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Resolve To Be Happy

Hello friends and Happy New Year! I hope that you had a beautiful holiday season and that you’ve kicked off 2014 feeling completely open and ready to take in whatever the next twelve months has to offer. I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions (Will I bother? What will they be? Will I ditch “the list” altogether?) and for the first time in years, I’ve decided to abandon the list. While I respect those who take time to carve out their master plan, I thought I’d remove the pressure and just go with the flow this year. Ambition is nice and drives me on one side, but it’s becoming a bit uninspiring and mundane on the other. The real drive, for me, is to simply be more mindful, present, and passionate and to both invigorate and be invigorated. There’s so much ambition and hustle out there (often at a huge cost), I see this so much now online, so I want to step out of the ring and drive a return to passion, happiness and sharing: What drove me eight years ago when I launched decor8. The days when possessing merely a love of sharing and a passion for creative living and decorating were at the core.

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THE EARLY YEARS OF BLOGGING

Do you remember the early days of blogging? I remember them so clearly; long before companies noticed us and monetization and social media sites became the norm. In those days, we bloggers only hoped to get our voices, our opinions, out there and to show that we had worthy ideas in addition to what mainstream media was showing us. I started blogging because I was bored with popular opinion in print publications and longed to share an alternative approach to decorating and style. I trusted my gut and followed my creative passions – and today I still do though I feel like I hold back a lot more than I once did and I’m working to change this.

We were all driven by very pure things both raw and genuine, not by money, the number of “likes”, growing a massive audience (we didn’t know our potential back then), or some rather disappointing popularity contest. I personally was driven by a need to connect and share and spread joy for something that I truly loved with all of my heart. What drove you? What drives you today?

GETTING BACK TO MY ROOTS

For 2014, I’m returning to my roots, which you’ll start to slowly see on decor8 and in other parts of my business. I’m not sure how I’ll do it, but ideas have been swarming for months now and it feels good that I came to this decision with the help of my husband. He reminded me to think about what drives me, what REALLY drives me. It isn’t my “brand” or sponsors or ads or popularity or numbers or increasing readership… None of that has ever felt inspiring or motivating to me but only caused me to feel alienated from my core values and from my readers. What drives me is my passion for beauty, a love of creative pursuits, sharing and spreading positivity, being encouraging, nurturing community and connecting others. Maybe this is something you can think about for your blog, too. That is, if you feel overwhelmed by the business side more than the creative passion that originally drove you to start blogging in the first place… What really drives you?

INSTINCT TAKE THE WHEEL

This year, I’m letting instinct take the wheel and drive my blog more than ever before. And you know what, I mostly just want to have FUN doing it. Raise your hand if you feel like blogging, as a whole, is becoming a bit stagnant, boring, underwhelming? Yes, my hand is high in the air too! But the good thing is that we all have the power to change this. We are each our own blog boss; we are the managing editors of our blogs. We drive how we are perceived, negatively or positively. WE are our content, WE are the voice, WE can easily switch things up and create more interesting content that is based on what we are truly excited about vs. what we think will drive our numbers or build a brand or what equals to simply showing off. In the end, your love for your topic will shine through and you’ll end up building readership and a brand anyway, so there’s no business risk.

WHY SO SERIOUS?

Let’s talk about something I’ve not heard discussed at blog conferences or even in books on blogging or blog workshops. HAVING FUN! Yeah, you know, how to really have fun as a blogger. Why is SEO and traffic more important than FUN? I want to blog and have FUN with it. I want that FUN to be contagious and for other bloggers to start having FUN again too. That was how blogging was when we got started, right? FUN. Then, it all got so serious online all of sudden – money driven, over-produced (pressure is on for every post to be magazine perfect), competitive, flat. Yawn. It’s time to have fun again and return to the days when blogging was exciting and when we talked about whatever we wanted on our blogs because that kept us real, approachable and more interesting to read. When we read our blog comments, and replied to them. Real people, real conversations. Going beyond what magazine content provides to lift the veil and get to the heart of whatever topic in which we were writing about.

