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Travel Notes from Paris, Trusting + Slow Living

Hello dear friends! I’m happy to be back on decor8 today because I’ve missed you very much this week. I love working on projects outside of my blog but I always find myself missing the exercise of blogging daily and connecting with all of you. The consistency energizes me – it’s like I’ve pulled the plug whenever I walk away from my blog for more than a day or two and it bothers me so much. Much of this has to do with being so regular as a blogger for so many years, it’s like a good eating or exercise program — once you stray you just don’t feel as good, do you? Blogging is such a creative endeavor but also makes me feel better emotionally. I can pour out my passions and in return, you share with me, and this symbiosis keeps me going.

Notes from Paris

Today I thought that since I’ve been working in Paris this week that you may enjoy some of my inspirations from the road consisting of mini travel notes and little snaps that I took on my iPhone along the way. I am back home now, but leave again tomorrow morning to work in London so I’ll be there blogging as well… but mostly working along with some shopping and girl time with the very dear Sania Pell. For now, let’s talk about Paris though…

While there, we shot four locations and I was able to meet some very creative people who had spaces that reflected their rich inner world. I spent time with photographer Debi Treloar and book publisher Jacqui Small and we had such a nice time. It’s always such a pleasure to be with them but also to meet homeowners and have a chat about their space and inspirations but more than that, to become completely immersed in their world playing with their things and setting up the shots – it’s very creative hands-on work and I find a lot of pleasure in it. I cannot reveal the homeowners just yet but I can reveal little notes along the way which I will below. All of these thoughts will carry with me for years to come and I thought to record them here publicly may be nice as I won’t be writing these into my book.

Notes from Paris

I notice, no matter where we shoot, that every home has it’s own scent – mostly good! In one location I fell in love with the most wonderful candle by Christian Dior called 30 Montaigne. The scent was in every room and was quite warm and masculine, spicy, calming and exotic. I think this scent would be perfect at a home party with great cocktails, good music and 30 Montaigne burning in a nearby room. Funny enough, as I thought about how great his flat would be for a party, I discovered his wonderful little DJ nook tucked away in a hidden corner with tons of great music and that he had a disco ball laying nearby so I think my instinct was on target. This guy can throw down when it comes to doing a great home party. All of these things came from a scented candle but it’s true, the way a home smells can be so closely tied to what the homeowner loves or loves to do most at home. His Parisian flat had the best light by day, the natural light was so pretty streaming through the vintage glass windows.

I also spotted and sampled a room fragrance spray in another home that we photographed, this one was by Diptyque called Feu de Bois which smelled exactly like burning firewood. It was remarkable and is now on my wishlist. In that home, which had a lot of texture and was very, very French I think the scent matched perfectly to the interior.

Notes from Paris

While in Paris we had lunch at Merci with American stylist and editor James Leland Day whom I’ve long admired (some of his work is shown below). I had heard that he lived in Paris so I looked him up and I’m so glad that I did. We had a nice time chatting over lunch.

Notes from Paris

While at Merci I was able to see new installations for Spring going in but was too busy to walk around the store so I missed the whole retail experience of being there – I didn’t even see the interiors floor (shame!). The dresses that were being installed in the main entry were stunning though and made from tissue paper, can you see them below? So lovely! Also at Merci I had to snap a photo of their famous book cafe and a random pic of the floor in their ladies fashion section. I know it’s an odd photo but I love the mix of pastels with copper at the moment and this smattering of paint on the floor was so random and beautiful that I had to snap it. The shoes are cute too.

Notes from Paris

If you’d like to see a full tour of Merci as shown on decor8 previously shot by Australian photographer Jillian Leiboff, please click here.

In Paris I had breakfast with French stylist and author Emilie Griottes, a lovely lady who is barely 30 years old and has already authored two cookbooks, styled some craft books and she produces a gorgeous blog. She just started styling and taking photographs one year ago and already has so much solid work to show for it. It’s unbelievable really, but so inspiring and encouraging. This is her immediately after we had breakfast shown below. She was a cheerful and enthusiastic as she looks – I really enjoyed our time together. She will be a columnist on decor8 beginning in March, too! I’m very honored to have her on board, here are the details in case you missed my earlier announcement.

