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coffee + cre8tive {nov 17 ’06}

Did you spot the new book and blog of the week? If not, it’s time to introduce you to a few of my new faves. First up, Danielle’s design blog – The Style Files – where she blogs from the Netherlands about (mostly) Dutch design, but of course, a girl can’t stop there – so she blogs about design that she finds inspiring from all over the globe. We met up and spent a day together in Eindhoven for Dutch Design Week, so I’m extra excited to have her featured as blog of the week – what a great lady she is! Her blog is so insightful, she posts daily, and she features many great designers and products that are so knock-your-socks off good that I suggest making the Style Files your daily read. (psst: Here’s a photo I snapped of her in Eindhoven. She’s quite lovely, isn’t she?)

Next, a book I’m really nuts about lately, Paul Smith: You Can Find Inspiration in Everything*: (*and if you can’t, look again). I spotted this book for the first time in Hamburg a few weeks ago and wondered why I’d not heard of it before – it’s been out for a few years already. There is so much in life that can stimulate creativity, but because we are exposed to these things on a daily basis (i.e. product packaging) we start ignoring it. Brit designer and global icon Paul Smith teaches us how to look at things in a different way – to really SEE what you are touching and using and watching – that’s the real key to creative and inspired living. This book examines this topic further with loads of pictures that will stimulate your brain and put you on a much more creative track. It’s a great coffee table book since it’s bound to strike up conversations with guests, and a good resource for you to refer to when you find yourself stuck in a bit of a creative rut. If you don’t already own a copy, I highly suggest changing that el pronto ! (Learn more about Paul Smith here.)

I’d also like to welcome an additional sponsor here on decor8, Imooi, who has the most gorgeous jewelry for men and women, along with ladies handbags (love the jewelry for men). Imooi is offering FREE SHIPPING to decor8 readers for a limited time, so if you’d like to gift a friend, there’s no time like the present. Here’s a link to their store on Amazon. Please use code: decor806 at checkout. Welcome Imooi!

Oh, almost forgot… Look at what Danielle found (below) from Tord Boontje for Moroso. Read more here. Sweet find, Danielle!

(images from imoii, paul smith, and the style files.)

Posted in blogs, Books + Magazines, ceramics on November 17, 2006

Blog of the Week: Make It

I’m happy to welcome craft-obsessed Shannon from Make It, a new blogger based in Davis Square, Somerville. She not only blogs, but she’s a crafter herself and loves creating jewelry, painting, knitting and is learning how to sew, too. On top of that, she’s passionately exploring the wonderful world of batik. Shannon even has an etsy store!

Make It focuses mainly on the business side of crafting, so it’s light on eye candy, heavy on well thought out content – Shannon believes in inspiration through education, and posts at least twice daily. Make It offers tips on starting your own business (What’s the right consignment fee for a new boutique? for instance), crafter interviews, selling how-to’s, and a new monthly feature, Ask An Expert. This feature offers Make It readers a chance to learn from those who Shannon deems an expert in their field. She selects a topic that she would like to learn more about, hunts down an expert, asks them a series of questions, and shares the fruitage of her labor with Make It readers. “Everyone is very eager to share their knowledge and I’ve met a ton of talented people”, Shannon says. “The craft scene is mostly female and they I love that there are so many women with entrepreneurial goals.”

Want to know what else Shannon has to say? Of course you do!

decor8: Hi Shannon. Since I’ve already introduced you to decor8 readers, why don’t you tell us about what you’re looking to accomplished via Make It, you know, big picture here…

shannon: I have a lot of goals for myself. Of course, visibility (via Make It) for my own crafty pursuits. I’d love for Make It to evolve to a point where it’s a behind the scenes look at my own experience as I build my crafty business, but I’m not there yet. A book is also something I’m thinking of. There’s definitely a need for a book about the business side of creative enterprises. Someone has to write it, why not me? As I continue to blog, learn more, and meet crafters, the book idea will develop more. I’m currently working on my first freelance writing gig and that’s a direct result of someone from a magazine seeing my blog. Eventually I’d love to start an organization like the Boston-based Artists for Humanity, which is a program that teaches youth artistic skills and then also teaches them about the business side of the arts with the goal of bridging racial, social and economic divides. What an inspiring organization. Make It is a starting point for a variety of creative endeavors that I want to achieve.

