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Earn Money Without Guilt

Let’s talk about another trend in blogging – or at least a trend I want to see very soon – Earn Money Without Guilt! Oh and remember, if you’ve missed the first two posts in this series, you can catch up by reading them here: Slow Blogging and Become Your Own Blog Star. And if you’d like to continue this discussion elsewhere online, including Instagram, you can link to this post (shortlink: and use hashtag #20blogtrends. Ok, good. Let’s get started!


See this lovely lady above? She is a mother, a wife and a blogger. She works from home. She also just won her first blog award from a prestigious Dutch design magazine. Her name is Holly Marder and she writes once monthly on decor8 (her column is called Homes With Heart) and on her own beautiful blog called Avenue Lifestyle. She has high hopes to do more and with her talent she is likely to reach her dreams and even soar beyond if she keeps at it. Her goal is to earn a living as a blogger, stylist and photographer. That is the goal for many bloggers currently.

The question is, as readers will we allow that? Or will we stand in her path?

A blog doesn’t just have to be about sharing pretty things for free, day in and day out, with no financial reward for the effort poured into it. We all need to eat and pay rent. And most of us really do love blogging and feel a genuine passion for it first and foremost. Yet, when you add up the hours and resources involved to produce beautiful blog content, no one can keep at it post after post, year after year, without eventually needing to earn some money to sustain it all.

It isn’t nice or even fair to demand from talented people who write beautiful blogs to just pump this stuff out for free and to get upset when they start online shops, publish books, produce downloadable content (for a price), etc. Sure, it wasn’t this way in the beginning for all bloggers but also remember, in the beginning, blog content wasn’t where it’s at today. We didn’t see magazine-worthy recipes, professional-looking styling from weddings to interiors and beyond, gorgeously shot food, amazing travel stories, expertly crafted DIY stories. It was mostly text and tiny images and since blog platforms, templates, even digital cameras weren’t where they’re at today, the average blogger couldn’t produce magazine-worthy content at home.

Time changed that. We all learned and grew together. We bought books, we took classes, taught each other tricks and tips, bought the latest cameras and software programs for photo editing. We leveled up.

When I started blogging nearly a decade ago, we didn’t have a crystal ball to predict all of this.  But with a lot of drive and enthusiasm, we moved blogging to where it is today – into a new form of media, the people’s journalism, a community of inspirers who, together, have a strong global conversation on topics every single day in which our passion and often our talent, flows. When I hear readers complain that they see so much of the same stuff on blogs lately I think that we really are influencers because if we can get so many bloggers to pick up a topic and write about it, my god, how amazing to join voices in this way! How amazing to have this kind of social influence! Woot!

But one problem still exists – the stupid elephant in the room…


We don’t need to stay stuck in the mindset of the past when everything online was free so it should always should be free, do we? Are we really selling out if we earn a living by doing what we love and through sharing our talents online? A sell out is a person who compromises their values for money. That’s clearly wrong. A sell out isn’t a person who earns money without compromising their values and does it with class and integrity.

See the difference?

Everything shouldn’t be cheap or free, because often you get what you pay for (or aren’t paying for). I’ve taken a lot of $10 e-courses that gave me nothing more than some pre-recorded content and not much interaction from the students or teachers otherwise. They were the online equivalent of reading a how-to book in most cases. I’ve also taken some online courses that were a lot more money (like $100+) and the videos were top notch, I learned a ton, and I felt a part of a larger community. I definitely got what I paid for with no regrets.

I’m frankly so bored with this old-fashioned mindset of everything being cheap or free. While, as a reader, I may not want to pay to read individual blog posts, I may be happy to support the blogger in other ways. Maybe they have a shop, products, books, podcasts, videos, exclusive content, online magazines or other things that enables them to earn a living. If the content is exceptional and there is great takeaway, paying for that is a non-issue. Or perhaps your favorite bloggers have some sponsored posts from time to time (of course with full disclosure in the opening paragraph and at the bottom of the post), or some ads. Is that really so terrible? Or are we being a bit judgmental?

