Hello friends and happy Friday! This is going to be a massive post so grab a cup of tea and spend some time as I have a ton of fun highlights to share from my recent week in London and my book launch party for Decorate. I have so many lovely things to tell you about and since I could go on and on and ON detailing every little moment, every dinner, every this and that so I’ll just share key highlights and photos mostly shot by my cherished friend, Seattle-based photographer Tiffany Kirscher-Dixon, from the launch party so that you can feel included in the festivities. (Tiff you’re amazing!) So! Okay, now where to begin?
First of all, I didn’t expect to have LIBERTY, iconic, magical, dreamlike Liberty, to be at all involved in launching my first book. I mean, hello!? I don’t know if I’m naive or what but I assumed I’d have a small party at home or in a small restaurant or shop in London where the publisher in the UK is based. I imagined it would be intimate and mostly close friends would show up along with some blogger friends. But then another part of me thought, why not go for something larger and more grand, because you never know who will come?
That’s when I took a leap of faith and started brainstorming locations.
When I thought of the top three places that I’d like to have a launch party in London, Liberty was on that very short list of three. But again, I felt Liberty was aiming high as they usually only host events for high profile people, do lots of fashion-related events, it was a risk but I thought we should at least ask. Ask we did and YES was the answer!
Seems Liberty wants to support both emerging and established brands, designers, authors and I think after this event they really understand the power of the internet and the tribe of people who follow design/craft bloggers much more than before — and that these communities are much different than other communities — we are a large tribe of friends online who really look out for one another and who desire to be in the company of our community leaders and members whenever possible, especially in person. At least that is my impression of the internet and the blog world – we truly love to meet those who are inspiring us each day online, and why not, right? It’s fun! I guess this knowledge made Liberty very receptive to the idea of doing a launch party for Decorate in-store in the first place – they knew about decor8 and they also saw the book and felt that the content tied in to their store and “vibe” there so it was a great marriage.
You may be interested to know of the beginnings… When we first approached them to host an event, they expected maybe 35 people to have an interest in coming so they decided to hold two events where I could come and speak to the press and fellow bloggers and then, talk to their customers and some of my readers, followed by a brief styling demo and then a signing. But things changed… When I announced the launch party on decor8 they had over 400 people contact them to attend and were pleasantly surprised. I was surprised as well, simply because I really didn’t realize what an amazing bunch of people lived in the UK and followed blogs like mine. I mean, wow – what an honor! After such a big response, they decided to have me speak at a few talks on Wednesday, do a styling demonstration and then a signing and then they added a second day to the event so I gave two more talks, a signing and two abbreviated tabletop demonstrations.
When they mentioned a demonstration, I immediately phoned up Leslie Shewring and Sania Pell, both dear friends, and said, “Hey there, want to do a styling demo with me at Liberty?” and they happily agreed (we were all so honored!) and so we started to brainstorm as to what we wanted to talk about and show exactly. I flew up to London a week before the event and spent 6 hours with Sania and her assistant Polly in Liberty deciding on the things that we’d use, then we spent a second day in her craft room coming up with ideas, making things, and determining what would work best. Our goal was to show how we could use Liberty products but also how to use Liberty fabrics in fresh, new ways so together we threw all our ideas into a pot so to speak and then determined what we’d end up keeping. I couldn’t have done this without the talent and hard work of Leslie, Sania and lovely Polly along with Tiffany shooting such lovely photos and Jo Packham, from Where Women Create magazine, for flying out to support the event and cover it for an upcoming issue of her fabulous magazine. I love all of you wonderful friends and felt so loved having them around me.
As I showed you a few weeks ago, this was our jumping off point — the palette and the fabrics shown below. We laid everything out on the bed in her spare room and then I made a mobile mood board so I could then come back to Hannover and start crafting and buying things that I needed to make stuff for the demo.
