Skip to content

Little Tree {DIY}

Feelin’ crafty? I just discovered a free pattern download that Stephanie Barnes of Little Birds and 3191 fame so graciously put on her blog like forever ago. After finding it on Monday, I grabbed a few pieces of fabric and after a few snips here and some stitching there, this my friends is my 1st little soft tree.


She’s a little imperfect, but still very cute. This is the easiest thing you’ll ever sew, so please give it a try. I made this while watching Project Runway last night (which by the way, this is such a great season, I totally see Christian, Rami, and Jillian in the final three).


But back to the tree, after looking at it for awhile, I decided to give this softie a little personality with some black thread. So now the tree is a she and I’ve named her Clara. Download your pattern here, and when you finish your little baum, please post it in Stephaine’s flickr group called soft trees so we can all ooo and aaaah over it.

(images from holly becker for decor8)

Posted in Arts + Crafts, diy on December 13, 2007

Meet Rachel Ashwell {Shabby Chic}

I was beyond thrilled when Rachell Ashwell, founder of the slipcovered empire that is Shabby Chic, agreed to meet with me to discuss her life, her company, and her inspirations. I met Rachel at a tent sale in L.A. a few years back, but was so star stuck that I didn’t get to ask her all the questions that this interview allowed me to do. I did walk away with a bag of poplin bedding and a book she signed for me that I have in my library. And since most of you know Shabby Chic, I assume not much of an intro here is needed, so let’s get right into the interview and meet the pioneer of muted California cottage bohemian, Rachel Ashwell.


decor8: Hi Rachel, it’s such an honor to talk to you today, especially since Shabby Chic has a huge future ahead and we’re about to see a lot of great things from you in ’08. Before we chat about the future, let’s discuss the past. Seems like around ’04 you vanished – very few magazine appearances, little mention of Shabby Chic, you quickly went from the it girl in design to, well, missing in action. Can you tell us what happened around that time?

Rachel: Sure. After filming my TV series, a total of 54 shows, writing five books over 10 years and launching The Simply Shabby Chic Line for Target, I felt it was a good time to redirect my focus. I have been busy expanding my infrastructure and focusing on design and product development to get ready for a major expansion of the Shabby Chic brand through new retail stores and an online store.

Titles from Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic.

decor8: Makes sense now. Thank you for answering that as I know it may be a sensitive question to ask at the start of an interview, but I’m a cut to the chase kind of girl. You talk about the future of Shabby Chic, why did you decide to expand now?

Rachel: With both of my children in college I was excited to take on new challenges. I felt it was time to expand and maintain the integrity and authenticity of the brand, while keeping my personal touch on everything. 2009 will be the 20th anniversary and so I feel it’s the right time.


decor8: What are you working on to increase exposure to your brand again?

Rachel: Hmmm…Where do I start? We just opened our ninth store in Atlanta and are planning to have 50 stores across the country in the next few years. Our goal is to open ten or more new stores each year in cities across the country. We’re also introducing new bedding and furniture collections every season which will be distributed in our stores and wholesale accounts nation wide.

decor8: I recently visited your new store over at the Natick Collection in Boston, it was heavenly and I loved all the mercury glass candle holders and patchwork ethnic cubes. It’s great to see Shabby Chic here in New England. Anything planned for television?

Rachel: In January 08, we are releasing three DVD’s. Each will feature three of my shows that aired on the E! and Style Network. They will be available for purchase at book stores selling DVD’s, in Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic stores as well as online at shabbychic.com.

decor8: That’s great, I’ll be purchasing those for sure to replace my old VHS tapes from recording it back in the day. I don’t even have a VCR anymore so they’re pretty much useless. You mentioned something about shopping online…

Rachel: Oh yes! In Spring 08 we are launching our e-commerce site at shabbychic.com. This will provide an opportunity to reach an even broader market.


decor8: Yes, for sure. Let’s talk about your current collection. I can’t help but notice a Asian/Moroccan vibe going on, but using the soft color palette that Shabby Chic is known best for. Ethnic prints and patterns are a bit of a detour from your typical English coastal cottage look that you’re famous for. I mean Kilim rugs and huge leather poufs? What piqued your interest in ethnic design?

