Books + Magazines, Decorating Tips

House Beautiful + Expat Thoughts On Decorating

September 23, 2010

There are some lovely rooms to be inspired by over at House Beautiful, do you visit them regularly online? Reading magazine websites really help to keep you plugged in to the world of design and decorating — no matter where I live I always feel like I know what’s going on in America which is great because that’s where I’m from.

House Beautiful + Expat Thoughts On Decorating

It’s a nice feeling to have such resources at our fingertips, don’t you think? I’m an expat and now more than ever before I see the value in reading magazines online that I once could find at the local newsstand. It has been a huge source of comfort at times when I wonder what’s happening or what’s new — I just go online to sites like House Beautiful and feel instantly plugged in.

If you are also an expat, you must find this super helpful to you, too. I often think about what it was like many years ago before planes and the internet when people left their homeland on a boat and traveled many miles over the sea to a new country — I can’t imagine what being a foreigner was like back during such times! Once you left your country back then, you were truly cut off and could only carry your home in your heart and then, try to recreate it a bit in your new surroundings. Even in the 80s and early 90s before the internet really took off — how did foreigners cope I wonder? I think it took a lot more gumption to make a success of yourself  as an expat back then – much more than now even – don’t you?

House Beautiful + Expat Thoughts On Decorating

Many of my friends in the states admire me for selling most of my belongings and moving to Europe, but I don’t think I’m that courageous at all – I have it easy with the internet, international shipping, i-Tunes (for TV shows), DVDs so I never miss the films I long to see, cheap flights, cheap long distance (or skype), fast snail mail (I get most letters from the states within 3 days – when I was dating my husband writing him letters by hand back in 1999 it took around 10 days for them to arrive in Germany from Boston), I personally don’t feel like moving took much courage at all. When my family came over on boats through Boston back in the day arriving from Europe, that took way more strength than my move to Germany.

House Beautiful + Expat Thoughts On Decorating

These photos are so nice to look at, aren’t they? One thing I notice since moving to northern Germany over a year ago is how very American things look to me suddenly! I never noticed or really thought about how American design looked to those in other parts of the world but living abroad has really given me an alternate view and that is something that I cherish immensely. When I see certain styles, whether it be in fashion, interiors, product packaging, trends… I immediately can tell whether or not it originated in the states. House Beautiful reminds me of the differences between decorating trends and styles in Europe and those sought after in the U.S. and it is quite fascinating to consider.

House Beautiful + Expat Thoughts On Decorating

If you are an expat, can you comment on what differences you see in design/decorating in your new country vs. your home country? I’d love to hear your thoughts, no matter where you live in the world – it’s a fascinating topic I think!

(images: house beautiful magazine)


  • Reply Claire - Matching Pegs September 23, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I am an Aussie, and when I was traveling in the States, I enjoyed buying some American decorating mags, which I still have. It really stood out to me that Aussies have a more pared back look, far less stuff (big generalisation here, of course – and I am talking about design interiors you see in the major mags of both countries). The US interiors had more little side tables, with lamps, tablecloths, decorative pieces etc; a cosy, busier look than we have.

  • Reply Ludmila {} September 23, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I’m an expat, but I didn’t move so far away from my home country, just over 700 miles. However I do see differences regarding architecture. In my home country I didn’t see so many buildings dating from 19th, 20th centuries, unlike in the country I live now – they kept them, so there are a lot of castle-like buildings these days. Not so big difference on the cultural side though (the country I live now and my home country have much in common on this account), patterns and colors used are pretty similar. Thank you for bringing this up, Holly!

  • Reply Anna September 23, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    I was an expat in the early 90s, and I remember having my favorite international magazine shop and wouldn’t think twice about dropping $9.00 for my favorite US mag! Every month was like Christmas there! I just spent a summer in England, and I was trying to notice the design differences between there and the US, and I think in Europe, at least, a lot depends on the architecture of the home. My husband lived in France for a long time, and every once in a while, he’ll say something reminds him of France– it’s usually something like an extra-large fireplace, or a wooden table, or a certain stone used in building a home.

  • Reply Ena September 23, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Another great post, Holly;0) I too am an expat -originally from Denmark but not living in Cyprus (a tiny island in the Mediterranean sea. I left my country for the same reasons as you -my husband;0) It has been definitely an eye-opener to change into a completely different culture and trying to adjust your life to another tempo, another lifestyle. And sometimes I still find it a struggle. I think also the differences between Denmark-Cyprus vs. America-Germany are probably harder to overcome. At least I imagine that it must be easier to ‘find’ american products etc. in Germany ??

    I DO find that internet is a GREAT invention when you are an expat -it is so helpful to be able to read those magazines from home online, to shop products from your home countries (after all most web shops do send abroad too), to use Skype for the long distance calls etc. I’ve also often thought about how they did it in ‘the old day’s. Like the Scandinavians that moved to the States in the 1800’s…it must have been incredible tough because you knew when you left that you would never return back home again. You would never again see your loved ones. And only communication was by snail mail which probably took MONTHS to arrive back then.
    I can’t imagine doing something like that.

    Anyway, on to your question;0) Well, since I’m from Scandinavia I’m of course use to the very light, white style -a style I have also truly come to love now that I live abroad because the Mediterranean style is much different. Either extreme modern or quite old fashioned (for my taste at least) with lots of over decorating. And because Cyprus is so far south we are very close to the Middle East and therefore also have influences from the Arabic countries.
    So it’s a very mixed style here. Now it’s becoming more and more modern though and I see in the Cypriot magazines that they are starting to catch up a lot on the designer things, like Eames chairs, Hans J. Wegner wishbone chair etc.

    Since I don’t have my own home yet I’m still dreaming of how to decorate my house here one day and it’ll definitely be a combination of both style since there are things in the more traditional Cypriot style that I like. It’s a style with more natural materials but unfortunately you don’t see it very often any longer (for some reason they love plastic in this country). But my own house will most probably be containing most Scandinavian style. Because one does carry it in the heart so I’ll be trying to recreate a little bit of my own Scandinavia;0)

  • Reply Ena September 23, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Oops, mistake in the first line “but NOW living in Cyprus”…sorry.

    I’m from your BYW course by the way, love it;0)

  • Reply kt September 23, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I kept nodding my head to this post I am an expat living in Italy. One thing I noticed right off was the different paint choices. We rent an old home so we must use paints that allow the walls to breathe. This limits the color choices and although they are still beautiful I miss all the choices I could get back in the states, even just being able to choose latex paint. I too glance at the on-line magazines and I think there truly is an American style it is so eclectic and I love this! You can have a braided rug with modern furniture and no one would bat an eye I think they would instead think “Bravo!”. I love what I see here in Italy the homes I have been in most definitely have charm and the outside of the homes are kept so neat and flowers boxes everywhere ! I think being giving this chance has just opened my eyes that much wider….I am thankful for this.

  • Reply katharine @agirlinmadrid September 23, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Dear fellow expat,

    When my husband and jumped over the pond from Vancouver for Madrid, we sold everything save 2 suitcases each + 5-6 boxes left in storage.
    Starting over from scratch overs up a blank canvas, awaiting for new creations.
    The simple things are always the most pleasing and easy to create. A simple veniette or fresh flowers. A scented candle, and good bottle of wine. A few pastries and *poof* home is where the heart is. Truly.
    Big to answer your question, the difference between Vancouver and my new home is colour! Bold patters, stripes, flourishes, everything. This has been very inspiring.

    Thanks for asking! I look forward to hearing from others..

  • Reply Mary Herrington - Forever & Ever Events September 23, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    I completely know what you mean! I am an American expat in London. I also miss the magazines (esp Martha Stewart Living & Weddings subscriptions), but thank god for design blogs such as yours! I can also definitely tell the difference straight away in stationery. In general, I’d say American stationery design is much more creative in format and materials and British paper products more traditional. In terms of household differences – seems there are no such thing as closets it seems, so you have to be creative in how to store stuff (or pare down)! I find myself looking for pretty wardrobes here, while I didn’t really have a need for wardrobes in the US since I had closets.
    Anyway, love this post and the images – swoon!

  • Reply Olli Ella September 23, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I lived in Los Angeles California, prior to moving to London three years ago and find it interesting that London and Los angeles are fairly similar in terms of size, but the scale is so vastly different. When I think of California decor, I think of spanish villas, oversized daybeds, modular sectional sofas and the larger-than-life California King Sized bed.

    Homes in London are very cozy; In our delightful Victorian terrace we have chosen, as many Londoners do, to mix the modern with the traditional; A re-upholstered chesterfield alongside a Mathew Hilton club chair huddled around our antique fireplace.

    Moving here has made me see decorating in a completely different way; a non-stop adventure.
    x Chloe

  • Reply Deborah Milne September 23, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Hi Holly – A very thought provoking post. Before my mom died she had told me about her grandfather who was the first brother of his family to have to leave Norway due to lack of work. She said he told her that he cried all the way into town (by foot) to catch a ship to the U.S. Breaks your heart & he was the sweetest man.

    I so enjoyed your thoughts about being an expat. I had written a post months ago about our decision to move to the U.K. & the thought of selling most everything we owned to do so. It was like a cold shower moment to think of selling my car, my motorcycle, and as much as I am willing to part with. Our home is on the market & right now it’s a waiting game. After reading your post, many of my worries are no longer that. I will still feel that connection with home & a lot easier than it would of been just a decade ago. As long as there is internet, & a Starbucks, I’ll be good!

    I’ll look forward to reading what expat’s have to say!!

    Cheers ~ deb

  • Reply Ele September 23, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Such an interesting post to this fellow expat! I can relate on so many levels.

    I’ve been living abroad for four years now, and I often get the “you’re so brave” comments from my friends and family back home. I think it has less to do with staying connected to where you’re from (because as you say, these days it’s easy to gain instant access to people and things all over the world), and more about the “newness” of your expat life- new friends, new living arrangements, new job, new foods, new everything! Everyone loves that feeling on a holiday, but I do think it takes a certain gumption to dive in and make that your life.

