Decorating on a Budget

October 23, 2008

I received so many nice comments and emails in response to my living room that was featured in the Etsy Storque yesterday! I thought that I’d write one post in reply to your questions instead of answering each email as time is an issue for me this week since I have a design fair to attend and a few projects to complete. To say I’ve been busy is a huge understatement! I’m not alone though because all who operate a small business have to run a bit crazy (especially during the last quarter of the year). Part of me is really looking forward to the ‘slow’ period that hits just after New Year’s. Do you feel the same? I cannot believe it’s already October 23rd and we are looking at ’09. Craziness. I digress. It’s time to answer your questions!

Decorating on a Budget

Okay so the first batch of emails came from readers wondering how I am able to financially afford living in two countries in this economy. Well that is a bit tricky and kind of personal to answer in such a public place but I’ve decided to tell you what I can without compromising the privacy of my husband and I. Full disclosure: I’m no trust fund baby as my humble 60 square meters apartment clearly shows. I wish sometimes that I had the support of family but we do not. When I’m not shopping handmade, I’m hitting flea markets, second hand shops, sales racks, and stores like IKEA. Next, I’m very much in tune with my spending habits. I do not own a credit card (paid off and shredded them back in 2005 and I’ve never looked back). We only have one car in America that yes, it’s a nice car, but it’s only one car payment each month. Sharing a car with my husband living in the countryside where we have to drive to the post office (we cannot receive mail at our home) each day, to the grocery store, etc. is a real pain at times but we make it work. In Germany, we both purchase a bus/train pass each month and take public transportation (or walk) everywhere. As a result I’ve lost at least 10 pounds in the past month because of all the exercise! I walk 3-5 miles each day. I love living in the city! I also shop at farmers’ markets here and back in New Hampshire we live near a fruit and veggie stand so lots of our food comes via the farmers and that is always less expensive than purchasing at the grocery store. For clothing, my husband and I repair our clothes whenever something rips or a button pops off, a hem needs to be sewn in, etc. so we save money because we wear some of our garments forever and when they need fixed we do it by hand. I also do not have a dishwasher in New Hampshire to save energy and cut down on costs, it’s a small cost but money is money. We have a very inexpensive cable, phone, and internet package (it’s better to subscribe to all 3 via one company as you get a pretty hefty discount this way). I am obsessed with shutting off lights, I shut them off constantly and I use energy efficient bulbs. Gosh I could ramble on forever about how much I’ve changed in my life, how many ways I’ve cut down to be able to live in two countries. When we travel we go on inconvenient days and times to get the best flight or train price. I recycle everything I’m given, whether it’s the ribbon from a gift or the wrapping paper itself – I either turn it into something crafty or I give it to my friends OR I recycle it via the trash collector. I only shop 3 stores now for CDs, DVDs, and books… Amazon, Newbury Comics, and Target. I refuse to give in to impulse to own a new book or CD that I find in a retail shop (like Virgin or HMV) simply because I want it NOW. I wait and go home and order it on Amazon. I’ve cut down on magazine purchasing by at least half. Back in the states, I also shop at Newbury Comics which I’ve already mentioned, but they sell used in addition to new items so I buy used copies in mint condition – a great way to recycle. I also shop Target for new release DVDs because they are always the cheapest around (even beating out Amazon) when it comes to newbies. I use coupons at craft stores in the states, I shop for groceries at farmstands and at Stop & Shop since they have a program where if you spend $100 you get a $10 gift certificate to use next time so it’s like saving 10% on groceries with every visit. We go to movie matinees vs. those shown after 6pm (more expensive), we barely order take out, we only eat out once a week (vs. 6x a week as we once did – yes really!), I went from going out for coffee daily to going out to a coffee shop once weekly.

And for a more personal bit of information I chose to wait to have children later in life (I still do not have them but plan to within the next 4 years) and we decided not to have pets (less expense) at this time in our life despite how much we’d love to have them. That is sacrifice, trust me. There is nothing I love more than animals and kids in the home. If you have them consider yourself so, so lucky. I miss having a pup on my lap or a kitty to play with. I grew up with practically a farm in our home so my heart longs for the day when I can have at least a small dog.

There are so many things that I could bore you for hours talking about that I personally do to save money so that I can live the life that I’d always imagined, well always being since 1996 when I first got the idea to relocate to Europe. Back then, it was England. Did I tell you how my big plans crashed and burned? I was supposed to relocate to Oxford to live with my friend who taught French at the University there, Joelle, but a few months into our plans her mom got very ill with cancer so she needed to move back to Paris to care for her. The next big move was around 1997 when I nearly moved to London with my long time girl pal. But that didn’t work out because she went and got married. When I met my husband and realized that perhaps we’d be living in Germany someday, I felt excited about the idea but by then I was doing quite well with my career and didn’t have a real desire to live in Germany as much as I did England or of course, the idea of living in Paris also interested me. I’d not been to Germany before 1999 so being American and sitting in endless world history classes focusing on the WW2, Germany is considered the land of fancy cars, intellectual types, lederhosen, Octoberfest, and Nazis. I had no clue that Germany was wayyyy more than that. As I began to travel here more each year while we dated and then after our wedding, I came to love this country and the culture here and so back several years ago when we had this discussion about living in America and Germany simultaneously we both thought of ways we could make it work.

First goal: Pay off all of our debt and become debt-free while sacrificing, cutting back on unnecessary luxuries, etc. Once that goal was complete, we could start to save money. We wanted children and a dog but decided to wait. This is where I get to the really personal part but hey, who cares. I saved $25,000 in the past few years so that I could assist my husband in taking this step. Not a lot of cash for a relocation, but it was my contribution. I told him I’d pay for the furniture, appliances, and decor. To date, this apartment is nearly 100% furnished after the past 10 weeks and I’ve spend around $12,500 total so I’m well under budget. I think I need to spend less than 1,000 more and I’m finished. Hurrah!

When we came over, the Euro was so strong (1.61) so my $25,000 USD was only worth around 11,000 Euros here. Depressing, right? So I left a lot of my cash in the bank back in the states and obsessively watched the market each day. I was very careful with my money and what I spent in the beginning stages. Once the Euro fell to 1.28 against the dollar I withdrew money and transferred it into my German bank account. That’s a BIG savings. Now my $25,000 was worth around $20,000 vs. 11,000 so that’s the value in watching the market, not being impulsive, and playing it smart. Now I can purchase a good bicycle, buy an XBox (he he) and finish decorating my bedroom and buy some area rugs for my apartment in addition to clothing as I came over here without clothes and so I’ve been wearing the same two pairs of jeans and one pair of trousers since I arrived. Now I can buy Fall clothes. My husband kept telling me the Euro would lose it’s strength (he has a degree in Economics so I listen to his advice) and to wait. It was hard but I waited and it paid off immensely.

I know I’ve rambled well beyond my normal post length. I imagine each of you reading this in a bit of a glazed over, zoned out lull by now. But if you write to me asking about my finances, how I was able to reach my goals of living in two countries, how I can afford this or that, I will most likely respond at length via my blog because who knows, others may have the same questions and were just too shy to approach me. I have no problem talking about money and such, why not address it plain and open. I can tell you this, I am far from wealthy and every dollar we spend is money we’ve earned. Thorsten and I do not have the financial backing of our families at all. Just the opposite actually. The last gift of money given to us was 7 years ago at our wedding when my parents and grandparents chipped in for the reception and honeymoon. After that, we’ve been flying solo.

So! With all that said, others wrote in asking me about the things in my living room and wondering how much I spent on the space to decorate it. Don’t laugh but I estimate that my living room was around 1,400 Euros, so like $1,650.00 ($3,000 if you include the TV, phone, and DVD player). The most expensive piece after the television is a 1950 vintage floor lamp from eBay that was around $350. Since the Etsy Storque article that ran yesterday, my new sofa table arrived (just this morning) and so it’s in place now. I’ve also shuffled a few things around in the space and took some photos this morning as well. Would you like to see?

Decorating on a Budget

In this photo you can see a mirror (IKEA), my sofa (IKEA), a rug (IKEA), two picture ledges over the sofa (IKEA). The design books are from Amazon, some of the little decorative accents are from flea markets, the sofa table is from a German store called Depot. It’s solid wood and built to last a lifetime. It was 300- Euro delivered and I LOVE it. The little gray velvet pouf was on clearance fro 20-Euro at a little shop in my neighborhood. The lamp is from eBay, that’s the one that I told you cost around $350. The best part was that the owner drove an hour to deliver it to my house at no charge and told me the full history behind this lamp. It was worth the money for the memories I’ll always attach to it. Not to mention it’s a Martha Stewart mint green. :) The candles and globes on my windowsill are from a local craft store, both were around 25 Euros. The shades are from Gundrun Sjoeden (2 are shown) and they cost 91- Euro. The pillows came from local shops, one is from a local designer who gave me a customer discount. All pillows came to around $150. The throw on the back of the sofa is from IKEA. You cannot see it but near the lamp is a basket tipped upside down where I have my phone, some coasters, and a Hable Construction tote filled with magazines. The tote was purchased using a coupon so I paid around $70 for it.

Decorating on a Budget

In this photo, more items to see in the corner. First is a moorish style table from Tchibo (a coffee shop here!), some cushions from a local shop, a larger wicker basket with a lid (you should see the snake who lives inside!) that I use for storage, a print from Etsy framed in an IKEA frame, a lamp from Denmark, an IKEA vase, and pine branches collected on Sunday from the forest nearby.

Decorating on a Budget

And now if you look at this photo, you can see the opposite wall in the room. This is where my entertainment center (IKEA) is (filled with CDs and DVDs from Amazon!), my region free DVD player, cable box, and soon to be Xbox will be housed. The large white flat screen Samsung was around $1,000 USD but I saved for it and like how it looks. I am not big on television but I love films so it was a must (I could not live without watching DVDs!). Nearly all of the art is from Etsy, the swallows are from a flea market, and the light is from a local designer and I got a discount on it from the shop around the corner since they had a grand opening special so it was around $60.

Decorating on a Budget

More views of the room…. Vintage lamp from eBay.

Decorating on a Budget I really LOVE this table.

Decorating on a Budget I would like to put a chair in this space, but I’m looking for a very specific one so it may take me awhile… I’m hopefully going to find it though — a butterfly chair in aged medium brown leather would be ideal or something similar with an open frame on the bottom, low, vintage…

I also would like to add some paint to the walls, make (or buy) and handmade lap quilt, pick up a tea tray for the coffee table, etc. but for now this is it. And I’m happy, under my allotted budget, and though it may not be magazine-worthy when I sit in this space to have tea and watch Science of Sleep tonight with my friend, I have peace inside because it’s a real space that means something to me personally and I did not have to go into debt to get it.

With all that said, I hope I’ve answered your questions, emails, etc. If you have any additional questions please just ask and I’ll answer them here in the comments section below. Thank you!

How do you decorate on a budget anyway? Do you have any tips for how you make your home cozy without spending a lot of money?

(images from holly becker for decor8)


  • Reply feisty tourist October 23, 2008 at 10:10 am

    thanks for sharing! very intriguing. as for my tips, i love to shop for home decor items at home goods. and i definitely spread out purchases. we’ve been in our home for just over 4 years, and it’s definitely not finished. i’m not sure it ever will be. :)

    feisty tourists last blog post: Jamaican in the Triangle

  • Reply minpin October 23, 2008 at 10:14 am

    Wow! This was awesome and very inspiring. It definitely gave me the push to reexamine my finances and what I am spending in order to be able to live my dreams. Thanks so much:)

  • Reply Nicole RJ October 23, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Wow – thanks so much for sharing! I saw your Stroque article and think your space is just fabulous. The Mr. and I are currently saving towards owning our own house inthe spring, so I’m defeinitely taking notes! I’m also glad to hear I’m not the only one constantly turning off lights! I even unplug the electronics when we go away for a weekend (despite the Mr. thinking I’m nuts!)

