Authentic Interiors

October 21, 2011

Hello everyone and a very happy Friday to you! I’m back from Munich and had the best time. I won a reader’s choice award from Myself magazine (Conde Nast), which was a real honor for me – I had my red carpet moment and everything. A big thank you to Myself magazine and their readers for presenting me with that award. I especially loved meeting German television personality and singer, Barbara Schöneberger, who interviewed me and gave me the award and I want to thank the very special and talented team who shot the video for the awards show of me and my work studio here in Hannover, especially the video art director and German actor Lutz Winde. So! I’m back home working now and have so many blog posts to write.

Authentic Interiors

First though, have you recently visited the decor8 Interior Styling group on Flickr? With nearly 3,500 members and over 6,500 photographs, it is quite an inspiring and very international place filled with authentic interiors that are spontaneous and casual. I encourage you to visit and join (it’s free!) if you’d like to share the corners of your home.Real decorating, real homes — that’s what I love the most because that’s what I’m all about.

Authentic Interiors

Authentic Interiors

I recently met up with a friend in Frankfurt at the book fair and you know what was funny about our conversation?  He was convinced that all homes in America were huge and gorgeous because each time he sees them in films, books and magazines, they always look that way. I laughed, not trying to be rude of course, but my natural reaction was, “You must be joking!”, which was exactly what I said. In a very serious voice he replied, “Um no, I’m serious. Americans have the best homes ever.” I grinned because I was unsure of how to break it to him. You know, tell him the truth because for the most part we sorta don’t live as large as the rest of the world thinks. Or as posh. We are real people with real homes just like every other country and we make the best out of whatever it is that we have in our own way. In fact, the trend for interiors is leaning more and more towards authenticity and less bent on looking constrained and artificial.

Authentic Interiors

Authentic Interiors
debee{art & emma lamb

Authentic Interiors
Makingchickensalad & Deva

Authentic Interiors

Authentic Interiors
Danielle T

Authentic Interiors
Danielle T

It’s easy to assume that the homes in our favorite books and magazines are perfect and that’s usually because they are. What do I mean? Most homes featured are styled for the photograph and there are even times when furniture is brought in to make the space look more like the magazine’s aesthetic. Yes, really. But of course, to be fair, lots of homes are just plain gorgeous and some people REALLY DO LIVE LIKE THAT. Like JLo and Will Smith and big name designers – yes, they do live that way for sure. Even creative types who are in the business of fashion or interiors, you can expect that they’d live quite lush. Then you have people who are just really into design and hire professionals to make their homes look perfect. So yes, these gorgeous jaw-dropping homes do exist but reality! check! that’s only a fraction of the population.

Authentic Interiors

Authentic Interiors

Citrus and Orange

Authentic Interiors


To be fair, some countries do tend to be more “in tune” with style than others, like those amazing Danes, and even we Americans do have our radars more in tune than some countries that don’t place a priority on a good table runner. I don’t know if that’s a great priority, but yeah, some of us do put a lot of time into how our homes look. As an American though I can say we are a pretty big country with a ton of people who have never heard of an Eames chair or who know (or care) about “design blogs”. That’s not being critical, that’s being perfectly honest. As for those gorgeous New York apartments in every chick flick out there? That’s not our reality. Most of my German friends are convinced that all New Yorkers have giant lofts with shiny concrete floors or massive pre-war apartments. Yeah, those secretaries in Manhattan, the ones who star in our films at least, can afford those penthouses but not the rest of us.

Authentic Interiors

Authentic Interiors


Most of the homes that belong to my friends are not magazine – ready or film – worthy. Does that mean Americans have no style? Or that all Americans possess amazing style? No and No. It’s just that we’re real people like the rest of the world and some of us care about decorating and some could care less. Some of us care but can barely afford what we want and some of us have way too much money and way too little taste. Those who care about design are always trying to influence the could-care-less crowd and the could-care-less crowd, though some do cross over to the bright side of decorating, usually are found wagging their heads wondering why the h-to-the-ell we bother spending weeks to research the best wallpaper options when we could simply drive out to the hardware store and pick from the 25 options on display – like that pretty vinyl floral pattern in peach, for instance. But to be fair, didn’t most of us go to stores like that 10+ years ago to select our wallpaper?

