D*S Essay Contest: Domenique Osborne

D*S Essay Contest: Domenique Osborne

domenique
[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

Home Is Where You Lay Your Fork

My grandfather was a bricklayer and a baker.

One by trade, the other by passion.

His huge, work-scarred hands would massage and knead and stir, as though he were working a massive drum of mortar. No dough or frosting or sweet, berry filling was safe from his constant ministrations.

Each family gathering starred one of Nonno’s creations: a shimmering blueberry tart. Tins of powder-flecked cookies, piled high like jewels. A kugelhopf, studded with bits of dried fruit. But the grand dame of any gathering was his tiramisu with its extravagant layers of espresso-soaked ladyfingers luxuriating on feathery beds of egg and mascarpone.

When I finally left home for a lovely college on the other side of the state, he was so disappointed that I hadn’t chosen something closer to home.

To him.

The man who had packed up his wife and baby and left his parents, siblings and the sugar-capped peaks of Northern Italy for a new life in the creeping sprawl of Detroit was upset that I was going to college 130 miles away.

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D*S Essay Contest: Liberty Lausterer

D*S Essay Contest: Liberty Lausterer

house1
[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

Mary Oliver’s poem, “Magellan,” begins:

Like Magellan, let us find our islands

To die in, far from home, from anywhere

Familiar. Let us risk the wildest places,

Lest we go down in comfort, and despair.

I used to think home looked like the 1950’s ranch on a hill in the lush, green suburbs. Man, I swooned over that house. I still do. It had pocket doors, corner windows, a fifteen foot fireplace made of Bedford stone, hand laid from local quarries. There were the thin red oak floors that gave off the most wonderful smell on the first warm day of spring, and the original seafoam green tiles in the bathroom that mimicked an island oasis. On a wall in that bathroom we hung a giant poster of the Susan Constant, one of three ships on the voyage to the Jamestown colony. We were pilgrims after all, this being our first home, colonizing our own bit of land in southern Indiana.

A local doctor had the house built, and I imagined he had a hand in its design. Either because of his sense of humor, or a desire to make something utterly unique, the layout of the house was  topsy turvy. Friends, family, and the local Sears guy would all get lost in it. What’s not to love about a house that invites you to make use of your internal navigation system?

After we moved in we immediately set to tearing up the old carpet, pulling out a million and one staples, and scraping up the linoleum floor in the laundry room using a spackling knife. We tore out a row of yew bushes along the front of the house that hadn’t been trimmed since the 1970’s, unearthing one of two built in planters. Huge stones were dug up and hauled around the yard.

In a short time span we purchased an ax, a shop vac, the world’s largest screwdriver, an industrial sized ladder, not to mention countless rented implements. When we think back to those initial weeks and months we recall feeling superhuman. The adrenaline that coursed through our veins, having acquired our own bit of Eden, was so intense we accomplished near heroic feats.

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D*S Essay Contest: Louisa Purchase

D*S Essay Contest: Louisa Purchase

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[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

One sunny morning this April our friend, Gerard, pulled up in our driveway. A professional plasterer by trade, he had come to skim-coat three rooms in our house. Just as he was opening the door to his van, his phone rang. Gerard wondered, he told me later, whether he should answer – after all, he’d a long day ahead of him and needed to get started. But he picked up the phone. The news was so unexpected that it left him stunned, sitting in the driveway, clueless about what to do next.

Rewind 18 months and, after a year of marriage, Ian and I purchased our first home together. Located on the south west coast of England in Exmouth, Devon, the house is a pale yellow 1930s semi-detached, very common in the UK. It has three bedrooms, a small back garden, and is plain, solid and well-built. A big draw for us when deciding to purchase the property was its proximity to Ian’s work as a science teacher at the local secondary school, and to a beautiful, wide, sandy stretch of beach, which we loved. The house was just the kind of project we had been looking for. It had been owned by the same elderly couple for over 40 years, and needed cosmetic, rather than structural, improvement.