    Nicole RJs last blog post: Decadent…

  • Reply Shanon October 23, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Holly, I VERY much appreciate the unblinking honesty with which you view your finances and your purchases. The deliberateness you illustrate when saving and then choosing items to purchase with those savings is REAL. By that I mean, you don’t lie to yourself or justify something you can’t afford. I find this posting to be probably, in all truthfulness, one of the most useful post you could probably write. I think sometimes, we forget what goes in to furnishing a home. And maybe we get a little jealous when we see such lovely interiors, that we just want it all right now, and maybe we might spend beyond our means to get it. Which in turn makes it hard to enjoy our surroundings because they make us feel guilty.

    I’m probably not making my thoughts very clear. But I just want to say you’ve given me lots to think about! Thanks Holly!

    And holy cow, that coffee table looks GREAT in your space!

    Shanons last blog post: Inspiration

  • Reply Colleen in MA October 23, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Thank you for taking the time to share! I’m a long time reader, first time commenter. I can relate so much to what you shared (minus the living in Europe portion) because my new husband and I do not have any assistance from our families and we live a lifestyle that others would consider “boring” (no big trips, eating in, etc) but we have a healthy savings account and when we want to treat ourselves we do it guilt free. You are so right about waiting and timing. When we are patient and casually shop around (furniture, trips, etc) things end up costing so much less. Your post is inspiring and a very interesting peak into a creative, healthy lifestyle. Thank you!

  • Reply Stephenie Tiedens October 23, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Holly you are such an inspiration! It was fantastic of you to share all that you did and it makes me love this website even more. I admire your thriftiness and that you take your time to do something right.
    One way I save money is to find items at Goodwill that I can refinish. I found 4 dining room chairs from 1955 that had great wood detail that I stripped, stained and reupholstered as a wedding gift for my sister. They were only $2.99 each and it was my first time doing anything like that, but it was worth it. They looked beautiful and inspired me to continue to try new projects. They take a while, but in the end I have something I love. Thanks again Holly!

  • Reply Natalie October 23, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Thanks for posting about this! You’re really brave for writing about such a personal topic, but I have to say I was engaged through the whole thing. It’s always nice to read about how people work hard, save money, and make smart choices – and this is reflected in their quality of life and well-being. So thank you for sharing!

  • Reply Trina October 23, 2008 at 10:36 am

    I love your coffee table! It’s fits in perfectly with all your other beautiful things. Yay!

    Thanks for sharing your plan with everyone, I often wonder how I too can cut back on things to make saving money a little easier, you have some great ideas Holly!

    Trinas last blog post: A Love Affair With Morocco

  • Reply Jamie October 23, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Thanks for sharing your inspiring story Holly!

    I have a job that requires me to spend the majority of my time out of the country, but I have a home in the US that I’ve been working on furnishing/decorating for the past 3 years. To make it work financially, I’ve spread my major purchases out so that I can save up the money first and not rely on debt; and I shop where I live (India, Brazil) for the little decorative touches. Oils and watercolors from street artists, pillow covers, fabrics and other special pieces from little shops or artisans that I find during my travels. Not only are these items less expensive when purchased directly from the artists, I end up with a unique home and little touches to remind my of my adventures.

    Jamies last blog post: Road

  • Reply Caroline October 23, 2008 at 10:37 am


    Being thrifty is cool, and to quote something I read once (I can’t remember where) “Debt is slavery”. I ran up a lot of credit card bills years ago & learned many good life lessons in paying it off. For the last few years I use a Visa debit card or cash/check only and never buy what I can’t pay for at that moment.

    It’s also interesting how thrift affects consumer behavior (more environmentally friendly, it seems).

    Good for you on achieving your goals (and under budget to boot)! I love reading your blog, checking out your pretty new digs in Germany, and I especially enjoy it when you post so candidly.


  • Reply tammy October 23, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Wow, congratulations on such an adorable space, and even more so for chopping up those credit cards! Woo hoo!! We chopped and paid off all of ours in 2004 and I never plan to own one again. Our family also does a lot of the same penny pinching that you do, just for different goals. (Mainly so I can stay home with my 3 young children.) I’ve kind of done the opposite of you…had the babes young and plan to travel when they are grown.

    I love your blog, it inspires me to keep a clean and cute place on a budget. And the story you just told reminds me that some day I too may be able to live in Europe if I keep at it. Thanks!

  • Reply Michelle October 23, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Great post Holly, my eyes definitely did not glaze over reading it. As a matter of fact this immediately getting forwarded to the bf. We talk rather lightly about some day splitting our time between the US and Greece (my bf’s family is from Greece and he has a small piece of land in hims name on one of the islands) but we have no real plan to make it happen. Since you’ve made your big move I’ve been following your story closely on here and haus maus and have been much more motivated to figure out a real way for us to be able make the move.
    As an aside, your description of how you and your husband have lived your lives in order to save enough money to set up home in Germany is really just a great model for everyone to follow for their own life. Moving to a foreign country or not.

    P.S. that coffee table looks amazing.

  • Reply MC October 23, 2008 at 10:46 am

    You’re an inspiration Holly! I love how you have a vision for your life and how you make it come true with patience, discipline, style and joie de vie. Here’s wishing you and yours much happiness and harmony in your new home(s)!

  • Reply VisuaLingual October 23, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Thank you so much for sharing all this information, and for your willingness to be a bit personal about your own situation. I do many of the things you describe, and all those little thrifty habits make a big difference over time. A couple more tips: I almost never waste any food; I’m pretty good about keeping track of what we have and using things before they go bad. Also, I cook more than we need for one dinner, and then freeze the leftovers or have them for lunch. So, even if we’re feeling rushed or lazy, we don’t need to eat out.

    As for home decor on a budget, decorating over time not only saves money but also yields better results. I sometimes wish I could just go to DWR and get everything I covet, but my home is more interesting because I can’t do that. Moving things around also really helps to freshen the place up if I start to feel bored with my home. You can see it here:

    Anyway, I really, really appreciate your candor!

    VisuaLinguals last blog post: Dixie Terminal Building Interior

  • Reply lindsay October 23, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Your place looks beautiful Holly! I love the chubby/curviness of your sofa table, and the thin lamp is striking! Fabulous!

  • Reply magikquilter October 23, 2008 at 10:55 am

    I agree Holly that you were very brave and open and honest in response to those emails but I must say I am slightly staggered that people would get into something so private with you…kudos to you for answering so fully. And also am in agreement with Shanon that this is an important post and well done in the way you tackled it.

    Let me know if you would like any help with designing your quilt yourself Holly I love to help people accomplish these things…and you could do big stitches that do not take forever or for a lovely puffy look you could tie it and that is really quick…..actually get inspired by my group on flickr and you will see a lot of people make quite stunning quilts the first time…the trick is if you only want one only get enough to do that as it is addictive!

    Your table is wonderful

    magikquilters last blog post: More Amari

  • Reply magikquilter October 23, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Well second time…you said you made one before….these new type ones do not take forever and you could have a few friends help with the pinning the layers together…a modern take on the Amish get togethers!

    Did you get any sewing done last weekend? You said you wanted to…

    magikquilters last blog post: More Amari

  • Reply lori October 23, 2008 at 10:58 am

    wow holly! thanks for such an honest and interesting post! i love that you broke everything down and made it seem so manageable. such a great achievement for you… should be proud.

    loris last blog post: field trip : maywood environmental park

  • Reply rifferaff October 23, 2008 at 11:01 am

    thanks so much for this post. i love when you speak frankly about personal matters, i actually find those posts the most relatable and inspiring.

    i think you left out one major factor for how you are able to live like you do: you’ve worked hard, building your own business, creating a strong decor8 brand and now your work is more fulfilling -economically, spiritually, etc – than it would ever be if you had stayed in the corporate 9 to 5. you invested in your dream and there’s no shame in making a good living off of that. truly an inspiring post for me.

    rifferaffs last blog post: Hypnotic

  • Reply Nancy October 23, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Hi Holly, thanks so much for sharing such personal information. I love your new place. My husband and I are big savers as well. I can’t wait until I can actually do a little bit of decorating.

    Nancys last blog post: Grand Opening of…

  • Reply Amy October 23, 2008 at 11:02 am

    I usually don’t comment and actually, I usually don’t read posts…I am more of an eye candy girl. However, this article was wonderful! So appropriate for how many of us are feeling right now, spending less and trying to create a sensible style of living. Thank you and I feel inspired to do a little budgeting right now ; )

    Amys last blog post: Hello

  • Reply kate October 23, 2008 at 11:04 am

    This was a fantastic post! I love the topic of decorating on a budget, and it’s definitely not addressed enough. Half of the blogs I read make it seem totally normal to spend a fortune on everything just for the sake of good design. A lot of people I know seem to think my husband and I make six figure salaries because they understimate how much simple lifestyle changes can affect your savings account (e.g. eating out once a week at the local bar instead of three times at four star restaurants, not having cable, shopping at Target for everything).

    Regarding the issue of a dishwasher, I’ve actually heard from several sources, including our green contractor that we’ve been using for our kitchen remodel, that modern dishwashers actually use less water and energy than washing by hand. Not to mention the convenience! We’ve been hand washing for over a year and are sooooo excited to finally have a dishwasher!

    Anyway, thanks again for the great post!

  • Reply Alison October 23, 2008 at 11:07 am

    This was fabulous. Thank you so much. Checking design blogs everyday can skew what’s really important in life if you don’t keep your perspective. So, this was just so great to read.

    And my husband would want to kiss you for this! I would totally let him. The table is beyond sexy. xoxo

    Alisons last blog post: She’s a fan of PDA

  • Reply Amanda October 23, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Thank you so much for writing this! I’ve been so curious but didn’t want to pry since finances are a personal issue to a lot of people. This is so encouraging for me to decorate my house on a budget, and figure out my own finances so I can enjoy life as much as you seem to enjoy it! I’m 24, working full-time as an assistant at a law firm, and realized that no matter how hard I try and save and skrimp to get by, I’m still living paycheck to paycheck and am having to dip into my [hangs head shamefully] trust fund to pay my monthly bills. I don’t use it for anything else because the stipulation was I had to spend the money on something substantial. This post has further pushed me in the direction to start figuring out what I want to do with my life and how to help myself become more financially stable. Thanks again!

  • Reply Vita October 23, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts,
    here are my saving tips: ikea and flea markets for furniture and home decoration,
    second hand, sales and sewing for clothes,
    i love hunting for outstanding design clothes, since the interesting one here in Israel is very expensive, i by in second hand mostly new items, adjusting a size,if needed, with my sewing mashine, – and voila! Or sewing something completely new, finding a pattern or inspiration in japanese sewing books.

    I love “Science of sleep”, it’s one of my favourite films, along with “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, another Michel Gondry’s film, i even hesitate to call it “film”’s a pattern, a beautiful lace made of your hazy dreams..

