Travel

7 Ways To (Sorta) Go Offline During Vacation

June 30, 2016

Confession. I went on a photography retreat and I didn’t bring a laptop, Lightroom, Photoshop or any of the usual gear a photographer should bring on shoots and especially into a learning environment when your teacher specifically says BRING YOUR LAPTOP.

7 Ways To (Sorta) Go Offline During Vacation

I remember packing to leave with my laptop ready to go and I intended to place it in my bag, but then I looked at it and instantly felt super stressed and a bit uncomfortable, my gut told me it would hold my creativity back. I remembered it was listed in our “things to bring” so our teacher and fellow students could look at our work each morning. Yet I still felt like I needed my journey to be without the machine that I’ve become so dependent on each day.

Can you believe I walked away to grab my shoes, looked right at my laptop, and without even thinking I walked away and drove to the airport? I didn’t make a real decision to leave it, I just sorta flaked and started thinking about other things. In a way, my subconscious was giving the laptop the bird, like #FUlaptop, I’m outta here.

When I had to tell my teacher Dietlind Wolf, one of the top stylists and creative visual story tellers in the world that I forgot my laptop, I was so embarrassed. You know when your cheeks go red? I could feel the heat in them as I spoke. I felt like it wasn’t even day one and I had failed my assignment. I didn’t want to let down my teacher or make her feel as though I wasn’t there to learn, just the opposite. But I also felt like having a laptop wasn’t going to help me dig in and really immerse myself in the materials and exercises she had planned for us.

Dietlind’s reaction wasn’t one of panic or irritation. Thankfully. Quite the opposite, she was encouraging and gently explained that this was the way it needed to be, for whatever reason, and that we would find a work around.

And she was right. And we did find a work around which I will explain in a post tomorrow so stay tuned… It was so great easy!

But yeah, not using my laptop for 6 days, no iPad, just my iPhone… was amazing. Here’s how I successfully took a sorta internet vacay for 6 days in case you want to give it a try this summer.

  1. FACEBOOK. I only logged onto Facebook once or maybe twice a day to post something quickly and then I bolted. I didn’t linger. I avoided the negativity and rants that I usually come across each day. Plus, the Facebook app on the phone isn’t as tempting to click around and end up someplace else. You can just post and run and be done with it.
  2. WHATSAPP. I checked my phone to see if my husband had left any messages about our little boy. But even that, I exercised great discipline. I only had brief Whatsapp conversations with 2 people. Not the usual 30 or more in the span of a week.
  3. BLOG. All blog posts that went up on decor8 were prepared in WordPress and scheduled in advance. Didn’t need my laptop to publish those…
  4. DAILY NEWS. I read the NYTimes app at night after dinner. Also, I have the app set to give me a quick alert on my phone in case of world catastrophe. The app lets me know breaking news that I would NEED to know. But other than that, I didn’t spend my mornings scanning the news as I usually do. No one needs to know about all of the shit going on in the world every second of the day. It’s true you guys. We don’t need to be so informed, my god. And to read all of this first thing in the morning from bed, well, it’s a terrible way to begin your day because rarely what makes the news is positive.
  5. PINTEREST. Didn’t bother with my Pinterest. Why? I wasn’t there to be inspired by others, I was there to be inspired and guided by my inner voice.
  6. INSTAGRAM. I love traveling and sharing with Instagram, it doesn’t stress me out. You can be selfish. You can simply post and go. You don’t feel the need or pressure to read, share, comment or even see other people’s photos if you don’t want to.
  7. EMAIL. I didn’t check them. Period. If someone needed me they’d have to wait because I was there to put myself first and I was okay with that. I’m not doing a job that requires hostage negotiation or world peace. Few of us are so important that we need to be connected to everyone, everyday, every moment. It’s hard for the ego to absorb that truth sometimes. We reason we are too important to log off. But it’s total BS! The world, your career, none of it will fall apart if you don’t read your email for a few days, even a week. Plus I have an amazing assistant, if it’s big enough news she will get in touch with me anyway. Before I left, I told everyone that I was working on a project with that I’d be offline so I felt confident that I wasn’t leaving anyone hanging anyway.

