Travel Notes from Paris, Trusting + Slow Living

February 24, 2012

Hello dear friends! I’m happy to be back on decor8 today because I’ve missed you very much this week. I love working on projects outside of my blog but I always find myself missing the exercise of blogging daily and connecting with all of you. The consistency energizes me – it’s like I’ve pulled the plug whenever I walk away from my blog for more than a day or two and it bothers me so much. Much of this has to do with being so regular as a blogger for so many years, it’s like a good eating or exercise program — once you stray you just don’t feel as good, do you? Blogging is such a creative endeavor but also makes me feel better emotionally. I can pour out my passions and in return, you share with me, and this symbiosis keeps me going.

Travel Notes from Paris, Trusting + Slow Living

Today I thought that since I’ve been working in Paris this week that you may enjoy some of my inspirations from the road consisting of mini travel notes and little snaps that I took on my iPhone along the way. I am back home now, but leave again tomorrow morning to work in London so I’ll be there blogging as well… but mostly working along with some shopping and girl time with the very dear Sania Pell. For now, let’s talk about Paris though…

While there, we shot four locations and I was able to meet some very creative people who had spaces that reflected their rich inner world. I spent time with photographer Debi Treloar and book publisher Jacqui Small and we had such a nice time. It’s always such a pleasure to be with them but also to meet homeowners and have a chat about their space and inspirations but more than that, to become completely immersed in their world playing with their things and setting up the shots – it’s very creative hands-on work and I find a lot of pleasure in it. I cannot reveal the homeowners just yet but I can reveal little notes along the way which I will below. All of these thoughts will carry with me for years to come and I thought to record them here publicly may be nice as I won’t be writing these into my book.

Travel Notes from Paris, Trusting + Slow Living

I notice, no matter where we shoot, that every home has it’s own scent – mostly good! In one location I fell in love with the most wonderful candle by Christian Dior called 30 Montaigne. The scent was in every room and was quite warm and masculine, spicy, calming and exotic. I think this scent would be perfect at a home party with great cocktails, good music and 30 Montaigne burning in a nearby room. Funny enough, as I thought about how great his flat would be for a party, I discovered his wonderful little DJ nook tucked away in a hidden corner with tons of great music and that he had a disco ball laying nearby so I think my instinct was on target. This guy can throw down when it comes to doing a great home party. All of these things came from a scented candle but it’s true, the way a home smells can be so closely tied to what the homeowner loves or loves to do most at home. His Parisian flat had the best light by day, the natural light was so pretty streaming through the vintage glass windows.

I also spotted and sampled a room fragrance spray in another home that we photographed, this one was by Diptyque called Feu de Bois which smelled exactly like burning firewood. It was remarkable and is now on my wishlist. In that home, which had a lot of texture and was very, very French I think the scent matched perfectly to the interior.

Travel Notes from Paris, Trusting + Slow Living

While in Paris we had lunch at Merci with American stylist and editor James Leland Day whom I’ve long admired (some of his work is shown below). I had heard that he lived in Paris so I looked him up and I’m so glad that I did. We had a nice time chatting over lunch.

Travel Notes from Paris, Trusting + Slow Living

While at Merci I was able to see new installations for Spring going in but was too busy to walk around the store so I missed the whole retail experience of being there – I didn’t even see the interiors floor (shame!). The dresses that were being installed in the main entry were stunning though and made from tissue paper, can you see them below? So lovely! Also at Merci I had to snap a photo of their famous book cafe and a random pic of the floor in their ladies fashion section. I know it’s an odd photo but I love the mix of pastels with copper at the moment and this smattering of paint on the floor was so random and beautiful that I had to snap it. The shoes are cute too.

Travel Notes from Paris, Trusting + Slow Living

If you’d like to see a full tour of Merci as shown on decor8 previously shot by Australian photographer Jillian Leiboff, please click here.

In Paris I had breakfast with French stylist and author Emilie Griottes, a lovely lady who is barely 30 years old and has already authored two cookbooks, styled some craft books and she produces a gorgeous blog. She just started styling and taking photographs one year ago and already has so much solid work to show for it. It’s unbelievable really, but so inspiring and encouraging. This is her immediately after we had breakfast shown below. She was a cheerful and enthusiastic as she looks – I really enjoyed our time together. She will be a columnist on decor8 beginning in March, too! I’m very honored to have her on board, here are the details in case you missed my earlier announcement.