    Vitas last blog post: Son de Mar

  • Reply karina October 23, 2008 at 11:22 am

    I admire you for sharing so personal information, anyway I feel that you do not debt any explanation to anybody.
    it is great live without economical debts, grat advice.
    I have to write a post about mu new house which is big but very low maintenance,living in Argentina this kind of crisis are common that we have to adapt.

    karinas last blog post: Photographer Portfolio

  • Reply julia October 23, 2008 at 11:28 am

    The table is amazing for your space. I am absolutely in love with your living room.

    And thank you for your candor regarding your finances, decorating, and how you made your lifestyle work. It is refreshing and inspiring!

    I moved in September and I have come to realize that decorating on a budget means my apartment has to be a work in progress. I still don’t have curtains, a bedroom rug, or a new mattress (I’m sleeping on an old twin bed on loan from my parents!) but have decided these things aren’t worth going into debt for. One of the things that has helped me the most is those 40% off coupons for Michaels and JoAnns that are in the paper every week! Both stores are such a great resource for cheap frames, pretty papers, and DIY project materials.

    julias last blog post: Just in time!

  • Reply irk24 October 23, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Thank you for that. I appreciate your honesty and I was not bored but fascinated. We live in an age of over-consumption so it’s nice to hear this philosophy of restraint–nice and reaffirming. My husband and I just moved in to a new house and since we are spending so much $$ doing things like insulation, wiring, and fireplace updates there’s not a lot left over for furniture or design choices. My tips: My biggest resource for accesssories and furniture has always been my grandmother! I have so many wonderful finds from her that are all the more special because they were hers. She has three children and six grandchildren but I am always the only one who wants anything! I find this bizarre. Her stuff is not ‘granny-gone-wild’ but vintage, retro and so often well-made and impossible to find now. I have all of her china! The best part is that it makes her so happy to have me take these things so it’s really a win-win (and this goes for jewelry, hats, and some clothes too!). Also: I do have a credit card but always pay it off every month. I pay attention to store sales and will often only shop in the sales section.

    Here’s what I would like to know: I too have already bought a number of things at IKEA for our new house: kitchen, hall, and dining room lights, knobs and bathroom rugs. I’m considering buying an IKEA couch but am concerned about quality and durability, so how’s that couch doing? And aren’t you concerned about it being white? I’m pretty sure you got the one that has a washable cover but I have a 2 year old so a white couch seems like a dumb idea.

    Thanks again for sharing, you inspired me!

  • Reply AC October 23, 2008 at 11:34 am

    I really love your livingroom! So bright and fresh. I would love to have a coffeetable like yours.
    I don’t spend much money on decorating, instead I search in my own cabinets and boxes for things I used earlier and then put them in new places, or paint them. For example I sew pillows out of my old windowdrapes that don’t fit any more. My husband now and then builds furniture himself. Sometimes I ask my parents if they have any furniture that they don’t use anymore…
    You have a beautiful blog, thank you for sharing! (Found you through ChezLarsson)

    ACs last blog post: Presentkortet ?ntligen spenderat

  • Reply tara October 23, 2008 at 11:35 am

    I just wanted to tell you I think you helped alot of people with that post! I’m a newlywed, learning about household finances, so it certainly helped me! My best friend is from the States, and her husband is from Germany, so I IMMEDIATELY sent her the link to this post, because one day they will be figuring out how to live in both places too. Thank you so much for sharing! :)

    PS- I love your living room :)

  • Reply sonal October 23, 2008 at 11:44 am

    dear holly

    this post just reconfirmed to me why your blog is the ONLY ONE i read daily!

    thanks for being so honest, so willing to share and so so so inspiring!

  • Reply Tracey October 23, 2008 at 11:49 am

    I have a very similar life- German husband and all! We also have two places and love to travel, so expenses are cut way back! It’s actually a lot of fun to be frugal and find the cheapest airfare- for example! We do have a lovely child- who is as much a gypsy as her parents- and a dog. The dog is the hardest expense- leaving him and boarding him when we travel breaks my heart and pocketbook.

    For decorating, I am a big fan of DIY projects- paint, sew, garden, create things by yourself and with family friends- we really do not hire out. I am huge on recycling, and my husband would fight you for the lights- he is our lighting police!

    I feel we are instilling values in our child and still having tons of fun doing it! Bravo for you- being able to travel and have 2 places is well worth foregoing that new sweater this year!

    PS My big splurge for decorating is Fresh Flowers! Everyone should treat themselves.

    Traceys last blog post: Autumn Abundance- Decorate for the Seasons

  • Reply Betsy October 23, 2008 at 11:51 am

    That is officially the smartest thing I’ve read in a long time! I’m going to send it to my sister and friend, as we all are envisioning a day where we have a second apt. in Europe. However, patience and savings are key, and it’s nice to see that it worked out for someone! And, your apartment is lovely!

  • Reply daisy janie / scoutie girl October 23, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Fantastic post – a testament to how one can live the good life while not breaking the bank. I think we have to be willing to examine our lives and re-define what’s most important. Good for you! I have sooooo enjoyed peeking in on your Germany updates! Really inspiring. Just painted another room white this past weekend to freshen and enliven the space for artwork! Have a great weekend!

    daisy janie / scoutie girls last blog post: getting it done

  • Reply Jill LaCroix October 23, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Thank you Holly!
    In four weeks Im taking a second home in India.
    Ive gleaned from your German experience and your posts
    keep me inspired. {How many times a day you must hear that!}
    Personally, Im looking forward to having fun decorating my apt on the 16th floor..
    like you, Ive put aside my loot from etsy. haha!
    finding pillows, curtains, rugs , lanterns..and wont be a problem when I get there.. it IS India!
    Seriously, I agree it takes careful planning, for me its been a good four years in the making.
    again, a heartfelt THANK YOU Holly!
    I may be inspired to start a blog of my own adventures?


  • Reply Stockton October 23, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Thank you for sharing this … I think a lot of us have dreams of making a big move like this, and it’s so inspiring to see someone who has approached it in practical terms and actually made it happen!

    Stocktons last blog post: book shelf

  • Reply Coralee October 23, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    This Post=Inspirational

    Thank you for deciding to be so personal and share how you make your fabulous life work for you and your husband.
    So many times I have found myself wondering how all these wonderful lives that I read about all over the internet are led and you are providing some practical ideas on how it actually happens and it’s not magic apparently.

    The biggest thing everyone, including me has to remember is that life is about the choices we make in regards to everything, everyday. Sometimes this is exhausting and it is much easier to sit on the couch glazed over and watching yet more bad reality television.

    But, it seems to me that your choices have paid off big time and you have a great life that you can enjoy that will be the envy of others and that is okay.
    The rest of us just have to figure out what is important and vital in our lives and what we are willing to sacrifice for our future dreams.
    I am very newly married and this post just resonates with me because I keep asking my husband what kind of life we ultimately want to have and how we are going to achieve the goals we define together. These first couple of months have been very difficult for us because of this exercise.

    Thanks again for being so honest with your readers and explaing how some of the magic happens as that dose of reality is so appreciated in our smoke and mirrors soicety.

    I wish you and your husband all the best as you continue living the life you have so carefully designed.
    P.S. I will give my dog and cat a hug for you!

  • Reply holly October 23, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Being thrifty is something that I have grown to love very much–being a “picker” as some call it–a person who scours vintages shops, flea markets, and estate sales for treasures and valuable vintage finds–is both ecologically savvy and reminds you of the value of one of a kind items.

    I often visit thrift shops whose profits go to the greater good like the Humane Society thrift stores for animals and the Hospice thrift stores who assist those who need live in nurses.

    I am often shocked at the amazing things that I find there, which in turn make my home look more unique and stylish.

    I thank you so much for this amazing blog post–and love the posts where you are both frank and sincere. Your personality shines through on your blog and that is the biggest reason why it is such an engaging read. Really inspiring!

    hollys last blog post: slab wood furniture: brooklyn

  • Reply Kristi @ Addicted 2 Decorating October 23, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Holly, this was such an inspiring post! I feel so motivated right now!

    My husband and I also live on cash only–no credit cards. And three years ago, we downsized TREMENDOUSLY into an 834-square-foot condo (from a 2500 s.f. house) in order to save money. And like you, we also have decided to wait for children (although I’m 35 now).

    Our dream is to be able to save up and pay cash for our dream home. Your practical ideas of saving have definitely inspired me to look for more ways that I can save.

    Thanks so much!

    By the way, your home is fantastic. Not magazine worthy??? I would beg to differ with you on that one.

    Kristi @ Addicted 2 Decoratings last blog post: DIY Project:: Glass Marble Flower Vase

  • Reply Breezy October 23, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    thank you so much for taking the time to share with us all of these details. i love being able to know where every little piece has come from. i’ve always been on a very strict budget, so it is uplifting to know that it was possible for you to create a beautiful space at such a minimal cost.

    Breezys last blog post: Um, I Actually Find Lots of Things Delightful

  • Reply Melissa de la Fuente October 23, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Wow. Holly! You are so generous with your time and your style of living.
    So kind of you to share all these details with folks. I want to say, without reserve, that you are just wonderful and your home, is absolutely beautiful and perfect to me. I LOVE that table, so much. I would love to relax there with you, have a cup o’ something hot and chat. What fun! Thank you for sharing your home with us darlin.

  • Reply michelle October 23, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    My home is mostly Salvation Army finds and I love living with pieces that already have a history (like your vintage lamp). I do lots of rearraging of my space and create little “moments” and vignettes to satisfy my nesting addiction. It is so nice to reuse things that have so much life left in them; great for the environment, for people on a budget and also for the charities that sell used pieces.

    Thanks for your honestsy on this important topic, Holly!

    michelles last blog post: Love this idea!!!

  • Reply European Girl October 23, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks for sharing. My boyfriend and I are considering relocating to Europe (Germany, Austria, England, Belgium, where we can find work!), and its really great to see how you have done it. I love your decorating style, your blog inspires me to try and make my dream of living in Europe a reality too. I love Germany, my sister currently lives there and has inspired me as well to get off my butt and move. Maybe someday I will be your neighbor :-). Now, I just need to brush up on my Deutsch.

    Thanks Again for Sharing, Its always great to hear the details from someone who is going through it! Love your blogs!

  • Reply Bethany October 23, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Hi Holly!
    If possible, I love you and your blog even more after reading this post!

  • Reply Sia October 23, 2008 at 12:59 pm


    …such an inspiring post! :-)
    Decorating on a budget: HEMA!!

    {I don’t have a creditcard either, I paid off my credit card debt back in 2005 (= post-university life) + with Paypal around, I really don’t need a creditcard – Paypal automatically transfers funds from my bank account to my Paypal account whenever I purchase something online}!

  • Reply Diana Evans October 23, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    oh what a peaceful and serene place!!! love it and great article on the Storque

    Diana Evanss last blog post: Hallowe’en Cupcakes for everyone!!!

  • Reply The City Sage October 23, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Thank you Holly for such a brilliant post—it was the exact opposite of boring. You’ve inspired me so much to see that beautiful homes can be created on a budget! And not only that, it’s so wonderful to see your sacrifice and hard work pay off in such a tangible, warm, and worthwhile way. My husband and I just got married and moved from NYC to San Fran, so we’re feeling strapped at the moment (who isn’t?) but reading about your lifestyle adjustments encourages me to continue with our own…

    As for my methods for decorating on a budget, I find the most important thing to do is stay flexible,keep an open mind, and see everything as a treasure hunt! I’ve snapped up so much great stuff combing the shelves at Goodwill and even stopping in my tracks to go back for something someone has left on the curb as ‘garbage’. I scored a 19th century pecan wood table and chair set that way, and I’m so excited to bring it back to its original beauty! It’s all an adventure. Thanks for the inspiration and spirit!

