'B' for Books Filing Cabinet

An Interview with Holly Becker, Author of Decorate

Holly Becker has always been one of the kindest, most-supportive bloggers around. She makes herself available to others whether it be through her daily blog, Decor8, her e-course, Blogging Your Way, or now through her new book, Decorate. She and co-author Joanna Copestick, along with photographer Debi Treloar, have created a beautiful book on decorating that is equal parts inspiring and informative.

I recently asked Holly a few questions about her new book. Be sure to read through — some of the answers may surprise you!

• How did Decorate come to be, and did the book stay consistent from your original vision or change and evolve as you worked on it?

When the phone rang in the Fall of 2009 with my British co-author, Joanna Copestick, on the line, I had just relocated from the US to Germany and was still in the thick of settling in. I didn’t even know who Joanna was but when I found out she had authored over 15 design books and had worked with Sir Terence Conran and Tricia Guild, and now she wanted to work with me on a project, I perked up! At first, I’ll admit, I listened respectfully because at the time I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take on a decorating book after just relocating. A few months went by, we kept talking, I settled in to my new life abroad and then things started to feel right.

I can’t explain it, but there really is a feeling of, “the time is now”, that washes over us and when it does you have to go for it.

At some point in our conversations, I got my literary agent involved and explained to everyone my vision, what I was passionate about and who I wanted to involve and to my surprise, the publisher was extremely receptive to some of my ideas. I think they (Jacqui Small Publishing) wanted someone with fresh ideas and I had plenty of ideas and even more opinions (!) but I sensed despite our differences (I’m a digital girl, they are print people), that working with them would be a great opportunity. I also knew that Chronicle Books was part of the package, that they would also publish the book and since I’d always wanted to be one of their authors I felt strongly to proceed forward into the unknown.

The original vision, from an aesthetic standpoint, was not mine at all and I don’t think my choices for homes was their first choice either, but when you have a team of talented people who all want the same thing in the end: a really strong, unique product, then you just see it through and work really hard to communicate as clearly as possible as you go. I’ll never forget how excited I was when I turned in the last of my revisions from my hotel room in Istanbul. I was on vacation and while listening to the call to prayer (we were staying near the blue mosque), I sent off my final edits and it was a deeply emotional experience – I felt that now I could sit back and await the finished product with peace, hope and happy expectation. I felt solid and confident because our team had done well and it was now up to my readers and friends around the world to either confirm that, or not. I was ready either way for their reaction. You can only imagine how I felt when it sold out during pre-orders and became a Wall Street Journal Bestseller during the month of its US release, at #2! That was the biggest, greatest confirmation a debut author can ever hope for. The book will print a third time now in the US and UK and is published in Australia as well. It will be released soon in German, French, Finnish and Polish too. Decorate exceeded my expectations and I couldn’t be happier.

• The use of quotes throughout gives the book a really intimate, friendly feel. And I love that you included bloggers (like me) as well as renowned decorators! How did you decide to include the quotes as you did?

It was easy, decor8 may have been founded by me but the community around it is responsible for its success and continued growth. I am very aware of that fact and grateful for my online family. I am very community-oriented and recognize that we are all linked together supporting one another somehow in our vast networks online so I couldn’t author a first book without shouting out all who helped me to bring my blog up to where it is currently. That is why I asked the publisher if I could interview and include at least 75-100 contributors and quote them throughout the book – from bloggers with graphic design or decorating/design know-how to high end interior designers like Jonathan Adler, Kelly Wearstler, Vicente Wolf, Ruthie Summers, Nate Berkus, etc. I felt everyone has good ideas and should be a part of a book rounding up 1,000 of the best ideas plus I’d never seen a book done like this before and wanted to shake things up a bit and bring something different to the table. I also want people to read it. How many people READ these days?! Especially a design book. By incorporating a lot of great ideas from so many people, you WANT to read the book because every quote is so inspirational…

• You feature a diverse collection of homes from around the world. How did you choose locations to include in the book?

I relied on the contacts that I’d built throughout the years on decor8 and contacted those who had homes that fit my vision and matched what I was trying to say in the book. I also didn’t want to use homes that had been seen a million times before, or homes that I’d shown on my blog because that would have been too easy – just comb archives and reuse my content – no way! I wanted to challenge myself so I put on the location scout hat and worked on finding spaces for several months, then booking them, then arriving on location to style and work with the photographer on getting the needed shots. It was vital to me to have original photographs for Decorate – the project began with the publisher wanting to use stock photography from their archives and though their stock was beautiful and may have felt cohesive once together in a book, again, I felt that was too easy of a road for me. I really wanted a challenge and I felt the rooms to had to have my touch so for that, I’d need to be present during the shoots to move things around, arrange the flowers, do the mood boards, etc. I kept thinking that the goal was for the book to feel cohesive and to flow well, that photographs should have a certain rhythm from one to the next. Some books don’t pay attention to that and you find yourself stopping at a photo or a spread because it looks so out of place and that always bothers me when I’m reviewing a book. My eye is my strength, I needed to rely on that and be very critical throughout the project, especially since the more you see spreads the less you see them, if you know what I mean – you become immune or blind to your own work. Plus, It was a lot of fun to go out and work hard for the shots we needed. I traveled from LA to Sweden over the period of four months because I wanted the book to have a good mix of styles and ways of doing things to represent how, despite our borders and distance between two points – we all have ideas that can be shared and there is so much to learn from this massive design community.