For Ian, buying the house meant fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition. Early on in our relationship, he told me that all he really wanted in life was to get married and live simply, somewhere by the sea, with a baby and a dog. Buying the house was a significant step towards making this dream a reality, and we fully expected the baby would arrive in due course (maybe even the dog, too).

Throughout Ian’s life his parents had purchased properties, renovated them, and sold them on. He had always been keen to pitch in with the rest of the family, but had been hindered by his health. He had developed a problem with his kidneys at a young age, and in the course of his life had undergone three kidney transplants. Now in his thirties he was relatively fit and healthy- more so than he had ever been. This was his chance to get stuck in, manage his own project, and prove to himself and everyone else that he could do it. Whilst Ian had remained coolly non-committal throughout the course of our property search, his response when I showed him the online listing for the house was decisive: ‘Yep, that’s it. That’s the one we’re going to buy.’ It seemed that it was meant to be.

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D*S Essay Contest: Leah Pellegrini

D*S Essay Contest: Leah Pellegrini

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[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

Home Is Where the Hum Is

My upstairs apartment neighbor vacuums only at sunrise. I sometimes wake to the soft hum passing across the floor over my head. I’m not sure who she is, nor even that she’s female, but I envision her with tired hands like leather laced with wrinkles, wearing a sweet and sleepy sort of smile. Behind my shut eyes, I see her shuffling in the same slippers she’s kept for years, embroidered with tiny roses across the toes, as she tangles the thick cord of the vacuum around

If it’s not the vacuum, it’s the shower, and I hear the water rushing gently through the pipes in the walls. I imagine those slippers waiting just outside her bathroom door, still warm, and her teapot steaming on the stove. I stand slowly from my twin-sized bed and draw up my sheets, tucking them into the sides of the mattress and fluffing my pillows, while above me, there’s that gentle purr of solidarity in the shared ritual of a fresh start.

I make my breakfast to the shrill of the next-door toddler’s tantrums. I flip my eggs while she flips furniture, sending board games and books flying helter-skelter into the walls. She stomps, and the floors shake, and the butter bubbles frothier around the edges of my pan. By the time I’m sitting at my Ikea dining table, sipping coffee, her mom or dad has managed to wrangle her unwillingly out the door. “I don’t want to go,” she shrieks. “No!” I think about human inertia while I stare into my mug, willing the billowing swirl of almond milk to translate into some sort of motivational message.

I do my novice yoga routine in my kitchen-cum-living room with the window wide open, listening to a distant jackhammer (somewhere, someone is always constructing something) and a mob of kids entering the school across the street. They sob their goodbyes to their mothers and squeal their hellos to each other as I rest in my own Child’s Pose on my hardwood floor.

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D*S Essay Contest: Ashley Hallmark

D*S Essay Contest: Ashley Hallmark

AshleyHallmark - Meaning of Home Essay
[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

Mud brown walls.

Beige carpets that are in dire need of a shampoo.

An offensive odor coming from the kitchen sink and dishwasher.

Generic spec home layout.

Our new home.

An abundance of morning light that streams softly through the windows.

A large backyard.

A defiant, struggling, beautiful rose bush with sherbet orange blooms.

Our new home.

_______________________________________________________________

I have lived in four different houses in four different states in the last year.

The white-washed walled rental in Mesa.

The beautiful, poorly insulated old cabin on nine acres in upstate New York.

The comfort and relief of my sister’s house in Missouri.

And now a die-cut and stamped suburb variation in South Carolina.

With each move, the meaning of home shifted and became more and more elusive. I found myself squinting at its fuzzy outlines in frustration, and when I got tired of squinting, I crated the idea and shoved it into a corner. Home was more of a physical structure with empty veins than a haven with a beating heart.