Authentic Interiors
Authentic Interiors
Authentic Interiors

Only recently have we been introduced to so many options. The ability to order wallpaper from websites or even better, from cool places like London, transformed us. Options do that I guess. But we’re still just real people decorating our very real homes. A majority of us dislike more about our home than we love but we do our best. I’m inspired by all of it. The most amazing home on the beach to the carefully renovated on a budget one bedroom in Detroit – they are all special. I like to see how those interested in decorating show their personality at home and in how they select and then arrange, their things. It has always fascinated me and groups like Interior Styling continue to fuel my excitement when it comes to such spaces. I love watching how others have trained their eye and then work magic on their space. All of the photos above are from many contributors to my interior styling group and are from all over the world – and are excellent decorators with amazing style and talent. I’ll take that over those carefully arranged, extremely expensive and almost snobby looking interiors any day.

I don’t want decorating that is contrived, I want authenticity in interiors.

Do we all live in the perfect home? For most of us, no way. But style isn’t a state of the wallet, it’s a state of mind, right? Doing the most with the least is a challenge but one that can be met and in the end, it’s exciting to see what creativity can do to even the simplest of homes.

(images: linked to their sources above.)


  • Reply Reese October 21, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this post – it’s sooooo true. Most of don’t live in homes that they show on T.V. or movies. We all try to make the best with the least unless we are celebrities or have the money to do so.

    Thanks for writing a post that enlightens others.

  • Reply tinajo October 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Congrats to the award – well deserved! :-)

    Love the treats you´re showing today, I´ll check them out more closely. :-)

  • Reply Lea October 21, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    wow what a stack of beauty. Such gorgeous images on this post. Your taste is exceptional:) I love the pillowcases by Salvation Jane. Have you seen the rest of her wares. Lovely!

  • Reply Penelope@thirdroomstudio October 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    It’s refreshing to hear your thoughts on this Holly, though I have to say there do seem to be a lot of images of some very glamorous homes in the US (I’m in Australia) with the whole Hollywood regency style making their way into magazines, especially online. I love, for example, Lonny magazine, but a lot of the style in there is unachievable (but very aspirational, as I imagine it is intended). Despite my love of the look, I’m far more drawn to images like the gorgeous ones you’ve included above. Real spaces, thoughtfully put together that show a real person lives there. Eclectic and lovely. I’m so glad interior style makers are moving in this direction.

  • Reply Shannon October 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Hear, hear!! Love hearing your thoughts on design, Holly. And these pics are fabulous. I’m going to spend some time today checking them all out. <3

  • Reply Anna@MyDesignEthos October 21, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I love authentic interiors as well, although I don’t authentic has to be as relaxed as the pictures above (as much as I love them!). I really believe that money has nothing to do with good style and most of my favourite homes have been done with very little budget and just a lot of creativity. Bring on the trend for authenticity in magazines as well !

  • Reply colleen @ hello olive October 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Great post! I often feel that while lots of interiors on the net and in magazines are beautiful and stylish, they don’t look ‘lived in’, so I always prefer the ones (like above) that actually look like comfy homes (but very stylish ones!)

  • Reply Iris October 21, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Yes, authenticity is what I look for in a home. And a little humor please. I also prefer interiors that show creativity with space and budget over perfectly aligned shiny furniture without soul. I really cannot get enough of spaces that combine old and new items, add small memories, vary in patterns and shapes. These things give a room character. And your Flickr group shows an endless amount of such rooms. I so hope you keep that group alive, because I love wandering through them, discovering new things every time.
    x Iris
    ps What a great surprise to discover my living room here between all these gems. Thank you for that!

  • Reply Sara October 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Great post, Holly. I think the homes we feel most comfortable in are always the ones that are authentic, no matter how much or how little they are “decorated.” As I prepare to launch my decorating business, my main focus is to help people find ways within their budget to make their homes really be an expression of them…so that they feel as much at home as possible and visitors can really see how it is their space, not something that could be in a catalog ;). Thanks, as always, for sharing your vision and perspective!

  • Reply Juliette October 21, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Three cheers for this post b/c honestly, my home is more about perfect little corners than everything being all photo-shoot-ready and that is just A-OK. Design blogs are great fun, but a little reality check every now and then is always nice too! =)

  • Reply Iro [Ivy style33] October 21, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Welcome back home from Munich dear Holly!
    Amazing post, of which I am so incredibly honored to be a little part off. Thank you very much for the mention. The choice of pictures is great and illustrates your thoughts so well…. and then your thoughts are mine, too.

