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Decorating Ruts: Stuck In One?

I hope it’s okay that I make a confession, me the decorating queen, because I’m a bit embarrassed to say it but I’ve always been a very open person so why not? Plus, I think blogs lose their zest when they become too perfect so I’m about to reveal a great, big issue in my life currently. I Am Stuck.

Gifts for Students

(Working on the floor with a friend, sorting through piles of fabrics, as I decide which to use for the bags that I designed for my students in Morocco.)

I feel creative, ready to execute on all of my work-related projects, empowered to kick start some fresh ideas, and launch a few new treats for your enjoyment next year. When it comes to my job and what I do, I’m pumped and love my life. I couldn’t be happier or more ready to get moving on decor8-related initiatives.

But when it comes to decorating… lately… I don’t know. I feel stuck. I’m not sure why exactly. I moved into this gorgeous, massive flat with all of the most beautiful details and in the eyes of most, I live the dream life in my swank new digs. But sitting here, on the inside of my world, the perspective is different. I feel like I can’t get started. I don’t know where to begin. I don’t know where to shop even, I got so pampered and babied in the states with all of my resources and friends and connections there… and now I’m starting from absolute zero with hardly any furniture, no place to store everything in my boxes which are laying all over the freaking place… And I feel frustrated and sorta overwhelmed.

I’m going to work on my house slowly but I cannot work as slowly as would feel the most natural to me as I have a huge magazine that wants to shoot here in January and I don’t even know where to begin to prepare for that. I just want to collect over time, be true to myself, put into action all of the things that I have taught so many of you throughout the years… But I need a giant kick in the butt to just DO IT and I have no real time to do it so I have to throw it together within a few months in order to make the magazine’s deadline. Oh my.

What I plan to do is this –  start working on mood boards and rent a car and see where I can find things for my home. I have a big entry room, living room, dining room, kitchen, office, massive hallway with a nook, two bathrooms, two wintergartens, a balcony, a bedroom, a guest bedroom and my husband has an office (which he is nearly finished decorating and it looks so lovely!). I have 2,200 square feet of HOME to decorate in two months. I think that is what has me frozen – the sheer thought of it. When I go to Istanbul next week, I’m going to bring back treasures for the floors — large, gorgeous rugs — because a good rug is such a great start to decorating a room from scratch.

I have SO many great ideas, so much to accomplish in just a few months (my book publishes in the UK in March and in the U.S. in May!!!) and so many reasons to get this place whipped into shape and so I will march onward, get this place together, and work a little Holly magic. But wow, I sure could use a few of my “safe zones” to shop at over here. I feel really lost but I also feel like I need to pull from within — tap in to my ideas and get my home together already!

And so… I’ve confessed this publicly before the masses to say that well, I’m REAL and I get stuck sometimes too. I can’t wait to share with you how my project here on the homefront turns out. It was hard to sell everything that I spent YEARS collecting to move to a new country realizing that things are not only much more expensive here but a lot harder to source and without a car, I’ve been a bit up a creek. I know, excuses, excuses. We always have plenty of them when we are not doing what we are meant to be doing, don’t we!?

How do you get out of decorating ruts? If you are an expat, how did you build your new home from scratch without resorting to IKEA for everything or mail order (I’m trying to avoid mail order finds because the few things I have ordered via catalogs have been a disappointment). I’ve been shopping local boutiques, but spending hundreds on things that normally would have cost me $30 in a states. Which is another consideration — I need to find great things on somewhat of a budget. Every single sofa I find is in the thousands and I’d like to ideally not go over 2,000 Euros for one. I want to have FUN with this great process of decorating a home in a new country, but without a car and limited time (my schedule has been nuts), I fear boxes will go unpacked for a very long time and I’ll continue to sit on the floor working on my projects as you can see in the image above!

Any advice to share? Any encouragement to lend? Some virtual hugs would be lovely — anyone who settles into life living abroad faces similar challenges and so I know that I am not alone. Even those who have never left their homeland find decorating projects surely induce much stress and often discomfort whether it is budget-related, limited resources, time constraints, etc. I’d love to know how you grin and bear it.