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D*S Essay Contest: Gabi Menezes

D*S Essay Contest: Gabi Menezes

The White Bed- Gabi Menezes
[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

What Home Means to Me: A Nomad Unrolls Her Carpets and Unties Her Shoes

After ten years of traveling to more than 90 countries, covering war, famine, and refugee movements as a reporter and film maker, I began to dream of a white bed. The bed would be nothing like the beds that I had become accustomed to: grubby, mismatched sheets in cheap hotels. The bed would be crisp, and clean, and smell of fabric softener. Most importantly it would be a stable and constant. The bed was a sign that it was a time to stop. That the life that I had chosen was no longer the life that I wanted. Some might call this period in life a crisis, but I knew it an acute form of homesickness. I was unsure whether I was capable of finding the cure, which had to be building a home.

Since I had left my childhood home at 18, my entire adult had been one of movement, living out of suitcases, and ready to pack them for the next country that promised adventure. As a journalist, I was always preparing for the next story and a new country.

The sparsely furnished apartments that I lived in were not considered ‘home’ but a ‘base.’ I had little experience in standing still. I kept wondering: Who was I without traveling? When in fact the question should have been: Who could I be?

My family had long since moved from my childhood home, which was just a memory. For a long time, I had felt unjustly deprived of something that was my right: a home that I could always go back to. But actually aside from feelings of nostalgia, the reality is that space was never mine, and not a true reflection of me. ‘Home’ as adult had the potential to be both. I began with basics. ‘Home’ had to be a place where I had friends and a smattering of family ties. London, with its grey light and sky-high rent was not a place I necessarily would choose, but it had ties that would keep me grounded.

I found a tiny one-bedroom apartment, in a neighborhood that combined London grittiness with sweet cafes and trendy clothing shops. After moving in, I felt overwhelmed by white walls and a sense of commitment. How did people commit to one place? How did they get over a heartbreak or disappointment without fleeing to a different country and immersing themselves in an emergency, literally an earthquake or a tsunami? But along with the fears and worries of creating a completely new life, I also was excited by the potential of the white walls. My parent’s basement was a ignored treasure trove of things that I had purchased with an eye to the future when some day I would be a real grown up. That day hadn’t quite come in the way I envisaged, but then does it for any of us? I did have some satisfaction of finally unrolling a fiery orange, red, and grey kilim rug bought in Afghanistan in the quick half hour that security permitted foreign aid workers to remain in one place in a market. I unwrapped a treasured black and white photograph by the wonderful Malian photographer Malick Sidibé, and framed a white beaded milk jug cover made by my grandmother for another time when milk did not come in cartons. I unpacked a suitcase of printed textiles from our former home in Zimbabwe. And finally my books! I was able to put on shelves books that felt like a physical part of myself. I realized that having prided myself on having lived out of two suitcases for so long, I am no minimalist. I love that objects also hold the traces of our history, show our personalities and reflect our desires. I feel that our homes are our personal museums of memory that anchor us to not only places, but also to people and our pasts. The small one bedroom apartment is an extension of myself as much as the clothes I wear.

One of the things that I searched for found was my white bed. It was curved and slightly decadent with an upholstered linen headboard. I made it up with Portuguese linen collected by my mum at various Lisbon fairs and plump down pillows. I felt a sense of relief when it was set up, and translated from a dream to reality. It represented not only commitment but also shelter. It was something new, but also stable. It was a space that I was beginning to define as mine.

One of the secrets for the cure for homesickness is that a home is also a community. For so long I had never been a part of my friend’s lives. I dropped in for a couple of days, met in restaurants for dinners where I tried to cram in a years worth of connection and catching up. Being at home in a place, made me a better friend. I have a space to host dinner parties, where my friends can discover that I am a fantastic cook. They can also come over, and catch up on drizzly, uneventful days with cups of tea. When I get invited to birthday parties, it means that I can show up, with cake! The act of standing still and committing to a place meant investing in much more: an extended community. Both deep and meaningful, and every day, my neighborhood includes the guys at the amazing fishmongers, who showed me how to clean calamari. I often say hello to the wonderful sisters who run the pharmacy down the road, and I make the occasional promotional film for the indie theatre company that plays in the back of the local pub. Travel carries with it both a sense of anonymity, but also the sense that you are always the other, the stranger. Now I am part of a community, something that I didn’t even know I had missed.