Let’s stop guilting our blogger friends. Most of the blogs we read are not run by wealthy people looking to take advantage of us. They are run by people just like us, who want a better life for themselves and their families and are willing to work very hard for it, by working for a living in an ethical way that brings value to OUR life. Because the truth is, for blogs that spend hours on creating meaningful content, our appreciation has to run deeper than merely pinning their images to our pinboards.

Currently, I see a big burn out “mass exodus” on the horizon, bloggers posting less or giving up altogether, if we don’t get clever and new find ways to support what we do (monetarily) without audience push back. The “everything is free on the internet” mentality has to go because only then can the quality of content drastically improve, which drives competition, change, innovation and new ideas.

For 2015, let’s all join forces and support this trend of earning money as a blogger but beyond that, let’s spread a new way of looking at blogs – as the new media they really are – and as a righteous path for career seekers to explore and to not be shamed if they earn revenue in ethical ways while blogging.

So there, I’ve put it out there. Discuss if you’d like. I’d love to here your thoughts, of course. #20blogtrends

(image: hanke arkenbout)

Posted in Blogging on December 23, 2014

Winter Styling With Metallics + Pastels

Dietlind Wolf has been on the blog before because she’s a huge inspiration to me. Whenever I need a creative lift, I dive into her blog and soak it all in. In fact, she is one of the best interior stylists in the world in my opinion – so forward thinking – nothing ever looks stagnant and I never feel like I’ve already seen it a million times. Several years ago we had a long chat on the phone about doing a workshop together and I’m still considering it because I’d love to be a part of any classroom experience with her. Have a look at some of her recent styling work which appeared as a supplement recently in Brigitte magazine. Isn’t this all just so fabulously inspiring?

German Stylist Dietlind Wolf on decor8

German Stylist Dietlind Wolf on decor8

German Stylist Dietlind Wolf on decor8

German Stylist Dietlind Wolf on decor8

German Stylist Dietlind Wolf on decor8

German Stylist Dietlind Wolf on decor8

German Stylist Dietlind Wolf on decor8

German Stylist Dietlind Wolf on decor8

German Stylist Dietlind Wolf on decor8

I don’t know about you, but seeing these pretty things and this fab color palette really made me smile today. This makes me think of Kirsten Dunst in the 2006 film, Marie Antoinette… I loved that film — the set design, costumes, all of it.

Kirsten Dunst in Marie Antoinette


(images: dietlind wolf except for kirsten dunst, courtesy of fan pop)

Posted in Color Inspiration on December 22, 2014

10 Ways To Create Hygge At Home

My friends at Skagen invited me to share some views on Danish life and culture since they consider decor8 a great source for Scandinavian design. I decided to write about a Danish word that has meaning that is very close to my heart. Let me give you some background as to why I choose to a single word as my topi and how it applies to the home in particular.


When I began traveling to Germany over 15 years ago (I met a guy, fell in love, and have been with him ever since), I picked up on German words that quickly became a special part of my vocabulary based purely on phonetics – most how funny they sounded. I laughed a lot back then because the language is tricky and to a foreigner, words can feel like massive tongue-twisters especially when coupled with a deliciously thick German accent — well, it all seems almost comical. In American English, our goals over the past 20 years have been to abbreviate everything. Americans generally call me “Hol” instead of “Holly”. Americans are the king of short cuts, and not just when it comes to language. We like everything fast, we eat fast, work fast, live fast and relax fast. Germans are so much different – some things here can take forever and the very complicated language is no different, there are no short cuts. Germans work incredibly hard to protect their language and when they do dream up new words, the goal is make them longer and more difficult, not to shorten them because they pride themselves on their ability to be the most clever in the room when it comes to word games – the longer the better.

