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Abigail Ahern’s Living Room Wall Before + After

Hello everyone and happy Friday! Let’s jump right in today, shall we? Okay so I’ve been following London-based interior designer Abigail Ahern for several years, especially since meeting her in London when she spoke at one of my mood board workshops at Anthropologie in 2011. In fact, you can see her below speaking at an event I had with her as a guest sharing her very own mood board. I remember thinking at that time that we’d have to stay in touch because I really appreciated her vision and thoughts around design and I appreciated how she pushes the envelope when it comes to decorating – that nothing should ever be boring or perfect. That BOLD is very, very good.

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I recently noticed that Abigail was renovating a wall in her living room which has become a bit of the iconic Abigail design feature as I always think of this living room and the bookcase wallpaper as being very Abigail. When I saw she would be ripping it down, I had to ask her why and if she’d share the new feature wall with all of us today and she agreed – so here it is along with a short interview.

B E F O R E

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A F T E R

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Okay so my first question, why Superman?
AH: My studio desk is on the balcony overlooking this wall, so I needed something inspiring. When I’m having one of my many conundrums or 12 hour working days, I can glance across at him and be reminded to never give up. Superman is my motivation! (Note: Painting is called, “Look! Up in the sky!” by artist Barbara Smith).

Why did you remove the bookcase wallpaper?
AH: I’ve had the bookcase wallpaper for yonks, ever since I first painted the house dark. Although I really loved it I felt like it was time for a change with the darker palette. Plus the paint looked so beautiful on the walls I wanted everything in it. I ummed and ahhed a lot before doing it but now I wonder what took me so long!

Seems you went from colorful moody (before) to natural moody (after). What inspired the lack of color?
AH: Nowadays I opt for a more reigned in colour palette and sophisticated glam vibe, rather than bright pops of colour. When I developed my paint range I painted the whole house out in my new colours, which are deeper, darker and more saturated than I’d ever gone before. Suddenly the bright pops looked a bit too garish for my liking! So rather than using colour, the wow factor now comes from either playing with scale (like the oversized art pieces and jumbo cactus) or from using intriguing texture and materials (the almost “caveman”-esque Dawlish console!)

What is the paint color and brand? Why dark with spring/summer approaching?
AH: The paint colour is Madison Grey from my own paint range – a beautiful, bottom of the lake grey hue with undertones of green. It changes subtly with the light, and it’s my all-time favourite, all year round. Plus in the summer all the greenery stands out beautifully against dark walls, with my forest-y garden beyond.

What inspired the green thumb? Are the plants real or faux?
AH: Every single one of the plants are faux, from my new own-label. When I was designing my SS15 collection I took a cowboy theme and ran with it, so we have all these incredible desert-inspired botanicals and jumbo sized cactus. A huge delivery of the cactus turned up on my doorstep when we were working on the samples, and since then I’ve been obsessed with adding them to every room in the house.

Where is the credenza from and the print?
AH: It’s the Dawlish sideboard from my store. The print, Lelia, is by photographer is Hannah Lemholt.

I love the placement of your tv – yours is so cleverly concealed. Can you give readers some tips on concealing a TV?
AH: The TV is mounted on a swivel arm, so it can be tucked quietly away when we’re not watching it. It’s important for me to be able to disguise it, as I would never ever want the telly to be a feature! The simplest trick you can do when it comes to concealing TVs is to paint the wall out behind it in a dark hue (yes, I am on a mission to try to convert everyone to the dark side!)

What’s the secret of going dark and moody in a space without it feeling depressing?
AH: That’s an easy one to answer, because I never find dark interiors depressing! They’re incredibly comforting and cocooning, while still being glam. The trick is to reign in the colour palette, and let the walls create all the drama. You also need to nail the lighting, and add a few more lamps than you normally would, but that is pretty much it.