But of course things are never straight forward. I’m telling the story as if there is a tidy end, when of course there is only change. The act of transformation is not linear, but I imagine it more in waves with peaks and troughs. Of course, I still travel. I can’t imagine my life staying in one place. I’m told that I still travel more than most people will in three lifetimes. But having somewhere to come back to has given my travel a different quality. It is temporary. I am not always looking for the next country or story, but looking behind. When I miss something, when I am feeling homesick, it is not overwhelmingly sad, because I feel it with the comfort of knowing that I have a bed to go back to.

Gabi Menezes

D*S Essay Contest: Katie Bennett

D*S Essay Contest: Katie Bennett

Katie VW bus
[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

As a little girl growing up in Oregon, I had two homes. Every two weeks my older sister and I would pack our suitcases (soft-sided, navy blue) and move from our mom’s to our dad’s then back again. Dad’s house had the best trees for climbing – a tall cherry, a gnarled pear, a trio of plums – all laden with fruit at different times across the summer months. His house was narrow and old, with the kitchen and bath tacked on the back some decades past and held up with stacks of cinderblocks. The floors of those rooms were sloped, and in the clawfoot bathtub I’d have to brace my legs against the end to keep from sliding down the drain along with my hot pink Mr. Bubble bathwater. Over the course of many years my dad and grandpa Wayne tore those rooms off and built others and his house and my childhood smelled of the sawdust of constant construction, and the buzz of long summer days were punctuated with the staccato beat of the hammer. And it felt like home.

Mom’s house was newer, built at the top of a hill and surrounded by woods. I’d hold elaborate funerals for the chipmunks and velvety-soft shrews I sometimes found dead beneath the trees. Her house smelled of coffee percolating and Fendi perfume, and sounded like her soft voice reading me Betsy-Tacy books, my head resting on a chest that was later made lumpy, but no less comfortable, with the scar tissue of breast cancer surgery. And it felt like home. At seventeen, after drifting through high school, I moved into my best friend’s robin’s egg-blue VW van. We named him Jimmy and headed south to California then east and north through Colorado and into Nebraska, where a nice guy showed us where to crawl underneath the van and hit it with a hammer to make it start so we could continue north to Quebec and south to Florida — a year-long looping figure 8 of the country. At night we’d pull onto dirt roads, into friendly driveways, into truck stops and grocery store parking lots. We’d close the colorful calico curtains her mom had sewn before we left and we’d look at our maps, and that felt like home.

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D*S Essay Contest: Erin Hill

D*S Essay Contest: Erin Hill

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[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

“In a home like this, in some way, my days would proceed as never before.”
-William Least Heat-Moon in the foreward to Sandy Sorlien’s Fifty Houses: Images From the American Road

One year ago, I bought a house for all the wrong reasons.

Because I was nearing 40 and wanted an Important Adult Life Experience that I could celebrate, as so many other adult rites of passage had eluded me or had never seemed desirable in the first place.

Because I had moved five times in the previous ten years and craved permanence.

Because I wanted to prove (to whom, exactly?) that I could do it BY. MYSELF.

Because my mom had died six months earlier, and I thought a physical house, a place of my own, would ground me. Heal me. Keep me from floating away like a big grief balloon…connect me to her by giving me a place to do what we both loved to do: bring a house back to life, make it a home room by room, turn it beautiful and personal and fill it with stories.

I know now: I expected too much from this brick and mortar and stucco. I expected it to settle me, to soothe me, to quell my anxiety and answer all my questions about The Future. Unrealistic and unfair as it is to expect another person to fix me, it’s equally unfair to expect my house to fix me.