I hope these 7 ideas will help those of you with upcoming summer vacays to log off and enjoy the time away. YOU CAN DO IT. And you don’t have to go cold turkey. Just be super selective and choose to connect in ways that don’t stress you out. Sometimes we have to stop and realize that our joy and inspiration is often right inside of us or in a moment, we don’t need Pinterest, the internet or anything else to find it or feel it. We just need to log off and tap in.

xo
Holly






Ramblings

An Honest Cup of Coffee

June 29, 2016

I’m in the office today, for the first time in a long time, and it feels right. It’s good to be outside of my home office so I can think more clearly without my little son frequenting my space, “Mama, mammmaaaaa”… And to be with others who are inspired by aesthetics and design is very nice, and to be surrounded by the beautiful things because adjacent to where I sit are showrooms with the latest collections from several Danish brands.

An Honest Cup of Coffee

But there is more to this office today than some pretty things and nice co-workers. There was an honest cup of coffee with a dear friend who surprised me with a text to stop by, and we talked from the heart, and it was enough to push me forward and onward and ahead. We shared where we are in life, for we’ve not talked in awhile, and spoke in a warmth and honestly that I genuinely valued. So much that I felt a lightness and joy that I hadn’t felt in months.

Life is so short, so full, but so short. And it’s the honest cups of coffee with people who know us and accept us exactly as we are, that makes living our short, full lives so enriching and meaningful. I type with tears in my eyes and a happy skipping feeling in my heart because I, for the first time in a long time, spoke with my friend in a way I’d not done before. I was present, I was there, I made eye contact, I really listened.

My retreat in Sweden with Dietlind Wolf was to explore photography and styling but it ended up becoming a deeper exploration of self – because ultimately our photography IS who we are, revealing our inner world. And since that week away, I have come in contact with my unique voice and authenticity in a way that feels so natural. Finally. I hadn’t realized for how long I stuffed all of this. I can’t believe how open I always thought I was (my whole life is online!), but I learned that I’m not as open as it seems. I am selective in what I reveal and with friends, I’m always trying to stay positive and “super happy” even in times when I want to run and hide. And it’s draining to maintain that strength when it’s not really a strength, when it’s an act. It’s a defense – like when a cat arches it back. You try to pretend you are so big and can handle everything when inside you feel like you are on the verge of tears.

Release, breathe, reveal what you conceal. You will draw in the right people and those who cannot relate will retreat. Maybe they aren’t ready for a “real” connection yet or perhaps they aren’t interested in knowing the real you. And that’s okay. Share more coffees with people who are looking to make a connection. I don’t mean selfie shots and food shots and geeking out over shoes. Sometimes that’s fine but why not use every opportunity you have with your good friends to make a connection that goes beyond the superficial. So many of us are just longing to be heard.

Listen.

Try to pause today if you can, find someone you love, and share an honest cup of coffee. Peel back those layers. Allow yourself to be truly seen. Don’t worry if a tear gently rolls down your face, please don’t quickly wipe it away so your friend can’t see. Who you are, what you feel, that single tear in its fragility —  it’s beautiful.

(Photo: Anoluck, Inspiration: Sara & Nanna ::kiss girls::)






Ramblings

Be Present In Your Creativity

June 28, 2016

Hello friends, how are you today? I’m sitting alone by the window, sunlight on my face, reflecting on my recent journey to Gotland, Sweden. What was only to be a photography and styling retreat (at least in my mind) turned out to be one of the greatest, most personal journeys of my life that took me far beyond my work – quite unexpected! I learned that the magic of styling and photography goes much more deeply than our personal taste, our placement of objects, the lighting or angles… Styling and photography comes alive when YOU are present in the work.

