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Rugs Direct Trends Report: Release Date 5/23/2022

The Best Cities for Design Inspiration

About the Best Cities for Design Inspiration

New York City - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

1) New York City, NY

Inspiration Score: 8.728 / 10

Unsurprisingly, America’s most iconic city sits at number one on our list. New York City is known worldwide for its unique and interesting architecture, spanning a range of historical periods throughout the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

From the Gothic Revival aesthetics of the Woolworth Building, to iconic Art Deco skyscrapers, to innovative contemporary green design like the Conde Nast Building, NYC is a major world center for architecture and the arts.

The city also features numerous world class art museums. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum are its most famous, but you’ll find tons of other museums and galleries dedicated to various historical periods and movements in the visual arts.

A Local Perspective

"When it comes to design inspiration, you're not going to beat New York City. If history is what inspires you, have a walk through St Paul's Chapel or Fraunces Tavern downtown. If Gothic Churches are your thing, walk through the famous Trinity Church, St Patrick's Cathedral, or St John the Divine. Do you like the beautiful brownstones built for the merchant classes in the spider-web of streets that is the West Village? Or perhaps the grand Gilded Age mansions on the Upper East Side located between Fifth and Park Avenues? If you have the time to wander some of the 843 emerald green acres that is our Central Park, you'll find the breathtaking beauty of Bethesda Fountain and Terrace, and the grand and imposing elm trees that border the Mall and Literary Walk. The best way to see New York, of course, is on foot. Grab a coffee, keep up the pace with the locals, move to the side once in a while and just look up. Our beautiful still amazes me, every day of my life."

Joe Cangelosi - Founder of Joe Cangelosi Design

San Francisco  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

2) San Francisco, California

Inspiration Score: 8.189 / 10

Known for its unique and charming style of iconic architecture, San Francisco is another major US hub for architecture and design.

While its iconic rows of turn-of-the-century “Painted Ladies” and Italianate homes are its best known architectural feature, San Francisco is quite varied stylistically. With an eclectic mix of Victorian and various 20th and 21st century styles, San Francisco’s unique topography adds further visual interest to its cityscape.

San Francisco has also long been a major center for the fine arts, architecture and interior design among them. The city features four schools that offer world-class interior design programs.

Seattle  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

3) Seattle, Washington

Inspiration Score: 7.4 / 10

Seattle comes in third on our list, featuring an array of fascinating architectural landmarks that stand out as interesting and unique.

From the undulating fabric-like curves of the Museum of Pop Culture – one of numerous art museums in the city – to the highly contemporary aesthetics of the recently built Amazon Spheres and Mid-Century Modern Classic - the Space Needle, Seattle is ripe with inspiring architecture and design.

A Local Perspective

"Seattle is truly full of little and big eye-catching moments, places, and things. For me, the best are the little unexpected ones that are reveled just at the right time. Take the Space Needle for example, the most iconic landmark of our city. But did you know during it’s 2017 renovation, not only did the award-winning architectural firm, Olson Kundig put in a rotating glass floor and make it completely accessible for all, they also put the most amazing “exit" signs throughout the space. Or take Canlis, a 70-year old fine dining restaurant that has won multiple national awards, now run by 3rd generation bothers, Mark and Brian Canlis. Everything at this iconic and celebrated institution is on purpose and nothing by accident. Your experience there is taken so seriously that they spent 2 years procuring the perfect butter knife."

Gina Colucci - Designer, Marketing Director and Podcast Host for the iconic Seattle Design Center

The "Inspired Design" podcast interviews Seattle icons to dive deep into the stories within these stories just waiting to be uncovered and shared.

San Diego  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

4) San Diego, California

Inspiration Score: 6.84 / 10

Located near the border on California’s Pacific coast, San Diego is a city with a rich architectural history and heritage.

Best known for Mission style architecture derived from Spanish missions and monasteries, the city also features gorgeous examples of Victorian, Craftsman, and Mediterranean revival design styles.

From the surreal aesthetics of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies or the San Diego California Temple, to the stark industrial style of the San Diego Central Library, this California city features some truly unique and eye-catching landmarks of architectural design.