    As for design, I also love seeing the differences between my new home (England) and where I’m from (Canada). The main one I notice is that things are looser here- a bit more mix-and-match, a bit more shabby or rough around the edges. It’s the same with fashion- the British like the element of surprise, nothing too polished. North Americans on the other hand love a bit of polish- I think their look is “tighter” overall.

  • Reply Julie September 23, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I saw huge differences in design and decorating when I lived in Germany. Germany, to me, felt much more modern. Clean lines; not a lot of fuss. Now that I’m living in England, I don’t see much of a difference in design and decorating between here and the US. The British love flowers and they seem to incorporate that in their decorating scheme much more than Americans but otherwise I think the differences are minimal.

  • Reply Julia P. September 23, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Like your thoughts on the topic very much. I’m looking at it from a slightly different perspective: I come from (approx.) where you’ve moved to (Osnabrueck born and bred, me) and can tell any German design from a mile of. I do miss bathroom and kitchen appliances and I do miss some designs ideas for children, I think German’s are quite good at letting kids be kids without sending them on a pink or pale blue gender oriented path. I’ve moved to the UK and like some of our design ideas here Liberty’s, Farrow and Ball, Paint Library, Zoffany and David Morris’ Arts&Craft Movement designs) but I mostly drool over American Design sites, may that be interior, clothing, packaging. I admire Martha Stewart and the brand she’s managed to built, but I’m slightly surprised that there is no equivalent (to my knowledge) in either the UK or Germany.

  • Reply Morgan September 23, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Holly, I love your blog! I haven’t ever written in a comment, but since you specifically asked for expat comments…I thought I should compy! :) I am also from the US and am living and working abroad in Spain. I live in a little town called San Sebastian which is on the northern coast of Spain, about 20 km from the French border. I notice that so much design here is more modern than in the US. I have decorated my home in a way that I feel is a mix between European and American styles, but it is interesting how many people from Spain that come to our home comment on how ¨American¨ our place feels. One thing that I love about Spain (and this is really for Europe in general) is how many beautiful antiques there are available here. They are lovely and as soon as my budget allows, I hope to acquire a few pieces.

  • Reply LMB Hume September 23, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    We lived in Germany for over 5 years in the late 80’s and it was hard. Being military, we got to bring ‘home’ with us. (because of circumstances, I had only a few small things the last 3 years there and relied on the ‘economy’ for everything.) Because of access to magazines in the on post/base store, we were not as ‘isolated’ to the changing styles in the States. We just got them a little late…..magazines about one month and TV shows were a year behind.
    Unfortunately, mail was slow, calling was kept to a minimum because of the cost and there were no cheap flights. From a family and friends point of view, we did live on the other side of the world. We sought out things from home…..A&W Root Beer was our favorite….not McD.
    We (my husband and I) wanted the ‘old stuff’ and went looking for places that sold ‘used’ furniture. It was a time that the Germans were moving to the modern sleek teak and were dumping all the ‘grandma stuff’. Fortunately we did find a furniture store that had a whole attic full of cheap old stuff. We did not have a lot of money and only bought the things that we absolutely had to have and loved. We still have most of the big pieces and have moved them a number of times. One ‘shrunk’ has held everything from clothes and quilts to dishes and chotskies. Now we wished we had bought a lot more.
    We missed home, but we loved living there and have always wanted to return.

  • Reply Pascale September 23, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Hi Holly, I just stumbled on your site from a twitter link and I love it. So creative and stylish.
    I have been an expat pretty much all of my life. About five years ago, I moved to the country where I was born (England) but left as a young child. So it feels a bit foreign too. I have lived and worked in some quite isolated spots, and know what it’s like to not get the magazines, and ideas. Things have really changed with all these great online resources. And it’s so nice to get inspiration from other places – I love Aussie blogs and mags.
    If you get a mo, take a look at my blog and let me know what you think!

  • Reply Heather@junevintage September 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    I grew up in S. Korea my entire childhood until I went to college and now, as a military wife, we are moving to Bahrain next year. I am really interested in the responses because we don’t plan on living on base and we are not sure what to expect. We have all “newlywed” furniture (10+ years into marriage!) and we are looking forward to selling it all and starting new with pieces we are absolutely in love with. I guess I should take alot of magazines and fill up my blog reader with great design sites like yours!

  • Reply Lisa September 23, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Excellent post! As expats ourselves we’ve done Australia which you’ll find big rooms, large open plan living, kitchen and dining rooms and the much missed double garage.
    Then there’s Friesland in North Holland with a house that looked adorable from the outside with it’s children’s picture-like qualities of a square box with a triangle roof but it’s inside practicalities left you with not much room especially if you’re like most Friesians that seem to fill their homes with masses of antique furniture. One odd thing we noticed in Holland, particularly in Friesland was that curtains, blinds and other window dressings, we’re purely for looks. Every home would leave all their blinds and curtains open so that as you’re walking or driving by you could look in and see how wealthy they we’re. Very odd to us, particularly at night.
    Now we’re in Sweden and the strangest part for me, being a lover of food and cooking, is that the kitchens are soooo small. Admittedly, there does seem to be two types of Swedish homes, the very old style filled with antiques and indoor plants, and the modern white crisp designs we all love to see.
    For us because I’m an aussie, my hubby is british, and we’ve travelled and lived here, there and everywhere, we already have an eclectic mix of things so we don’t really have a particular country’s decorating style but the times we notice we’re not quite Swedish or Dutch is when for breakfast the swedes will have a smorgasboard of cold meats, bread and cheese, whereas we’re just happy to have a bowl of cereal.

  • Reply Beth September 23, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    I’m from Kentucky, but have lived in England since 1999. I think the biggest difference to me it’s the amount of STUFF in a lot of American design. Lots of things where there are more clean lines in European designs.

    There are also certain wall colors that are a dead give away for an American r rom – that sort of green/brown shade…

    I think there are a lot more white rooms here, too.

  • Reply Sally - My Custard Pie September 23, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    The difference about living in the Middle East and home country of the UK is the type of homes we live in. Clean lines, huge windows, large spaces – furniture especially rustic pieces looks lost. You tend to gravitate to Asian inspired chunky, carved look or very modern – but then all homes look the same. It’s a challenge!

  • Reply Will September 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    I love that you and your husband hand wrote letters to one another. Hand written cards by snail mail are one of life’s simplest, but greatest pleasures.

  • Reply Traveling Mama September 23, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    I had the LONGEST comment ever coming your way, so instead I wrote a blog post! I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s comments on this one. Thanks for opening up the discussion!

  • Reply Rebekah September 23, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Nicaragua here (well, until next Saturday). Decorating here was a challenge at first because I’m new to decor, and don’t have a lot of DIY experience. The ex-pat community has a heavy focus on DIY. You can get anything made here, if you have a picture. From clothes to fountains, bookcases to sheets. And because it’s only 2.5 hours to Miami, someone is always going back and forth from the States, and can bring in nicer fabrics, etc. The ready to go items are usually plastic or thin wood that doesn’t last.

  • Reply Nadia September 23, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    I’ve just celebrated my 10-year anniversary of first moving to the UK from Canada, so this is a timely post! What I notice most about the differences in decorating styles is not the styles themselves, but the amount of space available in which to decorate. I live in London and our flat, which I consider to be pretty big because it has an actual hallway as well as a kitchen you can do more than just stand in, seems very small to all our Canadian and American visitors (while our London visitors always exclaim about how much space we have!). So there just isn’t as much room to put stuff, and things can get cramped quite quickly. The way buildings are constructed also makes a huge difference: our front door is placed along the side of a building with part of a wall very close by, which means that we can’t even get a sofa into our flat! (We’ve done pretty well living without one, though.) So I’d say size is a big factor and a big difference between the UK and North America. I think both places enjoy an eclectic sense of style, though.

  • Reply Mariella September 23, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Hi Holly, thanks for these beautiful pictures! As an Italian living in China I find huge differences in decorating since here at least in Mainland China the concept of beautiful decoration is just now starting to take off and it’s still very common when looking for a place to rent to find space horribly decorated. Even if China is now an exciting place to be and it’s now familiar to me, sometimes I find it quite frustrating looking at my surroundings, an industrial over populated metropolis, and not finding the beauty that I am looking for, that I am used to. It’s a challenge and as you say, Internet has this power to somehow make me feel more connected to the outside world . There is a downside though, the risk is that you just get used to living in your virtual space and end up not accepting or considering even, the real life outside. It is difficult, but still, I am working on making more efforts to open up to my surroundings and try to find beauty, even where it’s not expected.

  • Reply Emily September 23, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    So interesting to hear everyone’s perspectives. I am just boring old american living in the states. Can somebody describe US decorating with international eyes? I am curious what characteristics you would give it. It’s hard to see those things from the inside. Thanks for the thought-provoking post Holly!

  • Reply juliette September 23, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Just last night I Skyped with my mom so she could help me decide where/how to hang some pictures in our LR – so yeah, I am TOTALLY appreciating the internet as an expat! =P

    You already know my grief w/German tapete, paint, and buy-your-own kitchens, but in terms of general decorating…

    When I look at housing online here in Germany (on the 1 semi-decent housing website and at the horrid types of posting -seriously do these realtors actually expect to sell? I wonder sometimes w/the pix…) I see a lot of the same stuff you see in an average American badly-decorated home, but in different colors (what is UP w/tacky peach-colored sheers?! does half of Germany own them?!). I also see a lot of furniture w/those “contemporary” lines, gag. Like bad 80’s modern stuff. Yuck. I don’t know if those who list on ImmoScout are more likely to have bad decor or what, but sheesh.

    However, in friends’ and colleagues’ homes I generally see things like lots of Ikea, antiques, and more modern versions of typical American types of decor (overstuffed couches, those leather recliners, ‘cottage’ style, etc.).

    In general, I have to say the average German home feels less ‘stuffed’ and less ‘cookie cutter’ than the average American homes I was used to seeing. I really appreciate this about Germans!