I know better, but I forgot myself in my grief — or, as my mother used to say, chuckling, “I lost my head.” I have long believed that houses, especially the old ones, have souls. I remember now that I respect this old house for so many reasons, chief among them that a World War II veteran built it by hand from the ground up in 1954. The outhouse he used as he worked still stands on the far back corner of the property, leaning slightly to the right, looking quaint with its triangle cutout and its grapevine wreath on the door, the first nail I drove after I closed on the house. I respect this house’s moods and whims and quirks, just as I do my partner’s. Some days it’s on — the morning light is beautiful glinting off the barn’s tin roof across the field, and the breeze coming through the kitchen window is the perfect temperature, smelling faintly of honeysuckle — while some days it’s off: stuffy, with cantankerous plumbing and clogged gutters and a well pump that’s suddenly not sounding right (when did that start??). As the caretaker, mine is a balancing act, a learning when to ignore, soothe, love tough, or call the doctor (read: plumber).

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D*S Essay Contest: Daniel Schutz

D*S Essay Contest: Daniel Schutz

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[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

“much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow…”
-William Carlos Williams

Seven years after my mom died my dad threw away a pair of salt and pepper shakers that my mom had kept on the stove. They were tan, ceramic, and looked vaguely like coffee mugs. They were not something one would find in a magazine, or a blog, or even a flea market. There was no aesthetic value to them even in a fun, kitschy kind of way. I’m not sure how they ever came to be in our house but they were always there, sitting on the stove and splattered with oil. I could count on their presence in much the same way that I counted on seeing a dark stain on the carpet by the left foot of my parents’ coffee table or an old dress shirt in my closet I’d never wear again but could not bring myself to give away. They were benign and unremarkable objects and yet there they were all the same, signifiers of a place I called home.

After my mom died most of her things remained in the house. My parents’ bedroom furniture- a bed frame, dresser, and dressing table-handed down to my mom by her grandmother ,is still used by my dad. The dressing table, however, is now where he checks his blood pressure every morning and every night. And as he sits there, waiting for that cuff to puff and then deflate around his arm, my dad looks at photos my mom stuck into the corners of the dressing table mirror; me in diapers on a panda bear rug being held by my dad; my parent’s kissing in front of a blank wall; and me in a soccer uniform, my head as big as the ball I am holding.

For a man who had done so little to change the house, to leave so much of what made it our home, he was able to throw away the salt and pepper shakers with seeming and frustrating ease. He could not even remember the shakers at first inquiry. He thought, perhaps, he had only put them away in a cabinet. Perhaps in the one to the left of the stove where he keeps his multi-vitamins. No, the shakers were not there. My dress shirt was still in my closet, buttoned all the way up and hanging on a plastic hanger. The carpet stain in the living room was definitely still there and had begun colonizing several new territories. But those shakers, those had to go. Or maybe they didn’t.

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D*S Essay Contest: L.V. Smith

D*S Essay Contest: L.V. Smith

dad, cat, and kerosene lamp
[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

Home

When they were young and childless, my parents were antique hunters, weekend ransackers of estate sales and flea markets, foragers for unwormed wood and rustic lines. Each Saturday they drove out from Toledo into Amish country, following narrow roads like stitching in the crazy quilt of soy and corn, looking for pockets and exits where the past was sold. They hunted in barn-styled warehouse with acres of Shaker chairs and in villages with nothing but a gas station and a curio shop, spilling out onto the porch of a clapboard house or stacked behind a dusty plate window.

Interior design then had a vision of this countryside, one stuffed with cabbage roses, white wicker furniture, and blue-scarfed ducks. My parents filled their apartment with reclaimed oak antiques and relics of a pre-electric age—kerosene lamps and flat iron—almost in dissent.

