A quick straw poll shows that designers are using the Web more for research than for inspiration. “We use lots of weird and different products,” says remodeler Debra Moore in Ann Arbor, Mich., “so I Google them. In particular, we look at plumbing and electrical fixtures. Appliance Web sites are fabulous. We'll print and trick out color photos for clients and use them for visuals instead of using SKU numbers.” If she's designing something for a period home, Moore looks at architectural sites, again using a search engine to find them.

Janet McCann, an interior designer in Chicago, also researches products using Google — “fireplace surrounds, antique furniture, lighting fixtures, architectural molding,” as does Michael Cavanaugh in Gaithersburg, Md., who provides design services for the remodeling industry.

Cavanaugh says he likes to browse other remodelers' and designers' Web sites as well. “Architects are always stealing from other designers,” he says. “We just repeat the process, with a twist.”

But James Steele, of Strategic Performance in McLean, Va., visits a Web site called storybookhomes.biz, which features plans and photographs of English cottages. “My customers don't necessarily want cottages like these, but having traveled to England numerous times, I find them inspiring. They're not large homes, but they're full of details.”