A Stylist’s 1830s East Coast Farmhouse

A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge

A Stylist’s 1830s East Coast Farmhouse

I love taking a look inside old homes. There’s a level of charm and quirky character that newer builds rarely have. Things like parlor doors, original hardwood floors and built-in details get me every time. It’s not to say, though, that older homes don’t come with their own set of issues — they absolutely do. Necessary updates, original structures that are smaller than current standards, and creaks and squeaks are all part of owning a century-old (and then some) home — but for the right people, it’s a dream. This 1830s farmhouse in Natick, MA was exactly what the Alfanos were looking for.

Emily Starr Alfano is an event/wedding designer and stylist and Bill Alfano is the marketing and outreach director. Emily, Bill, and their dog Bruno found this gem in July 2014 in the sweet town of Natick. They toured the home the same day it went up for sale and put in an offer the next day. This house was move-in ready with a beautifully redone kitchen, which made finding such a great, historic home even more exciting. “Since I spend so much time here, and use various rooms for work and staging pictures, it was important the house either had certain existing elements or could be transformed,” Emily says. “We just straight up lucked out with this house. I don’t think either of us ever dreamed we could have a house with such character but many modern updates…especially in our first house!”

Their good luck hasn’t come without work and adjusting to the home. “Despite many updates and upgrades over the years, at the end of the day the house is almost 200 years old — there are obvious challenges! Among them are super small doorframes which make moving couches, tables and other large items fairly difficult. We’re pretty sure our staircase is the original and it’s essentially a straight line up. We’ve got wonky walls and ceilings that aren’t straight!” says Emily. “We found this perfect-for-us piece of real estate. I think more than anything we wanted to create a space that reflects us a family and honors the original design…quirks and all.” I love the way they have embraced their house, with the wonderful things and the challenging things, and have made it uniquely their home. —Lauren

Photography by Joyelle West

 

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A Timber Pole Home Among the Eucalyptus Trees for a Growing Family

A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge

A Timber Pole Home Among the Eucalyptus Trees for a Growing Family

This time last year, I went on a eucalyptus kick. I hung some in my shower, I pinned DIY eucalyptus decor and flower crowns on Pinterest, and I hunted every flower shop close-by for more. There’s just something about eucalyptus. So I’m a tad envious of Sara Hingle‘s home, surrounded by beautiful eucalyptus trees in the heart of Burleigh Heads, Queensland, Australia.

Nestled in the lush bushland, you’ll find an old timber pole house, home to Sara, the founder and Creative Director of These Walls Paper + Textiles (a wallpaper company we featured last month), her partner Mick, a project manager, their sons Joshua (5) and Thom (2), and occasionally Ruffie the dog and Maggie the cat. And beautiful as it can be living there, their split-level 1970s home comes with its own share of problems: keeping on top of the landscaping is a challenge, and during the tropical storms that frequent the area, the nickname “the Titanic” gets thrown around for their leaky home. But all of their home’s cons don’t come close to outweighing the pros: the location (which boasts close proximity to the ocean while remaining in the bush), the charm and character, the space, and feeling it brings.

When telling the story of how they met their home, Sara laughs: The night following their son Josh’s first birthday, Sara’s mother jokingly commented that they needed a bigger place for their growing family. Up until then, they were busting at the seams of their small duplex, and with a newly-mobile son, Sara and Mick ended up spending the night staring at the glowing screen of a computer, buried deep in a session of “internet real-estate window-shop[ping].” The following day, while on a country drive among the trees and beside the ocean, they stumbled across the home of their dreams and hours later they were signing the paperwork.

With an acre of yard for young Joshua to run around in, the home was the perfect size and accommodated the addition of Thom shortly after. But Sara and Mick quickly learned the expenses that came with being a young family. This meant that huge additions and renovations were off the table, especially after the costly and tiring job of removing a pool. Once they were settled in, they threw a few coats of Dulux China White on each wall, and with the addition of new furniture, carpeting and lighting, the house started to feel like home. It wasn’t long before Sara worked her magic with wallpaper and textiles, which added plenty of warmth and personality to the space. –Sabrina

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Seeing the Potential in a San Francisco Rental

Design*Sponge Sneak Peek

Seeing the Potential in a San Francisco Rental

When renting in a big city, it’s almost always a given that an apartment won’t automatically meet all the criteria of one’s idea of a “perfect” home. That’s okay, you just have to decide what is most important. Is it the neighborhood, the price of rent, the size? Sometimes an opportunity comes along that requires a game-time decision, and you are challenged to see through the things you don’t like in order to make a home you love.