    The City Sages last blog post: Inspiration Board: Ladylike Magenta

  • Reply Amy Woods October 23, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    SOOO helpful. And it’s good to be reminded that beauty and having a nice home doesn’t happen over night and doesn’t have to break the bank. Thanks for sharing so many details. A site I like for books is – I buy used books if I can and I usually end up paying more for the shipping than I do the book. Over the years I’ve been given some great decor items. And it’s too much clutter to keep everything I love out. So I’ve packed up a couple boxes of my stuff and put them in storage. Then about once a year I pull them out and pack other things away. I can “redecorate” with fresh eyes with what seems like new things. This has been really helpful to me as I live in a small apartment that also works as my studio. Also, surrounding myself with creative friends is great. We make and “barter” with each other – no cash. And I LOVE to barter. If you find an artist or DIYer whose work you like, just ask if they will barter with you. I would do it more if only asked. Thanks Holly! PLEASE share more money saving tips – it was SOOOO helpful.

    Amy Woodss last blog post: Aware

  • Reply Alison October 23, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    To quote the great Jonathan Adler, that coffee table is J’adorable! Or J’amazing! Or J’Some Fancy Adjective.

    Great work on the whole room! I’d like to sip tea there, as well. And watch movies. And read books. I’m moving in, k?

    Alisons last blog post: Casserole Challenge, Week 7 (I think): Now We?re Getting Somewhere

  • Reply doreen October 23, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    How refreshing it was to read your post, when given the state of our US economy, I had lost faith that Americans don’t know how to live within their means. Your model of living is to be admired, and inspirational. I have found that living this way too has fueled my creativity as well, and has lead to some interesting discoveries.
    How much richer our lives are when we can then use our money for travel and other experiences instead of stuff. Thank you, Holly, you have given us a good model to follow.

  • Reply Julia October 23, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    I’m another one who appreciates posts like this — money dominates so many decisions in our lives and at least Americans tend to remain weirdly silent about it. I’m not great with money or understanding it, but I am a tightwad by nature which limits my spending. My biggest savings have been 1) not owning a car, 2) living with roommates, and 3) having no debt. Without even trying, I saved enough money in a year and a half to quit my day job in July to pursue design, with a good 10 month cushion (if only health insurance weren’t more than rent…).

    I often find that the decisions I make because I want to be environmentally conscious turn out to also be ones that benefit my finances. For example: not driving, living in a higher density area with roommates, shopping Craigslist and thrift stores, considering the environmental impact of purchases and packaging when deciding whether to purchase something, switching to reusable napkins and handkerchiefs, fixing things when they break, switching to CFLs, and remaking things when I get bored of them.

    Julias last blog post: 2009 happify calendar

  • Reply susan October 23, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    i had the same impression on germany but quickly changed my mind last month. i love the place! i usually say to people, the politics and the history overshadowed the beauty of the country, germany. after coming back from europe, i seriously (and still is) thought about making a move there and start a designing career in fashion or something. however, before i do, i have to save big time! i have a question, is it difficult to get started in europe (like germany) from scratch? for instance, finding a job and where to live and such. thank you.

  • Reply Katherine October 23, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Wow, what a great post, thank you for sharing, it was really interesting. So often I read design and interior blogs and just assume the writers are loaded, it’s really refreshing to read something like this. I’m trying to live more simply, partly for money but also because we just seem to have so much stuff already!

    Katherines last blog post: Helping hats!

  • Reply Melissa October 23, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Wow- thank you so much for such an informative post. Your apartment is so great and so REAL! Your project has given me hope for this old house of mine. And thank you so much for sharing the information about your finances and wht you do to be frugal. With purse-strings tightening lately it is encouraging to hear what other people do to stay on track.

    Thanks again!

  • Reply liz October 23, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    great post holly! thank you for sharing honestly how you have done it. your space looks great and you deserve to be happy in it! can’t wait to see more of your space.

    it’s inspiring to me to read because i would love to have more than one home someday. and i do believe it’s not just a crazy dream! also we just moved into a new place and are decorating on a budget. it’s fun to find bargains and use your creativity to make a space that’s really your own!

    lizs last blog post: Fallspiration

  • Reply Grace@PoeticHome October 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Holly, I have so much respect for you!!! I really appreciate the time you took in being open about your finances. In this type of economy, your honesty is truly appreciated by everyone. I am always so much more impressed with people who can make their homes absolutely beautiful on a budget — which you have done splendidly — instead of those who have the ability to spend $15,000 on a table that is guaranteed to be gorgeous. I LOVE your entire living room, and the lamp is so divine!!

    My entire home (except for electronics and our bedroom mattress) is furnished via vintage / thrift shops, a few antique pieces, flea market finds, and Craigslist. I find ways to repurpose everything, and I especially appreciate having pieces that I can prompt to work double or triple duty. For example, one of my side tables is a 1920s wardrobe suitcase that is perfect for holding drinks and a reading lamp. :) I think creating a home piecemeal with items you find on treasure hunts that you truly love is much more rewarding (and expressive of oneself) than buying an entire cookie-cutter room.

    Grace@PoeticHomes last blog post: Repurposed Tricks & Treats – Halloween Decor Ideas

  • Reply Anouk Honee October 23, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Hi Holly,

    Thanx for your story! Your appartment looks wonderfull!!
    About money: only reading your blog gives me so much inspiration en feel good vitamins the need for having everything is almost zero!
    Enjoy life en your loved ones!


  • Reply Justine October 23, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    I think patience is the key to decorating on a budget. When you can wait it out you:
    …can find just the right thing and not waste money on something you don’t love as much that is later replaced
    …can avoid jumping on the trend train. If you wait it out, you’ll see if it is only a passing fad, or if it is truly something classic that you will love for a long time
    …can find a great deal!
    …spread out your spending over different paycheques so you don’t blow the bank all at once.

  • Reply annkent October 23, 2008 at 3:34 pm


    With such unblinking honesty, you just gave the most understanding and I dare say, appreciated advice to your readers. So many times, when we face financial constraints for one reason or another, we think we are the only ones and of course, we never think that the people we hold in very high regard (and especially those associated with our favorite high gloss magazines, and now blogs!) struggle with monetary issues or frugality. You are an inspiration to all of us in countless ways.

    Thank you.

  • Reply leticia blanco October 23, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your way of making things work with us!! And I absolutely love the vintage floor lamp in your living room!

    leticia blancos last blog post: Tentaci?n / Temptation ;)

  • Reply Lisa October 23, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Thank you for that! I am also very thrifty. I will share some things I learned growing up in NYC. We scored a Thonet couch from the sidewalk during “furniture garbage night”, and found other cool stuff that way. We use Freecycle. We trade cds. For many years, I bought ALL my clothes from sample sales in NYC. 2 pairs of Ralph Lauren shoes for $20. Arms full of clothes for $1 an item. Go to the Salvation Army and salvage shops. When you want to go on vacation, walk into a travel agent and ask what specials they have. We went to Guadelupe for 11 days, luxury hotel & airfare for $495 each. When you buy a bag of carrots, use it in 3 different dishes, etc. It’s actually fun & challenging to do this!

  • Reply Alicia October 23, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    As someone who does have assistance from family, it is very inspiring to hear how you’ve saved and got by over the years. Like others have said, it will lead me to reexamine my finances next year after I graduate from college and move out of the city.
    Speaking of that, you brought up a good point that I’m really rather worried about. You mentioned how you have lost about 10lbs living in the city, and I live in Manhattan, so I am very used to walking, though most Manhattanites learn how to do it as infrequently as possible and make fewer stops, etc, but thinking about how next year I’ll be going back to a car — yikes. I’ll have to remember that and try to supplement it with being active outside because you’re right, living without a car means weight loss, haha.

    Alicias last blog post: the best sorbet around

  • Reply LeeAnn October 23, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Self sacrifice should be rewarded. You are so on the money when you spoke about removing debt from your life and reallocating your financial priorities. Many of our friends have already started families and own their homes. My husband and I delayed all that and now we are debt free, have an incredible amount of savings, and can actually afford a home in the near future without being house poor! In the mean time we still have all our furniture from college! (Why invest in something that might not fit our future home?) But being patient has been my best ally. I keep an idea book with items I like. Some of those ideas have been in my book for years and it acts like a time capsule of what my true tastes are. Thinking about my purchases makes me reflect on if I need it or want it or is it just a fad. That being said, I can readily spot a great deal at the thrift store. Sometimes its just 4 years later than the day I wanted it! You can’t build a castle in a day!

    LeeAnns last blog post: PIF WIP

  • Reply Evelyn October 23, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    When I saw the standing lamp for the first time I thought it was too much for the room. Now that I see it in the final set up, I can’t believe how much the baby blue color changes the room! Very nice touch. It goes well with the shades.

  • Reply delphine October 23, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Thanks for posting this. It is definitely inspiring. I’m in college right now and want to be able to travel but I for a long time thought that it wouldn’t be possible due to money. This gives me hope that I can arrange my life to make the important things happen.

  • Reply Renate October 23, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Well, I guess that is how we all do it: combine Ikea and fleamarket finds with a few lovely, more expensive pieces. Great post.
    Just one question left: where did you get that beautiful silvercoloured (metal?) offerbox that’s on the pile of pillows?

    @ irk24: I’ve had my Ikea Klippan sofa for almost 10 years now and it’s still going strong! It could do with a new slipcover, as this one has faded a bit with age (and washing, and the bright sun), but they’re only 50 euros or so. The couch itself is still in great condition though!

  • Reply Rebekah at EAD October 23, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    This is my favorite post ever on decor8. Thank you for sharing, especially the personal part!

  • Reply decor8 October 23, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    magickquilter: No… didn’t do any sewing at all last Sunday! But I did do some little mixed media birds and made a small mobile type thing. Maybe I’ll post it in Flickr or something. :)

    Rifferaff: Thank you so much, I just read your blog post and was completely flattered and touched. You made my day, more than you know!

    Tracey: That is quite cool that we have so much in common. You should totally go for it if it’s in your heart. If you really want to relo, set your sights and aim because it’s totally attainable.

    Alison: Yes it’s a great space to read books too. I am really into the TWILIGHT books! Do you know this series? I’m so hooked.

  • Reply alicia October 23, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Your apartment looks wonderful. I am really amazed (though I shouldn’t be because it’s you) at how quickly you have turned your space into a home. It looks so inviting. You would never know you just moved in.

    I feel like Etsy has really helped our house become more cozy. Our walls, like yours, are filled with the art of artists I have come to know there. I feel like I am surrounded by friends all day long.

    alicias last blog post: into the woods

  • Reply shay October 23, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Planning is key to saving money when decor8 ing ;} Thanks for sharing,Holly.
    Your place is charming, I think the floor lamp adds a lot. Worth every penny.
    Be wildly successful and make no apologies.You GO girl.
    As always, luv your blog !!!

  • Reply young c-m October 23, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    A long post, but appreciated! Thanks for sharing and posting the pics with your new table -looks great!

