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10 Must Have Decorating Books

Hello friends! How are you doing? We moved last week! Yep, I’m two weeks from my due date and we’ve moved. I know, nuts right!? I’ve been very busy with packing, unpacking, sorting… You know how it goes – I was freaking out a bit last week but once we moved, it was all good. And then we had a big flea market this past Saturday morning where we held a private sale to only my local readers and close friends. It was so nice, my husband ran it for me so I stayed in our new place cozied up with cake and tea. Some of my friends came by over the weekend to visit and some came bearing the sweetest little presents for the baby and I which warmed my heart. Our friends can really do the best things during times when you feel a bit like having a nervous breakdown.

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Now that we’re in the new space, THANK GOD, I’ve been obsessed with how I will plan everything out and decorate it though I’m trying to hold back a little and rest – but man, it’s HARD to rest when you are surrounded by boxes, am I right? It’s fun to visualize how you’ll live and then to see if you can create that vision in real life – which is really what decorating is all about, isn’t it? But first you need the vision and sometimes we just lack that, even the best of us. I thought that I’d show you where I’m collecting inspiration lately and some general great books that I think you should have in your library just because they’re so good… And I’d LOVE for you to add to this post with decorating book suggestions of your own that you own and refer to for inspiration, too. Ready to get started? Drool fest to follow…

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1. Gypsy by Sibella Court – This book is so visual and perfect for times when you’re in a creative rut or feel a tinge of wanderlust. In this special creation, you’ll find Sibella’s latest inspirations as part travel / part decor book, where she takes us to the Galapagos islands and Ecuador, Indochine, Transylvania, Scotland and Turkey. Out of those destinations, I’ve only been to Turkey (and loved it!) so it was fun to travel with Sibella to see the more uncharted places, like Transylvania, through the eyes of a stylist. I appreciate how she didn’t go to the typical destinations – Paris, London, New York, Sydney… But her approach was to comb destinations a bit out of the ordinary to shed more light on exactly what each offer to the world of design from patterns to colors, that are so often overlooked. A mix of photography shot by herself and her brother, Chris Court, it’s jam-packed with beauty. Aside from the gorgeous full-page photography, she gives us glimpses into her process – how she approaches her work – and shows a color board for each of her destinations which is becoming more and more popular in decorating (and wedding) books these days – color palettes and mood boards – they are all the rage because most of us genuinely want to see how collections of things can be organized into a definite palette that can later inspire an interior. Sibella’s palettes are very earthy and rustic, deep and intoxicating. You won’t find that many pastels or primary colors in this book, Sibella just isn’t a pastel kind of girl. My favorite palette is Scotland where I fell completely in love with all of the green tones. Buy Here.

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2. A Life Less Ordinary by Alex Legendre and Zoe Ellison - Authors Alex and Zoe are the shop owners behind i gigi in Brighton, England and do a brilliant job translating their shop aesthetic directly onto the pages of this gorgeous book. Known in England for their covetable style, I really like the restful muted tones and the rustic, vintage recycled vibe in this book along with their styling – so many gorgeous arrangements to look at and try at home. Their design philosophy boils down to this, “The most important thing for us is to create a space that is practical and can be lived in, as well as looking beautiful and feeling relaxed”, which is completely in line with how I feel about decorating… Living in a non-fussy space that is still lovely, organized and practical is the ultimate goal for me, always. The pages are so stunning, I’d like to turn them into prints to hang on my wall! In addition to decorating, this book also discusses their friendship and business, which I found interesting but honestly it is the photography that tickled my heart strings the most. Stunning! Buy Here.

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3. Creative Spaces by Geraldine James - Author Geraldine James, a home buying manager at one of the most gorgeous department stores in the world, Selfridges, travels extensively to source products for the store and so her vision is crystal clear and extremely trained. With a background in fashion and design, her passion for collecting and finding gorgeous things shows through each page of this book – her eye is nothing short of inspiring. When her first two books released, Creative Walls and Creative Display, I immediately bought and read them cover to cover which was quite easy as they’re mostly visual with her interesting thoughts seasoning the overall feast but never covering the delicious presentation. In Creative Spaces, she takes you on 20 very personal home tours of those whom she knows personally, people whom she thinks we should know and be inspired by, too. She takes us from Italy to London to New York to share the way her creative pals live in spaces of all shapes and sizes. I definitely recommend this book along with her two others. All are a perfect addition to the library of any decorating lover. Buy Here.