Notes from Paris

Another friend that I was able to see again in Paris was Nichole Robertson from Little Brown Pen. We’ve hung out before – the first time we met was when she visited me in New Hampshire at my home in 2009 and then the following year I saw her in New York City working on Decorate, then last year she came to visit me while I was signing my book at Anthropologie in SoHo and later that night, we all got together for drinks and eats. This time around, I got to see her in Paris which seemed so appropriate as she is about to see the release of her first book, Paris in Color, also published by Chronicle Books (my publisher in the US as well). We shared an evening of food, wine and a stroll around Rue Montorgueil then over to the Notre Dame Cathedral to snap photos and enjoy some girl talk. Nichole is refreshingly honest and positive while still being realistic with both feet firmly planted on the group. She’s whip smart, funny and truly an inspirational modern mom and woman in general. I admire what she has done to grow her business online.

Notes from Paris

Now back to some notes from the locations. In one home I found the word TRUST on a window in small lucite letters. I love understated things in a home like this that are random but meaningful. Seeing that word daily must be a great reminder — to just TRUST things in life – trust others, trust the process, trust your vision, trust your faith, trust that things will work out, trust that if they don’t that it may have been for a good reason, just TRUST. As I was working in Paris and putting together ideas for my next book, the message of TRUST displayed on the window rang very loudly when I saw it. I spotted it immediately following a moment when I was starting not to trust. Let me explain… I was there working quietly while Debi and Jacqui were chatting in the adjacent room and while they were talking, I blocked out their conversation to have a bit of a think. You know those moments when you go inward and just sort through ideas and feelings? That was what I was doing. I was processing stuff. I had this feeling wash over me as I was doing it that felt very unsure. Suddenly, something invisible seemed to direct me over to the window to look out upon the beautiful homes across the street. As I approached the window to think further, I suddenly saw these letters stuck to it spelling out TRUST and felt this amazing calm wash over me combined with a renewed confidence in myself. It was as if this message had been delivered on a swirling, sparkling breeze carried in from a faraway land, meant entirely for me at the very moment when I needed to be reminded to TRUST the most. As I looked at it feeling almost shocked by it, I imagined that it may have been carried upon the air falling upon that window only seconds earlier, quickly arranging themselves to say what they needed to say and viola! TRUST was the message. I needed that reassuring message so badly at that moment. Perhaps I heard them gently land (tap, tap, tappity tap tap) which is why I looked over to the window in the first place? I often have these magical thoughts as I go about my day and wonder  if they are just whimsical, imaginative ways in which I cope with very real adult problems or if some of these magical things really do happen and that the world isn’t so boring after all with things always needing to make sense and be practical.

Notes from Paris

After spotting TRUST, later that same day I came upon another word in the same home – SLOW. When I saw it, white blown glass that was once part of a sign, I took it from the pile of artwork it was placed upon and brought it in the living room to style it into a shot as I was trying to communicate a message through the arrangement of things I was putting together. In the book you will see how I used this word SLOW and perhaps you will remember this little story as to why I worked it into the shot. After seeing the word TRUST, I was fiddling around moving things and thinking about how I needed to trust my gut more and to stick to my vision and to really OWN certain things in my life because every human being, no matter how confident or successful, has doubts. And as I was fiddling about, I found SLOW laying around and thought of the messages that were being sent to me that day and perhaps SLOW was really important somehow and so then I started to consider why this word was important, what did it mean to me? What was it trying to teach me? I instantly remembered the story of the tortoise and the hare and how the slow win the race. In the world of interiors people can be so nice but also so competitive, often at any cost, and the same is true in any “world” really… whether it be blogging, decorating, crafts, the film industry… you name it, competition just exists. I view most of it as a very good thing because it drives the talented forward and pushes the creative out of their comfort zone so progress and movement can be made within the field.  Things would quickly stagnant without a healthy dose of competition, right? However, often this race to be on top or stay fresh can also be a monkey on your back. We naturally need to evolve without always feeling pushed to do so. Often periods of hibernation can give birth to evolution and a creative soul may find enormous bursts of fresh ideas and a renewed, contagious enthusiasm during those slow moments.

While considering all of this, I also thought about the Slow Living movement. Have you heard of this way of thinking before? Here is the definition according to Wikipedia,

Slow Living is the choice to live consciously with the goal of enhancing personal, community and environmental well being. Slow Living recognizes the role that time plays in shaping the quality of our lives. By slowing down we make time to savor our experiences and to connect more fully with others. The process of slowing down involves simplifying our lives and minimizing distractions so that we have more time and more energy to focus on what is meaningful and fulfilling. By consciously choosing to do less, we contribute to reducing some of the negative social and environmental impacts of our actions.”

