Happy Holidays from Design*Sponge

Happy Holidays from Design*Sponge

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2014 has been a roller coaster of a year, but one that has taught me so many lessons and has helped me refocus and redefine what is most important to me in life and work. There were moments when I had to just hold on and trust that we’d make it to a smooth patch and moments when we rushed forward with such excitement, energy and passion that I felt thankful for still being on such a fun and wild ride. I started the year feeling worried about the future of blogs and how best to run our team, but I’m ending 2014 feeling stronger, more energized and with the most understanding and clarity I’ve ever had about why we’re here, what we do and what we believe in at Design*Sponge.

The world around us is changing more quickly than ever. The Internet changes, readers change and the way (and even where) we write is constantly evolving. But the one thing that doesn’t change is the importance of home. Having a place where you feel warm, safe, comfortable and restored is both one of the greatest luxuries and necessities in life. Our mission here at DS is to help people find the tools, inspiration and confidence they need to build a home that speaks to who they are, but we wanted to end this year by remembering that not everyone has the luxury of having a home. In the United States alone, over 600,000 people are currently without homes and this holiday our team is making a donation to several charities that work to help people have a more permanent roof over their heads. If you’re able to donate your time or money to a group that helps people get into a safe home, we hope you’ll please consider joining us in our effort to help.

Our team is taking a break for the holiday and will return on Monday, January 5th with content that we feel is some of the best, most exciting and meaningful we’ve worked on to date. All this year (and especially since we launched our re-design), we’ve been listening to your thoughts, comments and suggestions about what you’d like to see more — and less — of here at Design*Sponge. We’ve taken those notes to heart and combined them with what means the most to us to come up with some great new columns for 2015 that focus on building a beautiful home by doing more with the things you already have around you.

We’re expanding our DIY and Before & After sections and launching new columns that focus on affordable ways to embrace design at home without spending or buying too much, and by keeping quality (not quantity) at heart. We will, of course, always continue to share our favorite inspiring and innovative ideas, with a focus on products and designs that are worth investing both your time and money in. These additions and changes won’t feel like a night-and-day change, but we hope they’ll be a subtle shift that embraces our community’s shared desire to spend less time shopping and trend-obsessing and more time truly being inspired and finding ways to create beauty at home using our own two hands. We also want to spend more time supporting artists, shops and companies we trust and believe in. We can’t wait to start 2015, but until then, from all of us at DS, we wish the very best for all of you for both a happy holiday season and a wonderful, wonderful New Year. xo, grace

What I’ve Learned from 100 Radio Shows

What I’ve Learned from 100 Radio Shows

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Today marks the 100th episode of my radio show, After the Jump, and the final episode of our 2014 season. The past two years of hosting this show have provided me some of the greatest learning lessons, inspiration and advice for both my life and work in a way that I could have never expected.

My first love will always be the Internet, but these afternoons spent in this tiny, shipping-container radio station have been some of the most important and enlightening of my life so far. So for the last show of the season, I decided to look back at all 100 shows and share the 10 BIGGEST LESSONS I’VE LEARNED. These lessons have nothing to do with hosting a show, but instead have everything to do with learning to be a better business owner, a more compassionate person and a better listener, and endless ways to learn how to connect better with the people around me — and all of us. Thank you to everyone who has joined me on-air over these past 100 episodes, to my favorite band, Screaming Females, for letting me use their song as the show’s theme song and thank you to all of you who have listened. Hosting this show has been one of the greatest joys of my life so far. xo, grace

To Listen: Click here to listen online or click here to Listen on iTunes.

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Buvette Cookbook Giveaway + Mousse au Chocolat Recipe

Buvette Cookbook Giveaway + Mousse au Chocolat Recipe

Chocolate Mousse from The Buvette Cookbook
As we get ready to pack up and head out for the holidays, I wanted to share something special related to one of the happiest days of my life. Last November, Julia and I got married in a friend’s backyard. Afterward, our families walked together to enjoy what was one of the most delicious – and meaningful – meals at the back table of Buvette in the West Village. Buvette – and chef Jody Williams – is one of the most beloved restaurants in New York City. A favorite of writers, artists, foodies and even Martha herself, Buvette is open practically around the clock, serving delicious food made from one of the tiniest kitchens I’ve ever seen. Every spare inch of Buvette’s 1,000 square feet is used wisely. Tiny plates are stacked high on marble shelves, waitlists are written directly on the door frame and espresso machines behind the bar steam up eggs for breakfast orders. Any space not used for displays of decadent food is decorated with cherished vintage pieces that Jody collects during her travels and from antique fairs. In short, it’s one of my favorite places in the world.