Be Present In Your Creativity

In order to get to that place of presence, you have to allow yourself to be seen and for your deepest expressions to come to the surface. It was such an awakening for me, I always saw myself as so open and very honest with everyone about who I really am. In my eyes, I was. As we explored some deep topics in this workshop, I learned that I’m just scratching the surface and for me to be able to marry my photography and styling with words, I need to peel back many layers, and then see how much my work evolves.

It makes me think about how we are quick to say we are in a creative rut at certain points in our process. I finally know what this means. We are emotionally blocked. We need to pull out the emotion and then the creativity can flow again. It’s really that simple. Work on the emotion and the creativity will return.

Our retreat was beautiful. Our teacher/guide Dietlind Wolf was transporting at times, uplifting during others, a real light, magical, sensitive, caring, altogether a beautiful human being. I was more or less away from the modern world for 5 nights and it was one of the best vacations I’ve ever been on. I was allowed, and even encouraged, to be raw, open, freely myself. It took courage! It was hard! I cried!

It’s amazing how so many of us just put our heads down and go through the day-to-day with the goal to get what we need done and not much more, isn’t it? Or, some of us pride ourselves on being so free, courageous, strong or open and we are not fully any of those things – we want to believe we are, but at our core, we’re not. And this is what we need to see, admit and work out. Then our art, craft, design work or whatever else we pursue becomes SO MUCH STRONGER. And better. More meaningful too.

I won’t write much about the retreat, to protect the feelings of the others involved, and also to preserve the time capsule my teacher so lovingly handed to me that I want to store away for now… But I will tell you this. If you sense anything about yourself that needs work, begin that journey. Please. Find the right people to guide you. Some good friends. Save the money you need to get the best care that you can. Our life is so precious and meaningful, we each have gifts, explore what yours is and have the courage to make your gift known to the world. Don’t wait.

I have nothing else to blog about today. I’m still so caught up in the magic of my retreat in Sweden. I need the fairy dust to settle a bit so I can get back into writing in this space again… I am sitting with so many feelings right now, stirring and swirling in my mind down to my core and back up again… So much to process and more than that, so much to DO! Because knowing and doing are two separate things.

See you tomorrow. xo

Holly

(Photography: Holly Becker)






Home Tours

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

June 22, 2016

Hello everyone, ready to take another home tour? Today it’s a pretty pastel abode located in Amersfoort, The Netherlands. I came across this home on Instagram and quickly reached out to owner Mariët van der Kooij as I just knew you guys would love it. Sweet faded hues with vintage and DIY elements make this home one to pin, for sure!

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

Having fallen for a similar home the same week Mariët and her husband Tim viewed this one that sold before they had a chance to jump on it, they didn’t waste any time in sealing the deal on what is now a spacious home for their growing family. “It wasn’t exactly love at first sight – a lot had to happen before we could feel at home,” admits Mariët. “One thing we did love about this house was the large, light living space with sliding doors to the garden, and the spacious kitchen at the front. Upstairs, we were taken by the exposed beams. We haven’t looked back since! We spent six weeks renovating and were able to transform the interior into a space that really reflects us and who we are.”

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

Dated floor tiling and old fashioned wooden panelling was swiftly removed, walls were freshly plastered and painted and a brand new kitchen was put in place where a tired old kitchen once stood. The goal was a light, fresh interior, which the couple achieved in six weeks, filling their finished home with characteristic furniture, each piece with a story. “I love collecting pieces that come with a story.”

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

A new home also meant a fresh new style for Mariët, who favored a more monochrome palette that relied on basic black and white. “At a certain point, I was bored of that style and found my home to be a little cold, and plus I needed a creative outlet and a monochrome home wasn’t allowing that.” Slowly, she began infusing her new home with color, mainly her favorite color pink, adding also more warm wood tones too to add texture and cosiness. “I like it when colors return throughout the interior – I would never have just one random color that doesn’t return elsewhere,” says Mariët. “This might be less exciting, but I seek balance in my interior. If I am styling with one particular color, I will often use varying shades of that color to keep things from being boring.”