In the early 80s my father worked building tracts of petite mansions in the sprawl north of Columbus—fake marble receptacles for a thousand Laura Ashley couches and cherry Chippendale chairs. He was laid off during the recession and recoiled from those homes so thoroughly he enrolled in a graduate program of labor history within a year. It was perilously unstylish field in a world of hollowed-out unions and trickle down economics. He learned utopian politics there, borrowed, in all their handicrafted romanticism, from William Morris and the Arts & Crafts movement. It was political program that elevated traditionally made furniture beside common ownership. He’d build his own bureaus and tables later, in Mission and Arts & Crafts styles, more pieces than we could cram in our house. But in the 1980s he concerned with historical salvage, with stripping and straining battered relics back to use. The more mangled the piece, the cheaper, the better. My parents hunted for water-ringed surfaces and unsteady legs, trash to polish. My father thought it was an appropriate hobby for an historian and, in an absurd deus ex machina, found a cache of letters from a strikebreaker in an old trunk.

My parents had no family relics, no inheritances; they had to fashion that past for themselves. My mother spent most of her childhood in a billowy white farmhouse, hemmed into a small plot when its orchards were turned into rows of houses. Her parents bought it because it was cheap and big and their only considerations of décor were the necessary tessellations of beds and dressers to cram seven kids into three bedrooms. In photos, they have plaid couches, knotted pine walls, avocado fridges, chunky Seventies cross-stitching, images of saints. Everything was handed down or bought cheap and quickly broken, and when my mother left, her possessions could fit in a single cardboard box.

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D*S Essay Contest: Andrea Raisfield

D*S Essay Contest: Andrea Raisfield

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[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

Sleeping Al Fresco

About 14 years ago, we went on a family vacation to Hawaii. We rented a pretty cabin in Hana, Maui with our three kids. The bedrooms were spacious and well-appointed, each one with a skylight, and silhouetted against each skylight was a cheerfully chirping gecko, posing like a character out of a children’s book, but it was the futon bed on the screened-in porch (the lanai as it is called there) which called to my husband and me, and that is where we chose to sleep. Two weeks later, we arrived home to Bedford. I had barely dropped my suitcase on the floor of my bedroom before heading down to the mattress store to buy a futon bed for our own screened porch.

Since then, our nights sleeping al fresco have spread across nearly half the year. In April, we turn on the electric blanket about 20 minutes before venturing out into the chill of the early spring night; that, a down comforter, and the most elemental source of heat, another body, and we are as snug as can be. When summer blooms full on, we switch to a woven linen blanket, at once weighty and weightless. In late September, we plug in the electric blanket once again, and by early November, when it becomes too cold to hold a book in our hands, we move back into our bedroom (and its delicious heated floor) for the winter.

What is so elementally appealing about sleeping outside? For us, it has never been about the health benefits, which, according to a slew of sources, are real and varied: improved activity of the lungs by increasing oxygen assimilation, a strengthening of the central nervous system, and the stimulation of vital glands of internal secretion that produce hormones and tone up the skin. On the occasional solo night in the cold, when I’m scrunched up tight in a ball, I think about a New York Times piece about the benefits of cold sleeping to produce something known as “brown fat,” the kind we want in our bodies, and that makes the mild discomfort less so.

The healthy dividends are a mere bonus. We sleep outside because it just feels so good. A butterfly in Osaka flaps its wings, and our back porch in Bedford, my cheek is gently buffeted by a puff of air. During storms, we feel the spray of mist against our faces. Thunder comes from all sides. Lightning creates momentary strobe-lit tableaux, each window framing a distinct composition of trees against a steely sky. Sometimes we are woken from sleep thinking there’s a party gone out of hand nearby. We realize it is the near-human sound of a pack of coyotes wilding on a terrified mammal in the surrounding woods.

