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A few thousand of her favorite things

Blogger Holly Becker raves about good design - and the people who make it

New Hampshire's Holly Becker (surveying the furnishings at Devi Home in the South End, above) is constantly on the prowl for beautiful and interesting items to post on her popular design blog. Some of her current must haves include (counterclockwise from top left): Chinoiserie bedding from Dwell Studios; an Angela Adams 'Mammy' rug; photos by Alicia Bock; a 'Sunshine Cosmos' pillow by Hable Construction; the LAX coffee table from Mash Studios; Rian Rae pendant lights; Kirin sofa by Oly; and several new fabrics from Amy Butler. More information on these products is on C5. New Hampshire's Holly Becker (surveying the furnishings at Devi Home in the South End, above) is constantly on the prowl for beautiful and interesting items to post on her popular design blog. Some of her current must haves include (counterclockwise from top left): Chinoiserie bedding from Dwell Studios; an Angela Adams "Mammy" rug; photos by Alicia Bock; a "Sunshine Cosmos" pillow by Hable Construction; the LAX coffee table from Mash Studios; Rian Rae pendant lights; Kirin sofa by Oly; and several new fabrics from Amy Butler. More information on these products is on C5. (Wiqan Ang for the Boston Globe)
Email|Print| Text size + By Meaghan Agnew
Globe Correspondent / January 24, 2008

"Oh my God - I love you!"

It's a wintry Saturday afternoon in the South End, and Holly Becker, the creative mind behind design blog decor8, is two hours into an unanticipated love fest. A tour of local home-furnishing boutiques has unearthed a trove of loyal readers, from shop owners to strangers who exclaim their appreciation. The demeanor of one sales associate in particular shifts from cool professional to giddy groupie.

"It's a little overwhelming," Becker later admits.

Started two years ago as a way to catalog interesting home-design finds and cool crafts, decor8.blogspot.com has become the ne plus ultra of design blogs, visited daily by 15,000 readers enamored with Becker's eye for all things stylish and chic, and her gregarious online posts. Her devotion to nurturing little-known talent has also made Becker, 35, something of a design-community activist: a one-woman force dedicated to promoting those with creativity and aspiration.

"Holly is real and accessible," said Catherine Halley, Web editor at Domino magazine and one of decor8's earliest fans. "She emerged immediately as one of the strongest, most passionate voices in the design blog world."

Becker's road to online eclat was circuitous but predestined. As a child, she flexed her space-organizing talents while still diaper-bound.

"When I was very little, I was always moving around my nursery," said Becker, a Rhode Island native who grew up in South Carolina. "I was moving my crib and arranging all my animals in my toy box in a very specific way." The decorating obsession continued into her teens. "My mother always said when she came home she never knew where the sofa would be," Becker says, with a laugh.

But Becker, a vivacious brunette with the gracious manners and sassy humor of a Southern belle, had to wait another 15 years before she could pursue her design plans. She spent several years working at Fidelity in Boston as a project manager, studying business and marketing at night.

"I loved working for the company and they gave me a lot of opportunities," said Becker, who lives just over the New Hampshire border in Hollis. "But my passion lay within design and connecting with people."

She founded interior consulting company decor8 in May 2005 and began catering to a burgeoning, Boston-based clientele on the weekends. That fall, she worked up the courage to leave her corporate job to devote herself full-time to her business. She formally launched decor8.blogspot.com in January 2006, primarily as a way to better serve her clients.

"I had a lot of people saying to me, 'Gee, I wish there was a Holly Shop. I wish you were available at 3 a.m. when I have a question about a sofa,' " Becker said. "And I thought, I have to be that resource. I have this all in my head, I find all these great things - let me put it somewhere and share it."

She began populating her site with thoughtful entries about an array of exceptional objects - retro wallpaper, insect-themed pillows and furniture, ceramic earthenware bird feeders - as well as unusual stores and service providers. Though she was committed to promoting new lines and undiscovered gems, she wasn't interested in forecasting trends. If an item grabbed her attention, she wrote about it.

"It's important to me to write about things I believe in," she said. "I don't just find things and say, 'Oh that's cute, I'm going to write about that.' I make sure that it's something that I would own or would suggest to a client."

Bloggers can toil months or even years before securing a readership beyond family and friends; most never do. It took Becker a tidy two weeks. After beginning her new venture, Becker e-mailed the Los Angeles editor at Apartment Therapy ("they pioneered design blogs") to ask for feedback on her new venture. Becker was bummed when she didn't get a response - until she checked her stats one morning and saw that 1,500 new readers had clicked over from an Apartment Therapy entry singing decor8's praises.

"It was really flattering," Becker said. "To me it was just nice that someone out there knew I was alive and enjoyed what little I had posted so far."

She also quickly established herself as the go-to resource for international design trends. Her husband, Thorsten, is German, and the couple spends several months in Hanover each year to see friends and in-laws. While there, Becker blogs about European design and takes day trips to Stockholm, Berlin, and other cities to visit crafts fairs and introduce herself to local boutique owners.

"Her international finds are always so cool," said Michelle Caplan, a Los Angeles-based artist who was an early loyalist of decor8. "She finds stuff I know I would probably never see otherwise."

But it's Becker's attention to unsung creative types that has solidified her position in the blogosphere.

"I was sick to death of going to all these different showrooms and getting the same attitude and always feeling left out, like a little kid looking through the window," Becker said. She recounts her frustration trying to help a friend launch a handbag company. "It was so hard to get people to bite and to take an independent artist who wasn't showing at a trade show seriously. And I hated that."

So from the get-go, Becker promoted up-and-comers. She sourced new artists on Etsy, interviewed emerging designers, invited readers to write in about their creative ventures, and encouraged dialogue through a comments section.

Marisa Haedike was a decor8 discovery.

"She is an amazing connector, trying to help all of us take the next step in our careers, whether by writing a thoughtful post on the indie design world, or throwing out ideas on what to do next, or sharing stories of others who are making it as artists and designers," said the Los Angeles illustrator and painter, whose work was recently licensed by Urban Outfitters. "Her posts can often be the very beginning of an artist making a living doing what they love."

Over the next year, Becker plans to revamp her site and add more regular weekly features. She's taking design courses at New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester (though regular tweaks to her turn-of-the-century carriage house help keep her eye sharp).

But for now, she sticks to her established decor8 routine: rising early, faithfully answering all her e-mails and phone calls, and then scouring stores, showrooms, magazines, and the Web in search of the next worthy entry.

Some day, Becker would like to have a cozy, child-friendly home goods store of her own, as long as it doesn't get too busy. She'd prefer it to be "not in a heavily trafficked area, so that I have some down time to work on my blog."

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