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current obsessions: (mostly) grown-up grace

by Grace Bonney

Getting to talk about the struggles I’ve had over the past few years with focus and motivation was incredibly helpful. I got such sweet emails from some of you out there who’ve dealt with the same issues of inspiration and I found myself feeling less alone and more like someone who’s going through something that happens to everyone at some point. While this week has been one of the most exciting weeks we’ve ever had (I still can’t believe we get to work with Amy full time!), I’m continuing to struggle with something a bit more difficult: my personal style. Which is incredibly tough to admit because I’ve built my life around talking about the style I love.

Normally I’m someone who knows exactly what I want. I’m not known for holding back my opinions and I’ve never been slow to make a decision and move forward. But over the past year or so, I’ve felt this subtle, internal shift that I’ve had a hard time understanding and fully adjusting to. Maybe it’s related to my impending 30th birthday or the natural way people grow and change over the years, but when I pick my head up from my computer and look around my home these days, I’m not connecting with the things around me anymore.

As my work load has increased over the years, I think I’ve subconsciously surrounded myself with things as a way of comforting myself. Too tired to get out, see friends or work out? I’ll just buy something small and pretty to distract myself. While this may not sound like a very important problem to have (I know there are more pressing issues in the world), I would gladly give away 90% of the things in my apartment to have a few more moments of inner peace and a greater grasp on what my shifting personal style really is.

Our move into a new apartment (hopefully in the next month or two) couldn’t have come at a better time. As I realize I’m no longer the same girl who bought all the things around me five or six years ago, I’m recognizing that I need a fresh start. So I decided to start selling off the things that don’t speak to me anymore and focus on creating mood boards that speak to the more “grown up” style I feel slowly evolving and revealing itself to me. While things are still not fully formed, I thought I’d share some of them here today. While I still love a great pattern, I feel the need to strip down all the clutter in my life and focus on investing in a few key things. So I rounded up those few key things I’d like to invest in- from the perfect pair of sunglasses to a rug I’ve literally started a savings account for.

Do any of you keep “grown up” style boards? I would love to see what you guys create that speaks to the more sophisticated version of yourself. I think the fact that I still put quotation marks around the words “grown up” means I’m not really there yet, but I hope you know what I mean. I’d love to see (and find a kindred spirt in) those collections that speak to the style we hope to fully embody one day. xo, grace

Image above, clockwise from top left: Gold Metallic iPad Sleeve $125, Siwa String & Button Envelope $48 (I love this weathered black work), Vintage Kilim Rug (This rug rocks my WORLD), Red Enamel Pin $110 (I’m so bummed this just sold!), “Les Touches” fabric by Brunschwig & Fils (I love this sort of abstract animal print feel), Fairfax Pendant $275 (So sophisticated and chic), Sailor Sweater $88 (This is my dream look, head to toe)

Image above, clockwise from top left: Tie Dyed Throw $135, Cutler and Gross Sunglasses $420, I’m perpetually in love with white writing on tan paper (via Sunday Suppers), Vintage Red Spoon $18, Dizzy Dot Bag $145, Nailhead Strip $7.95, Antique Butcher Block Table $3295, Antique Crewelwork Settee $3995

Image above, clockwise from top left: Vintage Kilim Rug (I am seriously saving up for this), Stella Velvet Pillow $229 (So soft and perfect for napping), Dot to Dot Studs $45, Quips + Queries Cards by Russell + Hazel $24

*P.S. I finally got a Wacom tablet! I’ve wanted one for years and finally decided it would be a fun way to play around with customizing images on the site. After two hours of playing with it I managed to successfully put my name on the top picture. Looks like I’m gonna need some practice…

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  • Hi Grace,
    I’m also turning 30 in a couple months… and while I have always been one to think age is only a number (my husband turned 40 last year and I remember thinking it was sooooo no big deal!), I have heard from a lot of people that turning 30 is even possibly more difficult than turning 40 or 50.
    Anyway, I just thought I would defend you from ‘d’ above who said it’s no big deal! :)
    x Courtney

  • Hi Grace,
    I don’t mean to sound presumptuous, but I really really suggest going to yoga and perhaps beginning to explore meditation. Things only go so far, and we all know it, but we have to know ourselves in deeper ways to reconnect with inner peace.

    that said, love your honesty and your blog. it makes a boring work day much brighter every day!
    thanks for all you do.