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

“My own style can be described as a combination of budget and DIY pieces with vintage here and there, a primarily white base layered with light and soft pastels,” she says. Much of Mariët’s inspiration is found on Instagram. “I love seeing how others style their homes. I also follow interior boutiques and magazines and get a lot of inspiration from their feeds too.”

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

Styling and decorating at home is a hobby that brings Mariët – whose day time occupation is working with young children – immense joy. “I regularly shift things around the house, styling and restyling vignettes with new accessories and different combinations. Every now and then I find something I have stored away and it feels like new again!”

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

A favorite piece is the couple’s vintage pharmacy cabinet from the 1950s. “It’s a unique piece that you aren’t likely to see anywhere else, and I love that about it.” The decorating enthusiast clearly has a soft spot for vintage cabinets, because another favorite is the old ‘biedermeier’ wardrobe in the couple’s baby room. “It gives so much more character to the space than a modern wardrobe would have done.”

Downstairs, the couple enjoy a spacious living area that relies on a white basis, with characteristic half-painted pale green walls a pretty addition to the room. The dining area boasts a whimsical mix of materials and styles, both old and new.

The chairs around the table are all replica design pieces. “I don’t ever really by the ‘real thing’ but rather go for the less expensive option, which gives me the freedom to swap and change things around without feeling the heavy price tag,” Mariët admits. Both the wire chairs as well as replica Eames chairs were found at VintageLab15.nl. The Panton chair was a Maarktplaats (a Dutch secondhand online marketplace) score, while the table was custom made by Woodville out of a slab of solid oak with a white airbrushed metal base. The collage behind the table is by IXXI and is called ‘Sweet Poetry’.

“I have a thing for chairs – I can never have enough! I often repaint my replica Eames chairs in colors I am loving at the moment, which I did more recently with my army green chair – it was ocher yellow before that. Spray painting is a great solution for those who love change!”

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

In the living room, a large and functional grey sofa contrasts with pastel colored pillows (House Doctor, By Mölle) and a black and white graphic rug. On a round, army hued magnet board, Mariët displays favorite cards and artworks – a personal and low budget focal point for an otherwise empty wall behind the sofa. A String ‘pocket’ shelf on the adjacent wall displays favorite objects, artifacts and a hanging plant.

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

Upstairs, the master bedroom is a fresh and tranquil space which features a DIY wooden headboard, crisp white linens, a hint of purple and a playful lamp from Kitsch Kitchen

With a well frequented Dutch interior blog, Mariët is always on the lookout for new interior ideas and regularly changing things up in her home as a way to stay current, unique and surprising. “I like trying out new trends at home, but always try to give it my own spin,” she says.

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

Home Tour: Whimsical Pastels + Family

Home for Mariët, Tim and their new son Peppe is all about family and enjoying time together. “We enjoy our home immensely as a family, with the recent addition of our new son. It is a spacious home that allows us each to have our own space while being cosy and inviting at the same time.”

So guys, what do you think? Do you love Mariët and Tim’s pretty pastel interior? What were some of your favorite elements? Mine is the hint of army green – it adds some contrast and shakes things up little bit! See you here next month for another fab interior – Holly M.

(Styling, Photography, Text: Holly Marder)






Designers + Stylists

My Journey: Styling From The Heart

June 21, 2016

I have big news! I have to tell you guys where I’m flying this morning… I’m heading up north to a Swedish island called Gotland. Have you heard of it? I mentioned recently that I was going but left out WHY… Well my friends, I’m taking a masterclass with Creative Director and Stylist Dietlind Wolf.