  • Reply rifferaff October 23, 2008 at 5:13 pm


    rifferaffs last blog post: Stepping outside the bubble

  • Reply sly_fox October 23, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Kudos on being resourceful without compromising your aesthetics ! Honest, smart, and inspiring.
    For me budget decorating means distinguishing between intrinsic beauty and value that I establish for myself, versus wholesale adoption of a mass-marketed concensus aesthetic. While I love seeing new designs, I believe this should be inspirational, not crazy-making. I make peace with my economic reality, that changes come gradually and my space evolves slowly. With luck and patience I’ve found OOAK pieces at flea markets, yard sales, thift stores. Buying used, functional, customizable items stretches buying power and reduces landfill. Using references like paint chips, fabric swatches, photos and measurements when foraging keeps me focused and prevents time-wasting do-overs. I have a strong DIY ethic and each project cumulatively uplevels my skills, gives me experience with new materials and tools, hones my eye, and provides a sense of accomplishment while saving money. But I also know which tasks are better left to experts and which things are better quality/less expensive in time and materials when purchased; when to save with mass-produced, or when handmade is a better investment on other levels (supports a fellow creative; has heart, warmth, and individuality). I ask myself if a potential buy is a “want” or a “need” and I reflect on “wants” rather than buying immediately, which prevents regrettable impulse purchases.

    And off topic, for your nesting dvd collection, I recommend the first season of “Pushing Daisies.” It’s a romantic comedy, what I would call “magical realism,” with the most witty, delicious use of colorways in set design and costuming. Sweet, smart, with a style all its own.

  • Reply decor8 October 23, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Renate: It’s a metal box from a local shop. I’ve searched the web far and wide and cannot located them online. Does anyone have a secret source to share?

    Grace@PoeticHome: Oh yes your points are so right. I get absolutely sick reading some magazines and researching items I find there only to find out that a sofa the model was perched on was $20,000. Completely uninspiring.

    Kate: Your dishwasher comment was so interesting, I will research your points for sure! Maybe a d/w will be in my future back home. I’d love that to be honest. I hate washing dishes.

    Vita: Yes, Science of Sleep is such a great film — it’s completely like a dream or something. Lovely and odd altogether. :)

    Kristi@addictedtodecorating: BIG HIGH FIVE on downsizing from a home to a condo. My goodness that is a big step. I bet your feel better with less overhead, huh?

    Coralee – Your comment meant a lot to me. Thank you for participating in this discussion.

    Melissa: I would love to have you over! And I cannot wait to meet you in December, I am going to do all I can to make it down to NY to meet you and Ez! I cannot wait!!

    Julia: Those 40% coupons are LIFE SAVERS. I purchased all of my Martha Stewart stuff using them. Nothing like it! Crafts here in Germany are SUPER expensive in comparison.

    Irk24: I think if I had a little one I would be concerned with a white sofa, I cannot really say. But the cover is removable and can be washed, and Bemz sells tons of slipcovers in all colors and patterns in case I decide to change things up so I think it was a good purchase for my husband and I. I have gotten some dirt on it but it’s twill and wipes clean. I vacuum it once a week and that seems to be enough. It’s SUPER comfortable. You do have to build yourself, but it was pretty easy.

  • Reply melissa October 23, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    this is SUCH a beautiful post!!! thank you so so much for sharing with us! You are quite an inspiration, not only your eye for design, but ever since I first learned you would be living in two countries. Now, to find out how you are able to do such a wonderful thing–debt-free!!–is even more awe-inspiring.

    I’m happy to say that over the past five months I have reduced my credit card debt by over 80% and will be fully (credit card) debt free early next year. Now Student loans, those are another thing entirely…

    Once again, thank you so much, very wonderful to hear that you are happy and financially sound in such rough economic times!!

    melissas last blog post: a little bit of eye candy?

  • Reply Katia October 23, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Well done on the coffee table! It looks fantastic. Just perfect. You have inspired me to be patient, not to splurge, but to wait for just the right thing, at the right price for me. Thanks for sharing. :)

  • Reply Elizabeth October 23, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Well done. I read your blog daily and this is one of the best posts ever. I love it when people are real and not weird about talking about money. I also resonate with a lot of your values. Congratulations for achieving so much of what you have dreamed about!

    Elizabeths last blog post: Things I Wonder…

  • Reply Miss B. October 23, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Miss Holly,

    You are a true inspiration. Congratulations on all you have accomplished, your willpower to save (and be patient) and lucky you for having a husband that allows you to add pink to your living spaces, something my Fancy can not be convinced of.


    Miss B.

  • Reply Ann October 23, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    It’s refreshing to hear that dreams are still possible through sacrifice. It seems most people these day expect it all. Thanks for bringing us all back to reality.

    Anns last blog post: The Memory Project

  • Reply Elizabeth October 23, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Thank you so much for your honesty. It’s nice to see that other Americans have been cautious about spending. Five years ago I bought a one bedroom co-op on Long Island. As a single woman it was all I could afford, and frankly, all that I needed. I was amazed at how many realtors and bankers tried to convince me to buy houses that were way beyond my financial reach! Even when I was closing on my co-op the bank tried to get me to add a home equity loan to the mortgage – so I could re-do the kitchen and bathroom. I passed on it. I replaced as much as I could in the kitchen (most appliances, countertop and floor) and spend weeks cleaning, sanding and painting the cabinets. Now, I love my kitchen. More so than a new kitchen. I also spent a lot of time looking for a dining table and chairs. Most of the sets I saw were ugly, expensive and too matchy-matchy. I was lamenting my lack of a dining table to a colleague, telling her I wanted a round wood table that could be expanded to fit ten. Wouldn’t you know, she had her mother’s 100 year old table that was round wood and could be expanded to fit ten…she didn’t want it but wanted it to go to a good home. Needless to say, it is now mine and I love it.
    Ok, well I rambled on and on but just wanted to thank you again for illustrating how to surround yourself with beauty without breaking the bank!

    Elizabeths last blog post: (Untitled)

  • Reply anrosh October 23, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    having been raised in a cash economy, my american friends were flabbergasted that i lived within my “budget”. repair and reuse, quality over quanity. when i am offered credit cards i take them and still have, but my motto has still been to buy what i can pay now not tomorrow.

    thank you for talking about budget – so plain and simple. i hope many individuals can say and say it proudly. it only reflects the values of a person and kudos to you for saying that

  • Reply Cat October 23, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Holly: I am DISGUSTED that anyone would ask you about your finances or how you afford something or anything of THAT nature. It is NO ONE’s BUSINESS! And it is petty and cheap and does not even deserve an answer! Your response was very detailed and showed ways people could save. I do love sometimes knowing about bargains etc and innovative design that are cost effective. But that is way different. People do what they want to do with their money for whatever reason. I could care less if you have a $50 sofa or a $10,000 one. Your style and place are lovely and I hope you and your husband make more money and then more and more. Ir whatever you want. But you do not owe anyone an explanation.

  • Reply Matcha Mom October 23, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    What an inspiration you are! Thanks so much for sharing your story. I love it- all of it. And…you have beautiful taste.

    Matcha Moms last blog post: Today it felt like Fall

  • Reply Lindsay October 23, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this. My husband and I have a two bedroom in Boston (well Cambridge) and are slowly furnishing it and trying to find our personal style within a reasonable budget. There is nothing worse than falling in love with a piece of furniture only to find out that it is twice my yearly salary. However, when you find that one piece of furniture that is perfect on craigslist, ebay, etc. it is an awesome feeling. But, you hit the nail on the head when you stressed taking your time and looking for pieces in unexpected places. It’s more personal and you end up deciding on what is really important. Your style is fantastic and most importantly, attainable.

  • Reply Sara October 23, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    I’ll just echo all the other comments when I say how much I loved this post. It’s wonderful to read exactly how you reached your goal, and your everyday, realistic ways to be thrifty in your life and decorating. It’s great that you provide inspiration and ideas not only for beautiful things, but even more importantly, creativity and how you can surround yourself with things that make your house feel like a home, feel beautiful, and bolster your spirit…in an affordable way!

    For me, we save by only having one car, my husband walking to work, we bought a “reel” (i.e. manual) mower for our lawn, which was less expensive than a gas mower and better for the environment, we make and do things ourselves when we can, are getting into the whole flea market/vintage thing, we also turn off lights, etc., use our own and others’ expressions of creativity as our artwork (i.e. we use a lot of my husbands photographs from our travels) and, as far as decorating goes, we take time and do lots of research. We can almost never afford the big ticket items we’d really like, but try to find a design/style we love and then take our time to find something that fits with that aesthetic but is more affordable. Like you said, it all takes time, and for us, with a 1 year old and a 3 year old, it takes even longer…but hopefully we will get to the point where we have made our (first) home a place that we love, is a reflection of ourselves, and is constantly evolving.

  • Reply lindsey clare October 23, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    holly, i had no idea you were such a thrifty gal! your lounge room is already gorgeous but knowing it was done on a tight budget makes it even more appealing to me :)

    i’m really impressed with your honesty too… i think it’s great to be open about money because it dispels myths of perfection. noones life is perfect, right?

    lindsey clares last blog post: Things I Love – Thursday 23rd October 2008 – General Loveliness

  • Reply Fashion Hayley October 23, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    This post was wonderful and like everyone said very inspiring. I love reading both your blogs and I really love your style. I have had a sorta similar life, living between 2 countries (Japan and Australia) but have returned home to Australia for now to complete my studies, but with the goal of moving completely to Japan in 3 years. I know all about how bad credit card debt can be and I’m in the process of paying of my debt so I can start a fresh. I guess I’m at a different stage in the process to you (or I have gone about it all backwards, I lived my dream, but only on a year long working holiday visa so had no choice but to come back home and now I need a degree to get the full visa to keep living my dream). I love seeing how you have achieved your goal of living between both countries. Here in Melbourne Australia we are just renters (we are both still quite young…the we is me and my husband, I’m only 24, oh and no he isn’t Japanese we just love Japanese design and the culture) but we do have a dog (don’t tell out landlord, lol) but he is worth every cent and when we do move back overseas we plan on bringing him with us (again he is worth every cent) We have decorated on a budget (ikea and markets are our loves) and we live right in the city so like you in Germany, we save on transport, we hardly ever even need to catch a tram, we just walk everywhere (we live in the equivalent of Park Avenue in New York…right in the middle of the city) and we shop at the Queen Vic market for our fruit and veg so we eat cheaply as well. My budget decorating ideas are pretty much the same as yours, ebay, markets and ikea. We have also got good op shops (charity stores) here and we have saved heaps on things such as our queen sized bed and mattress which was only $300 brand new donated from a huge bed company here in Oz where the original price was $999, such a saving. Thanks so much for this post, I really enjoyed it.

    Fashion Hayleys last blog post: I seem to have a computer virus (not)

  • Reply maja October 23, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    first, thanks so much for you open post! to be debt free in this day and age, in the american culture is a tremendous achievement! there is so much pressure on making our homes/lives picture perfect on the outside the truth is that many mortgage their futures to live the lives they think that they are expected to lead. our government and corporate america, living beyond their means, are only other products of our “have it all now” culture, and look at the mess we’re in. so living your dream and making sacrifices to do so, in this day and age, is highly commendable.

    i think a big key to decorating on a budget is just having the time to shop, compare and diy as much as possible. you are so smart to do it now, before you have kids!

    majas last blog post: Nest 8 multicolored kitchen set from JosephJoseph

  • Reply collette October 23, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    i’m huge on saving and have always managed to live comfortably without ever really feeling like i’m doing without. it’s all about choice and, I , like you cut back on many of the same things and even more. i think it all comes down to what’s important to us individually. even if i were very wealthy i would still follow many of the same habits. waste is not necessary and neither is excess.( i could go on and on about all this too)
    does not having a dishwasher really save you that much? i never had cable (still don’t) as i think that’s a huge money waster that people don’t realise. i had basic phone and great internet and it was cheap in the US but the prices here in Australia are expensive and it’s irritating to be honest. i don’t have a dishwasher here but not by choice but because i’m in the middle of a major remodel/build. they are very energy efficient these days so i can’t imagine them being a cost/energy problem.
    it’s funny you mentioned wearing clothes for a long time. me too and i’m not looking outdated either, i swear!
    thanks for sharing.

    collettes last blog post: The Lure of Pink

  • Reply Trina McNeilly October 23, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Holly – thanks so much for sharing.. I loved this post. Thanks for being so candid and real…. I’ve taken a lot from this post and have totally enjoyed seeing everything you have done to your place- it is darling in every sense of the word and you have a real gift in making a place beautiful on a budget!
    xx Trina

  • Reply Jasmin October 24, 2008 at 12:22 am

    Loved this post, Holly. It has been wonderful to read about your German flat coming together, and your thoughts on decorating on a budget. I often read about so many “dream homes” that can only be achievable with a huge budget so it is incredibly inspirational to see how you’ve transformed your new space into something without getting too extravagant.