    • hi ish

      i hear you. meditation is something i’ve wanted to learn more about for a while. hopefully this summer i can find some free time to investigate it more fully :)


  • Good luck with the move. It is always stressful and yet can be so liberating at the same time. I hope you love your wacom tablet — I do, although I never have as much excuse to use it as I wish, and so get frustrated that I am not as adept with it as I am with a pencil/brush.

  • Grace,
    For someone who’s almost 30, gosh, you speak with so much wisdom. I am a 42-year old with a twenty-something mindset. As a former Cali-girl, I parade around suburbia in pink and black checkered Vans (how’s that for not wearing “grown-up” attire?) and definitely get the “once-over” (look) from other moms, when we’re standing in school pick-up lines. I agree with Maggie. I think that every 10 years we go through a mental and physical inventory of our goals, our lives and our “things.” At 30, I did my first (and last) triathlon. At 40, after a few house moves, I finally got on a great cycle of purging things and reevaluating my wardrobe. As pared down as my wardrobe currently is, it feels great. The same applies to your home furnishings, upgrading sofas, or finally investing in a custom upholstered headboard (or all of the things you have on your “grown up” board). My (interior designer) mom, always told me to spend the most that you can afford on furniture (and those are the pieces that have stayed with us). My biggest guilt – over the years – is buying art (prints mainly). I feel like that has been an ever evolving changing thing, and have found that it’s onlythe original stuff that we’ll love time and time again.

  • I’m feeling the same way the closer I get to 30. I thought when I was younger that’s the age you have everything figured out and it’s the epic beginning of your life and career and relationship, etc., etc. Well, right now my goal is to stop worrying and just enjoy life day by day and I’ll figure my life out or it’ll just work out when I’m worrying about something else. And btw… the post about Syrie Maugham was inspiring. It really made me feel better to know that success doesn’t come early for everyone. Late bloomers are pretty lucky. All the best!

  • I’m just a few months from 30. I’ve recently begun getting serious about moving from NY (Brooklyn) to CA (San Francisco). I’ve lived in the same lovely apartment for 5 years, and as it has evolved it has become this perfect little glimpse of who I actually am and what I think is beautiful. While I am no longer in love with the couch I adored 5 years ago, I have no desire (or, well, money) to replace it because, along with the contents of my whole apartment, it tells the history of my life here.

    In many ways, my home is keeping me from leaving a city that I know is not right for me anymore. A new apartment, a blank slate (because moving all of these things I love across the country is not something I have the money to do), is terrifying — what does the new 30-year-old version of me look like in apartment form? I suppose the only way to find out is to use my upcoming birthday as the push I need, pack up a few family heirlooms, and move across the country with just a suitcase…

  • ohhhh you know i love when you get personal on here! LOVED this post and am in the SAME boat with a lot of this.

    can i say kudos to you for admitting that sometimes when you’re bored / uninspired / lonely you buy little things? i recently put a ban on online shopping for this very reason. ive never been an emotional shopper (b/c i’m too lazy and hate the mall!), but when i can shop at my desk, it’s detrimental.

    i just did a closet clean-out and MAN. i own a lot of crap. i love the sneak into grown-up grace and can’t wait to start a list of my own!

    thanks for the insp, as always. ;)

  • Glad you replied to my previous comment ( I was jittery about posting it). Hope you will check out my little blog and share what you think of my art ; )

  • Looking at the kilim, reminded of Navajo rugs. Contemporary Navajo rugs are quite amazing also. Not inexpensive, but extraordinary works of art. You should check them out too.