In my opinion, those who don’t take a creative time out risk watering down their ideas or worse, start imitating what they see versus what is coming from deep down inside. I think SLOW applied to me as I was working in Paris because I’m on very strict deadlines at the moment to finish my book  and things are feeling very, very fast. The idea that perhaps thinking too quickly and being too spontaneous may not be best, that to slow down at night and on the weekends immersing myself in activities that I love so that I can pour all of that good stuff into my project is better. I don’t need to think about my book 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’m hoping the message of SLOW will allow me to savor the experience of pulling my book together in the first place. The journey is as meaningful as the destination, often more-so upon completion. While I’ll still deliver on deadline, perhaps my SLOW approach as well as the message of TRUST, when combined, will make for a nice second book and an enhanced experience of creating. I guess we shall see.

I wonder how you can apply TRUST and SLOW to your life somehow? Perhaps you can take a moment to consider this and how these words, if applied to something in your life, could add value somehow… Maybe a way of thinking about something, the way of doing or being or believing… perhaps SLOW or TRUST can carry over as meaningful to you today as though they were carried by a soft breeze landing upon your computer screen to give you a little message, too.

So those are some notes from Paris. Perhaps not the typical notes – I saw the Eiffel Tower! I shopped at the best stores! I ate tons of macaroons! No, not the typical travel notes I’m sure but they are mine and I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading them. Through the ramblings of others we often find pieces of ourselves along the way…

xo, Holly

Posted in Travel on February 24, 2012

Amsterdam + Highlights From My Next Book

Hello everyone! I’ve been missing in action, I know, but I had such a great week and wanted to share some highlights with you in case you will be visiting Amsterdam soon. I am working with Debi Treloar on my next book, so we have been in The Hague and Amsterdam the past few days on shoots and have had a great time. A snowstorm left me stranded in a town called Haarlem tonight but I found a HEMA around the corner from my hotel so I’m all smiles because I can hit it tomorrow before heading back home to Germany. :) There is a silver lining inside of every cloud so they say, right?

Amsterdam Highlights

Never tire of the homes along the canals…

Amsterdam Highlights

A little highlight from my next book…

Amsterdam Highlights

Spotted my current obsession in Sukha.

Amsterdam Highlights

Loved everything in this shop called Restored. I highly suggest shopping here!

Amsterdam Highlights

Amsterdam Highlights

Amsterdam Highlights

Our shoots have been so much fun and I’m really loving all of the photos we’re producing together for the new book. While in Amsterdam I also got to spend a day with my friend, stylist extraordinaire, Stephanie Rammeloo and we she took me to some great shops (listed at the bottom) and to an amazing community dining experience that I absolutely loved at an Italian deli and kitchen called il Mattarello owned by an amazing guy and his wife and business partner. He cooked for us and then sat down and ate at our table. The entire experience was so inspirational. I got to meet a TV presenter from the Netherlands who also is a journalist writing about food, Stephanie’s business partner and friend, and a bunch of other very nice people that I would have never met if I didn’t try out this dining experience. If you are ever in Amsterdam you have to sign up for one of their private dinners – it’s the best thing! The address is on the bottom of this post.

Amsterdam Highlights

Debi at work on our book… She’s brilliant and a joy to work with. I’m so honored to be working with her again, we’ll go to Paris next and then London and the countryside there, followed by NYC in March and then she’ll come over to Germany to shoot my house for the book as well. How neat is that!? I’m pretty excited about it.

AMSTERDAM SUGGESTIONS from this trip from me to you:


  • Il Mattarello, Dinner “Theme” Nights, [email protected], Westerstraat 77, 1015LW Amsterdam
  • Bar Moustache, amazing food and always call for a reservation, the steak was amazing, Utrechtsestraat 141, 1017 VM Amsterdam


  • Athenaeum Boekhandel, Awesome international magazine shop where I got the latest copies of UPPERCASE magazine, Flow and Donna Hay.  Spui 14-16, 1012XA Amsterdam
  • Options! is an amazing store, especially if you love a Danish-meets-Dutch-marries-Japanese experience. I couldn’t leave this place without dropping some cash. I was particularly inspired by their pastels combined with neon colors with splashes of metallic bronze. It was a gorgeous color palette that I can’t stop thinking about. Damrak 49, 1012 Amsterdam.
  • Restored is another great store you can’t miss. Loaded with local and international independently designed and handmade merchandise. I loved the jewelry there from jonghlabel, copper lighting by David Derksen, necklaces from Fleur Goedendorp, necklaces and bags from Halona, Maartje Van den Noort fabric pendants and quilts and Mae Engelgeer blankets in bold neons. Haarlemmerdijk 39, 1013 KA Amsterdam.
  • Sukha – What a great “green” shop! I loved this place, I didn’t want to leave. It’s retail heaven with lots of fashion and things for the home combined. What a gorgeously curated shop! It’s near Restored so you can visit them both easily. Haarlemmerstraat 110, 1013 EW Amsterdam.

