Before & After: Converting 188 Square Feet on Wheels into a Home

Before and After: Converting 188 sq ft into a Home on Design*Sponge

Before & After: Converting 188 Square Feet on Wheels into a Home

If there’s some passion or wish you’ve been secretly harboring inside those inner archives of wild dreams, then meet Mandy Fierens and Kevin Holesh, a couple who may just convince you to say those wishes out loud. More importantly, they may inspire you to take some giant leaps of faith and go for those wild dreams!

During her horribly insecure teen years, Mandy fell in love with fashion, but her 5’10” curvy frame didn’t fit the typical mold. Naysayers told her the barriers to enter the fashion industry were too high (adults are the worst!), but she didn’t let that stifle her. Today, she uses The Curvy Blogger as a positive corner of the web, where she hopes to help girls all over the world find confidence in their own skin. If the photography on her blog is impressive, it’s because Mandy is also a wedding and elopement photographer. She credits her other half, Kevin, with giving her the boost in confidence she needed to ditch a steady day job in order to pursue those creative passions.

Kevin is an iOS developer (check out his app, “Moment,” to help you curb your phone addictions), who can pretty much figure out anything he puts his mind to. The one idea on both of Mandy and Kevin’s minds? Travel! After marrying and settling in Pittsburgh, PA, the two borrowed an aunt’s pop-up camper and spent two months traveling the South. They were totally hooked, and the return to apartment life left them feeling cooped up.

Where others may have tried to just swallow that nagging feeling, these two brave souls had a real talk about their desire to travel. They put words into action, lived frugally to save money, consolidated their lives in a major way, and when the right “fifth wheel” presented itself, they committed to living in 188 square feet, which they dubbed the “Keystone.” Whether you have the same travel bug and work freedom, or your life is completely tethered to one place, you can dive into their adventures and live vicariously through their blog, 188sft. Enjoy! —Quelcy

Photography by Mandy Fierens | Family portrait by Krystle Castillo

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Studio Tour: Hello Miss May

Studio Tour: Hello Miss May | Design*Sponge

Studio Tour: Hello Miss May

I love how Instagram has connected the design world from every corner. Every day I scroll through my feed and see work from countless designers and creatives from all over the globe. Hello Miss May is a favorite of those accounts. May Leong of Hello Miss May is based in Surry Hills, Sydney, Australia. Her colorful and playful illustrations and styling instantly caught my eye when I first stumbled upon her work on Instagram.

Hello Miss May doesn’t just create beautiful things for social media — this creative company run by May conceptualizes and executes photo shoots for companies such as Oreos, Pokey Sticks and Happy Socks to name a few. May also sells greeting cards, pins and brooches designed with her signature illustration style. May has successfully turned her side business into full-time work, giving her the need for a studio space.

May’s studio is located in her Surry Hills home. The space was originally a lounge or living room area, but she was able to make the dining room act as a dual-purpose spot for both living and dining. “I call my space, ‘The Weekend Studio’ as it gives me the chill-out kind of feeling,” May shares. “I used to work part-time at the geekiest (and somehow, coolest) tech store in the world, and I never had the weekends off. Now, I have seven days in a week all to myself, to do whatever I want to do in the studio.”

Her creative space is an eclectic mix of colors, modern style, vintage pieces and Hello Miss May inventory and props. “Friends think I have way too much stuff in my house (and they probably think I have a tendency to hoard), but I see myself as a collector, appreciating the cute and the colorful.” The studio is exactly as it should be for May: inspiring, creative and practical for this talented designer and stylist. –Lauren

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Seven Pajama Sets for Fall

J. Crew's pajama sets have been my go-to Christmas list item for years. They're comfy and breathable and usually come in great striped options, like these. $78 right here.

Seven Pajama Sets for Fall

This fall, I’m gearing up to hit the road for our In the Company of Women book tour, and if there’s anything I remember from the last book tour, it’s that treating myself to a new pair of pajamas is a good idea. Back in 2011 when I toured 30+ cities (yipes), I got myself a new pair of PJs that made my “on the road” nighttime routine feel special and calming.