What’s in the pipeline for you Abigail (any projects we should look out for)?
AH: My new book, COLOUR, is out on 23rd April. It’s a much bigger, fatter tome than my previous books, packed with my top tips for bold colours, and beautiful photos that we shot in some of the coolest homes around the world. I’ve wanted to do something on colour forever, so I’m really excited about it. I’m also in the process of tweaking my AW15 own label collection, whilst at the same time working on SS16 Finally, if I can squeeze it in we’ve got plans to take the Design School to Australia and American this year so its pretty full on!

Thanks Abigail for dropping in today – have a great weekend and much success on your upcoming book!

(images: top: Mark Wilson living room before: rebecca bond. living room after: Abigail Ahern)

Posted in Decorating Tips on March 06, 2015

10 Ways To Create Hygge At Home

My friends at Skagen invited me to share some views on Danish life and culture since they consider decor8 a great source for Scandinavian design. I decided to write about a Danish word that has meaning that is very close to my heart. Let me give you some background as to why I choose to a single word as my topi and how it applies to the home in particular.

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When I began traveling to Germany over 15 years ago (I met a guy, fell in love, and have been with him ever since), I picked up on German words that quickly became a special part of my vocabulary based purely on phonetics – most how funny they sounded. I laughed a lot back then because the language is tricky and to a foreigner, words can feel like massive tongue-twisters especially when coupled with a deliciously thick German accent — well, it all seems almost comical. In American English, our goals over the past 20 years have been to abbreviate everything. Americans generally call me “Hol” instead of “Holly”. Americans are the king of short cuts, and not just when it comes to language. We like everything fast, we eat fast, work fast, live fast and relax fast. Germans are so much different – some things here can take forever and the very complicated language is no different, there are no short cuts. Germans work incredibly hard to protect their language and when they do dream up new words, the goal is make them longer and more difficult, not to shorten them because they pride themselves on their ability to be the most clever in the room when it comes to word games – the longer the better.

Since moving to northern Germany in 2009 (I’m a few hours south of the Danish border), I’ve built quite a vocabulary which I’m so proud of… So when I’m interviewed by German journalists, many ask what my favorite word is. I always say Gemütlichkeit which is from the word Gemütlich and means, “a space or situation that is warm and cosy, that induces a cheerful mood and peace of mind, without a need to hurry or worry, and with a connotation of belonging and social acceptance”. Journalists usually laugh or tell me how cute that is, that this word is so old-fashioned and sweet, etc. Even though it’s a wonderful word with an even more beautiful meaning, younger Germans don’t seem to embrace it like the old-timers do. Everything is “sweet” nowadays, not “Gemütlich” and honestly, I think that’s a pity because this is one word that just embodies everything I love about strong families, friendships and even communities. Plus, there is no English equivalent which makes it even more special to me. Some say it means cozy but Gemütlich or Gemütlichkeit is far from cozy because you can get cozy beneath a warm blanket. It’s a state of mind. It’s being at home around friends and family sharing a meal and unconditional love just flows in that space, a feeling of warmth, a sense of belonging, come one, come all.

Germans may not embrace Gemütlichkeit as much as I think they could in modern times, but the Danes certainly do. The Danish have a word that means the same but to them, it’s embedded in their culture, in their DNA, and goes much deeper than in the German culture because to the Danes, Hygge has a much broader social component.

The word is Hygge.

Hygge is a comrade, an affectionate teamwork. For a country that has long, cold winters with little light after 3pm, I guess this comrade works well. Hygge is a cozy pulling together but also a state of mind where Danes just know the weather is horrible but they still make the best of it. So why not fill the home with friends and family, light some candles, bake cookies and sit around the fireplace?

I thought that, in the spirit of winter, I’d create my top 10 ways of how to create Hygge at home. My neighbors and close friends downstairs are Danish, I have lots of good friends from Denmark and my husband’s sister is partnered with a Dane… Oh and my aunt was an art teacher for a Danish school outside of Copenhagen, so I do have some insight into life and culture up north. Not to mention, I work with a lot of Danish firms and my home is filled with interiors objects from Denmark. I also have worked in Denmark styling homes so I’ve experienced a lot of Hygge from the homeowners first hand.

