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

Tanya-Holland
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.

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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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The Changing Pay Rates for Creative Talent

The Changing Pay Rates for Creative Talent

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This year’s radio season is just about over, so for our 99th show, I wanted to address a complicated, controversial and crucial topic affecting our community: The Changing Pay Rates for Creative Talent in the Internet and Pinterest era. This topic is one I’ve wanted to discuss and have struggled with myself over the years. While I think most people would agree that anyone doing work should be compensated for their time and skills, these days the amount and method of compensation seems to be changing rapidly, and the idea of paying for creative talent seems less popular than ever.

So I invited Susan and William Brinson of House of Brinson, Sarah Brysk Cohen of Blossom & Branch and interior designer Emily Henderson to join me on-air to discuss the topic. Their insight on the idea of “free” work was both important and eye-opening. I so appreciated their honest and candid thoughts on what creative work is worth, why people seem to expect more for less these days and how best to counteract the trend and educate people on the value of experience and creative skills. If you only listen to a few shows this year, I hope you’ll make this one of them, because this topic is something that affects all of us, whether we create or consume creative content on any level. xo, grace

“It borders on irresponsible to start to take work for free. Exposure only gets you so far. The word ‘exposure’ gives me chills these days.”
-Sarah Brysk Cohen on After the Jump

“You can’t ever ask somebody to go out of pocket. If somebody goes to you – that’s one thing. If you have a business, you should be covering other people’s expenses for your business – bar none.”
-Emily Henderson on After the Jump

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

Recycled Jeans Become a Comfy Lounge

Recycled Jeans Become a Comfy Lounge

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Most of the before & afters we share here on the site start out with the same materials: paint, wood and metal. But every now and then we see something fun and outside of the box. Or should I say bag?

Today’s makeover comes from KT Doyle in Australia, who turns old jeans into comfy, bean bag-style chairs. The process involves collecting old denim (KT gets hers from the Endeavour Foundation, which supports people with disabilities, and the RSPCA, whose mission is to protect and care for animals through advocacy and shelter), washing and cutting it and turning it into patchwork lounge chairs that people can use in their homes. I love when any group can tie their source materials into supporting a charity in some way, so this project was right up my alley. KT shares her full process and sourcing details after the jump! xo, grace

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DIY Branch Ladder

DIY Branch Ladder

DIY Branch Ladder by Mandi of Vintage Revivals for Design*Sponge
Natural elements have the power to make even the best spaces look a little bit better. There are endless ways you can bring some of the outside in, but one of my favorite ways is working with branches. This simple ladder project would be a great way to display blankets, treasured pieces of vintage fabric or just your daily bath towels. For the holidays, I decided to string the ladder with lights to add a more festive feel, but you could add just about any detail (garland, small wreaths or ribbons) and it will look fantastic. -Mandi of Vintage Revivals

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15 Gift Subscriptions for the Holidays

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15 Gift Subscriptions for the Holidays

Nothing will ever beat a handmade gift or experience in my book, but gifts that continue throughout the year are a close second for me. I love the idea of something do-it-yourself that a friend or loved one can redeem well after the holidays, but not everyone has the spare time to put those packages together. So today I decided to select my top 15 gift subscription packages for design goods, music, books, coffee and everything else in between. If you’re looking for something quick and easy you can order online that keeps the holiday spirit going well after December, these are great options. I made a conscious effort to focus this guide primarily on independent companies, so anyone concerned can shop and order away but still support small, indie businesses at the same time. xo, grace

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