Not being in my own bed for that long was really unsettling (I really love routines), so I’ve been looking around for a new pair that will come with me on this year’s tour and help me ensure I stick to a nighttime travel routine that keeps me well-rested and ready to go in each city. I thought I’d share seven of my favorites here today in case anyone’s looking for something fun to spruce up their nighttime wardrobe. xo, grace

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In The Company of Women: Giveaway #1

In The Company of Women: Giveaway #1

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BIG NEWS! All week we’re doing a special series of giveaway to celebrate pre-orders for In the Company of Women. We’re giving away a trip to Hasbrouck House, a consulting session with me and women from the book and…starting today…4 gift boxes filled with amazing ceramics, original artwork, jewelry and home goods made by women from the book! This package includes original artwork by Rinne Allen, ceramics by Michele Quan, a scarf from Block Shop Textiles and rope jewelry by Tanya Aguiniga!

To enter, fill out the form here, upload a picture of your pre-ordered copy of the book (books pre-ordered before this week are great, and tickets to any book tour event counts!) and we’ll choose winners this weekend to receive one of these amazing gift packages. Thank you to all of these amazing women for donating these incredible pieces and thank you for supporting the book! xo, grace

Before & After: An Iowa Living Room Gets an Artful Makeover

A Des Moines, IA Living Room Gets an Artful Makeover | Design*Sponge

Before & After: An Iowa Living Room Gets an Artful Makeover

Liz Lidgett’s clever entryway re-do earlier this year had all of us at Design*Sponge wanting more. Liz’s background lends to art being the forefront of any room she decorates. The art advisor and founder of Adore Your Walls has turned her own living room into a beautiful display of favorite pieces. When she and her husband, Nick Renkoski, moved back to Des Moines, IA from Los Angeles last year, they had a specific neighborhood in mind — the same one Liz grew up in.

The home they found in their budget needed some love. Its stately rooms, hardwood floors and gorgeous windows has made any room makeover a bit easier on them. When the couple moved in, the living room was a deep pink with white trim and brass accents. Liz, Nick and their families have since put in time, creativity and handiwork to turn the living room into a sophisticated retreat where they can host and relax. Having a large home with a small budget has meant that Liz and Nick have had to be resourceful with their purchases. “We were on a budget since we needed to fill the entire house with furniture, so I looked a lot on Craigslist and at garage sales. The great thing is, because we DIYed so much of it, I know there’s not another room like it anywhere,” Liz shares.

The gorgeous results speak for themselves. The brightly colored artwork pairs beautifully with a graphic black and white rug. The sofas look refined while patterned pillows and furniture lines give a subtle playfulness to the room. The black trim creates definition and shows off the beautiful charm of the room itself. The space is a mix of contemporary, vintage and modern design that is unique to Liz and Nick. “I wanted the home to be full of pieces we loved, not just stuff we had bought to fill space,” Liz shares. “We want a home full of art and books and music. We want a home where people feel welcome to sit down, have a drink, and stay for a while.” The living room now reflects the couple that lives there and the life they were hoping to find in Des Moines. –Lauren

Photography by Rick Lozier

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DIY Laptop Skin Using Images From Your Smartphone

DIY Laptop Skin Using Images From Your Smartphone

DIY Laptop Skin Using images from your smartphone by Jessica Marquez for Design Sponge

In this DIY, we marry analog and handmade concepts with new technology and materials. I usually roll my eyes at projects that lean too heavily on a service or prepackaged good, but I’m excited to share inspiring new tools and materials with loads of creative applications. Using my smartphone’s camera, I photographed a hand-drawn doodle and compositions of delicate flowers to make my own Custom Laptop Skin. Actually, it’s re-positionable wallpaper printed by Spoonflower, but it adheres well to any smooth surface so you can go crazy covering your walls, notebooks, phone and laptop.