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10 Ways To Create Hygge At Home

1. Make interior design important to you and your family. This means considering what you have, edit when needed (try to avoid being a pack rat!), and decorate with intention and style. Not all Danish homes look like those you see in their magazines BUT they definitely are very aware of design and many families put a lot of care and attention into their home. It’s a source of pride. It’s a statement of who you are, at any income level.

2. Don’t wing it or buy something just because it’s on sale. Danes aren’t known to be wasteful. In fact, they tend to save up for that favorite design piece vs. running out and buying a knock-off or something they don’t really like just because it’s cheap.

3. Instill a sense of respect in your children for the home and the things in it. While kids will always trash their rooms, contain their mess to their space. I noticed in Danish homes, kids don’t run the household. Parents still had stylish interiors and the kids are still kids. It’s all about letting them know early on that a home needs to be shown some respect. This carries well into their adult years, too.

4. Always ask your guests, upon entering, if they want food or drink. To me, this is SO Danish. I can’t enter a Danish home without the second question after, “Hello How Are You?” being, “What can I get you to drink or eat, we have….” It’s a great way to show manners but is also caring and warm. This means to always keep a few bottles of wine or a favorite beverage in stock and something to munch on – so no empty refrigerators! I’m thinking to have a shelf in our closet that is reserved for guests – munchies, drinks, etc.

5. Linger. This is HARD for most Americans. We often clean up the plates the second guests finish! Danes linger. Dinners in Germany are the same, they go on for hours and hours, especially at someone’s home (but even in a restaurant). Lingering affords time to relax and unwind, have deeper conversations and enjoy the moment. I think that is why “mindfulness” is such a huge trend in thinking currently in the states. Most of us aren’t so important that we can’t take time out to eat and enjoy being with those whom we love. It’s hard to slow down at first, but if you practice mindful eating, you will learn to linger, and lingering is very “Hygge”.

6. Enjoy what you have. The grass is always greener. A Hygge home is the greenest to the owner. Sure, they may love to have the latest kitchen or a newest sofa, but you better believe what they do have is cared for and they’re still entertaining family and friends whether the sofa is perfect or not. A sense of contentment is important.

7. Perfect is boring.
 Don’t invite friends over only when you’ve created an elaborate spread. A simple wooden bread board topped with cheeses, some olives, fresh bread, butter, a glass of wine… Or maybe a cake you’ve made that may not look amazing but it tastes great and took you only a few moments to make. Those kinds of gatherings are beautiful too.

8. Sharing is caring. Don’t just invite over your friends and let them sit there while you slave in the kitchen. A true Hygge home says YES when guests offer to help. Let them help with the salad prep. The cookie decorating. Setting the table. Community and sharing is something I always see when I hang out with my Danish friends.

9. Light candles and cozy up! Often the most inexpensive things can create a cozy space – like candles. Candles are always aglow in Danish homes the moment the sun goes down, especially in the winter. Even at cafes, you’ll see people sitting outside in late Fall all the way until March with candles on their tables, lap blankets and a cup of something warm. Candles on the balcony, the patio, on the windowsills, in the fireplace, on the table, they instantly create a mood. Natural daylight and candlelight are two of my favorite ways to light a home and both require little to no money which is even better.

10. Embrace who you are. This is hard to do when you are constantly running back and forth and even at home, constantly tidying up or running after the kids and never really pausing. Embrace that you are only human and deserve to take time out each day just to have some tea, do yoga, read a chapter or two of a book, whatever works. This is very Hygge, and very Danish, to pause and sit inside of yourself for a moment, to let your soul catch up to your body as I’ve heard some say.

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I could add so much more to this list. Would you like to add some thoughts? Please do so below, I’d love to hear your take on this.

Note: This post is in partnership with Skagen. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting those who help me to maintain this blog that I love so much.

