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Inspired By Creatives Living In Berlin

It’s no secret, Berlin is the creative capital of Germany. While Hannover may have just been voted the greenest city in the country with 20% being parks, forests and gardens (we have the largest natural city forest in all of Europe behind my house), Berlin definitely has earned its reputation as an international city where creatives work and play. It’s an inspiring place – gritty and pretty in some parts – eclectic, quirky, etc.  The cost of living is still relatively low compared to other cities in Europe, especially for the types of living spaces that you can rent in comparison to say, Hamburg, London or Copenhagen. It’s nice to be able to actually afford to live nicely while still pursuing creative interests and even starting your own business. Right!?

Freunde von Freunde

So many love Berlin for many reasons, but for me, I feel inspired when I’m there surrounding by its 180 museums, stores, quirky districts, flea markets, Turkish market, exhibitions, random art galleries sometimes hidden behind buildings, music fests, cheap eats… That is why in mid October I will co-host yet another creatives & bloggers meet up there in collaboration with some incredible people and sponsors so we can make it happen – inspire each other, share, learn and create a positive energy that will motivate all to leave with a good feeling of community and support. We need that. I’ll post more about the event as plans are confirmed.

Freunde von Freunde

Loved this video of Berlin-based fashion designer Esther Perbandt, her clothing is amazing and I like how she collaborates with others who inspire her to create her collections. See her workspace here.

Freunde von Freunde

Great room divider idea!

Freunde von Freunde

Fun, quirky table

If you are curious about Berlin and the types of people living there then you have to check out “online interview magazine” (or blog), Freunde von Freunde. I’ve talked about them before, but they have lots of new content and they are even taking their concept to London and Paris to spotlight creatives living in those cities as well. I was selfishly hoping we could keep FvF for ourselves in Germany, but that’s okay, their goal is to open eyes and share what’s happening all over Europe and so by creating new city spotlights on their site, they are able to reach more people. Good for them.

Freunde von Freunde

Freunde von Freunde

I must admit though, major cities get plenty of press when it comes to who is living in them and how they live and work — there is no shortage on the web of inspiring homes in Paris and London. Same goes for print publications as well. But most of the world isn’t really in the know when it comes to what Berlin is like, or even Germany and the creative indie scene here for that matter as in who lives there, the cost of living, what people do for fun, what people are creating and where. Before I started visiting in 1999, I had no idea what was going on in this part of the world when it came to design and art. With so many in this country working hard to make a name for themselves (and for their country), there has been a lot of change in the last decade so definitely visit FvF to tap into what is going on in Berlin — a fascinating, creative German city.

Freunde von Freunde

Freunde von Freunde

Freunde von Freunde

My hope though is that instead of focusing on London and Paris because those places get plenty of attention, that FvF will share the way people live and work all across Germany and German speaking countries — not just Berlin but in Hannover, Hamburg, Munich and over to Vienna, Zurich, etc. And of course, cities that don’t get so much “love” outside of Germany like random towns in Belgium or even parts of Poland. I mean hello, who wouldn’t love to see how creatives live and work in Warsaw with English text so the rest of us can learn? Sign me up. I’d love that. There are plenty of us with interesting lives who live in un-hip cities that may even be called boring cities — but we are still doing creative work so I’d love to see more diversity online and in print when it comes to showing how and where people live. But Berlin is a great start, and while it’s a massive city, it’s still underexposed to the rest of the world so I’m all for FvF and their mission in opening eyes to what’s happening there. Great stuff.

(images: FvF)

Posted in uncategorized on July 13, 2011

Happy Long Weekend!

I’d like to wish each and every reader out there, well friend really, a wonderful long weekend! I say long because in the U.S. it is our 4th of July holiday and though I live abroad I still keep very much to the holiday schedule back home so for me this means a long weekend. I’ll be back to blogging again on Tuesday, July 5th.

Have a nice weekend!

Have a nice weekend!

I wish you a lovely weekend – I’ll be playing around in my craft studio, decorating my work room, and taking some photographs for Dutch magazine 101 Woonideeën who will publish photos of my work room in an upcoming issue along with a four page interview about my life and book that one of their editors just had with me while I was visiting Amsterdam. I’m very excited to see how it comes out and I can’t wait to show you. A big thanks to Janneke Romijn for setting this interview up in the first place.

UPDATE: The Decorate Blog Book Tour is in full swing. Here is a list of all of the blogs my book has visited with this week and surprise, Chronicle is so generously giving away copies of the book so below you can find a list of all of the places online where you can win a copy RIGHT NOW by simply commenting and being a little bit lucky. You can enter on all of the blogs if you like to increase your chances, but you can only win once!

