Home & Garden

Using social media for home design

A melamine platter holds vintage collectibles on the coffee table.
A melamine platter holds vintage collectibles on the coffee table.

This monthly feature focuses on local interior designers and their ideas for choosing color schemes, furniture, art and an overall design style or scheme. Today we focus on San Luis Obispo’s Alli Addison who established Alli Addison Design in 2011. Her services include interior design, exterior design, outdoor living spaces, color consulting, new construction and remodels, e-design services and room refresh services. You may contact her at 714-3086 or through her website, http://www.alliaddison.com. Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/AlliAddison; Houzz: http://www.houzz.com/pro/alliaddison

There was a time when finding home décor ideas involved combing through stacks of shelter magazines with a pad of Post-its.

Today, with social media sites such as Pinterest and Houzz, the process of finding ideas and information is easier and, some would argue, more effective.

This is where Alli Addison’s two main areas of expertise intersect. She is not only an interior designer, but a marketing and branding specialist. She frequently uses social media for both. Addison instructs her clients on how to use the internet to plan and organize design projects because of “endless possibilities, traceability and accessibility,” she said.

“Endless possibilities” is no exaggeration. A recent search on Pinterest for “brown leather sofa” produced thousands of images. Thankfully, both Pinterest and Houzz offer tools to navigate and organize their abundant resources. Here, Addison explains how to use these sites for your own home design projects.


In a concept similar to the Post-its approach, Pinterest is a bookmarking tool, where users can select images from anywhere on the Internet and “pin” that image on a personal “pinboard” which others can view or re-pin on their own board. Categories range from women’s fashion to technology, but the DIY home decorator can access ideas on crafts, gardening, and interior design.

Pinterest users include professional designers, magazines, retailers and hobbyists. If you find a board that resonates with your own tastes, you can “follow” it and check in regularly for new inspiration. Images are “traceable,” so you can go back to the source of a photo to view more details.

Addison uses Pinterest much like a traditional interior designer’s presentation board, which aims at creating a cohesive vision for a space from a collection of objects such as fabric swatches, paint samples, sketches and photos.

Addison created a Pinterest board for a client who wanted a contemporary makeover for their 1960s bungalow in Morro Bay. The board included inspiration rooms, furniture, lighting, paint samples, and even the work of midcentury photographer Slim Aarons, whose pool and beachthemed work embodied the feel they wanted for the space. The board provided direction for the project and helped Addison communicate ideas to her client. Several accessories, including throw pillows, a blue Mexican blanket and a fiddle-leaf fig ficus, were incorporated directly into the new design.

Aside from the sheer volume of images available, the beauty of Pinterest is its accessibility. While Addison still likes the idea of using books and magazines because they are tangible and more “real” than screen images, they are easy to misplace and not so convenient to tote around. Your virtual Pinterest idea board is accessible anytime and anywhere — even on your smartphone while shopping for furniture or meeting with a designer. Months down the line, when revamping or adding to your décor, you can pull up your board in mere seconds. And even if the original image that you pinned is deleted, yours will still be available.

Pinterest makes it easy to stay organized. You can create different boards for different projects, or one for each room in the house. A designated board can contain miscellaneous ideas that you like but don’t have a current use for. You can even upload your own photos of products and spaces that inspire you. Or you can pin shots of your home to show design professionals, or to jog your own memory when shopping for goods.

Addison encourages clients to include detailed notes with their pins. Save specs and dimensions from your home, color and product information relating to the pinned photo, and even what you like about the photo. If you’re not keen on sharing all of these details with the world, you can create a “secret” board that is available only to you and those you invite to view it.

Having all of your images and information in one place is a powerful tool that, according to Addison, helps you “identify a theme in your thought process,” stay focused, and produce a more cohesive look in the end.


Like Pinterest, Houzz allows you to create “ideabooks” and catalog photos into them. However, it is dedicated exclusively to home improvement and is populated by professionals who offer expert advice and articles on a variety of topics. Addison calls it “a connection tool which helps to turn ideas into reality.”

If you are a do-it-your selfer with a question, you can post it on the message board and receive answers from both professionals and other users. If you’d prefer to hire a professional, you can search a database with profiles of architects, artisans, designers, and contractors in your area along with reviews of their work and photos from their portfolio.

To best take advantage of Houzz, Addison urges clients to be bold and connect with professionals. “As a home improvement professional, we are in the business because we thrive on helping people make their space beautiful and unique. So ask (questions),” she said.

If you are in the market to hire a professional, interact with your top candidates as much as possible. Read reviews thoroughly and look through their portfolios to see if you can apply any ideas to your own project.

Finally, she recommends signing up for the Houzz newsletter, which she said has “great and expert tips on a variety of topics for home improvement.”