How To Be Happier

How To Be Happier

How To Be Happier
Sometimes the hardest thing in life (other than that whole “being alive” thing) is being happy. Everyone is trying to find happiness or stay happy in any way they can. We all have some idea of what it feels like, and yet, if we’re such experts on being happy why are we not just doing it constantly?

There is no BIG SECRET THAT EVERYONE EXCEPT FOR YOU KNOWS, although it can sometimes feel like that. Lately I’ve been forgetting these basic, common truths, so this post is me telling myself what I already know. Hopefully you’ll find the reminder equally useful. –Adam J. Kurtz

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Studio Tour: Bharat Tiles

Bharat Tiles Studio Tour on Design Sponge

Studio Tour: Bharat Tiles

For me, iconic Mumbai-born Bharat Tiles (commonly shortened from Bharat Flooring and Tiles) has become synonymous with the design landscape of the city. You will find the presence of the 100-year-old company’s ceramic patterned tiles from the city’s worn government buildings and bustling train stations to the most stylish design destinations, cafes, stores and hotels across the metropolis.

The story of Bharat Tiles dates back to the Freedom Movement of India. In 1922, Pherozesha (also known as Phiroze) Sidhwa was studying to become a lawyer, when he met freedom fighter Jamshed Mehta who told him, “India needs to be economically independent. India needs industry, not more lawyers.” The freedom fighter and philanthropist offered to teach Pherozesha how to make tiles. Thus was born the Bharat Tiles and Marble company. Situated on a plot of land across the harbor from Mumbai, the company started with an order for the iconic Readymoney Building in Fort. However, the first lot of tiles made were thrown into the sea because they did not match Pherozesha’s high standards. This lot of tiles, worth the then-princely sum of 50,000 Rupees, was later found to be fine with only the polishing lacking, but Pherozesha had to borrow money and start again. The Readymoney Building still has the tiles Pherozesha made in many parts of the building.

After this early hiccup, the company grew and grew, and replaced all British imports of tiles. This alarmed the existing merchants to the extent that they filed suit against Pherozesha claiming that he was importing tiles and repackaging them to appear as if he made them. Pherozesha won the suit, and this further bolstered the company’s reputation as making tiles “equal to the best made in the world.” The tiles went on to grace palaces, Raj Bhavans, railway stations, the newly built movie theaters, and many of these tiles still exist in Mumbai’s buildings.

However, the company still had its ups and downs. It almost shut down during WWII as the British seized every bag of cement for war efforts. Later on after the 1970s, cement tiles became cheap and generic and the company’s high quality standards meant it could not compete on price. The company made ends meet by renting out factory premises as warehousing.

In 1990, the first Kala Ghoda fair was held with a focus on Mumbai’s heritage structures. The organizers asked Pherozesha’s daughter, who was running the business at the time, to prepare some cement encaustic tiles as samples to show how tiles were made in the old days. Digging up the old processes and molds, she made some encaustic patterned tiles and displayed them at the fair. The response was warm, and the company soon received orders to provide tiles for restoration of historical buildings. From this nascent start, the Heritage line was born. Another chance meeting led noted interior designer Tejal Mathur to use the tiles for the trendy Pali Village Cafe.

Today, the company is run by Pherozesha’s grandson, Firdaus Variava, and is enjoying renewed interest from design aficionados injecting vintage charm into Mumbai’s (and the rest of India’s) most stylish design destinations — from Abode Hotel to Pali Village Cafe in hipster Bandra and The Pantry.

The company has also been collaborating on contemporary tile collections with up-and-coming designers  Sian Pascale, a yoga teacher and ceramic artist, Alice Von Baum, a textile designer, The Busride, product and interior designers, and Shonali Mahajan, an interior designer. — Rohini

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There Are No Rules: What We Believe About Design

There Are No Rules: What We Believe About Design

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I’m a voracious consumer of home and lifestyle media. For as long as I can remember, I’ve collected magazines and saved, favorited, and followed as many home, garden and lifestyle blogs as I could fit on one screen. But recently, I read a headline that lured readers in with a promise of revealing the 10 major decorating mistakes they were making that were ruining their home. And something inside me snapped.

Ruining? Major? Are there actually major decorating mistakes that anyone makes at home that are such a big deal that you need to scare someone about them? I don’t think so.

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I decided a long time ago that we would never run headlines that made people feel like they were doing something wrong. For me, design is about support, community and lifting each other up — not about intimidation. It’s what inspired me to write a mission statement for our 10th anniversary, and it’s what continues to inspire me to focus on content that is inclusive, open-minded and supportive. And while I’m consoled by the fact that there are indeed blogs and magazines that don’t follow that format, the majority of big publications do.

So today I wanted to stop our virtual presses for a moment and use our corner of the Internet to declare both our support for and dedication to one mission and one mission only: to inspire, support and build community around the idea of home.