  • Oh Joy! - No giveaway but a lovely review from one of my favorite bloggers ever.
  • TomKat Studio – Giveaway and review right here – 232 entries so far!
  • Chronicle Books - Giveaway on their blog – 178 entries!
  • Plush Palette – No giveaway but a fab review from Rue’s own Crystal Gentilello.
  • Bloesem – Another favorite blogger giving away Decorate, thanks Irene so much! 166 entries so far!
  • Tulips & Flight Suits – A lovely, heartfelt review and a giveaway of the book – 21 entries so far!
  • Hooray - Another beautiful review and a chance to win Decorate – 23 entries so far! Go, go, go everyone, win some books!

Oh this makes me so happy, seeing all of these blogger collegues of mine on this book tour with me. Thank you Hooray and everyone for your participation this week!

See you on Tuesday!

(images: holly becker for decor8)

Posted in uncategorized on July 01, 2011

My Work In Mowie Kay Magazine

When food stylist, photographer and writer, Mowie Kay, showed up at my book launch at Liberty in London just to give me a hug and wish me well with my new book I knew that this was a guy that I wanted to work with someday. He was charming. And social. And I liked him. I just didn’t know how we’d ever cross paths again because we are in two completely different circles with me in interiors and him being an over-the-top foodie. Well, kismet has its way and after the party Mowie told me about his magazine idea and that he’d like to shoot me cooking in London and have me pull together an article featuring some of my favorite recipes. Gulp. Well…

My work in Mowie Kay Magazine

I was flattered, but I don’t cook a single meal that is so amazing that it deserves to be in print (!) and I’m completely fine with admitting it because I’m not a foodie and tend to admire the whole food craze from afar. I’m perfectly content to press forward with my often fusion style cooking as Julia Childs and Nigella feel simply unreachable to me. I love to eat out, once a week (sometimes more), at foodie types of places though along with those ethnic eateries that are complete hole-in-the-walls but have drop dead amazing meals. Tony Bourdain is my food idol and there is nothing styled up about what he eats. And I have a ton of cookbooks, though I am first to admit that I buy them for mostly their design and photographs though I have most recently experimented with the Ottolenghi cookbook gifted to me by Leslie. I read food blogs, but I don’t really read them, I scan to see the pretty photographs because I can’t imagine making the things that I see.

My work in Mowie Kay Magazine

I often feel like it’s a patience thing. But it’s also a free time thing. I don’t have hours to spend on meal planning, preparation, cooking and clean up each day and some of the meals I see would take an unskilled cook such as myself quite awhile to whip up, never mind to be photo worthy. Long story short, I’m not the perfect candidate to contribute to a beautiful foodie magazine! I don’t fit the profile, my piece of cake on a plate looks like a piece of cake on a plate, not artful or overly styled at all.

My work in Mowie Kay Magazine

My goal with food is to make it with love, from my heart, and then put it in surroundings that make it look so much more enticing. So I thought about Mowie’s offer and was tempted to kindly turn him down… But then I thought, “Hey, I love to style tabletops and I adore entertaining, and I do know how to create a good mood around food… So perhaps there’s my angle for a story in a food magazine”. And so, with shaky knees, I pitched to Mowie an alternate idea and since I know Mowie loves pink, I tried to make it as close to his aesthetic as possible without compromising my own. Ah, a story was born and he accepted my idea! You can find my story on pages 61-73!

My work in Mowie Kay Magazine

I spent a day prop shopping (mostly in my own china cabinet), making things by hand, ironing linens, and then I went to work during day two to pull it all together and photograph it and now it’s in Mowie Kay’s beautiful premiere issue on computers everywhere – click here to view the entire magazine and to read my story beginning on page 61. I also give lots of tips in my story on how to make a tabletop come alive on a budget and I’ve included a luncheon playlist on page 73. I hope that you enjoy it. The tabletop was definitely a spin off from the one Leslie, Sania and I did for Liberty in London – for my table at home, I was able to use stuff I had already and channel some of that Liberty inspiration into it as well.

My work in Mowie Kay Magazine

In the article, I mention my friend Anne Wendlandt (above on page 69), you can see more of her work on her blog since she’s not linked in the article (sorry, Anne).

My work in Mowie Kay Magazine

There’s even a nice page in the magazine where Mowie interviewed me (that was fun!) and he is giving away 3 copies of Decorate, thanks to my London-based publisher, Jacqui Small. If you would like to win a copy of Decorate just comment on his blog HERE and you’ll be entered to win one of 3 copies. :)

My work in Mowie Kay Magazine

Thank you Mowie for including me in your premiere issue and I wish you loads of success with your e-magazine!