Travel Notes from Paris, Trusting + Slow Living

Another friend that I was able to see again in Paris was Nichole Robertson from Little Brown Pen. We’ve hung out before – the first time we met was when she visited me in New Hampshire at my home in 2009 and then the following year I saw her in New York City working on Decorate, then last year she came to visit me while I was signing my book at Anthropologie in SoHo and later that night, we all got together for drinks and eats. This time around, I got to see her in Paris which seemed so appropriate as she is about to see the release of her first book, Paris in Color, also published by Chronicle Books (my publisher in the US as well). We shared an evening of food, wine and a stroll around Rue Montorgueil then over to the Notre Dame Cathedral to snap photos and enjoy some girl talk. Nichole is refreshingly honest and positive while still being realistic with both feet firmly planted on the group. She’s whip smart, funny and truly an inspirational modern mom and woman in general. I admire what she has done to grow her business online.

Travel Notes from Paris, Trusting + Slow Living

Now back to some notes from the locations. In one home I found the word TRUST on a window in small lucite letters. I love understated things in a home like this that are random but meaningful. Seeing that word daily must be a great reminder — to just TRUST things in life – trust others, trust the process, trust your vision, trust your faith, trust that things will work out, trust that if they don’t that it may have been for a good reason, just TRUST. As I was working in Paris and putting together ideas for my next book, the message of TRUST displayed on the window rang very loudly when I saw it. I spotted it immediately following a moment when I was starting not to trust. Let me explain… I was there working quietly while Debi and Jacqui were chatting in the adjacent room and while they were talking, I blocked out their conversation to have a bit of a think. You know those moments when you go inward and just sort through ideas and feelings? That was what I was doing. I was processing stuff. I had this feeling wash over me as I was doing it that felt very unsure. Suddenly, something invisible seemed to direct me over to the window to look out upon the beautiful homes across the street. As I approached the window to think further, I suddenly saw these letters stuck to it spelling out TRUST and felt this amazing calm wash over me combined with a renewed confidence in myself. It was as if this message had been delivered on a swirling, sparkling breeze carried in from a faraway land, meant entirely for me at the very moment when I needed to be reminded to TRUST the most. As I looked at it feeling almost shocked by it, I imagined that it may have been carried upon the air falling upon that window only seconds earlier, quickly arranging themselves to say what they needed to say and viola! TRUST was the message. I needed that reassuring message so badly at that moment. Perhaps I heard them gently land (tap, tap, tappity tap tap) which is why I looked over to the window in the first place? I often have these magical thoughts as I go about my day and wonder  if they are just whimsical, imaginative ways in which I cope with very real adult problems or if some of these magical things really do happen and that the world isn’t so boring after all with things always needing to make sense and be practical.

Travel Notes from Paris, Trusting + Slow Living

After spotting TRUST, later that same day I came upon another word in the same home – SLOW. When I saw it, white blown glass that was once part of a sign, I took it from the pile of artwork it was placed upon and brought it in the living room to style it into a shot as I was trying to communicate a message through the arrangement of things I was putting together. In the book you will see how I used this word SLOW and perhaps you will remember this little story as to why I worked it into the shot. After seeing the word TRUST, I was fiddling around moving things and thinking about how I needed to trust my gut more and to stick to my vision and to really OWN certain things in my life because every human being, no matter how confident or successful, has doubts. And as I was fiddling about, I found SLOW laying around and thought of the messages that were being sent to me that day and perhaps SLOW was really important somehow and so then I started to consider why this word was important, what did it mean to me? What was it trying to teach me? I instantly remembered the story of the tortoise and the hare and how the slow win the race. In the world of interiors people can be so nice but also so competitive, often at any cost, and the same is true in any “world” really… whether it be blogging, decorating, crafts, the film industry… you name it, competition just exists. I view most of it as a very good thing because it drives the talented forward and pushes the creative out of their comfort zone so progress and movement can be made within the field.  Things would quickly stagnant without a healthy dose of competition, right? However, often this race to be on top or stay fresh can also be a monkey on your back. We naturally need to evolve without always feeling pushed to do so. Often periods of hibernation can give birth to evolution and a creative soul may find enormous bursts of fresh ideas and a renewed, contagious enthusiasm during those slow moments.