    • Reply decor8 September 23, 2010 at 7:25 pm

      @Juliette – I think you need to move up north. :) Peach sheers are not common, the old ladies have lace curtains for the most part. But I’m in a really nice district in my city so I bet outside of here we have tons of crap curtains. We’re American though Juliette, we don’t have a real understanding of how the culture here was affected by WW2. People are still sort of digging out from under it — I think once the current senior popular fades (sorry to say that) then the “new” Germany will be much brighter… Cities like Berlin and Hamburg already show this stylish, cool Germany that existed pre WW2. I think they are still cleansing themselves here of the war mentality – frugality, buy the basics, no fuss… It’s funny, our new hausmeister talks about the war all of the time. She told us how in our new place, 5 families lived in it together after the war and that the backyard was bombed. Right before the war, our apartment had a lovely Jewish family that she knew as a child — she said that as antisemitism was on the rise in Europe (not just Germany, it was everywhere back then) that this Jewish family packed their entire house and put it on a ship and headed to America to escape Europe. So when a culture if coming out from under the war, and still so many people are prejudice against the Germans blaming them and their children who weren’t even alive during the war, for the Holocaust, you sort of have this culture that is trying to dig out from beneath a lot of negativity. I think that is why design is FINALLY beginning to spring up again here after so many years — the younger generation really want to see change and don’t want to live in “old” Germany anymore. You can’t blame them.

  • Reply Aracely September 23, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Via Philadelphia, with dreams of living in Southern Spain, I just wanted to comment on what a gorgeous eye you have for selecting photos to share.

    You give me the eye candy I require on my daily journey of trudging through the work day dreaming (and planning) to one day make a living out of the the creation and ingestion of eye candy…

    Thank you for the visual treats you provide!

  • Reply Ariana September 23, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I moved to Amberg, Germany two months ago, and like you, sold basically everything but a few boxes we shipped here. It’s been such an interesting paradox– super old, gorgeous buildings with modern furniture and design sensibility. I like a more traditional, quirky look myself, and it has been hard to find furniture and things that work for me. I think that something that strikes me is that you can find all types of styles easily in the US, but it seems there is a much more limited selection here. Granted, I live in a small town! I had assumed that I could easily replace all of my household goods when I arrived, but I was very surprised to learn how difficult it is to find second-hand goods (Craigslist was a great source for cool, eclectic finds) and discount retailers. On the other hand, we recently went to a flohmarkt in a town nearby and I was over the moon with the antiques there. I wanted to tell you that your blog here and hausmaus have been a great resource for me. Thank you!

  • Reply Henway September 23, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    I definitely agree that expats had more courage when things like internet, and home entertainment didn’t exist. THey were literally cut off from their home country. Now you can live in another country, and still chat with ppl back home through the internet, see what’s going on thru reading news sites, and book a ticket to visit home every Christmas.

  • Reply notabilia September 23, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Love this post, says the soon-to-be-expat! We live in the US but will be moving to Singapore next month. I already have a ton of SE Asia-based design magazines and what I’ve already noticed is that the design in a place like Singapore–which is tropical (hot and humid year round)–furniture is either modern and quite minimalist OR traditional and “colonial” for lack of better word (think beautiful, intricate wicker). We are tossing all our American furniture, which probably won’t hold up un the intense humidity, and starting anew in Asia.

    Our space in the US (New York) is classic contemporary (think Room and Board) with bursts of color and fun textiles which are inspired by my Indian heritage. I hope to make my new space quite modern with a splash of Asian and Indian influences.

  • Reply Katie @ Making This Home September 23, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    I experienced the same thing when we moved to Germany from the US at the same time as you, Holly. I showed my husband how you were decorating your apartment and he said, “It looks very American!” I didn’t fully know what he meant until I really started to think about it.

    Now the American style is so completely obvious to me. I still haven’t pinpointed the German style for young couples. (old women – easy!) Like you, I looooove the perspective being an expat has given me. I don’t think I could have done it 10 or 20 years ago.

  • Reply janis - pinecone camp September 23, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Holly, this is a great post. House Beautiful is always on the mark.
    When I lived in Melbourne, I was floored by all the brilliant design coming out of that place. Australian style seems effortless to me. It’s always fun, functional and never feels pretentious. Love it.

  • Reply Nuit September 23, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Interior Design and decorating here in Mexico is very much on the Minimal side these days… you see a lot of modern spaces, lofs and industrial feel. I blog in english and my readers are mostly americans so I tend to post a lot about american design, traditional elements or the New Traditional style which is my fave. It most certainly is an interesting topic Holly :)

    Great post!!! I love House Beautiful ;)


  • Reply Louise September 23, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Great post! I’m a Canadian and live in the Netherlands at the moment and Australia normally. I noticed a big difference in design style when I moved to Australia. Very clean, modern, minimalist. Airy. It suits the environment I think. In comparison, cozy is done well in Canada. So a lot of it is about weather I think. As for the Netherlands, like Lisa said (so funny!) the Dutch keep their curtains open and their homes on display. Almost always, there are flowers in the window, and a small but beautiful garden in front on the house.

  • Reply Cecilie September 23, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    This is a very insightful and interesting post, Holly. I too am an expat and I have definately been doing some thinking along the lines you draw here. I am Danish and I grew up with design classics by Hans-Jørgen Wegner, Louis Poulsen, Piet Hein and Arne Jacobsen. My husband and I bought two beautiful Wegner chairs six years ago and we adore them. Now that we live in Germany, I do feel the effects of my Danish upbringing: I don’t care for all the heavy oak the Germans have a fondness for. I miss being able to buy modern (or mid-century) sleek furniture and I will freely admit that I love your blog for a variety of reasons, one of them being the links you offer to German stores ;o)

    I keep up with the style of my homeland because I still read Danish magazines. And the new German magazin We love living have Danish homes featured in every issue until now. I wish they’d feature German homes instead so that it was possible to get ideas and links to places in Germany that sell beautiful things, rather than the more traditional heavy German pieces.

    I do think that one of the reasons I am experiencing what I am is that I live in Bonn. I don’t live in one of the really big cities in the country and maybe I ought to go shopping in Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin or Hannover (do you have great stores there?)…

    Do you miss being able to shop the plethora of American stores? And how do you compensate for that loss of access to everything?

    • Reply decor8 September 23, 2010 at 7:11 pm

      @Cecilie – Hannover has some nice stores but Hamburg has a ton. Flamant is amazing, their cafe is darling, then there is Habitat and so many others. You’d love it. No, I don’t miss shopping in the states at all because my favorite store there was Anthropologie and we have it here now in London but also everything from Anthro seemed to be European or European-inspired anyway so over here I have access to all of that stuff – plus I travel a lot. We also live 4 hours from Amsterdam and a few hours from Denmark by car so I can hop over borders to find stuff. And Berlin is amazing – they have great flea markets there and indie shops but also Galleries Lafayette and KaDeWe — two stores that are great for perfumes, fashion, etc. I sometimes want to do a “Target run” or hop over to West Elm for a rug or something and I miss that we don’t have those kinds of things here that are affordable really, but there is always Habitat up in Hamburg which is not that far for me but I don’t have a car anymore so I just don’t get up there like I would if I had a car….

  • Reply laurel September 23, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    How BEAUTIFUL are all of these rooms?! Thanks for sharing Holly! :)

  • Reply Lauren September 23, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    I am not an expat, but I love House Beautiful and I do visit their site regularly!

    I also love this post…it makes me smile because it is just so pretty!

  • Reply nomad September 23, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    My family and i have lived overseas for the last 10 years. I love seeing the different decorating styles in the places we’ve lived and visited, from Europe to Africa and now the Middle East. I know that all these places have broadened my ideas of “beautiful” and have influenced my current tastes. I also love the internet for inspiration as evidenced that I’m on your site and even writing a comment. But I do wonder if the internet doesn’t also have its down side of globalizing what’s “in” and “out”. I would be disappointed I think to see Eames chairs in all the places I visit. Instead I love seeing when people use local items in their decorating, maybe used in unconventional ways with their own twist.
    Thanks for the topic.

  • Reply indian yarn September 23, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    good question holly .

    – mine was small space – scandinavian style furniture – solid wood – made by the carpenter ( i did not even know it was scandinavian and read design blogs when AT started) bought what was needed than wanted. – uncluttered – bare walls – this was in the suburbs of bombay – most middle class apartments were like this – not the hep ones seen on apartmetn therapy india tours ) now the kitchens look american style – cabinets all over ! huge sofas in small space ! looks like american replica – i was nonetheless zapped ! –

    now i have the tendency to look both with my indian eyes and american lenses having lived here for many years now

  • Reply EJ September 23, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    I’m a Finnish expat in the U.S. Finland tends towards modern, which doesn’t appeal to me, or an eclectic combination of old and new. What I love about the Finnish decor is that people mix traditional textiles and objects with high-end design like Iittala and Aalto. Finns also tend to be pragmatic, and it’s reflected in the decor. We have dish-drying cabinets in every home and all new homes include a sauna.
    I have mixed feelings towards American decor. Like someone already said, you can find so many more styles in the States. At the same time, there are also much more staid, boring, catalog interiors than in Finland. Yet, people are not afraid to include fun elements and colors in their decor; I think most Finns are shy of that. Americans favor much darker colors. Birch furniture, for example, is almost impossible to find. It feels almost oppressive at times.

  • Reply Kimberly September 23, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    I’m also an expat, although I had never really think about it all too much because I really miss my country. I’m from Costa Rica and since I left quite young I have probably idolized it to the point of fictitiousness. Differences in design/decorating between Costa Rica and the US, where I live now, are rather huge, although a lot of American design and culture is trickling in nowadays. I’d say that our design aesthetic is more rustic and perhaps even utilitarian. For the most part, you have what you need and not much more than that. I think decor is also much more natural as Costa Rica is already in itself quite beautiful. However, American design is remarkable and quite attractive and inevitably has found it’s way into the Costa Rican home and I’m quite glad as I think it’s a beautiful marriage. :)

  • Reply pat @ September 23, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    And here we are wishing we were expats. Some day we’re going to figure out how to live in Paris (from Seattle). Thanks for the tips. I know decorating in France would be a blast.

  • Reply Maria @ ScandiFoodie September 23, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    This is such a lovely post!

