If there’s nothing you love more than sitting down with your morning coffee and perusing your favorite design blogs, you can thank Holly Becker. She’s one of the “founding fathers” of the genre, starting her site, decor8, in 2006, when niche blogging was still in its infancy.
In the eight years since her first post, Becker has gone on to write columns for popular shelter magazines, author three books (one an international best-seller), and teach blogging seminars around the world.
We recently got a chance to catch up with Becker, whose curated collection for Joss & Main launches Tuesday, July 15 at 9:00 p.m., about how she got her start in design, what motivates her boundless creativity, her dreams for her brand, and more.
Here’s what she had to say.
How did you start your blog?
I was a human resources and facilities manager for nearly 10 years at one of America’s top investment firms located in Boston, where I worked with architects and designers as a space planner for most of my career. I decided one day to chase my dream and become an interior designer because I felt my job wasn’t creative enough for me. So, I went back to college and entered a two-year interior design diploma program. Within a year, I started my own decorating firm and called it “decor8” (sounds like decorate) and had many clients during the nights and weekends when I wasn’t working full-time or at school. After a year of juggling work, school and clients, I decided to resign from my corporate job to become a full-time designer, and in autumn 2005 I did that – and was off to explore a new career in this unknown world.
In January 2006, I started my blog (decor8) before blogging was even popular and before social media even existed (there was no such thing as Twitter or Instagram). I started blogging because in addition to designing for clients, I wanted to write about interiors for American magazines to supplement my income and become more knowledgeable in the field. So I thought having a blog would be part virtual mood board (what I was into at the moment) and part writing portfolio — so me and my opinions and style could get noticed! And it did! I’ve been writing on decor8 ever since – over eight years now. Within the first six months, Domino magazine hired me as a columnist. I became a freelance journalist, full-time blogger and decorator. Then, as my blog became very successful worldwide, I started to teach about blogging in 2009 in a company I founded called Blogging Your Way, which also happened to be the web’s first online course to teach blogging. I also began teaching in-person workshops in 2009 in countries like Germany, Morocco, England and the United States.
In 2010, I wrote my first international bestselling interiors book called Decorate, available in 13 language editions worldwide and went on a 20-city book tour in the USA (sponsored by Anthropologie stores!) and in the UK and Europe (including the Netherlands). I’ve since written two more books, Decorate Workshop and Decorate With Flowers. Those are both available in seven editions.
I’ve been a full-time blogger since 2006, which allowed us to live in two countries for three years, then in 2009, to relocate from Boston to Germany where we are currently based. Working from home has been wonderful!
How long did it take until people started reading your blog?
Only a few weeks, but then lots of people started reading when Apartment Therapy wrote this tiny blurb on their site about decor8. Funny enough, eight years later they gave me an award and wrote this. You really can start from very little and make your dreams come true.
At what point did you realize you were onto something with decor8?
Right away. My readers were pouring in from all over the world. Lots of them then went on to launch their own blogs. I could tell the community of readers and bloggers was set to grow very quickly and would become huge. I could sense a movement taking shape.
What has been your biggest learning experience as a blogger?
Never work for free for mid-size or large companies, and don’t share ideas with anyone unless you are willing to see those ideas stolen. This happens constantly in the creative community. It makes me realize that as much as I want everyone to have good intentions, not everyone wants to hold hands and sing Kumbaya. Some people don’t have good intentions. In the end, those people end up driving me, often pushing me forward because I thrive under pressure and love challenge. I often come back stronger. This has really helped me as a freelancer. I think it’s the one thing a freelancer must have when they decide to work for themselves – confidence that their creative ideas will be stolen but that they can rise above because their creative ideas will always be flowing out. Knowing you really are unstoppable is power and huge ammo for getting stuff done and pushing past the idiots.
You’ve published three books. What was your goal with each of them?
To do what I love while inspiring others, to grow as a person and learn new things while broadening and sharpening my skills and to create something fresh. I like looking at what’s missing and then figuring out how to fill the void. It’s more challenging and fun – duplicating what’s already been done is easy and safe which bores most creative types like me.
What are some of your dreams for the decor8 brand?
Products, television, more books… A retail space.
Would you ever do a line of your own?
Yes definitely! The sky’s the limit!
How did you manage to learn so much about interior design and home décor? Is it natural?
I grew up around it – my mother loved decorating and always encouraged me to get involved. I first starting buying home floor plan magazines when I was seven years old and would draw up new plans that I thought were cooler than the book. I was fascinated with construction, building, architecture and design. I begged my parents to take me to model home shows and open houses and would frequently ride my bike to new neighborhoods were I lived after hours and walk through the homes being built imagining where I’d put this and that. Young kids just don’t do things like that, so I always knew it was in me. I would frequently rearrange our family home too, my mother said she never knew where the sofa would be when she came home. My dream gift was for my parents to build me a house in the backyard, one room was fine and I would’ve been happy with a garden shed, but that never happened and to this day I wish I had begged a little more… Eventually I got into design as a career when I returned to school to study interior design, then I started my blog. I’m so glad I followed my heart.
How would you describe your style? And where, would you say, does your sense of style come from?
Feminine, modern, eclectic, personal, joyful. My sense of style comes from my heart and my life and is always evolving as new experiences occur.
If you had to choose three things that can completely transform a home, what would they be?
1. Great paint colors or wallpaper on the walls
2. Super organizational systems so only the good stuff is displayed and everything else is hidden from view so your home is edited and tidy and becomes a place of peace vs. chaos
3. A great floor plan with pieces that fit the space. Many homes are jam-packed with big pieces of furniture stuck in rooms that are just too small for them. The result is stuffy and noisy. Rooms need visual breathing space and empty spots in my opinion. Furniture needs to be measured before purchasing. Rooms need to have a good flow for positive energy.
What’s your best advice for helping people tap into their inner sense of style?
In my second book, Decorate Workshop, I wrote an entire chapter about this – I love helping people find their personal style. A quick tip would be through inspiration boards or mood boards. Pin stuff by hand on the wall or virtually using Pinterest. Start recognizing recurring themes. Your personal style will begin to show through the more you do this. Blogging always helps me to hone in on what I’m currently into – blogging has always been my virtual mood board long before sites like Pinterest launched. It always will be.
Love her style? Check out finds inspired by Holly Becker’s home, pictured throughout this post, on Joss & Main.