While considering all of this, I also thought about the Slow Living movement. Have you heard of this way of thinking before? Here is the definition according to Wikipedia,

Slow Living is the choice to live consciously with the goal of enhancing personal, community and environmental well being. Slow Living recognizes the role that time plays in shaping the quality of our lives. By slowing down we make time to savor our experiences and to connect more fully with others. The process of slowing down involves simplifying our lives and minimizing distractions so that we have more time and more energy to focus on what is meaningful and fulfilling. By consciously choosing to do less, we contribute to reducing some of the negative social and environmental impacts of our actions.”

In my opinion, those who don’t take a creative time out risk watering down their ideas or worse, start imitating what they see versus what is coming from deep down inside. I think SLOW applied to me as I was working in Paris because I’m on very strict deadlines at the moment to finish my book  and things are feeling very, very fast. The idea that perhaps thinking too quickly and being too spontaneous may not be best, that to slow down at night and on the weekends immersing myself in activities that I love so that I can pour all of that good stuff into my project is better. I don’t need to think about my book 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’m hoping the message of SLOW will allow me to savor the experience of pulling my book together in the first place. The journey is as meaningful as the destination, often more-so upon completion. While I’ll still deliver on deadline, perhaps my SLOW approach as well as the message of TRUST, when combined, will make for a nice second book and an enhanced experience of creating. I guess we shall see.

I wonder how you can apply TRUST and SLOW to your life somehow? Perhaps you can take a moment to consider this and how these words, if applied to something in your life, could add value somehow… Maybe a way of thinking about something, the way of doing or being or believing… perhaps SLOW or TRUST can carry over as meaningful to you today as though they were carried by a soft breeze landing upon your computer screen to give you a little message, too.

So those are some notes from Paris. Perhaps not the typical notes – I saw the Eiffel Tower! I shopped at the best stores! I ate tons of macaroons! No, not the typical travel notes I’m sure but they are mine and I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading them. Through the ramblings of others we often find pieces of ourselves along the way…

xo, Holly


  • Reply Marian February 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Thanks for this lovely post.

  • Reply Anita February 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Thnx, Holly for lovely post. In the future I want to visit this town! Have a nice day!

  • Reply dustjacket February 24, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    So true … life’s such a journey and it was great to be reminded of those two words in particular. A thought provoking post,
    xxx dj

  • Reply Glenda Childers February 24, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    I am amazed at the power of a single word … like trust and slow. Also, the power of many words … like this fun post. Thanks, Holly.


  • Reply Eva Ricci February 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Dear Holly, I so love that this was not the typical travel note. I so believe that things appear to us when we most need them. This is a wonderful story, how those words came to you in time of need. I cannot wait to see how it flourishes in your book. I have been feeling that need to slow down, I have been feeling like if I don’t rush I will not create anything, instead this behavior has left me frazzled and less creative. Thank you for reminding us to trust and slow down.

    Oh and Nichole from Little Brown pen is wonderful…just love her work. Glad you got to spend some time with her. Have a beautiful day xo

  • Reply Keia Mastrianni February 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Wonderful insights from Paris. I love those magical messages we get along the way and to record them during this whirlwind journey of yours is such a grounding exercise. I recently read something (can’t find it for the life of me) about those that create and it suggested that great ideas and inspiration often come in those slow moments where there is space and time for the idea to enter. You’re on the right path. Keep on trusting and thanks for your always inspirational posts.

  • Reply Heather B February 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    I’m jumping back into graphic design and I have my first client in a long, long (long) time. So:

    “Trust” – believing that I can shake the dust off my hibernating designerly abilities to create something that speaks to the heart of my client.

    “Slow” – take the time to go through the process of absorbing all of the things she shows me and tells me so I can “climb inside her head” to give her exactly what she wants, even when she doesn’t know herself.