  • So much great advice on here Grace. Thanks for opening up this discussion. I go through periods like this every so often too. Time to declutter and only keep the things I love (which I’m now discovering are books & shoes!). I have loved the advice from Michelle here:
    Even if you’re not a minimalist, this blog is full of great tips for better (and healthier) living.

  • Grace, I think I must be one of your older “grown-up” readers … still in quotation marks at almost 55 years old. I have found that I re-invent my style at each milestone or phase of life, from the birth of a baby to the good-bye-car-seat stage (that was freeing!). We are about to embark on empty-nestness (sniff) after raising three girls who are spread out over 26 years, so I think it’s time for a new style mode … I’m hoping for one that is conducive to more travel! It’s exciting to think about the possibilities. So, enjoy your new style direction … and revel in the idea that you can be daring and bold in your change, because before you know it, there will be another reason to change again!

    And, p.s. I just began using a Wacom tablet for the first time, too. After 25 years of illustrating using a pencil and a brush, I am embracing my new digital pencil and brush. Here is a post, in which the last picture I included was my first image created entirely using my Wacom pen. On an official snow day in Austin, I compiled an image of our snowy drive with an illustration that I drew and “painted” with the Wacom pen of our dog, Neville, making his first snow angel. I can’t wait to make more art using my new tool … I mean toy. I hope you enjoy yours.

  • It totally happens when you turn 30! I love looking back on photos of my old apartments and seeing how I have changed. Of course back then it was way more DIY stuff out of necessity. I get mad at myself now though because I will buy a shelf or duvet etc instead of making one! Also marrying a guy who has very distinctive taste and a passion for interior design has sort of melded our tastes together.

    I love that rug!!

    You will get used to the Wacom tablet and soon enough the mouse will seem like an ancient device! I have been using one for about ten years now and can’t imagine not having it!

  • Grace and D*S readers – One tip I read years ago and still utilize is to pull pages from magazines (now you could use flickr or pinterest, etc) of things you love and put them in a binder, or envelope. It doesn’t just have to be design mags I also have fashion and cooking and gardening and art pieces in my binder! Once you get a small pile, look back at them and list the common themes – a certain color, similar lines in a sofa, a particular style of vase, etc. I have kept this up for about 5 years and it has really helped me narrow down my personal style. It inspired me to do a hallway completely covered in artwork – black frames with white mats which is one of my favorite things in our house! It is surprising what common themes emerge – and it is fun looking back at items you chose for inspiration.

  • Turning 30, evolving style, struggling with motivation, putting off working out- over here too! Each time you start breaking out of another one of life’s cocoons and evolve into a more grown-up version of yourself (this, I believe, happens multiple times in life), there are moments lacking inspiration/motivation and just treading water while you take stock. That’s why I love design as a way to express yourself- I have mood files. Collections of beautiful items and art that capture the moment. I like to look back at the evolution of color, pattern and style to see where I’ve been and where I’m heading.

  • Hey Grace,

    Interestingly I was just having a similar conversation with my boyfriend last night about being at a place in life, finally, where I’ve stopped sweating the frivolous stuff (and boy is it liberating). I turned 30- at the Alt conference, coincidentally, and I think this shift in mood/personality/confidence just comes naturally. You really only have yourself and your loved ones to answer to when you live a life you’re proud of.

    In terms of style- maybe throw a fashion swap? Might hit two birds w/one stone? You end up having a much needed catch up w/friends and it’s quite productive!

    Between monthly trips to the framer and continually selling furniture on craigslist, my apartment’s in a constant state of flux. Though it can be slightly unsettling when visitors try to piece together a story, it’s kind of fun, since the project’s ever-evolving.

    And last but not least, the wacom tablet’s a dream! Kiss any carpel-tunnel related aches goodbye. I got one 7yrs ago and never looked back.



  • Loved this post, Grace! It is so honest, and really resonated with me. I think so many of us are trying to navigate all of these same feelings. I remember a distinct shift in my style starting to happen as I approached 30, too. Coupled with the fact that I design busy textile patterns all day, the colors that I dress myself in have gone completely minimal. It’s basics like black, white, tan, grey and metallics that keep me sane. If there’s a pattern it’s usually a stripe, and I am basically obsessed with metallic accessories of every variety to glam things up and keep me happy.