(images: holly becker for mowie kay)

Posted in Books + Magazines, uncategorized on June 30, 2011

10 Ideas For Realistic Wallpapers

I’m not sure about how trendy this is in your part of the world, but realistic wallpaper seems to be a growing trend where I’m at so I thought I’d share a few with you and then give you 10 ideas as to what you can do with them if you decide to pick up a roll for your home. But first, what I mean by realistic wallpaper is wallpaper that looks like something but when you touch it, you realize that your eye was playing tricks on you! For instance, faux bois — these papers have many different looks and finishes along with wallpaper that looks like tile, leather, stone, concrete or brick. I’ll show you the wood varieties that I like, mostly the scrap wood variety, along with a few concrete versions and a tiled wall that isn’t really tiled at all. Surprise!

Wallpaper Trends

Photo: Frank Jensen for Piet Hein Eek

As I see these wallpapers emerging again and again in magazines and design shops and showing at fairs around Europe I am not sure exactly where I stand really. I find them oddly fascinating though because I remember a time when brick was coveted in Boston brownstones, everyone wanted a brick wall, but then the trend died and people opted to hide it by tossing up a wall. Same goes for concrete, everyone wanted a loft with concrete walls but then that trend sort of came and went. But now people want that tactile, earthy vibe in their home all over again. And though red brick walls didn’t come back in style, people are painting them white, gray or black and that seems to be a big trend now though once you paint brick, well, it’s impossible to change it back so make sure you are certain before slapping white paint on your brick walls if you happen to have them in your home.

Trends in interiors have started to lean towards casual, natural, relaxed, less fussy decorating than in times past when most US and UK magazines directed everyone towards a very proper looking, professionally designed, home. That changed in 2005 and continues to change as I type this. In my opinion, you always need guidelines in decorating, even loose ones, because even a home that appears to not have been fussed about, I can assure you, really was if it is beautiful and functional. Most people out there (not us bloggers and blog readers, we know the scoop) think rooms in books and magazines really look that in real life – in fact, I once thought that myself until I started working for magazines and now, having done a book on interiors myself, I can assure you that very few homes look exactly as they are shown in a photograph before the stylist and photographer showed up.

There is definitely an art in making a home look casual and non-fussed about, but it’s still work and talent and it’s still very much decorated because someone has to have a good eye to make it work. Basic design rules are followed to make that casual beauty shine regardless of how effortless it all appears. I think it’s freeing to know this because it’s easy to look at your own home with too critical of an eye as you wonder why you can’t toss a magazine on the arm of your sofa with a teacup on the side table and have it look effortlessly chic when you take a picture of it for your blog. Well, I’ll tell you why. The color of your sofa doesn’t complement the tea cup and the dainty tea cup doesn’t work with the modern lines of the table because the size is all wrong… and you forgot to put actual tea in the cup, so it looks staged, and the magazine on the arm needs to be looser, not so perfect, so fan out some of the pages… And the cushions need to be squished a bit, they look too crisp… See what I mean? There is a science behind it all, a sort of smoke and mirrors magic, and so those effortless looks that people try to promote as super attainable are attainable, sure, but are also done by skillful stylist who know how to make a room look effortlessly chic.

If you really want your home to look casual and chic, study images. Really STUDY them. Look at what is working in the photo. Count objects on shelves, normally you’ll find odd numbers vs. even ones. Notice on shelves how objects are not all lined up perfectly but often set at different levels to add dimension, some objects closer to the wall while others more towards the center of the shelf and a few near the edge. This could be a book in itself – there is so much practice and training involved. I suggest you clean off an entire bookcase, find a photo you love, and try to mimic how that bookcase was styled in your own home, piece by piece. It won’t look the same because you have different items and your books have different spine covers, but practice. Stand back. Pull away what doesn’t work. And most importantly, photograph it and look at it on your computer. See what doesn’t work – photographs reveal things your naked eye just can’t. This is why most interiors photographers and stylists shoot tethered these days – they can pick out the flaws in a photograph while styling it as they see it on the computer screen, not on the camera. We shot tethered for my book, it was the only way to get chair legs looking right and bed linens to appear smooth and inviting.