After we worked together in person, I flew home and Sania also went to work making things in her London studio and we were exchanging phone calls and emails as we finalized the “look”. Leslie, who lives in Los Angeles, kept in contact as we built out the idea – offering her suggestions as well. In the end, the table looked like this when our guests arrived at Liberty:
Wow, right?! That’s what I said. It was so beautiful. I realized later that in our excitement we forgot to add glassware to the table, so I had a good laugh at that and hoped no one would notice but by the time I’d noticed it was too late. It’s funny how you get so caught up in a moment that some things are forgotten. I guess that’s what makes us human and throughout the project Sania kept telling us that we needed “something wrong to make it right” as she is a huge believer in adding something almost unfitting to a perfect look to make it feel more approachable, grounded and to look a bit more interesting. So in the end I think having no glasses on the table was, in a totally unintended way, that bit of wrongness! ha!
For those of you not at this event, here is a run down of the table – what we used, made, etc.
1. The tablecloth is a fashion fabric from Liberty, so it was very lightweight. We chose gray as it would ground the look without it looking too sweet. To give it some bulk, we bought just under 3 meters of inexpensive linen from a fabric store and layered the Liberty fabric over it as our table cloth. We didn’t hem the edges, only frayed them and trimmed the edges with scissors to ensure the fraying was kept straight and neat.
2. The placemats and napkins from London designer Lisa Stickley, sold at Liberty, looked great against the gray. The dots and dash of hot pink on the napkins gave the look that bit of wrongness – in fact adding neon to this feminine palette, along with gray, definitely made it look much more grown up.
3. Around the napkins, flowers were cut in different sizes, ribbons sewn on, and buttons sewn into the centers. On the back was a safety pin. We thought these would be nice and easy to show during the demo because you don’t need to be an expert crafter to make them – they are really quite simple. The idea is that guests could wear them or bring them home to use in decorating or to pin to a curtain or anything really…
Inside – We removed the flowers in the upper left hand corner. Sania remarked that they looked a bit too perfect and I told her that was a result of being raised around lots of Martha Stewart crafts.
4. Under the napkin were small books shown above. We purchased small (4×6) soft cover books from Muji and using Japanese crafting table, vintage dictionary book paper and papers purchases at Liberty, the covers were each embellished in a different way and then we opened them and place the book directly beneath each napkin on the plate. Those pages showed an image from Decorate on the left page with sweet little paper, ribbon, fabric and paper embellishments around it. If you have a party, you can make books like these and instead of a picture from my book (ha ha), you can add a photo of the person whom you want to sit in that seat or a little menu card, a poem, anything really. Guests can take their book home and use it to record their memories of the evening or to use it for something else entirely. It’s a sweet gesture and very inexpensive, I think they were under $2 each to make!
5. Vintage silverware (mismatched) was found at a flea market – 6 sets for under $20 – then polished and placed on the table tied together with scrap Liberty fabrics. Easy but a pretty touch.
6. Beneath each set of silverware, cards were made from wallpaper and other things like Japanese tape. One side of the card was made to be pretty enough to almost look like a small piece of art that the guest could bring home to frame or tack to their mood board or message board. On the other side, a sweet message to the guest was left from the hostess.
7. For the flowers, we went with a casual look. Using vintage and new things, books were stacked (because this was a book launch so a sweet tie-in), cake trays were used as they introduced some height to the table, and several different containers were used to hold the flowers from French white porcelain to small vintage baking forms.
8. Above the table, a vintage lampshade found at a flea market for $5 was stripped down to the frame and then Liberty fabric was cut into long strips and wrapped tightly around the frame and secured in places with glue. Tiny faux flowers were added here and there and some ribbons as well. In the center, we used a disco ball because we didn’t have the means to use a real lightbulb and thought the disco ball would be quirky but also the light it reflects would make it shimmer a bit to appear as a light source. Silly but fun and we loved it!
9. Gorgeous garlands made from ribbon, iron-on adhesive and Liberty fabrics were hung above the table cascading out from the lampshade. Neon ribbons added that bit of wrongness that made it right. Both the shade and garlands were hung using that transparent fishing wire – it’s strong but invisible, and fastened to the ceiling using eye bolts.
