Book Review: “Decorate” by Holly Becker and Joanna Copestick

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“Your home should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you love brought together under one roof.”  Nate Berkus

Rooms That Tell a Story:

I have always been captivated by design books. Just like going on home tours, or glancing in an open window while driving by, reading books like Decorate lets me peer, if only briefly, into the world, and stories, of others.  Pick up this amazing new book and find yourself transported into some of the most visually interesting and inspiring rooms you have seen in a long while.  Decorate is a visual feast of the kinds of rooms we want to live-in today. The author, Holly Becker, is the creator of the enormously popular design website Decor8.  Gone are the matchy-match furniture groupings from the local furniture store.  Gone are the impersonal, super-modern, sterile rooms that represent “status”.  This book brings to our attention the inspirational designs of those who recognize our need to tell a story with our homes.

Here are  my “Take-Away’s” from the book:

Take-Away #1:  First of all, I love that the rooms look specifically “undecorated” and more amassed over time with meaningful objects.  I am in awe of the current trend toward purposeful mixing of patterns and layering textures.  In one room, a pastel floral watercolor painting hangs next to a mount of deer antlers; which is  flanked by a geometrically patterned, Victorian-inspired sofa; all of which is accompanied by a modern, clean-lined coffee table.  The message is:  There really are no rules!  A quote from the book that communicates this idea:  “Enjoy the hunt—it’s worth waiting for something special… and you’re bound to find other bits along the way.” – Emily Chalmers (inside cover)

Take Away #2:  How liberating it is that you can mix all of the following in a very beautiful and visually interesting room: architectural salvage, flea-market finds, family heirlooms, your daughter’s crayola drawing, high-end pieces mixed with thrift store finds…All of which embrace the patina of objects that have had a story.  “Decorating is an extension of your personal style.  Finding your decorating style depends on knowing what you love at a gut level.” –Carrie McCarthy, author

Take Away #3: From reading this book, I have determined that my style leans toward “Flea Market Style”  I absolutely swoon for things like clocks taken from warehouses, industrial metal shelving units, collections of vases and old advertising signs.  Love, love, love this section of the book!  I also identify with the section: “Eclectic Style.”   It is amazing to me that modern decorating will let you pair your parents’ cast-off lounge chairs (recovered, of course) from 1970 with a funky bohemian wall hanging and your grandmother’s needlepoint pillows.  Toss in some bright shiny metallic vases and anything else you have collected over the years and suddenly you have a room that sparks conversation!  This kind of decorating lets you tell a story and honor your past as well as your present.  Thank you, Holly Becker, for showing us that we can fill our rooms with affordable, sentimental items and that we don’t have to go to an expensive furniture store and buy an entire room at once!

Take Away #4:  If you’re reading this, perhaps you know I’m a huge fan of books.  For reading, for decorating, for crafts…. for everything.  Decorate is filled with pictures of rooms in many different styles, but something I notice is that most of the rooms contain BOOKS. On tables, piled high, stuffed on shelves… The message is clear, books are the staple that completes a room’s story!   On page 97,  I am inspired by the picture of books…. the combination of colors and the mood it inspires. It says,  “Vintage books with distinctive dust jackets are delightful objects in their own right, whether used for reading, displaying, or as sosurces of inspiration for decorating.”  I couldn’t agree more!

Without a doubt, I have been coveting this book since I got to hear Holly’s keynote at The Creative Connection Event in St. Paul. Her presentation was my favorite of the weekend, and when I returned from Minnesota, I blogged about my favorite quotes of the weekend; one of which was from Holly (You can check out this post here.)  All of her books were sold-out, so I was very disappointed that I couldn’t get a signed copy.  However,  at the end of the weekend, I had the opportunity to meet Holly, and she couldn’t have been more lovely and down-to-earth… just like her book!

Crafty Team Spirit…. Princess Lasertron Style!

