You are here

Destination Design

Three travel-loving design gurus share their favorite getaways for design inspiration

Written by Jenny Bradley Pfeffer

It has been said that life begins at the end of our comfort zone. The same might be noted for creativity. Exotic locations (and even those that are just down the road) not only offer a change of scenery and satisfy one’s wanderlust, they enlighten. Unburdened by our harried daily schedules, we notice details—the pattern play of sunlight through the leaves of a tree or the vibrantly colored spices in a newly discovered street market—that we might ordinarily overlook. 

For designers, those nuances may provoke something larger. A Navajo blanket could inspire a new interior color palette. The details of an Irish linen scarf might evoke a custom fabric design. The pattern on a Moroccan rug may be the impetus for a new tile collection. For creative eyes, it’s all in the details.

We’ve asked three designers, known for their penchant for travel, where they go to replenish their muses. Our adventurers? Barry Dixon, Anne-Marie Midy, and Matthew Patrick Smyth. And while their favorite design destinations may surprise you (Who knew Bisbee, Arizona, was a design hot spot?), their passion for these places will certainly persuade you to plan a journey all your own.

Matthew Patrick Smyth
Dublin, Ireland

“Dublin inspires me personally because I am also an Irish citizen. Not only does Dublin cherish its rich Georgian and Neoclassical architecture, it also encourages a modern sensibility. It’s no wonder young people and start-up companies are being drawn to Dublin. There is a fresh and motivated spirit to the city, and you can’t help but feel it.”

The designer says Tyler-Hall’s “Quill” pattern “has the flair you find in 18th- and 19th- century Irish plasterwork, fabrics, and cut glass.” 

“This room was for a client who shares my fondness for Dublin and late-18th- and early-19th-century design,” says Smyth. 

Kerry Joyce’s “Williams” and “Luce” chairs remind Smyth of “favorite Irish Regency pieces—handsome, with a distinctive silhouette.” 

"A quick 48-hour trip to Dublin is sometimes all I need to recharge my designer batteries." - Matthew Patrick Smyth

Smyth’s “Ardmore” carpet for Patterson Flynn Martin was inspired by Dublin ironwork. 

Anne-Marie Midy 
Bisbee, Arizona

“In 2013, [my husband] Jorge built a house on his aunt’s ranch in Northern Mexico. The closest U.S. border town is Bisbee, Arizona, which has some of the most fun vintage stores we have ever been to. I always enjoy the mystery of found objects, and we are very attracted to functional ranch equipment, Navajo and Mexican textiles, vintage boots, spurs, and 1950s housewares. I’ve even found a 1940s straw bag from Japan. Even when we think the ranch house cannot welcome another find, it does.”

 “I love the ‘Ojai’ chairs—they’re ranch life at its best,” says Midy.

“Picnics are a huge tradition at the ranch and inspired Casamidy’s ‘Grenadier’ armchair,” says Midy.

"The ranch house is definitely a testimony to our many trips to Bisbee." - Anne-Marie Midy 

The colorful wool panels on Casamidy’s “Oaxaca” sectional are reminiscent of Navajo saddle blankets. 

 The ranch’s wall color mirrors Bisbee’s “earthen-colored landscape.”


Barry Dixon 
Marrakesh, Morocco

“Magical Marrakesh is one of the most inspiring cities in the world for me. The richly layered multicultural history of this region has peppered the city with myriad aesthetic notes—from Islamic, North African elements one would expect to more surprising French, Venetian, and Andalusian elements. From the heady colors of the spice markets, native costumes, and fired tiles to the florid carvings of the stone walls and complex geometrics of wooden screens and iron gates, Morocco is an explosion of form and color.”

“The floor pillows, taboret, and tufted ottoman are reminiscent of a Moroccan interior,” says Dixon.

Arteriors’ “Tumeric” urn and “Bedouin” lamp have their design roots in Morocco. 

"Marrakesh is an inspiration of the highest degree." - Barry Dixon

Vervain’s “Quatro Trellis” fabric is “inspired by the trellised walls of a riad courtyard.”

The multifaceted side table is inlaid with Bedouin silver and was found in “an antiquarian’s lair.”

Illustrations: Nigel Buchanan