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Amsterdam Highlights

I promised on Friday that today I’d give you just a slice of what my vacation to Amsterdam was like last week. This post will be mostly visual but I’ll be sure to give you plenty of links so it’s easy to find what I’m talking about on the web. :)

This about sums up how our days began each morning – latte and a map!

First I’ll start with a few of the restaurants where we ate and then I’ll wrap this post up with some of the shops we hit. We stayed in the Jordaan district, so we mostly hit shops and restaurants there.



This is a chain in the Netherlands called Bagels & Beans. We went to one near the fashion district and a nice kitty came and sat with me while I had my breakfast. He was so cute, and he even has a stylish mustache. Eventually he fell asleep on my lap until a little dog came in and then he attacked it. It was quite a riot to be caught in the middle of a cat and dog fight in the middle of a cafe. In the states, animals are not allowed in eating establishments (against codes of hygiene I believe, though I think most people are not as clean as animals so what’s the point!?) but here in western Europe you see pets frequently just about everywhere you go. In Germany you don’t see as many cats, mostly dogs, but in Holland cats are everywhere. It’s so nice though it’s also very practical – cuts down on rodents!

If you want affordable, delicious Japanese-Thai food, Nooch is your place. The atmosphere is so nice and the staff is exceptionally friendly. The food is also very healthy. You have to try their pad thai and make sure to order fresh mint tea and don’t miss the mango ice cream for dessert.

Other great places to eat:
De Kroon: Order their monk fish. It’s lekker!
Lust: Great place to enjoy coffee or eat lunch or dinner.
Toussaint – We ate here twice we liked it so much. Once for lunch and another night for a romantic candlelight dinner. Such a great atmosphere and the food is heaven.
Foodware – Mostly a take-out shop but you can eat in too. Everything is homemade right there in their open kitchen. Great place.

Now for shopping…


Definitely don’t miss the Noordermarkt Flea Market on Saturdays or Monday mornings. I had a blast and even met an Etsy seller there called Accessorize Paradise where I purchased a hair clip that everyone seems to love (I wish she sold them in her Etsy store). I found a pretty print from a children’s story book from another dealer who told me she has a shop on Herenstraat called Antiquariaat Lont. Note: I’m not exactly sure what it’s called, but a block over from this flea market was a huge fabric flea market with brand new textiles including those from top design houses. I found lots of beautiful fabrics there (shown above).

Aside from the flea market, I really enjoyed these stores too…


Hema. They are in Germany and Belgium, but mostly in Holland with several locations in Amsterdam. So many cute affordable things from office supplies to candy, clothing, beauty products, everything! I love their attention to product packaging. I found their postcards so sweet, and I made sure to buy plenty of pens since I can never have to many cute pens.

These are tweezers, also from Hema. Yeah, tweezers. I couldn’t believe it either, such great packaging.

I loved this store, it’s called Het Grote Avontuur. I purchased some white plastic placemats there and a few gifts, I loved the overall vibe of the shop, all of their hand painted Russian goodies, and their lovely Dutch ‘folk’ items. What a fun shop, you have to put it on your list if you ever find yourself in Amsterdam. You can also shop them online, in English!

While you’re on Haarlemmerstraat you can walk to Papabubble, a fun candy store that I first heard about from Irene at Bloesem. It’s worth the visit! Some of the architecture on Haarlemmerstraat shown above, I really liked it!

Egg Mercantile on Leliegracht 6. I loved this shop, mostly because of the great conversation that I had with Joshua who is one of the owners. His partner, Steven, is also his business partner and they’ve done a fine job selecting the best home accessories and stationery for this lovely shop. Steven and Joshua are American, Joshua had lived in Boston before and also New York, San Francisco… and now Amsterdam where he seems to call home. This shop showcases wares from both North and South America and Europe and I just loved the vibe in there. I took the most photos of his shop because not only was he familiar with decor8 (so I felt comfortable asking permission to take photos), but he was so super friendly and warm. I kept thinking about how badly I wanted to share this shop experience with all of you, especially since I recognized nearly all of the work there… I kept thinking how some of you will read this blog, see these photos, and say, “Hey that’s my stuff!”.

This is me chatting with fabulous Joshua.

Do you see the wonderful Elizabeth Soule photography far right?

Love the fancy trays from iBride on the wall…

See the handmade dolls on the fireplace mantle? They are from Heather Louise (website and etsy shop) and are absolutely wonderful in person. Her Marie Antoinette dolls are my favorites.

Do you see the Cardboard Safari head on the left wall? No animals were hurt!

I love these ceramic pieces by Lola Goldstein, don’t you? You can buy them online here.

Here’s some of my loot from Egg Mercantile. I was pleased to see lots of cards and notebooks by Camilla Engman.

