Let’s talk about decorating and have a little discussion about it today, shall we? I’ll start and then you can pick up with your own thoughts in the comments section. Ready? Okay. When I was a little girl, I would beg my mother to take me on night walks around our neighborhood so I could see what homes looked like inside. I really loved to catch glimpses of the magical places where people lived, and though I didn’t press my nose against any windows, I certainly loved admiring the many homes from the sidewalk as we strolled by. I particularly liked to see what was in the window. Sometimes a little cat relaxing on a blanket, or I’d notice plants and flowers in pretty pots, stained glass, and window decorations like glass animals or paper mobiles. It was always a treat to take night walks and today nothing has changed. Whenever I’m in Boston, I like to walk around the Back Bay (especially in early December) to see the twinkle lights and to catch peeks of the gorgeous brownstones that line the streets.
via Candi Mandi. She made her own headboard with fabric paint creating the word, Love.
In Germany, my vacation apartment is in a small city the size of Boston in a neighborhood with many gorgeous Jugenstil style buildings from the 1800′s. Our night walks here are always a delight, from sparkling store displays to a glimpse of someone’s apartment, even if only their window decorations. Many of you are the same, it’s not so unusual to enjoy seeing how real people live. That is why I love Flickr. I find so many homes there of some pretty creative people who live all over the world, and I never tire of viewing them because I see so many things I like and feel inspired by.
When you view the magical world of interior design magazines it can often be a double edged sword. On one side you can become seriously inspired. On the other, if you take what you see too seriously, you may find yourself depressed, feeling as though your life will never be as glamorous, wondering why ‘they’ have it and you don’t (and let’s face it some of us will never live in a posh flat in London or on the beach in Malibu). I call these rooms “smoke and mirrors decorating”. Sure, these places are real in most cases but it’s important to remember that they are often designed by pros, styled to perfection by pros, photographed by pros, with some of the most expensive and luxurious products and furnishings on the market, and then presented as though this “perfect” home is absolutely normal and attainable — like we should all live in the rooms that the magazine presents as ‘the’ lifestyle. In America it’s often sold as the “American Dream”. In this economy some of us may need to learn to appreciate what we have and not lose our joy focusing too much on what we do not have. Goals are good to have, but many who become obsessed with trying to mimic what they see in a magazine are often disappointed with the end result because they forgot that what is in a decorating magazine (in most cases) is much like what you view in a fashion magazine, it’s a “model” of what part of society views and the other part should be viewing (in other words, what we are being sold to believe as the perfect body, the perfect room, the perfect products to buy, etc.) as completely normal, the lifestyle we should all be aiming for. Am I making sense yet? I’m trying… I’m trying… :)
I think that it’s obvious when you read certain magazines or even blogs, sometimes it’s as though everyone is decorating in somewhat the same way and professing to be unique and not “mainstream” yet they are all unique in exactly the same way, you know? I’m guilty of this as well, I often fall into seeing something on a blog or in a magazine and hopping on the wagon incorporating a look into my home that isn’t really “me” but because I saw it elsewhere I decided that I should try it out. I’s normal to do this and certainly nothing wrong with it, but it’s important to remember that no one should be given the authority to tell you what is “good” decorating and what is “bad” decorating, just as with art it is open to personal interpretation (to a certain degree of course, skill is something you can measure to a certain extent but that is an entirely different conversation). There are those naturally born with very good style and this translates into their home and by good style I mean that they possess the knack of pulling things together in a way that is visually appealing. Like the home owners featured in this blog post, they’re all extremely talented with such a gift in my eyes. I think though that it’s important to keep in mind that the most commonly accepted style is usually considered the ‘best’ style but it doesn’t mean it is truly THE BEST, it’s just the most commonly accepted style during a certain period of time.
In the end I’m simply trying to say to create a home, a room, a corner of your home, any space that belongs to you (even half of your dorm room) into a space that has your fingerprint on it — something personal and special, a place that supports you, the invigorates, refreshes, inspires. If you like it, that’s what matters the most. The homes that I enjoy most are those real spaces that I recall seeing as I strolled hand in hand with my mother many years ago, the rooms I see as I walk at night now with my husband, and the homes I see of my friends, family, clients, and those on sites like Flickr. Warm, lived in, special places where there is a sense of pride, history, present, and future. It’s hard to describe in words so the photos I’ve placed in the post are a visual interpretation of what I’m trying so hard say.
Kleofea in Switzerland.
From the amazing Herz-Allerliebst in Germany who has a lovely relaxing home.