decor8: Great goals! From your own experience, and I know you’re new at this, but what is the best thing about blogging thus far?

shannon: It’s such an easy way to get your writing onto the internet for potentially anyone to see. I highly encourage those who want to express their creative side, but aren’t sure where to start, to just blog and develop your ideas from there. It’s so easy and it can lead you places you never anticipated. I see my blog almost as a mini-magazine. I think of the things that I would do if I had magazine about the business of crafts, and then I make those ideas work for my blog. Best part, the budget is lower and the turnaround time is 24 hours instead of 6 months (compared to print publications). The medium of what a blog can be or do is really expanding and I love it. An idea can go straight from my head to my blog and there’s nothing anyone can do or say about it (for better or for worse). On my blog, I answer to no one!

decor8: There are lots of crafty blogs. What do you think makes your blog stand out?

shannon: As far as I know there isn’t another blog offering a daily dose of information about this subject. The Switchboards is an amazing resource, as are a number of other online craft communities: Get Crafty, Supernaturale, Etsy, Craftster. But these are all forum-based communities. Sometimes the problems with forums is that there can be so much information that you have to know what you’re looking for or you’ll get overwhelmed. With my blog, it’s just two posts a day, it’s quick, it’s easy and maybe a reader will hear about something they had never thought of before.

decor8: Let’s switch gears now, shall we? As a local, I’d like to hear what you think sets Boston apart from other cities…

shannon: Boston has alot of the advantages of a big city but feels like a small city. It’s very walkable, it’s very safe and it’s not intimidating in a way I find New York City to be. I also love autumn and no one does autumn like New England! I also really enjoy the proximity to other major cities, in August I went to NYC one weekend and then Philly the next. Everything is pretty accesible.

decor8: What are your favorite Boston-based design/crafty stores?

shannon: Hmm, this is a tough one because as a recent college grad I am extremely frugal. I have relied on Craigslist for so much of my post-college life from furniture to apartments to volunteer opportunities, so that’s my favorite “store” of all time. I also love thrift stores and Urban Renewals located on 122 Brighton Avenue in Allston is incredible.

decor8: Other than blogs, are there any creative websites that you suggest visiting for inspiration?

shannon: I pretty much only visit blogs. I visit The Hunt in NY Times Sunday Real Estate section because they always profile an average person’s space and I love to see how average people live (not magazine people). It also makes me glad I don’t live in the land of $2,000 per month studio apartments. I check Lotta Jansdotter’s site probably once a week. I am a huge fan of her work and her career and she’s a big inspiration. I wrote about her in my second blog post ever. I visit decor8 and other design and craft blogs daily, those are my main source of inspiration.

decor8: What are five subjects that you’d like to learn more about and why?

shannon: I want to become a batik expert, so I want to really dig into that subject. How to be an effective writer (obvious reasons). How to sew and how to quilt. Because batik is the process of designing and dyeing fabric, I want to be able to then make that fabric into something. Also HTML and web design interest me because I’d like to be able to do cooler things with my blog and create my own crafting business website.

decor8: Favorite trends you’re seeing…

shannon: I like the trend towards more organic and handmade items. I think in light of issues like global warming and foreign oil dependence, people are becoming more concerned about where the things they buy come from. That applies not only to gifts and clothing (see American Apparel) but food and furniture. I think it’s great because I want to be a part of the handmade industry, but I also think it makes alot of sense for the planet.

decor8: Indulgences?

shannon: Pizza and expensive shoes. There’s always room for expensive shoes. :)

Thank you Shannon for stopping by and sharing your blog with decor8 readers.

Due to limited space, I try to keep interviews brief. If you have additional questions for Shannon, please ask her by clicking on ‘comments’ below. Shannon will answer your questions there. Thank you!

(images from Shannon)

Posted in Arts + Crafts, blogs, interviews, uncategorized on September 18, 2006

Blog of the Week: mirrormirror

Written By: Paola Thomas for decor8

Greetings decor8 readers! My name is Paola and I run mirrormirror, an online lifestyle boutique which specialises in beautiful, unusual and luxurious products made by up-and-coming designers and craftspeople. I also maintain a blog about running my business, trying to run my business with a small baby in tow, my design inspirations, living in London (Notting Hill to be exact), and my upcoming relocation to Seattle, Washington – all while trying to remain sane.