A Local Perspective

"America’s Finest City is coined for many reasons beyond our fabulous weather, beaches, bays and bi-national culture. My all-time favorite cultural treasure is Balboa Park. It is such an amazing place to walk through; take a picnic basket or take in one of the many cultural options such as 17 museums including the Timken and Mingei, performing arts venues such as The Old Globe, Organ Pavilion and Starlight Theaters, 19 gardens like the Japanese Friendship Garden and the world famous San Diego Zoo. You will want to come back because there is way too much to appreciate."

Margit Whitlock - AIA of San Diego’s Architectural Concepts

Miami  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

5) Miami, Florida

Inspiration Score: 6.803 / 10

Well known for its iconic Art Deco buildings in cheery pastel hues, Miami is another American hotspot for interesting architectural design.

Along with its iconic Art Deco District, Miami also features interesting examples of Mid Century Modern and Mediterranean Revival architecture.

San Antonio  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

6) San Antonio, Texas

Inspiration Score: 6.794 / 10

San Antonio’s distinctive architectural design aesthetics reflect Texas culture’s Spanish and Mexican roots. One of its best known historical sites is the San Antonio de Valero Mission, which includes the Alamo.

Along with some of the state’s oldest missions and cathedrals, San Antonio is also a hotspot for contemporary design.

The San Antonio Museum of Art, in particular, features a striking combination of Gothic Revival inspired brick architecture with modern, angular glass and steel. Inside, it features a vast collection of objets d’art spanning over 5,000 years of human history, including a robust collection of post-WWII contemporary art.

Chicago  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

7) Chicago, Illinois

Inspiration Score: 6.784 / 10

Home to the famous Chicago School of architecture, this city is one of America’s best known hotspots for architectural design.

The cityscape combines a range of various schools and styles, including Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Gothic Revival, Modern, Queen Anne, and many more.

It’s also home to many different art museums and galleries. The best known is the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the nation’s foremost museums of art. There’s also the Driehaus Museum, which focuses on Gilded age art and architecture; the Museum of Contemporary Art; the National Museum of Mexican Art; and more.

A Local Perspective

"Chicago has always embraced ingenuity, aesthetics and forward thinking. From architects like Louis Sullivan, Frank Llyod Wright, Mies van der Rohe, David Adler, Benjamin Marshall and Howard Doren Shaw to the mega stars of today like Jeannie Gang, Helmut Jahn, Skidmore Owning and Merrill, we have seen countless luminaries shape our city’s design environment. International designers and builders have added to the local talent in creating what is truly one of the world’s top destinations for architecture aficionados."

Marshall Erb - Founder + Principal of Marshall Erb Design

Cincinnati  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

8) Cincinnati, Ohio

Inspiration Score: 6.623 / 10

Cincinnati’s cityscape features quite a few structures that are known for their unique or interesting architecture. This includes a number of iconic skyscrapers, like Carew Tower, the Great American Tower at Queen City Square, and Fourth and Vine Tower.

Throughout Cincinnati’s major historic neighborhoods and districts, you’ll find a variety of 19th and 20th century architectural styles. Greek, Renaissance, and Gothic revival styles are common.

Along with its distinctive architectural landmarks, Cincinnati is also home to the Cincinnati Museum of Art, the Taft Museum of Art, and the Contemporary Arts Center. If you’re feeling kitsch, there’s also the American Sign Museum – the largest museum dedicated to commercial signage – and the Lucky Cat Museum, dedicated entirely to Japanese maneki-neko figurines.

A Local Perspective

"Our city has embraced something that I've been active with for a number of years — street art. You won't find our city littered in casual graffiti, but you will find large-scale artwork from internationally-known artists across Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The number of murals in the city are impossible to count, but the most inspiring murals for me are from D-Face, The London Police, Vhils, FAILE, and Faith XLVII. It's always impressed me how the city, despite how conservative it can be at times, embraces these kinds of public artwork."

Chris Ritter - Co-Founder of C-90 Creative Agency

Philadelphia  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

9) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Inspiration Score: 6.581 / 10

One of America’s oldest historic cities, Philadelphia features an eye-catching melange of architecture ranging from the 18th to 21st centuries.