Do you have your own opinions on what defines a real space? I’d LOVE your thoughts so please share them below…
(images linked to their sources above)
You may know Rachel from her brand Shabby Chic based in southern California. I had the honor of meeting Rachel in 2005 and she is a great lady, very humble, charming, and she has a warm and sweet spirit. Here are some images from her blog that I fell in love with this morning… The perfect way to begin the week for me.
I love this photo. The floors, the room, a faded rug, the pretty vent cover on the wall, the chandelier, the table… Okay everything. But what I love most is a raw space like this. So many options. This makes my heart swell…
This dining room is so pretty, but a bit ornate for my taste. I’d remove the wall sconces and that large ornate mirror, but the chandelier would stay though I’d hang it a bit lower. I’d also paint the ceiling pale blue. I’d have to add flowers to the table and of course my Turkish teapot… But I still really like this room! The lighting is just great, makes me long to live in southern California or someplace where the lighting is always perfect. :)
These are photos of some of the Shabby Chic retail stores, I’ve only been to two: the flagship store in Santa Monica, CA (my favorite) and her new shop in Natick, MA just outside of Boston. They are absolutely transporting, you should try to visit one sometime.
Here are some clippings of vintage wallpaper that Rachel is currently drawing her inspiration from. Most of us find bits and bobbins from the past, connect to them, and translate what we see into something modern with a twist – our personal style – making them fresh and new again. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel!
I had the opportunity to interview Rachel for decor8, you can read our chat here if you’d like. Browsing her blog this morning, I noticed the web-famous Keep Calm and Carry On posters in her shop (wow!) and I spotted some more good things in her newly designed web shop, would you like to see them?
Candles from Voluspa that smell like a little piece of heaven, stamped leather card holders (my favorite find), a crown doormat so everyone knows you are the queen of your castle, and a gorgeous union jack wall hanging in fabrics from Shabby Chic.
A delicious gold bordered calendar. This is super pretty!
Psst: You can purchase these things so matter where you live because Shabby Chic ships worldwide!
Welcome to blogland Rachel and everyone else please go see what Rachel is up to, I’m sure you’ll find some of her inspirations most interesting and of course, beautiful!
(images from shabby chic)
I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Kelly Galvin Robson, Director of Instant/Space by Burnham Design and would love for you to hear what she has to say about the latest extension of Betsy Burnham’s design firm – Instant/Space. You’ll learn what Instant/Space is and more so please take a moment to read the discussion between Kelly and I.
decor8: Hi Kelly! So glad to have you here on decor8 today. Tell me, how long have you been working with the fabulous Betsy Burnham?
KGR: For almost 4 years, and have been lucky enough to work with Instant/Space for the last 2 years.
decor8: What exactly IS Instant/Space? I briefly read a blurb about it in Domino magazine awhile back (Feb ’07)…and it looked really interesting for budget and time conscious girls on the go.
KGR: Instant/Space is an alternative service from Burnham Design and it offers clients a do-it-yourself interior design for a reasonable fee. It is for clients who don’t really want or need Burnham Design’s full range of services, and have an appreciation for the aesthetic. Some clients may want to address only one or two rooms in their house, others may have a limited budget, or want to do their own purchasing based on a design “master plan.” Regardless, all of our clients want to achieve a custom interior design and be active in the design process, so Instant/Space is really the perfect design service for them.
decor8: You mentioned the Burnham Design aesthetic. For those who aren’t familiar with what it is can you elaborate please?
KGR: It is a mix of high end and vintage. We prefer a layered, “collected” look that’s at the same time tailored and clean.
decor8: I know your main office is located in Los Angeles but I heard you are not, where are you?
KGR: My office is on the east coast outside of Philadelphia. However, Betsy and I work together on every Instant/Space project.
decor8: How do you find your clients?
KGR: Many of our clients know Betsy’s work and find us through the Burnham Design site. Others contact us after seeing a press mention.
decor8: Do you see a future in e-consulting as perhaps a new trend in design and if yes, why?
KGR: Absolutely. Our clients lead very busy lives, and offering a service that’s available online is a huge plus in terms of their time. Furthermore it represents a move toward more affordable professional decorating… and in the current economic climate, this is a big advantage.
decor8: I agree! Explain briefly how e-design works? For example let’s say a client has a 10′ x 12′ bedroom that needs to be decorated and I have zero time to do it. How can you help?
KGR: We can provide you with a custom interior design based on your personal design style and individual design challenges. We really think about every client individually — how they will use the space, who will be using the space, etc. Every single box is different and it is important to us that our clients really love their finished design.
decor8: More details, please!