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4. Couture Prairie: And Flea Market Treasures by Rachel Ashwell – If you’ve ever longed to live in whimsical prettiness right to the heart of cowboy country, complete with cowgirl boots and ruffles, this book is for you. What I found so inspirational about this book is that I’ve met the author a few times, I even visited her at home a few years ago in LA for tea and a chat, and her book is completely in line with who she is without any “fluff”. This lady is the real deal and doesn’t care if you love ruffles and lace, she loves it and has a massive following of fans who do as well. Rachel has been authentic from the start, way back when I used to watch her flea marketing shows on television in the 1990s. This book shows her gorgeous ranch in Texas and the homes on it, where she teaches and allows others to teach as well as host retreats and fun flea marketing excursions. It’s all so interesting as I’ve often dreamed of having a big house in the middle of nowhere where I host retreats and vacations, too. A sort of blogger retreat. This book is big, gorgeous and completely perfect for dreaming those home on the range dreams, whether Shabby Chic is your style or not, there are so many elements of it that have been brought to other design styles, so much cross-over, that you’re bound to find elements that you could easily work into your home no matter what the style. Buy Here.

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5. Remix by Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason – I had the pleasure of meeting both authors at my own book signing in Philly a few years ago and felt such an immediate connection with them because they radiant warmth and enthusiasm. Remix is all about decorating with cultural objects and soul (some refer to this style as Ethnic Chic). As the bloggers behind AphroChic and the designers under the same name, Jeanine and Bryan share only homes where cultural, global style (they term this soulful), is key as they show you how to decorate with bold colors and patterns from around the globe to create cozy and stylish rooms. I like this book because I adore the authors and find their approachable decorating sensibility a nice break from the usual titles floating around that talk at you more than with you. This book is like sitting down with friends, and I love that personal flair. It was also such a nice bonus to see their own home towards the end. Great job, you guys! Buy Here.

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6. A Place Called Home by Jason Grant – Most of my friends don’t know who interior stylist Jason Grant is, which is a bit of a shame because he is SO GOOD. He hasn’t had much exposure yet in the states or Europe, he is however a styling rock star in Australia and is one to definitely watch elsewhere, too. He has a bright, happy design approach with loads of clear, fresh color in mostly yellows, reds and blues which you can see more on his website and blog. He also has his own paint line with Australian company Murobond, and now this glorious book which just became available in the UK (here) and in the US (here) so definitely grab a copy and check him out. If you like interiors with a casual, joyful spirit and aren’t big on reading a lot of text (perhaps you’re more visual like me), then this book is one to pick up and cherish. It covers everything from inspiration to styling and storage and Jason’s personal approach along with photos from his travels and quick tips throughout that are just great. Bravo, Jason! Buy Here.

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7. Decorating With Style by Abigail Ahearn – Far from minimalistic and cheery, Abigail has a unique sensibility that is all her own which is often described as edgy, dark, moody, eclectic and quite quirky. This lady definitely has an unexpected, yet refreshing, voice in the design world. Based in London, Abigail also owns a shop (which I visited), blogs, and teaches out of her home when she’s not doing client work. I was so pleased when I met her and she spoke at my book party at Anthropologie not too long ago – she brought her mood boards and explained her process and style. I have a soft spot for any designer who blogs, especially with the passion – and she clearly has passion in her posts about decorating. It’s not the typical designer fluff blogs that are out there which are constantly pushing the next product. Her blog is intimate and funny and completely not textbook designer. This is my favorite of her two books, because it feels much more in tune with her voice and style, and because it’s full of interesting perspectives on decorating, styling and her overall philosophy. Buy Here.