• Expanding on that, did you want to speak to a certain design aesthetic? All of the spaces are so different, yet they work together and the book feels cohesive.

I wanted the book to feel accessible, unique, be light and bright but also colorful and pattern-filled, have a sense of “freshness” to it and I really wanted to show a lot of different spaces from homes in the country to city apartments and one room living spaces because we all live differently. I think all should embrace what they have and decorate with pride and joy despite whether a home is a one room studio or a family country oasis where children live and play (and it’s obvious!). The point of the book is IDEAS and how to think more creatively using what you have, personalizing your space, and to feel more confident about your decorating decisions. Between the quotes and the accessible spaces shown throughout, along with some of the more dreamy properties that may be out of reach but their decorating ideas are completely within reach, the take away is to build the decorating confidence of readers and to inspire them.

• Do you have a favorite part of the book?

I love the final section, Attention To Detail. That section was added in the final hour because I felt something was missing and so I communicated with the publisher exactly why I thought this section would be a great finish to the book and they told me that if I could pull it together within a few days then I could have my section (more or less). Joanna and I worked very hard on it and from the reviews out there, people really love and respond to it well. I also like the Mood Boards in the book and can’t wait to demonstrate my words in person when I go on my book tour in August in the US, I’ll be at 6 Anthropologie locations (Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New York) demonstrating how to pull together a mood board, guests are invited to bring their own things for the board that they can pin on, and we’ll photograph the board and post the board from each city on decor8 during the tour so readers can see how they vary from city to city. I’m looking forward to this fun group project, it will be interesting to see what people pin in Chicago vs. say, Los Angeles! I’ll also have special guests who were part of Decorate at each location assisting me on the mood board and who will give some tips and ideas as well. It will be a great way to gather the online community together offline and work on a big mood board together in an Anthropologie store, and I can sign everyone’s book. I can’t wait, I’m so excited to meet everyone, including you, Nicole!

• Thank you, Holly!

As mentioned, Holly will soon begin her book tour. I’ll be at the Chicago stop, so do come by and say hello to both of us! Below is the invitation, though the mood board events have sold out already. Holly has more information on decor8, and I believe you can still come for the latter half of each event, which is the book signing portion.

And thanks again for the great interview, Holly.

Decorate is available now from Chronicle Books.

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  • samantha
    August 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Decorate is generally on my coffee table all the time, I’m forever dipping in to it for ideas and inspiration, and some of my favourite blogger’s are amongst the pages, lovely interview.

  • Katie
    August 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Great interview, this is so inspirational!

  • Helena
    August 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    I love Holly’s book (I’ve been reading every word!). I will be at the book signing event in Chicago!

  • Jules
    August 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    I will be at the event in LA. I really like Holly. She goes after what she wants, but gently and with respect. She’s like a candy-coated ball buster.

    For those who haven’t taken her Blogging Your Way class, I highly recommend it. The best class on blogging I’ve taken online.

  • Carmen
    August 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Wonderful interview! Holly’s book is a wealth of wonderful, inspiring ideas!

  • Evelyn
    August 9, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    What a treat! I just rsvp’d for Chicago!

  • Laurie at House to your Home
    August 9, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    I just got back from a week long camping trip and I devoured this book! Great ideas, quotes and beautiful photos, I especially love bringing bloggers into the mix!!

  • Reyna
    August 9, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    What a great interview! I’ve been a long time reader of Decor8 and am still looking forward to picking up a copy! I would love to RSVP for the Chicago event, but I live quite a ways away! I’m sure it will be amazing though!

  • Laura@JourneyChic
    August 10, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Such a great interview, a great book, and a great blogger! I’m so looking forward to meeting Holly in Boston. She’s a big inspiration – her BYW class was fantastic and much such a difference in how and why I blog.

  • Mary
    August 10, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    I have her book. I keep it next to the book “Undecorate” by Christiane Lemieux. It confuses my husband. HA!

  • laurajane
    August 10, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    I bought this on Amazon a few days ago- arrived today! Can’t wait to pour over it!

  • Mary Middleton Design
    August 11, 2011 at 2:59 am

    Fabulous article thank you for telling the back story

  • Dehsa
    August 12, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Great interview with one of my all- time favorite people! I took BYW this spring and will be in Boston next week, I’m very excited. Congrats on this interview, I really enjoyed reading it~

  • cecilia
    August 15, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Nicole, That was a great interview! I loved hearing Holly’s thought process behind the making/writing of the book: the location decisions, the quotes (I agree, are part of the reason I love the book so much – hearing other design professional’s advice or inspiration), I really liked the layout with the floor plans and list of tips. Their hard work and decisions paid off. It’s a fantastic book!

    I’ll be in Boston too – and blogged about that today (well, last night) – particularly on one topic in the Attention To Detail section.

    Dehsa, I think we were in the same BYW course together (I remember from the homework ;))

    Reyna, Love to see you commenting here too!

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