Holly Becker of Decor8 talks design and decorating

Read our exclusive interview with design consultant and blogging royalty Holly Becker of Decor8. In her first online interview about new book Decorate, Holly Becker also talks holidays, Real Simple, margaritas with her husband and Gemütlichkeit! Read on to be inspired...
How did you know interior design was your calling? My passion for interiors began as a young girl and well into my 20s I was decorating and re-decorating my family home, and then the apartments I rented while living as a single girl on a tight budget in the city! I liked to find places that were a mess so I could get a reduced rent and then fix them up myself. I'd rather personalise a space than have a landlord come in and renovate it, leaving behind no personality and a sterile environment.

You run successful design blog Decor8 - what’s the best thing about working in design? I like being a design consultant, which ranges from shopping with clients, styling to decorating homes and helping them find their style and build their confidence. My goal is to encourage, motivate and light the creative fire for clients so they can learn to have fun with the process and really enjoy it.

What do you love about writing? Writing comes very naturally to me. In 7th grade I was an editor of my middle school newspaper writing about trends and eventually, I had a column writing about trends in the Boston Globe, ha ha!

I started as a design writer in 2005, but before that, I was writing for nearly 10 years in the corporate world for internal publications and newsletters, in addition to my role as a project manager in Human Resources.

I write from the heart and I have good ideas when it comes to decorating -- I am very creative and imaginative, so putting together articles, writing a book, pounding out a blog post... It is like breathing air to me.

I also love people, so when I write I imagine those reading and how important it is that my words encourage and make them feel creative. I like guiding people who are very busy and often stressed towards more calming, creative and positive things and I love promoting the work of talented people on my blog.

What has more appeal – design work or writing? I love design and writing quite equally - some days I feel more endeared to one than the other, but it's like asking a parent to choose which child they love more. Impossible! What I like most about design is being able to personalize a space. It's so exciting when you start to find themes in your taste and "a look" begins to form in your home.

You split your time between your offices in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Hannover, Germany with your husband, Thorsten. But where do you call home? I was born in Rhode Island, lived in Pennsylvania and Connecticut for a short while and mainly grew up on the beach in South Carolina. I relocated to Boston as a teenager, moved to New Hampshire when I got married and now I live in northern Germany where my husband grew up.

When you live in various places as a child, you learn to draw on certain parts of your personality in order to cope - things you may not develop or use much otherwise if you only live in one place for your entire life.

Home is inside of me. I don't have one place that I can point to and say, "This is home", so I learned early on that no matter where I go, as long as I have myself (ha ha) then I'm safe, I am secure, and I am home. Plus, no matter where I live, I have things in my possession that are dear to me and when I display them in my home I feel like I AM home.

Brilliant Boston...

What do you think makes a house a home? Your precious finds that you use to decorate with - these things can be very comforting. Above material possessions though, a house becomes a home when those living in it support one another spiritually, emotionally, physically and in many other ways... They may not always do it perfectly, but the interchange of support, unconditional love, concern, empathy... this is the desired home life that we all want to achieve isn't it?

What’s your favourite place? I don't have one favourite holiday spot, as I like to see different cities as I go. I do love Paris (who doesn't?) and London, but I recently visited Copenhagen for the first time and felt a real connection to the lifestyle there, but also the offerings of the city and the size of it didn't overwhelm me. I also love New York City because everyone on the planet seems to live there and it’s great for connecting and shopping.

Southern California is ideal for its weather and coastal lifestyle, but I equally adore San Francisco because it mixes all of the things I love the most - four seasons, the beach, mountains, fresh water, salt water, nature, sunshine but also moody days, culture, huge creative communities and great places to see, eat and buy. Plus it's a walking city and I love the architecture there. Berlin is fascinating with edgy, gritty beat and a classic vibe too, but as a place to live I love Hannover, Germany because I feel most creative here. (Snowy Hannover...)

What’s your main source of inspiration? Currently Pinterest and Flickr! Ha ha! Seriously, those sites are so fun to use. I also love reading blogs and books, shopping, and I'm a huge magazine addict.