This is exactly what happened with Shara Lotfi and Chris Koesler. They were living happily in the quiet Inner Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco when this apartment, located in the Mission, became available. It was a much bigger space, and presented a chance to move back to a neighborhood they loved. But it wasn’t a home run. As Shara says, “I can’t believe it now, but we were actually reluctant to move at first! When we first saw the apartment it was not in the best shape. There was wall-to-wall mint green carpet and all the windows were covered with dark, heavy drapes. There was peeling wallpaper in the bedroom, and everything was just generally looking a bit old and shabby.”

The couple decided to seize the opportunity and set upon making some big changes right away. The first and perhaps most dramatic change was tearing up all the carpets that were covering the hardwood floors. “I think if we had known exactly how much work that would be, we might have talked ourselves into living with the carpet, but luckily I was pretty adamant about tackling that project,” Shara says. They did it all themselves (including removing the pesky carpet nails!), and then hired someone to polish the floors. The other major improvement — that is, in my opinion, one of best, cheapest, (and easily reversible) ways to transform a space — was to paint every wall in the house, as well as the kitchen cabinets. Following those two major overhauls, they continue to make changes here and there, including making the home baby-friendly since their daughter, Ayla, was born in 2013.

In all, they have created a place well-suited for their family of three with enough space to work from home. Shara is the designer behind Lotfi, a textile and accessory design company, and Chris is a freelance illustrator and part-time professor at California College of the Arts. Moving beyond the interior space, they are now shifting their focus to the backyard, as Ayla loves being out back. Shara says she is not much of a gardener, but she sees the potential for a beautiful garden, and as any renter knows, that is half the battle. —Shannon

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The 2015 Obama China Reveal (DS Goes to Washington)

First Lady Michelle Obama drops by to present the official China to the press in the Red Room of the White House, April 23, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

The 2015 Obama China Reveal (DS Goes to Washington)

Last Tuesday, I was going through my emails when I noticed one that stood out. The subject line was “Invitation to the White House.” I clicked on it, expecting it to be fake, but to my complete and utter shock (and joy), it was a real invitation. So two days later, I left our house around 6 am to hop on a bus and then train to Washington, D.C.

Growing up in Virginia, I’ve spent many a summer and school field trip walking around outside the White House, but to be invited inside — and to meet Michelle Obama — was nothing short of one of the greatest honors of my personal and professional life.

Along with five other bloggers, photographers and writers from the home/lifestyle community, I spent Thursday afternoon getting a tour of the White House kitchen, garden and family dining room, finishing up with an amazing hour in the official china room, where we met with White House Curator Bill Allman (more on this incredible man later) and Michelle Obama to get the very first preview of the official Obama State China Service. We got to preview this new collection before the main press, which was a huge honor, but just being there in such a beautiful place surrounded by such inspiring people will be something I will never, ever forget. xo, grace

Read on to see the Obama State China Service and peek inside the White House interior and gardens…

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Weekend Pattern Downloads from Hannah Lee!

Weekend Pattern Downloads from Hannah Lee!

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This weekend Hannah Lee spoiled us with two extra pattern downloads for Saturday and Sunday. I’m heading down to Philly this weekend, so I’m sharing them both today! Best wishes for a great weekend everyone- and thank you so much again to Hannah for sharing all of these patterns with us this week. If you missed any, you can download them here and you can check out more of Hannah’s work on Instagram right here. xo, grace

CLICK HERE to download the teal pattern!

CLICK HERE to download the yellow pattern!