Since moving to northern Germany in 2009 (I’m a few hours south of the Danish border), I’ve built quite a vocabulary which I’m so proud of… So when I’m interviewed by German journalists, many ask what my favorite word is. I always say Gemütlichkeit which is from the word Gemütlich and means, “a space or situation that is warm and cosy, that induces a cheerful mood and peace of mind, without a need to hurry or worry, and with a connotation of belonging and social acceptance”. Journalists usually laugh or tell me how cute that is, that this word is so old-fashioned and sweet, etc. Even though it’s a wonderful word with an even more beautiful meaning, younger Germans don’t seem to embrace it like the old-timers do. Everything is “sweet” nowadays, not “Gemütlich” and honestly, I think that’s a pity because this is one word that just embodies everything I love about strong families, friendships and even communities. Plus, there is no English equivalent which makes it even more special to me. Some say it means cozy but Gemütlich or Gemütlichkeit is far from cozy because you can get cozy beneath a warm blanket. It’s a state of mind. It’s being at home around friends and family sharing a meal and unconditional love just flows in that space, a feeling of warmth, a sense of belonging, come one, come all.

Germans may not embrace Gemütlichkeit as much as I think they could in modern times, but the Danes certainly do. The Danish have a word that means the same but to them, it’s embedded in their culture, in their DNA, and goes much deeper than in the German culture because to the Danes, Hygge has a much broader social component.

The word is Hygge.

Hygge is a comrade, an affectionate teamwork. For a country that has long, cold winters with little light after 3pm, I guess this comrade works well. Hygge is a cozy pulling together but also a state of mind where Danes just know the weather is horrible but they still make the best of it. So why not fill the home with friends and family, light some candles, bake cookies and sit around the fireplace?

I thought that, in the spirit of winter, I’d create my top 10 ways of how to create Hygge at home. My neighbors and close friends downstairs are Danish, I have lots of good friends from Denmark and my husband’s sister is partnered with a Dane… Oh and my aunt was an art teacher for a Danish school outside of Copenhagen, so I do have some insight into life and culture up north. Not to mention, I work with a lot of Danish firms and my home is filled with interiors objects from Denmark. I also have worked in Denmark styling homes so I’ve experienced a lot of Hygge from the homeowners first hand.


10 Ways To Create Hygge At Home

1. Make interior design important to you and your family. This means considering what you have, edit when needed (try to avoid being a pack rat!), and decorate with intention and style. Not all Danish homes look like those you see in their magazines BUT they definitely are very aware of design and many families put a lot of care and attention into their home. It’s a source of pride. It’s a statement of who you are, at any income level.

2. Don’t wing it or buy something just because it’s on sale. Danes aren’t known to be wasteful. In fact, they tend to save up for that favorite design piece vs. running out and buying a knock-off or something they don’t really like just because it’s cheap.

3. Instill a sense of respect in your children for the home and the things in it. While kids will always trash their rooms, contain their mess to their space. I noticed in Danish homes, kids don’t run the household. Parents still had stylish interiors and the kids are still kids. It’s all about letting them know early on that a home needs to be shown some respect. This carries well into their adult years, too.

4. Always ask your guests, upon entering, if they want food or drink. To me, this is SO Danish. I can’t enter a Danish home without the second question after, “Hello How Are You?” being, “What can I get you to drink or eat, we have….” It’s a great way to show manners but is also caring and warm. This means to always keep a few bottles of wine or a favorite beverage in stock and something to munch on – so no empty refrigerators! I’m thinking to have a shelf in our closet that is reserved for guests – munchies, drinks, etc.

5. Linger. This is HARD for most Americans. We often clean up the plates the second guests finish! Danes linger. Dinners in Germany are the same, they go on for hours and hours, especially at someone’s home (but even in a restaurant). Lingering affords time to relax and unwind, have deeper conversations and enjoy the moment. I think that is why “mindfulness” is such a huge trend in thinking currently in the states. Most of us aren’t so important that we can’t take time out to eat and enjoy being with those whom we love. It’s hard to slow down at first, but if you practice mindful eating, you will learn to linger, and lingering is very “Hygge”.

6. Enjoy what you have. The grass is always greener. A Hygge home is the greenest to the owner. Sure, they may love to have the latest kitchen or a newest sofa, but you better believe what they do have is cared for and they’re still entertaining family and friends whether the sofa is perfect or not. A sense of contentment is important.

