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Gardener & Marks + Noticing The Details

I’m a huge Lyn Gardner fan so naturally, I love browsing her decorating portfolio over at Gardener & Marks. Their business is so intriguing to me, Gardener & Marks, because it’s a full service decorating and props firm in Australia and I think their work comes across as very relaxed and personal yet also with such care over the details that you want to examine everything you see.

What I admire so much about Lyn, aside from her wild and very big hair and quirky personal style is her decorating work — she is a very detail-oriented person and I love that. I delight in the details, I can get so hung up on them though! Are you keen on the little bits and pieces? The photos throughout this post are from Gardener & Marks and show homes that they’ve decorated, Lyn and her partner Amanda Hendersen-Marks (please read their bio here). So pretty!

By the way, have you heard of The White House Daylesford? It’s Lyn’s amazing property that you can use as a location home OR you can vacation there — it’s quite drool inducing — you simply must check it out here. As you are browsing, notice bedroom two with that gorgeous black and white toile wallpaper and hints of emerald green around the room – so pretty.

It’s funny, because I’m very big picture which is why I was once a project manager. But I’m also creative and imaginative — I’m big on details and I notice every little corner and creation whether I’m shopping, staying in a hotel, riding on a train… I see it all. My friends often say that this is the writer in me – to notice things that most people breeze right by. And it’s true. I can be with friends and they’ll be chatting or zoning out on their iPods and I’m chatting and on the iPod too yet I’m also scanning the room, noticing every detail of what each person there is wearing – stripey socks, cuffed jeans, man who looks bored, woman who has lost an earring, boy with a chipped tooth.

You’ll laugh at this, but do you remember that scene with adorable Matt Damon in the first Bourne film when he is in a roadside diner in France with German supporting actress Franka Potenta and he tries to “prove” that he isn’t normal so he immediately starts to recite each detail about their environment while looking straight into her eyes – and he gets all of the facts right – he had memorized everything including how many people were in the room? Okay so he’s an assassin, I’m not (ha ha), but I can relate to that scene so well as I can do the same thing when it comes to noticing everything around me. I don’t always remember things that were said, I’m more visual I think, but I do remember things that I see or words that I can see on paper… In fact, that is what is helping me to learn German — not to hear it but to see it on signs and in textbooks.

When I shop, it’s the same. I think lots of us creatives notice the details, from the Lyn Gardeners of the world to everyday people like me who love to decorate and write for a living. Perhaps you too? I see everything and often can scan an entire section, zoom in on what I’m interested in and disregard the rest — I’m not one to waste time as I know right away whether or not I’m attracted to something. I often got annoyed with this personality trait, to see everything, to notice the good and the bad, to be able to “weed out” things that I don’t like or need almost instantly. In some ways, I had to get it under control in order to live a productive life. What I mean is that by noticing everything I’d often return home feeling absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer stimulation of it all. Or I’d be so overwhelmed by what I’m looking at in a store that I’d leave empty handed.

It took me years to modify my behavior so that I could use this sensitivity of mine to my own advantage, and now that I’m older I definitely can see a huge improvement and my life is so much better now that I can edit and sort ideas, sensations, emotions, external data, all of it — quite efficiently without draining myself. I have noticed that one of the best ways to curb over-sensitivity is to simply acknowledge it first of all and then use it only in situations when you really need it. I use it when it comes to projects, work-related tasks, etc. I’ve learned to ignore it (sometimes to forcefully ignore it) when I’m in the train and everyone around me seems to be drunk or acting obnoxious which I find often on the train when I’m riding at night. I have to forcefully flip the “off” switch whenever I see things that cause me pain, annoyance or anger – those are the details in life that I’d rather not pay attention to.

A darker side to this though is that I pay attention to details but I also miss other things as I’m so intently focused on something else that the other important thing slips off my radar. My husband laughs, I have a short attention span, I am like a golden retriever in some ways — I can be running after a stick and the moment I notice a cat off in the distance, I start running towards the cat forgetting all about what I was retrieving in the first place.

