A Home in Central Iowa Full of Memories to Take to East Asia

Libby, Tad and their children Linley, Whittaker and Eamon in the kitchen. Photo by Justin Meyer.

A Home in Central Iowa Full of Memories to Take to East Asia

My husband and I are starting to think about buying our first home or building a small cabin and keeping our apartment. Somehow building a cabin 30 minutes out of the city makes me nervous. That we’d miss out on things happening here in Des Moines, IA. That life would become less convenient. And then I heard about the Asay family. Libby and Tad Asay and their children are packing up their home to move to Eastern Asia later this month. They are excited for this new adventure, but it absolutely comes with costs they are willing to pay. They’ll be leaving behind their house in Ames, IA that they’ve lived in and have transformed over the last six years.

Libby is a photographer and stay-at-home mom and Tad is a mechanical design engineer. When Libby was 8 months pregnant with their oldest child, Linley, they purchased this house based on what they could make it into. “The moment we walked in our home we knew it had the potential to become the home we had hoped for. Because of the year it was built, the woodwork isn’t just simple; it has detail, history and character. One of the features at the top of our list when we were looking [was] a wood burning fireplace, so when we laid our eyes on that we were almost sold! The home was extremely outdated, but tackling home projects together is one of our favorite things to do as a couple,” shares Libby. “We could see what the home could be.” They’ve redone the kitchen, added wood trim to the 90s addition on the front of the house, painted and created an entryway. “Many projects remain that we didn’t get to (landscaping, a fence, shutter paint, bathrooms), but we are moving on and are excited to see how the next homeowners put their stamp on the place!”

Libby and Tad have an eclectic style that mixes modern, traditional and vintage elements together for a seriously comfortable and inviting look. Each room has its own personality while all flowing together seamlessly. “Our goal was to create a welcoming, peaceful atmosphere with decor that reminds us of the things we love and are grateful for in a way that is child-friendly,” Libby shares. These last weeks in their home are full of packing and gratitude for what their house has been for them. –Lauren

Photography by Libby Asay

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An Eclectic Retreat in Arizona Designed on a Dime

An Eclectic Retreat in Arizona Designed on a Dime, Design*Sponge

An Eclectic Retreat in Arizona Designed on a Dime

When she and her daughter first moved into this two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in Mesa, AZ, actress and stylist Ashley Yazzie Ward was pinching pennies. She would collect change here and stuff loose dollars into piggy banks there, all in hopes of decorating her new home to her heart’s content. Most days she would pin pictures to her inspiration board hoping one day she’d be able to bring her dream home to life. Thanks to some serious patience and determination, all of her saving slowly began to pay off. Though it took time, she was finally able to start crafting the retreat of her dreams.

Just because she had the funds didn’t mean she was going to blow it all on one piece, though. Ashley knew she would have to stretch every dollar if she was going to afford herself the eclectic, streamlined look she loved. And it all started with some baby aloe vera plants she came across online. “Those free plants truly lifted our morale and aesthetic,” Ashley explains. They added to the calming vibe she hoped her home would embody, plus the plants kept her and her daughter company until Ashley came across the pieces she wanted at the right price. A thrifted Eames chair, secondhand leather sofa and a discount side table are just some of the pieces she’s tracked down to fill the space. Paint has also proven itself to be another cost-effective tool in adding visual interest to the space. A rich, black hue skims the kitchen, and the bedroom’s accent wall doesn’t disappoint.

Nowadays, the soothing apartment has welcomed Ashley’s husband and his son Hudson into its warm embrace. It’s not uncommon to find the foursome cooking together in their bright kitchen or cozied up together on the couch. Whatever they are up to, one thing’s for sure: it’s all thanks to the cleverness of one smart saver. Click through to take a look at the entire home. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Breanne Johnson

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In Vancouver, An Old-Timer With New Design

Home Tour of Claire Mandell on Design*Sponge

In Vancouver, An Old-Timer With New Design

High school sweethearts Claire and Dave Mandell are native Vancouverites who love the food, fashion and art of their city. So when they were looking to buy a home, they wanted to be part of a funky neighborhood and settled in East Vancouver, British Columbia.

“We have young families on literally every side of us. Our neighborhood is full of cool restaurants, little shops and is really central for both of us when going to and from work,” says Claire, owner of JoyRide Nails.

There was a quick turnover between buying this 100-year-old house and moving in, but Claire was up for the challenge to have it furnished before they got the keys. “I’m a visual person, so I just used the floor plan and the photos of the house to put it all together,” Claire explains. Some of the furniture came from their apartment and most of the knick-knacks they brought along. It took about a month to get all the new furniture ordered and the design execution was underway.