    I’m a Finn living in Sydney, Australia and although I’ve always loved Scandinavian design, since moving here I have learned to appreciate it even more. Vintage Finnish design pieces I’ve found here are like treasures to me, and I am tiredlessly promoting Finnish design to all my friends :-) What I took for granted when living in Finland has most definitely become absolute gold after moving here.

    Best wishes,
    Maria x

  • Reply Susan September 23, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    I think size is the biggest difference. Everything in North America is larger – washing machines, dishwashers (if you even buy one overseas!), couches, chairs. The size of everything here (Jerusalem) is much smaller. And smaller totally works…we bought most of our furniture here for that reason.

  • Reply cathie September 23, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    I don’t think you give yourself enough credit as I’m sure the thought of leaving home, with or without a computer, was rather daunting. How I would have loved the opportunity to travel and live abroad. Perhaps once my two teens are finished with college!
    Although I live in the states, and love coastal influenced design, I find myself drawn to the aesthetics of Swedish design – If it were not for the computer I may never have seen the wonderful simplicity of this style.

  • Reply shelley yankus September 23, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    i am a georgia girl, currently living in las vegas – i feel like an expat in my own country sometimes! in georgia – tons of architectural details, wood floors, bright and cheerful exterior paint choices….i could go on and on. in las vegas – stucco, terra cotta, carpet. beige. that about sums it up.

  • Reply Emilie September 23, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    I’m French but live in England. Not exactly far from each other, right ?
    Yet, it always makes me smile to see in British magazines what they call the French style. Never really saw any houses in France decorated like that !
    Anyway, I really like the British French style ! And the British style itself… except for the carpets everywhere…

  • Reply Laura September 23, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    I am an expat American living in England. The biggest difference is less variety in general, and less variety in different price points. DYI hasn’t really taken off here by the average person – no craft stores or paint stores around the corner. Because there are no ‘box stores’, it could take several trips to multiple stores to complete a project, and as one Brit told me today, ‘Who has the time?!’

    Yet at the same time, we have less space here and therefore less of an urge to buy. It also feels like Europe has been harder hit by the economy and less splurging on home decor.

    Fun blog topic :)

  • Reply Sandra Kuwartowski September 23, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    I lived for one and a half year in Ireland back in 1990 and a great difference then between german and irish homes were the walls. Whereas in Germany all walls were white at this time, in Ireland there were lots of flower patterned wall-paper.

  • Reply Elena September 23, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Hi Holly! These are such beautiful images, love the flower arrangements in elephant vases, so cute!

    Great topic about the style differences! I am originally from Ukraine and now live in Canada for almost 10 years. I think the main difference to me is that in Ukraine they more aspire to modern style and all things new. A lot of times vintage items are considered trash. I guess that’s because there were not too many “new things” available during the communist era. In Canada people treasure old and vintage items and incorporate them in decor.


  • Reply Belly September 23, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    I’m not an expat per se, as I alternated living in NY and in Israel since I was a child, but I think for this discussion I might be considered one. I’m so thankful for the web and for international shipping (when available… sigh). The design here couldn’t be more different than in America; Only stark, white and gray spaces are considered “designed”, while florals, Moroccan and colors are considered tacky (maybe bc so many people actually had Moroccan grandparents? I wonder). As you can imagine, Ikea are doing really well here, and for the wealthier- Phillipe Stark and mod designers are worshiped.

  • Reply Heidi September 23, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    I don’t even know if it is proper to say these things out loud. Hope nobody gets insulted about my honesty. But these are the things that I first noticed when coming to the States.

    Here we go: I miss the shops most. I mean European shops have more variety. There are a lot of small shops where I come from. Now I live in Midwest, and there really isn’t much here. I sometimes feel I am re-living the early 90s. I have been to the bigger cities (New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, DC, Minneapolis and so on), but where I am now, there is nothing here or it is just big chain stores or junk. Here most consumers want things new and cheap, and when they are done with them, they are discarded to land fills. Yes, most people here don’t recycle/reuse.

    The magazines I miss too. The American ones are full of adverts (you can read 100 pages of ads before getting to the list of contents) and they lack depth. Every time somebody visits my home country or visits me here in the States, I ask them among other things dear to me to bring a pile of Scandinavian magazines. Good that there are a lot of blogs available to get my fix meanwhile. ;)

    I miss public transportation that actually works. I hate the fact that people drive everywhere, and when you say you are going to ride your bike or walk, they look at you like you are weird or something. I mean what happened? Trains here run with coal, diesel or similar still, buses (according to some locals) are for poor and hookers and such. Why I ask? And I know there are big cities that have this working, but where I come from the smaller ones have it good too.

    And I miss sauna and good healthy wholesome food. I have never even thought about how people can get fat with eating junk food. The fat people are lean in my home country when compared to some Americans. Honestly my jaw dropped when I got here the first time. In grocery stores you see huge persons driving those motorized carts where you can sit on, they are meant for the disabled, but are fat people disabled people? Not in my home country. And what is this thing about GMOs everywhere and companies getting patents on foods and them suing small farmers over patent infringement, and the only way for the consumer to avoid GMOs and to fight back apparently is to eat organic? That is wrong. It seems like most of Americans are blind to what is going on. Companies rule this country in many ways.

    And then again I don’t understand the fixation people have over their appearances. For example when I go to the dentist, I am always asked if I would like to hear about teeth whitening, my teeth aren’t even yellow. If a celebrity goes out without make up to buy toilet paper it is big news here. It feels like everybody should look glamorous or fab or young looking all the time. What a stress that is. I just want to be me.

    I also don’t understand the trashing that goes on with politics from party to another, why can’t they just get along. Nor when you turn the news on you mostly see only local news that are about violence or something else that feels irrelevant as news. And what is the thing with not helping people who need help. There are a lot of poor or homeless people here, that nobody cares about, not even the government. If you lack health insurance or work then you are out of luck it seems. Coming from a country with free health care and education…. I can only wonder.

    The reason I think why people compare their new environment to the old and then complain, is because of culture shock. When you get past that you might actually start enjoying your time in another country. At first it feels like a loooong vacation that never ends. For me it took 1 year to adjust and realize that my life is actually in another country full-time. The Americans they didn’t make it easy on us. (we had to sue our landlord, haggle with a car stealership, fight with an airline company… and the list goes on). However, as an expatriate the assignments are relatively short compared to a life time. So I say try to get the most out of it and enjoy what you can, the little things. With most of us it is over sooner than we realize.


    PS. I know I generalized a lot. And there are many things I love about the States, but I think we have run out of time/space. And no my home country is not perfect, it is made of people and people aren’t perfect. It is just that I expected more from the States being this mighty country and all. I apologize if I hurt somebody’s feelings.

  • Reply Heidi September 23, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Oops. Missed the given assignment “If you are an expat, can you comment on what differences you see in design/decorating in your new country vs. your home country?”. You can delete my previous post if you want. Sorry.

  • Reply Melanie (Kimono Reincarnate) September 23, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    I could really relate to this post. I’m now an ex-ex-pat, last year having returned from living in Japan. I’ve lived there over two different time periods and they were so different as the first I didn’t have an internet connection. The second time, blogging started to find its feet and I could jump online to email friends and look at sites in English.

    As for decorating in Japan – it was worlds apart from Australia. In Japan the living spaces were so much smaller than those here in Australia so that was a big issue that had to be designed around. For this there were lots of helpful things to use around the home to help keep it organised as clutter in a place that small is just magnified. And of course, furniture is much lower to the ground, you would sit on the floor to eat, so there were lovely cushions to put on the floor… Home decorating is seasonal, something that I really enjoyed taking part in, changing my decor a number of times a year… oh the list really goes on and on…

  • Reply Jess (Where My Heart Is) September 23, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    You couldn’t really call me an expat – I moved from the US to Australia when I was a baby, but I do like being able to access online US magazines like House Beautiful. You must have access to some wonderful European publications though!

  • Reply Clara September 23, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    I would say that America is quite often a few steps infront of the uk… just an observation but my mum lives in san fran and i live in london and when i go there i see things in shops and peoples houses that tend to crop up in the uk the following year! love you blog x

  • Reply Juliette Samuel September 24, 2010 at 1:23 am

    That was such a sweet gesture that you and your hubby did with the letters to each other! These are some great interior designs. I love the kitchens. All of them! :-)

  • Reply Jamie S September 24, 2010 at 1:51 am

    I’m back in the US this year after 4 years abroad (Brazil, India.) Because of the internet I’ve always followed decor trends back home, but found that my style has been influenced by both Brazil and India. I find myself craving more color and texture, especially after being in India.

  • Reply Silvia Byrne September 24, 2010 at 1:52 am

    Hi Holly – I love your blog and had to comment today … I am an expat twice – I moved from South Africa to the UK on my own in the mid 90’s and yes, it was really hard (I was in my mid twenties and starting a whole new life completely from scratch) – email was only just starting and there were no South African magazines on the market at all to keep me connected … i remember FAXING letters to my friends as that was faster than regular mail.
    My husband and I then moved to the States 4 years ago and it’s definitely been easier in some ways – having the whole online world at my fingertips and getting South African and UK magazines delivered so I can stay in touch with both my ‘home countries’ in terms of design (which I love). Being able to skype and email all the time – Facebook for photos and seeing what everyone is up to definitely make the world feel smaller.

    For me the biggest difference between the UK and the States in terms of design is that the homes in the UK are often small – maybe not the ones featured in the glossy mags, but in terms of day-to-day life they tend to be smaller and darker so the design needs are very different. There is also so much history in the UK – old cottages and beamed ceilings, small doorways and windows – what I do love though is how eclectic British design is – there is a huge love of history and antiques but people embrace the modern as well and manage to combine the two beautifully. I love it when old spaces are opened up to let light and air in – keeping the original features but bringing in the modern fresh design … so beautiful.
    I think style in America is pretty diverse – you can find anything here – maybe because the country is so big and homes range from beach houses to mountain lodges to penthouse apartments. I do think there’s an emphasis on good quality and the appearance of things lasting – it’s a bit more put together whereas I think British design is more individual, a bit looser and more mixed up, not as safe maybe – exactly as one of the comments wrote about fashion – that element of surprise, having a bit of fun – i liked that about living in the UK.
    South African design, where i come from, is all about earthiness and natural colours, textures, wood, African culture and space and light … so interesting to compare all of them.