RESOLVE TO BE HAPPY

Back in the Fall, I was asked by Mollie Makes (UK craft mag) to write an article about my new year’s resolutions. I knew back then that I wasn’t going to make them for 2014, so I replied explaining that I would write the article but instead, I would encourage an alternative approach – to simply open up your heart, drop the self-criticism and task-mastering, focus on family and friendships, bask in the art of taking some time off, seeing behind the veil of perfection that most of us only show on our blogs, and simply to Resolve To Be Happy for 2014. In other words, no race to tick off boxes on our resolutions lists. My article was titled, “Resolve To Be Happy”, and it appeared in the 34th issue of Mollie Makes (you can buy it and download here). I’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response to my words from their readers, which further encouraged me to stick to my resolve; simply to NOT resolve – no resolutions for 2014. Reader response also became a huge source of validation – that how I felt, others felt too. That lots of us just want to be happy, have fun with our blogs and business, and cut the crap.

HAS PREGNANCY CHANGED ME?

I often wonder if getting pregnant is at the core of my list dropping. I know pregnancy has definitely affected my need to listen more to my body and less to what the rest of the world says. You learn to really tap into your instincts when pregnant, don’t you? Especially if you’re like me and you intentionally stay away from all of the baby books and websites (and pregnancy forums! omg, lots of nutty advice!) out there. I’ve only relied on a single app, flipped through What To Expect (although I found most of the advice instinctual which made me realize even more the need to tap in to myself), and I read that book on French parenting (thanks for the gift, Leigh!) which proved more humorous than insightful and ended up being a great read while I was so ill during the first 5 months… But yeah, I’ve had to tap into my instincts like never before. My doctor speaks only German to me so I’m constantly googling or referring to my husband to explain medical German terms to their English equivalent. So even from a medical standpoint, I’ve had to ultimately trust my gut because so much of what my doctor says gets lost in translation. I’m learning to trust my gut like crazy right now and I imagine, after our son arrives, this will only increase.

WHEN THE TEACHER GETS SCHOOLED

Then there is this thing that happens when you are are a teacher. You think you know it all but then, through the eyes of your bright and talented students, you see how much you have to really LEARN. Teaching online and in my in-person workshops for the past five years has brought about a massive shift inside that sort of “hit” me this year as I was teaching Blogging Your Way online just a month ago… Maybe it was because it was the first time I taught while simultaneously being pregnant. My students ask me a lot of questions, some I don’t know the answer to so I do loads of research to assist them along their path. Through teaching, I’ve learned that ultimately, the answers are inside of us – we just need guides at times – but we have to be more open to what the questions are and to have the courage to ask them – even the tough ones. I like to motivate my students to ask the right questions, to dig inside and to really examine their intentions. Oftentimes, we aren’t open and aren’t asking because we’re too driven to succeed, too scared to know the answer, too focused on being better versions of ourselves, scared of failing, etc… Tuning out and tuning into our gut instinct is all we’ve got to rely on sometimes but ultimately, it’s a pretty damn good guiding light. So again, for the New Year, I’m going to tune in more to what Holly wants. Maybe you can tune in more to what YOU want, too?

INSPIRING IS NICE; BUT INVIGORATING IS A CALL TO ACTION

My ultimate desire sounds simple but it really isn’t. It’s to be HAPPY and to INVIGORATE others. We all know what happy means, but what about invigorate? It means to give vitality and vigor to; animate; brace; refresh: fill with life and energy; energize. It goes beyond simply to inspire. Pinterest is inspiring. But does it call you to action? Are you making the cakes or the crafts that you pin? I had a long discussion on inspiration vs. invigoration before the holidays with my husband and he is the reason the topic of INVIGORATION came up in the first place. He encouraged me to make the New Year a year that I focus on this word: invigorate. To not just show pretty pictures and inspire, but to go beyond that and really use my talents to fill others with life and energy. With our first child to arrive any week now (he’s due 25 January!), this will be a very literal translation of “filling others with life”, a baby! But what about my students, all of you, my family, my friends and my husband and our new baby? What about me?

