When I was in LA this past July on my book tour, I had the honor of meeting Rachel Ashwell who attended my signing and mood board event at Anthropologie. It was surreal to meet her for a second time, the first was in 2005 when I went to one of her warehouse sales and shyly asked for an autographed copy of one of her books. It was amazing to have the table turned and I felt a huge shift inside when she was at my signing… so much HAS happened in my life since 2005 that even I can’t believe it sometimes.
Rachel, who most of you know as the founder of Shabby Chic and who created the Shabby Chic decorating style in the first place, has had a very full career as a designer, author, television personality and so much more. Currently, she’s celebrating the launch of her latest book, Rachel Ashwell: Shabby Chic Inspirations and Beautiful Spaces (which is lovely) and hosting book signings in these locations. In this post, I’ve snapped photos from my visit in her home and shop, including her inspiration journal that I kept peeking at while she spoke over tea and sweets. I am forever inspired by handmade books packed with collected images and things – loosely curated but always a theme when those doing the collecting have a good sense of personal style. Below are more photos from her home in LA…. This one is from the tabletop where I sat with Rachel discussing her new book, my book, blogging, social networking, her roots, business in general… It was a very full and memorable discussion that I’ll never forget.
In addition to products, Rachel is also enjoying these girly gorgeous retreats that she sets up for creative ladies in her ranch in Texas called The Prairie, decorated in her signature style, of course. Her successful Simply Shabby Chic line at Target is still going strong and she has an online shop and four boutiques called Shabby Chic Couture located in London, New York, Los Angeles and on her property at The Prairie B&B in Texas. Despite the peeks and lows of being such a massive brand with a huge cult following for over 20 years, Rachel has found her comfortable landing spot after lots of change in her own company and is completely at ease being smaller but better than ever. My kind of lady.
I’m sure you are wondering how I was able to get into the private home of Rachel Ashwell. I wondered that through most of my visit, in fact! Well, it was quite easy – she openly invited me and my friend, Leslie Shewring. She’s been following my blog and knows of my book because she contributed to Decorate. We also share a connection — one of her best friends, Amy Neunsinger, is someone I know as well – we shot her home for Decorate and if you have the book, you’ll see it throughout.
A glimpse into Rachel’s home office and mood board
A fireplace mantel with leaning art work and an old, battered wooden cabinet from Texas in soft blue in the living room.
Even her office was loaded with feminine details like this boho style pillow lazily lounging on her office chair and a big basket of ribbons on her file cabinet.
I love how she displayed vintage ceramics on the ledge above her kitchen sink just at the window. It was beautiful to look at them but also to see the garden view outside. I also appreciate details like beads and ribbons adorning cabinet handles. I do this too, so there was a sense of familiarity when I came across them throughout her home.
Her kitchen is a little old and new. I personally love hardwood floors in a kitchen combined with stainless appliances so I think this looks a bit country but also smart.
This corner in her dining area was so pretty, I loved how the light streamed in…
I found mirrors throughout her home, in every room it seemed… I love how they add a sense of space. In this one, you can see the reflection of her guest bathroom. Isn’t the wallpaper lovely?
Rachel had a rack of vintage clothing randomly placed in her living room – rather unexpected, but very Rachel. I couldn’t stop looking through them, each piece was unique and had some sweet detail from smocking to decorative buttons…
A view of her living room… the ethnic touches on the sofa make it very global, which I like.
More details from adorned handles to rustic finishes and embroidered vintage art work.
Rachel is a very spiritual person, evident throughout her home. All of the saints were represented and even a Buddha. Her en suite bathroom had gorgeous tile on the floor and felt very serene in gray, pale blue and white.
Her bedroom was paired down, simple, pretty…
Another bathroom in her home had some vintage details I had to capture, though I didn’t have my DSLR on me and my amazing lens so I had to make due with my old point and shoot. After taking the photo on the left, I grabbed the flower and a necklace from an adjacent room and placed it on a table in front of a window – the lighting was so perfect, I had to capture it somehow.
The artwork in her dining room was particularly pretty and varied. I also liked this golden headboard in a spare room upstairs.
After visiting Rachel at home, we left feeling elated and energized. We grabbed a snack at Le Pain Quotidien and then hit Shabby Chic Couture in Santa Monica. Here are a few snaps of some things in the store that caught my eye…
What a special treat to spend hours chatting with such an inspirational lady in the world of design. I mean, seriously, imagine creating a decorating style that is known around the world? That’s quite a contribution and something that will always be associated with the one and only Rachel Ashwell. Thank you Rachel for inviting me into your home.
(images: holly becker, taken with a basic point and shoot)
Hello everyone and happy Friday to you! How are you? I’m excited to see a weekend on the horizon because the past few days have been positively jam-packed with work and I can’t wait to bask in the glory of a free Saturday. Next week, I’ll be in Frankfurt, Germany for the Frankfurter Buchmesse which is a mega event that is focused on print and digital publishing for mainly books. My publishers will be there so I’ll have a meeting with them and also I’ll be meeting with the press and mingling with my German publisher, Callwey, since they just released my decorating book in Germany called, “Lust Auf Wohnen“. In addition to Frankfurt, I’m teaching Blogging Your Way again until November 7th, so I have lots to do but I love it — my work is my fuel — it keeps me going. So! That’s my update… And speaking of digital publishing, have you heard of Gatherings e-mag produced by blogger Heather Spriggs? Here’s a glimpse if you haven’t…
As you can see, I focused primarily on the gift wrapping section because I believe in the idea of using what you have at home to create unique presentations like the many shown above. Heather’s ideas are very much in line with the current, “Granny Chic” trend so the doilies, mismatched fabrics, vintage papers, buttons, etc. are all things that you can easily find at craft stores, fabric shops, flea markets or your grandmother’s attic! The idea is to get clever and be creative – use your imagination to re-purpose things you may have long tucked away into a drawer. Heather’s ideas definitely tuned me in to some things that I’ve not used that I should pull out and apply to some gifts.
I want to add that I had the honor of meeting Heather over the summer in Chicago since she came to my book signing event there at Anthropologie and after, she was part of the group that took me out for a fabulous celebratory dinner hosted by Nicole from Making It Lovely. That was such a nice evening – I really enjoyed being with those ladies and thank you again Heather for your warmth and enthusiasm, it was very nice to meet you. All the best on Gatherings, too! You’re off to a great start.
(images: heather spriggs)
It’s no secret that Apple founder, Steve Jobs, passed away. It’s a trending topic on Twitter, bloggers are busily tapping on keys to express their condolences and newspapers have plastered the sad news all over websites and on their printed pages. I wondered before writing this post what the point would be for me to chime in, just another voice, why would it matter?
Sure, I use Apple products daily but have always been equally loyal to the PC and never understood the need to pick one over the other because both have their place. That’s why this post isn’t about Apple (the product) or how much I love and rely on my iPhone, rather it’s about how important I think it is to find what you love, have courage, possess talent and then act on it just like the brilliant man the world just lost to cancer.
Have you ever read the text of Steve Jobs’ commencement address to Stanford University? I watched the video years ago and was so touched and inspired by his words and thought that if you’ve not watched it already that now is a good time to do so. Here is the link, it’s a really good way to spend just over 14 minutes of your life. Some points from it that I’d like to share and discuss are below. Perhaps you feel the same or would like to chime in…
* “None of this (taking a random calligraphy class in school) had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.” – Steve Jobs.
My takeaway from his words above is that you have to experiment, get out there, and try new things. Take classes that often feel very unrelated to what you do and that seem to have no practical application, but that simply sound like fun or interest you in some way. An artist may try an astronomy course for kicks and several years later, translate some of that into a body of work that receives an incredible response. You just never know, do you? When I took a random writing workshop one snowy night in January 2006 (in Boston), my teacher said, “If you are not on the internet these days, you don’t exist”. I immediately went home and started writing my first post on decor8 and I’ve been writing ever since. All because of something I heard from a class that I nearly missed due to heavy snow. Again, you never know where certain “moments” in time can lead.
Another thought from Mr. Jobs that stuck with me is,
* “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs.