I wonder, do any of you notice the details, even to a fault, and how have you managed this? Luckily, I’ve managed well over the years and now I feel very confident to speak about it publicly and to use it in areas of my life where paying attention to details matters, like decorating and writing. Please share your views, I’d love to learn more about you and creatives out there in general who are very detail-oriented and how you edit, sort, disregard some date, absorb others, etc. It’s a fascinating topic I think!

(images: gardener & marks)

Posted in Decorating Tips, real talk on April 27, 2011

Connecting The Dots

This is one of my seemingly endless posts. I’m in the writing mood today. There is an ending, I assure you, but from start to finish there are a lot of words in between! I hope that you’ll take a moment to read through it all as this may inspire you quite a lot. That’s my intention anyway. We need to hear positive, uplifting stories and I want to share a piece of my journey with you.

Tracy Porter

It’s important to pause and step back in order to move forward again. Do you understand what I mean by this? Often the way we once felt about something can reignite a creative spark to help unclog the brain so new ideas can flow in more easily. That is exactly what I did this morning — I took some time out for creative meditation. I didn’t chant or light candles (ha ha), I just sat back and gave myself about 30 minutes to really reflect on a specific time period in my life. As I did this, I poured out some of my thoughts into words and emailed them to a dear friend. I told her this story, more or less, and now I will tell all of you. Try pausing and meditating a bit as well today, even just for 5 minutes, if you can. It’s amazing to look back and find the golden thread that runs through all of your experiences and to connect the dots.

When I was newly married in 2001, we rented a huge barn in the countryside in Massachusetts in a truly quintessential New England town. Imagine a rustic and beautiful 100-year-old barn with two floors, wooden walls, a wood burning stove, wide pine floors and massive windows. So pretty. So much light. The second floor had more windows and skylights and you could lay on the bed and see the sky – we loved to star gaze in bed at night while listening to the crackle of the wood burning stove. We even had a waterfall in the backyard and fruit trees. This place couldn’t be more New England, especially with a covered bridge a block away. We were broke, my husband had just relocated to America from Germany a few months prior and though he was working, he was selling books at Barnes & Noble by night and teaching by day. I was working full-time, but even with a combined income the numbers were not that impressive. Having less money made me much more creative than ever before. In fact, I loved to decorate my barn and have friends over (because we couldn’t afford to go out), mostly to flip through design books and snack and talk about big dreams and crazy ideas. Those were the days when the only way to tap into design was through a book or magazine and maybe, if you were lucky, your favorite designer would be on television now and then or they’d get their own show so you could obsess about it. Books were my connection to the world of design. It was through them that I discovered the magic of decorating and the influence that the printed page has over the ideas of a young woman.

I remember my favorite design books at that time included Inspired Gatherings by Tracy Porter and Tracy Porter’s Dreams From Home. I thought her design philosophy was inspiring – to decorate with joy and to celebrate life. She loved color. She piled it on when she decorated and was fearless. In fact, I still have her books in my library as they inspired my own dreams back in the late 90s well into 2000 and beyond so I hung onto them. I was endlessly inspired by Rachel Ashwell’s books also, along with her television show. We didn’t have cable (couldn’t afford it!) so my friend would tape them and we’d huddle around my tiny television to watch Rachel with her fancy English accent talk about her love for cabbage roses and precious things, and how she delighted in putting little notes in her kid’s lunch bags. I was so young, in my early twenties, and remember soaking in every word from Rachel that I could. Her attention to detail blew my mind. I wanted to put notes in Thorsten’s lunch bag but I didn’t think it would fly but still… Rachel made me feel like it was okay that I was so obsessed with the little things and that my casual approach to decorating was okay. She also confirmed that flea marketing and hitting junk sales was also fine. I started flea marketing as a child with my mother and grandparents but it wasn’t nearly as cool to decorate with “junk” until Rachel and others in that time period put their stamp of approval on it. And good for them. Good for me too because at that time, a $5 table for my eating nook was all I could afford.