Subrosa (Rozengracht 49-E) is another shop I liked, lots of tin and silver and tons of ethnic influence here. I picked up some jars and a colorful string of lights with tiny Chinese paper lanterns. It’s right down the street from my next favorite store for all things kitchen called…

Kitsch Kitchen (Rozengracht 8-11). And kitsch it was, two floors of wild and crazy colors and patterns. Wow. Great, affordable and fun. Kitsch Kitchen has tons of locations in Europe and even one in Southern California but none here in Germany. I hope they change this someday and bring Kitsch Kitchen to us here in northern Germany. It’s totally great.

I really liked Shirdak, it was like roaming the pages of my favorite magazine Selvedge. If you read Selvedge, you know it deals with textiles and the history of fabrics from all over the world. Shirdak had a collection of some of the most gorgeous things ever, it was like a museum of beautifully crafted rugs, throws, bedspreads, even slippers and bags.

Here are some other shops I hit (but did not photograph):
Jan (Utrechtsestraat 74)
Sissy Boy (clothing, some home stuff.)
V&D (for clothes)
Fame (for 5-Euro CDs and DVDs, all brand new. Amazing store, I purchased about 15 CDs and a Japanese DVD I’ve been wanting to see called The Cat Returns, a Hiroyuki Morita animated film.)
H&M: I think there was one on every corner downtown. It was H&M heaven.
Zara and Zara Home
Noa Noa (clothing)
… And a slew of other miscellaneous shops in the Jordaan district that I didn’t write down but lots of fun!

Shopping Note: I had planned to spend the entire morning and half of the afternoon on Monday going to my favorite design shops. I was so amazingly excited, I could hardly wait all weekend. On Monday, we headed over to Pol’s Potten, Droog, Keet in Huis, and Frozen Fountain only to realize that they were closed. :( I couldn’t believe it. Shops are closed in Amsterdam on Mondays for the most part, except for large department stores and a few ‘select’ shops, but even they don’t open until around 1pm. I was absolutely heartbroken. Oh well. Please don’t make the mistake that I did!

And to close, here are a few random inspirations from the city.

The ultimate of posh: A mini cooper to match one big, gorgeous townhouse.

A little bird peeped a chipper goodbye as we headed towards the train station, 4 hours on a ‘slow’ train (but first class) to Germany was really nice and relaxing. Rolling hills, farmland, clear sunny skies…

That sums up my mini break to Amsterdam. Hope you enjoyed my highlights from this lovely city today. And a special thanks to all the ladies who met me at the meet and greet, you each made my visit to Amsterdam SO MUCH better than I had imagined.

(images mostly taken by my husband Thorsten Becker, others by yours truly)

Posted in Shop Tours, shopping, travel on September 15, 2008

Meet Milchmaedchen Design

Happy September everyone! I promised on Friday when I wrote about My Hamburg Trip that I’d show you a store that I particularly enjoyed there called Milchmaedchen. This pretty shop is owned by Irina Hultzsch, who moved to Hamburg one year ago and opened Milchmaedchen in November 2007. Previously she had her atelier/gallery in Munich. Irina is an architect with five years of working experience including a few months focusing on interiors in NYC. Her Hamburg shop features the work of independent artists based mostly in Europe and America like The Black Apple, Lisa Stickley, Katrin Mueller bears, feinedinge (I purchased these), The O Dor (lovely tea from France in beautiful tins) and some of her own designs featuring Milk Maid illustrations stitched onto felt wallets and cotton bags.

When I asked her why she opened a shop she said, “The impulse was to create a platform for young designers and artists who are working in ateliers hidden from their potential customers. I have been traveling a lot – so while discovering new cities there’s always a chance to get in contact with creative people.” Irina also told me that Milchm?dchen Design (the shop) is the connector in real life in addition to the possibilities of the internet (for instance her website and blog).







Speaking of connecting people via the web, if you are interested in contacting Irina to potentially offer your products in her Hamburg shop, you may contact her via email at shop(at)milchmaedchen-design.de. She requests that if you would like to sell your products there you should enclose some photos and tell her about your work and professional background. Don’t forget to include your website or blog if you have one.






Travel Tip: Like many of us, Irina is a foodie and has some dining out suggestions in case you’d like to visit Hamburg in the near future. She’s a fan of Bistrot Vienna (delicious and cozy) on. Fettstr. 2, Rocco (Trattoria, great Italian food) located at Wohlwillstr. 29, and An Khang (Vietnamese Restaurant) at Hoheluftchaussee 86 (sorry no website).

Hope you enjoyed visiting this lovely shop today! Thank you Irina for having me!

(photographs taken by Holly Becker for decor8)

Posted in Arts + Crafts, Shop Tours, travel on September 02, 2008

Lucky Shops

Obviously I’m a girl who loves a good retail experience. I mean, just look at this roundup of shops both domestic and international. It’s a bit obsessive I know. I think that as much as I love the online world, walking into a beautifully arranged store can be a tad bit more satisfying than the virtual shopping experience. This sounds funny coming out of my mouth as 80% of everything I purchase now is online and I author a blog with most items I write about being solely available on the web. I must admit that I find online shopping more convenient though (for the most part) and usually I find fun perks like discounts or free shipping. I’m divided on this one. I love my retail shopping trips but online stores have a lot to offer a girl like me who isn’t based in the heart of a big city.