Small steps and small decisions turn into big change, and I want to talk a little bit about the changes we’re making to ensure we focus on empowering people, rather than taking away their confidence to make great decisions for their homes.

*Images above are from our “What I Love Most About Our Home” post.

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24 Hours in Berlin, Germany

24 Hours in Berlin, Germany

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Welcome to Berlin, Germany — or as today’s city guide writer, Elizabeth Rushe likes to call it, “Tír na nÓg,” translating to “land of the young” in Irish folklore. Berlin has long been attracting a creative community of people with an ambitious, entrepreneurial spirit. “The joke is that everyone is a graphic designer or a DJ — or most likely, both,” Elizabeth shares.

In recent years, Berlin has seen a huge boom in food, with street fare finally hitting the city, “and, thanks to many Australian and New Zealand third-wave coffee specialists opening up cafés and roasteries, the standard of coffee is now extremely high as well,” she continues. All of this in combination with the various start-ups, supermarkets with zero-waste policies, community-focused classes taught by refugees, and food recycling programs where waste is turned into delicious restaurant-quality food, Berlin is not just a beautiful place to live, but a progressive and energetic one, too. Today, Elizabeth is taking us on a virtual, daylong trip around her city where she shares with us her favorite places to grab breakfast, shop, and hit the town. –Sabrina

Photography by Elizabeth Rushe

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Memorial Day

Memorial Day

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I grew up in a city with a strong military presence and pride, so holidays like today always take on a special significance. Memorial Day is dedicated to the brave women and men who gave their lives in service of our country, and today we wanted to take a moment to honor their memory and express our gratitude to their families for the great sacrifices they all made.

It can be easy to get caught up in the heat of an election season, debates and controversy, but holidays like today are an important and much-needed reminder that there are people who have given everything they have for our county and are no longer here to have their voices heard. I live across the street from our town’s small cemetery, and this morning I plan on visiting to leave flowers. If you happen to be near your town’s cemetery, a walk through to honor today’s holiday is always a nice way to put the day in perspective.

We all know the importance of home, so our entire Design*Sponge team would like to honor and remember all those who died in the service of our country, ensuring we would have those safe spaces to call home here. —Grace

*Image above from Erin and Ben’s home

Michael Mapes + Best of the Web

Michael Mapes + Best of the Web

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Sometimes I see art that makes me feel completely and utterly dumbfounded. And this week, that artwork belongs to the incredibly talented Michael Mapes. Jessica Marquez emailed me a link to his work the other day, and I spent the next 10 minutes trying to pick my jaw up off the floor.

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Michael makes stunning pieces that are comprised of tiny bits of paper, glass and other ephemera, carefully pinned onto boards. Up close they look like a detailed cabinet of curiosities, but from a distance they create grand, mosaic-style images. Michael’s “Dutch Masters” series is what first caught my eye and I love that every tiny (and I mean tiny), pinned detail feels like its own miniature work of art — from clippings of paper and photographs to fabric samples, botanical specimens, x-rays, clay, thread and bits of glass. If these pieces don’t inspire you to make something with your own two hands, I don’t know what will. At the very least, hopefully they’ll inspire you to dig deeper into Michael’s website and enjoy his spectacular body of work. xo, grace

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In the Kitchen With: Christine Ha’s Vietnamese Chicken Salad

In the Kitchen With: Christine Ha’s Vietnamese Chicken Salad

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After being immersed in Roman cuisine for the past two years, I have emerged with an intense desire for Asian food — Indian, Malaysian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Cambodian, Indonesian, Korean, Vietnamese… and the list keeps going. I love the textures, spices, and in many cases, the sheer simplicity of making an amazing meal. This week, Christine Ha, MasterChef 3 winner — also known as The Blind Cook — has shared with us her recipe for Vietnamese Chicken Slaw with Ginger Vinaigrette, or Goi Ga. I love her recipe because it allows the flexibility to cook the chicken however you like. I poached it, but you can use whatever method you prefer, even leftover roasted chicken. This is easy and light fare for any day of the week. —Kristina

Why Christine loves this recipe: This is a dish that could be dressed up or down for all occasions. It’s simple enough to make for a weeknight dinner, or you can substitute duck for chicken in a holiday spread. You’ll often find goi ga (as it’s called in Vietnamese) as part of the feasting table, like during Lunar New Year. It’s the perfect balance of sweet, salty, savory, sour, and crunchy.

Portrait by Julie Soefer Photography | Food Photography by Kristina Gill
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12 of Our Favorite Striped Spaces

12 of Our Favorite Striped Spaces | Design*Sponge

12 of Our Favorite Striped Spaces

It feels to me like trends are so much more fluid and fleeting than they were before the information age. We have so much access to what’s new, on-the-verge, and going out of style that it can be hard to keep up or trust that if we like something this year, we won’t be convinced to dislike it next year. Of course, colors, patterns and designs evolve and that’s a great thing, but it’s also nice to know that a few things in interior design are timeless — especially when they are investment pieces.