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We chose to have our wedding dinner at the back table of Buvette for all of the reasons above, but mainly because Jody is someone who means a lot to Julia – and now to me, too. Julia worked on the Buvette cookbook and the recipes from this very special cookbook are near and dear to my heart. But none quite as dear as the recipe for Jody’s Mousse au Chocolat. If you think you’ve had chocolate mousse before, get ready to rediscover just how rich, decadent and transformative it can be. This is, without a doubt, the best chocolate mousse I’ve ever eaten. We love it so much it was served up as our dessert course for our wedding dinner. The greatest compliment it could ever receive was when Julia’s grandmother, who is vigilant about healthy eating, requested that the mousse be placed directly in front of her.

I’m so happy to share the recipe here today and to give away a copy of Jody’s wonderful book, Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food. All you have to do to be eligible to win a copy is leave a comment below answering the following question: What is your most powerful food memory? One of mine will always be this chocolate mousse and I’m so excited to hear all of yours. After the holiday we’ll choose one lucky winner to receive a copy. xo, grace

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David Stark Design Creates A Christmas Story Inspired Fête

David Stark Design Creates A Christmas Story Inspired Fête

A Christmas Story-Inpired Fete by David Stark Design at Design*Sponge
Classic holiday movies can be the perfect source of inspiration for your holiday bash! While playing around in the David Stark Design studios, we decided to forgo the poinsettias and evergreens and have some fun with our holiday table. Meet the wineglass leg lamp, inspired by everyone’s favorite holiday movie, A Christmas Story!

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A wine glass with its single stem lends itself perfectly to the iconic leg lamp and translates to a super easy DIY. We made a few and lined them up down the table with a LED votive inside. The reference would not be complete without the packing crate that inspired the line, “Fra-gee-lay, It must be Italian,” from the Old Man. We made packing crate place cards and added our pals’ names. This year, consider hosting a get-together during the 48 hours when it will be shown (yes, 48 hours – Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) on Turner Classic Movies. We double-dog dare ya! -David Stark

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Biz Ladies Profile: Sabrina Smelko

Biz Ladies Profile: Sabrina Smelko

Biz Ladies Profile: Sabrina Smelko
I’m beyond excited to share the lovely Sabrina Smelko’s interview today for a number of reasons – 1: She’s an insanely talented illustrator, designer and writer who decided early on in her career to branch out into the freelance world and tackle establishing a multidisciplinary studio of her own. Sabrina’s career path has given her firsthand experiences in the ups and downs of business-owning and has taught her how to manage the ever-so-complicated and multifaceted business model, which many of us can relate to. And 2: She will be the new editor behind the Biz Ladies and City Guides series here on Design*Sponge!

As I venture on from DS to focus my efforts on expanding my own personal biz ventures, I pass along to Sabrina these two columns that I have so cherished being a part of for the past five years, and I look forward to seeing this column grow and evolve into something even more beautiful, educational and inspiring for the DS community.

Thank you all so, so, so much for letting me be a part of your business and travel adventures for so many years. It’s been such an honor. – Stephanie

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In Long Island City, A Creative Vision

DesignSponge Sneak Peek

In Long Island City, A Creative Vision

Working predominantly with homeowners and renters on Sneak Peeks, I sometimes forget that decorating a home is just as much a creative expression of the person living in the space as it is for the person designing it, which in some cases is the interior designer. Of course the designer is trying to capture and express what is important for her client, but there’s always some element of personal influence from the designer, and their vision is certainly imbedded throughout the home. That is the case today as we peek into a project by Jenny Norris, an interior designer who is on a constant quest to merge her three passions: photography, interior design and travel.