I’m lucky enough to live in the heart of Notting Hill in West London. I know, drool. I moved here ten years ago and am still madly in love with this incredibly diverse, eclectic, vibrant, colourful and inspiring neighbourhood. For many years it has been the heart of London’s West Indian community, which is why every year it is home to the Notting Hill Carnival, the world’s biggest carnival after Rio. It has always had a Bohemian reputation but in the last twenty years its beautiful Georgian and Victorian houses – all painted in different pastel colours – have attracted a host of wealthy media people, bankers, and celebrities. And through the middle (and literally 50 yards from my apartment) snakes the world-famous market on Portobello Road, where antique teacups jostle cheek by jowl with pumpkins and apples, and young designers, making their first tentative steps towards superstardom, rub shoulders with eccentric purveyors of vintage clothing.

The area has always been renowned for its small specialist shops. Within a ten minute walk from my home I can buy eclectic and unusual interiors pieces from Graham + Green, frivolous girly gifts and clothes from Coco Ribbon (both of which were inspirational in setting up mirrormirror), organic baby clothes, every type of exotic spice at The Spice Shop, Diptyque candles, cookery books from a specialist bookstore and, of course, travel books from the shop made famous by Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in the 1999 film, Notting Hill. Being a serious foodie, I’m also inspired by an old-fashioned butchers in an Edwardian shop, the magnificent Mr Christian’s deli and, since I’m half Italian, a most marvellous Italian foodstore called Tavola Delicatessen owned by renowned chef Alastair Little. There’s even a Sardinian deli with a full-size (though still tiny) Fiat car in the window. And don’t get me started on the restaurants!

I’m just starting a series of posts on my blog about the shops of Notting Hill and it would be lovely if you could all join me on a little virtual trip to London. Holly has made me blog of the week so you can peek in on my posts all week long, and beyond, for that matter. I can’t wait for you to join me…


I’m also writing to ask for your help. As previously mentioned, together with my husband and baby, we are moving to Seattle at the end of September for three years (I’m going to try and keep mirrormirror going remotely which is an entirely other story). Could any decor8 readers recommend some great design-y boutiques (especially for homewares), food stores, and interesting specialist shops which will stop me missing Notting Hill too much? Or even tell us which neighbourhoods would be best for us to search for a house? I’m a city girl at heart, as you can tell, so we want to live in Seattle proper, but would love to live in a neighbourhood where there’s plenty to do for a young family. Help!

Thanks Paola for the introduction! Here are some of my Seattle suggestions (right column under “seattle”). I’m sure readers have some ideas for you, too.

If you’d like to learn more about Paola, click here for a complete interview.

(images from mirrormirror)

Posted in blogs, guest bloggers, shopping, travel on September 08, 2006

Blog of the Week: Meet Jennifer Sbranti

I discovered Jennifer a few weeks ago when she commented here on decor8. Since I always click on the name of the person commenting (I’m curious), I found Jennifer’s hostess with the mostess blog. I was first attracted by the colors (obviously) and then as I started reading it I noticed her party theme and that she is brand new blogger, so I immediately knew I had to introduce her to all of you! A few emails later, and here she is, blog of the week. If you’d like a shot of inspiration today, grab a cup of tea and tune out the rest of the world for 5 minutes while you meet Jennifer Sbranti. Ready?

decor8:I can’t wait to get started today, Jennifer. Your blog and website are great, I’m sure with so many creative and talented decor8 readers out there, many doing what you do, they’ll enjoy meeting you. Tell us about yourself…

jennifer: Sure! My name is Jennifer Sbranti and I?m a 28-year old, self-employed graphic/web designer. I live in San Diego, California with my very funny and supportive husband of almost 6 years ? Sonny – and our 2 adorable and ridiculously spoiled yellow labs – Jazz and Max. I studied fine arts & graphic design at the University of San Diego and a couple years later took a short web design program at the Academy of Web Design San Francisco, which was a 2 hour commute (roundtrip) at the time on top of a full-time job (perpetual bags under the eyes!), but ended up being one of the most beneficial steps in my career-path by far.