Originally, I wanted to make a skin from a single image that spread across the laptop, but Spoonflower’s program is best designed for creating repeat patterns. You can use pre-existing images, but keep in mind that imagery that requires a fixed orientation, like a standard snapshot, might not work as well as a repeat pattern. Graphic imagery and patterns work best.

I visited my favorite flower shop in Brooklyn, Park Deli, who have the best funky, fun and colorful flowers. I played around arranging the flowers on paper and shot images with my phone. These images, which I link to in full resolution after the jump, were then turned into peel-and-stick wallpaper. The flowers made for interesting repeat pattern designs, and I loved the idea of my laptop having a softer edge. Don’t limit yourself to just flowers, though. Think of all the fun objects, sketches, and doodles that you can shoot and turn into your own custom peel-and-stick paper — the possibilities are truly endless. —Jessica

DIY Laptop Skin Using images from your smartphone by Jessica Marquez for Design Sponge

DIY Laptop Skin Using images from your smartphone by Jessica Marquez for Design Sponge
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A Dreamy Escape in the Texas Countryside

Schumacher Home Tour on Design*Sponge

A Dreamy Escape in the Texas Countryside

On the journey to Jacque and Kenneth Schumacher’s country home outside Cuero, TX, something special starts to happen. The landscape slowly begins to change, the rolling hills become more lush with wildflowers and Spanish moss hanging from the oak trees, and you suddenly feel very at ease.

To say that this home is a slice of heaven is a major understatement. Its simple, updated country decor exudes tranquility, with no detail overlooked. The main house was built on the exact site of the original structure that the couple tried desperately to save. Despite being intended as only a weekend home, Jacque and Kenneth have not been able to tear themselves away. With all of their children now grown, this one-bedroom, one-bath home perfectly suits the needs of their laid-back lifestyle. With Jacque and Kenneth each owning various businesses, they work very long, demanding hours, and love having a place to come home to that is both calm and relaxing. The property also includes a pool and many creative outdoor areas for entertaining and hosting guests.

The original goal for the property was to turn an old airplane hangar into a “party barn.” Once Jacque convinced Kenneth, there was no stopping her. Just in time for their oldest son’s wedding, the property’s “party barn,” main house, and guest quarters were all completed within only a five-month time frame. Without a professional set of plans, their flexible builder was able to work with Jacque’s many impromptu design decisions to create what appears to be something that took years of planning and effort.

Enjoy this dreamy escape, but beware — even committed city-dwellers might be swayed to start looking for their own sweet spot in the country. —Megan

Photography by Laura Haley Photography

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Giveaway: Win a Consulting Session with Grace!

Giveaway: Win a Consulting Session with Grace!

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I’m so excited to announce our 2nd giveaway celebrating pre-orders for In the Company of Women! If you pre-order the book (tickets to the book tour events count!) you could win a free consulting session with me and two women from the book to help get your creative business/goals/ideas off the ground! We’ll meet with you online to talk about your goals and ways to achieve them. If you’d like to win a consulting session, just fill out the contest form HERE. The contest is open to anyone, world-wide, whether or not you have a business yet. We’re happy to help you turn your ideas into a business idea, too! –Grace

The photo above is @arielealasko from In the Company of Women, photographed by @sashaisrael

The Beauty of Self-Care: Lesson 4 – Ritual + An Aveda Giveaway

The Beauty of Self-Care: Lesson 4 – Ritual + An Aveda Giveaway

Image via GIPHY

There’s been a lot of gratitude, participation and conversations around this series and we’re so grateful for the thoughtful responses. When Emily Henderson shared a post from our series and a “thank you” on her Facebook feed, I replied with a quick comment that said, “We practice what we preach.” I wanted to re-emphasize that self-care takes practice and guts. For me, it’s like waking up on a cold morning — I don’t want to get out of bed. I’m in my warm, protected space and just want to stay there. Then, as consciousness creeps in, I remember I’m a mom and I’ve got a lunch to pack and breakfast to make. Before I made self-care a priority, these rituals took the place of any activities to nurture myself. While I’m happy to take care of my daughter in a loving and nurturing way, the day would just become a period of time with a long to-do list that would leave me exhausted when I turned in at night.