Naps, Bubble Baths, The Company of Loved Ones + Best of The Web

Naps, Bubble Baths, The Company of Loved Ones + Best of The Web

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This week I’ve really been thinking about the importance of work-life balance. Between raising a 4-month-old puppy who has the energy of four dogs (something I’m sure is mutually felt by Grace as well, with the addition of her adorable Winky!), commuting 3+ hours each day over the last few weeks for work, and watching my house/yard to-do list grow with each passing weekend I spend working or attending events instead, I’m craving some serious downtime. On one hand, I’m thrilled to be so busy, given that it’s not a guarantee when you’re self-employed, but I’m also exhausted and starting to notice the effects of living to work rather than working to live. So I’ve started making it a priority to set aside time to just be (no phone, no TV, no work). Life really is too short to not be chasing after and doing what you want — even if that’s taking a short bath or snuggling with your pet. So TGIF and cheers to taking the weekend off (okay, maybe the yard work will have to be done and the vacuum will have to make an appearance!), enjoying the beauty of the afternoon spring sun, taking advantage of naps and being in the company of loved ones. –Sabrina

Below is a summary of this week’s highlights from DS and around the web:

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  • Eliot Rausch, one of my favorite filmmakers, just released this moving short titled El Pescador, which follows a conversation between an American investment banker and a Mexican fisherman about work and life. He also grabbed footage of the real fisherman singing. (via Vimeo)
  • The opening weekend of the documentary Dior and I cannot come soon enough, which explores Creative Director Raf Simons’ labor of love through the creation of his first collection, to be done in just eight weeks. (via Dior and I)
  • When I have a lot of work to accomplish, I grind it out with the help of podcasts (this week’s favorite came from Death, Sex + Money where W. Kamau Bell chats about rebuilding his career) and music (here are a few playlists).
  • These darling wooden cities would make the perfect desk or office accessory! (via McKean Studio)
  • It’s Friday, and it’s 5 pm somewhere! With spring in the air, summer around the corner, and the work week behind us, sit back and enjoy this Mango Ginger Fizz cocktail. (via Designlovefest)

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In the Kitchen With: Janet Fletcher’s Lamb Meatballs

In the Kitchen With: Janet Fletcher’s Lamb Meatballs

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I go through cookbook phases periodically. At times, I really want varied recipes from someone whose writing and food tastes are interesting to me. Other times, I really seek out books based on a single theme.  This week’s recipe for Lamb Meatballs in Warm Yogurt Sauce with Sizzling Red-Pepper Butter comes from the latter category. It appears in the most recent book by author Janet Fletcher, Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. I chose this recipe because it is simple, yet a bit more complex in flavors than what we usually run on the column. It is truly versatile and can be eaten alone, or served over grains (as pictured) or egg noodles, as Janet recommends. The recipe also makes me daydream about taking a trip to the Eastern Mediterranean to eat more really great food!  Kristina

Why Janet loves this recipe: A gem of a recipe from the Eastern Mediterranean kitchen, these succulent meatballs bathe in a sauce that will have you scraping the bowl. I have seen similar recipes for whole lamb shanks or chunks of shoulder, but meatballs cook more quickly. They are browned first, and then simmered in broth, but the magic happens just before serving, when yogurt and a beaten egg are whisked in to thicken the juices. Sizzling red-pepper butter provides a final flourish. Serve with bulgur or rice pilaf, or with egg noodles.

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Photographs (c) 2015 by Eva Kolenko

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Home Ec: Open Storage Solutions

Home Ec: Open Storage Solutions, Design*Sponge

Home Ec: Open Storage Solutions

Recently, I went through my closet… again. No matter how diligent I am about not letting “stuff” accumulate, my apartment somehow always gets back to a state of bursting at the seams. After doing a serious evaluation and determining that I simply cannot get rid of anything else, I am forcing myself to seek out new, clever storage solutions. In the past at Design*Sponge, we have focused a lot on beautiful objects you can use to contain your collections. These gorgeous pieces look great on a shelf and are treasures in their own way. For today’s Home Ec, however, we’ll be taking a look at some open storage solutions.