It’s best known for its Georgian and Federal style buildings, but you’ll also find iconic 1920s-1930s skyscrapers – including the world’s first International style skyscraper, the PSFS Building. In terms of more contemporary architecture, the twin Liberty Place buildings and the Comcast Technology Center stand out for their eye-catching visual design.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art features a number of notable pieces and collections. Foremost among them include Étant donnés, the last major work of Marcel Duchamp, and a robust collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works.

Other notable Philadelphia art museums include the Rodin Museum, featuring many of the sculptor’s major works, and the Philadelphia Magic Gardens, a visionary art environment designed by artist Isaiah Zagar.

Washington DC  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

10) Washington, DC

Inspiration Score: 6.515 / 10

America’s capital has a unique architectural history, dating back hundreds of years. Most prominent are the Neoclassical and Beaux-Arts styles, seen in many of the city’s iconic government buildings.

You’ll also find medievalist Gothic Revival and Romanesque Revival structures, as well as quite a few Brutalist works like the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and Dupont Circle station. In the city’s residential neighborhoods, American Craftsman bungalows and Victorian homes predominate.

It’s also a hotspot for art museums, with the National Gallery of Art and National Portrait Gallery being foremost among them. There’s Also the Renwick Gallery, dedicated to the Arts and Crafts movement; The Phillips Collection, featuring works from many of the great Impressionists; Artechouse DC, a space dedicated to immersive interactive art exhibitions.

Los Angeles - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

11) Los Angeles, California

Inspiration Score: 6.379 / 10

Los Angeles contains examples of almost any American architectural style you can think of, though it’s best known for its Spanish Mission Revival, Craftsman, and Art Deco structures. It’s an aesthetically eclectic city, with notable buildings including the gonzo Al Struckus House, the elegant skyscraper 777 Tower, and the Late Moderne style Burbank City Hall.

Also worth noting is the Googie-inspired interior of Brunswick Sands Bowl, a bowling center featuring an Egyptian theme.

Foremost among the city’s art museums is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, housing such seminal works as René Magritte’s “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” and Kanagawa’s “The Great Wave.” With over 150,000 total works, it’s one of the nation’s finest museums.

LA is also home to the Hammer Museum, dedicated to 19th-century French masters like Manet and Van Gogh; the Museum of Contemporary Art, a must-visit for fans of artists like Pollock, Rothko, and Warhol; and The Hollywood Museum, home to some of the world’s finest sartorial design.

A Local Perspective

"Los Angeles is a veritable museum of American domestic architectural styles. Not only are the emblematic Mission and Spanish Revival styles SoCal natives, but the California Bungalow & Craftsman styles (Green & Green) were also California born & raised - and that’s before we even get to Mid-century Modern (Neutra, Schindler, Eames…)! As you drive around Los Angeles neighborhoods in and around West Adams or Silverlake, you can see just about every style - from Colonial Revival to Queen Anne to Eastlake, Italianate Revival, Dutch Farmhouse Revival, Gothic or Tudor Revival, and Hollywood Regency, to name a few. The reason for this eclecticism is the various waves of emigration beginning with the Gold Rush, exploding with the rise of the film industry in the ’20s, and even accelerated with the completion of transcontinental Route 66. The architectural experience that is Los Angeles means no one style is preeminent, and the freedom to invent and reinvent abounds."

Stephen Pallrand - Founder of Home Front Build & CarbonShack

Milwaukee  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

12) Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Inspiration Score: 6.372 / 10

Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s rich history is visible in its diversity of architectural styles, featuring a number of major landmarks of interest. Notably, the city is home to Burnham Block, a set of six residential houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Other notable architectural landmarks in Milwaukee include the Basilica of St. Josaphat, often referred to as the crown jewel of the city; the Iron Block Building, an 1861 structure known for its unique cast iron facade; and Milwaukee City Hall, inspired by Flemish Renaissance architecture.

The Milwaukee Art Museum is another fascinating architectural work, known for its highly unusual and varied shape. It’s home to over 25,000 works of art, including sizable collections of American and Haitian folk art, German Expressionist works, and one of the world’s largest Georgia O’Keefe collections.