    Jumping back into this when I’m out of practice is scary! Trust & Slow are really good reminders for me. You’re so timely, Holly, transmitting a little of the magic you received into the blogosphere and onto my computer. Thank you!

  • Reply cecilia February 24, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    it’s wonderful to find honesty and sensitivity along the day.
    Thank you Holly

  • Reply charlotte hedeman gueniau February 24, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    this was a lovely inspiring post – thanks hollly…..

  • Reply lebenslustiger February 24, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    What a wonderful and warm hearted post – I felt really honored after reading because you shared your thoughts in a very honest, conscious way and you weaved them beautifully into your working story. Thanks so much – and by now, I’m sooo looking forward to your new book… :)

  • Reply sue February 24, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    i really enjoyed these travel notes… and it makes me feel a little less insane and a lot more joyful knowing someone else has these internal conversations and fanciful thoughts too… it’s so hard to hold onto that beautiful, child-like process of making sense of the world around us and the messages it sends us everyday! thanks to this post, i’m going to take the word ‘slow’ and try and work it into my everyday life… i find it so hard to sit down and actually complete a whole thought these days without hundreds of other random, scattered thoughts bursting in on it! thanks, as always, for the inspiration… sue

  • Reply City Chic - Jamie February 24, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    I love seeing and reading about your travels Holly. I can definitely see how Trust and Slow are a part of my life right now while I’m carrying my first baby. Thank you for always bringing thoughtful inspiration! xo

  • Reply Melissa de la Fuente February 24, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    You are so eloquent my friend….and whenever you speak to us this way, I feel so connected to you. I feel like I see those magical little things in my life daily. I try to pay attention to them, everything doesn’t always have to make sense. Trust and slow….two incredibly powerful reminders and I seem to be always reminding myself to trust myself and my instincts and slow down, to enjoy the moment I am in. I am so glad you had this beautiful experience, I can’t imagine you NOT trusting yourself ( we never can with others, can we?) because I look at you and see someone who is so beautifully realized and so unique The fact that you have such talent and vision is the boon for us. Because you share it with us. The funny thing is….I can’t see the images in this post right now, just the words. Because I am on a train and the wifi is acting up. So, I took it as a sign that I was to focus on your insightful and beautiful words….not letting the images distract me ( THIS time) :)

  • Reply Sydney Ballesteros February 24, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Paris looks divine! I only dream of it’s beauty, I have not been yet, but I plan it very, very soon!

    That floral hanging lamp looks so pretty, I can imagine what it looked like in the flesh!


  • Reply dawn February 24, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    hi miss holly,

    i have been a proponent of slow for a very long time, but this world we are in so often does not allow us to bask it its rhythm. how lovely you felt those words in your heart and let them influence your thoughts. trust is a life-long lesson and i believe the more we slow down the more we can ‘hear’ what we are meant to trust…take good care…

  • Reply Laura Gaskill February 24, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    Hee hee – this is exactly the sort of post I adore and admire you for, dear Holly. I agree completely with Melis above, TRUST and SLOW are such powerful reminders for us all, and at times difficult to remember to stay focused on. This year so far has been bringing so many of my dreams to fruition, yet now more than ever I feel I need to be reminded to slow down, savor the moment, and also trust that things will indeed continue to go well as long as I keep true to myself and put one foot in front of the other.

    Isn’t it such a female thing, though I’m a little sorry to admit it, that we tend to doubt ourselves even when things ARE going well and we’re doing amazing things (like you, ahem, working on your second book in Paris, hello!) ?? There is that niggling voice that has the potential to drag us down…if we let it. But that’s part of what I love about being a part of a blogging community that is so supportive – I know not all out there are, but I choose to spend time on blogs whose authors ARE supportive and encouraging, like you Holly, and Melissa there :) and I try to do the same – it’s people like you that help me to hold my head up high and feel proud of the things I have accomplished.