Amidst the design book addiction that I had, I also ran an eBay shop for a few years during that time. I would scour flea markets for vintage finds and sell them. I arranged things in my home (not beautifully but I did okay) and shot photos for each product and once sold, I would wrap up orders with great care using tissue paper and rubber stamps with Eiffel Towers on them, little poodles, and “Merci beaucoup” stamped on little white tags because I was addicted to all things French. I hand wrote letters of thanks to each customer. I even sold some handmade items like switch covers — I collaged wooden switch covers from the craft store (so tacky in retrospect LOL) and sold them. I put great care into my customers, it was my “night” job, during the day I worked in the corporate world as a relocation and immigration manager, but my many loyal customers and their emails and eBay feedback fueled me to keep selling in my little eBay shop. Every dollar was a big deal.

Thinking back, I remember my husband laughing at how long I’d spend packaging eBay wins. He thought it was funny how I conducted business — I’d earn maybe $5 on something but spend 30 minutes packaging it and sometimes $2 on materials to package it and then have to spend another few bucks for eBay fees so in the end I earned about one dollar! Ha! But I kept going, not because it was going to make me famous or rich, but because I was happy being a little shop owner in that barn reaching out to my circle of devoted customers on the internet. I wrote up my eBay product descriptions showing what I was selling “in-situ” with decorating ideas for the product I was selling. I guess I was blogging even back in 2001 long before blogs came to be. It’s a riot to think about but even funnier is how life comes full circle.

In 2005, during a trip to Los Angeles, I met Rachel Ashwell, a month after I started my little design practice and registered decor8 on blogspot.com. Meeting Rachel was so inspiring. She signed a book and I shopped her outlet sale in this big warehouse she had. I looked at her world as if it were this magical fairy-filled land where only certain few could ever reside, yet I was determined to meet her and so I did. I started reading her books when she first put them on shelves, back in the 90s, so it was a big deal to meet Rachel.

Fast forward to 2010. I became a blogger with fans! Oh my! That is a pretty big accomplishment that opened up a chance for me to become an author. Maybe my book will be part of someone else’s time line someday, where they can say my book was part of their journey to connect the dots. I hope so anyway. Because books can influence us so deeply. But yes, last year I spent 10 months working on my first book (dream come true) and decided to ask Rachel to contribute along with over 50 others who have inspired me throughout the years. I interviewed her and some of her quotes are in my upcoming book. I traveled to Los Angeles and shot the home of one of her dear friends and during the morning of the shoot, Rachel loaned us some props for me to use in the house. Squeal!

Then in 2010 while I was teaching in Morocco, I met publisher and all around amazing lady Jo Packham – the women who wrote another book that I once referred to daily called Where Women Create. I felt so inspired by it because this whole world of seeing inside the studios of others was still so new to me back then. Of course, with blogging and technology in general, seeing a creative space is quite common these days — but I still love peeking in on where women (and men!) do their thing and find people’s arrangements and work nooks so inspiring. Spending time with Jo Packham for 10 days was a lovely moment in time for me. I still don’t think she realizes how much her book inspired me when she first published it.

Tracy Porter

So what about today? Let’s get back to those Tracy Porter books that I loved a million years ago. Well here we are in 2011, over 12 years since I first found Tracy Porter’s world through her books, and I get this message on my blog today from her – out of the blue – from Tracy Porter. I’ll admit, I haven’t followed her work as much as I once did because I don’t think she has published a book since this one but I did a double take when I saw that she’d posted a comment on my blog today. I could have died. She said some really nice things to me and the timing was perfect — they came at a moment in my life when I needed to hear them as I’ve been going through a hard few weeks of feeling cluttered in my head and a bit demotivated as I sometimes do during February since it’s freezing and gray and I can’t seem to find enough energy inside to motivate myself and my work. As a result, I get the winter blues and they last for 2-3 weeks. It’s a hard time! In February, I rely so much on exterior things to rev me up and it’s almost like Tracy knew because seeing her comment made me very happy today and gave me a ton of energy. I am throwing my arms open to the month of March now with vigor and joy because my blue period feels nearly lifted. Tracy’s brief comment inspired me to meditate on my beginnings and connect the dots and I feel better for it.