(photos: holly becker)

Posted in Decorating Tips on December 22, 2014

How To Choose Art For a Gallery Style Wall

Last we, I gave you a little decorating 101 with 8 Easy Steps For Planning A Gallery Style Art Wall, part of a series of three posts that I’m working on in collaboration with Minted to inspire all of you to be fearless with art and support independent artists through the purchasing of affordable prints – something I’ve been promoting on this blog for eons. This is part two and it’s all about choosing art for a gallery style arrangement.

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Decide on a theme – pick art that works together.

What do you want to say? Think of  a vibe, a mood, a style, a theme… For instance, you want this wall to showcase your love of travel. Or maybe it’s to display your son’s grade school art mixed in with modern art. Perhaps it’s black and white photography you’ve been collecting. Your love of abstract shapes and vibrant color. Whatever it is, try to find something, a red thread, that goes through each piece connecting them in some way. Even if only YOU see the connection, that’s okay, but there needs to be some meaning to you on an emotional level because that is why we display things on our wall in the first place right? Because we’ve emotionally made some connection to it – we like it – whether that be the color, mood, subject matter, whatever… It evokes emotion and that’s good. And in addition to emotion, the work as a whole should connect somehow. Like sure, you could display WWII photography alongside your daughter’s finger-paints, a standard issue Le Chat poster from your Paris vacay, a snapshot of your poodle, a Monet reproduction and nudes of gorgeous men all together on a dining room wall. I mean, it’s your home, your decision (no judgement!).

But.

Does this stuff really work in context, you know? Does it make some sense or tell a story or is everything its own focal point and together, the story becomes terribly muddy or chaotic even (and not in a good way)? Work that doesn’t fit together shouldn’t be displayed together.

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Mix and match.

Art prints, paintings, kids’ artwork, Polaroids, photographs, drawings, sketches, personal photos of a family trip. Mix it up and include what fits the story behind this wall of art your are creating. You can even frame precious mementos and include dimensional objects too – like a ceramic tile, a porcelain head, an old mirror.

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Decide on frames and mattes.

I’m not that bold with mixing frame styles, but perhaps you are. I like to stick to a few colors (white and natural wood) then through in a few color frames or black or something with a clean slim gold frame, for instance. Also decide on mattes. I think all mattes should be the same color on gallery style walls but then you’ll sometimes see a wall that breaks every design rule and it works beautifully. If you have that knack, by all means mix and match. I honestly don’t have that knack of mixing matte colors and frame styles and colors with amazing results. So I have a formula I work with and that usually is the one I work with successfully time and time again.

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Lose the obsession with frame size.

If it fits on your wall, it can fit the arrangement. Salon style, or gallery style, is generally a really loose casual arrangement of art that grows over time. It begins with some work and spreads over time. That’s the beauty of it. If you are obsessed with frames all being the same size and installed in a grid, you’re not really a gallery style wall person so steer away from this and try the grid arrangements because they’ll ultimately fit your style and make you happier.

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Over the weekend I plan to install my art sponsored by Minted, all work that I selected, along with some original paintings I’ve collected over the years and add a few special bits here and there unframed. Then next week, for the third installment from this series, I’ll show you the big reveal on how it all looks on my wall with a shopping list for everything.

A big thanks to Minted for sponsoring my salon style art wall project – I love all of the work that I was able to choose from your shop! Thank you again.

(images: holly becker for decor8)

Posted in Decorating Tips on November 14, 2014

Before + After: My Entry With Pineapple Wallpaper

Want to see some embarrassing before photos of my home followed by some inspiring after ones? Okay so I’m totally psyched to share this with you because I love, love, love working on decorating projects and this wallpaper project, which I’ve teamed up with Aimee Wilder in Brooklyn on, is just bananas. Or in this case, pineapples. Remember this paper from the other day?

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That’s what has transformed my entry. But truthfully, outside of designing my son’s nursery before his arrival this year, I’ve not done much of anything in my home except think about things I need to do before I lose my mind. Despite my love of motherhood, I also love my home. I can’t deal when rooms are upside down or incomplete, this makes me feel chaotic in my head. Can you relate? Home is my sanctuary, my place of love, peace, dreams and aspirations. If it’s a cluttered dump or piled with half-finished projects, I can’t give 100% to my family, friends or job.