The couple’s decorating goal was to create a space with neutral, larger pieces so that they could always change the look with accents like pillows, rugs, or art to make the space fun and bright. “It [isn’t Dave’s favorite thing, but] I like to change all the throw pillows up based on the season,” Claire says. They both love mid-century modern furniture and believe in setting a solid foundation of investment pieces that can be convertible, changed, and made to feel new again.

The most challenging part of the home for the couple was sorting out storage. Without a garage, and being an older home, closet space is a premium. “I had California Closets come in and we basically have built-in storage in every single place we can,” Claire shares. And like most older homes, it is a never-ending series of projects. The basement is the newest challenge they plan to tackle this year, making it into a place where the family can lounge and relax together.

“I think one of the coolest things about our house is the exposed beams on the top floor,” Claire asserts. The attic was blown out to make the ceiling higher and to add skylights, which adds so much natural light. Instead of removing the beams, most of them are still there, adding depth and lending a nod to the old structure of the house.

As you’ll see, the Mandell family’s home is a charming example of how a combination of old and new can invigorate a space’s character and soul. —Karla 

Photography by Janis Nicolay

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Sara Wenokur Paper Cuts + Best of the Web

Sara Wenokur Paper Cuts + Best of the Web

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Before we close up shop for the week, I wanted to send us off into this momentous weekend with some uplifting artwork by Sara Wenokur that celebrates color and life. So many people in our community are traveling to participate in marches across the country tomorrow, and I want to wish everyone (marching or not) a safe weekend and safe spaces in which to speak up and make your voices heard. So much of what we do here at Design*Sponge is about providing inspiration and a safe space to find your voice, both literally and figuratively, and I applaud everyone who is taking steps toward becoming more involved in the world and systems around them. No matter your viewpoint, all points of view and all constructive conversations (and debates) will always be welcome here. I know this site is a respite from life’s difficult moments for so many people, but I hope we can continue to be a place where we embrace the beauty and creativity in life while still digging deeper to understand the things that make it complicated and challenging. Thanks for being a part of the dialogue and for being here. Safe travels, everyone. xo, grace

You can check out more of Sara’s incredible work here on her website and here on her Instagram feed.

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3 Warm Meals To Get You Through The Winter Months

3 Warm Meals To Get You Through The Winter Months

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Grace and several of our team members hail from the South, where one-pot meals like gumbo and a good stew reign during the winter months. One of our favorite warm meals is from old school Top Chef star Kevin Gillespie. His recipe for Brunswick Stew is eaten as an accompaniment to barbecues in the summer in Atlanta, GA where Kevin calls home. He told us that white bread is served to soak up every last drop!  In other places, like in Virginia at the Bonney household, Brunswick Stew was served in winter. Whip up a batch of this Southern treat this weekend! Get Kevin’s Brunswick Stew recipe right here.

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Nikko Moy shared her version of a delicious recipe for Miso Stew that she found on Epicurious. The original Miso Stew was adapted from a recipe by Brooklyn-based Chef Alex Jamieson. This is definitely another warm meal to fix when you want something to warm you up. Bonus: The colors will delight your senses too! [Special thanks to Chef Alex Jamieson for granting us permission to print her recipe.] Find Nikko’s full recipe here.

Click through for our final warm meal recipe for the best French Onion Soup ever. Hint: It has a smoky twist! –Caitlin

Photo above by Matt Armendariz (Brunswick Stew)

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10 Cozy Rugs for Winter

10 Cozy Rugs for Winter

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Last week we pulled our propane bill off of our front door and I nearly passed out. It looks like slowly tipping the heater warmer and warmer finally caught up with me, and it’s time to cut back and put on a few more layers. Our floors are old (our house was built in the mid 1800s) and are mostly over an unfinished dirt-floor basement, so they let a lot of cold air in. So I’ve been thinking about adding a few more shaggy, cozy rugs to warm up our feet and help with the drafts (don’t worry, we’re working on fixing the drafty doors/windows/floors, too). Some of these are soft and wintery in hue and others are a bright jolt of electric color that might help warm things up when you’re piling on another blanket. xo, grace

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Top image: Blue Azilal rug at Coco Carpets $1,800. Image directly above: Justina Blakeney’s Kalliope Collection for Loloi

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10 Winter Wallpapers from Spoonflower

10 Winter Wallpapers from Spoonflower

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In the small town where we live in New York, winter is a somewhat divisive topic. Locals who have spent their whole lives here wear their knowledge of driving in snow and ice like a badge of pride, where some of the newer locals (like us) are still getting used to the idea of snow tires, digging out your car, icing your walkway every day and bundling up in 4+ layers to walk your dog in sub-freezing temperatures. Most days I’m 100% in favor of snowy winter days, but every now and then I understand why some people escape to Florida or somewhere beachy when the greyest days set in.