My Journey: Styling From The Heart

Dietlind is a leading stylist for 25 years in Germany, styling stories for magazines globally, but mostly German and Dutch publications. She also is a self-taught photographer and for the past several years has coupled her styling work WITH her own photos. Dietlind is also a columnist for Sweet Paul magazine. She designs and makes a line of heartbreakingly poetic and beautiful ceramics that sell in New York City’s own ABC Carpet + Home too, all produced in Hamburg by her own hands, with her own paint, infused with her unique point of view.

My Journey: Styling From The Heart

Dietlind also does some beautiful collaborative efforts with talented people since she is more than a stylist, she makes so many of the props she uses, she is a true artist. She is the first stylist in Germany that ever caught my eye whom I’ve followed for years. When I moved here in 2009, I saw her work more and more in magazines and really took a liking to it. Her style just speaks to me. I am hard to impress when it comes to styling these days. I’ve seen it all… And most of the work I see doesn’t stand out as a signature look or even as special. I feel like some work doesn’t tell a real story and stylists are just showing what everyone else shows in almost the same way because it “works”. I am sure this is largely driven by their clients or the magazine they work for. It’s not that they are copying, it’s just how they were trained. I fall into this at times too. No one is to blame! But some stylists are just fantastic, they definitely tell a story and awaken the senses bringing objects to life.

My Journey: Styling From The Heart

I don’t find most of the styling I see in most magazines and especially in catalogs, that inspirational lately. Do you? Sometimes I believe if you’ve seen one issue you’ve seen them all. The styling doesn’t change and neither do the photography angles, nor do the portraits of people who look almost depressed sitting in their beautiful houses. I don’t find that beautiful or touching, a lot of times I walk away feeling empty. To see a home story with everything perfectly placed and people looking “too cool” to smile or at least show some emotion in their eyes… it’s almost like showing where ghosts live.

My Journey: Styling From The Heart

Why bother learning to become a better stylist if what is already out there works fine though? What has become popular, mainstream, or trendy, isn’t always inspirational, touching or magical. Lots of work can run very vanilla, generic, simplistic but in a negative way. It can sometimes look like everyone has the same muse and is just replicating. A home as a museum and a person as unfeeling doesn’t speak to my heart.

My Journey: Styling From The Heart

On the flipside, there is still genuine magic out there being produced, it’s just not so common. But you can spot it and immediately you’ll know it’s special. Like some of these stories produced by leading Aussie stylists. Or some of the Americans, especially the New Yorkers… Or you look at the work of some of the Spanish or French stylists… Or those living in the UK, Denmark and Sweden… You can’t help but look at their work and feel fire in your belly and love again for interiors, home, food and family. When I stop to study a photo because the placement of objects are so interesting, then it’s no longer just a photo of stuff in a home or on a table, it’s a piece of art, and I love that.

My Journey: Styling From The Heart

That’s why I admire the work of Dietlind as shown throughout this post. Storytelling through mini scenes, through objects, food, flowers, ceramics… inspires me to no end. I am excited that I will get to share nearly a week under her masterclass as a student, to soak in her wisdom and learn a new way. Starting in a few hours, I will land in Gotland and live in an old Swedish farmhouse with my friend Leslie Shewring, and we’ll be only a stone’s throw away from the beach, with a private greenhouse and an organic garden on the property. And we will travel to prop shops on the island and create scenes and take photographs. Dietlind will train us on how to develop all of our senses and bring them into our work more fully, making our styling more robust and magical. I simply cannot miss this experience to train under one of my favorite stylists. I’ve invested so much time and money into this trip, I want to make the most of it – I have a two-year-old boy so stepping out of my role as mommy for 5 nights is a big deal. I miss him already but I cannot think about that… This is fuel for my soul and good for my work, so off I go!

