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Boho Modern

I’m thrilled by the response to this post about London stylist Liza Giles and cannot believe the amount of emails flooding in about this style overall. Many have challenged me to define this look into a name but that’s not really my thing as I’m sure it’s already been categorized by designers… But for fun, I did do some research and now I know what I’d like to call this style when I write about it in the future: Boho Modern.


Let’s see… We have mid century modern, Hollywood regency, modern, minimalist, retro, but what do we call this one? Not vintage modern, that makes me think of Thomas O’Brien and I don’t think his look fits this one since he’s more traditional, clean cut and uses lots of beige and blue. Certainly my friend with her Crack House Chic comment was off base, that raised a few eyebrows and made most of us laugh and cringe simultaneously, and CHC is not even close to what this style should be termed. All things considered, let’s give this look the term Boho Modern. As in Bohemian. How does this sound? It’s a little old with new, less rules with more play.


I did a little research to see if Boho Modern really works. Wikipedia describes Bohemian, “In modern usage, the term bohemian no longer refers to the Roma but can describe any person who lives an unconventional artistic life, where self-expression is their highest value; art (acting, poetry, writing, singing, dancing, painting, etc.) is a serious, if not central, part of their life.” Okay good. That sounds about right.


I researched fashion, too. Boho Chic already describes a style of fashion (think Anthropologie, Noa Noa, Odd Molly), and some stylists call it Modern Boho as well. So you can go with Boho Chic or Boho Modern, too. In the land of interiors, I’ve noticed this style referred to as Flea Market Style, Global Decor, Shabby, and Ethnic Chic, Midwest Modern, Modern Euro Country, and though they fit to a degree, I think Boho Modern works best. Flea Market Style is a close runner up, but because it’s more about self expression and less about where items are sourced – lots of us don’t have access to good fleas, so we shop on eBay or second hand stores – or we pick up new things at Ikea and paint them to give them a little age appeal, I don’t know if Flea Market Style is what I would call this. But I get the point because the rooms end up looking a little bit like everything was found at a flea.

When it comes to Flea Market Style, that can come mean something different for everyone as it’s all about where you live. In my part of the country, most markets do not carry any of these gorgeous things. If you pulled together a room using things from MY local flea market here in New Hampshire, you’d have a room filled with discarded dollar store ceramics, shot guns, pocket knives, beat up action figures, and dirty movies. If you shopped a flea in San Francisco or London, you may have a different ‘vision’ when you think of Flea Market Style.


Suggested reading: New Decor by Elizabeth Wilhide is a lovely book embracing this very style, I suggest picking it up, it’s brilliant. I reviewed it here in case you’re interested. Creating Vintage Style and Flea Market Style by Emily Chalmers is another that I . (Has anyone ever visited Caravan, her London shop?).


Boho Modern is: Mixing old with new. Building your space over time. Taking formerly functional items and transforming them into either purely aesthetic pieces – a collection of vintage keyholes or door knobs mounted to a single wall, or using functional items in fun new ways – a vintage umbrella stand becomes a place to store rolls of wrapping paper or vintage sheets transformed into a duvet, for instance.


Boho Modern feminine with an edge. It’s deeply personal. Mixing periods and ethnic styles is highly encouraged (i.e. Indian prints mixed with Aboriginal). Color can be subdued, rich, bold, or barely there. It can be neat with few objects or items arranged in collections, or a bit disheveled. Traditional design “rules” are thrown out the window, replaced by a casual beauty that comes from the heart. It’s all about textures and details. It’s about living a more creative life and decorating from the heart. Eclectic living.

Looking for some inspiration from “real” homes? Visit these homes from a few decor8 readers living the Boho Modern life: AB Chao, Jasna Janekovic in Germany, Victoria in San Francisco, Yvonne in the Netherlands, and my friend YIPPIEYEAH in Hannover.

(images from caravan, living etc, and odd molly.)

Posted in inspiration, trends on January 04, 2008
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Good News! {Boston Globe + Blueprint}

I have to share some good news with you. Yesterday a Globe Correspondent contacted me to schedule a meet up to discuss decor8. So tomorrow I’ll be taking her for a spin around Boston to some of my favorite shops and then we’ll sit down for the actual interview. The article will appear sometime this month in the Boston Globe, and best part — it will be primarily about design blogging, one of my favorite topics. The article should go live later this month. I’m so nervous!


Also, if you have the new issue of the Jan/Feb Blueprint magazine (it will be around until March), I’m on page 61 in the box titled, “Photo Finesse”, part of Image Control, a piece written by Tom Samiljan. I give Blueprint readers some tips on photo displays, and although my mega list of tips didn’t make the cut, I was happy to see that they included Photojojo and a book I’ve suggested here on decor8 before, Photocraft: Cool Things to Do with the Pictures You Love by Caroline Herter, Laurie Frankel and Laura Lovett. They also were nice enough to put the link to decor8 directly in the paragraph so thank you Blueprint, especially Tom, for contacting me for this piece. I can’t believe this is their final issue…

(photo by holly becker for decor8)

Posted in press on January 04, 2008

Liza Giles {designer}

I’d like to devote the next few days to featuring images that inspire me, ones that I think best fit my design aesthetic, whatever that is – I still don’t know. I was trying to describe it to my friend yesterday and she said I sound like Lily Allen in the beginning of this video as I attempted to sum up my style. I think she’s right. But perhaps another pal of mine recently nailed it with Crack House Chic. Not! More on that below. So let’s first look at the abode of Liza Giles who works as a senior stylist for Designers Guild London. It’s very much the style I fell in love with 12 years ago in London and one that I’ve stuck close by ever since.


