Kathryn Bechen blogs about decorating and travel at www.kathrynbechenink.blogspot.com. She says, "my web site and blog are dedicated to bringing beauty, order and inspiration to those who want to live their best lives." In this interview, she talks about her work as an interior decorator and professional writer.
Commitment: Tell us about your blog on decorating. What led you to become a professional interior decorator?
Kathryn Bechen: I have loved houses since I was a young girl and was always moving my furniture around in my bedroom or organizing my closet. Both a penchant for order and an eye for beauty come naturally to me. My husband Steve and I have lived in 12 residences in 30 years and we have organized and decorated all of them together, so I finally decided to "officially" get my interior decorating certificate from Decorator Training Institute in 2006.
Commitment: What would you say to a woman who comes to you with this question: "I hate my house! It is a perpetual mess and beauty isn't something I even know how to access anymore." What steps would you recommend she take to restore beauty and order in her home?
Kathryn: By the time someone feels this way, I feel drastic action is needed. Especially when life feels hard, and it does for all of us at some time or another, beauty and order heal and comfort and should always be available in some form at home, however small.
The first step is to go on a room-by-room decluttering and organizing marathon of your whole home, even if you have to take a week or two off from work to do it and get "caught up." Sometimes an "organizing blitz" is needed!
Enlist the help of a friend or family member, or if need be, hire a professional organizer.
Once all the clutter is out, then you can finally see how to put some beauty back into your home and life because you're working from a clean slate.
At that stage you can paint, clean your carpets and upholstery, add some fresh colorful pillows to your sofa, put a wreath on your front door, buy some new towels for your bathroom and kitchen. Remember, a few small pretty items can pack a big punch!
You have to be resolutely determined to get organized at home because it's hard work if it's a super big mess and it takes time.
You must also feel that you deserve to live in an orderly and beautiful home space. Also be sure to choose decorative items that are your own taste or what I refer to as your "signature style."
Commitment: What are some of your best tips for women who feel stressed, overloaded and feel like they lack beauty in their everyday lives?
Kathryn: Take care of you! Most women give so much to others so I think we need to be very aware that we must also fill up our own "well-being well" too.
I understand that we all feel time-pressed, but it can be done! I personally take very good care of my own body, mind, spirit, and home, and by doing so I am at my best with others.
I do believe how each woman nurtures herself is unique to her. For me, I read uplifting books, get a manicure and pedicure, walk on the beach all alone near my home for quiet "thinking" time, and attend a weekly church group and/or service to re-fuel.
I also try to stay well-groomed both for myself and my husband; I like my pampering beauty rituals and I keep them simple so I will do them regularly.
And of course, I like to just putter around my home fluffing up the pillows as a way of relaxing too!
Try to find ways to nurture yourself that feel good to YOU; sit down with a journal or your computer and make a list of what you like to do that's fun. You're worth it! No one is going to give you that time or permission; you have to set tight boundaries and probably give up something else to claim time for your own well-being. You'll be less stressed, more peaceful, and more pleasant for others to be around too.
Also, even if you are on a tight beauty and/or decorating budget, you can still take a bubblebath, light a candle and read a book for 30 minutes, or go for a walk in a park or on the beach where there's natural beauty.
Buy just one flower for yourself instead of a whole bouquet. Ask your hubby to watch the kids and go to a movie matinee by yourself or with a girlfriend.
Buy a new bedspread and some pillows in your favorite fabric. Little touches of beauty at home and in your personal care here and there add up. "Make room in the budget for beauty" I always say!
Commitment: How would you describe your design style?
Kathryn: Indoor garden/cottage style
Commitment: What is cottage style decorating and why is it so popular? What attracted you to this type of decorating?
Kathryn: I have always lived with some variation of cottage style decorating, although I've upscaled it a bit over the years depending on the home I lived in at the time.
I choose cottage style over and over because it's colorful, cozy, comforting, inexpensive, and timeless. Also, since I have moved so many times, as long as I have my comforting and colorful furnishings to take with me, I can make a new place feel "like home" within a very short time.
Cottage style is also a "collector's style" so people often enjoy building happy friendships while going to flea markets, garage sales etc. and finding and collecting furnishings and accessories, often for a song. A girlfriend and I did that for years together and had such fun.
I have a short tips e-book called "191 Tips For Indoor & Outdoor Cottage Style at Home" that has more simple room-by-room tips and ideas.
Commitment: Tell us about the elements in your home that express cottage style decorating.
Kathryn: I live in a modern urban high-rise complex in San Diego, CA, which seems about as far from a cozy cottage as you can get! I love my home space and the ease of its urban lifestyle, and by bringing my cottage decor along with me when we moved in, I created an "upscale urban cottage" for us within a week of moving in.
Here's a sampling of what makes my own home feel like cottage style:
My husband and I have collected antiques for many years during our travels. We like to go to flea markets and auctions; I have a set of beautiful botanical prints that cost $3 and were in a box of junk we bid on at an auction as young newlyweds. I had them framed professionally and I still get compliments on them.
I like to mix and match nice furnishings and accessories with inexpensive, but attractive, "found" items.