    Jasmins last blog post: Looking On

  • Reply Joleen October 24, 2008 at 12:26 am

    This post was incredible- thank you for taking the time to share all this information. My husband and I aren’t trying to live in two countries but we’re currently trying to conceive. With this decision we are evaluating our lives- especially financially. You’ve provided really great tips and inspiration for us. Thank you!

    Joleens last blog post: Goings On

  • Reply Ez October 24, 2008 at 12:38 am

    Holly this was such a meaningful post to me.
    It reminds me of one of the best quotes I’ve ever heard (but don’t know the source):
    “Financial stability only comes when we can distinguish between what we truly want… and what we just want right now.”
    I say this to myself all the time and it has helped me to avoid so many impulse purchases. Finally I am saving for the things that I truly value.
    Thanks for sharing such a personal part of your life with us. I discovered that we have even more in common that I already knew ; )

    Ezs last blog post: Introducing: TamTam Design

  • Reply kip October 24, 2008 at 1:16 am

    thanks so much for this post! i really needed to hear this right now. i’m a recent college grad and i’m sacrificing like crazy to pay off my college loans. i hope to one day move abroad, and now i know that it is possible.

    thanks again!

  • Reply melanie October 24, 2008 at 1:56 am

    Holly, wow, this is my favorite post of yours, ever. Thank you!

    I know it was a lot of personal information, but boy was it inspiring. Watching you pull together this apartment has been a lot of fun, but I know I kept thinking “yeah, right, though – way out of MY budget!” So not only is it really heartwarming to see how you’ve worked and planned and just poured your heart into it, it’s incredibly inspirational, too.

    And that coffee table really pulls the living room together! It’s perfect!

  • Reply Leigh October 24, 2008 at 1:59 am

    Such great advice as I am also saving to live the summers in Europe in a rented flat with my daughter. I have also got rid of all my debt and only get things that I need, with a little exception to a pair of shoes maybe:\ I have also come to realize what is important. I could by stuff like I used to on a whim and never reach my goal, or I can completely turn around and just do what I really want to do, and every sacrifice will be worth it.
    Thank you so much for sharing as it makes me belive my goal will be attainable.

    And your Germany Flat is absolutely wonderful.

    Much appreciation Holly.

    Leighs last blog post: "A Bird"

  • Reply Tab October 24, 2008 at 2:37 am

    Yes, craigslist! Depending on where you live, you can find amazing vintage things; or even nice leather couches for far far less than retail. Your space is amazing and you are such an inspiration! Thanks!

  • Reply carla October 24, 2008 at 2:39 am

    holly, i have to give you big brownie points for being so candid. americans usually don’t like to give the details when it comes to finances, but i found it very educational to hear your thoughtful plans of how to make your dream of living in two countries a reality. i admit, when i read some blogs that are “style minded”, i can be judgmental about the consumerism. but hearing how you have budgeted and planned…i don’t know, it seems like you have your head on straight.

    next question – your style leans towards the soft and feminine…how do you juggle your taste with your husbands?

  • Reply Renate October 24, 2008 at 3:25 am

    I’m so glad to see someone else using IKEA for all it’s worth. The general consensus often seems to be that IKEA is cheap and tacky and should be avoided, but I think it’s a must when it comes to decorating on a budget!

    I’m lucky enough that my husband is a carpenter, so he is able to build shelves and furnitures without much trouble. We used to have a glass top table in the living room, and one day I complained to him about how it was always dirty and smudged. He got all secretive, and the next day he came home with a brand new table top made of oak and imitation leather, that’d made himself! We’ve since had lots of people asking us where we bought it. :)

    Your posts are also really inspiring – I actually showed my husband the picture of your sofa/mirror setup, and we have now agreed to find a mirror (we might end up with the same one as you!) to hang above our sofa. We just moved into a new house, almost twice the size of our previous apartment, and we have A LOT of wall space…

    Also, your new coffee table? To die for.

  • Reply Chitra October 24, 2008 at 3:49 am

    Hi Holly,

    What an honest and inspiring post. I really enjoyed reading it.
    We dont own a house in Europe as yet but your post could be a pointer if we decide to buy one.
    Thanks a tonne!

  • Reply Jeanette October 24, 2008 at 5:42 am

    Wow…your good!
    Think how good it is for the environment. Not having too much money, I think it makes us creative. I know I do! I buy a lot from the secondhand-stores and at the fleemarkets and with some paint and a bit of creativity you can end up with the most wonderful items ? (I?m showing of some of my finds at my blog) I think it?s important to find your own style instead of following the different trends, cause thats expensive!
    I love your livingroom, it?s wonderful! *J*

    Jeanettes last blog post: COMMENT

  • Reply decor8 October 24, 2008 at 6:12 am

    Carla – Good question! My husband and I shop together, even online when I find things I show him and then if he likes it we buy it. He has VERY strong opinions when it comes to design, 50% of what I want he suggests something in place of it. We each write a list of what we are looking for, then I combine them to see what matches up. At that point we discuss my vision for the room and then I make suggestions on products and furnishings. He loves Asian design, minimalistic decor, not a lot of ‘stuff’, quality electronics, etc. Together the room is a combination of visions I think.

  • Reply Jaturon October 24, 2008 at 6:28 am

    I never posted any comments on any blogs before but I just had to today. You are truely an inspiration! I have always quietly appreciated your works on decor8 (inside) but thanks so much for sharing such a personal matter. I learned so much from this amazing post that I can really use in my personal life to make me a better person and definitely will help me acheive my goals.

  • Reply Katerina October 24, 2008 at 7:22 am

    Congratulations! That post was amazing and inspiring, Holly, in more ways than one. I’m not much of a commender but I have to say I don’t agree with people who say that financies (yours or in general) are of no importance. Well, at least financies are not that important but ethics and lifestyles are. You showed one can have quality in lifestyle without being the ultimate consumer and at the same time taking into consideration green/environmental issues. Most people nowadays struggle to make a living for themselves and their families and any advice/inspiration is welcome.
    Thanks, Kat.

  • Reply Theresia October 24, 2008 at 8:40 am

    You are a very inspiring person! LOVE reading your blog, thank you so much for this honest post.
    Love your new home, I am going to get that beautiful mirror in the living room from Ikea today! Yay!

    Theresias last blog post: Reindeer!

  • Reply Julie October 24, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Holly, thanks for sharing ~ what an interesting read this morning. I’ve had a re-decorating “bug” for a few weeks now. But, given the current economy here in the states, I don’t dare spend money on changing up furnishings in our home (we have a daughter just 2 yrs. from college). Instead . . . I’ve taken to re-arranging things. I’m moving curtains from room to room, furniture around, pictures are moving to different rooms/spaces. It’s totally fun and I get to see items in a whole new light – which makes them seem new! I’m a huge fan of thrift shops as well – I’ve found a local one that always has lots of goodies. Specifically, cashmere sweaters for about $12 – over the last year, I’ve bought 3!

  • Reply audrey 'drey' October 24, 2008 at 9:59 am

    thanks so much holly for sharing what is quite personal… it revealed alot about you that i hadn’t realised (not being in the USA, one really doesn’t get a idea of the changes made until you’ve laid them out like that)….

    i so enjoyed reading this. makes me feel less …. unimportant…


    audrey ‘drey’s last blog post: Art in my bedroom

  • Reply Kelly Schulz October 24, 2008 at 10:13 am

    HI! I just read your article for the Storque on Etsy. I absolutely LOVE your decorating sense and style. So simple, light, and beautiful! Thanks for sharing all these great tips and sharing your lovely home with everyone. Your blog is now marked as one of my favorites :)

    Kelly Schulzs last blog post: Over the Bridge (fine art print)

  • Reply kelly October 24, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Your home is beautiful, thanks so much for your story about how you made it happen. I loved this post!

    kellys last blog post: ina garten’s barn

  • Reply Eve October 24, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    For someone young like me, I think this is very inspirational and hopeful. That it is possible to actually live in two countries and not burn yourself out. And I will one day have a house that looks as amazing as yours. But oh man, the word “sacrifice”, that’s really hard. But I will try. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply EmilytheMug October 24, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    I have been an avid reader of your blog for quite some time. I love everything you do, but this was a truly great post! Thank you so much for sharing! Your blog is amazing.

    EmilytheMugs last blog post: Stoel Rives Anniversary

  • Reply Christina @ Pardon My Vintage October 24, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Wow, Holly! It’s very generous of you to share such personal information. Thank you for this post, I loved every word.

    Not surprisingly, I really like to decorate with vintage items; nearly every piece of furniture in my apartment was found at an antique mall or a secondhand shop, everything except the bed and a few bookshelves. I feel that mixing old and new items gives a room a little more soul!

    Christina @ Pardon My Vintages last blog post: Curtis Jere brass wallhanging — seagulls at the dock

  • Reply becky from hatch October 24, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Holly, that lamp is AMAZING! Don’t forget to leave your seller stellar feedback; it’s more important than ever for sellers these days!

    This is a very inspiring spread that should be in a magazine. I love the way you describe how you save money in your lifestyle and how you make it pay off, especially in these tough economic times. Being very careful about water in drought-ridden Atlanta, I can tell you that an energy efficient dishwasher will use less water than washing dishes by hand, although it will add to your electric bill. Anyway, you don’t need to feel guilty if you get one and only run it when it is chockablock full!

    I think we all would love to read some regular “Thrifty Holly” type posts, where you give us some Suze Orman-esque tips of how you saved money that week! I need your advice, and I’m sure most of your other readers would too. I know we get it here in terms of decor, but your ideas about exchange rates, less expensive ways to buy produce, having one car and how you make that work, etc. are really valuable to me! Kudos!

    becky from hatchs last blog post: The Real Housewives of 45 Minutes Away From Atlanta

  • Reply frank October 24, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Wow! Great job!

    Thanks for all the info and helpful information!

    franks last blog post: Two Bees Press | 2008 Birmingham Art in the Park

  • Reply Nicole October 24, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I absolutely love what you have done to decorate your living room. The coffee table is lovely. I have been trying to find one like that forever here in Canada! Great job on everything, it is so beautiful.

  • Reply Mia October 24, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    I want that table!!!! Loved the post, and now I have serious table envy. I’ve been looking for the perfect one for a long, long time. If only I lived in germany! Your place is lovely, and thanks for being so honest, it’s truly refreshing.