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8. Paper to Petal by Rebecca Thuss and Patrick Farrell – Okay so this isn’t a decorating book but I’m going to review it anyway on this list because you can decorate with these projects in your home, so it sorta fits here. It’s more crafty and entertaining-related, just so you know… Anyway, the talented Rebecca Thuss has long been an inspiration to me, ever since her days at Martha Stewart, who happened to write the foreword. This gorgeous, huge book is LOADED with 75 paper flower projects so you can make your own by hand for crafting, decorating, events and beyond. I grew up with a mom who was trained as a floral designer and so you can imagine how much influence flowers have had over my life. My mother was a flower whiz but not just with the real ones. She also made tons of paper flowers too – she found them to be a nice complement to her fresh arrangements. I remember when I was little and she taught me how to make paper pom pom flowers out of tissue paper and how she loved making tiny blooms using crepe papers and fabric, too. Years later, when I worked in a millinery shop in Boston making headpieces for brides, I was trained to sew and create fabric flowers. Several of the projects in this book took me back a bit to crafting with my mother, and to my days in the millinery shop, which brought a smile to my face. Today, I’m still a lover of blooms – both fresh and paper (I’m not opposed to great looking silk ones too, if used in a quirky untraditional way). This book is a must-have for anyone who crafts and loves flowers. You will seriously eat it up. In addition to the step-by-step projects, there are gorgeous photos showing how to use your paper creations as well as a hearty section of templates in the back. Stunning, really. Buy Here.

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9. Bring The Outdoors In by Shane Powers – This book has been out for a bit, but I find myself flipping through it whenever I need garden project ideas for indoors. I have to admit, that unlike my mother and husband, I’m not a big collector of plants indoors with the exception of succulents (which I adore). In fact, I own only a few, including an aloe that I proudly raised from infancy when blogger Iro gave me a single stem that she brought back to Germany from Greece. Now it’s a big, happy aloe on my windowsill and I feel like a bad ass because I haven’t managed to kill it yet. Plants add so much beauty to a home and are so good for the air quality, but are also trending at the moment – have you noticed? More and more designers, stylists and bloggers are getting into plants which before, were mostly seen in very contemporary, minimalistic spaces or those with a more boho, hippie vibe. Plants are great in all homes, all styles, it’s just a matter of finding those that you click with and can maintain since plants do require regular care just like kids and dogs. This book is a delight because American stylist Shane Powers gives you a briefing into to plants before showing 22 simple yet stylish projects that will enable you to work plant magic into your decor without turning your space in creative ways. Buy Here.

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10. Creative Family Home by Ashlyn Gibson – I’m going to have a baby in two weeks, have you heard? ha ha. Anyway, he’ll be my first child, so you can only imagine what I have running through my head at the moment… Topics ranging from breast feeding to sleep schedules and the best way to decorate his nursery and child proof the house, to name a few of the fifty thousand thoughts I’ve had about this whole mommy hood thing. There is so much to think about, good grief, yet I do love exploring this new world. All of this exploration brought me to this book by Ashlyn Gibson which covers a slew of delightful spaces for creative families with a focus on kids’ spaces. My husband and I consider ourselves a creative family (we love neat and orderly but not minimalistic by any means), so the eclectic mix of homes shown really speak to me. Ashlyn takes you home-by-home by theme from the Urban Hub (a personal favorite) to Ship Shape and Mediterranean Heights. I like the intros to each family throughout along with the home tours. What a pleasure. Great read. Buy Here.

SO IT IS YOUR TURN! What book do you currently own (not upcoming titles please!) and refer to often for decorating inspiration? Please comment below and share! :)

(images linked to their sources above. Also, I’m an Amazon affiliate so I may earn a big fat 5% if you buy a book. Woo hoo.)

Posted in Books + Magazines on January 15, 2014
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NEW House Doctor For Spring!