decor8: Tell us more… What are some things that you’re interested in?

jennifer: I adore interior design and find myself wanting to re-decorate our home every time a new West Elm, Chiasso, Inhabit, or Crate & Barrel catalog comes out! And now that I?ve discovered the world of amazing design blogs, my bank account?s in even more trouble! My other big passion in life is entertaining and celebrating with friends and family. I?ll jump on any excuse to throw a party and love coming up with unique themes and finding cool tabletop and party decor. I recently found a fabulous decorative tray at Target and am currently working up an excuse to throw a cocktail party so I can use it.

decor8: It sounds like you are finished with school and have moved on to bigger and better things. Tell us about what you do for a living…

jennifer: I have a steady stream of graphic/web design business that is my main source of income. I founded Sbranti Design in 2002 after a sudden diagnosis of epilepsy at age 23 left me unable to drive to my regular job for about 9 months. That cloud definitely had a silver lining though ? because I love working for myself! I work longer hours and harder than ever, but it?s so much more rewarding both personally and financially.

decor8: Being able to work from home is most certainly a blessing! You mentioned that you live in San Diego (I stayed there last summer in Little Italy by the way, I love your city!). What do you like about it there? Have you always lived there?

jennifer: I?m originally a NorCal girl from a small town near Sacramento, but I live in San Diego now and absolutely love it here! The weather is beautiful, the ocean and beach are nearby, and the overall vibe of the city is kick-back and somehow ?happy.? Even more importantly, though ? we have a great group of friends that live somewhere in the span of San Diego to LA, which makes it feel even more like home.

decor8: Now let’s talk about your blog, hostess with the mostess, the decor8 blog of the week. Tell us what you blog is about why you started blogging. When did you start?

jennifer: I?m actually still quite new to the world of blogging and have only been on the bandwagon for a little over a month ? but I?m loving it so far! My blog is about finding and showcasing hip, modern and unique products and ideas for contemporary entertaining, and it?s actually the first step in a ?big picture? project that I?m currently in the process of developing ? which is a website called ? and is scheduled to launch sometime this October. The fabulous finds blog will be a big part of the ?main? hostess website once it launches ? and the website will also have other features like great party themes laid out in detail, a forum where fellow hostesses can share tips and ideas and featured hostess interviews, and will hopefully serve as a great source of inspiration for anyone from party gurus to the ?obligatory? hostess who finds herself needing to host a bridal or baby shower for a loved one and has no idea where to start! My style is very clean and modern, so the party themes and ideas will have a very ?mod? vibe to them ? just like the blog.

decor8: You’ll have to let us know when you launch. That sounds like a great business opportunity, I’ve not heard of a site like that out there yet, so perhaps you’re first to market! What are some things you love about blogging?

jennifer: Instant gratification! It?s great to find something amazing and be able to share it with others right away in quick bits of information. I also love the sense of ?community? that I can already see even after a short time of blogging. It seems that bloggers really support each other and I often see the same people posting comments on each other?s blogs and sharing tips and finds, which is great.

decor8: I totally agree with you on all points. What are you trying to accomplish through your blog?

jennifer: I?m trying to create a resource for people that appreciate modern design and are looking for cool products to use at their next get-together. I?m hoping the featured products and ideas will get them even more excited about their next event and will inspire more excuses to get-together and celebrate with friends and family. I also want it to be a great resource for gift ideas – I?ve found myself struggling to find unique hostess gifts from time to time, so the site will also feature cool gift ideas to give to your favorite hostess that are a fresh change from the typical bottle of wine or house plant? as well as fabulous gift wrap and thank-you cards. And, of course, being a graphic designer ? I want it to look great and serve up good eye-candy for readers!