I’m having company this evening so I need to go sort through some boxes and clean up a bit to make my beautiful home presentable. I’m going to light a new candle from L’Occitane that I picked up at a home fair this past Sunday in Hannover, it’s called Candied Fruits and is a scent that one of my first decorating clients tipped me off to back in 2004… Whenever I feel in a decorating rut, I always try to find this candle because it reminds me of Julia and how I transformed her Boston condo into a lovely home during a time when I was so new to design and so anxious to get started. The scent brings me back to her apartment, I always smelled it the moment I entered her home, and for some reason I feel empowered and ready to do stuff whenever I smell it – the pressure just rolls off my back and I get into my Holly zone. Do you have a scent that does that? If not, get one. It’s crazy helpful.

You know, just putting my feelings out there — unedited — felt really great. I already want to get decorating — and go forth with some of my ideas. And so there is the result of a natural, no-BS post — I feel encouraged, no doubt you feel like someone gets you as I’m guessing you’ve been “there” before, and now we’ll all feel a bit more invigorated to stop whining and start making our magic at home. I so love you guys.:*

(image: holly becker for decor8)

Posted in uncategorized on October 26, 2010

Etsy Take Five Tuesday

It’s time to get back on track again with Etsy Take Five Tuesday, which was seriously delayed due to my move and then the recent retreat in Marrakesh. I was a tad bit upside down without knowing which end was up but now I can get back to the regularly schedule program again with my Etsy column. Next year I’m definitely going to change it up a bit but for now, Etsy Take Five Tuesday remains until the end of December 2010. I can’t believe I’ve been writing this column for so long — and that you all love it so much — it’s very energizing for me but also quite time consuming to produce as I don’t like to just throw anything up on the blog without careful consideration first. I can’t wait to show you how I plan to update the column in January. With that said, here are my picks for this week. I’m sure you will find a few things to love. :)

Etsy Take Five Tuesday

First up this week is and O design in Melbourne, Australia which is run by Japanese artist Yumi Ando. All of her lovely ceramic pieces are inspired by both Australian and Japanese culture and produced in limited run batches and made by hand using slab techniques.

Etsy Take Five Tuesday

Macha Jewelry in London has some amazing pieces — their rings are my favorite. “New techniques are introduced on a seasonal basis, producing an eclectic and constantly re-invented line which fuses British heritage, and rock ‘n roll androgyny.” Love it!

Etsy Take Five Tuesday

Based in San Francisco, The Utilitarian Franchise makes pillows using vintage illustrations and hand screen printing them in custom colors (your choice!) making them a unique addition to your home.

Etsy Take Five Tuesday

Eva Ricci is a Fine Art Photographer with ethereal, beautiful work that explores a variety of subjects and techniques as her work is quite organic since she enjoys letting the camera and her heart show her the way. Eva just started advertising on decor8 yesterday, I have to mention this because I have a strong policy against paid editorial coverage (I have not and will never do it) but in this case, I had Eva down to feature her in this column weeks ago and I didn’t want to dodge her now that she has an ad on my site. However, she has not paid for this coverage — it is simply from my heart without strings. :)

Etsy Take Five Tuesday

Neapolitan paper + home is a collection of stationery and objects with both vintage and modern sensibilities – from book jackets to cards, there is something for everyone (I just so happen to love them all!).

Spot any new must-haves to add to your list?

(images: linked to their sources above)

Posted in etsy, Etsy Take 5 Tuesday on October 26, 2010

Home Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

Today I had a nice chat with the talented Sara Hicks Malone from Hicks Paper Goods where she is a designer who works with owner Whitney English and who also authors the blog Sara’s Party Perfect. Sara lives and works in Nashville and has such a fantastic home that I simply had to share a tour of it with you here today. Her home was built in 1967 and she completely renovated it three years ago into a gorgeous gem…

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

I asked Sara some questions that I thought decor8 readers would be interested in learning about her personal style and home so sit back, sip a cup of hot tea, and read along as Sara tells us about her lovely abode.

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

How would you describe your personal style, Sara?

Evolving. I think I’m often trying to discover ‘who I am’ through home decor. I haven’t figured it out yet. My first house was very beige and matchy. Pretty but didn’t have much personality. My second home was full of really bold color, but ultimately it didn’t feel like me. This house, to be honest, doesn’t quite feel quite right either… I think I’m much more gray and muted with subtle pattern and hints of color instead of the knock-’em-down pink and yellow in parts of the house. But this color palette felt appropriate for the house because of all the white (white walls, white exterior) — it needed some major hits of color to keep it from being bland. I love the house itself, but if given the budget and the go-ahead of my husband, I would probably redecorate in a heartbeat.

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

What are some favorite pieces in your home?