Want to catch a glimpse of what’s on trend for Spring/Summer 2014 here in Europe? My lovely friend and neighbor, Tinna, just rang my bell to give me some design magazines and to let me know that the new House Doctor catalog is now available (here). This is such an exciting time of the year, when companies roll out their newest collections! As their rep for Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Tinna is always on the front lines when it comes to trends and style. I love having her as a my friend and neighbor. I’ve been a big House Doctor fan for the past five years – their product offering get stronger and stronger with each new collection. I have several House Doctor pieces in my home and now my husband has been converted – he loves their style and has a gorgeous black wooden locker and a dresser with a shelf from them in his office. It’s a great company for both men and women who love a stylish yet practical interior since so many pieces work nicely for couples sharing a space. Would you like a peek at some of my favorites from their new collection? I took some notes as I went along that you can read below on each image.

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One thing that surprised me the most about this collection is that it’s in MY NEW APARTMENT COLOR SCHEME! My kitchen walls are blue (like the color shown above) with white tile work and black accents, my entryway is a peachy-pink like the color shown above, we have copper lighting in the hallway, the baby’s room is mint, black, goldenrod, blue and gray, my workroom is black, gray, white, blue, peachy-pink and mint with cooper and neon orange accents – it’s actually pretty cool to know that the design I’ve been putting together for months now (we painted end of November/early December), is the same scheme as this gorgeous catalog and I didn’t even know it until today! Some told me that I was crazy for painting my kitchen blue (“But Holly blue is for baby rooms and bathrooms!”) but I really wanted to rebel and try it and I’m so glad that I did. (Our kitchen is Borrowed Light from Farrow & Ball.) And my entry is a pinky peach and some thought it was a bit out there. But I love it. And I’m glad I went for it. I can’t wait to show you when we move in! Here are some more gorgeous photos from the new House Doctor catalog for S/S 2014, complete with some of my notes…

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What do you like about this collection? Spot any pieces that make you go WOW? Is this color palette on trend where you live for Spring, or not?

(images: house doctor)

Posted in trends on January 06, 2014

Looking Ahead To Spring

Hello friends! I’ve been thinking a lot about spring, have you? I think it’s because winter hasn’t really come yet here in northern Germany – it’s been consistently in the 50s all season so far so we definitely did not have a white Christmas. I must confess though, that being pregnant and walking everywhere as we do – this has been a true blessing for me. Today the sky is clear and blue, temps are in the low 50s, and all I can think about is that my baby will soon be born, we move this Thursday, my mother will be flying in this Spring, my next book with Leslie Shewring will be published all about decorating at home with fresh flowers and that I have an entirely new apartment to decorate and share with all of you, including the baby’s room.

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There is so much to be excited about – plus my birthday is in March and it’s always nice to have a birthday even though getting older isn’t really what we all crave, it is nice to say that another year of life has passed and that many more are ahead – and to ask the question, “What’s next?”.

So yes, I have spring and all the things that it brings on my mind today. I can already imagine blades of fresh grass bursting through grayed fallen leaves, daffodils, tulips, peonies and cherry blossoms at the farmers’ market and taking long walks with my baby in the forest. Simple, beautiful moments that will be so much more special with a little one in my life. I’m also thinking about the direction of my business, this blog and the many ideas I’ve started to develop over the weekend after writing, Resolve To Be Happy. I can’t wait to slowly unfold the pages of what I plan to do as time goes by, but for now I’m just focusing on moving, childbirth and navigating the new life of a first time mommy. Yet, I cannot help but think about decorating, design, spring trends, new products that will soon hit market… Exciting!

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See the photos in this post? I took them in May last year when Leslie was at my house and we were shooting and styling our upcoming book, Decorate With Flowers. These photos are not in the book, but I thought to share them anyway because they are so pretty. I also love putting flowers beneath bell jars, though you can’t keep them there long as they fade very fast – but for dinner parties or for guests, a few hours is just fine. Aren’t flowers inspiring? And wow, so spring-y!

Are you thinking about spring, too? If so, what are you looking forward to? Do you have some plans? Are you also a spring baby, born in March, April or May like me? Do you have a new baby on the way? Are you considering some changes in your life and if so, what? I’d like to know because it really encourages me to hear what you are up to – makes me feel more of a push towards the positive, too.