  • Reply Jen October 24, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Wow. Your rooms are gorgeous and I am just amazed at how you manage your finances! I was hoping to somehow warp into your picture, your place is so serene! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Jens last blog post: Oh so reusable – new Juicy Bags!

  • Reply judy October 24, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    holly, have a been a long time reader of your blog – thanks for sharing this post =)

  • Reply The City Sage October 24, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Hi Holly,

    You’ve inspired me to share some of my recent thrift store finds in honor of your great, thought-provoking post on budget decorating. Feel free to check them out on my blog!

    Anne @ The City Sage

    The City Sages last blog post: Shopping Trip: Goodwill

  • Reply Julie October 24, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    This has been by far my favorite post. I am a yard sale fanatic, but there are definitely a couple of areas I could financially improve in. The coffee shop and eating out only once a week is great advice that I will put into practice. I am also a huge fan of public transportation and walking whenever possible. Thanks again for being ever so inspiring. We love you!!!

  • Reply Brooke H October 24, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Thank you for this post Holly! It’s so wonderful that you were so open and honest with your readers. I think if more people talked about their finances and it wasn’t such a taboo topic then the country (US) might not be in the financial crisis that its in.

    It’s great to read about you really budgeting and saving in order to lead the life you and your husband want to lead. People get so wrapped up in “keeping up with the Jones'” and acquire debt, they don’t actually realize what other people had to give up in order to have the things they have.

    Such a powerful post, thank you again!

    Brooke Hs last blog post: Assorted Tags and Stickers

  • Reply Amy Nieto October 24, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    Okay, I can’t read all the comments right now. hehe

    Thank Holly, as everybody else, I appreciate this post, which you kinda think, it should be OBVIOUS to all of us, but sometimes it’s not. Unfortunately, I am at a point in life where things seem a little bad, and my Credit Cards are maxed out and I have to eliminate all these debts ON MY OWN. But I know with hard, dedicated work my photo business will grow and I’ll be on my merry way to a (somewhat) debt-free lifestyle.

    I just recently relocated to Portland, OR where there are SOOO many thrift shops, I just drool at all the super cheap furniture I will be buying soon so I can make my room look decent.

    So thank you for reminding me, reminding all of us, that even though your finances may seem a little depressing right now, they won’t always be like that if you work hard and are smart.

    ONE QUESTION…. what do you do with everything you cannot put back into your suitcase when you go home?

  • Reply susan October 24, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    I’m loving following along as you set up house!

    I’ve thought about this post for a bit and finally felt I have an answer for how we decorate on the cheap.

    The clearance section at Target. You can find it on the main isles or even better deals on the ends of the isles. Target goes through enough seasons and guest designers that you can get well designed stuff for at least half off if not more. Tonight we picked up an oval wall mirror perfect for our living room for 30% off and I couldn’t be happier.

    Usually I just have in mind what I feel I ‘need’ for a space and then just wait around until I find what I want for a price I can afford. I’ve been looking for a wall mirror for over a year. But the catch is even if you find something amazing at a great deal you can’t buy it unless its ‘needed’ for a space. Then you don’t end up with cool pieces with nowhere to go. :o)

    susans last blog post: Snake Charmer Quilt

  • Reply Desiree Fawn October 24, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Fabulous & inspirational as always, Holly <3
    Thank you for sharing.
    When I’m trying to decorate on a budget, as always the thrift stores are always the best bet. You really never know what gems you will find :D

    Desiree Fawns last blog post: tis the season.

  • Reply Cheryl October 25, 2008 at 4:42 am

    Thanks for this wonderfully insightful and WISE post! Ever since I started working, I feel like I’ve caved in into the whole consumerist culture…and my bf and I are hoping to save enough to get married and buy a house in 3 years. I used to think that I want our house to look perfect and furnished nearly immediately, but I realise my foolishness. Everyone here is right…debt is slavery. My parents are undergoing tremendous stress right now due to being heavily in debt. And I must say, you are very blessed that your husband shares the same ideals as you! I will definitely bookmark this post…

  • Reply shanwen October 25, 2008 at 7:52 am

    LOVELY, thank you for sharing.
    I have you tell you that i really adore your blog.

    I am trying to cut down the unnecessary things i buy, especially takeaways and lunch ! Thank you for the tips for decorating within budget, which is really useful as there are so many craft markets in melbourne , australia.

    shanwens last blog post: Ashlette necklace

  • Reply Kristine October 25, 2008 at 9:32 am

    I just wanted to say how much I appreciate that you shared your personal info to everyone. I think if we all just shared maybe there wouldn’t be so much jealousy. It definitely gave me hope to one day live abroad which has been a life long dream. You put it in such a context that makes it seem so easy which in reality it’s just like moving to a different state. With that said I’m sure it is difficult but your info was a tremendous help. Did you every live in new York? NY was also another dream of mine and I am slowly but surely making it happen. I am first choosing a career that will give me some job security an I mostly enjoy. Then once I am settled I can look into doing what I love interior design!! I am so glad I stumbled across your page. I would like to say that it has given me such a boost of confidence that I can follow my dreams if I just do it a little at a time!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!


  • Reply brenda October 25, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Your honesty and frankness I can relate to.Thanks for sharing how to be frugal.You might like to read an older book called “Small is Beautiful”.

  • Reply anke October 25, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    thank you for sharing this Holly, i admit i did wonder how you can afford everything, and since I completely believe in saving to afford things and to make dreams come true, it made me happy to read your story.
    We’ve been getting things for our flat really slowly, saving up for each thing and I think it makes us appreciate every single thing so much.
    I love seeing how your flat slowly comes together, it’s so pretty! x

  • Reply Mer October 25, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Wow, Holly, this was SO inspiring. I just had my second baby and REALLY need to be thrifty. Your post got me excited and motivated instead of discouraged and depressed about not being able to afford some of the more expensive things that I love. I am turning a new leaf and am ready to be a creative, thrifty stylish mama! Thanks so much!

    Mers last blog post: [Now officially on…]

  • Reply christine October 25, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Wow, thank you for sharing your life with us! It was not boring at all; in fact, very intriguing to see what goes on in your life (not in a stalker-ish way, of course). Thank you for encouraging me that living frugally does not simply mean giving up endless lists of things, but that it is so worth it to come away with renewed patience and a stretch in creativity!

    christines last blog post: Blue Bells & Orange Blooms

  • Reply Sarah October 25, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    not sure if you’ll read this after 128 before me but I had to chime in, I get so many people asking me how I get to have a house in Australia and a house in England and I could have written your post myself in reply apart from the kids thing. So nice to see someone else with similar views. I have completely furnished my house from IKEA and fleamarkets, an amazing and interesting learning curve.

    I’ll be back


    Sarahs last blog post: ABeachCottage House Tour

  • Reply Barbara October 25, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Dear Holly,
    thanks a lot for your great post. You make me be more confident about me quitting my job, moving from Aachen to Berlin next week and realising together with Katrin our own bags and accessories shop in Berlin. Despite being a bit sad today about leaving Aachen, because of the really great Fare-Well with lots of friends (I hadn’t ever recognized that I have that many friends here) party yesterday, I know in my heart that this is the right way for me. But sometimes I start to doubt.
    I talked with Katrin as well about that and we both found out that since knowing you from the Dawanda event and since we started out own blog, we both feel more confident about what we are doing and planning to do.
    Thanks a lot for that Holly!!

    Barbaras last blog post: Feeling Starlett-Glamour

  • Reply kirsten October 26, 2008 at 12:27 am

    wow….just goes to show you money doesn’t buy good taste….you just have it naturally. your designs are flawless in my mind and kudos to you and your debt-freeness (is that a word?) we’re headed there….slloooowwwwly.

    good idea to save before kids…you’ll need the money for therapy.

    kirstens last blog post: cry baby

  • Reply erika October 26, 2008 at 5:26 am

    you know what? i think i was betting on the same lamp about 3-4 weeks ago. does the lamp have a foot looking like th foot of a chicken? i loved that one but didn’t want to spend that much money. so i’m happy that the lamp got to live with you. somebody who will treat it well. what a funny coincidence… only got to know about decor 8 and am enjoying it a lot. erika

    erikas last blog post: WIP finished and on to a new project

  • Reply Diane October 26, 2008 at 6:23 am

    Hello! I really appreciate this blog entry. Congratulations on the move and for following your dream! My husband and I moved to Hungary in September. We too received allot of the questions you have. People assuming that we either 1. won the lottery. 2. had trust funds or 3. were crazy:) We too started planning many years ago and made decisions in our everyday lives to make this dream a reality. Now we are here in Budapest and loving every minute of it. I do have one question for you…Have you made friends with local creatives? This is the biggest obstacle I have come across. I am slowly learning Hungarian but am starving for creative people to share ideas with and to be inspired by. Any suggestions would be so greatly appreciated!

  • Reply decor8 October 26, 2008 at 7:02 am

    Diana – GREAT question. Yes, I have made friends with the local creatives. Having this design blog, I find it very easy to approach artists, shop owners, etc. to not only tell them about what I do but ask to feature them on my blog. Last year and the year before, I featured many from Hannover and they stayed in touch with me so this year when I came over many emailed me to tell me that if I need anything, etc. to contact them. It was great. I have a few good friends here now because I once wrote about them and we stayed in close contact after the feature. In Germany, DaWanda has a very strong presence (they are the Etsy of Germany I guess you can say) so in Hannover, some ladies who sell on DaWanda formed a little girls night out group and they meet once every few months. I was invited to the last group outing and also to the November meet up.

    For those without a blog or who are not writers working in the design/arts/crafts world it can be hard to meet other creative types. I suggest trying to find photographers and creative types who post their photos their. Do a search for your city name and spend a few hours looking around to see if you can find people. It may be that your city has it’s own Flickr group, that is a great way to find creative types!

    Another suggestion, and I don’t know if you even use this in your country, but try You can search for groups that well, ‘meet up’ in your local area organized by topic.

    Also attend art shows… Gallery receptions for show openings especially. :)

    Does anyone else have any suggestions on how to meet creative types in their local community?

  • Reply decor8 October 26, 2008 at 7:07 am

    Erika: No chicken foot on this one. :) Here’s a full view so that you can see the bottom. It’s from the 1950s.

  • Reply decor8 October 26, 2008 at 7:10 am

    Barbara/Katrin: Congratulations on your move to Berlin! I am happy that you made the move, this is exciting news. I’m also glad that my event with DaWanda in Berlin inspired you and gave you some confidence to move forward with your goals. I really enjoyed meeting you too!

  • Reply kris October 26, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    Hi holly.
    Just wanted to thank you for this very inspiring post!

  • Reply Holly October 26, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    looks great!! i was wondering where you got the 2 hurricanes from that are sitting on your coffee table?

    thanks :)

  • Reply anna October 26, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    thank you, thank you, thank you for this. living in two parts of the world has always been a dream of mine, but i’m afraid that neither my husband nor i have ever sat down and tried to figure out how to do it because it’s always seemed absolutely unreachable.

    but here you’ve made it clear how this is an option for lots of people — that a dream like yours (and mine and lots of others) is not only attainable, but can be adventure all along the way, even in the face of sacrifice and some delayed gratification. and you’ve done it so beautifully! you’ve created a gorgeous, airy nest filled with love and inspiration.

    you’ve absolutely inspired me. thank you.

    (and enjoy your lovely home!)

    annas last blog post: daisy

  • Reply Veda October 26, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    Your home is just fab now holly! the coffee table is very very good!

    Vedas last blog post: Happy Diwali!!!!!

