This is how Colin Irwin, a production designer, starts his projects:
First I read the script to get a feeling for the story and try to find something that summarizes what the script says to me. Then I pull out research material. I keep a cutting file from Architectural Digest, Metropolitan Home, and whatever magazines that have inspirational material. For specific information, I go to reference libraries.
Now that you have a pile of research material staring you in the face, the time has come to sort it. There it is—books, photographs, clippings, fabric samples, color chips, family albums, and some catalogs. First, organize the pile so that you can find what you need for each set.
Here are some general categories: ...