It’s no secret that stripes have had a great year and a great decade. The Sneak Peek Archives make it clear that 1) the D*S team loves anything to do with stripes and 2) stripes show up in D*S home tours every year without fail. We’ve compiled 12 great spaces that incorporate stripes of all colors, scales and decor styles. Click through the gallery for inspiration to add this timeless trend to your walls, floors, furniture or ceiling — without decorator’s remorse. –Lauren

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Before & After: “MOHO” Style in a Colorful Family Home

In Kari and John Firak's Crystal Lake, Illinois dining room, the pair take a "modern boho" approach to decorating in their Victorian-style home.

Before & After: “MOHO” Style in a Colorful Family Home

“I call my style MOHO,” says Kari Firak, a writer, social media manager, photographer, stylist, and blogger. “Modern boho — like equal parts Stevie Nicks and Devo.” She hates clutter, but at the same time, wants her home to feel lived-in and loved. “I’m talking white walls filled with vintage artwork. IKEA furniture on Moroccan rugs. There’s a fine line between mid-century and middle-aged cat lady, and I want to walk that line,” she jokes. Alongside husband John (“With his last name making mine into a palindrome, we knew it was fate!”), a photography teacher, and their small kids Max and Lola, Kari spruced up their 1,700-square-foot, 1910 Victorian in Crystal Lake, IL with stylish and functional solutions. Though she loves color, Kari “has a thing” for white walls. “It always feels crisp and clean to me, refreshing,” she offers. “It also opens up the small rooms we are working with, making them feel larger. White walls create a blank canvas; I can go as crazy as I want with everything else in the room.”

Before she even began working on it, the house had good bones with its original wainscoting and crown moldings. The biggest adjustment was made to the living room. The previous owners used half of the long space as a living room, and the other part as a sitting room. “We just aren’t formal enough to have a separate dining room,” Kari explains. “With small children, and since I work from home, it made more sense to make the formal dining room into an office and playroom.” They then turned the other portion of the living room into the perfect family table spot around which to share meals. New ceiling light locations and fixtures were added to made the space adaptable to different purposes. “A combined living room/dining room makes entertaining more friendly, and the office/playroom gets much, much more use than if we had left it as a formal dining room,” Kari says. In the laundry room, oak cabinets and countertops surrounded the old washer and dryer. Their bulk filled so much of the tiny area that the homeowners removed them immediately after moving in. Custom shelves feel airier, and provide the open type of storage the couple prefers. Though there are still projects left to complete, Kari appreciates a home that is always in need of a little improvement. “It keeps things interesting!” —Annie

Photography by Kari Firak

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11 Creative and Unconventional Side Tables

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11 Creative and Unconventional Side Tables

Ah, the humble side table — one of the most utilitarian pieces of furniture one can own. For the most part, it serves a functional purpose — offering a spot to rest a cup, book, or your phone — but it’s generally the decorative knick-knacks, lamps and art we store atop that take the cake when it comes to adding style and beauty. However, that’s not to say that the side table can’t be beautiful in and of itself.

No matter the room or furniture piece, some easy ways to add visual interest, texture, and fun is by challenging the norm, getting creative and/or discovering a new use for an object intended for something else — be it a bar cart, DIY creation, piece of vintage luggage, or an upholstered footstool. Today I’ve rounded up 11 creative and unconventional side tables from a handful of past home tours to inspire you to rethink your surfaces! –Sabrina 

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Reading Spaces: Author Tanwi Nandini Islam

Reading Spaces: Author Tanwi Nandini Islam

Author Tanwi Islam

One word describes author Tanwi Nandini Islam: Captivating.

I am sitting in her living room as she talks to me about apothecaries, Bangladesh, and Toni Morrison. It took me 72 hours to finish reading her debut book, Bright Lines, and now I want to be her friend. Her quaint Brooklyn home is colorful and vibrant; filled with custom bookshelves and an array of beautiful found objects. I am not surprised by the richness of the space — I imagine this is the backdrop where most of her writing comes to life.

Bright Lines is an engrossing novel, with vivid, bold characters — a story of immigrant parents, first-generation children and the need to reconcile traditions with present day realities. The story begins in Brooklyn, where Anwar and Hashi Saleem have raised their fiercely independent daughter, Charu, and their quiet, unassuming niece, Ella, as sisters. Collectively, their lives shift and decisions (or impulses) appear misguided throughout the narrative. The story centers on the young women, Charu and Ella, who magnificently embody Brooklyn: fearless, flawed, and fascinatingly self-aware. The reader is struck with young lust, infidelity, and the longing for full acknowledgement. Tanwi writes not only about the intimacy of youth, but her sensibilities towards exploring sexuality is beautifully reflected in Bright Lines.