The Saarinen table was the first big investment piece we purchased that I truly feel like we will have forever (I’ve bought ‘forever’ pieces before but quickly realized that they were not FP’s). The peony painting was a $40 bargain on eBay 5 years ago, I still love it. The gateleg table has been in my family forever. I’ve struggled to find a space for it in this home because it is in stark contrast with the contemporary architecture, but I did not want to keep it locked away in storage. Our white dining table was designed and built by a friend. The dining chairs were a gift from a friend (she found them at a flea market). I love anything with meaning or connection to people I love.

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

How did you decide on the Cow Parsley wallpaper and why yellow?

I had a really hard time making design decisions for the house while in the renovation process, but the yellow wallpaper was the one thing I knew I wanted. It gives our home personality, it’s a very pretty shade of yellow, and just about everyone who comes in the house loves it. That wallpaper has taught me to trust my gut and really only get things that I have a visceral ‘I must have that’ reaction to. I really wouldn’t describe myself as a yellow sort of person, but this wasn’t a scary yellow decision. I think because it is yellow wallpaper, and not yellow paint (notice there is no yellow paint in our house other than the front door!), it was much easier to digest.

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

When people visit your home, what are some common opinions about the decor?

Well… I can definitely tell right off the bat whether or not someone likes our house. People tend to have strong reactions to it one way or the other. The house is in direct contrast to the typical traditional homes in this area. But people who ‘get it’, whether or not they like the style, tend to be complimentary. I think there is an edited feel to the house, and oftentimes people ask ‘where is all your stuff?’. And then they tell me they want to go home and take some of the ‘junk’ out of their own homes.

You mentioned earlier that this home doesn’t exactly fit your personal style and I’d love to learn more…

I feel like I’m constantly experimenting with my personal style. Sometimes I have imaginary critics in my head telling me what’s right or what’s wrong. The older I get, the more I am starting to feel comfortable listening to myself, listening to what I want, and not so much decorating for an imaginary audience. I think some of the decisions I’ve made in the past (and some in this home, initially) were made because I was designing what I thought people expected from me, not necessarily what I wanted/needed. Don’t know if that makes any sense. So I guess to answer the question, parts of the house feel like they reflect my personal style, and other parts are evolving.

When approaching the redesign or even “spruce up” of a room, what advice can you give decor8 readers?

My husband will laugh at this and probably disagree (that I do this), but I’d say spend as little as possible! I find the more money I spend on something the more stressful and less enjoyable the purchase becomes, because I tell myself I *have* to like it. Small splurges at thrift shops, consignment stores, and on Etsy tend to give me much more pleasure than buying big ticket items. I also once read that you should never purchase anything for your home when you’re in a bad state of mind (you + your husband just got in a fight, someone close to you died, etc.) because every time you see that piece it will bring back a negative connotation, whether or not you like the thing itself…which I think is so true. So I try to not do any shopping when I’m feeling down!

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

House Tour: Sara Hicks Malone

What are 5 things that you love to do at home?

Our home is my haven, i love to relax here. Our home is also my office, so I have tried to carve out a creative space as well. Our home is where I prefer to entertain (smaller parties are much more my style), so I love to have dinners here. Our home is a play space for our two kids (almost 1 and almost 3), so I’ve tried to make a home that is completely accessible to them. Our home is in a beautiful setting, so I feel connected to nature and ‘spirit’ here. We feel very fortunate to call this our home!

Thank you so much Sara, this is a gorgeous space and I can’t wait to see what decor8 readers have to say about it. Lovely, lovely!

Does anyone else ever feel like Sara – unsure whether or not your home reflects your personal space or you love your home but aren’t sure it’s really YOU? It’s an interesting topic to ponder, isn’t it???

(images: sara hicks malone)

Posted in uncategorized on October 25, 2010

Highlights From Marrakesh

I’m back from my retreat in Marrakesh where I spent 8 days connecting with Maryam who runs Peacock Pavilions and who is the author of the My Marrakesh blog, Angela from ACE Camps who organized the retreat and some pretty amazing women from the U.S. and Canada who I was honored to work with and it was just a lovely, lovely time. I was sent there on a mission — to inspire, teach classes mostly about creativity (tapping in to our personal style mostly) and decorating, also about blogging, have one-on-one consults with each student and then provide some help in regards to how to work Moroccan decor into their own homes. This is where we all stayed… Drool away, you have my permission. :)

Morocco Trip

Morocco Trip

Morocco Trip

Morocco Trip

Morocco Trip

(This is one of the pavilions called the Atlas Pavilion shown above where 4 ladies stayed. It had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a loft space, dining area, two patios and a large living area.)