Rachel: To keep up with the growth, it was imperative that I speak to a larger audience. I spend a lot of time in Europe, Asia and India for inspiration and for sourcing product. While it may seem very different it really isn’t. I’ve introduced darker woods and vintage rugs but the woods are distressed, the colors are washed out but the styles are still comfortable and functional. I want to remain true to my customers and appeal to new ones as well.

decor8: One thing that always impressed me is your attention to detail. You always wrote about how you’d include precious things in your children’s lunch box, handwritten notes and little toys that held special meaning. Showing your children how to appreciate little things is important and I think you really do that so well. It must have influenced how they look at the world as young adults to have a mom like you.

Rachel: Yes it has. My son Jake is 18 and daughter Lily is now 20 and they both are studying creative fields in New York. Without even realizing it, they pay attention to detail in their everyday lives.

Rachel’s kids, Lily and Jake.

decor8: As a single mother with grown children living out of the house, what things does Rachel Ashwell do in her spare time?

Rachel: Work! Because I love my work it is a big part of my lifestyle and it is hard to separate the two. I love to be with my children. I like to knit, go to the movies and the ocean.

Rachel collects vintage prom dresses.

decor8: What inspires you lately anyway, what are you digging?

Rachel: I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with my British heritage. It has inspired me to introduce items like the Union Jack pillow. I like collecting vintage items like prom gowns too. Lately I have been inspired by the color and design layout of Balenciaga advertising, too.


decor8: Back to the business side, can you explain a little bit the creative process involved?

Rachel: My designers and I are constantly open to ideas and inspiration. We brain storm in our design studio and from that point new patterns are created on CAD. Then in time these designs become new bedding collections or home accessories.


decor8: Can you describe your work studio and show us a few photos?

Rachel: Yes, of course, it is located near LAX Airport in California. The office encompasses many departments from wholesale, purchasing, accounting and warehousing vintage furniture. I also have a big whimsical design studio. There are six on staff including my creative director, buyers and designers.


decor8: It looks beautiful there, thank you for sharing. I could spend hours looking through all your things, especially those mood boards. And you mentioned vintage furniture, so you’re still hitting the fleas are you?

Rachel: Oh of course, I go about four times a year. My favorites are in Texas and on the East coast.

decor8: I’ve never been to a Texan flea, but I love Brimfield down in Massachusetts, it’s amazing. I can really spot trends when I visit them, I’m sure you do the same. What current trend would you like to see more of and what others would you like to bury?

Rachel: Even though fashion is ever changing, I like to think my aesthetic evolves but stays true to my values which are beauty, comfort and function. To me this has eternal life, it’s timeless, embracing the philosophy of recycling while creating heirlooms. For me minimalism is not so inviting and long lasting. I would not be sad to see that style go.

Shabby Chic white poplin bedding, something this designer can’t live without.

decor8: I have a love hate relationship with minimalism, so I understand what you mean. And finally, what ten things do you adore?

Rachel: 1. My children 2. Chrome Hearts diamond cross 3. Enya 4. Tresor perfume 5. Fresh cut garden roses 6. A vintage rose oil painting that hangs in my home 7. Marmite spread for toast 8. ?Forever To Keep? chest of drawers that contain old love letters, heirlooms items from my parents and handmade gifts from my kids 9. Shabby Chic white poplin bedding and a 10. Shabby Chic Plump chair.

Thank you so much for meeting with me today Rachel and for letting decor8 readers know about the exciting expansion of your company. We wish you the best of luck and happiness.

(images from shabby chic)

Posted in interviews on December 12, 2007

RaniPink {Taste of Marrakesh in Germany}

For a moment you may have had to glance up at the header to be sure that you’d landed on the right blog. No, this really isn’t Maryam over at My Marrakesh. It’s me, Holly. But given all the Moroccan influences in design, I have to share with you a lovely shop that I found recently with the most beautiful ethnic prints and patterns. Ready for another mini store tour? Come along with me for a taste of Marrakesh in Germany.


This shop is called RaniPink and it’s located in Hannover where (as most of you know) I just returned after spending two months. Owned by German born Petra Hassan, who grew up in Munich, she married a charming man born in Kuwait with roots in Palestine and now they live and work in Hannover. It is there in north Germany where I had the chance, along with my husband, to meet up in her spacious – the ceilings are maybe 15 ft high – two room store that doubles as her workshop. Petra designs and sews in between customers, creating clothings and interior accessories. She has racks and stacks of jaw dropping textiles that you can select and she’ll custom design almost anything you want.