At the magazine kiosk grab these Dutch magazines:

  • Flow – Creative, craft, lovely.
  • vtwonen – Gorgeous interiors and trends, best mag ever.
  • 101 Woonideeen (I’m in this month’s issue!). – DIY and decorating
  • Delicious – Gorgeous foodie mag.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be back for a full week of blogging beginning on Monday. Loads of love to you! xo

(images: holly becker for decor8)

Posted in Books + Magazines, Travel on February 03, 2012

The Homes of Freunde von Freunden

Isn’t it inspiring to see how people live in other parts of the world? If you hop on the train near my house and travel for 90 minutes just east from here you will be in Berlin and I’ve said it a million times already but that city is nothing short of inspiring. The many apartments and homes there blow my mind too because the old buildings ooze with character because all of the original details that make me so happy from ceramic-tiled stoves to herringbone wooden floors and original ceiling medallions (not the plastic press and stick kind!) are delightfully intact.

The Homes of Freunde von Freunden

I first introduced you to interiors blog/website Freunde von Freunden when they launched but they’ve since published a book based on their site that I flipped through in their cafe and thought it was nice and definitely a great way to give the creative community in Berlin a platform to show how they live, work and decorate there. Love it! I visit Fvf a few times a month for inspiration and comb their wonderful stories and videos for inspiration yet I always find myself back on their Berlin-based properties which are cleverly cool though admittedly mismatched, wonky, undecorated, edgy, unedited, yet still super appealing, charming and a delight to behold. Berlin style is very laid back, lived-in and personal and I find that alone incredibly inspiring.

The Homes of Freunde von Freunden

The Homes of Freunde von Freunden

The Homes of Freunde von Freunden

The Homes of Freunde von Freunden

The Homes of Freunde von Freunden

The Homes of Freunde von Freunden

Fvf has recently expanded their views outside of Berlin to include studios and homes in places like New York City and London. I selfishly hoped they’d venture further to explore places like Poland, Czech Republic, Croatia, Turkey, Russia and even more German cities but it doesn’t look as though I’ll get my wish anytime soon as the more popular locations (London, NY)  seem to be calling their creative hearts.

I believe strongly though that whoever starts venturing into the lesser-known spots (not just the recognizable design meccas – too easy!) to find inspiration and shoot homes that they could OWN a completely uncharted market — especially in cities that you barely see in glossy mags and books. It takes risk and courage but I’d love to see someone do something that hasn’t been done yet. Most publications here and especially in the UK and US simply don’t have the budget to run to Warsaw for a shoot so I wonder why Fvf doesn’t just jump in and go for it? They have a wonderful platform for this and are evidently very creative and not geographically challenged at all – Berlin is only a trade ride away from the often unexplored east. If I had a crew of people and the budget for it, I’d do an entire book centered on creatives living and working in cities like Moscow, Budapest, Bucharest, Warsaw, Prague and yes, Berlin (of course). Just a few thoughts…

Homes shown in this post are from Magnus Reed in Berlin-Schöneberg, Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel in Berlin-Mitte and Silke Neumann in Berlin-Moabit. Such beautiful light-filled spaces and gorgeous classical details!

(images: Fvf)

Posted in Books + Magazines, Decorating Tips, Travel on January 20, 2012

Strolling Through Berlin (Mitte)

You may enjoy some peeks around Berlin that I shared with illustrator Sandra Juto while we were out and about on Saturday in Berlin (Mitte). It was such an inspiring day, Sandra fills me up where sometimes people can only take, she is such a giving person… Thank you Sandra for being a total rock star!