  • Reply zeniamai October 27, 2008 at 3:21 am

    I really love the living room! This post has actually inspired me to re-arrange our living room a bit since we are also in the middle of a house renovation…

    zeniamais last blog post: I want this for my Computer Nook

  • Reply Diane October 27, 2008 at 5:25 am

    Hi Holly,
    Thanks so much for the advice! I will look into everything you suggested!

  • Reply Vicki October 27, 2008 at 11:13 am

    It’s really refreshing to read something realistic! So much interiors-based writing is either ‘money no object’ or a total shoestring, dragging sofas out of skips budget. It’s great to read something that applies to ME! :)
    (oh and when you get the xbox, you have to get a Katamari game, it’s the cutest most addictive game in the world!)

    Vickis last blog post: Beau Ideal Editions Calendar

  • Reply brooke October 27, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Is the Ikea rug just a jute rug?
    I love how they look and the visual texture they add to a room. Especially with wood floors… I bought one a few months back from West Elm… but I hate walking on it! The texture bothers me, and I feel like it’s dirty.
    Just wondering what you or others think and if this version may be different.

  • Reply amy lowrey October 27, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    thanks so much holly. i love how you came clean with this. i am sure many assumed you led a charmed life…many don’t realize that if you just live within your means and are smart about credit purchases and such this too could be attainable. the room looks amazing…so comfy and cozy and you, most definitely a place i would love to sit in! best to you, amy

  • Reply Ana October 27, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    I think it’s fantastic what you both have accomplished. Way to set goals and work to attain them. Best of luck with your trans-Atlantic adventures! Can’t wait to read more about them!

    Anas last blog post: Fashion Friday: Dress for the Job You Want

  • Reply martha October 27, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    What a lovely, amazingly honest post. You deserve everything you have worked for. (And I hope you get the desired kids and pets whenever you may wish for them!) Well done. Thanks for the best blog I’ve read in a long, long time.

  • Reply Lynn October 27, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    Holly, THANK YOU so much for this post!

    Btw, I asked my Stop & Shop about the $10 credit for every $100 spent you mentioned but they told me that they’ve never heard of such a thing. Would you mind telling me more about the details of that promotion? Is it a local thing or is it supposed to be at all the Stop & Shops? Thanks!

  • Reply decor8 October 28, 2008 at 5:02 am

    Brooke – Yes it’s just a jute rug from IKEA but it adds nice texture to the room and I love how it feels on my feet, like a massage when I walk on it. Though I always wear slippers or socks in my house — I don’t know if I would like it the same if barefoot but I don’t think it’s too sanitary to walk around barefoot on a jute rug anyway because you can never dry clean it. But for a year or so until I can afford a fancier rug this one will be good I think. I ultimately want a flat weave rug with a subtle pattern. :)

  • Reply decor8 October 28, 2008 at 5:13 am


    We go to Stop & Shop in New Hampshire and here’s how it works. We have a Stop & Shop card and you get points through some special offer they were running when you present your S&S card at the register (at least until we left the states in early August, maybe it’s no longer happening but they ran it for maybe 6 months or more – I was under the impression that it was going to be a long term promotion in association with their card). Anyway, I think it was for every 100 points you get, they give you a $10 voucher to use towards your next visit to the store. This is like getting $10 for every $100 you spend because I think it’s a point per dollar. Anyway, the next time you shop you use your voucher and your Stop & Shop card and you still get points for that purchase but at the end of the transaction they scan the paper voucher and $10 comes off of the total.

    Maybe they have information on this on their website?

    Hope it’s still in the works, we’re flying home Dec 18 to a home with empty cabinets so the first thing I’ll need to do after going through 4 months of mail is to buy food! :)


  • Reply phoenixc October 29, 2008 at 12:20 am

    Holly, this post was an inspiration and it couldn’t have been more timely for me to read it as my mind’s turned back to how I’m going to finish my dining area and furnish my den. I was rather against Ikea for awhile there but have come around to it after seeing how you’ve used it in your place and made it look fantastic.

    Also, I admire your willpower to resist the temptation to buy things NOW NOW NOW. I’m pretty good about waiting with books – I scour the stacks at bookstores and note the titles that have caught my eye so I can order them online later, but with other things, I’m less consistent. Sometimes I can shop around and wait for the right price, other times, I can’t wait and give into impulse. I need to learn more restraint and thank you for sharing with us how you’ve made it work.

    phoenixcs last blog post: WIP: Hall Vignette

  • Reply Angela October 29, 2008 at 2:45 am

    Holly, Thank you so much for all the little details! I too dream of living in Germany while still maintaining a residence in California. When I found your blog I was so inspired. I love watching you make your apartment into home, love your eye for decor and look forward to being able to do the same one day…soon!
    You have given me some great ideas on how to accomplish my own goal…perhaps someday we will have coffee together in Hannover :)

    Angelas last blog post: Carnelian Necklace

  • Reply dai October 29, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Dear Holly, Thanks for your sharing. Your idea on decorating on a budget is great! I love how you put subtle colors, shapes, and arts into a cozy white background. I feel it’s a comforting color palette for homes! BTW, I would like to know more about the table, is its story inspiring?:)

    dais last blog post: [????] ????????????????????

  • Reply Patti October 29, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Wow Holly! I really loved this post and how in depth you were. I’m 25, have a wonderful job that pays well but live way below my means so that I can save. I live in a tiny apartment – no cable, internet, fancy electronics, I help my parents pay their mortgages, etc. which is so opposite of my friends. I’m not saying that they are not responsible but I think we all have to sacrifice and learn not to live above our means. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live a fabulous life? Sure, we can splurge here or there but always be aware of our budgets. I’m a huge proponent of personal responsibility and accountability to get where you want to be.

  • Reply Kerstin October 29, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Hi Holly,

    I am just floored by this! Both your story AND what you have done in the apartment. You should send your photos to Ikea, they are such an inspiration. I admire your courage and determination in making your dream of living in two countries reality on a small budget. It makes me realize that ideally I would also love to split my time between the Pacific Northwest (where I finally live after dreaming about it for 20 years!) and Bath in England (where I used to live and which is still my favorite place.) I am actually German and it makes me happy that you like my home country so much :) I am going to print out your post as it’s given me a lot to think about.

    Take care,

  • Reply rksquared October 30, 2008 at 1:59 am

    Thanks so much for this post. As an unemployed newlywed dying to redecorate (and obviously on a budget) I found this to be very inspiring.

    rksquareds last blog post: the diggingest dog

  • Reply msfirefly October 30, 2008 at 6:08 am

    i’ve been a lurker here for a long time, but this is my first comment ever. i feel like i have to say something because this post has inspired me more than anything. i’ve just moved in a new country, my husband and i live on a budget, and your post has proven that a nice cozy home need not be expensive. my two thumbs up to you holly, thank you for posting this. i am so inspired!

    msfireflys last blog post: mutterings in the cold

  • Reply Patricia Coelho October 30, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Today i got the keys to my first houseToday is a very special day for me. I just got the keys of my first, small and old (but so charming) apartment. It’s a big change in my life, living by myself and having so much responsibility, so coming home and reading this post was a true inspiration.
    I’m aware of all the sacrifices I will have to do with this new life, but in the end it will be more than worth it.
    I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts, inspirations and perspective of life. Like i said, it’s a true inspiration.

    I wish you all the luck for this new life.


  • Reply kristin November 3, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Holly, thank you for such an enlightening and inspiring post. I am trying to decorate my apartment on a super-budget, as I am a recent college graduate working in the hospitality industry during this shaky economic time. I love that you’ve found so many beautiful items for your home on the street! My most recent furniture acquisition, a gorgeous bookshelf, came from an abandoned pile of trash across the street from my house. Reading this post has been truly eye-opening for me, and you’ve given me great confidence going forward that I will be able to make my apartment look fantastic on a little bitty budget :)

    kristins last blog post: found the perfect duvet cover–on sale!!

  • Reply Candice November 19, 2008 at 10:04 am

    Thank you so much for sharing such a personal part of your life! It’s so refreshing to hear that you can still live your dream and not go into debt to achieve it! My fiancee is German, raised there, his mom is German and his dad is American…they live in the states but a majority of his family is still in Germany. I’ve never been but we are hoping to go next year after the wedding. I have dreams of one day living there part time, maybe when we have children so they can be immersed in the culture and language, it’s nice to hear that you and your husband were able to do it, it gives me hope!

  • Reply Glenn November 19, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    If you have plans for your bath please check out my hand blown glass sinks. I think you will be impressed with the level of luxury and even more with the reasonable prices.

    Glenns last blog post: Ruby Glass Sink

  • Reply frieda December 10, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    I also shop at IKEA – but i found another place with contemporary furniture that is gorgeous and also very well priced. When i find a bargain, I love to pass it on:
    Door Store (I went into one in NYC) has an amazing selection of everything for every room – and at really reasonable prices. If you like clean lines (leather, microfiber, etc) this is the place to look.

  • Reply Pikaland January 8, 2009 at 10:37 am

    This is so very inspiring, Holly! I bought my home last January and we could only move in in November (a few months ago!) because we couldn’t afford the plumbing, electrical work etc. We financed everything ourselves, from the downpayment to paying the contractors and hence we took it real slow. We painted the whole interior of the house by ourselves (I lost 10 pounds!), plastered and cemented the walls after the electricians were done, and I sanded down the walls!

    We buy a lot of our items from IKEA because of the flexible payment plans, and hubby sometimes brings back cute strips of Astroturf to make mats and it adds a pop of color to our living room. It’s amazing how quirky offbeat items are the ones that add the most personality to a home. I simply adore your vintage lamp!

    Going freelance and buying a home at the same time is tough, but manageable as I scale back impulse buys. I only buy books from Amazon (they’re even cheaper than bookstores here even when they ship it international!)

    We’re saving money to buy a stove and to do up a simple kitchen and our bathroom next, so I can’t wait to read more about your adventures in decorating!

    Pikalands last blog post: Dawanda + Pikaland Competition!

  • Reply harmonsmith January 21, 2009 at 1:38 am

    very informative blog. Adding just a few small and creative decorative details can make your new home look like a million dollars. And who ever said a million dollar look had to cost so much? Although I design my house through NIna, these tips are useful for everyone who wants to decorate their house but do not have budget for expensive items.

  • Reply marta November 18, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing; in today’s current economic times it is hard to remember some of the very important facts you have mentioned. I have recently been down on myself as me and the hubbie have been putting off decorating our master bedroom to our liking even after 2 years in the house we bought together. Now however I have a new perspective and I realize there is no shame with blending affordable pices with exotic finds over time to make a space my own. PS-Love the blog. Cheers from Canada.

  • Reply Gail March 27, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    I really enjoyed your post and all your ideas. The light with the fish is one of the cutest lights I have seen. Did you make it? the rug under the table is neat.

  • Reply Katie @ The Inspired Life August 29, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    First time at your blog- Got this link from, Thanks for shring your tips and your living room is BEAUTIFUL!!!! Im literally in awe, I love everything about it!!! Cant wait to read/see more!

  • Reply Claudia November 24, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Everything is so beautiful!! But how about the pendant lamp shade in the ceiling? Is it from IKEA? Thank you,

  • Reply Keely Decor December 6, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    I love the idea of keeping your life simple. We don’t really need all those products advertising tells us we do. Your post has inspired me to look at my life and pare down those things that aren’t really necessary. At the same time, this doesn’t mean the things we have can’t be nice. I love how you mix vintage and new decorating pieces.

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