To wrap up, I find it so encouraging to see how our past inspirations and influences can form who we are today in ways so unexpected and although I’ve found my own style, these wonderful women all helped me to tap in to who I was at where I needed to go in my life — they helped me to identify what I really liked. Having a little eBay business in 2001 influenced me as a blogger in ways I’d not thought about until today.

There is still so much magic in the world and you don’t always have to actively do things or seek people out — they’ll often find YOU. The only thing that you must do is to go out there with an intention and circulate in the same circle as your leaders and role models, find your own voice, and they just may listen to that voice and call you an inspiration in return. Kismet. And if they never find you, then you’ll find others who will connect with your ideas and values and through all of these connections a great thing will happen. You’ll find yourself.

Sorry to ramble but this chapter of my life just shows you how things happen and not always overnight, but in time, things come full circle. I thought it was pretty amazing when Tracy contacted me today — all of these memories unfurled and I was able to tap in to who I was and where I am today and I’m feeling good about it.

Now it’s your turn to create some sort of time line and think about where you were and try to connect the dots to where you are today. You can even try it in the comments section below as a writing exercise. I will read them and would love to “see” your time line as well.

(images: tracy porter)

Posted in real talk on February 24, 2011

Lisa Stickley Is Keeping It Real

When I’m in London this spring I will do everything in my power to finally visit the Lisa Stickley shop. I’ve been to London a million times in my life but never stepped foot inside of her darling store and feel positively horrible about it. Why? What is my problem!? Don’t answer that. I clearly need to prioritize next time I’m in jolly old England and skip on over for a visit. It was just in The Independent a few days ago, did you catch the article and shop photos? If not, click here to read more.

I love the new bedding Lisa is working on, and that she’s in conversation with Anthropologie to collaborate with them on a line, and she’s working on a line for Hankyu in Japan, a collection of homewares at Debenhams and a new bedding collection at Heal’s (shown). Wow! Lisa is so talented and clearly very successful and though I’ve never met her my heart swells seeing a young woman who seems to have it all but is known for remaining down-to-earth and as real as they come amongst those in her field. I’ve noticed, even in my own blogging world, that even bloggers who grow in popularity can change and became a bit snobby or make it very obvious that they are top tier and everyone else is, well, everyone else. Let’s make it our personal vow to keep it real on the web.

This is prevalent in every industry I guess, the whole swollen head syndrome that occurs when fame sets in, and sometimes it saddens me when those I love get sucked in and I have to watch, powerless…  That is when I turn to examples of those who are super successful like Lisa Stickley who don’t let their inner fame monster take over. I also think of others in the design world who stay true to their roots. Shannon Fricke, Emily Chalmers, Debi Treloar, Selina Lake, Sania Pell, Geninne Zlatkis, Belinda Graham, Irene Hoofs, Leslie Shewring, Jo Packham (publisher of Where Women Create and Where Women Cook magazine), Leigh Standley, Amy Atlas… these ladies (and tons more, plus many guys) really INSPIRE me because they’re all hugely talented and successful and yet, you never once feel like they think they are better than you or more important in some way. I love these women, they are all stars in my eyes and I’ll always support them through thick and thin! I could list SO MANY more wonderful people but I usually just blog about them instead because promoting them on decor8 is my small way of thanking them for remaining true and special.