Dallas  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

13) Dallas, Texas

Inspiration Score: 6.353 / 10

Dallas features an impressive variety of Postmodern, Beaux Arts, Gothic Revival, and Romanesque architecture.

Some of its most notable skyscrapers include Chase Tower, the Bank of America Plaza, and Reunion Tower. The city also has its own distinctive style of residential architecture, known as Dallas Eclectic.

The city’s Arts District is home to a number of fascinating museums, which have a lot to see especially for fans of non-Western art.

The largest is the Dallas Museum of Art, which features impressive collections of African, Asian, and Pre-Columbian artworks. The Kimbell Art Museum is another must-see attraction for inspiring design, featuring some of the most seminal works from well-known Modern artists like Joan Miró, Henri Matisse, and Piet Mondrian.

Austin  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

14) Austin, Texas

Inspiration Score: 6.344 / 10

Austin is another major Texas city that’s one of America’s foremost centers for architecture and design. Some of its most eye-catching and iconic buildings include the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, the Main Tower at the University of Texas, and The Contemporary-Laguna Gloria, which features a sculpture park.

Austin is also home to several major art museums, notably the Blanton Museum of Art, located at the University of Texas. This institution features collections of historical European art, modern and contemporary art, and Latin American art.

Also of note are the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, the Mexic-Arte Museum, and Soco Modern.

Boston - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

15) Boston, Massachusetts

Inspiration Score: 6.289 / 10

Originally founded by Puritan settlers who brought English architectural sensibilities with them, Boston is best known for its iconic Colonial and Federal style buildings. It also features 20th century Art Deco and Greek Revival architecture.

The city’s Museum of Fine Arts features works from a wide variety of cultures, art movements, and time periods, including notable collections of Egyptian, Chinese, and Japanese art. Other notable art museums and institutions in Boston include The Institute for Contemporary Art, the McMullen Museum, and the MassArt Art Museum.

Cleveland  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

16) Cleveland, Ohio

Inspiration Score: 6.176 / 10

Cleveland, Ohio is home to some very interesting pieces of American architecture. Foremost among them are the Arcade, America’s first indoor shopping center; and the Mall, a large public space downtown with the towering Fountain of Eternal Life as its centerpiece.

The city’s primary art museum is the Cleveland Museum of Art, which houses a robust collection of ancient Mediterranean works. There’s also the Museum of Contemporary Art (moCa Cleveland), a striking angular glass building that houses exhibitions from today’s finest visual artists.

Baltimore  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

17) Baltimore, Maryland

Inspiration Score: 6.149 / 10

Baltimore features a rich selection of historic Georgian, Colonial, and Federal architecture, along with later Greek Revival and Italianate styles.

Baltimore’s foremost art museum is the Baltimore Museum of Art. Home to the Center for Matisse Studies, highlights include large collections of African, East Asian, and Native North and South American tribal art.

Charleston  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

18) Charleston, South Carolina

Inspiration Score: 6.135 / 10

One of the oldest cities in the South, Charleston has over 2,800 buildings that are designated as historic. Over time, its architectural features have progressed through phases of Colonial, Georgian, Federal, Classic and Gothic Revival, Italianate, Victorian, and Art Deco.

Two of the city’s most venerable landmarks include the Colonial Old Exchange Building and the Georgian Heyward Washington House, originally home to one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Charleston is also home to the Gibbes Museum of Art. Housed in an elegant Beaux-Arts building designed by Frank Pierce Milburn, it’s notable for its collections of art and folk art from the American South, as well as its 18th and 19th century painted miniatures.

Tucson  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

19) Tucson, Arizona

Inspiration Score: 6.12 / 10

Like many cities in the American Southwest, Tucson features historical Spanish Mission architecture. One of its best known sites is the Old Adobe Mission, built in the 18th century.

Along with Spanish and Mexican influences and Southwestern design, Tucson has also been described as an unsung architectural oasis, particularly when it comes to Mid Century Modern architecture. You’ll find many ‘50s- and ‘60s-style Googie buildings, reminiscent of mid century diners and drive-ins.

At the Tucson Museum of Art, you’ll find many interesting pieces, including an extensive collection of Southwestern indigenous art, and other art of the American West.