    It’s so funny because I did a guest post yesterday for Elise at Pennyweight on the same day of this post with all of these feelings in mind. Looking over my board I put together, I realized my tastes are continually shifting in the grown-up direction too, and investing in classic well-made pieces that you don’t easily tire of – is really the new me. We both love those gilded notecards from Russell & Hazel. I fell in love with them at the Gift fair!


    Congrats on your new apt! I live on the border of Greenpoint.
    xo Jennifer

  • grace! this really struck a chord with me. i’m narrowing in on thirty, too, and i’ve really found that many of the things i’ve bought are no longer exciting or meaninful to me. when i was living with garage sale furniture in my first apartment, i assumed that as soon as i was able to buy “real” furniture, i would love it forever. so it came as a real shock to me to realize that my “real” sofa and dining table became lost their thrill after a while i had been feeling really terrible about falling out of love with my stuff, thinking that this showed some great materialistic character defect, until i realized that morgan (from the brick house) constantly rotated things in and out. which explains the logic of setting a limit on how much you’ll spend on any one thing!

  • dear grace —

    You’ve touched on a common human experience I think.

    I just turned 40. Last year was a mess; my life, my house, my hair — it was all a mess so I started the very long process of decluterring. I even went to a holistic doctor to truly understand how my body works. I’ve changed the way I eat, starting to look into my personal spaces and seeing how I truly want them to be not how I saw it in a magazine. It’s work in progress but I like where I’m going.

    I thought turning 40 was going to be scary but it turns out there’s lots to look forward to about it like a new age-appropriate wardrobe which I now document here:


    I’m sure you’ll do well.

    Thanks for the post. It is truly one of the best ones yet.


  • I’ve read DS for a while now but never felt compelled to comment before. I just turned 50 recently and I confess that I am still dealing with my changing sense of style. I suppose I qualify as a full fledged grown-up. I have a grown child, lived through a divorce and have worked at my career for 30 plus years and I decorated four different homes–I could go on, but the main point is that for me there has never been a point of arriving and feeling like I am now all grown up and know who I am and what I need, want and like. Perhaps for a few years at a time, I have been comfortable and confident, but it seems to be the way of things that we change.
    I remember reading an interview–I think it was with the painter Pat Steir–and she said that she felt if she could just get a show she would have made it, then she got a show and she realized that she needed a one person show and when that happened she realized she needed a major museum retrospective and so on–that she never got to the point where she felt with confidence that she had made it.
    I have let that idea guide me–that we don’t reach stasis really and it can keep us going.

    Thanks for a feeling of fellowship,

    • Jan (and everyone else),

      Thank you so much for all of your kind comments here. This has been a truly special week for so many reasons. And your thoughtful comments were at the very top of the list of reasons this week was amazing.

      Grace :)

  • I could relate to your post. Being much older than you I can share this happens at different times as you age. I’m at that place again – who is really living inside of me?! I want to create and express myself but it is locked up inside.

  • Hi Grace,

    I love the rugs you’re in love with. I’m not sure how much loom is charging for them, but with the markup a lot of companies put on this stuff, it’s worth just going to Turkey and finding the perfect few for you on your own! I was recently in a town where a lot of those rugs come from, and saw countless beautiful, beautiful vintage kilims. You’d get to wrap vacation and rug-finding mission into one trip! And maybe even ride in an air balloon, to top things off!

  • To quote Jimmy Buffett “I’m growing older but not up. My metobolic is pleasantly stuck.” It makes me smile but speaks the truth to me. We never grow up. We all age – if we are lucky enough to be given the chance. We can grow or not grow while that happens. I tell my students if they are the same people 10 years from now – like the same music, food, design, people, believe the same things, they have wasted their time. And we are so quick to have the answers and once we have the answer it takes a stick of dynamite to change our minds. It’s good to take time to dwell in the questions.