    Thanks for a wonderful blog Holly. x

  • Reply PriscilaPetersDecor September 24, 2010 at 2:23 am

    Yes, House Beautiful is one of my daily reads. I really love all those images.

  • Reply Tiffany September 24, 2010 at 2:34 am

    Love that pink wall paper


  • Reply sumana September 24, 2010 at 2:45 am

    Wonderful post !!! I am an expat in the U.S. from India.
    The big difference in terms of housing is in the US there is so much space in the front and the back to do gardening or any sort of outdoor living, which in in India is scarce.
    In terms of interioir decoration, I miss colors in US , most things are ,matte, beige and so…but I moved here 10yrs back , now of course I see the difference..I see colors, I see Indian influenced artifacts even at Target !!! Internet has helped a lot in this evolution globally. In India there is Walmart and boxed stores like IKEA are growing and all the latest kitchen gadgets..So, we are all getting there, where being an expat is becoming easier..

  • Reply Sarah September 24, 2010 at 3:31 am

    Holly – this is a great topic and I have to comment because I lived in the UK in the early 90’s – there was no internet, no skype, letters took 4+ days etc. It would be easier now, no doubt like you said – a good friend of mine lives there now and she told me she couldn’t imagine living there without internet etc. I got very interested in interior design when I lived there because I could see the HUGE difference in design – I loved and still love the European design world, its so different. And I could spot an American a mile away – there weren’t a lot of them back then, I’m sure there are many more now, since travel is so easy. Enjoy all of it – you never know where you may be in 10 years! :))

  • Reply Stella September 24, 2010 at 3:58 am

    I moved from the states to Colombia a little over two years ago. Everything about design is different here. I definitely miss American magazines and feel out of the loop in the world of design, the internet at times seems to solidify what I’m missing. If you do happen to see any design magazine from the states, and that’s only when in Bogota, you’ll pay at least 20$ american for the pleasure.
    Here the influence seems to be an odd interpretation of Miami from the early 1990’s. The color schemes and shapes reflect this in fashionable homes. Yet most homes are a mishmash of whatever people get their hands on and tend to keep until all the life is squeezed out of them. Plastic is extremely expensive so it’s considered to be high design. I mean like plastic lawn chairs, seriously.
    I have never felt more like an American in my life, even more so than while I was in France for several months. It’s a great way to see how your identity design-wise and otherwise really shapes you.

  • Reply Charlene September 24, 2010 at 4:52 am

    Hi! I moved from Scotland to Texas a year ago with none of our furniture….into an unfurnished rental home. We owned a 1800’s 2 granite apartment which we renovated (to original hardwood floorboards, ironcase fireplaces, 8 ft window shutter, installed a gloss black kitchen with oak countertops and oak floor white walls(!) and a limestone bathroom with new sink, deep wide bath, etc.) in the heart of historic Aberdeen and swapped it for a 4 bed rental home in an 1980s suburb of Houston with builder standard everything and cheap construction. If we owned this house in Texas it would cost less than what our apartment in Aberdeen is worth! Anyway decorating. So we had nothing and their was a distinct Southern style dark walls, light trims, cast iron decor, tile everywhere and lots and lots of “accents”, some of it has grown on me but some hasnt! We painted the house neutral colours (out of our own money) and headed straight for Ikea and the antique stores! We have tried to keep it eclectic and as true to our personalities as possible and have found some amazing antique finds which are mostly European or Scandanavian. The availability of good design furniture is amazing but outwith our budget – you know West Elm, BoConcept, Crate & Barrel which you can only really get in the South of England in the UK.

    So I havent really taken on the Southern style, but when I see a home where the person has done Southern style well…everything in its place, I cant help but appreciate the style and the effort put into it. Amazing.

  • Reply kay at from india. with love September 24, 2010 at 5:36 am

    as a soon to be expat (moving to india in the new year) i really enjoyed this post. i wonder if while i’m in india i’ll notice “canadian” design more?

    one thing i know for sure is i am so excited to decorate my place in india – even though i’ll only be there for a year.

  • Reply Vanessa September 24, 2010 at 5:54 am

    Love your blog! I’m an American living in Tokyo with my husband and 2 kids. What’s so funny is how it’s really hard to find cool Japanese designs here (I think you have to go to Europe for that). All things European (esp. British, French & Scandinavian designs) are golden here. But that’s not so bad considering I get homesick for more Western style furniture. The problem is getting a sofa or desk to look right on tatami mats. Or how to fit a queen size bed into our tiny bedroom that’s designed for Japanese futon mattresses.

  • Reply Sarah September 24, 2010 at 7:11 am

    I moved to Japan from the States (although originally from Canada) just over nine years ago. Even in that short time so much has changed. We have Costco, Ikea and finally Benjamin Moore is selling their paints here!! I was really excited to move and try out the minimalist decorating style so often attributed to Japan but I know nobody who lives like what you see in magazines. It’s kind of sad that the Japanese aesthetic is getting lost. Even I won’t mimic it! After four kids we have too much stuff and there’s no way my parents can eat every meal at a low table when they come to visit!

    Like you many of my friends both in Japan and in America think I’m so brave for living here but when I think about it my life is just like their’s. I wake up in the morning, get my kids ready for school, send them to school, clean the house, have lunch, meet a friend, help my kids do their homework, play with them, make dinner, put my kids in bed and then spend time with my husband. *How* I do some things may be different and I have to speak Japanese everywhere I go but the life I live is not that different.

    The world has gotten so much closer through the Internet, blogs and Skype. Especially blogs like Decor8 keep me informed with what is going on all over the world. Thanks Holly!

    PS to Heidi – that was a lot of negative energy you threw out there!

  • Reply Lynda September 24, 2010 at 7:26 am

    I am not an expat, but I just wanted to comment to let you know that your blog is one of my most favorites :) There’s just so much visual goodness, I just love it! :)

  • Reply Christie September 24, 2010 at 7:28 am

    I’ll let you see things from another perspective……
    I’ve studied abroad and have friends all over Europe but I’ve returned back to my country after university. You may not even ever heard of my coutnry…Its a small island in the meditteranean sea where all these things that you are referring to are soooo hard to find.
    Luckily internet has been a great help for those of us who dont want to settle for anything less….Unfortunately we dont have it everywhere!
    I used to live near the center of the capital but I just moved to a bigger house.To be able to have a bigger house you need to move out to the country side. BUT….there is not internet where I live now and they dont know when we will be able to live into to civilization again!!!!
    I read your blogs whenever I have some free time and sometimes I realise how llucky the rest of Europe and US of course is…and how unlucky I am to live in this small island.
    Dont take things from granted!!!Now even internet is for some of us :)

  • Reply kylie September 24, 2010 at 9:01 am

    I know exactly what you mean. I was an expat in Japan from 1998 – 2005 and in those early internet days it was a bit of struggle. I can remember the moment when I found Amazon and it was such a valuable resource in a country where it’s hard to get English books.

    Love, love, love your blog btw.

  • Reply juliette September 24, 2010 at 11:28 am

    @Holly, I totally agree about the WWII thing. I’ve heard from other Germans that this is one of the big reasons that lead to the development of the whole buy-your-own-kitchen thing.

    I still just don’t know what the deal is with the pastel sheers. Maybe it’s central Germany. I don’t know, they look so ’80’s to me – and I’ve seen them in Drs offices, ‘fancy’ houses, and upper middle class homes as well. I will say I notice style differences between central Germany and southern Germany where we have family, esp Bayern. People in Bayern seem to be more about ‘doing’ a room up! =P Kind of like the South in the US =)

  • Reply Eva September 24, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    I’m German and I’ve been living in Finland for almost five years now. What strikes me most is how conscious people are of Finnish design and supporting Finnish companies. People are very proud of Finnish products and quality and you can find design pieces in EVERY home. There will be at least some tableware by Iittala or Arabia and some Marimekko products, even if they are small items like tea towels, for instance. In Germany there is not the same kind of consciousness, I think.

    As for the general style of apartments, people don’t have as much space here at an average as they do in Germany. Houses and apartments are usually cleverly designed, though, and there are usually built-in cupboards. Visitors from Germany are often shocked at the small size of bathrooms here. :-D Right now in Finland, magazines are full of a mid-century modern/flea market style which is very colourful and often includes clever remakes/refurbishments of old things. In real life white walls are very popular, with the little bit older generation also built-in cupboards with mirrored doors. All things designed to make the most of space and light. A lot of people have curtains from Vallila, Marimekko or Ikea. People aren’t afraid of bold prints in their homes. Sheers aren’t very popular here, instead most people go for white or silver metal adjustable venetioan blinds. Furniture is also often Ikea with sometimes a design piece or a heirloom mixed in.

    In Germany people don’t use that many bold prints and maybe rather go for colour on their walls. Also, I don’t see this design consciousness and if there is it is usually done in black and white with steel furniture. A lot of people in Germany appreciate good quality, though, I think and buy things with the future in mind and it is also valued to have family heirlooms or artesan pieces in your home if you can afford it. Also, in Germany bathrooms are spas compared to the ones here. On the other hand a lot of Finnish homes have saunas, however small the apartment or bathroom. One of my Spanish friends here lives in a studio with a sauna big enough for three. She said she’d trade an extra room any time. :-D

    Ok, this topic is really interesting and I could go on and on … but I think these are the main points I can think of. I’ll come back to read all of the other comments!!!

  • Reply Melizza September 24, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    I’m an American living in London and I have been fascinated with the remodelling shows here. The designers tend to LOVE using wallpaper. I even have it in two of my bedrooms in my flat. Also, the rental agencies kept saying how much of a luxury carpeting is. Blah! I hate carpet. Finding a place with nice wooden floors was a chore but we lucked out after a nice search. We even found a place with built-in (whoah) closets, a rarity in this country.