Together we discussed what books live in her personal library, Gabriel García Márquez, and the fictional heroes that influence her storytelling. See my conversation with Tanwi after the jump. —Glory

Photography by Kylie Thompson

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DIY Drawer Organizer

DIY Drawer Organizer

DIY Drawer Organizer on Design*Sponge

This isn’t my first DIY project using marbled contact paper, and I promise it won’t be my last! It is such a versatile material that I’m sure I’ll find a way to use it around the house for years to come. As I mentioned in my faux stone mirror post, my favorite place to collect retro faux-stone contact paper is junky dollar stores. Isn’t this cloudy blue one such a throwback? It reminds me of tile my grandmother picked out in the 60s.

DIY Drawer Organizer on Design*Sponge

I love the trend of putting surprise pops of color into kitchen cabinets, so I thought it would be just as fun to do something similar — but in drawers! I used this organizer for my workspace, but you could just as easily use it in a kitchen drawer for utensils instead. The best part is that it’s renter friendly — no wasted time priming and painting interiors of drawers. Instead, just pop this baby out when you’re moving and take it with you! —Kathleen

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10 of Our Favorite Chicago, IL Interiors

10 of Our Favorite Chicago, IL Interiors, Design*Sponge

10 of Our Favorite Chicago, IL Interiors

When I moved to Chicago, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be my forever home. In fact, throughout my first bit of time here I still considered it the Second City. I know my fellow Chicagoans would be appalled that I called our town that, but the dream of one day living in New York City still excited me and its luster hadn’t quite faded yet. As I got to know Chicago and found my place within it, however, I realized that it offers something I never thought I wanted from a home: a manageable pace. What’s great about Chicago is that it offers much of the same culture, art and fun that the Big Apple does without the overwhelming, go-go-go lifestyle. I really can’t see myself ever leaving.

It also doesn’t hurt that rent is much more affordable here than in NYC. With available modern construction and traditional Chicago greystones popping up constantly, it’s a place where young families can truly get their hands on a great home for over half the price. As I took a look back through our archives to put together this list of 10 of my favorite interiors in the city, I realized just how amazing some of our readers’ spaces are! Clearly they didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger when they saw opportunity knocking, and it paid off. From studios that were once storefronts, to lofts fit for work and play, each one is unique and proves that Chicago’s got style that’s second to none. I hope you enjoy taking a look at what I consider to be the best interiors my town has to offer! —Garrett

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Boss Up: 10 Songs to Motivate Your Business

Boss Up: 10 Songs to Motivate Your Business

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There’s no denying the power of music. The right song can make us laugh, cry, jump up and down and, most importantly, has the ability to change our mood and get us in the right frame of mind. One of the most challenging things about running your own business and being your own boss is that there’s no one there to get you up and going and pull you out of a funk when you need it. But that’s where music comes in.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been leaning hard on some amazing songs by talented women who run their own creative shows of one type or another. Their power ballads, anthems, and calls to action and self-confidence have helped me get through a few rough spots and left me not only smiling, but powering through important work moments — and singing at the top of my lungs while I’m at it. And if you can’t sing out loud in your own (home) office, where can you? I guarantee you these 10 songs will remind you how strong, smart, powerful and talented you are. Who couldn’t use that little pick-me-up every now and then? So, in the words of Lizzo (above, with Caroline Smith), let’s boss up and change our lives. xo, grace

*Each song’s video is embedded after the jump, so if you need your pick-me-up right now, plug in your headphones and GO! And share your favorite songs in the comment section below — I could always use some great songs to add to my work playlist.

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Challenging the Status Quo with Ira Studio’s Manasa Prithvi

Challenging the Status Quo with Ira Studio’s Manasa Prithvi

Challenging the Status Quo with Ira Studio's Manasa Prithvi, Design*Sponge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It takes a bold and brazen individual to turn their back on conformity. To do so is challenging. To do so can make it harder to be heard. In the end, however, those who step outside the box and shout for change are those we remember and those we look up to.

Indian product designer Manasa Prithvi is one of those individuals who’s unafraid of rocking the boat. In fact, challenging the status quo serves as the basis of her company Ira Studio. “I wanted to try and create an identity for Indian crafts that [wasn’t] necessarily kitsch or as ornate as Indian design is so well known for,” she says. With this in mind, she’s worked tirelessly to craft unique tables and lamps, each one inspired by Indian heritage while simultaneously pushing it forward. She hopes that, if anything, each piece shows the world a little bit more of what her country has to offer. Click through to hear all about how she got her start and everything Ira Studio has up its sleeve. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography courtesy of Ira Studio

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