Berlin Travel Diary

I laugh so much with Sandra and for me, this is what I need when I’m away from my desk because I often get so caught up in only talking about design, decorating, blogging with my friends that there is never any down time for me to just “be” the crazy, playful and very silly Holly that I have been since I was a child. I don’t always want to be the leader, the teacher or the business idea generator. I love to follow, to share, to fade into the back of a room with a glass of wine surrounded by good friends crammed together on a sofa. We can often get so consumed with our projects that they take over our entire existence, have you noticed that with your own life and business? Especially as creatives, and for me as an American, business is sometimes all I think about. I learn with my German and Scandinavian friends over here that the topic of conversation is so much different when out socially than what I’m used to – we barely speak about business and when we do, it’s for a few minutes and then we move on to other topics. My goal for the new year, and yes I’ve already started to set them, is to think and talk less about business in social settings and to spend it instead on being more mindful, joyful and playful. I want to clear my head to make space for new things to flow in. That way, when I am back at my work desk, I can work with more passion and more efficiently. Sounds like a plan, man.

Berlin Travel Diary

A few days in Berlin with my dear friends and students and I already feel revived and ready to take on all of my projects and this is a very good thing. I even went to the spa in my hotel for some relaxing treatments and as I looked out from my massage table to the glimmering Berlin TV tower, which reminds me of a huge disco ball, I felt nothing but total bliss. And that evening, when my friends and I opened a bottle of Sekt and shared it on the roof terrace of my hotel overlooking the city, I felt so grateful for all that I have in life and all that this blog and my presence online in general, has brought to me.

Now back to the point of this post! Would you like to see what Sandra and I saw while out on Saturday? I’ll also link below to some places that we ate at and shopped so if you are in Berlin sometime soon, you can visit them too. All of these places are in the same neighborhood called “Mitte”, so you can easily visit them all in within a single afternoon.

Berlin Travel Diary

Berlin Travel Diary

Berlin Travel Diary

Berlin Travel Diary

Berlin Travel Diary

Berlin Travel Diary


Places I Visited:

R.S.V.P. – Stationery shop, very sweet and organized. Lots of great washi tapes, too.

Marron – Great interiors shop, many things from Donna Wilson whom I love and furniture from companies like HAY. The overall style is very Danish.

The Barn – For coffee and pastries. Loved the decor in this cafe with the deep grays and rustic woods. So calm. Delicious cafe latte.

Do You Read Me? – A delightful magazine shop and some design books too. I bought the new Milk Deco, and interiors book from France made by the same people who publish the gorgeous Milk magazine. I’ll show you some peeks on decor8 later today.

Monsieur Voung – Delicious Vietnamese food, great prices, lovely atmosphere. I had the glass noodle salad with chicken and it was light and fresh.

Cafe Fleury – We ate brunch here on Saturday, charming little French cafe with great breakfast. I’ll definitely return again + again.

Barcomi’s Cafe & Deli – Delicious cakes and cookies – we split carrot cake, had it packed into two little bags, and walked around eating and exploring. It’s delicious and was the first “American” style carrot cake I’ve eaten here in the past few years so for me, it was a real treat.

No More Sleep – A small and very cozy coffee bar owned by Frederik Frede who is the founder of Freunde von Freunden and they’ve now printed their blog as a book and I saw it in his cafe and it looks great inside, very happy for them all! It’s near to R.S.V.P. so you can grab some Japanese washi tape and then go over for a coffee! :)

Pizzeria I Due Forni – Best pizza in town, it reminded me of the pizza napoletana my friend used to make… With the amazing flat delicious crust and really good house red wine served in no frills glasses – loved how relaxed and loud this place was – lots of energy!


Cupcake Berlin – 100% American style cupcakes – the baker is American so it’s a pleasure to go to Berlin just for a little comfort food fix. Note: They catered my book launch at the Soho House a few weeks ago and they also catered an event that I had with DaWanda in 2008… Everyone loves Cupcake Berlin!

Green Tea Café MAMECHA – Such a sweet interior and the menu items looked delightful. (Note: I didn’t eat there, only peeked in from the street).

Dudu – For sushi, recommended to me by a reader, though I didn’t go in. Everyone told me though that it’s great.

That’s all I can think of for now… Berlin is a big “foodie” and cafe place. There are also tons of places to buy clothing and shoes. I didn’t see a lot of interior design stores though, I found more in Hamburg, but maybe I wasn’t in the right neighborhood.

I had such a fun time in Berlin thanks to my friends and will return again when I can! A special thank you Sandra, Johan and Lutz for making my visit memorable and fun!

(images: holly becker)

Posted in Travel, uncategorized on November 28, 2011


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