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“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  -Helen Keller

So, I work at a high school, and this week is Homecoming Week.  I don’t care how old you might be, you probably remember the buzz and energy of Homecoming.  The team building, the buzz, the energy, the traditions…..  It’s about theme inspired dress-up days, and class competitions, and parades and of course, the game!  That’s why I’m so excited about the prize ribbon I made at The Creative Connection Event.  I was so fortunate to be able to take a class by Megan from Princess Lasertron.  We all made these enormous, over-the-top, but oh-so-cute, prize ribbons.  In my daily life, I just don’t see myself donning it for groceries or the mall.  However, Homecoming is the perfect occasion to sport some extra big team spirit.  I was so excited to choose my school’s blue and green, as well as embroider a big “G” on the center button.  All of the ladies who attended this class were so much fun, and we truly enjoyed each others’ company.  It reminded me of what old-fashioned sewing circles must have been like.  I’m going to stock up on some more felt and ribbon, some fabric covered button kits, and I’m going to make some more of these beauties to share with my colleagues for next year.  Who says that team spirit can’t be crafty? Go Team!!

Brilliantly Brilliant Dottie Angel!

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“Never doubt your instincts in a thrift store.”  -Dottie Angel

Yes, I’m still talking about the Creative Connection Event.  (It may never end, so hopefully you’re okay with it!) While I was there,  I had the amazing opportunity to meet with the publisher of Uppercase Magazine Janine Vangool for my Pitch Slam.  Her company published the book I want to tell you about….. Dottie Angel: the Peachy Crafty World of Tif Fussell.

I absolutely must borrow from Tif’s super-fun vocabulary to tell you that this book is, “peach, fabby, and brilliantly brilliant!”  I had been saving this treasure since I got home from TCC.  It was perched on top of a pile waiting for a really quiet, special moment when I could settle in for an extended amount of uninterrupted time.  When you hold this book in your hands, you will understand that trying to read it while commuting, or perhaps cramming in a few pages at the doctor’s office, just won’t do this sweet little volume justice.  This book has so many special touches, it feels as if it were handmade just for me.  It wasn’t just rolled off the presses and put in a box.  No,  I’m not going to give away the surprises.  You’ll just have to order one for yourself from Uppercase.  I could go on and on about why I love this book, but most of all, I love that when I read it, I feel like I’m sitting in the Airstream with “Dottie” (Tif)  on a lovingly weathered chair, covered with hand crocheted doilies, drinking a cup of tea,  in a beautifully chipped cup from the thrift store, and gazing at some of her handmade treasures.  When I read the description of the book, I must say, she had me at “thrift store.”  I confess — I’m a complete thrift store junkie!  Tif and I have exactly the same passions:  crocheted covered vintage hangers, ceramic animal figurines and granny squares!  We both have “crafting epiphanies” and an appreciation for anything with “granny chic!” She is “utmost kind” in sharing ideas for fun little treasures to make, and she tells you about her special little world where tools have names and bunnies wear capes.  “Thank you kindly,” Tif, for the crafty ideas, the walks down memory lane, and for letting me into the perfectly blissful world of my new best friend, Dottie Angel!

ReMake It…. from books, of course!

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“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a songbird will come.” –Chinese proverb

At The Creative Connection Event in St. Paul, I took a class from Tiffany Threadgould who just published a unique and thoroughly inspirational book published by Sterling called ReMake It!  So, this post is part book-review, and part show-and-tell.  In her class, Tiffany taught us how to do several of the simple crafts from her book, and we had a blast whipping up paper beads, envelopes, gift bows and coasters.  All of the crafts were “green,” but they were much more than that…. they were cool!  They had a hip graphic vibe and could be tailored to fit into any person’s design style.  Personally, I am in love with words, letters, and anything that has to do with books. As a result, this book, and Tiffany’s ideas, really appeal to me, as many of them were made out of old magazines and book pages.  I also have plans to try making a button bracelet, a case for my cell phone from a men’s necktie, and a t-shirt skirt – SO CUTE!  Her book is full of great pictures and easy templates to follow, so many of these projects can be as sophisticated or a simple as you want them to be.  I would definitely recommend picking up this book to use with children for school art activities or craft time!