While I’m not going to make a resolve to take any particular step towards my master objective: to invigorate, I will be listening daily to my heart and soul to see where this leads me, and my blog and business, my friendships and family, for 2014. I may make some mistakes. I may not. But I’m going to trust my instinct and open my heart to what I think matters and where I want to put my energy into for this year. I’m going to look at my blog very critically and make some changes. I’m going to get back to my roots, take time to play with my baby and bond with him, decorate my new apartment, share projects here with all of you, and I’m going to take it one day, on step, at a time. None of these are resolutions. I’m not pressuring myself to fulfill any particular task. I just want 2014 to be a year when I grow up and let my instinct drive me, when happiness and having fun become part of my daily life again, and when I get back to what drives me and in turn, invigorates all of you. Let’s see where I end up this time next year.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

And what about you? Do you have resolutions? Have you chosen one word that will define your new year? Have you given much thought to tapping in to your raw desire and passion vs. letting others lead you? Have you ditched new years resolutions list for this year too? Do you have a different approach to this year that you’re taking? No way is the “right” way, so feel free to share.

Happy 2014 everyone! xo, Holly

(image: illustration by the lovely Emma Block for my article, Resolve To Happy, which appeared in issue 34 of Mollie Makes)

Posted in inspiration on January 03, 2014
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Wow! The Design Files Open House

Good morning friends! Can you believe it’s nearly Christmas? I feel like Autumn totally flew by, don’t you? Our baby boy will arrive in just five weeks (eeeeee!!!!) so I’m over-the-moon excited about it and busy prepping his room and getting massive butterflies as I think about how much we have to look forward to. I’m also in the midst of renovations on our new apartment, though I’m only overseeing things, but it’s still “work” and I’m happy to report that it’s nearly finished! We will move in 2 1/2 weeks! Yeah, wow is right. But all is well – the paint smell is gone, the new floors are installed (and gorgeous), and everything looks so fresh and pretty that the effort involved in sprucing has totally paid off. It’s a total clean slate. I can’t wait to move in and DECORATE! Yay! I will definitely share photos as I go with you, so expect to begin seeing those in January.

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And speaking of decorating, I simply must share the lovely event that recently occurred in Australia hosted by design blogger Lucy Feegins from The Design Files. She contacted me over the weekend offering me first dibs on this content and sharing it here on decor8 so I couldn’t turn her down. I’m super behind her amazing concept and love how she and her team convert an empty house into a pop-up showroom all in the name of design and promoting local talent in Australia. Items are sold, they have hundreds of visitors, and then the home is cleaned out and is returned to whomever owns the property. What a cool concept, right?

This year for the first time they held the event in Melbourne (Lucy’s home town) and then again in Sydney 2 weeks later. Normally she only does it in one location so this was quite an undertaking. You can see the inspiring TDF Open House 2013 Video here or simply watch it below. This video was shot, directed and edited by Jessica Leski.

And here are some more photos for you to drool over, taken by Brooke Holm, of the Melbourne open house event.

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I love all of the bold accent walls – especially the blue tones and that gorgeous watermelon-y color. Super pretty and so interesting to look at – the art by Melbourne artist Miranda Skoczek is amazing. I also love all of the colorful rugs and textiles, and the white wooden blinds in the bedroom shown above (I’m soooo into wooden shutters at the moment and want to install them in my bedroom, but these blinds are lovely too).

Isn’t this a lovely project? What do you think of the color palette and use of pattern? See any objects in particular that inspire you?

I’d like to wish you all a very lovely day! I’m going to finish up on some shopping, then it’s time to bake cookies and relax… Hope you make some time to relax, too.

AND a special thanks to Lucy for sharing this content with us today!

(images: brooke holm)

Posted in events + markets on December 23, 2013

Homes With Heart: Scandinavian Style Dutch Cottage

Hello readers! Are you ready to tour a light and bright Scandinavian style Dutch cottage? It’s Holly Marder again and I am back with my Homes With Heart column. While many vacate their summer homes for the winter season, warm textures, endless light and understated Christmas touches make this petite residence the perfect winter escape for owners Nathalie Fransen and Bas van Egmond, and their three children.

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Interior designer Nathalie Fransen and co-owner of NU interieur | ontwerp, and architect Bas van Egmond purchased this 38 square meter vacation home late last year as a place for them to escape to the Dutch countryside on the weekends with their children. Once a brown, dark and dated interior, Nathalie and Bas spent the summer creating what is now a light, bright and welcoming space.

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“We live in a really small apartment in Delft, the Netherlands. While we love our urban lives, we wanted to compensate it with a bit of nature,” Nathalie says. “We were really lucky to find this space. It was owned by an old couple who had lived here for 17 years. It was no doubt already dated 17 years ago, but they didn’t change a thing. You could feel that they really loved the space, as if it was some sort of treasure.”