7. Perfect is boring.
 Don’t invite friends over only when you’ve created an elaborate spread. A simple wooden bread board topped with cheeses, some olives, fresh bread, butter, a glass of wine… Or maybe a cake you’ve made that may not look amazing but it tastes great and took you only a few moments to make. Those kinds of gatherings are beautiful too.

8. Sharing is caring. Don’t just invite over your friends and let them sit there while you slave in the kitchen. A true Hygge home says YES when guests offer to help. Let them help with the salad prep. The cookie decorating. Setting the table. Community and sharing is something I always see when I hang out with my Danish friends.

9. Light candles and cozy up! Often the most inexpensive things can create a cozy space – like candles. Candles are always aglow in Danish homes the moment the sun goes down, especially in the winter. Even at cafes, you’ll see people sitting outside in late Fall all the way until March with candles on their tables, lap blankets and a cup of something warm. Candles on the balcony, the patio, on the windowsills, in the fireplace, on the table, they instantly create a mood. Natural daylight and candlelight are two of my favorite ways to light a home and both require little to no money which is even better.

10. Embrace who you are. This is hard to do when you are constantly running back and forth and even at home, constantly tidying up or running after the kids and never really pausing. Embrace that you are only human and deserve to take time out each day just to have some tea, do yoga, read a chapter or two of a book, whatever works. This is very Hygge, and very Danish, to pause and sit inside of yourself for a moment, to let your soul catch up to your body as I’ve heard some say.


I could add so much more to this list. Would you like to add some thoughts? Please do so below, I’d love to hear your take on this.

Note: This post is in partnership with Skagen. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting those who help me to maintain this blog that I love so much.

(photos: holly becker)

Posted in Decorating Tips on December 22, 2014

Meet the creative mind of Instagrammer @cestmaria

If you love creative and cohesive instagram accounts, beach scenes, melty ice cream, balloons and lots of dreamy pastels, Maria Marie is one to watch — Such a great eye! My friend Leslie Shewring taught a styling and photography workshop last month in Mexico and returned with wonderful stories to tell of adventure and the people she’d met, including her wonderful students. One immediately interested me because I’d been following her surreal-ish pastel playground on Instagram (@cestmaria) along with 40K others, and was pretty convinced she had been working in a creative field for many years.

Marioly Vazquez from Maria Marie @cestmaria on decor8

That’s why when Leslie told me Maria Marie is 27-years-old and not even doing what you see in her photos for a living, I was amazed and had to learn more because those who are working day jobs and filling their creative cups at nights and on the weekends totally inspire me and I’m sure, so many of you out there. Would you like to meet Marioly Vazquez, known online mostly as Maria Marie? That’s her above – so cute!

Marioly Vazquez from Maria Marie @cestmaria on decor8


Hi Marioly! It’s nice to “meet” you here. can you tell me how you are using the internet to share your creativity?
MM: Yes, of course. I don’t formally blog, although I would love to someday. I am microblogging though using Instagram and Tumblr because I love how fast and intuitive their interfaces are and it is so easy to stay in touch with everyone, share instant moments, and report in on the current projects I’m working on. I also have a website here.

Marioly Vazquez from Maria Marie @cestmaria on decor8


Where do you live and what do you do for a living?
MM: Currently I live in Monterrey, an industrial City in the North of Mexico with beautiful mountains in its surroundings. I’m currently working at a museum and a foundation, I love being involved in multidisciplinary projects related to art and culture which supports society’s development. Although my days are quite busy, I always find time for my real passion, photography and styling, which I do as a freelancer. I’ve had the opportunity to work with diverse clients for different campaigns, and I’ve done some editorial work too.

Marioly Vazquez from Maria Marie @cestmaria on decor8


What do you love about photography?
MM: The possibility of saying a million things with just one image. Being able to provoke different emotions in people and leave them with a feeling of peace and happiness, is one of the most gratifying things. More than just taking photographs, I also love creating the perfect moment and scenario, being playful and capturing it. More importantly I love how photography gives me a sense of peace and purpose and I hope I can transmit that in my work.