So, after I returned from the Event, I decided to turn my inspiration from her class into my own unique art.  I went to the local library’s book sale where they were selling thousands of used, donated books to raise money for the Friends of the Library group.  (I brought home a LOT of books, which I have just decided is a sickness I will have to live with.)  I took graphic images from these books, mostly used children’s stories, and cut them out to create note-cards.  Then I went out to my stash of old Saturday Evening Post magazines in the garage (once again, thanks Grandma) and used some of the pages to create envelopes for the note-cards. (Both of these ideas are outlined in Tiffany’s book.)  Together, the cards and envelopes are a visual delight of vintage images, type, words, and graphics.  I’m going to fill them out and get them in the mail.  I hope the recipients enjoy receiving them as much as I enjoyed making them!

The Creative Connection: Quotable Quotes

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“I just want to be on the adventure of my life.”                                                       Kelly Rae Roberts (at TCC 2011)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I attended the Creative Connection Event in St. Paul, Minnesota, last week, and had the most unbelievably rejuvenating time.  It was a love-fest of crafty, creative women supporting each other,

Look at all of the fun stuff I had to try to fit into my suitcase!

and of course, connecting!  I had so much fun touching base with many of the women that I had met last year such as….. Nicole McConville from Sterling Publishing.  Check out her re-cap and amazing photos here.

I made two new friends the first night, April from Catching Fireflies and Michelle from Allen Designs, who let me tag along on a quick tour of some of the fun shops in St. Paul. They were so sweet that they bought me dinner and didn’t make me feel like a total shmuck for forgetting my wallet at the hotel.

I took a few hands-on classes, but my favorite was with Megan from Princess Lasertron.  We made these super-cute felt ribbons.  In fact, her post about TCC here includes pictures of me and some of the super cool ladies I met there.  Just looking at it makes me wish next year were here already! I was so inspired by all of the keynotes, but especially by the wise words and insight of Holly Becker from Decor8 who was so down-to-earth, likeable, and funny.  She’s the kind of person you wish you could go to coffee with and become BFF’s!

One thing I found myself doing throughout the weekend is jotting down all of the profound, witty, memorable quotes coming from the attendees, speakers, panelists, etc.  Here are some of my favorites…. If they don’t make you want to attend TCC next year, I don’t know what will!

1.  A representative from Sterling Publishing, one of the few males at the conference, (sorry…. didn’t get your name) said in reference to books….. “They are like bright, shiny objects… The physical book is here to stay.”  (Amen, brother!!)

2.  Jo Packham said about TCC, “It’s a place where we go from strangers to BFF’s in three and a half minutes.”  (So true, Jo, so true!)

3.  Christina Ferrare said, “Listen to the voice in your head speaking to you.”  (Lump in the throat moment for me.)

4.  Holly Becker wisely said, “If you’re saying ‘yes’ to something you really love, it’s the right ‘yes’.”

5.  Jo Packham said, “If you haven’t made a friend, made a deal, gotten a new idea…. shame on you!”  (This made me laugh outloud, but I couldn’t agree more.  You have to take advantage of the environment of TCC, otherwise, what’s the point?)

6.  “There really is room for all of us.”  Kelly Rae Roberts (Hearing this gave me a little lift.  It made me feel not so much like a little fish in the ocean.)

7. Karen Walrond from chookoloonks said, “When you realize that your difference is your superpower– it really is magical.”

8.  “Sometimes you just need to get quiet and get simple.”  Leigh Standley from Curly Girl Design. (I’m working on it, Leigh!)