(photos/styling: holly becker)

Posted in inspiration on January 06, 2014

Delicious Bites: Apple and Cranberry Tea Cake Recipe

Hello everyone, are you ready to bake some Apple and Cranberry Tea Cake? Or still recovering from indulging during the holidays? Whether ready or not, I’m sure you will be soon again, especially when your family starts to crave your homemade goodies! How are you anyway? I hope you’re all doing well and enjoyed the holiday break and are filled with inspiration for the coming year. This is Jillian and I have a wonderful New Years recipe for you to enjoy over Sunday afternoon tea and newspaper reading… I don’t know about you, but today was my first day back at work following a 2 week break. I decided that I needed something to sweeten the first working day of 2014, so I made an apple and cranberry yeast cake for morning tea. This recipe was inspired by a rhubarb yeast cake recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s book, ‘The Cook’s Companion’.

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Fresh cranberries are impossible to find in Australia where I live, so we have to use frozen or dried cranberries. Maybe it is the same where you live? Rhubarb would make a great substitute if you can’t find fresh or frozen cranberries. If you’re not keen on cranberries, you could make an apple and walnut version instead swapping out the cranberries for some walnuts and sultanas (golden raisins) and use lemon juice and rind instead of orange to flavor the fruit and the glaze.

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I recently bought a stand mixer with a dough hook and it made whipping up the dough for this cake a breeze. Once you’ve made the dough and rolled it out, it’s then filled with loads of sweetened fruit. The top is slashed before baking to allow some of the fruit to peek through. If you don’t feel like doing this you could always roll up the dough and slice it to make scrolls.

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I then finished the cake with an orange glaze but that step is optional. If you don’t feel like icing the cake, you could just brush the uncooked cake with melted butter and sprinkle the top with some cinnamon sugar before baking.

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Here’s the recipe for you for Apple and Cranberry Tea Cake – serves 10

Ingredients
85 gm (3 oz) butter, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup milk
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tbl caster sugar
2 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg

Apple and Cranberry filling
450 gm apple (1 lb), peeled, cored and finely diced
1/2 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tbl orange juice
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Orange Icing
Reserved juice
1 tsp melted butter
1/2 cup sifted pure icing sugar

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Method
Put the butter and milk in a small saucepan and stir over a low heat until the butter melts and the milk is lukewarm. Add the vanilla and set to one side. Mix the flour, sugar and dried yeast in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Make a well in the centre, then with the motor running, add the egg and sufficient milk mixture to make a soft dough then knead until smooth and shiny (5 minutes). Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

While the dough is proving, make the filling. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl apart from the cinnamon and set to one side for 30 minutes. Drain the fruit, reserving the juice for later. On a lightly floured surface, punch the air from the dough; then roll out to a 20cm x 30cm (8 x 12 inch) rectangle before transferring to an oven tray lined with baking paper. Spread the drained fruit over the middle of the dough, leaving a 5cm (2 inch) border along the long sides. Sprinkle the filling with the cinnamon. Cut the long sides through to the filling at 3cm intervals using a pair of kitchen scissors. Fold the ends of the dough over the filling and then fold strips alternately across the filling in a criss-cross pattern, pressing the ends to seal. There should be glimpses of the filling within. Cover the cake with a tea towel and stand in a warm place for a further 30 minutes, to prove.

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Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Bake the yeast cake until the crust is golden, a skewer inserted withdraws clean and the filling is cooked ~ 30 – 40 minutes. You may need to cover the yeast cake with baking paper to prevent over browning. Cool on the tray for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.For the orange icing, mix the icing sugar, 1-2 tbl of the reserved juice and the melted butter in a bowl or until smooth. You may need to use a little extra reserved juice. Drizzle the icing over yeast cake and serve. I use a 20 ml tablespoon and a conventional oven. You’ll need to lower the temperature if you’re using a fan forced oven.

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By the way, the cake is best eaten the day it’s made but I had some for my breakfast this morning and it still tasted pretty good. Good luck with your return to work. See you again next month with another Delicious Bites post – Jillian.

(text/photos: jillian leiboff)

Posted in Delicious Bites on January 06, 2014

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