Memphis  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

20) Memphis, Tennessee

Inspiration Score: 6.051 / 10

Best known for its thriving music scene, this West Tennessee city also features a variety of interesting architecture, particularly when it comes to the city’s residences. Foremost among its landmarks are the Woodruff-Fontaine house – a French Victorian mansion – and Italianate style Mallory-Neely house.

The area is also known for its many examples of Tennessee Vernacular architecture, a particular type of 18th and early 19th century building style.

The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art houses permanent collections including French 19th Century art, Art of the African Diaspora, and more, along with additional gallery spaces for exhibitions and art installations.

Honolulu  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

21) Honolulu, Hawaii

Inspiration Score: 5.867 / 10

Western style architecture in Hawaii dates back to early missionaries, whose Hawaiian Mission style is known for its simplicity and Puritan sensibilities. Beginning in the 1920s, Honolulu became a hotspot for Beaux-Arts and Art Deco architectural design.

Some of the city’s most striking structures include the International style Hawaii State Capitol building; the Board of Water Supply building, an example of a unique style of tropical design known as Tropical Modernism; and midcentury IBM Building.

At the Honolulu Museum of Art, you’ll find an array of interesting East Asian art, particularly Japanese paintings and woodblock prints.

Houston  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

22) Houston, Texas

Inspiration Score: 5.864 / 10

Originally built around Allen’s Landing, a port complex at the confluence of White Oak Bayou and Buffalo Bayou on the Gulf Coast, Houston is a richly historic city featuring a wide variety of architecture.

The downtown cityscape features numerous skyscrapers, many of them in the classic early 20th century Art Deco style. You’ll also find many examples of Spanish Renaissance and Italian Renaissance Revival architecture.

The Houston Museum District features a number of art museums and gallery spaces. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) features collections of artworks from around the world, including American painting and sculpture, Mediterranean antiquities, and art of the Islamic world.

Savannah  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

23) Savannah, Georgia

Inspiration Score: 5.863 / 10

Savannah is one of the South’s premier centers for art and design, home to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

Over 40% of the city’s homes and buildings in this charming coastal city are designated as having historical significance. Many of the oldest buildings exhibit Federal and Georgian design.

The SCAD Museum of Art is one of the nation’s foremost museums for design and the decorative arts, known especially for the SCAD Costume Collection, featuring haute couture pieces from seminal designers and fashion houses including Yves Saint Laurent, Coco Chanel, and Oscar de la Renta.

Albuquerque  - Top Cities for Design Inspiration

24) Albuquerque, New Mexico

Inspiration Score: 5.746 / 10

Best known these days for its role as the setting of the prestigious TV drama Breaking Bad and its sequel series, Better Call Saul, Albuquerque is also a hotspot for architecture and design.

The city is one of the birthplaces of the Pueblo Revival style, which draws on the aesthetics of the traditional adobe architecture of the Pueblo people, combined with elements of Mexican and Spanish design.

The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History houses over 10,000 works, primarily focused on the art and design of the American Southwest.

25) Atlanta, Georgia

Inspiration Score: 5.739 / 10

The most populous city in the American South, Atlanta’s architecture spans a range of styles and historical periods. It’s known in particular for its many examples of Antebellum and Postbellum architecture, as well as having been one of the first major hubs for Postmodern architecture in the mid to late 1980s.

The High Museum of Art is the city’s largest art museum, featuring a large collection of works of decorative art and design. The city is also home to the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA), dedicated to design, architecture, and the decorative arts.

A Local Perspective

"Atlanta is brimming with design inspiration, from our art museums to our postmodernism city buildings all the way to our landscape of multicultural building sites. The city of Atlanta was destroyed by fire in 1864, which helps it to stand out from other cities of the South due to it being rebuilt and embracing postmodern architecture in the process. It is a unique landscape in that the city buildings are so modern but driving around the neighborhoods just a few minutes away often looks like the pages of a Southern Living Magazine. Whether you want to enjoy the postmodernism of the city, take in the historic homes around town, or venture out of the city and take a country drive through the winding roads to enjoy the more classical southern architecture, Atlanta has it all."

Leah Atkins - Founder of Leah Atkins Design


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