Whether in the corporate world or the indie lifestyle, or that space in between — some let the fame monster warp their perception of self and as a result, lose a clear sense of reality. My advice is to keep it real and remember how you got to wherever it is that you think you are today. Your readers, your friends, people who wrote up your work when some flat out rejected you, others who believed in you when you didn’t believe in yourself, friends who were there through it all, family members who held you through your growing pains… all of us who have found success in whatever it is owe so much to our fans and support teams – whoever those people may be. I guess that’s why the Lisa Stickley’s of the world impress me so much. They just do their thing and don’t allow themselves to become elevated as a result. It makes me want to support them all the more.


Do you have thoughts on what I’ve said above? I often wonder how you cope with your own success, or the success of others if you perhaps have noticed it affecting them for the worse? Do you say something? Avoid them? How do you handle all of this?

(images: lisa stickley)

Posted in bedroom, real talk on February 21, 2011

Decorating & Other Stuff

Hello friends, how was your weekend? Did you do anything fun? I had a great shopping weekend, I found some things for my new place simply by staying at home and shopping online — we got a lot of snow so it was the perfect plan of action! I’m dying to pull in all of the key foundation pieces so that I can start decorating, sewing, and crafting together my new apartment from there. I ordered a new sofa last month, but it won’t arrive until mid January, so until then I’m trying to pull things in piece-by-piece, as I bring together my crafty, eclectic, old-meets-new home. I will show you some of the pieces that I picked up over the weekend so you can get a sense of where I’m going with all of my decorating plans… To refresh your memory, my place looks like this: Click Here for my new apartment tour.

finds

What’s what: 1. Vintage chandelier won on the German eBay site. 2. Desk for my sewing machine “area” from Jantuma, 3. Vitra MedaPal chair in black/white purely purchased based on comfort, 4. Another vintage chandelier from eBay.de (I am only doing chandy’s in two rooms, the rest of the rooms will have mid century classic modern lighting in mostly white, 5. Muuto all wood desk light, 6. Chevron-patterned 240 x 170 cm jute/wool rug from Impressionen for my eating nook located in the hallway outside of the kitchen (I haven’t shown you photos of that space yet. 7. IKEA PS Sinka to organize things and 8. White table with birch trim from Danish brand HAY in the 250 x 92,5 cm size for my actual work desk – it will hold my iMac, MacBook and Epson color printer plus I can lay things out on it as I work.

My Dresser

Here’s a little glimpse into my everyday world, a polite corner of my dresser –  “as is” in my bedroom. Here you can clearly see my very organic, natural way of putting things together. Which is also why I don’t work on one room at a time but all of them together as part of this experimental composition of sorts. When I worked with clients in the past, I did the traditional room-by-room mood board. With my own home, I don’t bother. I do pull together mood boards but end up referring to them only as loose ideas as I improvise constantly since my budget is so strict. Plus, I believe that your most authentic creative expression is the best to use in your home. I also learned after styling all of those homes that you’ll soon see in my upcoming book — what you see in books and magazines is not an exact image of how people really live. I think writing the book and working in so many homes this past year made me much more aware of that fact than ever before.

It also helped me to feel more comfortable in my own decorating skin now that the smoke and mirrors have lifted. You become quite hazy when you live so much of your life online and with beautiful books and magazines surrounding you each day. You start to develop this fantasy that all homes look like the ones you see in print, or online, and that no one ever stains their white sofa, that the dog doesn’t occasionally pee on the patchwork rug and that your kid doesn’t run wild with markers on your newly applied wallpaper. It happens, it’s called life.

Living Room

Above is some artwork and handmade things on a bookcase in my living room. Nothing is arranged with skill, in fact none of the art is staying there — it will be hung in other rooms… but it’s pretty just the same, because reality can be just as fantastic as the dream.

I hope that through decor8 I can somehow help you to feel safer in your decorating skin, too. I try to keep it real around here and I have some projects brewing for next year that I can’t wait to share as I continue my journey forward into my 6th year of blogging. The more e-mags popping up, and lifestyle magazines, and cooking magazines… well they are all very beautiful and inspiring but it’s very easy to feel as though that is how we each must live to be happy and it is not. If anything, we should pull ideas from these beautiful resources that we have and apply them in our own unique way. That is exactly how I decorate, from the heart, not to impress or pretend to be more than I am. What you see with me in real life is what you get, and online it is no different.