What I love about open storage solutions is that they’re perfect for showing off your belongings. As a curator, I like flaunting my thrift-store finds and vintage goodies. They were meant to be seen and enjoyed by me and my guests, not shoved in a box in the closet. Many of you can relate, I am sure. Being a renter, I am also always hunting down smart ways to make a visual impact without compromising the bones of my space. Today’s fun and easy solutions check both of those boxes, so no need to worry about upsetting those crusty landlords. Once you’ve taken a look, don’t forget to leave your own tips in the comment section below. I am sure you guys have even more great insights, so let’s all help one another out. Enjoy! —Garrett

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This post and the Home Ec section are brought to you by Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day. Visit the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Home-Grown Inspiration section featuring 20 DIYs, including seven from Design*Sponge!

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Pattern Download from Hannah Lee: Day 5!

Pattern Download from Hannah Lee: Day 5!

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We’re coming to the end of Hannah Lee’s awesome week of free downloadable patterns, and before we head into the weekend (Hannah drew pattens for this weekend, too — so stay tuned!), I wanted to share today’s beautiful geometric print. I love the combination of textures and the small, hand-drawn geometric elements — it’s the perfect bit of color and print to decorate your phone and computer backgrounds. Thanks so much to Hannah for today’s design! xo, grace

CLICK HERE to download today’s free pattern from Hannah Lee.

Our First Before, Before & After: The Front Parlor at Fairview

A 200-Year-Old Parlor Before & After, on Design*Sponge

Our First Before, Before & After: The Front Parlor at Fairview

Since I live in the oldest town in West Virginia and a mere 10 minutes from the Antietam Battlefield, I tend to stroll around at night hoping for a glimpse inside the historic 18th- and 19th-century homes that line our tiny streets. On the weekends, I’m usually found driving the backroads of the eastern panhandle of WV, admiring the grand estates and sturdy farmettes that dot the countryside. After 17 years in pricey, cramped NYC apartments, like many city dwellers, I longed to get out and realize the dream of living in a home outside of the confines of the city.

When my architect friend Abby told me her cousin and her family had relocated from Fort Worth, TX and bought an estate in the farthest reaches of Jefferson County and there was an old schoolhouse on the property, I begged to drop by the house with her to get an inside look at the type of home I’d been long admiring.

When I met owners Megan Carpenter and Dan Gloyd, they graciously showed me around their 1830s Federal-style home they share with sons Jackson (16), Harland (2), and cats Sergio and Goose. After the grand tour, they brought out several binders which documented the home, dating back to the early 1900s. (See some of the old photographs in the slideshow above!) We leafed through at least three binders in the front parlor which Megan, a law professor, and Dan, a designer, were using as a makeshift home office and library while they decided on how to adapt the room to their needs. While they loved the history behind their new home and the surrounding area, they found their city life sensibilities lingering and craved the variety and unexpected sights and sounds their former metropolitan lifestyle provided. The family was searching for the perfect balance of both worlds and turned to a single room to experiment with bringing some of their old life to their new forever home. —Caitlin

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Before & After: Paige and Todd’s Kitchen Renovation

Before & After: Paige and Todd's Kitchen Renovation | Design*Sponge

Before & After: Paige and Todd’s Kitchen Renovation

In my home growing up, we had the tiniest kitchen. It had been an add-on to the house in the 1950s, but apparently the previous owners thought they shouldn’t add too much — it was teeny. The rest of the house wasn’t huge, but it was open. It flowed from room to room until you got to the kitchen and then you were cut off from all other activity. When I first saw Paige and Todd’s kitchen, I was instantly excited for them to have a beautiful space, but more so for them to have connection to the rest of their Boulder, CO home. It makes being in the kitchen so much more enjoyable. Plus, the result really is gorgeous.

Paige and Todd Hooper took six months to renovate their kitchen and did most of the work on their own. They tore out the upper and lower cabinets, broke down a wall and refurbished what was left. New cabinets, tiling (that Todd learned to cut himself, which is amazing), countertops, fixtures, flooring and appliances went in. They left the pantry and painted it and the walls white to open up the kitchen even more. The feeling in this space is so inviting and fresh. It is modern and lived-in and lovely. The Hoopers have created an incredible space in their home. —Lauren

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Tasha Tudor’s Garden

Tasha at work in her garden. (Photo by Richard Brown via the Tasha Tudor website)

Tasha Tudor’s Garden

Growing up, there were few things more important to me than books. I collected them and read them with such excitement and was always happy to end my day reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe with my parents. I remember going through so many stacks of books as a child, but sadly I don’t remember ever coming across a book by the wildly prolific writer and illustrator, Tasha Tudor.

