Sourcing inspiration and getting inspired can be very fun… sit down, pour a big glass of wine, turn on some inspiration music… and 2 hours later your pin board has 180 images.
So when are you “done” with this step? You’re learning, you’re finding really cool looking stuff and you feel like you’re making headway and accomplishing tasks. However, there IS a time to take a step back and begin to put those sources to good use.
Once my wife and I were set with a design idea, I dove in and started my demo! It felt great.
I would say the inspiration phase should take as little as a few hours to a week or so. In the latter example it may take longer because just working with another designer or a family can take longer to share images/ideas. Generally speaking, the longer your look at inspiration, the more you second guess your gut feeling and either move in circles or drift away from what might be the right design ideas.
The great thing about sourcing inspiration - it is quick and can happen in almost every setting. In the car? On an airplane? Sitting in the park? Or at the beach? Sure. It can be digital - Pinterest, Designboom, or HGTV. It can also be analog - Country Living Magazine, Dwell Magazine, or Architectural Record. I think its better to get moving on a project and re-visit the inspiration phase as issues arise than to try to envision everything that could happen and any needs way ahead of time. Design and construction is kind of like taking a child on vacation - no matter how well you plan, there will be dropped ice cream, a diaper disaster, or something you can’t possibly even fathom a child could get into. Such is the case, you have to be nimble and ready to react. Do some prep work and learn where you like inspiration and how you like to find it… then use it!
It's Your Architecture Friend. Suited up, ready for demo. Overkill?