    Much love to you all the way up there, from packing-movement busy me, a little excited for my mew “live” project & then also a slittle sad to be leaving our much loved Penthouse.

    Thank you also once more for the wonderful post you had made about it 2 years ago.

    Wishes for all things very best!
    Iro, xoxoxo

  • Reply Ariana October 21, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Loved this post, and all of those peeks at “real” homes. Sometimes i just have to take a break from shelter magazines, because I get tired of looking at overly styled, and contrived spaces. I want to see *life* when I look at a room, to get a feeling for the stories that have taken place there.

  • Reply Lisa October 21, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I love a stylish home – whether it’s humble or grand – but there does have to be an element of authenticity mixed in or it just feels like a hotel. I always wondered what put me off overly “perfect” homes – Thank you for putting into words what I have been feeling for years.

  • Reply Katherine October 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    The word, “authentic,” is a fantastic choice when describing these homes, and it is exactly what I hope for my home (and my life!). The word I kept repeating to myself while renovating and furnishing my new home (that’s my little bookcase above–thank you, Holly!) over the past 8 months was “intentional.” Nothing I brought into the house was expensive ($500 USD for an antique dining table was the most we paid for anything), but I did my best not to settle for anything that was poor quality or not nice to look at. It can be as easy as banishing plastic storage bins and choosing inexpensive baskets and canvas bins instead.

    As you, said, decorating is not top priority for everyone, and that’s fine! But if someone WANTS to decorate their home I, say, “Do it!” Don’t wait to have enough money or the perfect house–it will never happen. Look at what resources you have and make them work for you.


  • Reply matali October 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Great post, Holly!
    I really do agree with you.
    Now as I am getting older (I am in 30s) I pay more attention to my decor, style, etc. But I think you need to learn to appreciate it and learn to see it. Now I live in US but most of my life I lived in Poland, my childhood and teenage years were in gray, sad Poland. All the apartments looked so similar and nobody in my close family/friends put more effort into decorating, so everything was so dull. Then when transformation came I thought in order to have a nicely styled apartment you need to have a lot of money and the stylist.
    Right now I agree with you completely – it’s a state of mind, it isn’t a state of the wallet.
    And now I educate myself by following the blogs like yours (thanks!), thinking more about what I like and what I don’t really like when browsing spaces in magazines, etc. And I would love to spend more time on crafting/beading because I think it also trains my eye.

    So maybe in a future, when I will work with my own space (now I am renting) I will be ready to post the image to the Flickr group you mentioned :)

  • Reply Evelyn October 21, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    I especially liked the comments about non-design mentalities. Sometimes there are mini-clashes when non-designers challenge our “obsession”. But then we see them posing for their photos in the best of designed spaces. I’m so glad there’s a community of like-minded individuals who all care about their spaces but also have wide-ranging styles.

  • Reply Christina October 21, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Love this message! I’m one of those Americans whose incredibly interested in interior design but simply can’t afford to have my home exactly to my tastes. Slowly but surely improvements are made here and there and that process is so much fun!

    So like your German friend is it terribly silly of me to believe that all Danes and Swedes have gorgeous homes? Perhaps, but I’m convinced they’re better off than us, haha.

  • Reply Mandi October 21, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    I definitely agree with Anna that authenticity in design doesn’t necessarily mean casual- for everyone. But it does for me. One of my best friends is the kind of gal who prefers crystal and gilding (and anything “glaaaaamorous, dahling!”), while I gravitate towards quilts, rugged wood furniture, ikat rugs, mixed in with sleeker mid century pieces. I think that in order to really get the sense that a space is authentic, you’ve got to know the owner. And conversely, sometimes you can just look at a well-curated home and feel like you ALREADY know its living companion. I think that’s when a home has been decorated to perfection. Not when everything is just so, without a cheap placeholder in sight, but when it’s simply a compilation of loved things.

    Oh, and thank you for including the first two images of my home! Of course, it looks a bit different now (things are always changing around here!), but still the same style. :)

  • Reply Fatou October 21, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    What a thoughtful and honest post! I love the images by the way :-). Its a good reminder too that we don’t all have to have magazine worthy homes, but we can use the images there, online and other sources as inspiration. I love a well decorated “real” over the magazine one any day. I feel the everyday homes have more soul and personality, there is a connection to them that you don’t get with the perfectly styled magazine home. For me anyway.