Tasha illustrated over 100 books and won the Caldecott award for her book, Mother Goose. And while I greatly admire her achievements in writing and illustration, I find myself drawn even more strongly to the fairytale home and garden she created for herself in Marlboro, Vermont.

Over the weekend I met with a garden consultant to teach me about the existing plants and flowers in our yard upstate. I’ve never had this much outdoor space to work with (or this many deer to deter), so I’ve been working on a personal Pinterest board of my dream garden images. During my search process I came across images of Tasha’s almost-magical garden, and I couldn’t resist sharing it here today. Whether you’re looking for natural garden inspiration of your own, or just want to escape somewhere beautiful for a few minutes, these photos are bound to transport you somewhere lush, green and relaxing. xo, grace

*You can also take a video tour of her garden here (the voiceover is in Japanese)

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Pattern Download from Hannah Lee: Day 4!

Pattern Download from Hannah Lee: Day 4!

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I’ve been in pattern heaven all week with these custom designs from designer/illustrator Hannah Lee. So far we’ve seen a colorful hand print, a modern eye/shape pattern and a cheery cactus-style print; and today Hannah is back with her fourth pattern. Maybe it’s the fact that I had my first dentist check-up in years yesterday, but this looks like the happiest little group of teeth to me — hopefully without all the cavities mine had. Download today’s pattern RIGHT HERE. xo, grace

DIY Hanging Half Frame

DIY Hanging Half Frame

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Ever since moving into our flat two and a half years ago, I’ve really enjoyed gradually filling all the blank, white spaces on our walls. It’s so satisfying to bring a bit of life and personality into the home with prints I’ve painted or bought, as well as photos of special moments. Recently, however, I’ve been looking for new and exciting ways to hang my pictures, as the same old box frames all over the place get a little repetitive. When Grace and Fran contacted me I was eager to create a hanging half frame to really show off a large print. I’ve been out and about more now that the weather is warming up, and I’ve been snapping away with my camera everywhere I go. I blew up one of my photos to A2 and had it printed at my local print shop to use as the focal point for my frame. Framing large images can often be very pricey, but this tutorial certainly won’t break the bank. —Teri @ The Lovely Drawer

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In Madrid, Respecting the Old and Embracing the New

DesignSponge Sneak Peek

In Madrid, Respecting the Old and Embracing the New

For the past two years, jewelry designer Olivia Terrell and her husband Andrew have lived in this apartment in the Malasaña neighborhood of Madrid, Spain. They have moved a lot during their five years of marriage, but they’ve lived in this space the longest. Olivia says it has always been a challenge to make each new place feel like home, but that was especially true when they moved into this apartment.

The space was new to them, but very old. Built in 1873, it was oddly shaped and had no straight lines or right angles to speak of. Hardly a blank canvas, it came partly furnished with a variety of white IKEA furniture. Olivia, who leans more toward neutral earth tones and antiques, decided to embrace a modern, albeit quirky, white-washed look. She and Andrew sourced a variety of found objects and furniture to infuse the space with their personal aesthetic. They love objects with history and revel in the occasional dumpster find, declaring, “People throw away some amazing things!” This eclectic approach to decorating works for them, especially since Olivia feels unattached to any particular style at this point in her life. This open-minded point-of-view informs her work as well. As her life changes, so does her jewelry design. While the general aesthetic remains, she has evolved from organic shapes and textures to something more architectural and geometric, which she attributes to her surroundings. These days, Olivia and Andrew truly feel at home. Whether they are watching sunsets on the balcony or hosting American Thanksgiving for their Spanish friends, they love incorporating familiar traditions into their new life in Madrid. —Shannon

Photography by César Perez 

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