nice girls who think big: the unsinkable holly becker

Today I am thrilled to start a new series of interviews with dynamic, inspiring women who have taken chances, embraced change and have created their dreams in ways that they themselves never thought imaginable. And what better way to start off with one of the most successful women in international interior design?  It’s a pleasure to count Holly Becker of the mega design blog Decor8 among my friends, for so many reasons.

Holly is a huge talent for sure. If you are one of the 35,000 people that visit her blog every day, you know how inspiring, fresh and open her ideas are and how she presents decorating in such an approachable, non-intimidating way.


But there's far more to Holly. She and I share the common experience of having left the United States and having moved to Germany with our German husbands.  I personally know how challenging that move can be and I have literally watched Holly in awe over the past two years as she has moved her life, her possessions and her entire design career with all of its carefully honed connections into a completely new environment.  She has flourished in ways that astound me.  I have guests who come to my B&B here in Italy from all over Germany and know Holly and her blog and love her.  It's difficult not to love Holly.  She's kind, sweet and writes on both her main blog and its sister, Haus Maus (which focuses more on the personal side of her life in Hannover)  with such honesty and positive energy that you can connect with her immediately.

And, as many of you already know, she is now an international author, with her brand new book Decorate having been  published both in the United States and in Great Britain, with the German version due to come out later in the year. I received my copy of Decorate yesterday and have been completely and totally blown away by the breadth and scale of the inspiration.  I knew it was going to be good. But it exceeds any expectation I could have had in an interior design book.  It's a fountain of ideas for creating your space your way.  It doesn't dictate. Rather it suggests how you might be able to work with what you have to create the environment that best suits you.

I am so excited about the release of Decorate that I will be giving away a copy of the book through Amazon to a randomly chosen commenter!   If you comment on this blog post between now and April 30th, 2011 and live in the United States or Europe,  you will be eligible to win.  Winner will be randomly chosen and announced on May 1st 2011.

And now, here's my interview with Holly.

Holly, could you please tell us how you moved from designer to super blogger/ author/ industry trendsetter?

Ha ha -- Oh dear you are so kind! I went from working for nearly a decade in the corporate world to starting my own business, a blog and a small interior design consulting practice in 2005 and never looked back. I made the transition by going back to school only to study interior design at art school for a few years to get my feet wet. Then I started taking clients while at school just to put into practice what I was learning and what had felt like second nature since I was a young girl decorating our family home and moving around my parents' furniture.

Between working in corporate full-time, going to school on nights and weekends, and taking on clients I was quite busy but I quickly realized that I needed to build something up before resigning from a lucrative profession. I decided that I'd give myself time to build up my business and then I'd resign - and that's exactly what I did. Not long after I resigned, I launched a blog that I had registered in May 2005 called decor8 -- and finally wrote my first post on it in January 2006. I certainly didn't realize blogs would bewhere they are today! I started writing on decor8 so that I could share things that I loved but also have a space to record my inspirations and ideas for myself. Quickly, it took off. I also wanted to have something online that I could refer editors to because my goal was to supplement my income as a new decorator by also writing for design magazines.Sure enough, that worked out. I started writing for magazines (print + web) and newspapers within 6 months and today I still am writing freelance.

I guess in a nutshell - I realized that I couldn't force upon myself a career that didn't fit any longer and that I needed to take initiative in order to change it. I dug deep, made a lot of lists, and tracked everything back to my childhood where I spent so much time writing, decorating and neatly arranging things all over my room. Once I tapped in, I knew I had to start walking down paths that took me closer to my goal -- my corporate job was only leading me further away.

Did you have people who shared their wisdom with you who helped you on your way?

My husband Thorsten - in fact, if I didn't have him in my life I know I would still be sitting at my desk job staring out of the window wanting more but feeling like I couldn't do it. I lacked courage in myself because before I met my husband, my father left when Iwas 17 and I never saw him again though he lived only 20 minutes away -- without explanation -- and that did a number on my self esteem. That led me to get into a relationship with someone who,though kind, was quite manipulative and hurt me over and over again and I kept taking it because my self esteem was low to begin with. I was with that man for 7 years and then met my husband,ironically on the internet from a post I wrote in a forum (this was 1998)! I finally ended the relationship once and for all and my husband supported me as a good friend and we started to date, he lived in Germany and I was in Boston at the time, and we got married in 2001 and I've been with him ever since.

Thorsten has helped me to rebuild a lot of what I lost and helped me to tap into my coreand see my value and to realize that I have something to give and that I'm a good person. It feels funny to write that, but the Hollyhe married was broken hearted yet hopeful and he saw that glimmer in my eye, read into that hope, and knew he could pull it to the surface and help me to reach my potential. As a loving husband and friend he slowly helped me through his compassion and care to tie up all that had unravelled within me from years prior and I'm so grateful for his love and wisdom over the years. We have a very special relationship as a result and a permanent bond.

Who is/are your most precious influence(s)?

My husband, absolutely 100%.

I personally am amazed at how well you have adjusted to live in a foreign country and have continued to cultivate success, even when your ambient was new and took some getting used to.  How have you done it?

I know my limitations. When I'm drained or in need of inspiration or a touch of "home", I read American blogs or fly to London (it feels like home to me there, I guess it's because everyone speaks English, there are lots of US brands around, and it's a lot like Boston where I spent my adult life) for my fix. Funny enough, I also can take the train 4 hours to Amsterdam and get my "American fix" as well, it feels like a little NYC to me there and so many speak English, but also the vibe reminds me a lot of America. Another fix is Hamburg, though German, it really reminds me of Boston and since it's an hour from me, I can zip up there quickly and return home same day feeling refreshed. I think as an expat you need to have a short list of activities to plug into in order to get over those feelings of being homesick. Whether it is something you cook, people you have over, a city you go to, a DVD you watch... whatever it is you have to have your plug-in points and use them as you're starting to slip down that rabbit hole of "poor me" and you'll snap out quickly. Funny enough, I find calling friends back home or my mother a quick way to only feel more homesick - so I only call them when I'm riding high -- when I'm feeling low I make sure I don't call home! LOL

Can you please tell us what you think is the most important component of getting what you want out of life?

The most important component of getting what you want out of life is to identify WHAT YOU WANT out of life. Seems funny to write that, but it's true. Many complain that they aren't happy but most don't take the time to explore themselves and tap into what would really fulfill them. The hamster wheel existence is no life at all. It's important to slow down and regularly evaluate where you are in life and where you want to go and keep adjusting your plan with every step. We evolve as people based on our influences, others who come and go, experiences, age, etc. so we have to regularly evaluate our goals. What we want today may not be what will make us happy later in life or it may be the best thing for us - regular self evaluation is the only way to stay on top of that. Journaling, talking it through with a caring friend or partner, even blogging -- these things can definitely help you to make connections to what you want and in which direction you need to go.

How do you keep thinking big?

I'm a big picture person, I'm quite ambitious by nature as I'm a conceptual thinker so for me thinking big is a problem and I constantly have to reign myself in! I've actually had to learn how to think small because breaking big goals down into manageable chunks and taking them in baby steps helps me to actually reach goals or else I'd be all over the place!