We listen with the rapt attention we’d give the most exotic nature documentary on TV. Nights on the screened porch are a study of the delineation between one thing and another. The place where my warm breath meets cool air. The distant place where an owl’s soft pipe song interrupts the velvet texture of silence. The place where, devoid of man-made sounds, we modern people can feel and hear night as it has been since un-modern times. In the dark calm of my Bedford backyard, I can begin to decode the language of the natural world. I listen for variations in the crickets’ song, try to guess where that barking dog is barking from, and attempt to record in my mind an animal’s nighttime cry so that I might search it online in the morning—the distress call of a baby fox? The ratchety chitter of a raccoon in a standoff with a cat? My cat?

“There are on earth,” wrote Jean Giono in his 1935 book, The Joy of Man’s Desiring, “moments of great beauty and peace.” Nights spent sleeping out our screened porch, we have access to so many more of those moments. –Andrea Raisfield

Happy Birthday Design*Sponge: DS Turns 11!

Happy Birthday Design*Sponge: DS Turns 11!

-1-sparkler-candle-silver-heart
I feel like I blinked and this summer flew by before I even knew it. As spring came to a close we started on the very beginning of a new book project that happily consumed every hour of our summer (and not just mine, but Kelli’s and Sasha’s, too). As we flew from city to city meeting amazing women and talking to them about their careers, we found ourselves changing. And that change has inspired some big changes that are about to take place here at D*S, too. What I’ve learned from working on just two and a half months of our book project is that we have a lot more work to do here at D*S. We have to research harder, write with more purpose and passion, dig deeper into the community we love and celebrate here and step confidently toward our next track, which is all about creating an online community that reflects the full range of creative people we respect and admire.

Starting in September, we’re introducing new writers and new columns, and we’re coming back with a fresh look on the way we approach the idea of home and creativity. I want to know more about the people who create the things we love, what makes them tick, what makes their houses turn into homes — and I want to hear a wider range of people’s stories. I want to hear from people just starting out, people celebrating their 20th year of running their own business, and I want to hear from people who haven’t had the chance  or the platform  to share their stories yet.

Today Design*Sponge turns 11. It feels like a slightly uneventful birthday after making it a full decade last year, but something about being in the first year of a new decade feels 100% right. I feel like we’re just starting to understand and become clear about what our purpose is NOW. Not since the early years of writing here have I felt so focused and clear about what I want to achieve here. I understand what is missing from not only our site, but the community as a whole, and how we can work together here to solve that problem and better reflect the creative world we celebrate here every day. Working on our new book (which I could not be prouder of. I cannot wait to show you all what we’ve been working on) has completely changed the way I view this site and has given me the renewed passion, excitement, energy and purpose I needed to take Design*Sponge into our second decade.

Next week our team is taking a much needed week off to relax and prepare for the new posting we’ll be doing here, starting September 1st. But don’t worry  there will be EXCELLENT new content here all next week. And the best part  it’s all been written by YOU.

Starting next week I’m going to be posting our D*S Essay Contest Finalists. You’ll get to read incredible essays about HOME, written by members of our online community, and on Friday you’ll get to vote for your favorite. The winner will receive $500 and hopefully we’ll get to hear more from them (maybe here in post form, too!) online.

Whether you’re new to the site for the first time today or have been reading since the beginning, thank you for supporting Design*Sponge over the past 11 years. We cannot wait to get back to work and show you what we have in store. I have a feeling 2015 is going to be our best year yet. We’ll see you next week with our essay finalists and back here on Tuesday, September 1st for our first week of regular blogging! Until then, have a wonderful end of your summer! xo, grace and everyone at D*S!