So rather than escape south, this year I’m trying to embrace wintery themes — and find ways to embrace them creatively, too. Spoonflower has a great selection of fabric and wallpaper (often times you can get the same pattern in both forms) that celebrate winter, so today I’m sharing 10 of my favorite, from frolicking winter animals to modern snowflake prints. I hope they’ll perk up your winter walls — or add a little winter feel if you’re in a place that doesn’t always get snow. xo, grace

Image above: Winter Woodlands Pinecones Blush Pink by Hang Tight Studio $60 per roll

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Image above: Winter Star by Andrea Lauren $60 per roll

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Before & After: A Modern Multigenerational Family Home in Scarsdale, NY

Before & After: A Modern Multigenerational Family Home in Scarsdale, on Design*Sponge

Before & After: A Modern Multigenerational Family Home in Scarsdale, NY

In order to make the Stillmans’ home of 35 years functional for the needs of their family today, Rose Praino of YDC Design worked with her Scarsdale, NY-based clients to clear out rooms full of memories before her process could even begin. “I do believe this was harder than they foresaw,” she admits. “On the flip side, because of the renovations, all three kids are rushing to call dibs on rooms for weekends and holidays.”

Rose’s clients, who are active grandparents and world travelers, asked her to make the space more habitable for an adult daughter and grandchild currently residing there. In this section of the house, she was tasked with creating kids’ and guest rooms, as well as bathrooms, with an open design that would accommodate different uses and aesthetic tastes, depending on the user at any given time. One room that was designed with special care was the client’s office. Previously, things just seemed to find their way into the space for storage. Rose created an elegant home office that touched on all the functional needs, even down to adding a sleeper sofa for company. Another challenge was the six-week timeline from initial design to orders, deliveries, and installation. Within this window, Rose and her company had to clear four rooms and gut two bathrooms, then rebuild them from the bottom-up.

Rose is grateful for her clients’ faith in her team throughout the speedy design and the renovation process. “The more a client trusts their designer, the more successful the outcome,” she says. “I feel like when the creative flow goes uninterrupted it almost always leads to something great. For each room, there was a vision — one in which the clients believed, and gave me the range I needed.” —Annie

Photography by Alexey Gold-Dvoryadkin

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A Brooklyn, NY Apartment Layered with Texture and Color

A Brooklyn, NY Apartment Layered with Texture and Color | Design*Sponge

A Brooklyn, NY Apartment Layered with Texture and Color

Having extra space in New York is hard to come by for a reasonable price. Elizabeth Scherle, co-founder and president of Influenster, outgrew her previous Greenwich Village apartment of seven years and started looking for a place that could keep her close to Manhattan — but would add some extra amenities like a dishwasher, laundry room, terrace and a spare room. She found her current place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn almost two years ago and immediately started to make it feel like her own.

Elizabeth enlisted the help of designer Luca Shapiro to bring color, texture and global inspiration to her empty space. “While I had a vision of what I wanted, I just didn’t have the time to bring that vision to life. It was super helpful to have a designer to execute the plan and help with the layout process. When I first moved in I attempted to do it myself with a program online, but even so, I found it time-consuming and was still unsure of my ability to maximize the space to its fullest potential,” Elizabeth explains. “With my last apartment, I didn’t put as much planning into it (and it showed!), so this time I wanted to be certain I did everything in my power to ensure the apartment would feel even bigger than what it is (by NYC standards, of course).” Luca and Elizabeth worked together to source vintage and one-of-a-kind pieces for each room of the home.

Elizabeth’s spare room was easy to find a purpose for. Before Elizabeth moved from Iowa to New York several years ago, she was very active as a studio artist but the lack of space from her first apartment didn’t allow her to have a designated creative space. Luca and Elizabeth agreed that a bold, colorful wall treatment would increase Elizabeth’s creativity and desire to draw and paint in her downtime. “The wall covering in the art room is actually removable triangular decals. We handpicked the colors and placement. Elizabeth wanted something whimsical and colorful,” Luca shares.

