There are those people who can easily make me turn my apartment into a mess, order chalk paint from the other corner of the world and spend the afternoon with a paintbrush in my hand, wondering what on earth that muddy-looking wall will eventually look like (it looks great, btw).
But, let me correct myself: there aren’t those people. No. There is that woman. The same one who answers immediately when I text her at 1.30AM because she too is trying to squeeze in a few hours of uninterrupted work at night because she wants to spend the day with her kids. The same one whose aesthetic makes me stop in my tracks and daydream in the middle of working hours and the same one whom I have actually never met in person, but do hope to do so once the world goes back to what we were used to pre-2020.
I don’t recall how or when I found Lidija Tomas Matijević on Instagram, but she is one of those whose posts I am always happy to see in my feed because I know there will be a touch of positivity in the mix. I admire her grit, her persistence and creativity, her aesthetics and hard work. If you haven’t had the chance to peek into her world yet, I will be so happy to introduce you to her through this interview.
Lili is a proper online entrepreneur – she creates content for her own platforms (blog Lilihalodecoration, IG profile @lilihalodecoration) as well as content for her clients. The set of skills she has acquired in doing so is pretty impressive: photography, styling, creative direction, graphic design, but also coding and taking care of all the technical details. Let alone the fact that she is often a model in those very same photos she creates. However, if you ask her (and I have asked her… a lot), she will always put her role as a Mother first.
Her posts cheer me up and inspire me. And in a sea of sameness she allows us to hope that quality will eventually be appreciated. And she does all of that with a smile on her face, a positive attitude and lots of effort and hard work. She often inspires me to try out new things (grey wall, ahem) so my next post will be a children’s recipe which I discovered thanks to her. Now grab a cup of your favorite warm drink and enjoy Lili’s energy and her dreamy photos.
How would you describe your career?
I have no idea what I am doing, but in each and every thing I do, I use both my heart and my brain. I am a mother of two and I have to be very careful. I always play it safe, but I also listen to my gut feelings. I do not believe that a simple “no” means that something is impossible. I believe we can change the world. And, in fact, I think I have only just begun.
Money never comes first, but I don’t want to and I don’t work for free. That’s something I have learned and I see many people haven’t. We must appreciate others’ time and effort. Because the sooner you learn how to appreciate yourself and others, the sooner you will make it!
What about yourself as a person?
Determined, brave, creative, direct (people sometimes do not like this about me). I find it easy to remove what I feel is not right for me.
Even though many think it’s easy, working from homw with children is actually very demanding (perceptions may have changed a bit after the lockdown. Emphasis on *may*). What do you find the most challenging and how do you organize your day so that everyone is happy?
It actually is very difficult, but it is also the greatest pleasure in the world. To get to feel every emotion my kids feel, to know how they’re feeling, when they’re happy and when something is bothering them. We sit at the table together and share meals – that is priceless. This is why I don’t have a problem with working while they sleep, even if this means pulling an all nighter. It is only now that they are so little and that they need me so much. So, even though I am not rested, I am calm, and that was not the case when I spent most of the day away from them. A career can be built in this way too.
My schedule is always full and I always have to have a plan and be very organized. My kids are my priority. I have everything written down in a planner and I always try to do as much as I can to prepare for the day ahead – homework is done and meal plans made in the evenings. I often do not have the time to cook so we get food from a local restaurant where they cook great food. I often work in the car if need be. I have lost count of the times I have had to stop driving to hop onto a Zoom call.
I am very good at setting priorities, I surround myself with positive people who make me feel good. I turn off notifications on my phone and when I am with my children, I am fully present. On the other hand, they know that they have to take my work seriously. When all of us have time for ourselves and our work and when we have time for each other, that is a healthy balance and everything always turns out ok.
Which values are you trying to create in your children and what are some practical ways you use to do so?
I find it very important to spend time outdoors with friends every day. This is very important for our physical and mental wellbeing. When you have a smile on your face and when you feel ok, then everything else falls into place.
And there is something else I have learned the hard way: 99% of the things people consider to be urgent and important are actually not. Matej is still little, but Toma and I talk a lot and I find myself explaining a lot to him. When I see he’s nervous, I listen to him. I explain the situation and teach him how to calm down and find a calm(er) perspective for the problem, whether the situation is his or someone else’s fault. I try to help him differentiate between important and unimportant things in life.
I tell them to lend a helping hand without expecting anything in return and I teach them not to see everything as a transaction. Try to leave a trace in this world. Try to be so pleasant and smiling that other people love to spend time in your company. I also tell them: “If you’re not feeling ok someplace and if someone’s presence makes you uncomfortable, be polite, but leave as soon as possible. Don’t lose your own time and be careful.”