Ooga Booga in LA.

What about you? Do you shop online more than in-store or vice versa (or equally)? What are the benefits of each?

Have you noticed the City Guide section over on the Lucky magazine website? It’s brilliant. My shops section once lived in the right column of this blog and was called City Guide too. Now it’s called Shops and is located directly above this post (yellow tab). I love how Lucky editors hand pick stores from all over the world (mostly fashion and accessories – no home decor but still) and feature a boutique of the week complete with a photo of the owner.

I’ve dreamed of doing this for decor8 when it comes to home design and gift boutiques and I have store tours on the blog from time to time… It would be wonderful to somehow make this a regular feature here but I’m still trying to figure out how and if shops would participate. I’ve had store tours on decor8 since February 2006 but I’d like to step it up a notch and turn it into a more regular feature.

As a reader, are you interested in this?

Especially now since the economy here has taken a hit and people are shopping less frequently, I want to help these shops ride the tide through this period until things change. I’m seeing more and more little stores closing up shop, on the web and in local towns, and it saddens me because not only is the dream of one little store owner over, but what about all those who once had products there? While I’m not encouraging debt or shopping for the sake of buying, I am encouraging everyone to consider how they are spending their money and if quality can start to replace quantity a little more often… Buy one item that you really love for $50 from a small boutique instead of 5 items for $10 each that you merely like from a major retailer. Less stuff, more of what you love, that’s the way to go in this economy but really it’s a good rule of thumb to follow no matter how strong (or not) the local economy is. Wouldn’t you rather have a few good friends than ten that you can’t depend on? Same goes when you shop. And of course, inexpensive things can be of good quality, just because something expensive has a shocking price tag does not make it better. I have a table lamp that I spent $375 on. I also have one that I spent $100 on and another I won on eBay for $30. Do you know that the best of three lamps in terms of quality is the $30 one? The pricey version looks pretty but that’s about it, I’ve already had problems with the socket cup and the harp snapped off!

When it comes to stores, I’d love a photo of the owner, a mini interview, and of course photos of their boutique so we can see all of the goodness. Of course, they’d need to have a website. And I’d like to take it a layer deeper and get insider’s tips on display ideas, how items are sourced, and why the business was started in the first place.

Maeve Riley boutique in San Diego.

So I’m putting the idea out there to see if any store owners are reading and if so, would you like to be featured here on decor8? I can develop a special section dedicated to shop owners that would look somewhat like how I’ve organized Faves. Below each image I’d list the shop name and city.

If you are a shop owner and are interested in participating, please contact me using this form. Depending on how many submissions I get and of course, the quality of the images sent, I may try to run one at least once every few weeks. Image quality is the most important to me and of course, the store needs to carry items for the home and/or gifts (no kids, fashion, art galleries, jewelry). So if you’d like to share your shop, no matter where you are located in the word, click here and tell me more. Those who have brick and mortar locations who are also online are preferred but those without will still be considered.

Readers: To view past store tours featured on decor8 click here.

If you have a moment today please visit the Lucky City Guides for a wonderful fashion fix and don’t miss their Boutique of the Week. Great stuff over there.

(images from lucky magazine)

Posted in Shop Tours, shopping, small business on August 01, 2008

Cabin Fever {Salem, MA}

I recently came across a new local shop called Cabin Fever and talked to owner Roberta O?Connor who sells mid-century modern furniture and accessories just north of Boston in her historic Salem, MA. She sent over a mini store tour for us since her website is still under construction (it currently only lists general information).


What makes Cabin Fever so unique? All of their vintage furniture is imported from Brazil! Now there’s a twist for ya! Why Brazil? O?Connor loves the Jacaranda Rosewood and Honey Caviuna woods and hand selects each piece for Cabin Fever. As a native of Brazil, her appreciation for rich, tropical wood runs deep and she thinks that it only enhances the beauty of mid-century lines and that because Americans are just starting to discover the wealth of Brazilian furniture and architecture from the 50?s and 60?s that Cabin Fever is the perfect place to showcase some of it.

Brazilian designers like Sergio Rodrigues, Giuseppe Scapinelli, Novo Rumo and Branco e Preto are all represented in the collection. “These designers are starting to gain renown in the United States, just as Eames, Saarinen and Jacobsen have represented mid-century modern design,? O?Connor says.


In addition to Brazilian finds, Cabin Fever also carries DwellStudio, Jonathan Adler, Perch, Thomaspaul, and Publique Living to name a few. Local artists will also have a chance to sell their wares as handmade prints and accessories will soon be offered.

Congratulations on your new store, Roberta! And Boston locals — Why not take a trip up to Salem this weekend?

(images from cabin fever)

Posted in Shop Tours, shopping, travel on July 11, 2008

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