This is Petra, self portrait, obviously. She definitely doesn’t dress like the typical German which is one of the many reasons why I like her so much, she doesn’t follow the crowd – but follows her heart instead. I love her leg warmers!


To keep her shop fresh and interesting, Petra paints the walls a new and exciting color a few times per year. When I was there, it was turquoise. Now it’s violet. Inspired by the Moroccan design in a very big way, and I must add long before it was so “mainstream”, her store is like stepping into Marrakesh without having to purchase a plane ticket. When we met with her, we were greeted with a feast for all the senses, beautiful music from North Africa, a warm hug and smile, the scent of spices, and the most delicious Moroccan fresh mint tea I’d ever tasted.


Petra is a fashion and accessories designer, her work is intricate and beautiful, colorful and full of the passion that seems to run from her heart, through the needle, and into the fabrics she sews together. She loves her work, I mean genuinely loves it, and it shows as you stroll through her shop/atelier. You can feel it as you look around. There’s this very positive energy in the air, it’s great. I left feeling completely motivated to work on some of my own projects, which is always a sure sign that I’d been in good company.

Petra was on her way to Marrakesh for vacation when we met up, but she is back in Hannover now with lots of pretty things collected from her trip – like these supple leather beaded slippers. You have to visit her store if you live in this part of the world – it’s so transporting, colorful, and inviting.

Has Petra always loved ethnic design? Yes, and there’s proof on her workshop table where she keeps hundreds of sequins, spools of thread, tassels, and gorgeous beads, some that have many years of history with her. She pointed to beads that she’s had since childhood – that’s how long she’s be fascinated with faraway places and beautiful things. This lady truly follows her heart and is doing what she loves. Now how inspiring is that?

Petra thank you so much for sending these beautiful images, sharing tea with Thorsten and I, and for being the special lady that you are.

RaniPink Store — Oeltzenstr. 2 — Hannover, Germany — Tel. 0511-3746711

(images from petra hassan)

Posted in Shop Tours, shopping, travel on December 12, 2007

Etsy: Take Five Tuesdays

For Take Five Tuesday this week, I’d like to introduce you to a few more stores that I’ve been browsing a lot lately, ones with such pretty things that I think you’ll agree that they’d make for very thoughtful gifts. {Although today is Wednesday, I started writing this yesterday so blogger still has it dated for Tuesday.}

UK ceramicist Emma Litten from White Doll Arts creates things for the kitchen that are so pretty, you’ll want to take tea five times a day. And her vases with the delicate lines are a delight for displaying branches, flowers, or handmade paper flowers. If you love cupcakes, don’t miss her ceramic bun trinket pot, it’s a favorite of mine from her shop. I find the pale pastels and organic forms shaped by human hands quite calming and lovely.

If you need some cards that feel a bit Boston, a bit like something you’d find in your grandmother’s desk drawer, and with a slice of the deep south perhaps Beau Ideal is the stationery shop for you. I’m draw in by the unique patterns and what I like to call, happy colors that remind me of sunny Florida. Her dogs are darling too, and if you want to join a card club, she has a fun “Paper Guild” that you can sign up for. via: Oh Joy!

A former full-time graphic t-shirt designer, Sasha Loots now works from home doodling beautiful girls and producing prints. I was going to save her for next Tuesday, but after seeing her work on Bloesem’s beautiful gift guide recently, I knew I’d better get to her before she’s all over the web. What gorgeousness.

First up are the hand painted, handbuilt glazed porcelain from k g + a b, a Brooklyn artist who, by day, works on window displays but by night… She produces these lovely trays with lots of swirls and animal silhouettes.

And finally, I adore Christina’s. She creates the sweetest little things, and I’m sorry, but I have a thing for softies – they melt my heart – and these puppies have to be the cutest things ever. They remind me of larger versions of those little dogs you took to school for all the kids to autograph. Remember those?

Did you miss last week’s edition of Take Five Tuesdays? No worries, click on the hyperlink below.

(images from the etsy sellers linked in this post)

Posted in Etsy Take 5 Tuesday on December 12, 2007

Books:

Available now on Amazon

Further editions available include: Portuguese, Danish, Czech, Slovak, French

Courses:

Next dates

Blogging Your Way for Beginners
e-course, April 17 – May 15, 2014
Find out more and sign up now.

Styling With Holly Becker
London, May 2014 (Date TBD)