This Long Island City home was just a blank slate when she started out. She says that, first and foremost, it was important to soften the space with color and texture. She did this by introducing pieces such as a reclaimed wooden stool and dining table, grey grasscloth wallpaper and exotic textiles sourced from flea markets. These pieces are inspired by Jenny’s travels to places such as Mongolia, Kenya and Morocco, among many others. Being that travel is Jenny’s first passion, it was important that she incorporate that into her interiors. Layered onto these textured accents is an intriguing collection of photography. Several rooms are adorned with photos of far-flung locales, including one with a personal story. While working on this project, Jenny became very friendly with her clients. She relayed that the clients, a couple on their honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, befriended Jenny’s favorite waiter from a restaurant she had visited on a trip to the very same place. Since the destination was so magical to all of them, they decided to incorporate that into the home, by hanging one of Jenny’s photographs of a secret beach in Positano, Italy in the bathroom. The result is an elegant home evoking the passions of both client and designer. -Shannon

Photography by Jenny Norris

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Worldly Influences Down South

The Kitchen: The homeowners loved the storage in their kitchen and decided to remove the doors, paint the insides this gorgeous deep color and use the space to display some of the couple's favorite Mexican and Middle Eastern pottery. That scrumptious green tea set is from the Mexican town where Shane proposed to Iylana under a cascading waterfall. The carpet is vintage. Similar lighting here from IKEA.

Worldly Influences Down South

I always “Eeek!” out when I stumble upon a beautiful home from Texas. Having grown up in the Lone Star State, I can say that we are definitely a proud bunch, so I was eager to show off what one of our own had done with their family home. I haven’t lived in the south for five years, but the place you grew up never truly leaves you. Texas itself is heavily influenced by and embraces the Mexican, Native American and cowboy culture that make it truly a state unlike any other. This meant that a love for the woven textiles, colorful patterns and the rich leathers that the region has become known for was instilled in me from birth. So when Iylana and Shane’s home popped into my inbox, I was immediately hooked.

Iylana and Shane of Caprock Vintage‘s home in West Texas is a blend of artifacts from their world travels. The 3-bedroom, 2-bath, 1948 house is a melting pot of the couple’s love of traditional Middle Eastern and African design elements. They have made a pact to visit a new country every year, and they’ve brought back many beautiful pieces that make their warm, minimalist home truly shine. By letting their travels and collections influence their home – more than trends and design – they’ve created a welcoming and unique space. As you’ll see as you flip through, the birthplace of Caprock Vintage is a home truly made for and by its owners.  —Garrett

All photos by Shane Nassiri

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Tanya Holland’s Fried Chicken

Tanya Holland’s Fried Chicken

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I consider this week’s recipe for Buttermilk Fried Chicken a treat not only because I haven’t had real fried chicken since I can’t remember when, but because it is a recipe by Tanya Holland from her recent Brown Sugar Kitchen cookbook. The cookbook is named after her restaurant in Oakland, which specializes in modern soul food. Grace’s family has a tradition of eating fried chicken on New Year’s Eve, and hopefully with this recipe you can perfect your technique by the time New Year’s Eve rolls around.   If your family has a cherished fried chicken ingredient or tradition, we’d love to hear about it. If not, now’s the time to start your own family tradition. Eat the chicken alone, or add waffles (we have a gluten free waffle recipe here)!  To see Tanya make her fried chicken, visit the Brown Sugar Kitchen website. -Kristina

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Tanya Holland is the Executive Chef and Owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen and B-Side BBQ in Oakland, CA. Holland is known for her inventive takes on modern soul food, as well as comfort classics. The author of Brown Sugar Kitchen: New-Style, Down-Home Recipes from Sweet West Oakland, and New Soul Cooking: Updating a Cuisine Rich in Flavor and Tradition, Holland is perhaps best known for her role as a host and expert on Soul Food for the “Melting Pot” series on Food Network. Holland has contributed to The Huffington PostFood & WineSignature Bride, and Wine Enthusiast magazines, and has been featured in articles in O Magazine, The Wall Street JournalSavoy, Travel & Leisure, Sunset, and numerous local publications. Holland continues to the share her love of modern Southern fare by bringing home her passion for soul food and the amazing experiences shared through the act of enjoying a meal with family and friends.

Photography by Jody Horton

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A Modern Loft in Indiana

Leigh and Joshua Savage's Indiana Home on Design*Sponge

A Modern Loft in Indiana

Over the past 11 years of living in NYC, I’ve lived in seven different apartments. I tend to love change and the chance to pare down my belongings, though I know that moving isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. But I love when I meet other people who embrace moving in the same way. Leigh and Joshua Savage have moved four times in the less-than-five years they’ve been married, but the change of location hasn’t stopped them from creating welcoming and beautiful homes each time. Their most recent move, as of four months ago, was to South Bend, IN, where Josh, a law student, is finishing his Juris Doctorate at the University of Notre Dame. Leigh and Josh knew they wanted to be close enough to campus to have a short walking commute to class, so they picked a small but airy loft in a new building. While the narrow, 625-square-foot space was a challenge, Leigh and Josh did a great job using area rugs to create rooms within rooms and give the open floor plan a homier feel. Their mix of do-it-yourself design and lovely hand-me-downs from family and friends makes what could be a cold space feel warm and inviting. xo, grace

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Emily Thompson Flowers + Best of the Web

Emily Thompson Flowers, located at 142 Beekman Street in lower Manhattan.