I have a white wicker chair in my office with floral quilted pillows on it from Home Goods. (Only $24 for two--I love a bargain!)
Our master bedroom has a floral quilt and a "canopy" we created over the bed that is made from rose-motif drapes. Floral everything abounds in the pillows, window hangings, and in silk and fresh flowers so it feels like an "indoor garden."
I also have some old iron grates hanging on my walls and an old rustic looking door in the corner as an architectural element. They contribute to sort of an aged/Old World look which feels timeless.
A gal I know who owns a boutique gave me the old door for free; it was in the junk pile outside in the back of her store and I love it!
Our tiny outdoor urban terrace looks like a New York rooftop garden with a decorative screen, and silk trees, plants, and flowers hide the not-so-pretty urban roof next door.
You can see a complete room-by-room photo tour of my urban high-rise cottage style home and neighborhood here:
Also, my former cottage style beach condo was just featured in Country Almanac magazine where you can see two do-it-yourself projects I wrote about. http://www.kathrynbechenink.com/pdfs/countryalmanac02-10.pdf
Commitment: If someone wanted to create a beautiful cottage feel in their home, what can they do to begin this process?
Kathryn: Take a look around your home and evaluate what elements you might already have that can contribute to the cottage look. Perhaps you already have a wicker chair, a quilt, and some quilted floral pillows. If not, those are three good places to start.
Commitment: What is your best home decorating tip?
Kathryn: If someone only can afford to do just one tiny and quick thing to make their home more attractive my tip is to put a colorful silk floral wreath on the front door. It says "Welcome" to both you and your guests.
Commitmentnow: What are your best tips for staying organized at home?
Kathryn: Once you have done a decluttering and organizing blitz like I mentioned earlier, you have to maintain it or it will be right back to where you started.
Maintenance requires good systems and routines for all your household managment tasks and they must be kept up regularly.
Once you set up good systems and routines, it won't be that hard to stay organized, but you have to commit to do it. I recommend a little bit of organizing every day to maintain it.
I have a short tips e-book, "121 Dollarwise Decorating & Organizing Tips to MakeYour House a Home" for more ideas.
Commitment: Your blog is absolutely beautiful. Can you share with us some of your favorite posts?
Kathryn: Thank you for your compliment about my blog; I'm so glad you like it!
My favorite blog posts are the kind letters I receive from my readers from around the world saying I have inspired and/or motivated them to get organized and create beauty in their home and life. That makes me smile!
It also makes me happy when people tell me I have inspired them to do something that has been a dream of theirs.
One woman wrote to me and called me "brave" for putting my true self and how I live out on my blog and said I therefore motivated her to re-ignite her own creative business that had grown dormant due to a very busy family schedule.
My other favorite posts are those about my travels with my husband Steve who has been the love of my life since I was just 18 years old; we will be married 30 years on June 7, 2010. We attend garden walks regularly each year and we also travel to bed and breakfast inns as a hobby and have for many years. Those inns have also been a great decorating education just by the power of observation on my part as I've stayed there.
Commitment: What is a 'home poem' and why do you write them?
Kathryn: My "home poems" are just little poems about life at home that I write when the muse strikes. I do it for fun. I have one humorous one called "Decorating Without Divorcing" which is about how couples can create style harmony at home together.
That poem recently led to me being interviewed by an AP news reporter and the article appeared in over 50 international media outlets within just a few weeks, including ABC News, MSNBC, and Metronews.ca, the world's largest global newspaper.
It was fun to know that my tips to help couples create a happy home together were read around the world! I was also interviewed about "Decorating Without Divorcing" on the radio recently too. Here are the links to the poem and radio show:
Commitment: Tell us about your work as a writer--where have you been published and what services do you offer your clients?
Kathryn: Writing is my true love and passion so I combined my decorating and organizing education and experience with my B.A. degree in English and Education to write about beauty, order and lifestyle topics on a professional level. Writing is the main focus of my career at this stage.
I just completed a new page on my website called "Passion For the Page: How I Became a Nationally Published Writer." It chronicles my true story in words and photos about how I came from very humble childhood beginnings to putting myself through college, to where I am today as a professional writer for national U.S. home and garden magazines, regional wedding magazines, and local newspapers.
I have interviewed some amazingly accomplished people (and yes, even famous) for feature articles, which are my favorite type of writing as I love the interview process and capturing the special essence of my interviewee in words.http://www.kathrynbechenink.com/kathryn-story.html
I have also written and published several of my own lifestyle e-books and I am now being considered as an author by a book publisher. My most recent fun writing experience is that I am soon being sent by a magazine on a luxurious four day all-expense paid trip and then will then be writing a feature article based on my experiences.
In addition to my published writing, I also write marketing copy for creative entrepreneurs from all over the country which I really enjoy because I love helping small business owners "bloom" and watching them succeed. I have some wonderful and successful clients who found me online; I have met very few of my clients in person.
My favorite place to write is from my cozy cottage style bed, using my pink laptop!
Visit Kathryn at www.KathrynBechenInk.com