KGR: When a client decides to order Instant/Space, they first send us pictures and dimensions of the room(s). Then, we ask for inspirational images from magazines, websites, etc (to help illustrate the design style that they are trying to achieve), and our completed online questionnaire (to further identify their design preferences and challenges). In four to six weeks, the client receives their completed instant/space box in the mail. Every box includes a personalized design concept board, a detailed schematic furniture plan (drawn to scale), a swatchbook containing all of the furnishings and accessories for the room, an additional swatchbook with samples of the fabric and paint selected for the space, a detailed shopping list, and a step by step explanation of how to pull of these elements together. The rest is up to them!
decor8: Great! What happens if some of the fabric or items you suggest are ‘trade only’, how can a client purchase those?
KGR: If we include “trade only” items in our design, clients have the ability to order these items through Burnham Design. For a small markup, we take care of ordering, tracking and shipping.
decor8: Next scenario… let’s assume that you’ve suggested wallpaper or paint to a client and they have no time to source for these products or locate contractors to do the work. Can you come to the rescue?
KGR: We don’t expect our clients to paint or do difficult installations themselves! Often we’ll ask if they have competent subcontractors for this work, and if they don’t, we’ll do our best to help locate them.
decor8: Excellent. Let’s talk money. What are the fees involved?
KGR: Instant/Space fees vary from $895.00 to $1,495.00 depending on the size and function of the room. All of our pricing may be found on our website.
decor8: You already touched upon it, but what type of client (besides a busy one!) seems to be attracted to this type of service?
KGR: Most are professional people who have an interest in design but seek a professional’s advice. Many have just moved, gotten married, or purchased their first home. Some have just had a baby and need to decorate a nursery. Our clients come from all over the country, cities and suburbs. The one thing they all have in common is that they admire the Burnham Design aesthetic and want our style to be reflected in their space.
decor8: And to wrap things up, on a more personal level, what do you think is the absolute pro of this particular service?
KGR: The best part is the response that we receive from clients. Most clients are surprised that we were able to capture their design style so well without ever meeting them in person, others love the way that Instant/Space allows them to purchase furniture at their own pace. The experience is really fun, and I think that clients appreciate how easy and convenient it is.
decor8: Thank you so much Kelly for sitting in with us today, best wishes on your business (Betsy too!) and to all of the e-decorators out there – you can do it!
Readers: If you are interested in reading more on the topic of e-decorating here is a post from June 2008 that appeared on decor8 (be sure to read the comments on each too!): e-Decorating – Your Thoughts.
Do you have any additional questions that you would like to ask Kelly? If so, please comment below.
(images from burnham design and instant/space.)
I received so many nice comments and emails in response to my living room that was featured in the Etsy Storque yesterday! I thought that I’d write one post in reply to your questions instead of answering each email as time is an issue for me this week since I have a design fair to attend and a few projects to complete. To say I’ve been busy is a huge understatement! I’m not alone though because all who operate a small business have to run a bit crazy (especially during the last quarter of the year). Part of me is really looking forward to the ‘slow’ period that hits just after New Year’s. Do you feel the same? I cannot believe it’s already October 23rd and we are looking at ’09. Craziness. I digress. It’s time to answer your questions!