I'm also inspired by my husband because he's always a gentleman and so, so creative. One day he'll be composing music and the next day, writing poetry or out in the forest taking photos. He is very caring, affectionate and loves me no matter what and he loves to decorate and take care of our plants.  Without him, they'd surely be brown and crusty if left up to me!

Pinterest - 'a place to catalog the things you love'...

Do you ever wake up on a rainy day and feel uninspired with ‘design block’ and if so, what do you do to get over it? Oh yes, especially in the winter months when daylight lasts only until 4pm and days are mostly cold and grey! What I usually do is make some coffee or tea (the caffeine gives me a jolt!) and prepare some breakfast, put on some good music and start flipping through visual sources of inspiration (books and fabrics, perhaps) that I refer to on days when I feel like I've run out of fuel. If that doesn't work, I go outside for a long walk in the forest behind my house and then I make sure to have a latte at a nice nearby cafe and maybe go to some shops that I can count on for inspiration. A visit to the flower shop always helps, too!

You're a weekly columnist at Real Simple magazine online, which is known for its beautiful features on how to make tasks effortless. Are you super organised and what's your secret? I am organised thanks to list making! When I make lists, things get done. I also have a very tidy and organised work space. It's intentionally kept light and bright so that I don't get distracted and so my mind is fresh and clear the moment I enter my work room each day. I also make sure that I put things away after I use them and everything is assigned to a specific space in my house so I don't waste time looking for my cell phone charge, keys, wallet, spare candles, matches...

Was your new book Decorate: 1,000 Inspirational Design Ideas for Every Room in Your Home fun to write? I had a great team and Jacqui Small Publishing is whip smart so I feel I learned about publishing from one of the best. It came together quite quickly because two of us were involved in writing - Joanna Copestick is a seasoned design writer so she naturally can produce quality text quickly and our Editor, Sian Parkhouse, was exceptionally organised which helped. I travelled with wonderful photographer, Debi Treloar to get some great pictures for the book - it was loads of fun, from taking a ferry from Sweden to Denmark and eating peanuts and beer on the deck (after the shoot, not before!), to basking in the sun on the beach after a shoot in L.A.

Meeting the homeowners and interviewing so many great people for the book, like Nate Berkus, Thom Felicia, Kelly Wearstler, Sibella Court, was a real highlight too. I feel honored to also have some lovely blog colleagues in Decorate with their words of wisdom. It’s mostly my gift to readers to thank them for helping me to be in the author's seat in the first place.

Holly Becker also writes Haus Maus 'a collection of thoughts about my new life as an American in Germany'...

In terms of trends – what do you think will be big this summer? Ethnic touches in modern decor, DIY, handmade and e-magazines - I think we can expect to see a lot more of those things.

Describe your perfect afternoon? Sunny, in the 80s, on the beach and boardwalk most of the day, followed by freshening up with a quick shower, shopping, fish tacos and of course, a margarita with my husband.

What three products could you not live without? My MacBook Pro, lipgloss, and scented candles that cost a fortune (but I love them anyway!).

(Scented candles from Anthropologie - ChaCha candle tin, Garden Study candle, Ilume tile tin with Moroccan mint tea).

Any exciting plans for your home this year? My marriage is very strong and we hope to have a child next year so building a little family will deepen that sense of home even more. In German there is a favorite word of mine, Gemütlichkeit, which doesn't have a direct translation in English (except for ‘Cosy’ which doesn't really embrace the meaning of the word) but it's a favorite because I so passionately believe in its meaning:

‘Gemütlichkeit connotes the notion of belonging, social acceptance,  cheerfulness,  the absence of anything hectic and the opportunity to spend quality time.’ - Wikipedia.

Doesn't that sound lovely? When your home environment can be described as Gemütlichkeit, you have made your house a home.


Decorate by Holly Becker and Joanna Copestick will be available after March 25, 2011 in the UK.

Holly Becker is author of blog Decor8 - fresh finds for hip spaces.

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Emily Peck, Editor

View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor