ideabooks from a few years back when she was designing a new house with my architect sister, Marybeth, and her landscaping with me. Mom involved all of her kids in the design and planning process, as you can see from her very detailed diary of the planning process.

In fact, now that I think about it the ability to keep an online diary or calendar of planning/design/construction right on one’s account might be a good idea for Houzz to develop. It would make a great record of what you and your contractors did during a project … and could be shared with others as an example of how a home project might evolve.

Origins of the Houzz Ideabooks -- Analog Ideabooks Origins of the Houzz Ideabooks -- Analog Ideabooks   IdeabookOriginsWaterEarthWindFire.Com05

It’s always a good idea to take an inventory of what you already have whether you are designing a remodel or new construction. Especially now when we are all trying to simplify and live more conscientiously, it pays to design around the big things you already own. Mom did that when she was designing her new house, below. She also included clipped photos that showed ideas of ways she could use her present furniture in the new house.


Okay, enough about ideabooks. I think you have the idea of how Houzz originated their format. Now, go explore Houzz if you don’t already have an account and I hope you sign up, even if you don’t have a project in mind right now.

You might start with an ideabook for next year’s gardening season … or just for fixing up one room in your apartment in simple ways. Start a color ideabook, or a wall-decor ideabook (clip ways to frame art, ways to display artwork, and artwork you like) It’s always fun to dream and imagine!

Check out my ideabooks. Here are links to some favorites:

Other Links about style boards and ideabooks

Garden Journal: Now’s a Great Time to Start One

Garden Journal © Maureen Shaughnessy

Garden Journal © Maureen Shaughnessy<span class=I’ve kept a separate notebook or journal for my garden for years. Off and on. I’m not as disciplined as I’d like to be about keeping track of what is planted where; which plants are blooming when; what I’ve spent on the garden … or where I bought my materials, pots, and other stuff.

Sometimes my garden journal is just a few pages in my regular sketchbook or journal. For the last few years, I’ve used a smallish 3-ring binder pages I have customized and punched to fit. I use different kinds of paper depending on what I’m recording on it: graph paper for recording my veggie plots and for sketching ideas for construction projects. Heavy sketch paper for botanical and nature sketches and for just doodling ideas. Vellum envelopes with holes punched in them, for keeping plant labels and other odds and ends (receipts, etc)… plastic sleeves with 3-holes, these are handy for seed packets, photos, loose seeds, etc.

I have my journal divided into sections with pocketed dividers – the pockets come in handy for keeping loose stuff. If you make your own journal, you can make sections to fit the kind of information you want to keep about your garden. Here are some ideas for record-keeping and inspiration:

  • a plan view of the garden, drawn on plain or graph paper: this is not only to remember the layout of your plant beds and locations of special plants — but also to help you imagine improvements you might want to make
  • weather records for our city and growing zone: first and last frost dates, rainfall, snowfall, and extreme events such as hail storms (which always seem to hit us hardest the week after we have set out our basil and tomato seedlings!)
  • seed packets and plant labels: if you have a sheet for each plant, you can keep the packets in envelopes taped to the back of the sheets. Otherwise, a separate section for seed packets and plant labels is a good idea. I like to keep track of the nurseries where I bought potted plants
  • photos and/or sketches to document what’s growing throughout the year. I pair the photos with sheets on the individual plants. I also have a section for just beautiful photos of my garden
  • garden tasks: wish I were organized enough to write down the dates I did (or should have done) certain tasks like weeding, planting and pruning. It would help with planning
  • wish list: this is a fat section for me — there is always something I’d like to buy or make myself: wind chimes, plants, compost, a teak recliner, porch swing … or hardscape improvements I want: a deck, french doors, a little patio … dream on. Writing these things down or keeping clippings and photos helps me remember and prioritize. I had a garden pond on the wish list for years. A few years ago, my son, Mickey helped me make it a reality. So it works!
  • clipped or photocopied articles, reference stuff from books and gardening handouts. This is a good place to keep reference materials from garden lectures or how-to courses, or instructions for making things for your garden
  • use the journal to keep pressed leaves and flowers from your garden.

  • Instead of pressing the plant parts, if you’re feeling creative, make sunprints using light-sensitive print paper.
  • I keep a running list of wildlife I’ve seen in our garden, which is a certified wildlife habitat garden now
  • quotes about gardening and my thoughts inspired by connecting with my garden
  • ideas for cooking from the garden and recipes for salsa, pesto, quiche…
  • I try to keep track of how much I spend in the garden. It’s always more than I thought! Sometimes I don’t keep the receipts, I just write the costs down kind of haphazardly

some links:

  • lots more information about materials you’ll need and how to get started –they even have some templates you can download for plant record-sheets
  • Journaling Life has some good links to resources, along with ideas for what to keep in your garden journal. Thank you to Denise, Leslie, Gayla, Lisa and BitterBetty
for allowing the use of their garden notebooks in this post.
Please click on the photos to find links to their photo pages.

Reading Matters

You can tell alot about people by the books in their homes. Here are a few of the books Tim and I have in our living room.  What can you tell?

Books on our shelf