  • Reply Wrenaissance Art September 24, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Love seeing all the shared perspectives here! We lived in Norway for 6 years in the early ’90s, and have just returned from a 6-year stint split between the UK and Brazil.
    Internet influence then and now: Yes and no. :-)) Yes: Using iTunes to download cheesy TV shows for our Saturday night treat definitely reduced both homesickness and culture shock when we returned this time around.
    No: I love real magazines! In Brazil, I adored Casa Vogue Brasil. More important, both times elderly relatives back home got very lonely for us. Computers were and are definitely NOT a part of their world, and phone calls aren’t the same as visits after age 80.
    Design differences:
    US and Brazil: The US has a huge market for mid-price, mid-quality goods. Brazil tends to have either cheap plastic tat, or wonderful, expensive objets.
    The US and UK: British houses are on average, about half the size of the US. The British paint interiors strong colors–perhaps because they don’t move as frequently and don’t need to worry about the resale process?
    The US and Norway: Norwegian style mixes function with comfort; clean lines, natural woods, lots of natural light. US style has more dustcatchers. Fewer and smaller windows in the US than either Norway or Brazil.
    Sorry for writing a novel!

  • Reply Coco September 24, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    I was only an expat for 8 months. I was in Franklin MA nearby Boston. For College. But still, if i revisit the USA, wherever that might be, i feel at home in some kind of way. The big malls are almost everywhere in the USA the same and everywhere you can see the most common shops like Barne’s & Nobles, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts. The two last one we also have here in Europe but only in America its special to me ;)

    Anyways ’bout the decorating part, i can see the typical American decorating way, but i can see the English interiors too and the Danish ones. Those three are for me the most outstanding so far.

  • Reply noa sela September 24, 2010 at 5:48 pm


  • Reply Heidi September 24, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Eva: I would like to hear how you like the Scandinavian countries? Was there any culture shock when you moved? I have been to different parts of Germany and felt it was very homey and romantic in a way (South Germany), but also stayed in places that were very hip and modern (North Germany). When at its best I love German interiors and city planning.

    Now try to bear with me. I mostly write about Midwest, because that is where I am stationed at. Architecture here is mostly good. There used to be a lot of great buildings here, according to history books, but these days they are not well cared for or they have been replaced by parking lots/structures that to me look ugly. I feel bad for the Americans to have lost a part of their culture and I also don’t wonder why people want to live in the suburbs here.

    About the suburbs in Midwest, a few odd things I noticed. You rarely see gardens in front of people’s homes. People seem to love big grass lawns. They also love wall to wall carpeting, which in my home country is a thing from the 70s and for some reason they don’t seem to like wallpaper (although there are great wallpaper designs out there these days). But I don’t think it is like that outside Midwest, is it?

    The houses and apartments are huge here and love that (although not so energy efficient, which is THE word of the day in my home country). My apartment in my home country was half the size of my current place. I could only dream about a place this big, because they are so expensive there. And here we have two huge bathrooms compared to a one tiny bathroom. We mostly use just one of them, and the other one is more a utility room these days. I have used the bathtub in that room just once for what it’s meant for, because our boiler is so small, I ended up having a cold shower after. I would prefer a sauna over a bathtub. Even thought of building one that is portable, that’s how much I miss it. Also because this a rental, the kitchen looks like something out of Home Depot, that every rental unit in the area seems to have. And our apartment is supposed to be a high end loft. Where I come from kitchens get a lot more attention than that. My first thought was I have to go to IKEA to buy some simple and WHITE (and cheap) cabinet doors. ?

    The “local” shops I have here in a preferred order are DWR (love it), CB2, Ethan Allen, Target, Marshalls/Homegoods, Walmart, Colder’s and Steinhafels (so not much here). If I go to an “Antique” shop, it is basically junk and not antiques (at least not according to European standards), but I can still have fun there. I kind of feel I am looking at what the American culture is about, getting a sense of it and I love that. I would just call them thrift stores not antique stores. But aside from that there are great shops that specialize in mid-century and I might find some true gems there, most of the closest ones to me are unfortunately in Chicago.

    I love American mid-century design classics (Eames’ & Nelson pieces) and just want to take them home. Currently my flat is filled with European design classics like Jacobsen, and Mooi stuff, Iittala/Arabia and such (Eva you nailed it when you wrote about how the Finns are, I am exactly like that). Mix of old and new, with good design aesthetics.

    Chicago & Ikea (if I get homesick, LOL) is 1,5 hours away if I need to get some action and go shopping. And another good thing here are the vast online shopping possibilities, I am going to miss that. Blogs are great source for finding great online shops. That is one thing the Americans know how to do well, online stores. (Netflix is great too and the HD channels).

    I also love in general where ever I go I see a lot of smiles and people seem to be interested in hearing about me more. Where I come from everybody just seems to ignore you if they can and are very task-oriented. I noticed this when I visited my home country. I had this romanticized idea in my head about my home country, and it was just crushed by the way people are. That is one thing I am going to miss about the States. The nice people & small talk with them (even in the elevator, Yikes!).

    And the best thing about living in Midwest is that it is in the middle of the country and I can easily travel to see all the great big American cities. I feel that I have been given a lot, having the opportunity to come to the States. And I do value the time I have here and I try to make my stay longer if I can. I am not ready to go home, not just yet. There are so many great things to see here. The American culture is starting to grow on me.


    PS: Sarah: I know, and I feel bad for that. Excuse me this one time I let it slip. I really like it here in the States. What I wrote about earlier is something all European expats here (in Midwest) have noticed and complain often about (a lot, especially the Finns, Swedes, German and Swiss). I, on the other hand, am seeing the positive side too. Or trying to. I just thought the Americans would like know how others see them, I know I would like to know the same about how people see my home country or neighboring countries. Whether it is good or bad.

  • Reply katie September 24, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    i was an expat from 2004-2006 in central asia (specifically kazakhstan), of all places. and boy, was the style different over there. everything was smaller, and i was living in a pretty poor town…so most of the furniture was either old, or cheap, or as was often the case, both old AND cheap! and they didn’t take the smaller spaces as a cue to be more minimalistic- rather every surface was taken up by something, usually clutter. and they hung oriental rugs on the walls. strangely enough, their homes really did feel homey…i think because their living spaces were such a stark contrast to the landscape and bitterly cold climate.

  • Reply Melissa September 25, 2010 at 6:01 am

    Well, Heidi, after reading your posts, I may have to take you up on your offer to let you know how some Americans (this one, at least) view many Europeans. Some are great – the Danish couple and their young son that live in my building, my dear friends from Poland who returned to their home country a few years ago, but many are absolutely insufferable and I wish they’d consider getting to the airport as soon as possible and buying a one way ticket home. I cannot fathom going to another country as a guest, and that’s what you are here, a guest, and behaving as, unfortunately, most Europeans do in this country. I am embarrassed for them.

    As for how I see many (certainly not all) Europeans . . .

    1. Condescending (see above). Yes, America is different than Europe. I am not shocked by that fact when I go to Europe, so why is it such a shock to Europeans who come here? Why on earth would a person travel to a different country and then spend the entire time complaining about why it’s not like home?

    2. Vaguely Racist. Let’s get real. Barack Obama would NEVER be the president of France, or the Prime Minister of the UK, or the Chancellor of Germany. Ever. Yes, those countries have let a few white women in the club, but the treatment of minorities and their exclusion from general society creates class divisions that will probably never go away.

    3. Definitely Anti-Semitic. Wow. I have heard things come out of Europeans’ mouths in polite company that would make Goebbels blush. The sentiments that led to the Holocaust were obviously brewing for a long time and even though it’s been six decades plus since WW2, those beliefs aren’t going to be wiped out in one or two generations.

    4. Entitled and Lazy. My experiences with Europeans in a work environment has not been good. Most are not nearly as smart/clever/engaging as they think they are. (Brits – I am talking to you. Quit hamming up the accent, nobody’s buying) and if they spent a fraction of the time working that they spend complaining about their lack of vacation, pay, whatever, they might actually get something done. Just thinking about trying to motivate/manage those lumps gives me the hives.

    5. Not very aware of differences in societies and how those differences shape respective societies. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to travel to Stockholm, which is an amazing city. However, the one thing that shocked me about the place was how incredibly racially homogeneous it was. Which, of course, made me think – if Sweden’s largest city is this stereotypically blond and blue-eyed, then what does the rest of the country look like? Folks, let me let you in on a little secret – when people share racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds it is MUCH easier to get them to agree on things. Consequently, those societies are much more orderly and much more likely to adopt larger welfare state systems where the government plays a big role in people’s lives. That’s not the US, obviously.

    That’s my response Heidi. You asked for it and I obliged. And, for the record, I’m not some tea-party wingnut who thinks everything in the US is perfect and USA!USA!#1!, but, I would never want to build my life anywhere else. Why? Because I think I have more of a chance to truly self-determine here than in any other country. I wasn’t born into money, my dad didn’t finish college, and both of my parents are from some of the poorest parts of the US, but, my brother and I have had amazing opportunities that we largely created for ourselves. That’s what’s important to me and why I value the system this country represents.

    Oh, and for the love of God lay off the fat jokes. Please, I beg you, find something else to attack. It’s tiring.

    • Reply decor8 September 25, 2010 at 10:11 am

      @Melissa – You said, “Barack Obama would NEVER be the Chancellor of Germany, Ever.” i think he could totally be the Chancellor of Germany — most people here were so excited when he was elected in the states. On the day that he was announced President of the United States, I had Germans coming up to me on the streets congratulating me. Did you know that the current Chancellor of Germany is a woman and the Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor here is an openly gay man? Also I think some of your statements can be said about Canadians, Australians, Americans, South Americans — what you described is actually human behavior that is exhibited in every country in the world. As I read your post I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s where I’m from too and yeah, that sounds like this state or that state in the U.S.” Truth is, there is no perfect government, culture, land… You just have to find a place that suits you and your personality and be grateful for the freedom that so many of us have to actually choose where we want to be. It’s such an honor for me, personally, to live abroad because I can experience things that I only thought I knew before and it’s exciting and such an life-changing experience. I love it!