10. In the end, we loved our table. It was sweet and pretty for a ladies lunch, but also inspiring because the materials we used were so affordable and some handmade so it really worked nicely with the theme of Decorate which is also about making a home personal and pretty.
I met so many people and signed so many books — I felt excited and motivated — it was very encouraging to a debut author for sure. To think I imagined having an event where no one would show up… I mean, I figured we’d have a good turn out based on other events I’ve had in the past but this was by far the big sha-bang! What a way to launch a first book!
And so there I was in London all last week planning for the Liberty launch for the first few days, celebrating each night with friends, and then actually attending the Liberty events. On Wednesday, I spoke to the press in a packed out room of about 45-50 people, then another group of readers for a standing room only talk for around 50-60 people as well. Then we did a styling demonstration powered by stylist/author Sania Pell, stylist/photographer Leslie Shewring and me. I have to add that those two ladies are nothing short of inspiring, amazing and creative – they are super talented and as a team we really blossomed. I would love to work with them on future projects where we make things for stores or do windows or displays of some sort – it was thrilling because everyone loved the display and even customers strolling through the store who were not part of the event loved seeing what we had done. How nice!
So after the demonstration, a line formed in front of my signing table and as I walked over to take my seat, I felt an urge to cry happy tears. I felt so moved by the experience of being surrounded by so much love and support – the air was alive with such a positive spirit – I was really “in” the moment and enjoyed each second of it. As I sat down and my first guest arrived asking me to sign her book, I felt this wave of, “Wow, this is really happening”, rush over me and I felt so calm and present, it felt very natural to be there meeting so many new friends and I felt honored that so many came to the event.
You see, when I was little I would hand write 10-15 copies of the same book and then pass them out to my dolls and bears, which I lined up on my bed, and then I’d rearrange them on the floor in a line in front of my desk, which was my “signing table”, and I’d sign each copy and hand it back to them. When you do this at 6 years old and then you are a grown woman in your thirties doing it before a live audience, it’s surreal and can be quite emotional for sure. I wanted to write a book ever since I was so little but many things happen in my life that prevented me from feeling able to do so — from a father who left us when I was 17 (we never saw him again) to other somewhat tragic events, I was so consumed by my day job and life in general that my dream was put on hold for many years. I wondered, even as I went to work each day, if I’d ever be on the shelf of a book store.
In fact, I would go to book stores in my teens and twenties and imagine my book on a shelf and feel somewhat fixed on making that come true though I had no clue how that would ever happened. I told my friend Paris over many after work outings that I was working on a novel — a “chick lit” story about a girl who lived in Beacon Hill, Boston. I made it to the 7th chapter and gave up but still kept the dream alive in my heart, tucked away for a future moment when writing a book felt right to me. Then this blog happened and here I am with a decorating book. I’m writing all of this because seeing my book for the first time in a book store made me a believer that if things are meant to be, that they will happen at some point in your life. The key is that you have to believe in them and do what you can to keep them alive and work towards a goal. I didn’t set out to write a book when I launched decor8, but after some time it made sense and the book that I was supposed to write first is the very one that I have written. Amazing.
(Above: Emily Chalmers, Jo Packham, Tiffany Kirchner Dixon, a lovely friend signing my guest book, Sania Pell, Leslie Shewring, Julie Cove and me.)
But back to London. The next day, on Thursday, I returned to Liberty to give two smaller talks and two styling demonstrations which were very casual and fun — I got to really talk to my readers who came and since Amy Butler was also in-store, I introduced everyone to lovely Amy and had time to hang out with her as well. On Thursday, the group was much more intimate, which was nice because I had the chance to connect with so many who are dear to me that I’d only known online up until that point. Even some of my students from Blogging Your Way came to see Leslie (who teaches it with me) and I. I couldn’t believe it.
I was flattered and honored to meet so many…. And I loved seeing my team again who worked so hard on Decorate like the publisher Jacqui Small along with co-author Joanna Copestick, photographer Debi Treloar and our editor Sian Parkhouse. I was so honored to meet Amy Butler, in fact we ended up spending Saturday in Notting Hill shopping – we clicked instantly and I loved Amy. What a “real” lady, authentic and talented in every way.