Are there any screen-related rules in your family? And is it hard to implement them given that you cannot do your job without electronic devices (computer, smartphone)?
That’s right. You’ll find me looking at a screen almost non-stop. And I think screens are good – of course, when used the right way. However, the little ones have to have boundaries. Matej is very fond of dancing so whenever we allow him to look at something on a screen, it is always a children’s song to which he sings and dances. I see that these songs have helped him learn the names of body parts, some dance moves etc. I am OK with that and there is a certain time of the day when we allow for it. But that doesn’t mean all day. And it is never a replacement for time spent outdoors. We are always out, even when it’s raining!
On the other hand, Toma is older and I’m doing my best to provide him with some guidance. He has been learning coding ever since he was six, which means that he is now in his fourth year. and it is fantastic to see all the skills he has already acquired. He is more knowledgeable than some of my peers. Whenever he is using his Play Station, I encourage him to play games such as Minecraft. You should give that a try, your brain uses its full capacity! However, there are some games that I cannot stand, Fortnite being one of them. But I am aware that they are also a part of the growing-up process so I try to keep them at a minimum. Toma has to complete his tasks first and once he has done so, I think it is ok to reward him in a way. I myself used to play video games when I was a child and I don’t see anything bad about that.
I believe it is important for the parent to know what their child is doing on their computer/smartphone. I would never allow him to use a screen over which I have no control. And this is where I think the biggest mistake lies: parents do not know what their kids are doing when they’re using a screen. This is where parents’ digital literacy comes in. We must know how to use apps which allow us to control the content our children consume.
I am not that afraid of video games, but social networks and chat rooms freak me out. Even some adults do not behave as they’re supposed to on social networks so how could we expect a child to? I know the dangers that lie online and I am lucky to be familiar with the online world. In a nutshell: educate yourself on the dangers, be present and if you feel there is a need for it, seek expert advice.
What would you recommend to someone who wishes to try their hand at a creative online business similar to yours?
To be persistent and aware of the fact that success doesn’t come overnight. I have been blogging for 10 years and it takes time to prove your worth and establish business relations. You need to invest into your own development, just like you would in any other line of work. There are new skills and knowledge that need to be acquired. I maintain my website on my own, I have learned how to take photos, I invest in equipment, I learn how to use new programs and apps… There is a lot of hard work which cannot be seen simply by looking at a nice photograph. But it is beautiful to be able to be yourself. My clients appreciate that a lot.
Which daily or weekly rituals do you practise in order to nurture your creativity and aesthetics?
I nurture my creativity and aesthetics by taking time for myself and being alone, completely on my own. When I am calm and relaxed, ideas come on their own. It would be ideal if I could have that time for myself every day, but that is not possible. However, I make time for this practise several times a week. I love it and I don’t let anyone mess with it! ッ
Your Lilihalodecoration website also has a nice webshop section. Where did you get the idea for it and which part of that side of your job makes you feel like you fulfilled your purpose?
IT runs in my veins ッ Even when I wasn’t fully aware of it, the digital world and all things online attracted me. I am happiest when I see a digital product which works like a charm, has amazing UX, is useful and beautiful on top of all that!
Maintaining an online presence is extremely important to me, whether we’re talking about a blog, a web shop, digital publications, columns, social networks, I love it all. ッ
It is fantastic to see the way knowledge has become accessible to everyone nowadays and how a simple Google search can give you all the info you need. I never paid for expensive courses because I never had the money to afford them. However, I never let that fact discourage me (and neither should you!) because there is so much free content out there. You just have to know what you’re looking for.
There are so many inspiring Instagram profiles that we’ll never be able to visit them all, let alone follow them, but can you single out a few of those that you find inspiring? Which blogs and authors have that special sauce?
Here are some, in no particular order: @archivestore_nl, @smallable_store, @trendenser, @thedesignchaser, @apieceofcake82, @dittesvanfeldt, @pellahedeby, @residencemag, @milk_magazine, @garboandfriends, @elisabeth_heier, @ziiarch, @onlydecolove, @lovelylife.se, @katyasinka
Which Croatian creatives do you appreciate the most and whose work do you enjoy?
Ivona Bezmalinović. We are very close friends, our families too and there is a special bond. Besides Ivona, I collaborate with many other creatives and each one of those experiences has taught me a lot.
If I had to put your online presence into two words, I thing it would be something along the lines of “strong famininity”. Which are the women in your virtual surroundings that you admire for one reason or another?