Looking with lust at her very hot flat, shown here in the Swedish Elle Interior (my copy above, thanks to Tess), I’ve enjoyed examining all the details, thinking of ways I could be more imaginative as a designer myself. I recently shared some of my favorite images and books with a native New Englander and she didn’t share my enthusiasm as she referred to spaces like Liza’s (shown here) as, “Crack House Chic”. I was both amused and offended. Is that how some perceive such spaces? Like a run down crack den with a touch of glam? How sad!


When I see industrial bits combined with feminine details like embroidered lampshades or handmade quilts in bold prints, I coo in delight. An old wood coffee table with a few pale stains from coffee cups topped with a gorgeous Asian teapot filled with peonies, I’m all over it. White slipcovered sofas sprinkled with velvet worn pillows in fuchsia and teal, sounds like a place to spend the afternoon. But a crack den? This comment left me a bit frustrated, but also enlightened because I mistakenly assumed that most people envy such spaces and even if they wouldn’t live in them, they still appreciated such design. But many of my real life American friends don’t get why this style is attractive to me. Perhaps that’s why most magazines here shun this look for the most part and precisely why so many of us “alternative crack den types” love British, Australian, Dutch, and Scandinavian glossies because sin dens filled with heroine addicts lounging in their less than Ethan Allenified digs attract us.


I see these rooms as creative, inspiring, playful, romantic and filled with a sense of history and personal style. I don’t imagine doing lines on the marble table. I don’t envision myself passed out for days fully dressed in the lovely clawfoot bathtub. Liza Giles’ pad was not only featured here in Swedish mag Elle Interior, but also in UK glossy Elle Decoration. But surprise! not yet featured in US Elle Decor. Interesting, huh? Does the average American look at these spaces as undesirable and run down? I mean, in a land where symmetry and establishing focal points are still all the rage, along with chocolate and robin’s egg blue, I guess I can see why.


What I love about this look: Classic combined with trendy finds and flea market scores. Bright white walls with amazing color dotted around the space, single walls decked out with a bold paper, all the prints and texture everywhere, lavish materials (silk, velvet, trims), and the whole bohemian beauty that feels so uncomplicated, casual, artsy, and most of all inviting.

Some can call it Crack House Chic if they want, but I call it wonderful, beautiful, and elegant. I’ll take it and live happily ever after in complete ecstasy – not the drug, the feeling. :)

(images: elle decoration, uk edition october 2007 (no 182) and elle interiors, swedish edition november 2007 (No 7), all photography by James Merrell, via: this is glamorous and a beautiful living.)

Posted in designers, inspiration on January 03, 2008

Real Simple: Shopkeeper

I was really inspired by the January issue of Real Simple magazine because I thought their shopkeeper profiles in Meet the shopkeepers: Five women who are following their dreams ? and selling great stuff along the way was just great. Did you catch that yet?

Lovely ladies: top left clockwise – Kim, Shannon, Amy, Nancy, and Diane.

For int’l readers and others interested, I’ll recap. They featured Nancy Laboz of Parcel, Sage owner Shannon Kitchens, Diane Campbell of The Candy Store in San Francisco (I first read about her via Daily Candy, how fitting), Amy McCawley from The Livable Home, and finally the lady behind Outdoor Divas — Kim Walker.

What encouraged me about each of these spirited ladies is that they’ve each built a successful business primarily around negative emotions they were feeling – frustration due to a need that wasn’t being filled in their local community. Of course, other reasons cited had to do with a desire to follow a childhood passion or the urge to share something they’re into with others, but again – it was all about filling a need.

Nancy wanted to do something with all the collections that she and her husband had since both love to scour flea markets and found that they ultimately needed to do something with all the great things that resulted from their hunts.

Kim was tired of shopping several stores in Vail, all with inexperienced staff, to find sporting gear so she created a customer service driven store carrying woman-specific gear.

Shannon was fed up with only finding trendy clothes in boutiques that also flaunted hefty price tags. Her goal was to open an affordable boutique and Sage in Atlanta was born, now with two locations.

Diane has loved candy since she was a child, selling it out of her locker at school, so her business was born out of a love of candy and a desire to share the sweetness on San Francisco’s Russian Hill where she wanted to live her dream and again, fill a void.

Amy is an Interior Designer who was sick of being covered in dog hair from her 3 fur kids. When clients wanted to see her home, she felt embarrassed by the overwhelming “fur factor” and would cringe at the thought of having them over. This resulted in forming The Livable Home, a business focused solely on furniture with fabrics that are guaranteed to stand up to the demands of owning pets and having young children.

Again, see a pattern here? These ladies turned a negative situation into a positive one — filling a gap. If you don’t have access to a particular product you love, well complaining won’t change that. View a void as a call to action – if you see something is missing, step up and change it, right? Being innovative isn’t about copying the idea of someone else and then just rolling it out with your name on it, it’s about finding a need, filling a void, and actively seeking to fill that need through your business. That’s how decor8 came about. And if you own a business, you may think of your roots and see the same beginnings – you built your product based on what you weren’t seeing – but desired to see.

Whether that’s a storefront, a website, a blog, Etsy, DaWanda, Ebay, Trunkt, etc. there’s really no excuse to not listen to your voice nowadays with so many platforms that exist where you can get started. If you’re frustrated by lack, rise to the challenge and turn that lack (negative) into a business (positive).

No summer indie market in your city like Renegade or Felt Club, well look into starting your own. Can’t find a blog that targets your passion (floral design, gocco printing, etc.), then do some research and start your own. Freak at the thought of attending yet another craft fair only to see mostly booths packed with jewelry and handbag designers when you want to find some good vintage stuff? Talk to the market owner about renting a space and sell vintage finds yourself.

What frustrates you? Can you do something about it? Find a need, fill the gap. It’s really that simple.

(image taken by holly becker for decor8)

Posted in small business on January 03, 2008

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