Emily Thompson Flowers + Best of the Web

For our final weekly wrap-up of the year, we thought we’d share a little peek into one of our favorite new shops, fully decked-out in festive holiday style! Opened a little less than a year ago, Emily Thompson Flowers calls lower Manhattan’s historic South Street Seaport home. Although the Seaport has a reputation as a tourist destination, Thompson’s outpost is part of a steady new crop of artists, designers, and creative-types that have set up shop there, capitalizing on the area’s industrial, old world beauty. Trained as a sculptor and known for her wickedly morbid flair, Thompson isn’t exactly what one would call the archetypical florist. Still, it is her strongly personal aesthetic and voice that makes her work so unique and captivatingly beautiful. Drawn to unusual blooms, rich colors, and decorative pieces that tell a story, Thompson has ensured that a visit to her shop is something of an experience. Throughout the small space, one can find numerous narratives unfolding, from custom products forged from creative partnerships to epically imaginative window displays that feature her own artwork. Although the shop’s corner lot is relatively tiny, I had the feeling that I could stay forever and still have more to discover. Check out all of the photos from our visit in the slideshow! Have a wonderful weekend! xo, Max

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Banoffee Pie from The Fat Radish Kitchen Diaries

Banoffee Pie from The Fat Radish Kitchen Diaries

Excerpted from <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Radish-Kitchen-Diaries/dp/0847843343/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418145190&sr=8-1&keywords=the+fat+radish+cookbook">The Fat Radish Kitchen Diaries</a>, Rizzoli  2014, Photographs by Nicole Franzen.
If you’ve never heard of Banoffee Pie, be prepared to discover your new favorite dessert. My favorite dessert flavor combination of all time is chocolate and banana, so when I had my first bite of Banoffee years ago, I was an instant fan. Banoffee Pie is an English tradition of pie with bananas, cream and toffee made from boiled condensed milk. Most versions I’ve tried have chocolate drizzled on top or built into the pie, but it’s not required if you’d prefer to stick to the banana-toffee combo. One of my favorite versions comes from a restaurant on the border of the Lower East Side and Chinatown in Manhattan, The Fat Radish.

Excerpted from <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Radish-Kitchen-Diaries/dp/0847843343/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418145190&sr=8-1&keywords=the+fat+radish+cookbook">The Fat Radish Kitchen Diaries</a>, Rizzoli  2014, Photographs by Nicole Franzen.
Run by Ben Towill and Phil Winser along with chef Nick Wilber, The Fat Radish is something of a mecca for health-conscious eaters who love food. They serve a Macro Bowl that is a favorite of just about everyone I know these days, but I tend to be drawn toward their sweeter offerings. This pie is a great example and is one of the many delicious recipes from their debut cookbook, The Fat Radish Kitchen Diaries. Julia co-authored the cookbook with Ben and Phil and I had the pleasure of trying just about every recipe in this book during the process, but this pie was at the very top of my list. Whether you’re looking for something special and unexpected to bring to a holiday party or just want to try something new at home, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. xo, grace

Photographs by Nicole Franzen

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A Balanced LA Home Filled With Humor and Heart

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A Balanced LA Home Filled With Humor and Heart

Like most things in life, creating a home as a couple is all about compromise. Just ask Lara Bandler and Chad Hogan, the owners of this beautiful home in Topanga Canyon, CA. The couple met over eight years ago in New York City while working for Vitamin Water, Lara as the director of public relations and Chad as the creative director. Over that time, their relationship toggled between friendship and dating, but it wasn’t until Lara moved out to Los Angeles to start her own PR firm that the two decided to “make it real.” Now engaged, the couple have both made Los Angeles County their home, choosing the Topanga Canyon region after Chad came across an article about it in Rolling Stone.

“On our first drive through Topanga Canyon,” Lara says, “we were on our way to the State Park to hike and saw an open house sign on a cool old house. We walked in, and the rest is history.” The previous owner of the house had lived in it since it was built in 1948. It was outdated and sorely in need of repair, but the potential lying within its post and beam construction was enough to tamper any nagging doubts. “There was an energy about the house that was palpable.”