  • I’m a first-time commenter to d*s, but I couldn’t resist since I completely relate to this post! I’ve still got a year to go before turning 30, so I think my need for an overhaul is more related to other major changes in my life – a move upstate with my fiance, buying a house and planning a wedding….so I’m with you in your feelings of limbo. Here’s to moving into the “grown-up” realm with grace (literally and figuratively).

  • Sure this happens with me as with all after a few years it seems we are not “grown up” but everyone thinks so and yes a few things we bought with such gusto even remain unused and may be will be never used.

  • i feel you, grace. i’m coming up on 30 this year and a move, too… i wrote a poem about it recently because i feel like i’m molting. every once in a while i get to points where i feel like my surroundings and…coverings? (wardrobe) are suddenly so uncomfortable and it feels so mysterious, and magical, and vulnerable to see what will come out next…

  • Grace, face it: you ARE a grown up. No quotation marks. You are accomplished, independent, making your living and adding spark and color to the world in a structured, disciplined way (I say that because children add spark and color too, but without planning or thought).

    I’ve reflected on this post a lot because at one level it seems, forgive me, self-indulgent considering all the real problems facing the human race today.

    Yet at another level, it means you may be dissatisfied with the world of things and willing – perhaps – to start asking yourself harder questions.

    I hope you will go beyond questions of style! I was thinking about this, believe it or not, as I changed my 21 year old daughter’s diaper this morning. I was about your age when she came into our world and little did I know the speed with which she was going to demand a fully grown up mother.

    I’m so glad she did. She’s made me a tougher, stronger, more resilient person, in a way no furnishings, clothes or accessories, however ME, ever could. Life is full of mystery and suffering and joy and hard choices. I think being grown up is about recognizing that and preparing for it; not so much about developing a personal style. Because when you are facing those big decisions, you’ll suddenly realize you have got a personal style and it has nothing to do with STUFF.

  • Dear, Grace,
    from reading most of the posts here it seems to me that a lot of people are going through the same thing and it seems like it happens when one is about to turn 30, as i will be in a few months. I want to thank you for voicing the thoughts on many people’s minds which for the most part i couldn’t get a grasp on. When i read your article it seemed like you were writing about me! And i’d just like to add that I’ve been subscribed to Design Sponge for the last 2 years and it is something i look forward to everyday because it is the one thing that has helped inspire me and get me out of the rut that i’ve been in for far too long! Here’s to all of your and the whole Design Sponge crew’s hard work which is opening the door to inspiration for people everywhere!!! Cheers and good luck with everything.


    • sabeen (and everyone)

      thanks so much for all your kind comments, it’s reassuring to know i have such good company in this somewhat awkward stage of life ;)


  • guess what. i came on here because i’m making my living room ADULT! currently, its a mix of free crap and really cheap thrift store stuff. i want to be in a more mature phase. it was so comforting to see you’re going through a shift in your style and yourself as well. thanks so much :)

  • This summer marks my 34th birthday… What?!?! The beginning of becoming a “grown up” was at 29 when I moved to Portland OR. I left everything behind realizing, so similarily, that it didn’t represent me as my present self. It took another year here to feel settled… and to take down my last milk crate book shelf. That occasion deserved champagne and I had a great friend over to help me assemble some “grown up” furniture from IKEA. So, here’s to the process of “growing up”… CHEERS!

  • Hi Grace,
    I came across with your site while surfing on Pinteret.
    I’m 37 and have been going thru the same thing. Nothing around me makes sense anymore. I have a successful job and a loving hubby, but my house and my things are not me. We’re in a process of a huge step: leaving our suburban 3-bedroom home behind and move to an urban setting – a loft. I’m so happy to downsize and recreate ourselves. We want to be challenged, motivated, engaged.. That’s my hubby’s philosophy: be a beginner again!!!!

    • Ana

      The idea of being a beginner again is both liberating and terrifying – which to me is always a sign I should do something (if im scared to). Glad you guys are giving it a go ;)


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