And so now back to this trend, to have rooms looking casually chic and absolutely amazing without any thought to decoration, floor plan or function. I’m all for it, I’m a very casual decorator myself. Though in reality, in your own home, it’s pretty hard to achieve without the house looking like a chaotic mess so don’t ditch the grid paper yet – sketch up floor plans, do mood boards, consider what you are doing to your room before you actually do it to avoid costly mistakes. And most of all, have fun and personalize as much as you can – paint furniture, line drawers with wallpaper, paint furniture legs in contrasting colors to surfaces, personalize and re-purpose as much as you can and definitely “shop” other rooms in your home, even storage rooms, for things that may work better elsewhere.

I imagine these wallpapers suit current trends in interiors because of how casual they appear — how effortless to have faux scrap wood on your walls vs. installing the real thing – I mean, this is anything but high end and fussy. And I like it, I think it’s cool and in the right home, can absolutely work. Faux surfaces are really hot at the moment if you aren’t lucky enough to have the real thing and this “realistic” wallpaper is definitely part of that faux movement. Check out some more photos and links below and see what your eye is attracted to (if any at all).

Wallpaper Trends


Shown above: Wall + Deco in Italy. I think these are my favorite two papers from the bunch shown in this post, though the neutral one from Studio Ditte is second runner up for me along with scrap wood from Piet Hein Eek.

Wallpaper Trends

Wallpaper Trends

Shown above: Faux Concrete Wall – Norway

Faux Bois Walls

Faux Bois Walls

Shown above: Studio Ditte in The Netherlands.

Wallpaper Trends

Wallpaper Trends

Wallpaper Trends

Shown above: Piet Hein Eek in The Netherlands (buy his scrapwood wallpaper collection here at Bodie & Fou.). I love these too, I saw them at DR Wonen in Amsterdam on Hartenstraat 27 over the weekend and really liked them in person, too. It’s a fun trend, I wouldn’t do an entire room but I can certainly see these working in a variety of settings used in different ways.

Now for some ideas for using “faux-paper” as I call what I’ve shown above. Put some thought into this, you may find some very clever ideas of your own!

1. Apply faux wood wallpaper to a slim piece of plywood and lean it against the wall as a room accent. You could even lean one on each side of the bed and mount a light to them, running the cord through the back. Or use one in a living room as a reading light. How cool would that be?

2. Use “wood” wallpaper and apply it to the back of a china cabinet so it peeks through your dishes.

3. Try the concrete papers as a backsplash in the kitchen behind the sink and stove, just beneath the cabinets and paint the rest of the kitchen in grey or black for an edgy, industrial vibe.

4. Take a simple wallpaper table or IKEA table and wallpaper the top of it in a concrete or scrap wood pattern, and apply a thin, durable sheet of glass to fit on top. Try this on a coffee table you no longer like, too.

5. Decoupage these papers onto furniture, stools, cabinets, doors.

6. Only use it “inside” of doorways, so paint a door bright yellow on both sides and then, inside of the door frame, paper it with scrap wood paper for an interesting contrast. I saw something like this in an amazing wallpaper ideas book years back by Derek Fagerstrom and Lauren Smith that I loved and never forgot it, only they used a patterned paper but I think a scrap wood paper would be the coolest to try!

7. Apply a chair rail to the walls in a bathroom and paper the bottom in scrap wood and paint the top a solid color, like a neutral scrap wood paper for the bottom and then paint the top above the chair rail in a mushroom color, for instance. Would look gorgeous in a bathroom with a big white clawfoot tub.

8. Apply your favorite fauxpaper to wood or something durable that will take the paper without it peeling up, and then apply it to the wall over the sofa as a piece of art.

9. OR you can apply it to a big piece of plywood, maybe something long and slim like the size of a full length mirror, and apply it to the wall (horizontal), and then on it put your artwork or favorite photos, framed, to create a cohesive and pretty display for art.

10. Wallpaper the ceiling and paint the walls a solid color – how pretty would that be to have scrap wood on the ceiling and neutral color walls with a gorgeous pendant light in the center, like the Moooi Paper Chandelier (my favorite light in the world).

Other sources not shown: Nobilis from France and faux wood wallpaper inspiration in the U.S., on Design Press.

Do you have any creative ideas of your own to share? How would you use scrap wood wallpaper, concrete paper, tile paper, etc.? Are realistic wallpapers hot or not?

(images linked to their sources above.)

Posted in uncategorized on June 30, 2011


Some of my books...

Further editions available: Decorate published by Murdoch Books for AU/NZ, Decorar BR, Alt om indretning DK, Inspirace pro váš byt CZ, Dekorácie SK, La décoration FR, Lust auf Wohnen DE, Sisusta tyylillä FI and Sztuka aranżacji wnętrz PL.


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