Elizabeth’s apartment finally feels like her, which makes New York feel more like home than ever before. “After 10+ years of living all over NYC in an array of neighborhoods and living conditions (some good, some pretty bad in the early years), I am thankful that I am able to build a life where I have the resources to invest in a nice home that really reflects my personality, in a neighborhood that I truly love,” Elizabeth says. “I get to live close to my sister in South Williamsburg, right next door to Manhattan, in an apartment that really feels like home. When I look around, I feel proud because it reminds me of how far I’ve come.” –Lauren

 Photography by Luca Shapiro

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2 Ways to Update the Humble Wooden Stool with Pattern & Color

2 Ways to Update the Humble Wooden Stool with Pattern & Color

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Adding pattern and color in unexpected places and repurposing existing pieces are the inspiration for these two mini-makeovers. We’ve seen the simple wooden stool rise to multiple uses and permanent places (like next to the bed as a nightstand) in modern homes. The mix-and-match possibilities for customizing and creating a look of your own are pretty much endless.

Today we’re making a padded perch for my tiny entryway so I can actually sit to put on my shoes, instead of tipping over as I try to balance on one leg. Next up, a humble wooden counter-height stool transforms into the plant stand seen above. With minimal supplies and some creativity, adding some embellishment to an inexpensive stool or thrift store find can provide some fun form and function. —Caitlin

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*This post is brought to you in collaboration with Waverly Inspirations. This project, ideas, and words are from us here at D*S.  Thanks for supporting our sponsors that help us create original content like this. The Waverly Inspirations collection is available at Walmart.

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Thanks to Flower Haus for the beautiful location above! 

Click through for instructions for this DIY and a padded stool!

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10 Bold + Colorful Patterns for 2017

10 Bold + Colorful Patterns for 2017

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I don’t know about you, but after a few months of grey days and snow, I’m ready for some color and pattern. It may not be summer yet, but I could use a little bit of those hot-weather hues to get myself motivated. Whether it’s adding a shiny bit of copper wallpaper to an accent wall (or lining your drawers with them) or swapping out blah couch pillows for these vividly patterned styles, this time of year is perfect for brightening things up a bit. Hopefully these patterned pieces will get your 2017 started on a colorful foot. xo, grace

Image above, clockwise from top left: Blue Pink Tomato Art $178, Royal Splash Serving Bowl $128, Rome iPhone Case $27, Vintage Hill Thailand Pillow $168, Pom Pom Throw $175, Ink Storage Bin $58, Popham Design Diamond Chevron Tiles, Molly McGrath Atlas Print $128

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Image above: Offset Wallpaper in Fir and Gold by Custhom $290.72

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Image above: Rye Wallpaper in Copper by Custhom $423.96

A Golden Modern Playhouse in Sacramento, CA

A Golden Modern Playhouse in Sacramento, on Design*Sponge

A Golden Modern Playhouse in Sacramento, CA

On a flag lot in the middle of the block — their own secret compound — artist and surface designer Sarah Golden lives with husband Jacob Golden, a singer-songwriter, and their brood in Sacramento, CA. Their two-year-old twin girls Sadie and August, Boston Terrier Captain, and four chickens (Gilly, Biscuit, Peppercorn and Ramen) enjoy the modern playhouse vibe defined in large part by the addition of thrift store finds and handmade items into the home. The main living area, which is the living room, playroom, and kitchen, are child-friendly open spaces that still showcase the family’s style.

They have been in this home in the Oak Park neighborhood for five years. They’ve done a lot of work in that time, but it’s an ongoing process. When they first moved in, the entire house (outside and inside) was painted beige. They painted the interiors white to brighten up the small spaces, and knocked down a wall to open up the main living area. “The start to that project was a surprise,” Sarah recalls. “One afternoon I heard a loud banging, came in and my husband had knocked a big hole into the wall, poked his head through and said he thought we should take it down.” That renovation led them to discover hardwood floors beneath the carpeting, which led to working on refinishing and replacing the floors throughout themselves.

With so much of the home dedicated to the children’s needs, Sarah and Jacob converted the attached one-car garage into a shared studio. “I can contribute almost all the good things that have happened for me this past year to having a dedicated space I can work in,” Sarah claims. “As a working/stay-at-home mom, I’m able to harness the small pockets of time I can find throughout the day.” Sarah and Jacob continue to balance children, time, and work in a small-but-lovely home, working hard to grow their family as well as their creative ventures. —Annie

Photography by Sarah Golden

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3 Ways to Add Color & Warmth with Tassels

3 Ways to Add Color & Warmth with Tassels

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Whether they’re attached to an ottoman or lining the edge of a cozy throw, tassels create a visual warmth that we crave during the winter months. Beyond the tassel trend, this storied decorative embellishment will always remind us that a little pocket of warmth exists in threads bound together in a sweet and pretty way. Here are some of our favorite make-at-home tassel DIYs and a few tasseled objects of desire we discovered while online window shopping.