My Journey: Styling From The Heart

I’ve not spoken much about this course because it was something I wanted to keep in my back pocket until I felt ready to talk about it. But I’m thrilled and ready to be molded and shaped like a fresh piece of clay. I am stuck in a certain way of styling and I want to grow. I want to start styling the things my heart feels when I touch objects, I want to display them in a way that tells a story, that makes people think and feel something, I want to approach my work more artfully and create a certain intimacy but also improve my skill set. To me, creativity is an ongoing process of learning, feeling stuck, wiggling out, learning again, getting inspired, going into a hole, coming out, learning, working hard, again and again and again.

I want to learn how to put my own stamp on the work I style, because also take my own photos now and want to write, style and photograph my own book from beginning to end someday. In order to do that successfully, I must take on a new adventure, become a student, and allow myself to feel new light and breath fresh air. My 4th book, with Leslie Shewring, to publish in September, has many photos inside styled and photographed by me. But of course, not solely. I could never style and shoot an entire book at this point along with write it! Yet, this is my goal so to get to that point, I need to train hard. This is the first creative retreat I’ve ever been on in my life where I was the student, so I’m absolutely ready and excited for whatever comes my way and to see what results.

If you want to follow my journey on Instagram, I'll be posting live from Gotland, Sweden from 21 June until 27 June so please enjoy my Swedish feed and leave comments as I go, I would love to read them. I'm @decor8 on Instagram.Click To Tweet

Wish me luck and see you on Instagram!

xo Holly

(Photography + Styling: Dietlind Wolf)






Flowers

DIY White Party Flower Arrangement

June 20, 2016

Hello and happy Monday everyone! My garden is in full bloom and also all of the meadows. Everywhere I go, there are flowers growing – foraging made easy! As a flower lover there is no way I could skip an arrangement with roses and peonies. Inspired by the outdoors, I wanted to create a fresh arrangement, and add flowers that represent my surroundings this time of the year. My friend is hosting a summer “white” party and this white bouquet is my contribution to her party! White flowers are the perfect gift for a summer white party from my point of view. If you are hosting one, you can make smaller arrangements and place them down the center of an old wooden table. Wouldn’t that be gorgeous?

DIY White Party Flower Arrangement

“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.” ― Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy-Tacy and TibClick To Tweet

White roses are one of my favorite flowers of all time – they are elegant and light up every arrangement. They look good if they are in a vase alone and they look gorgeous in a bouquet with other flowers. I am so happy it is June and I can chose from all the different varieties! For my arrangement for you today, I collected gorgeous white roses, added white peonies and went foraging in the meadow to achieve the airy look that I was going for.

Flowers used for the arrangement:

* white roses
* white peonies
* wild chervil
* yarrow
* bedstraw

Because the arrangement contained wild foraged flowers I decided to go for a more formal look and made the arrangement round and simple. I learned that cold weather gives some roses a slight touch of pink, some nights are still pretty cold where I live, this is why I also picked white yarrow that was slightly turning into pink. After I cut all flowers to one length, I arranged the bouquet in my hands, turning the slowly growing bouquet, adding the flowers one after another.

DIY White Party Flower Arrangement

Having them in my hands instead of a vase helped me to ensure that the bouquet was not getting too big. The roses and peonies added enough white to the arrangement, so I tried to break it up a little with yarrow, wild chervil and bedstraw.

DIY White Party Flower Arrangement

After the bouquet was finished, I cut the stems to one final length, tied it all up and placed into my vase. Here is the finished arrangement below. This could be a beautiful wedding floral bouquet too, couldn’t it? Or on the table at a reception?

DIY White Party Flower Arrangement

The roses and the peonies are so soft, feminine and fragrant while the wild flowers looked like white lace. All in all a perfect combination for a summer white party.

This is my final column on decor8, I’ve enjoyed so much being here and sharing my floral ideas with all of you. Have a wonderful summer and make sure to keep up with me over on my blog and on Instagram, I’d love that. All the best, Anastasia.

(Photos, styling, text: Anastasia Benk0)






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