One of our favorite companies, Aveda, recently reached out to Grace and I and wanted to be a part of this series. After we pinched ourselves, we realized it was a great fit that made total sense because we essentially work with all of the same self-care ideas, Ayurvedic practices and products that their business is built on. Grace has been an Aveda fan since high school and my aunt runs two Aveda salons in Florida. When I stayed with Aunt Laura during a recent trip to Florida, my daughter peeked out from the bathroom to ask about soap for the shower. Aunt Laura smiled and told her, “We don’t use soap, honey,” and told her to use any of the Aveda products in there as “soap.” I took a peek into the shower and was in spa heaven. Of course, I left with a suitcase filled with Aveda products. We’re so happy to announce that, thanks to Aveda’s support, we’ll be continuing this series through the end of the year!

I’ve gotten good at internal care thanks to meditation and breath work, but my external body care practices were pretty much nonexistent. I grew up taking external beauty routines, makeup and even putting on lotion as a sign of vanity and privilege. The word “pamper” still makes me a little uncomfortable. As an adult, I totally realize that this reaction is just because my childhood was about survival, not enjoying things like treating yourself. Shame was pretty much running my life until five years ago. Now, I appreciate all my body does for me every. single. day.

Every morning, I do two things for myself that leave me ready for anything that comes my way during the day — cleaning cat boxes, tantrums from a 10-year-old with no Internet access, and other challenging situations. My first ritual is to sit at my table, have my coffee, and do the painting exercise from lesson one. I just work with gouache and water and make circles of color without even thinking. As I move into the bathroom/get-dressed mode, I sit in my fun green floral chair in my office and I do a skin brushing ritual with some amazing oils that leave a scent in my office that keeps me relaxed all day. After I have my coffee and have to move into the start of my day, my mind naturally starts racing, mostly in a good way, and while I’m brushing I take the time to let those thoughts race on by, but I observe them — I no longer rush to scribble them down on paper that will get lost in the pile of all of the other lists. The wonderful thing about my brushing routine (for me) is it takes time. I literally let the oils and the aromatherapy effect sink into my skin while I watch all of my thoughts drift by like clouds. It’s like letting your tea steep to that perfect flavor you only know through practice and observing the color of the tea.

If you think about our external body as connected to our health — beyond the standard practices of a healthy diet and regular exercise — our skin is our largest organ of our body and covers an area of about 20 square feet. It protects us from harmful microbes, helps regulate our body temperature, and allows us to experience the sensations of touch, heat and cold. Most of us take care of our skin in obvious hygienic ways, but treating your skin and senses to a dedicated ritual that encompasses meditation trains your brain to remember the calming effect of specific sensations.

Please join us and our new collaborator, Aveda, each Tuesday at 1 pm for some self-exploration + exercises to build good habits and instill positive self-care into your everyday routine. We couldn’t be more thrilled to work on this content side-by-side with a company that shares our values and has such a thoughtful approach to self-care and beauty.

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Click through for this week’s 10-minute exercise and a special giveaway from Aveda. –Grace and Caitlin

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What To Do When You Fail

What To Do When You Fail

Design*Sponge – What To Do When You Fail – Adam J. Kurtz

A lot of smart, creative people talk about failure in the creative process, so I thought I should finally tackle it myself. Obviously, I’ve never failed at anything before, so this advice is entirely hypothetical. I assume that failure feels pretty awful. I can imagine feeling not good enough, or worthless, maybe even feeling like I should just give up. I can picture myself throwing away my hard work, crumpling up paper or erasing files in a (minor) fit of rage. I’m not the yelling type, but I can almost see myself writing the world’s most passive-aggressive email. I mean, if I had failed at something. Which I never have.