I believe in this wholeheartedly. I’ve often tried to figure out the intentions of others, my own goals, put together a five year business plan (to the advice of friends in the business world)… but in the end I had and still have to ultimately trust my gut. I’d rather experience fear than regret. I may be scared to take a risk but I’ll do it because I’m more concerned to miss out or regret not taking the risk. None of this is based on what looks good on paper or even what is always the best action to take. If it feels like the right thing to do, if my gut drives me in that direction, I often leap trusting that my instincts will not let me down. I also trust in the circle of life and how, “What comes around goes around”, always applies to everything we do whether we want it to or not! It’s something my mother and grandmother always told me and it stuck, and so I tell the same thing to others – if you dish it out expect to receive it back in return! When it comes to connecting the dots by looking backwards — yes, always. That’s why you have to create the dots in the first place and that takes courage.
I really see the wisdom in these words also spoken by Jobs at the same address,
*”Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose… There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs
How beautifully said is that?! Having lost my talented and lovely aunt to cancer when she was only 40-years-old, I know how it feels to lose someone who was aware of how temporary life really is. In her final days, she was brave and told me to be happy and follow my heart – all this from her death bed weighing only 85 pounds. As a fine artist, art teacher and world traveler (she spoke several languages and taught at prestigious schools), her love for me and for others was proof that she valued life. I remember her making me bears, smocks for painting, dollhouses from wood and other beautiful things when I was a child. Her love of handmade craft and art influenced my life, look at what I do for a living! My mother’s love of making also had a strong influence on me. My aunt never feared death or anything – she was a fighter, a creator of joy, she followed her heart while also embracing others around her helping them to follow their hearts… I think it’s true, we have to step back and think that if we had only a few months left to live would we do anything differently today. Most of us would answer YES. Now the question is, why aren’t we doing it then?
And finally, these words touched me as I’m sure they’ll touch you,
*”Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
I can’t add anything to this – it’s so perfectly stated. When I first heard this I wanted to high five everyone around me.
In the end, we have to find what we love, who we love, what works for us because life is so precious, realized even more the moment someone disappears from this planet. Live for yourself, then others – this is not at all selfish. If you try living for others first denying your own happiness, you are ultimately denying others of happiness too because no one is inspired by a person who is trying to fix everyone else but hasn’t bothered to first be an example and fix their own life.
I hope this post has inspired you today, provided some encouragement, and helped you in even a small way. I know this is a design blog but I have to veer off at times and talk about things that matter most to me because it refuels my creativity and helps me to think outside of design for a moment, which in return inspires my work – being deep at times feeds me and allows me to enjoy my job even more.
To wrap up, I have to share the words from a greeting card I once gave someone when they lost their parent. It stuck with me for years and I refer to it whenever someone dies because it reminds me that the only way to look at death, since there is nothing positive about it in all honesty, is to remember what the person gave us while they were alive to breath some sense into it all and then to think of what they left behind — to take away something beautiful from their passing that will never die – what they taught us.
“The tide recedes, but leaves behind bright seashells on the sand. The sun goes down, but gentle warmth still lingers on the land. The music stops, yet echoes on in sweet, soulful refrains. For every joy that passes, something beautiful remains.” – unknown.
(image: holly becker)
When it comes to pattern in the home all I can say is, YES, PLEASE! Yesterday over at Real Simple I wrote about my favorite wallpaper prints from York Wallcoverings and I’d like to quickly share them along with two others from a company called Kreme Life… But first, the two Kreme Life patterns that caught my eye – I love these. The pink pattern is called Giraffes and the other is Yellow Birds. These are not for the color shy or those in fear of bold statement making pattern! Bold papers work so nicely in small spaces as well as larger rooms – for instance inside of a glass cabinet or in a small guest bathroom. I imagine the pink and orange paper shown below featured behind a bed in a guest room – fun and bright – with a duvet and bed linens in stripes and tiny floral patterns with a retro feel. I can see it in little girl’s bedroom, to0. It’s very retro and charming, don’t you think?
Next, let’s look at these papers below from York Wallcoverings. You can find them all on their website.
