I am beyond honored to be able to share this interview with you today: Holly Becker is the founder & editor of decor8 (which was the very first blog I started reading daily!) and Haus Maus, where Holly chronicles her move from the US to Germany and her current life as an ex-pat, creator of the Blogging Your Way e-course and author of Decorate: 1,000 Design Ideas for Every Room in Your Home, her first book, which will be published in Spring 2011 in the US and UK and in the Fall in Germany. Holly is such an inspiration to me personally, not just in terms of refining my decorating style and motivating me to blog with creativity, but also to dream big – Holly did, and now she has not only a successful blog and freelance writing career, but she is a published author and she accomplished a major dream of hers to move to Europe with her husband.
I was able to catch this busy lady (she is off to London in a few days to meet with the press about the release of Decorate!) for a little chat about moving overseas, staying true to your creative vision and more, and I think you will really enjoy what she has to say. So, go grab yourself a cup of something yummy to drink, curl up in your favorite chair, and let’s chat with Holly :)
Lolalina: What advice would you give others who are dreaming of moving abroad?
Holly: Plan, plan, plan! It’s vital. We saved up and planned for several years. We realized that one of us needed a freelance career in order to do it, so I resigned from my corporate job to try to build up my own business. My husband and I started to come to Germany a few months each year — we negotiated a special rate for 8 weeks at a time in a hotel — they gave us a suite for a special rate since we agreed to stay during off season.
We did that for a few years in a row, then we decided to just take an apartment so when my husband’s grandmother passed away, we took her place and though she only rented and we still had to pay for it like any other renter, it ended up being equal to what the hotel was charging us, only we had the apartment for a full year at a time and the hotel for only two months. Plus, now we could leave stuff in our apartment and so we could fly over from Boston with no luggage each year which was wonderful. Again, this took a great deal of cash but we moved out of the city to rent a small house in southern New Hampshire for 5 years in order to save money and put it into our master plan, which was to ultimately relocate or at least be bi-continental for awhile.
We ended up living in two countries for four years and then in 2009 we decided to make the big jump and we moved over full-time and gave up our home in New Hampshire. Of course, we did a lot to prepare — you need to be “fluent” when it comes to immigration laws, tax laws, you name it you need to know it — but once you figure everything out and set your mind on something you really have to give it a whirl or else you’ll die someday with regrets and what is the point in living a life that is mundane if you really can have it all — at least “your” all.
How has your decorating style changed since moving to Germany?
When you live in a different part of the world and in a different economy (we use Euros here), and in a whole different culture where the focus is different, and where trends are different, you do find your decorating style shifting a bit and mine definitely has — for the better I think. Most people here are not into the American interior names/brands here… few associate a certain lifestyle with those objects or brands so for me to have them means nothing to most of my friends who visit me. It’s not that people here are not “in the know” — they know the big American names, but when you don’t have American designers names on products that are being sold here then people may not associate a certain lifestyle with it so it’s meaningless to them. It’s like if I talked about some brands here that mean a lot to Germans, most Americans wouldn’t know what I was talking about nor would they care.
In addition to not being as interested in brands as I once was, I’m much more focused on clutter-free living and creating more of a mood in my home over just having pretty things. Creating a loving home that supports my husband and I is top priority to me. A good looking home without a hot meal, organized closets and lots of cuddle time on the sofa doesn’t interest me and certainly doesn’t make me happy. I guess I am starting to simply realize what home means because I finally found my home – I love living here and I adore the apartment that we moved into.
How do you manage to stay true to your own personal creative vision when there is so much visual “noise” to sift through out there?
I don’t know, I just do. I’ve always had good taste, and I don’t mean that to sound snobby but people have been telling me that since I was very young so I’ve learned that it really has to do with who I am more than anything else. Of course, one can train their eye and I definitely do this — for instance, I make it a point to visit only blogs and websites that I absolutely click with which I think is important — tasteless, bad, ugly, all of that can really rub off on us. When you surround yourself with things you really love, that are in good taste, right down to the content you take in online, you can’t help but be influenced in a positive way from it. You can’t help but notice your creative vision becoming clearer.
It seems pretty obvious that you and Thorsten have an awesome relationship – any tips to share there? ;)
Hot sex every single night! ha ha! Just kidding. Seriously, we talk a lot. Thorsten is not one of those guys who stews or holds back — if he doesn’t like something (or if he does) he tells me. We trust one another completely — he knows he can trust me with my friends, our bank account, other men, the decisions I make, all of it. I’ve never betrayed him and he has never betrayed me. Trust and communication are big reasons for our success as a couple. We have rows like anyone else, but we never go to sleep angry. We also allow the other to have plenty of space and time alone. If he wants to have his friends over and play video games, call out for pizza and shut themselves in his office/media room I could care less, I’m not his mother — I am his wife and friend and I want him to have fun and enjoy his life.
We don’t have the typical structured family life — we both know what needs to be done around the house, we do it, end of story. We both lived on our own before getting married which may be why things work so well to, we both had to clean and cook and run errands for years on our own before getting married so once we married it was second nature. But yeah, our marriage is really great, he really has a big heart and is so, so kind. I couldn’t have found a better guy for me.
Thank you so much, Holly, for visiting with us here, it means the world to me! And dear friends, what are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you! xoxo Laura
(all images: Holly Becker, decor8, LLC)