*image above via My Little Day

In the Kitchen With: Meike Peters’ Mediterranean Baguette

In the Kitchen With: Meike Peters’ Mediterranean Baguette

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Through Instagram, I eat dream meals every day from all over the world. If it’s not the breakfast project by David Hagerman, or the latest behind the scenes shoot by Matt Armendariz or Gaby Dalkin, it’s something equally wonderful, like the beautifully colorful images of Meike Peters, the voice and photographer behind the blog Eat in My Kitchen. I was hooked by her spicy cumin guacamole and bacon sandwich and asked her to come up with something just as enticing. She presented me with a Whipped Chèvre, Grape and Fig Baguette with Bacon, Honey and Thyme, influenced by the flavors of the fading Mediterranean summer. The sandwich is here just in time for those September figs, which should be appearing in the markets any time now. —Kristina

Why Meike loves this sandwich: When I started Eat in My Kitchen, I decided to share a sandwich recipe once a week — my Sandwich Wednesdays. It became a loved tradition; sandwiches have something utterly satisfying about them and — at the same time — they’re ultra quick to prepare (most of the time). I like them lusciously filled, a bit messy, and I always try to put the main focus on no more than three flavors. Here, it’s the sour note of creamy whipped chèvre, the sweet depth of ripe figs and dark grapes combined with the crisp bacon’s saltiness. Refined with syrupy honey and fresh thyme, it all goes in between a baguette — it’s a late summer sandwich feast inspired by a picnic in the south of France!

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Free Pattern Download from Willowmark: Friday

Free Pattern Download from Willowmark: Friday

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It has been such a treat to have Jen Lashek of Willowmark Works with us all week, sharing beautiful watercolor pattern designs she created just for DS. So far she has already shared four downloadable designs and today she’s back with the fifth and final pattern. This is my favorite of all five designs and I have already transformed my laptop background with this soft, geometric pattern. Thank you so much again to Jen for creating these for us this week. You can check out and follow more of her work right here on Instagram and CLICK HERE to download Jen’s final pattern design for all your tech devices (please note: these are for personal use only).

Before & After: A Big Sea of Bright

Before & After: A Big Sea of Bright, on Design*Sponge

Before & After: A Big Sea of Bright

When Giulia Doyle of Audrey’s 74 moved to Ottawa, Canada from Switzerland over a decade ago, she didn’t expect to find a carved antique armchair from her great-grandfather’s hotel for sale in her new city. The vintage piece now takes pride of place in a home she shares with husband Bruno and their two small children, along with endless refreshed details that brought the residence from “a big sea of brown” to a contemporary home for a vibrant young family. The 1,400-square-foot sidesplit was built in 1958, and when the Doyle family purchased it almost six years ago, they sought to undo the shoddy renovation work it had seen throughout the years in order to uncover its full period potential.

In the living room, a previous owner had installed an efficient wood-burning fireplace insert, but had unfortunately also added floor tiles to the walls and hearth. The Doyles knew from an earlier real estate listing that a white brick surround was hiding underneath, and they set out to restore its condition. They chipped away the tile and then the messy, dirty grout and mortar. The dust from this process permeated every room. Hours and hours of work finally revealed the storied white brick. Giulia has been debating painting the door’s brass edge, but has recently grown to like it. The couple searched far and wide for the perfect piece of artwork to hang above their masterpiece until Giulia’s grandparents gave her the 1960s Jean Le Beut landscape painting displayed there now. The frame features brass detailing, so its age and finish tie into the other elements of the space.

Updating creature comforts in a home of this age turned out to be more challenging than the couple anticipated. They hired professionals right after closing to swap out the oil furnace for a gas model, and to install ducting throughout most of the house for forced air heat and AC. The resulting obsolete wall-inserted radiators took years for them to remove because of all the patching, painting, and baseboard replacement needed (they sadly could not find a match for its original profile). The pair have been tackling one large project every year, and have many more ideas on the list.

But for now, Giulia is happy to have created a bright and friendly house that is safe, comfortable, and not too precious for kids. There are no “no-touch” zones here, and the four residents live in the whole house. They share every meal at the dining table, and Giulia uses that same room for her photography because of its great light. The space flows directly into the home’s living room, where the combination of its 10-foot-long windows with those across the way offer enveloping north, south, and west-facing views of the scenic neighborhood. —Annie

Photography by Giulia Doyle

 

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