These patterns are quite smart looking, don’t you think? I love the “mix + match” combination using two different patterns in blue and white – very chic! I appreciate all styles from retro to modern and find that if you tap into your creativity a bit and use your imagination, you can mix lots of different styles as long as your colors match and some pieces in the room are tame – for instance, wild and crazy wallpaper with furniture that has clean lines and then for fun, one funky chair or a crazy lamp — that is the way to go for me. Of course, we all have our own personality which should be directly translated into our room decor, so you may love tons of busy patterns in a single space (or none at all) and well, if you love it then knock yourself out because it’s your home – you can do whatever you want!
BUT for those of you who currently get stuck with mixing patterns and color then a good decorating “rule” to follow is to pick a focal point in the room – a good leading lady or man - (wallpaper, art, your patterned sofa) and then mix in your “supporting actors” around the focal point being careful that everything complements the star of the show — though as you experiment and gain decorating confidence it’s a good idea to throw in a little healthy competition and to not play it too safe which is why I suggest adding in something that competes with the focal point – like a lamp that is out of scale in the opposite corner from the focal point or a chair off to the side in a wild, totally bonkers pattern. Healthy tension is good but if every single thing in a room is fighting for attention it all can be very overwhelming and draining to the person living there and to your guests.
With everything though – edit, edit, edit! I preach the power of editing because often it’s the few pieces that you remove from a styled bookcase that ends up making the display look finished and gorgeous.
One last bit before I go, remember what Coco Chanel once said, “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” I believe this applies to decorating – it takes courage to bring your ideas to life through your interiors but go for it and enjoy the process and the results. Think for yourself, aloud, in your interior style.
Do you have wallpaper? How do you use it at home – on walls, ceilings, in cabinets, in drawers?
(images: york + kreme life)
If you’re a blogger you must be able to relate to me right now. I’m overwhelmed! I’ve been sitting here for the past few hours sorting through lists and lists of things that I need to post on decor8 because I’ve been finding so much over the past few months during my travels and have no clue where to begin now that I’m back in the office. I have over a thousand business cards that I’ve collected from all of the lovely readers and new friends that I met while in America, England and the Netherlands and I just don’t know where to begin though I found that the best way is to simply start somewhere… One post leads to two and so on. So! Let’s talk about a gorgeous magazine that has the web a-buzz lately… Heart Home!
Oh, but first I have something to share. I recently interviewed a designer and she asked if I ever run out of things to post about on decor8 and I answered so quickly I giggled a bit because “NO!” escaped me before the question was fully out of her mouth. Like I said earlier, there is just SO MUCH out there to see and explore and experience, I can’t imagine ever running out of content as I’m sure many of you can relate. Sometimes I’ll comb through my archives to review some of my past finds and I’m always amazed as the sheer talent that exists, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve visited, and just how lucky we all are to be living during a time when there is so much artistic and creative expression to be seen, on a global scale, that we can witness daily online. As I look through all of the wonderful things on my lists that I have yet to write about, I’m so happy that I have a job like this. I much rather be overwhelmed by finding too much than from finding not enough.
But back to Heart Home. Oh my goodness… speaking of inspiring content, you have to check out this newly launched UK-based digital shelter magazine. Founded by my friends and fellow bloggers Arianna Trapani, Carole King and Daniel Nelson, together they have created such a beautiful publication with a focus solely on homes in the UK making this magazine the first of its kind! The concept is brilliant and I’ll certainly tune in to this quarterly online publication regularly to see what properties they’ve scouted and styled, and who they’re profiling in the world of UK design next.
I’d like to add that I’m honored that they devoted two pages of their premiere issue to me and my book (see above). It was quite nice of them to do that! You can read an interview that they had with me here as well that is a bit of an extended version of the article.
I loved seeing the home of Jeska Hearne from Lobster & Swan (images above) and her feminine home. I’m a huge fan of hers so it was such a treat to peek into her personal space and to read about her inspirations. Here are a few more favorite peeks from the homes of others featured in the premiere issue of Heart Home…
I can’t wait to see the next issue of Heart Home – way to go Ari, Daniel and Carole! Woot woot!
(images from heart home)