“Failing” as a badge of honor doesn’t make sense to me. There’s no need to polish this turd? Failing feels sucky. But failure can also bring so much to learn about ourselves, our work and our presentation. Success is about so much more than just talent or the merit of our ideas. Timing is everything. Connecting with the right person matters. So you take failure in stride, strip as much good from the experience as you can, and do your best not to let the gut emotional reaction drag you down. –Adam J. Kurtz

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Decorating for Your Differently-Abled Child + Giveaway

Decorating for Your Differently-Abled Child + Giveaway

Decorating for Your Differently-Abled Child & Giveaway, Design*Sponge

Decorating your child’s room can be a challenge. Kids are messy, they’re tough on furniture and their taste changes with the wind. Not only that, but as a parent you also want them to feel comfortable in their space and to give them a haven in which they can thrive. All in all, there’s a lot to think about when the process kicks off. For some parents, though, a much more profound factor has to be taken into account: their child being differently-abled.

Designing and decorating for kiddos with different abilities (or diffently-abled people of any age, for that matter) is a topic too often overlooked by our community. Today we are setting out to change that. We’ve partnered with advocate and mother of three, Rachel Fox Kipphut, and put together 5 Decorating Tips for Your Differently-Abled Child. Rachel is a wealth of knowledge. Her four-year-old daughter Eva was born with Down Syndrome, which meant her room and play areas needed specific attention when it was time to decorate. Coordinating colors, playing to your child’s strengths and finding ways to empower them are just a few of the tips we can all learn from Rachel and her tot.

Not only is she sharing with us all that she learned from the design process, but Rachel’s also helped us put together a great giveaway. One lucky reader will get a prize package full of goodies that are Eva-approved. Every item is stylish, useful and made by a brand that’s inclusive of those who are differently-abled. Major kudos! Click through for the tips and to enter. Enjoy. —Garrett

Photography by Rachel Fox Kipphut

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Hasbrouck House Tour + Vacation Giveaway!

This September, Hasbrouck House officially reopened in the historic hamlet of Stone Ridge, New York. Originally built in 1757, this Dutch Colonial stone mansion was renovated by the Gowanus Hospitality Group to create a modern space for guests to stay, relax and enjoy incredible surrounding areas.

Hasbrouck House Tour + Vacation Giveaway!

Every day that Julia and I spend living in the Hudson Valley feels like a reaffirmation that our decision to move here full time was the right one. Each season brings new reasons to fall in love with this area all over again, and today I’m so excited to offer a BIG giveaway that will offer one lucky reader (plus a friend or loved one) the chance to come join us upstate for a weekend getaway!

To celebrate In the Company of Women being available for pre-order, we’re doing a special series of giveaways for the next five days. Anyone who pre-orders a book (tickets to the book tour events count, too!) is eligible to win a series of amazing prizes this week, so stay tuned for all of the giveaways here (and on our social channels) every morning this week. Today I’m sharing a tour of a beautiful, newly-renovated 18th century-era bed & breakfast in our area called Hasbrouck House.

In addition to today’s tour of the Hasbrouck House interior, one reader will have the chance to win a weekend getaway for a 2-night stay on October 14th-October 16th and dinner at Butterfield, the in-house restaurant. You’ll also receive a signed copy of the book (if I’m in town I’ll come drop it off in person!) and one of our limited-edition tote bags from the book tour.  Just fill out the form RIGHT HERE to register for a chance to win. *Please note: contest details and rules are on the form page. Travel is not provided, so you’ll need to be able to get to and from Stone Ridge, NY. 

Photographs by Heidi’s Bridge

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Nestled in a Nature Preserve, a New Jersey Couple’s Customized Retreat

Nestled in a Nature Preserve, a New Jersey Couple's Customized Retreat, Design*Sponge

Nestled in a Nature Preserve, a New Jersey Couple’s Customized Retreat

It’s not often that one can live both the metropolitan and rural life simultaneously. Typically one is sacrificed for the other. There are those lucky few, though, that have stumbled upon a gem that lets them have both. Furniture/lighting manufacturers and interior designers Roger and Chris Stout-Hazard, founders of Roger + Chris, are one such lucky duo. Their home is nestled right in between New York City and the mountains, meaning the best of both city and country living is right at their fingertips.