And you know that expression, don’t do anything half ass – use your whole ass.

So I decided to use ALL of mine and work on a project this week that has been annoying me the most – my depressingly unwelcoming entryway. But first. Three truths.

  1. I rent.
  2. We aren’t moving anytime soon.
  3. I have to live my life NOW because none of us are getting any younger.

BAM! All are challenges and inspirations. And they affected this project. I think the hardest thing is to pay for stuff in a rental that you can’t take with you when you move. But unless you imagine having the same wallpaper on your walls for the REST OF YOUR LIFE then wallpaper really isn’t as hard to commit to as you may think. Sure, it’s an investment. But it’s a bigger emotional investment to come home to a space that doesn’t have YOU written all over it. That is depressing. It drains you.

I have this philosophy that I’ve written in my books already but in case you missed it, I believe that if you make your home a great place, even if it’s a rental, you will become more successful in other areas of your life. That may sound really far out, but in my life, it’s just how it is. I have always been the most productive, the slimmest, had the most money and been the most energetic when I lived in a space that was decorated and organized well. My hope is that this wallpaper will make me rich and thin. (smile)

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I’m also not one to wait until I own my home before I properly decorate it. Never have been. I remember gut renovating my first apartment when I was 22 years old living on my own in Boston. While I won’t install something like a new bathroom into a rental, I am willing to work on smallish projects that have major impact. Like paint and wallpaper. And while wallpaper and installation aren’t cheap by any means, it is so worth it to do at least one complete room in a home and/or a feature wall somewhere. I have one wall in my tiny half bath with wallpaper and now, my entryway in giant golden pineapples – and to borrow from Jerry MaGuire – It “completes me”.

Am I crazy? Yup. Positively mad.

But that’s a good thing because crazy people take risks and have more fun. Just like no one ever wrote a song about a skinny flat butt, no one ever wrote a hit song, film script or book about a normal person doing normal things. Bleh. We all crave a little crazy.

Where I’m from (I grew up in South Carolina), a pineapple was the welcoming fruit. It meant hello, we love ya, have some iced tea on our front porch, tell us about your day. We had a brass pineapple door knocker (always). We had a brass pineapple on own living room bookcase because that was the 80s, brass was were it was at. I’ve never not lived in a home without a pineapple somewhere – until now. I gave away my gorgeous white ceramic pineapple to a friend before I relocated to Germany and I’ve missed having it around. Seeing one always made me think happy thoughts associated with home and love. My fruity talisman. And now I have a billion of them! The moment I step into my home I’m greeted with an explosive reminder of warmth, welcome and love. Everywhere. It’s bonkers and I love it. When I walk in, my view sure has changed from before…

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Above: The view from the main stairwell into our apartment after I’ve opened our double doors. 

This transformation was done by removing an ugly unused radiator from the right wall, stripping old wood chip wallpaper off the walls and replacing it pineapples and getting an inexpensive pendant from a local shop, handmade in Thailand. Now I can’t wait to finish the room with furniture, a rug, coat hook, etc. I’ll show you the finished room soon! But doesn’t it make a huge difference to add a little wallpaper?

Designer: Aimee Wilder
Wallpaper: Piña Sola
Color: Spinx
Note: You can order a sample, single roll, double roll, or a gorgeous sheet of it if you don’t want to wallpaper with it but frame instead which would be gorgeous. Please note: I didn’t install the paper myself, I hired out for the work, so if you ask me questions about installation I’m not your girl. All I can say is that this is the most gorgeous paper and in person it’s even more stunning than in my snapshots.

I’d like to thank Aimee Wilder and her team for sponsoring this project by donating this beautiful wallpaper. I contacted them with my idea and they were so supportive and lovely, which gave even more good energy to the project. Thank you ladies!

SO DO YOU LIKE IT?

(images: holly becker for decor8)

 

Posted in Decorating Tips on November 07, 2014

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