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The first thing Bas and Nathalie did was coat the dark interior with white paint, replace the kitchen and bathroom and infuse it with their minimalistic sense of style. “We decided that painting it white would freshen it up, but would also make it look and feel a lot larger,” Nathalie explains.

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White floors infuse the space with light but are also surprisingly low maintenance. “I want our kids to have the freedom to be children, but I really like neat spaces,” Nathalie explains. “Therefore, I seek solutions that can ensure the space can be tidied up easily after the kids are in bed, such as smart storage.” As a designer, Nathalie, with her business partner Tessa Weerdenburg, strives to offer the same combination of practicality and aesthetics to her clients.

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Design classics and inexpensive Ikea products combine with a black, white and wood colour scheme, making for a charming Scandinavian style retreat for this family of five. “We love to combine old and new, sentimental items that have been handed down, with new pieces and also inexpensive items. We were lucky to inherit design pieces from Bas’s parents because they know we appreciate them.” The family escape to their cottage most weekends, and love to continue that tradition through the winter. And though they don’t make as much use of the garden as they do during the summer, they enjoy creating a warm and cozy cottage to enjoy when the temperatures drop.

Spot something that you love? Here are some of the items in Nathalie and Bas’s home: Lamp above dining table: Vintage Arne Jacobson AJ Royal Louis Poulsen lamp; Royal Shelving System: Poul Cadovius; Dining table and stools: Ikea; Sofa: Ikea Soderhamn; Coffee table: Montis Tor Table; Paper star; lanterns: Snug Studio; Paper lantern bags: Broste Copenhagen; Wooden bird: Architect Made; White vases: Snug Studio; Kitchen / storage: Ikea; Grey throw on bed: Zara Home; Graphic throw blanket on sofa: Hema; Cushions on sofa: Dille & Kamille (green); Marble cheese board: Lijns

I hope you enjoyed this fresh and festive cottage tour! Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and I’ll see you back here next month with another Homes With Heart column. – Holly

(text/photos: holly marder)

Posted in Homes With Heart on December 20, 2013

Simple Times: Celebrating In Ireland

Hello friends! It’s Rincy again with a little post on the holiday season here in Dublin. I love this time of year, similar to spring, it feels as though there is a secret promise of a new beginning just around the corner. It can either be a frenzied blur of events or the slowest of periods and I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all had our fair share of both (takeout food and Friends re-runs, I’ve been there done that). But every now and again a funny thing happens in the midst of the chaos of presents, crowds or family politics, there is a moment of contentment. Bliss. Joy. Love. Gratitude. Ever so brief or all at once, it happens.

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Last week, we celebrated our friend Emily’s birthday in the midst of the holiday season. It was an evening full of collaborative efforts, DIY touches and a family whose love is incredibly palpable- it was beautiful to be a part of it. It was without a doubt, one of those moments.

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Emily’s sweet take on the evenings events: “When I moved to Ireland just over five years ago, there were a lot of things that necessitated adjustment: driving on the other side of the road, not being able to buy anything in bulk at the grocery store, those kinds of things. What didn’t take any time at all to adjust to was how the Irish celebrate the Christmas season. They gather, they linger, they spend time around a table or a fireplace. They chat and they sing and time stands still for a few hours. On the day of the dinner party, I pulled my car over by the coast of Dublin Bay and trekked down to the water line. I pulled out a big old piece of driftwood and squeezed it into the back of the car. We suspended it above the table, and from it we hung the most beautiful geometric Christmas ornaments. Candles placed throughout the room twinkled and sparkled. We held hands around the table while my husband prayed grace over the meal. Then we ate, drank wine, shared stories and laughed. Time stopped for a few hours; there were no phones or work. We were right there, together, celebrating exactly the way I’ve learned to in my time in Dublin. Truly present, with nowhere else to be but right there.” – Emily

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Whatever way you choose to spend your holiday, I hope bliss, joy love and gratitude are a plenty. Wishing you a very happy holiday season from Ireland. – Rincy

(Styling: Ciara O’ Halloran, Flowers: Claire Ryan, Cake: Kate Packwood, Photography/text: Rincy Koshy)

Posted in Simple Times on December 19, 2013

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