Okay so the first batch of emails came from readers wondering how I am able to financially afford living in two countries in this economy. Well that is a bit tricky and kind of personal to answer in such a public place but I’ve decided to tell you what I can without compromising the privacy of my husband and I. Full disclosure: I’m no trust fund baby as my humble 60 square meters apartment clearly shows. I wish sometimes that I had the support of family but we do not. When I’m not shopping handmade, I’m hitting flea markets, second hand shops, sales racks, and stores like IKEA. Next, I’m very much in tune with my spending habits. I do not own a credit card (paid off and shredded them back in 2005 and I’ve never looked back). We only have one car in America that yes, it’s a nice car, but it’s only one car payment each month. Sharing a car with my husband living in the countryside where we have to drive to the post office (we cannot receive mail at our home) each day, to the grocery store, etc. is a real pain at times but we make it work. In Germany, we both purchase a bus/train pass each month and take public transportation (or walk) everywhere. As a result I’ve lost at least 10 pounds in the past month because of all the exercise! I walk 3-5 miles each day. I love living in the city! I also shop at farmers’ markets here and back in New Hampshire we live near a fruit and veggie stand so lots of our food comes via the farmers and that is always less expensive than purchasing at the grocery store. For clothing, my husband and I repair our clothes whenever something rips or a button pops off, a hem needs to be sewn in, etc. so we save money because we wear some of our garments forever and when they need fixed we do it by hand. I also do not have a dishwasher in New Hampshire to save energy and cut down on costs, it’s a small cost but money is money. We have a very inexpensive cable, phone, and internet package (it’s better to subscribe to all 3 via one company as you get a pretty hefty discount this way). I am obsessed with shutting off lights, I shut them off constantly and I use energy efficient bulbs. Gosh I could ramble on forever about how much I’ve changed in my life, how many ways I’ve cut down to be able to live in two countries. When we travel we go on inconvenient days and times to get the best flight or train price. I recycle everything I’m given, whether it’s the ribbon from a gift or the wrapping paper itself – I either turn it into something crafty or I give it to my friends OR I recycle it via the trash collector. I only shop 3 stores now for CDs, DVDs, and books… Amazon, Newbury Comics, and Target. I refuse to give in to impulse to own a new book or CD that I find in a retail shop (like Virgin or HMV) simply because I want it NOW. I wait and go home and order it on Amazon. I’ve cut down on magazine purchasing by at least half. Back in the states, I also shop at Newbury Comics which I’ve already mentioned, but they sell used in addition to new items so I buy used copies in mint condition – a great way to recycle. I also shop Target for new release DVDs because they are always the cheapest around (even beating out Amazon) when it comes to newbies. I use coupons at craft stores in the states, I shop for groceries at farmstands and at Stop & Shop since they have a program where if you spend $100 you get a $10 gift certificate to use next time so it’s like saving 10% on groceries with every visit. We go to movie matinees vs. those shown after 6pm (more expensive), we barely order take out, we only eat out once a week (vs. 6x a week as we once did – yes really!), I went from going out for coffee daily to going out to a coffee shop once weekly.
And for a more personal bit of information I chose to wait to have children later in life (I still do not have them but plan to within the next 4 years) and we decided not to have pets (less expense) at this time in our life despite how much we’d love to have them. That is sacrifice, trust me. There is nothing I love more than animals and kids in the home. If you have them consider yourself so, so lucky. I miss having a pup on my lap or a kitty to play with. I grew up with practically a farm in our home so my heart longs for the day when I can have at least a small dog.
There are so many things that I could bore you for hours talking about that I personally do to save money so that I can live the life that I’d always imagined, well always being since 1996 when I first got the idea to relocate to Europe. Back then, it was England. Did I tell you how my big plans crashed and burned? I was supposed to relocate to Oxford to live with my friend who taught French at the University there, Joelle, but a few months into our plans her mom got very ill with cancer so she needed to move back to Paris to care for her. The next big move was around 1997 when I nearly moved to London with my long time girl pal. But that didn’t work out because she went and got married. When I met my husband and realized that perhaps we’d be living in Germany someday, I felt excited about the idea but by then I was doing quite well with my career and didn’t have a real desire to live in Germany as much as I did England or of course, the idea of living in Paris also interested me. I’d not been to Germany before 1999 so being American and sitting in endless world history classes focusing on the WW2, Germany is considered the land of fancy cars, intellectual types, lederhosen, Octoberfest, and Nazis. I had no clue that Germany was wayyyy more than that. As I began to travel here more each year while we dated and then after our wedding, I came to love this country and the culture here and so back several years ago when we had this discussion about living in America and Germany simultaneously we both thought of ways we could make it work.
First goal: Pay off all of our debt and become debt-free while sacrificing, cutting back on unnecessary luxuries, etc. Once that goal was complete, we could start to save money. We wanted children and a dog but decided to wait. This is where I get to the really personal part but hey, who cares. I saved $25,000 in the past few years so that I could assist my husband in taking this step. Not a lot of cash for a relocation, but it was my contribution. I told him I’d pay for the furniture, appliances, and decor. To date, this apartment is nearly 100% furnished after the past 10 weeks and I’ve spend around $12,500 total so I’m well under budget. I think I need to spend less than 1,000 more and I’m finished. Hurrah!
When we came over, the Euro was so strong (1.61) so my $25,000 USD was only worth around 11,000 Euros here. Depressing, right? So I left a lot of my cash in the bank back in the states and obsessively watched the market each day. I was very careful with my money and what I spent in the beginning stages. Once the Euro fell to 1.28 against the dollar I withdrew money and transferred it into my German bank account. That’s a BIG savings. Now my $25,000 was worth around $20,000 vs. 11,000 so that’s the value in watching the market, not being impulsive, and playing it smart. Now I can purchase a good bicycle, buy an XBox (he he) and finish decorating my bedroom and buy some area rugs for my apartment in addition to clothing as I came over here without clothes and so I’ve been wearing the same two pairs of jeans and one pair of trousers since I arrived. Now I can buy Fall clothes. My husband kept telling me the Euro would lose it’s strength (he has a degree in Economics so I listen to his advice) and to wait. It was hard but I waited and it paid off immensely.