Maryam spoke about Moroccan design, I’ll highlight some of her tips as well as my own later in the week on decor8, and she toured us of her property explaining her inspirations behind each of the guest rooms and she also took us shopping in the Medina at some of her favorite shops which was a real highlight for me.

My Teaching Space :)

(Where I taught on the patio.)

I also shopped with them, ate together 3x per day, had a henna painting party on the roof at Maryam’s, watched Casablanca in a beautiful outdoor movie theater at the property under the stars around a fire, went to fancy places for cocktails and dinner, shopped ourselves silly…It was a very nice week! A dream week even! I was totally offline (internet is slow there) and was glad to connect on a whole new level with so many special people. Sometimes you really do need to step away from the internet!

Morocco Trip

(More views of where 4 lovely ladies stayed)

I loved teaching hands-on and being a source for everyone to tap into but beyond me, the ladies had one another to inspire them and the energy was just GREAT! I loved connecting with photographers, stylists, bloggers, designers, and creative types who really embraced everyone and everything — my “job” turned into a retreat for me too! The publisher of Where Women Create, Jo Packham, was also in attendance and she’ll be publishing an article in her magazine all about it in the near future. When it’s on newsstands in the states, I will definitely post it so you can see it. I am very honored and excited to see the workshop in print and it may even motivate me to do another because this was my first workshop ever and I was so nervous but after I arrived and met everyone I instantly felt encouraged, excited and ready to rock ‘n roll! :) Now I want to teach creative classes from my home in Hannover and maybe even travel again and do some more. I have so many ideas suddenly!

morocco

You can see some photos of where we stayed throughout this post, at Maryam’s lovely Peacock Pavilions located outside of Marrakesh in a village so the property was surrounded by locals which for me added to the charm of staying in such a magical place. Marrakesh is very “full on” if you know what I mean, it’s bustling and congested, packed with sellers peddling their wares, gorgeous things to see (and eat), and lots of action from snake charmers to little kids trying to sell you packs of tissues or delicious coconut cookies called ghoribas and at times these kids can be quite aggressive! So to “escape” a day in all of this to Maryam’s private oasis in the middle of what feels like nowhere is quite wonderful — I couldn’t imagine staying IN all of that action at night in addition to being immersed it in all day!

Morocco Trip

Morocco Trip

Morocco Trip

Morocco Trip

Morocco Trip

(I loved these gray and white hand painted stairs.)

I can’t say enough good things about Peacock Pavilions — it was a home away from home for all of us ladies and everyone enjoyed it very much. From the staff Maryam has who cooks and cleans for you each day, to the outdoor movie theater and lovely swimming pool, it’s simple but elegant and a very nice spot to relax after a long day in the city. Thank you Maryam for your hospitality and a big hug to Angela for being so kind, patient and helpful, and to Katie who really made the entire trip run so smoothly.

Morocco Trip

Morocco Trip

Morocco Trip

Morocco Trip

Morocco Trip

(This is the dining room in the Medina pavilion where I held private consultations with each student.)

And I want to thank my wonderful students who are now my dear friends whom I’ll never, ever forget. I love you guys so much, seriously, you made this experience such a delight! Thank you all so much – Julie, Leslie, Jo, Tiffany, Edie, Sharon, Rona, Mimi, Natalie & Leigh. I feel blessed and honored to know you and a big thank you to my husband Thorsten who traveled with me and who spent 8 days with all of these ladies and loved EVERY minute of it. I’m so lucky to be married to a man who supports me like this and lets me do things that I love without ONE single complaint ever. Pinch me, I’m so blessed. What a great time – I miss the gang so much already! xo

{Update: OMG I forget to shout out the amazing TODD!!! Todd I’m so sorry I am such a dork for forgetting the man behind so much of the magic at the PP’s. Your hospitality and also the way you laid out that table on our final night was gorgeous.}

More Morocco photos to follow throughout the week so stay tuned – I’m still downloading them as I have a ton. :)

(images: holly becker for decor8)

Posted in travel on October 25, 2010

Books:

Some of my books...

Further editions available: Decorate published by Murdoch Books for AU/NZ, Decorar BR, Alt om indretning DK, Inspirace pro váš byt CZ, Dekorácie SK, La décoration FR, Lust auf Wohnen DE, Sisusta tyylillä FI and Sztuka aranżacji wnętrz PL.

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