9.  The super-sweet Janine Vangool from a really cool magazine called Uppercase said, “Everyone here is really happy. It’s nice to come to an event where everybody is happy. Being creative makes us happy, but it’s difficult and hard work. But it’s also difficult and hard work to be happy.”

10.  Melody Ross from Brave Girls’ Club said, “Decide what kind of life you want to have, and build your business around that.”  (That rings true to me.  If we go about it the opposite way, we may find that suddenly we don’t have the life we want!)

Okay, here’s the funny stuff…..

11.  I think one of the event coordinators was overwhelmed and overworked when she jokingly said, “If anyone has any drugs…. I’ll take them.”

12.  Princess Lasertron (aka Megan Hunt) said, slightly tongue in cheek, “I’m trying really hard to make my daughter goth, but my mother just wants her to be preppy.” (This cracked me up! Have you seen Megan?  She’s a sweet as apple pie!)

13.  One of the panelists, a successful artist said, “I think people would be surprised at how little I shower.”  (The lack of time to shower became a joke of the day.  Perhaps Jo should solicit sponsorship from a soap or shampoo company next year!!!!!)

Well, I could go on and on.  I had such a great time at TCC, and I hope to bottle up some of the good vibes to get me through until next year.  Thanks Jo for your hard work and hospitality!


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“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.”          C.S. Lewis

I’ve just spent the last few days with some of the most brilliant, beautiful, creative women in the world at The Creative Connection Event.  (More detailed post to follow soon!)  I participated in a “Pitch Slam,” and I told some very smart women in publishing about my desire to write book reviews for creative publications.  My opinion is that creative people are also readers.  I think the two passions seem to go hand in hand for many.  In fact, when I told some of the women about my pitch, they chimed in, “Yes!”  I love to read. Here’s my theory…. women who are part of the creative community are just as anxious to tell me about the latest book they’ve read, as they are to tell me about their favorite recipe, or craft supply.  I think it’s a shared gene.  I think the crafty “lifestyle” publications that we’re reading from Stampington, Mary Jane’s Farm, Uppercase, Inspired Ideas, Matthew Mead etc. (See links in my sidebar) should think outside the box (here’s where I come in) and publish reviews for such genres as fiction, biography, memoir, as well as “how-to.”  I am the perfect person to write such reviews.  I am a member of the creative community.  I am passionate about books. I know the kinds of books creative women like to read. I’m a LIBRARIAN for heaven’s sake!” I want to come up with interesting collections of books to recommend around themes and topics. Food fiction?  You’ve got it.  Farming memoirs, no problem.  Biographies about artists?  Coming up!  Oh, my creative juices are flowing, and I must go.  I’ve got books to read!  WHAT WOMEN READ…. has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

The Creative Connection

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Me, in green, with my new friends at the Creative Connection Event last year!

“Imagination is the beginning of creation.  You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last you create what you will.” George Bernard Shaw

Without a doubt, one of the main reasons that I have even started this blog in the first place is because of “The Creative Connection Event”. Last year, I was fortunate enough to attend this amazing conference, and it has opened up so many creative doors for me. I have been inspired to explore my creativity and to visit the online resources of all of the many amazing Crafty Goddesses out there sharing their artistic-ness. I have so many ideas because of this event. I highly encourage anyone to attend who wants to network and connect with other like-minded women who live for creating. You have nothing to lose, and your eyes will be opened to the possibilities. A big thank you to Jo Packham and Nancy Soriano for creating this event and giving a forum for so many talented ladies.  Bravo! Some of these very talented ladies are pictured here:  Jill, Me, Suzanne and Erin.  Suzanne has her own blog, bebehblog, and was so excited last year to meet some of the celebrities of blog-land. Erin had won a contest to attend the conference last year by creating the most unique boy’s backpack for her son.  She was featured in the February 2011 issue of “Where Women Create.”  Check out her website at:  123 Cute as Can Be. If you want to try to win a free trip for you and a friend to this festival of craftiness, there is an unbelieveable giveaway on their website!