I know I’ve rambled well beyond my normal post length. I imagine each of you reading this in a bit of a glazed over, zoned out lull by now. But if you write to me asking about my finances, how I was able to reach my goals of living in two countries, how I can afford this or that, I will most likely respond at length via my blog because who knows, others may have the same questions and were just too shy to approach me. I have no problem talking about money and such, why not address it plain and open. I can tell you this, I am far from wealthy and every dollar we spend is money we’ve earned. Thorsten and I do not have the financial backing of our families at all. Just the opposite actually. The last gift of money given to us was 7 years ago at our wedding when my parents and grandparents chipped in for the reception and honeymoon. After that, we’ve been flying solo.
So! With all that said, others wrote in asking me about the things in my living room and wondering how much I spent on the space to decorate it. Don’t laugh but I estimate that my living room was around 1,400 Euros, so like $1,650.00 ($3,000 if you include the TV, phone, and DVD player). The most expensive piece after the television is a 1950 vintage floor lamp from eBay that was around $350. Since the Etsy Storque article that ran yesterday, my new sofa table arrived (just this morning) and so it’s in place now. I’ve also shuffled a few things around in the space and took some photos this morning as well. Would you like to see?
In this photo you can see a mirror (IKEA), my sofa (IKEA), a rug (IKEA), two picture ledges over the sofa (IKEA). The design books are from Amazon, some of the little decorative accents are from flea markets, the sofa table is from a German store called Depot. It’s solid wood and built to last a lifetime. It was 300- Euro delivered and I LOVE it. The little gray velvet pouf was on clearance fro 20-Euro at a little shop in my neighborhood. The lamp is from eBay, that’s the one that I told you cost around $350. The best part was that the owner drove an hour to deliver it to my house at no charge and told me the full history behind this lamp. It was worth the money for the memories I’ll always attach to it. Not to mention it’s a Martha Stewart mint green. :) The candles and globes on my windowsill are from a local craft store, both were around 25 Euros. The shades are from Gundrun Sjoeden (2 are shown) and they cost 91- Euro. The pillows came from local shops, one is from a local designer who gave me a customer discount. All pillows came to around $150. The throw on the back of the sofa is from IKEA. You cannot see it but near the lamp is a basket tipped upside down where I have my phone, some coasters, and a Hable Construction tote filled with magazines. The tote was purchased using a coupon so I paid around $70 for it.
In this photo, more items to see in the corner. First is a moorish style table from Tchibo (a coffee shop here!), some cushions from a local shop, a larger wicker basket with a lid (you should see the snake who lives inside!) that I use for storage, a print from Etsy framed in an IKEA frame, a lamp from Denmark, an IKEA vase, and pine branches collected on Sunday from the forest nearby.
And now if you look at this photo, you can see the opposite wall in the room. This is where my entertainment center (IKEA) is (filled with CDs and DVDs from Amazon!), my region free DVD player, cable box, and soon to be Xbox will be housed. The large white flat screen Samsung was around $1,000 USD but I saved for it and like how it looks. I am not big on television but I love films so it was a must (I could not live without watching DVDs!). Nearly all of the art is from Etsy, the swallows are from a flea market, and the light is from a local designer and I got a discount on it from the shop around the corner since they had a grand opening special so it was around $60.
More views of the room…. Vintage lamp from eBay.
I would like to put a chair in this space, but I’m looking for a very specific one so it may take me awhile… I’m hopefully going to find it though — a butterfly chair in aged medium brown leather would be ideal or something similar with an open frame on the bottom, low, vintage…
I also would like to add some paint to the walls, make (or buy) and handmade lap quilt, pick up a tea tray for the coffee table, etc. but for now this is it. And I’m happy, under my allotted budget, and though it may not be magazine-worthy when I sit in this space to have tea and watch Science of Sleep tonight with my friend, I have peace inside because it’s a real space that means something to me personally and I did not have to go into debt to get it.
With all that said, I hope I’ve answered your questions, emails, etc. If you have any additional questions please just ask and I’ll answer them here in the comments section below. Thank you!
How do you decorate on a budget anyway? Do you have any tips for how you make your home cozy without spending a lot of money?
(images from holly becker for decor8)