In fact, everyone who has met me, and you can comment to verify this if you have in fact met me in person, realizes right away that I am the same warm, friendly and down-to-earth Holly offline as I am here online. I don’t play games, I don’t gossip, I’m not negative but I love to point out stuff that irks me but always in a funny way, and I’m encouraging. But I also am real, I have bad days, I get down at times about myself, I often fear things, I worry for instance that if I do have a book signing that no one will show up, stuff like that. I take great pride in the fact though that I’m the real deal. And so does my home – what you see is definitely what you get here! And I’m proud of it.

I was starting to get in a decorating rut, you may remember this post (CLICK HERE if not), but I realized that the rut was one I’d dug myself. I was putting too much pressure on myself to be perfect. I was listening more to others than to my own heart. I was worrying that if I didn’t create the perfect “decor8″ house that no one would take me seriously as a writer, a book author, a human being. How stupid and petty this all is when you have people dying all over the world from hunger, aids, and cancer to name a few. Children are being abducted. Bad stuff is going on worldwide yet I was hung up over how well I decorated my house? What a bunch of rubbish, how self-centered of me — and if you are a blog author and you worry about how you present your life online and get so caught up in it that family members get ignored, chores go undone, your stress level soars, or anything else negative is resulting from your own quest to please others and have some pretend amazing life then let me tell you it’s absolutely nuts and a waste of time to bother. Just be yourself, show your friends and readers your real life and be proud of it and own it.

But we’re all only human. An example of this: yesterday I won those two great chandeliers that you see above from eBay and one of my “anon” readers told me how kitschy and more-or-less terrible they were and how much I let her down because she relies on my style so much. Imagine being told that? But you know, I’m not calling anybody out or saying that it was wrong of them to hate my lighting. They have the right just as much as I have the right to like it. Thing is, when you put yourself out there like we bloggers do and share things from your heart, you often wonder why someone who doesn’t know you would put the energy into commenting that your ideas are bad or have let them down. Like so many women out there (can you relate?), I am a people-pleaser so it actually bothered me for 3 seconds that I let someone down.

That single comment made me think about the expectations others have of me and it made me realize that the most important expectations to meet are those that I have of myself, then those from family, friends, business colleagues, customers and so on. But the first person is you, you have to live up to your own expectations, meet your goals and even exceed a few, and just be happy. If you have taken good care of yourself you have automatically taken care of others. That is why people love to be around those who have their act together. It’s just the best feeling to be in the company of a really down-to-earth talented person who put themselves first in the most unselfish sense. And if people don’t like your lights, well whatever man. You’ve got to let stuff like that go. The most impressive people are people who try not to be impressive, right?

Truth is, the decorating rut I was in is over. I’ve climbed out, readjusted my approach and for 2011 (I’m making advanced resolutions, gang) and I’m going to decorate my home and have a heck of a time doing it.

I’m digressing big time. Today I just felt like talking. I hope you do as well, I wonder what I’ve said here that you’ve thought about recently, or that you never thought about before, that resulted in some of your own food-for-thought? If so, and you feel like sharing, please do.

So those are some updates from my little world here in northern Germany where it is so cold, but with all of the Glühwein stands sprinkled on so many corners around the city, you barely notice the temps. Your outsides are freezing but your insides feel real nice. And speaking of nice, did you know that Nichole and Even from Little Brown Pen are flying to Paris next month to sneak away with my husband Thorsten and I? Oh yes, we are. And I promise to share some of the shops we find, but also I’ll be attending for the first time Maison & Objet where I plan to meet up with Aphrochic who will be there, too. Can’t wait!

(images: linked to their sources above)

Posted in Decorating Tips, real talk on December 06, 2010

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