Can you tell us about your website, Sbranti Design, and how you are using your blog to tie into your business?

jennifer: Sure. Sbranti Design is my company website that showcases some of my regular design work and helps me get the projects that pay the bills. Currently I have my blog as the featured project on my home page ? which I?m hoping will garner some interest from my clients and the prospective clients that visit my regular website. I?ve had a lot of people visit my blog after seeing it on my website ? and the fact that they know me or know of me already when they?re visiting my regular website makes them even more interested in visiting the blog.

decor8: With the many design blogs out there, what sets yours apart from the rest?

jennifer: I think the fact that it?s focused on just showcasing products geared towards social entertaining ? with a hip, contemporary style ? is what sets it apart.

decor8: I agree. I like your focus on entertaining, it encourages us to do something that really enhances our life – spending time with friends and family. I think I know already, but how would you describe your design style?

jennifer: Definitely clean and modern ? but I like a mix of vintage and modern too, just nothing that?s overly busy. If there?s a great printed pattern/textile design, I have to see it balanced out with some white space or a solid hue. As far as my graphic/web design work goes, my work definitely leans more towards the feminine side ? still clean and modern, but the feminine touch is usually pretty obvious.

decor8: How are you marketing your graphic design services, the blog, and your website?

jennifer: Well, so far for both my business and my blog it?s been mainly referrals and word of mouth ? my friends have been great and I?m starting to feel the ?ripple? effect when one person tells their friends and then their friends tell other people and the cycle continues. However, one of my good friends ? Jennifer Zankan of Jeneration PR ? is a public relations guru and she?s starting to drum up a proactive pr plan for the blog and the new website when it launches! Once she gets going, there?s no stopping that girl ? so I?m very lucky to have an ace in my pocket!

decor8: With a pr queen to back you up, I’m sure you’ll be huge! Do you have any favorite designers or artists that inspire you and why?

jennifer: I love contemporary designers like Jonathan Adler, Angela Adams, Todd Oldham, Marimekko and Thomas O?Brien because of their clean product lines and ?sleek? sense of style and use of bold, modern textile designs.

decor8: We share many favorites! What advice can you give decor8 readers who may be considering starting their own business?

jennifer: Make sure you do what you love ? because you?re going to spend a lot of time not only ?doing? it but also ?caring? for it and making sure it survives and grows. Don?t stress yourself out financially more than you need to at first. Before you get started, make sure you have saved enough money to pay your bills for the first few of months so that you can make ends meet while you?re building your business. Do what you love! Be prepared to work longer hours. It?s great to work for yourself, don?t get me wrong ? but when it?s just you and everything depends on you ? there are a lot more responsibilities so prepare yourself for all the ?little? things like invoicing, customer service, taking out the trash… And I can?t say it enough… Do what you love!

decor8: You sound like a very cheery person. Let’s say your feeling really down. What do you do to lift your spirits?

jennifer: Sometimes I just have to go for a run or do a kick-boxing class and that?s all I need to clear my head or get frustrations out. Other times I need ?friend time? and love to go see funny movies of chick flicks with friends. If I feel like I want to be alone, I?ll browse the design books section at Barnes + Noble or wander around West Elm, IKEA, or Hold It Contemporary Home ? one of my favorite home decor stores in San Diego.

decor8: I’m a huge fan of Hold It myself, that shop was amazing, and I just love the image on their homepage. Okay, we’ve heard a bit about what you’re good at, let’s hear about five subjects that you’d like to learn…

jennifer: 1 + 2. Textile Design and Product Manufacturing: I?d love to make my own line of table linens and dishware one day. 3. Jewelry design: I?m a total accessories junkie! 4. Music: there?s so much to learn! I?d love to play an instrument again. I took piano for 7 years when I was very young and would love to take it up again or learn to play the guitar. 5. Entrepreneurship: I find the ins and outs of what makes a business sink, float, or swim very interesting ? plus, it?s exciting to try to introduce something new to the world or build a brand from the ground up!

decor8: What a great chat we’ve had. I’m happy to meet you. To wrap things up, what are you top ten indulgences?

jennifer: Costume jewelry, Marzipan (almost any flavor) cakes and cookies, designer jeans, designer bedding, fabric wall hangings, letterpress stationery, great hand bags, red wine, amazing gift wrap (that?s sometimes as expensive as the gift!), and HBO/Showtime (Entourage, Sex + the City, Weeds).

Best wishes on your new website Jennifer, and with your blog!

If anyone has questions for Jennifer, please ask her by commenting below – she’ll answer!

(images from sbranti design)

Posted in blogs, interviews, uncategorized on August 01, 2006


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