I am especially fond of Irena Orlović. Irena is the founder of Harfa, a Croatian publishing company, and her story is a very touching and empowering one – there is so much love and dedication in it. She is incredible because she started from zero and built her business herself. She has a lovely family and is very honest. I love talking to her or reading some of the things she posts online.
If you had to move into a rental apartment now where you didn’t have the freedom to change everything according to your onw taste, which little things would you do to make the space cozier and more yours? What (besides the people who live with you!) makes a home?
To be quite honest, I don’t think you ever really have to do anything. And if I did find myself in the middle of a disastrous apartment, I would always look for the first chance to pack my bags and leave! Our living space is extremely important and I am a firm believer in the fact that everything can be done on a budget. But if the owner doesn’t allow the walls to be painted or pictures to be hung, I find it nonsensical. In Croatia the standards regarding rental apartments are very low and there are all kinds of dumps on the market. That should be illegal.
Personally, I find cleanliness to be the most important and when I say cleanliness, I also mean things such as humidity etc. I appreciate a good mattress, comfortable bedlinen etc. An old sofa can always be covered with a comfy linen throw. I often post about small apartments on my blog because I want people to see how a space can be decorated without investing large sums of money.
And of course: emotions are what makes a home!
And generally speaking, which elements in a space do you find the most important? What can’t you do without (if you don’t have to!)?
Warmth and cleanliness.
Whenever I see your apartment in a photo, I wish to transport it to Dubrovnik, but I am especially interested in the kitchen. I believe you did your best for everything to be practical and serve a purpose. What are you the happiest about in your kitchen? If you were to redecorate, is there something you would do differently?
I am very happy with the fact that my kitchen counters are higher than average. When we planned our kitchen 6 years ago, this was a bit like science fiction. Everything is well organized and the space has been used to the max.
We made sure to get high quality but not too expensive appliances because I am well aware of the fact that everything gets broken so easily. However, we bought a very cheap faucet. We did not want to invest a lot because limescale destroys it all, no matter how much you pay for it. And what happened in the end is that the faucet works perfectly! Only that paint has chipped a bit.
I am very satisfied with my kitchen counter, excellent lighting and the cement layer on the floor because the maintenance is so simple. And I am especially fond of the concrete wall which we left bare, just as it was when the apartment was being constructed. It’s eye-catching and so pretty!
You always put a lot of emphasis on nature and ecology and you pay special attention to materials that you use in your home, natural cosmetics and healhhful food. Do you have a go-to breakfast or lunch?
Organic eggs, bacon, beetroot salad or olives. The second option would be a nutty granola with almond milk and fruit.
My kids eat a lot of meat so I try my best to source organic meat. I have found an excellent poultry farm. The meat we eat is always (and I mean always!) accompanied by vegetables and everyone is used to it. In case there is none, they ask for it. I believe things like this are learned from an early age. They love to have organic chicken with a side of chard and potatoes. We’re also crazy about spinach with rice. This is a dish my grandma used to prepare when I was a little girl.
Both my kids and myself love tomato salsa. It’s a firm family favorite and another one of the dishes my grandma used to make. I love fuži Istrian pasta with truffles and a radicchio, arugula and corn salad mix on the side. I am a huge fan of fava beans with artichoke. This is something I cannot prepare that well, but my mom can. Give us a recipe for dummies!
Are there any dishes you associate with your childhood and what’s your comfort food?
I don’t have comfort food. I simply love to eat and I love to eat everything. When it comes to childhood food memories, they include everything that used to grow in my grandma’s garden. Especially mint tea.
You have dived deep into the world of essential oils. Do you use them in cooking?
No, I don’t use them in cooking, but they are always in my diffusor and applied to my skin. Every single day.
And to wrap this long interview up – your profile is one of those I love to follow because you spread positivity. What would you recomment to people in these unusual times? What are some of the ways you lift your own spirits?
You have to work on your self-improvement. Every single day. If you don’t know how, ask for help. Invest in your mental and physical health, set an example for you children and for others too. I love to goof around and have fun. I love it when things are casual. We can only be creative once we’re relaxed. And all of us are creative, it’s just that we’ve forgotten about it. Society has taught us some new rules. Cherish your intuition – it is such a wonderful guide through life.
I find physical activity to be very important. It has been proved how important it is in regulating stress hormones. Spending time in nature is next, healthful food, peace and taking time just for yourself. At least 30 minutes a day, it’s so important.
And remove any negativity, whether it be people or situations, anything bad. Learn how to politely say no.
But also learn how to compliment anything beautiful you see. Lend a helping hand, don’t expect anything in return. The goodness of your heart can be felt and seen in your eyes.