Marioly Vazquez from Maria Marie @cestmaria on decor8

Marioly Vazquez from Maria Marie @cestmaria on decor8


What inspired your passion for photography?
MM: My father used to be a hobby photographer and he used a film camera, it was a lovely Canon AE-1. He photographed my brother and me during our holidays, family vacations, or any other milestone event. I remember being so captivated by the sound of the shutter, I instantly wanted to get my hands on the camera. So my father very patiently started teaching me the basics of photography. I got so excited picking up our developed film, it was always an amazing feeling not knowing what would come from the pictures we took together. After several years I received my first digital camera (2.0 megapixels back then!) and that day everything changed. I took my camera with me everywhere, I loved shooting whatever captured my eye. What I loved the most about digital cameras was that I didn’t have to spend so much time caught in technicalities, and was able to focus on the composition and concept of my images instead.

Marioly Vazquez from Maria Marie @cestmaria on decor8


When and why did you begin styling?
MM: This started as a necessity, I’m such a wanderer, always imagining worlds, places, moments and beautiful color combinations. I would go out on weekends always trying to discover new places or pretty things to capture, but I never found places I imagined inside my head, and that’s when I discovered and started styling. There is no better feeling than giving life to your ideas and imagination. I started drawing and putting together my ideas on paper which helped me conceptualize and organize my projects better. Once I had a complete idea, that’s where the fun part began, prop searching! I started creating vignettes in my kitchen, backyard, bedroom, anywhere I could find beautiful light. Since then, styling and photography are things I enjoy and love to do.


Marioly Vazquez from Maria Marie @cestmaria on decor8


You recently took a class with Leslie Shewring, what did you do there and what was your takeaway?
MM: Yes I took her photography and styling class in Baja. Leslie is amazing, and she is so talented and creative. She has a very beautiful aesthetic that is very coherent in all of her work. We learned to work under pressure while styling — for instance, we did a photo shoot with different popsicles under the sun and also took photos of a giant ice cream, which believe me, in those conditions every second counts. I also learned how to take advantage of all the things you have on hand in that moment and to work in very different situations which you did not have in mind. One thing I also enjoyed very much was visiting Patricia Larsen’s home for an interior styling photo shoot. I learned a lot about etiquette when you photograph a stranger’s home. It is amazing how you learn to see things in different perspectives, it is very fulfilling when you are working with people, and everyone can capture the same moment but each with their very own point of view. That made me understand very well what makes a good photographer and stylist; Leslie’s creativity, imagination, eye for the detail and a unique perspective.

Marioly Vazquez from Maria Marie @cestmaria on decor8


What do you ultimately want to do with all of your creative talent?
MM: There are lots of projects I want to do, I’ve always been so fascinated by beautiful homes and spaces and would love to style interiors, and design sets for photo shoots someday. I wish to continue creating and experimenting either for my personal projects or for a client. I love working and collaborating with different creative people, because you always end up nourishing your head with fresh ideas for new creative and artistic projects, campaigns or editorials. I want to keep collaborating also with different magazines, publications and agencies and eventually publish a book with all my pictures and creative processes inside.

Marioly Vazquez from Maria Marie @cestmaria on decor8


Where do you turn when you are not feeling creative?
MM: Talking about creativity is a really complex subject for me, but I love it. Normally it is creativity that finds me at the most unexpected moments! I’ve ended up writing my ideas on concert tickets, napkins or even in the palm of my hand. Now that we have cellphones it is obviously easier to take note of whatever comes to my mind. When I have specific projects and I’m not feeling that much creativity it always helps me to just listen to some good music, get away from the computer, grab a beautiful illustrated book or just simply change my perspective. This helps me get away the pressure of creating something instantly and it relaxes my mind and eventually ideas flow. Also a great source of inspiration is Pinterest and Issuu, but I risk on spending too much time on them and not creating, so I limit the time I spend.

Marioly Vazquez from Maria Marie @cestmaria on decor8

Thank you so much Marioly (and also Leslie!) for this chance to get to know more about you. I hope to see a lot more of you online and wish you heaps of success today and onward!

(images: Marioly Vazquez)

Posted in interviews on December 17, 2014


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