    Oy, I really ended up rambling, didn’t I? Anyway, thank you for the inspiring post, as always. xo Laura

  • Reply bethania February 25, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Holly, I’m a reader of your blog for years. Many years. Always faithful. Those Notes on Paris is the best post you’ve written in years! It’s authentic, meaningful, sincere, full of the best energy. It reinvigorates my joy of being a reader of Decor8. And yes, TRUST and SLOW are very meaningful to me, specially now, when I’m trying to make a huge career move. And the way you describe the feeling is awesome. It made me wish that you could go into another adjacent path: why not writing a book, a romance, in which the writer of The Notes on Paris could come through?

  • Reply Trina February 25, 2012 at 6:29 am

    Holly – Thank you. This is just what I needed to hear. I love, ok… adore blogging and online connection, but I do feel like, lately, being online ALL the time confuses my creativity. I don’t live in a very inspiring place and I look forward to connecting everyday, as I’m a stay at home mom, but I find that I sometimes go around and around in circles, looking, over thinking and forcing inspiration. I’m on vacation this week and I wish I would have lived a little slower and taken a bit more of an online break that what I did. Lesson learned for next time. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. You have the most beautiful balance of design, inspiration and conversation. I hope to be able to do the same on my blog in my very own way.
    I’ll def be including this in my friday fave post next week and re-reading for my own good!
    XO . Trina

  • Reply Juliette February 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    It’s nice to hear you again. Clearly you’ve been quite busy and yes, we can all use these reminders. I’m looking forward to travels this summer which should really help me with the ‘slow’ situation. I find the slow living concept such an intriguing one…

  • Reply Jo February 26, 2012 at 4:58 am

    Hi Holly, you have such a great style and a lovely writing voice.

    I don’t know if SLOW is the answer for me, but I’m a big believer in the thought behind it. I think of it as filling up on life…and that in turn informs my creative work. The reverse is problematic, but such an easy cycle to get caught up in.

    Paris is so accessible through your lens; you have a gift.

  • Reply fenny setiawan February 27, 2012 at 3:22 am

    Lovely report and a lot of things to think. And in away it inspired me. the word trust and slow, that what I need for now :)

  • Reply Melissa Jaine February 27, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Dear Holly, thank you for these words. I loved the photos of “slow” and “trust” when you posted them on Instagram, and it is wonderful to hear your thoughts about them.

    Yesterday I felt an inspired calm come over me, and ideas for new art prints just poured out. Like they came from another place, a truer place, than what I was currently doing. Which can be scary, but I’m choosing to trust and go with it. :)


  • Reply Winter February 27, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Lovely post Holly, and yes it landed on my and several other people’s desk at the right moment. For any of your readers or for yourself google Willie Nelson and Songs About Rainbows. Sounds crazy I know but the magic that you spoke of reminds me of this version of the muppet song, which I just heard for the first time last week!

  • Reply MissRouge February 28, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Holly that was a great Article! Ein echt toller Artikel.

    Die Ideen, die Bilder. The Ideas, the photos..
    Alles gefällt mir einfach gut!

    MissRouge :D

  • Reply desiree - vosgesparis February 29, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    I love these ramblings deep from your heart :) Trust is certainly a word being very meaning full to me As is the word Courage

    Eventually things will slow down once your book is done ;) xx

  • Reply Hannah McDonald March 1, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” -Gandhi

    In his book Soul Survivor, Philip Yancey shares about the life of Surgeon General C. Everett Koop (and twelve others, including Gandhi). “Koop” had long periods of waiting, feelings of uselessness and pain without with which his creativity and tirelessness would not have been possible.

    I think about that often when I feel pushed and stressed. Life has lots of waiting in it. That’s okay.

  • Reply christine March 2, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    too long since I was last in Paris.

  • Reply Bonnie McCarthy March 6, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    What fun! It’s like we got to travel with you on your journey! Thanks for being so open & honest -it’s a joy to travel vicariously!

  • Reply Griottes April 21, 2012 at 2:57 am

    This meeting was really a beautiful moment, and thank you again for everything! Breakfast, laughter, and your incredible generosity! See you soon!:)

  • Reply Kendall June 12, 2012 at 1:07 am

    Thank you for your post. Even though you’re possibly at a different spot in your life now I can relate so much to the last couple paragraphs.

    Paris is wonderful.

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