  • Reply Melissa September 25, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    @decor8 – You know what, you’re right. But, I would argue that many of the things Heidi said about Americans can also be said about many individuals in many other countries (although I didn’t notice you pointing that truism out to her, just to me). When a person visits a different country with an agenda and looks for stereotypes, they’ll most likely find them. Honestly, I’m just tired of the constant anti-American drumbeat. Would you feel it appropriate to launch into a Heidi-like screed about the Germans? My guess is no, because you are at least trying to respect and understand some of the cultural differences you’re seeing. I would ask her to do the same, although, based on my experiences with Europeans in this country, I’m not optimistic.

    As for the European Barack Obama (meaning an ethnic minority, not a white woman or a white gay man) coming to power anytime soon, we’ll see. I hope to see some bright, ambitious person whose parents came to Germany from Turkey one day become leader of that country, but that may still be a few generations away. Only time will tell.

    Politics aside – I really like your blog and also enjoy reading about your new apartment. Your style is fun and I love the inside look into interiors in Germany. I’m a huge fan of some European design (Scandinavian, especially) and you’ve got a great eye. Best of luck with the move.

    • Reply decor8 September 26, 2010 at 12:35 am

      @Melissa – Thank you for your comments.

      @Heidi — and to all of my other dear, dear readers — I must remind you that this is not the place to dive into politics, religion, race, etc. This blog is about decorating so I’m encouraging all of us to kindly steer the conversation back to decorating please. Much thanks. :)

  • Reply Mindy September 25, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    Great topic as it really hits home for me. I am an expat American living in New Zealand for 12 years now. Style abounds here. The embrace of styles and cultures from all over the globe abound and the midcentury furniture is hot has been well looked after but is pricey. There is a mix of industrial and fine worked designed furniture. With amazing innovators in furniture like David Trubridge and Duncan Sargent we are spoiled for choice. Fabric is something I wish there were more of that was made here. There are heaps avaible but most made off shore. Leanne Cully of Home Base Collections and and Hemptech are again NZ innovatore is moder and styling with a natural and historical reference. I go home to the States and there is lots available at really good prices like lamps, shelfs, lighting, wallpaper and paint and basic staple pieces however not a huge celebration of designers and the future innovators. I do realise it can be hard to see that across such a huge country and that you’d probably be more likely to see it regionally. Still it seems most people know who our top NZ furniture designers are and that doesn’t seem to be the case in the states. I do think Americans EMBRACE colour and that is really needed in NZ interior design. So many neutrals. We have just bought our 3rd home and this one is a major fixerupper. I look forward to following your many great posts to help me pull it all together.

  • Reply Traveling Mama September 26, 2010 at 12:03 am

    wow, Holly. It looks like you found a subject that many of us are quite passionate about! The thing that I have learned from our years overseas is that people are people. No matter where you go, what border you cross, or what land you arrive in… there will always be kind, generous, helpful, and inviting people and then there will be hard, rude, and mean people. I think when you move to a new country or even if you never leave the one you are born in, you just have to look for the people who make your life better and you can do the same for them. If you get caught up in what a people or a country are not then you will never be happy anywhere because there are good and bad things about every country.

    I also believe that a home is a reflection of the people who live in it. It doesn’t matter what label is on the items or how much the dishes cost or whether the neighborhood is the “hippest” in town. I have eaten in small huts in Africa where the women were sweeping the dirt floors as we arrived. Those women wanted us to feel warm and invited and even though they had very little, their homes were beautiful and reflected the kind and generous spirits that they were.

    I have also been in many wealthy western homes where the china is set just so and the silver dates back to many great, great grandmothers. But that same warmth and generosity were present.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that it doesn’t matter what we have or don’t have because ultimately our home should reflect the love and happiness that we fill it with each day.

    I consider it to be the greatest of honors to live as an expat. I am a guest here in Denmark and I am incredibly thankful for the kindness that so many Danes have extended to us. I was actually afraid to leave Morocco because the people there were so kind and hospitable and everything I read about Denmark was that they were cold and did not like foreigners. My greatest shock since moving here has been to discover that the Danes are amazing, kind, innovative, hospitable, and ever-so-helpful.

    It is so easy for us to get caught up in what one country is not and focus on all the differences between us, but none of that stuff really matters because we are all the same. No matter the color of our skin, the language we speak, or the size of our bank account… if there is one thing I have learned after visiting almost twenty countries and living in four is that people are people. We all hope for good things, happiness, peace, a better world for our children, and love. While there are some from every corner of this globe that would threaten those things, we have to hold on to what is good, what is worthy, and what is true.

    No matter what country you live in, if there are expats you will find some that want to become a part of the culture, learn the language, and truly live in their new country. There will also be others that really do not care much for adapting, learning the language, or the new culture. Essentially they are exporting their own country and trying to recreate it. It is this second group that seems to struggle the most and I think it is because it is hard to be happy when no matter what you do, what foods you have sent in, or even the clothes you wear… you are still not home. And that is very difficult to live with. I was born an American and I will always be an American, but I make a lot of effort to be happy where I am, accept the differences between my home country and the one I live in, and celebrate all the wonderful things that are present no matter where I live.

    • Reply decor8 September 26, 2010 at 12:38 am

      @Traving Mama – Well said — I live exactly this way as well — I love being an expat and also view it as such an honor.

  • Reply JanB September 26, 2010 at 5:56 am

    I love the pink outdoor patio accents and furniture…

  • Reply bbrunophotography September 26, 2010 at 7:13 am

    I lived in Germany for six years many years ago. I could have used your wonderful decorating ideas, but unfortunately, computer technology wasn’t at a point where we had personal computers at home. Your photos & words inspire me!

    Following you on Twitter as of today…

  • Reply Jen September 26, 2010 at 8:27 am

    This post really hit home for me–we’ve lived in Belgium for nearly eight years now, but I feel like we can’t really call ourselves expats since we are associated with the military and have that community. I remember my dad asking us what we couldn’t get over here, because he lived in Germany in the 80’s and couldn’t find certain things. I couldn’t think of anything I absolutely couldn’t find here, thanks to online shopping and quick shipping with the APO system.

    As far as decorating differences, I see so much IKEA in Belgian/German homes, and everything seems to be so focused on being super modern. It amazes me the gorgeous furniture I can find at the TROC (a secondhand furniture store), that is solid wood and well made, and yet people are selling it to buy mass produced pressed wood.

  • Reply ilze September 26, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Hi Holly !
    HOUSE BEAUTIFUL saved my life this week !! I live in South Korea – expat for 12 years now…also in your BYW course at the moment (yes – i am the one who has not done homework yet…gets distracted by blogs like yours !)
    I think I only agreed to being an expat because it gives me an opportunity to re-do my house every few years ! I love decorating and re-using things in different ways. I also like adding to the house ambience with the different things you get in each country which eventually makes an expat home unique – showcasing where you have been ( you can totally tell walking into a house when someone has lived in the Middle east ! ;-)))
    I did my “moodboard” this week and following instruction that it had to be real, not electronic media, was really happy that I got this very recent issue (sept 2010). I found the PERFECT clippings – all in just one magazine ! I still like reading a real copy more than an online version. However – I did want to link to the magazine on-line from my blog, to give credit for all the clippings I took from there and thought I might find those pages..but no luck…then I just now saw your post with a link to exact magazine !! I will go scratch around now.
    Great post – as always !!
    take care, ilze

  • Reply Debbie September 26, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I am an American Expat living in Tirana, Albania. Our beautiful apartment here over looking the city is very Italian modern, and not at all like my home back in the States. I enjoy the open plan of the apartment, and all the light that we get from the floor to ceiling windows. The decorating style here in Tirana is either very Balkan (heavy dark furniture) or Italian. Have been able pick up some beautiful painted bridal chests and wonderful art. I am very lucky to get the great British decorating magazines here for half the price of what I would have to pay back in the States. They are usually a month late but its not a problem. I don’t miss the US decorating magazines because there are way too many adverts in them. I really rely on the internet decorating blogs to get ideas for redoing my stateside home, and they were a great help in preparing for the major renovations and redecorating that I did this past summer. My home in the States is filled with art/furniture/ceramics/baskets etc that we have bought while living in Africa and in Europe the past 18 years. It all tells a story about my family’s life.

  • Reply Katy September 27, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    I’m certainly no design expert, but I am an expat so I thought I’d add my 2 cents in anyway! I think the European (at least what I see in Luxembourg, France, Germany) aesthetic seems to be cleaner. By Cleaner I mean, less color, less frill and less stuff. It is hard to imagine a European being a hoarder. :) The color schemes seem to be monochromatic – white, cream, black & white, etc. They also seem to be less personal and more formal. And the orchids :) Every window sill in Lux must have an orchid on it, is it the same in Germany? An orchid is a good representation of the European aesthetic, now that I think of it – simple, clean, pretty, no extra frills and elegant. Um, pretty much what all your other readers said. ha.

  • Reply Nenaghgal September 27, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    I’m an American ex-pat, living in Co. Tipperary, Ireland – been here for the last three years. There is so much I miss in America from an interior design stand point – it just does not compare here. The celtic tiger produced these massive houses throughout Ireland but no one knows how to decorate them. They are cold – jammed full of top of the line stuff but there is no heart, no colour, no style – I really miss American magazines although UK Country Living keeps me going because it has personality and a quirkiness that I can respond and relate to. We moved into a basic house in a housing estate and in three years have totally transformed it and given it wonderful personality – it’s still a work in progress but it has taken time to find the right things here. Boy do I miss flea markets and good charity shops – it’s not so cool to shop in charity shops here…have been to a few car boot sales but need to go to more! We actually went to one and sold and had a brilliant day as we had all this “American” stuff that people loved – we stuck out from the other stands. Now i want to bring in more stuff to sell here! 99% of the interior design shops here are deadly boring – dark wood, no style- no propping and styling – the only shop I love is AVOCA as it’s a wonderful lifestyle store mixed with food, clothes, accessories etc. Anyway, could ramble on here but so good to see all the other ex-pats talking about their experiences!