First up is Monique Bartley’s ottoman, hand-tasseled in shades of pink. Monique, pictured below, is a Los Angeles native living in New York City. She originally shared this crafty project with us back in 2015 and we’ve loved it ever since. Click through for the instructions for this DIY (and two more!), plus some window shopping inspiration. –Caitlin

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An Apartment That Finds New Life in Old Things

Lance Flores' Home Tour on Design*Sponge

An Apartment That Finds New Life in Old Things

Lance Flores was born on a military base in Germany, but lived out much of his childhood in Colorado until finding his way to Kansas City, MO seven years ago to complete his graphic design degree at the Kansas City Art Institute. He found the city inviting and fell in love with the friendly, West Plaza neighborhood where he has lived ever since. Lance works as an Art Director at Baldwin, a local clothing and lifestyle brand, and takes on frequent freelance photography, design and mural commissions.

A few years after graduating, Lance felt like he needed a change and began looking for a new apartment. “I was living by myself at the time, in this apartment that had a lot of old world character, but lacked basic first world essentials like central heating and a legit air conditioner. I used to switch my bedroom based on the season because one room had a ceiling fan and the other had a heater.” He found a reasonably priced space with two large bedrooms in the same neighborhood and acquired a roommate along the way. “I actually moved a block away from my old apartment. It was so close that it was more convenient to walk a few of my large canvases down to my new apartment rather than pack them in a truck.” The space boasts a scenic view of the Country Club Plaza, green trees and a guaranteed sunrise that fills the rooms with a warm glow every morning.

In true designer form, Lance started his decorative process with a mood board, combining ideas that he found inspiring. He admits, “then the reality set in and I realized I had to work with what I’ve got.” Lance discovered a love of breathing new life into old things by using what he already had or collecting found objects to fill his new surroundings. As an introvert, his goal is to create a space that speaks volumes about who he is, without having to spell it out. Each item has its own story to tell and is carefully curated to reflect his journey. “One of my side tables is from my time as a barista at Starbucks and a piece of hanging art is actually large fragments of peeled paint from the very first mural I worked on for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City.” Lance jokes that he tends to be impatient while hanging artwork. “Behind a few of these hanging pieces exists more than one hole in the wall from attempting to hang without measuring.” Due to his rental agreement, Lance is unable to change the paint color, but he has worked with the existing beige walls and carpet by layering in thoughtful artwork and inspirational objects that he has discovered. “I feel like my living space is always changing and being tweaked. My likes and dislikes change often and I get bored of seeing the same things, so I’m often moving something or trying a different arrangement. That’s the blessing and the curse of being creative, I guess.”—Bethany

Photography by Lance Flores

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In Mexico, a Masterclass in Wallpaper and Bold Color

In Mexico, a Masterclass in Wallpaper and Bold Color, Design*Sponge

In Mexico, a Masterclass in Wallpaper and Bold Color

Twenty-one years ago, Susana Ordovás came to Mexico on assignment. A report for a British newspaper was on the docket, and so was José, if fate was going to have any say. Fate pushed and pulled behind the scenes, weaving them towards one another in the seemingly-serendipitous style only this couple can pull off. And as fate would have it, Susana and José were soon married and two children were in the works (though, at the time they of course were none the wiser to that last bit of fate’s dealings).

Fast-forward to 2017 and the Ordovás family, all four members intact, is thriving in this newly-renovated, Mexico City, MX home. Nestled on a serene, tree-lined street, the space is drenched in light and boasts vacation-level temperatures year-round. Susana, an avid thrifter and flea marketer, has loved using the home’s potential as an outlet for her interior passions, and so have her friends. But where to start? She and interior decorator Dirk-Jan Kinet felt an egg seemed appropriate. One in African malachite, to be more specific, and one that Susana graciously inherited. This small heirloom single-handledly informed the green hues that skip around the main spaces and some of the bedrooms you’ll see today, and I sure am happy it did.

The potential with green is endless: Mix it with floral wallpapers and velvet sofas; add to it a dash of pink; add to it a bunch of treasures you’ve collected. Susana and Dirk-Jan Kinet have executed them all — and with ease. Click through to soak up all of the tropical — yet still totally livable — vibes the design pair has concocted. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Ana Hop

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