Of course, I was delighted that my husband was there to share these events with me, along with Livingetc magazine, House Beautiful magazine and some other publications as well, including lots of lovely bloggers… I loved meeting my blogger friends! I also was able to talk to Emily Chalmers and was so pleased that she came, and I met Selina Lake, one of my favorite stylists. Many more were there, including some of the homeowners in Decorate, but my signing table was busy so I didn’t get to say hello. If you are reading and I didn’t get to meet you, I’m sorry for that!
I never in my life imagined this amount of love, having fans for me is another way of saying having friends. My gift to you is my book, and although you have to purchase this gift (I wish I could give them all away), at least it’s something you can have on your shelf for years to remember this time period in your life when you loved blogs and followed them. For me, whenever I buy something, there needs to have meaning and so perhaps owning a copy of Decorate makes this “blog era” a bit more special to you as it does to me. It feels good to have a book after writing on decor8 for over five years pouring out my heart each day.
You know what? I have to share a secret with you about my writing and even decor8. I often wondered if anyone would care, would listen, and I wondered if anyone would think my voice mattered? Have you ever felt that way about your blog? But you know, I slowly built my confidence and courage the more I put myself out there and I’ve learned that if you are passionate and consistent people respond. And so thank you all for coming to the Liberty event (those who came) and to those who will come to future events that I have (next one is in Amsterdam on June 25th – details here), and to those whom I may never meet but who can own Decorate — thank you from the bottom of my heart!
So yes, London… What can I say, the entire two days at Liberty was wonderful but then I had a bonus — on Friday, I was invited to the Kings Road Anthropologie to sign a cart of books for the store. I thought I’d sign a few copies so imagine my surprise when they rolled out a three-tiered cart with tons of copies of Decorate on it, wow! So I signed them all and then the store hired a car and brought us to the next Anthropologie location on Regents Street to sign more books in their “reading room” upstairs. I felt very much a queen for the day. After both Anthropologie signings, I then went to Selfridges on Oxford Street to sign stock there as well. I felt so honored to have been invited by both Anthro and Selfridges to sign my book for their customers.
(Above: Julie Cove, Amy Butler, me and Tiffany Kirchner Dixon)
Throughout the week, I definitely made time to shop but mostly high street stores so I didn’t get to roam the little shops that I love so much. John Lewis is always fun though, I bought this crazy red raincoat with puddy cats and hearts all over it by Avoca and some yellow shoes by FLY. I also noticed their delightful stationery department and the very nice Designers Guild tissue paper. I did get to shop the Portobello Road market and thanks to a friend who works for Anthropologie, I was told to walk to the very end and turn right onto Golborne Road (loved Bazar Furniture, 88 Antiques and Arban Interiors!) and there I’d find great shops and things along with a little “Morocco” and I did. I really liked the vibe down there and found lots of great home stores with French and Belgium furniture that I loved. Sania Pell, Amy Butler and I particularly loved The Cloth Shop on Portobello – great trims and delicious linens, vintage Welsh blankets… it was amazing in there. We had lunch at the Golborne Deli which had very fresh salads and delicious lemonade, I highly suggest taking a quick break there to refresh and relax. Also on Portobello Road we found some great vintage cloth stalls beneath the overpass that had some great jewelry and clothing, handbags, scarves — lots of fun things from mostly the mid century.
London treated me so well – I’ll never forget the friends I made and how wonderful it was to work with Liberty – an honor! I hope that you enjoyed reading my little essay on my time away and the book launch! :) Now it’s time to plan for the US mini tour for Decorate. I’m scared to fly over alone, but I’m coming, I’m coming! I am so motivated to meet my online friends in person so I’ll be coming over this summer to hit a few cities over in the US. I can’t wait you guys!!!! :)
You can find more photos and info about Decorate here.
(images: most are by photographer tiffany kirchner dixon, a few from my husband and I.)