  • Reply Eva October 21, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Congratulations on the award! How cool! And I’ve always thought that Barbara Schöneberger is really cool and funny, so it’s really great you got to meet her!

    Thank you for this post! I feel that my interests in decorating are very similar to what you describe. I just love to see how people take a certain “status quo” in their apartments and shuffle it around to create something new and unique to their personality. I will definitely go browse in your flickr group!

  • Reply Susana@citrusandorange October 22, 2011 at 12:01 am

    Oh Holly, I’m so excited – really, you’ve made my day, my week, my year!! I’m super happy and flattered to be in such a lovely and wonderful place!

  • Reply Viv October 22, 2011 at 2:18 am

    What a treat for the eyes and such a good read, thanks for another great post!

  • Reply dawn October 22, 2011 at 3:44 am

    interior design seems such a more collabrative effort then it once was years ago. there are so many more resources just a click away and such a growing crafting community that the ability to have a more authentic space seems easier to attain. i have seen so much more imput from clients over the years that want something that is not seen everywhere else. these lovely spaces showcase inginuity, passion and a love for their own inividuality…great post!

  • Reply Kat October 22, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Beautifully said and I agree I’d take homes with soul and personality over the styled celebrity pads any day.
    The flickr group continues to inspire me with everyone’s photos from around the world. It’s lovely to see some friends featured in this post here. And don’t you just live Yvonne’s kitchen!
    Love and weekend wishes, kat x

  • Reply Fenny setiawan October 22, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Lovely post Holly, I love to see and get inspired by real people home. It feels easy and not so intimidating to get the idea from them comparing with those showcase house, showroom space hay normally to design for perfection.

  • Reply Melissa de la Fuente October 22, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Oh, absolutely…authenticity for sure. I will never achieve perfection, never…ever. :) And I am ok with that. But, my home makes me happy and that is my aim. I love this, love these homes….and those birds on the wall, around the plates? LOVE.

  • Reply Carissa October 23, 2011 at 6:06 am

    I feel that we as americans do actually all live in big homes compared to what the majority of the world lives in. I’ve been to germany, italy,england, new zealand, chile, mexico, argentina, and austria. Most of the peoples homes I saw in south america didn’t even have floors or windows. In europe you could shower and use the toilet simultaneously and I never saw a tub. I live in a 1000 sqft apartment with TWO tubs. So compared to a majority of the world who worries more about putting food on the table than the name of the designer who made the table, we live large!!

  • Reply Kirsty October 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    This post is really fabulous Holly. I was nodding along & reading…yep…yep…yep & then there’s my place! Thank you so much.

  • Reply amber kane October 23, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Thanks for sharing, these homes are wonderful, and look like such warm and welcoming spaces. They do make me want to work on decorating my home some more. When we first moved I put a lot of time and effot into it. Then I went back to work and things fizzled. Perhaps that will be one of my goals for the new year. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Reply Trina : la la Lovely October 24, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Great post, Holly. I love authenticity. I think so many times while looking at interiors, even on blogs, we have to pinch ourselves to do a reality check and remember that even though the picture looks that way, it doesn’t mean that is the way the individual’s home looks every day. I am with you, I adore the real, lived in homes that are stylish and unique to the person. I do have to say I think the European’s are far superior in this realm of decor and styling. I feel like a lot of Americans still aspire for the pottery barn catalog look and if something is different it isn’t stylish. Going to join the Flickr group and I’m going to link to this post in my friday favs post this week!
    xo Trina

  • Reply Tia G October 25, 2011 at 6:13 am

    Thank you, Holly. Beautiful pics. I love the angular designs. Congrats on the award!

  • Reply Nick Klaus October 26, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    One downside of reading a lot of interior design blogs is that it really warps the perspective you have of what a normal home looks like. Instead of seeing the millions of homes that are just like mine, run by people who get busy and sometimes put off major projects like painting, re-decorating or improving their spaces, you see the people who are professionals or are far more proactive about what they do.

    It’s nice to take a step back and see what the rest of the world looks like; looking at the spaces of your friends and relatives instead of the same 1,000 best-decorated houses over and over again.

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