Their 60s-era rental is situated in Montclair, NJ on a picturesque nature preserve where “foxes, deer and chipmunks” scurry about. Most mornings, the guys drink their coffee on one of the home’s many balconies. High above the treetops, they can even take in an unobstructed view of Manhattan as they sip their cups of Joe. But the views aren’t limited to the patios. Nearly every room of the house features larger-than-life windows that frame the forest beyond so perfectly you’d think you were looking at a painting.

Initially those windows, while gorgeous, were the space’s most challenging design element. They’re so large and take up so much wall space that arranging furniture around them proved to be a tough puzzle to solve. Roger and Chris like to settle into a place quickly though, so they wasted no time in taking a crack at the layout. They rearranged and rearranged until they found the perfect configuration for each room. And when it didn’t work, like in the dining room’s reading nook, they simply had a piece custom made to fit just right.

While it sounds lavish, having furniture totally customized is no big deal for this pair. Most of their home’s pieces they’ve designed themselves. It is their job after all, and they’re quite fabulous at it. Chesterfield sofas and period lighting of their own making pay homage to the home’s mid-century roots, and they’ve peppered in vintage accessories to add depth to the decor. A collection of pottery from local artisans here, a set of oil paintings depicting the changing seasons there — everything in the home has been well curated, and boy, are the results stunning. I can’t stop looking at it! Click through to ogle over this mountaintop retreat just outside Manhattan for yourself. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Chris Stout-Hazard

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12 Earthy Rooms Full of Decor Inspiration

12 Earthy Rooms Full of Inspiration | Design*Sponge

12 Earthy Rooms Full of Decor Inspiration

Something about fall makes us want to surround ourselves with a little more grit. Natural elements such as pine cones, twigs and berry branches purposely make their way into homes this time of year. For some homes, earthy style is not a rotating decoration, but a design element of the space. The style can range from material selections to accessories to the overall feeling and aesthetic of entire rooms. We’ve seen beautiful, innovative and inspiring uses of earthy decor in Sneak Peeks over the years. Here are a dozen gorgeous rooms that will encourage you to bring some of the outside in. –Lauren

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A Beachy Retreat in the Heart of Brooklyn

Home tour with Madison Sterling for Design*Sponge

A Beachy Retreat in the Heart of Brooklyn

New York can be an unforgiving urban environment, so it’s important to have your own personal sanctuary that revives you and inspires you. Space is precious, so a home that soothes your worn-out soul and harnesses creative juices becomes paramount to surviving the busy city. When I first saw the pictures of Madison, Rob and Tess’ space, I took a deep breath in and exhaled out all my hurried thoughts. These were immediately replaced with the sound of waves in the distance, the green glow of thriving leafy plants, and calming watercolor patterns.

Both Madison and Tess work with textiles and met while finishing their undergrad program at Parsons. Their love for beautiful, tactile objects is prevalent throughout their Park Slope apartment. The carefully curated collection is highlighted by the warm sunlight leaking into every room — something the plants are quite content with. Rob, Madison’s boyfriend, is the resident green thumb and makes sure these guys are happy and healthy. “We tried to create a very lively feeling in our home. We played a lot with color and pattern and never stopped buying plants,” Madison says. “I think we were all a bit tired of living in dimly lit, cave-like apartments in Manhattan, so we tried to make this place as sunny as possible.” The cooling hues that dominate the home’s palette, combined with Rob’s surfboards and Tess and Madison’s earthy textile creations, make you feel as though you can smell the wet sand and salt water.

One very inspiring aspect of their home is how the three roommates choose to live in respect to the earth and its environment. “Collectively, I think the environment is at the forefront of our concern,” they share. “We have made it a point to reduce and reuse resources. We cook entirely vegan, we have made sure to set up a compost and recycling, we switched to green energy sources, we venture to the farmer’s market as much as possible and try to use all natural cleaning products. In a way, it makes our living more meaningful!” I hope you experience the same feeling of calm wash over you when touring their lovely home. —Erin

Photography by Erin Curry

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