  • Reply Purnima September 29, 2010 at 7:44 am

    I am a expat too.. lived in Zurich for 4 years before moving here to Singapore. I am originally from India. I never had a problem as magazines from all countries are available everywhere nowadays. In style and fashion, Zurich is more contemporary , Singapore more oriental and India is a fusion of modern and traditional. I love and respect different cultures and their styles. I think thats the best part of moving. To me, missing small things would mean missing on the bigger picture. It helps one to grow as a person. I like to take the best of every place I lived in and make my own style.

  • Reply fiona lynne September 29, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    I’m an expat in Belgium from the UK and married to a Danish man. I’d never had my own place in UK so my interest in all things design only really kicked off here but I LOVE the antique district in Brussels and the flea market… our dining table was found there, and we have multiple cake dishes, a ladder, glass bottles, antique alarm clocks…!

    So we’ve mixed my husband’s strong Danish influences with my love for bringing home vintage cake stands and it somehow works :) I love the ideas of my style continually be influenced by the places I live and the people I meet.

    Someone above also from Belgium said she was shocked by the proliferation of IKEA in Belgium. I’ve definitely seen that in the Expat community because it’s the cheap way to furnish a flat when you’re going to probably have to move on soonish and either leave it all behind or pay to ship it. But not as fun :)

  • Reply Kaho September 29, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Hi, Holly! I’m your student at BYW and your decor8 fan (I’d like to call myself loyal, but I’m not proud of myself recently) since I discovered your blog. I haven’t been able to visit as often or leave comment when I wanted to because of our recent move from Washington, DC area to Jakarta, Indonesia (and your lovely classes). I’ve been wanting to comment here and waited until I submitted the homework and am not too overwhelmed with the reading assignment. :P I’m enjoying the class very much though.

    I am Japanese married to a Texan (self claimed). I have been an expat on and off for a while since I was a child. With my own family growing up, I lived in the U.S. (LA) and Singapore.

    With my husband I lived in Senegal, Japan, U.S. (Austin & Arlington, VA) and now Indonesia together. When I was reading your post, I was nodding at many points because it is so true about how different the world has become for expats when you compare 30 years ago and now. When I lived in LA at the age of 5, my parents wrote letters to my grandparents. Now I Skype with my parents and my girls can see my family in Japan and my husband’s family in the U.S. on the computer screen.

    Like you said, I don’t miss certain things in Japan thanks to internet. Although I have to say that Jakarta is an easy foreign city to live for Japanese because so many Japanese goods are available. When we lived in Dakar, Senegal from 2003 to 2005 on the other hand, it was tough even though internet was available because I felt so cut off from Japan and I couldn’t find anything Japanese in the local economy. The closest I got was a Korean restaurant that served some sudo-Japanese dishes.

    So to answer your question and sorry for taking so long to get to the point…. I LOVE contemporary Indonesian design. I find Japanese contemporary designs pretty similar to that of Indonesia and I wonder if there is any correlations, influences to each other or they both were influenced by the same designs or inspirations. They both are simple with either natural wood colors, white, gray or earth tone. They both are minimalists with less decoration. I feel very zen in both designs and at peace. I have only seen Jakarta and I cannot wait to go to Bali or Yogja (a very historical site with many buddhist ruins) and see the designs there.

    I love your post! I’m happy that you are my fellow expat. :) By the way, my dad lived in Frankfurt for his job when I was in college and I loved visiting him there once. Germany is a beautiful country. I heart Washington, D.C., too!

  • Reply rkg October 2, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    So…….might sound crazy but I left the US 5 years ago and like many we sold almost everything to make the move to the UK…….of the keeps were several boxes of my favorite US design magazines. Although they are not new, there is nothing better than a great cup of coffee on a Sunday morning and a mag from the bottom of my stack. Now splitting my time between France and the UK, I have moved with an international magazine collection that I just cannot bear to part with. Loving on line mags? GREAT BLOGS and family and friends who indulge me with US magazines as gifts.

  • Reply Gabrielle October 4, 2010 at 3:59 am

    Such a great topic that so many people will relate to in this day and age!

    I am an expat French Canadian living in Australia and although the countries are supposedly similar, there are so many differences. In Australia, you see a lot more of the traditional English heritage, mixed with the scruffy Australian feel, for example, old victorian cottages with tin roofs and walls. I love that in century houses there are old ornate fireplaces in every room, which you rarely see in Canada. I also love how newer additions to homes in Australia really open up to the outdoors. The warm climate accomodates this. Gardens are always well kept and a lot more furnished. I love Australian the outdoor kitchens!

    In Canada, antiques and a more traditional style is a lot more respected. Australians tend to strip down to more modern interiors. They love simplicity. “Australia is a nation of homeowners” I read that somewhere. They are more likely to spend a lot more on restorating, renovating their homes, whereas Canadians love to decorate on a budget and use a mix of old and new inexpensive items to create an eclectic feel. Among other quirky differences is how toilets are often separate from bathrooms in Australia and gas stovetops and ovens as opposed to electric ones (I love using gas stovetops now!)

    I miss my American and Canadian magazines but I’ve discovered Vogue Living Australia and Real Living Australia and they are little treasures! And I can’t get over – where you can find real beautiful decors outside of a magazine.

  • Reply Anastasia October 5, 2010 at 5:42 am

    Holly – i hope your move went well!!!

    This is such an interesting post.
    I was an expat living in Cyprus (a tiny island in the Med) during the early 90’s – no email or internet so I wrote a lot of letters and made the effort to keep in touch, I also made the effort to get out more and meet new people! it was a great time in my life!!
    At the time I noticed huge differences in the home decor styles, i loved the old stone village homes full of character and quirky details – old green /blue wooden shutters and hard cement floors, rustic wooden chairs with natural fibre bases – this kind of style was rejected by the younger generation and sadly most of these homes were crumbling and not maintained.
    Large modern homes were popping up everywhere and were a bit of a ‘status symbol’ having a brand new home built meant you were doing just fine in life and being ‘ house proud’ was very important to the locals – most new homes were painted white both inside and out and very basic in design but on my most recent trip there in 2006, ive noticed a lot of natural stone features and detail on the outside which looks really nice – it suits the dry hot climate.
    All homes have cold tiles and again this suits the climate but suprisingly they still have quite heavy furniture and textiles….i think maybe they like the grandeur of this although i think it looks odd.
    I guess being a small island and not having so much to choose from, most homes all look the same – im sure this is changing slowly with new ideas, the influence of the internet etc
    i also found your comments about Germany and the wars impact on people and spending – this is similar to Cyprus as after the 1974 invasion, the govt had to quickly build many homes for the refugees – the people that lost their homes and were forced to move lived and still live very basic – their money is invested in their children and grandchildren so as they slowly get on, it will be interesting to see what the future will bring to the look of the island, lots of modern touches thats for sure.

    living in Cyprus was a complete contrast to Australian living which is also a warm climate but is much more tropical and less formal. In the early 90’s asian/balinese style furniture was all the rage in Australia so it was interesting to see the two different styles…Shutters are becoming much more popular in Australia too now and its a good move since we enjoy outdoor living/ open plan casualness so curtains can be a little stuffy…

    anyway the images you have shown here are wonderful!!! i love American style – the American interior mags are my favourites!
    i love the coastal living looks and also the warm touches of thrift finds, country living style doesnt have to be so obvious and the magazines show some beautiful rooms!!! Shabby chic still has a freshness about it and suits the Californian lifestyle even though Im sure my hubby who generally lets me decorate as I please, would be against such girly touches….haha

  • Reply Sarah M. October 6, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Hi Holly,

    Coming a bit late to this conversation… I’m an American expat living in London, and trying to get my first house spiffed up. I wondered if it’s the same situation in Germany, but my experience with home decorating in London has been one of the most frustrating aspects of housekeeping as an expat. Here, there’s no store that fills the Crate & Barrel/Pottery Barn/Ballard Designs/Z Gallerie-esque niche (quality furniture at an affordable mid-range price point). Here it seems like everything is either garbage or really, really, really expensive. For example, we want a glass-topped coffee table for our living room. My English husband and I have spent literally weeks (combined total hours) looking for a nice glass-topped coffee table in our price range without success. The affordable ones look like they came from the Star Trek props department, and the ones that look like something you’d want to live with cost thousands of pounds. And then I visit my family in Chicago and right there C&B has three ideal tables exactly in our price range right at the front of the shop, and even more at the outlet. Go around the corner and PB has a whole range, a bunch more at BD, ZG, etc etc etc. So that’s made everything a lot harder than it should be, and why we still have 2 hand-me-down sofas in our living room, because we simply can’t afford to replace them with a non-Ikea model. Is it the same in Germany? If not, do the stores you love ship to the UK?

  • Reply Gaijinchic October 9, 2010 at 12:49 am

    Hi Holly,

    What a great post and an excellent group of wonderful responses. I am a New Zealand expat living in China. Most houses here come fully furnished, making redecorating a little tricky. The popular style of the ‘new’ rich owners of apartments tends to be over the top decorations. Think Red and Gold gilt decorations, shiny curtains, enormous chandeliers and fussy sofas in cream. But, I love the challenge of making a new international abode into our home with our unique mix of styles. And, I have my trusty box of NZ Home and Garden Magazines to gather strength from and have in the past negotiated to get a landlord to move his furniture out so we can make ourselves more at home with two young kiwi kids. Our style is a mix of NZ minimal with emphasis on natural materials and clean open spaces with lots of floor space, and Japanese styling with dark wood(from our previous expat life). We are also starting to bring in beautiful pieces from our Chinese environment, like a single Blue and White ceramic vase, and selected antique cabinets and chairs.
    As expats we are lucky to be exposed to such wide and varied styles wherever we go, and we can pick and choose what to welcome into our home.

  • Reply Andrew September 28, 2016 at 10:52 am

    wow holly,

    what an amazing post!

    I am a newly arrived expat, working in hong kong at the moment and i was looking for ways to decorate my little tiny unit here and you post just gave me some ideas on what items i need to get for my room! Thanks

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