Over the past year, Lara and Chad have been working on turning the house into a place where they both feel at home, something that meant learning to co-exist with and embrace each other’s different tastes and styles. “Chad is very into functionality and has a strong industrial aesthetic,” Lara says. “He veers towards raw wood and black. I, on the other hand, am into a super clean look and feel – comfortable and white and plush.” It was this push-and-pull, however, that allowed the two to arrive at this beautiful happy medium; a home that is filled with warmth, light, and touches of irreverent humor. Both contemporary and eclectic, cozy and polished, the home strikes the perfect balance. —Max

Photographs by Heather Culp.

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Holiday Baking Ideas

Holiday Baking Ideas

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Baking for friends, family, and Santa is something I look forward to each Christmas. To be honest, lately I mostly look forward to someone else’s baking! So I thought it would be great to present a Holiday Baking roundup for those of you who still have a few more parties to go to, or who want to share something special with the family on Christmas Day. This is a mix of savory and sweet baked goods, with some nontraditional holiday ideas thrown in to shake things up! And a quick bit of advice on making Christmas wishes come true – if you’re still not sure that Santa will bring you your top Christmas list item, try leaving these cinnamon buns by photographer Beth Kirby with a pot of hot coffee! For more baking ideas over the holidays, visit our Food & Drink archives.  -Kristina

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Jenna’s Bedroom Makeover

Jenna’s Bedroom Makeover

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I will never fail to be amazed by the power of molding and decorative woodwork. I’ve always had a soft spot for painted wood paneling and wainscoting, but when you combine them and throw in a beautiful wooden floor, I’m sold.

This master bedroom makeover comes from Jenna Sue, who blogs about her home renovation projects in California. While her bedroom started as a simple space with beige carpeting, it has become a beautiful and cozy escape. I really think all of the incredible wood detailing happening in this space (along with rich, grey paints) makes it a knock-out. I love the way that Jenna added a wide mix of textures (faux sheepskin throws, sisal baskets and wool bedding) to create warmth and add a nice contrast to all the new wooden construction. Click through to see more of Jenna’s master bedroom makeover after the jump! xo, grace

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A Rural 1800s Barn Becomes a Modern Home

"The fireplace is based on a Finnish design and acts as a furnace to heat the entire main floor," Bill says. "The top oven is ideal for baking bread or stewing in cast iron."

A Rural 1800s Barn Becomes a Modern Home

After spending several years living within the concrete confines of Manhattan, designer Bill Hovard began to get the itch that befalls many a longterm New Yorker—the desire to uproot to greener, quieter pastures. In 2002, Bill began his search by drawing a 90-mile radius around the city and eventually followed the country’s siren call to the quiet town of South Kortright, NY. Nestled deep within the Catskills, South Kortright features breathtaking mountain views, hillsides filled with grazing livestock, and the zen-like comfort that can only be found when one travels beyond the realm of cellphone reception. Although Bill had originally envisioned settling in a Federal-style farmhouse, his path led him to a derelict, but charming, nineteenth century barn. Despite its disrepair, the structure was solid and featured hand-hewn, old-growth post and beam construction, a bluestone  foundation, and dazzling natural surroundings. “It was love at first sight,” Bill says.

Once he settled on the location for his country retreat, it was time to get to work. Over the course of eight years, Bill renovated the barn into a beautiful, comfortable, and fully-functional living space. “It was important to strike a balance between old new” Bill notes, “and no attempt was made to hide or mask renovations or additions. Ultimately, it was preserving the past and creating a dynamic space with 21st century amenities.” For Bill, this meant sourcing materials that were regional and appropriate to the home: locally quarried bluestone, repurposed oak fixtures salvaged from other structures, and milled cherrywood for the floors and cabinetry. Filled in with antique and Modernist furniture, the home is a balanced, timeless mixture of Bill’s tastes and regional flavor.

Today, Bill has vacated the city permanently to focus full-time on Hudson Made, a lifestyle brand that features artisanal wares from regional artists and makers. “In late August, the western field on the property is in full bloom with milkweed and offers nourishment to monarch butterfly on their migration South,” Bill says. “This is how the property was suitably named. ‘Milkweed Barn’ has subsequently gone from weekend retreat to full-time residence. It is now home.” —Max

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