What I Wish I’d Known Before Starting Design*Sponge

by Grace Bonney

This month marks the 13th birthday of Design*Sponge and I’m feeling, personally and professionally, both the weight and the wonder of those years. The first five or six years of Design*Sponge flew by in a flash. The Internet was booming, blogs seemed unstoppable and most everyone I knew was hopping online to talk and share ideas about home, creativity and this blossoming community. But, like everything in life, things change. Industries change, systems grow, burst and topple, and the way we do business (and life) seems to be rapidly evolving — and demanding more of us — at every turn.

I’m working on an updated State of the Blog Union post for next week, but today I wanted to take this 13th birthday to stop and look around. To remember what this all felt like when it was just me on my lunch breaks blogging about recycled felt furniture; to look at what I’ve learned and what I wish I’d known going into this job that turned into the career I never knew I wanted (or could have). So for anyone out there looking to start a blog, podcast, magazine or any other business that might go on to become your career, I hope these lessons learned can come in handy in building a place that you love for years to come. xo, grace

The biggest thing I wish I’d known before starting Design*Sponge is that starting a business at the age of 23 and expecting it — and you — to look and act the same 13 years later is ridiculous.

I’ve always admired my favorite restaurants and family businesses that (appeared to) stay the same over the years. That consistency and knowing exactly what I would get every time I walked in the door was what I always wanted to replicate in anything I built. For me, trust and being trustworthy meant staying exactly the same.

But what you know, like and believe in evolves as you get older. And for me, I’m thankful it did. My viewpoint and tone of voice at the age of 23 was precocious and needlessly snarky. But with that style came a community of readers that expected more of that. They enjoyed the look of the blog, the heaps of product content (sometimes posted at 2am so I wouldn’t “get scooped,” SMH) and the idea of calling out other people for what I embarrassingly deemed “copying.” I know, I don’t know why anyone stuck around then either.

But thankfully over the years my voice changed. I learned to talk a little bit less, make room for other voices and opinions and styles and to take a back seat when I needed some time to deal with difficult personal moments. Those moments of change were not, and continue to not be, easy. I wish I’d known that change was okay and inevitable, but that it wouldn’t be like the movies one day when you wake up and makeover your wardrobe and everyone says, “Grace, was that you all along?” People don’t always like when you change, so grinding through that time period and trying to find self-assurance when you’re still figuring things out can be hard. So give yourself, and your business, a break when changes are happening. You will lose readers/customers/fans who want you to stay the same forever, but in exchange you will gain a greater sense of self and hopefully connect with others who know what it’s like to grow into something or someone new. And that feeling is worth more than X amount of followers any day.

When I started Design*Sponge I was fresh off of 16 years straight years of school life, during which I’d convinced myself that if I did everything perfectly (Ha!) no one could hate me. I wasn’t popular in school so I figured if I got straight A’s and followed all the rules at least no one could dislike me. Boy, was I wrong. I learned later on that people thought my “intense studying and no social life” decisions was me conveying how much better I thought I was than everyone else. Sadly, I still carried that concept into my work life and felt that if I tried really, really hard to do everything perfectly, no one would start message boards about how much they hated me.

But I never actually did anything perfectly (and still don’t!) and people still write me to this day to tell me my “face is stupid” or that I’m a horrible person for getting divorced or that they’d punch me in the face if they saw me on the street or that (my all-time favorite) they, “hope I cry myself to sleep in my Marimekko panties.” That still makes me laugh every time. I seriously hope Marimekko designs a line of comfortable hipster underwear. I would wear the heck out of them.

It wasn’t until I realized that people would always dislike me for a wide range of reasons (some valid, others less so), that I decided to stop worrying so much. Do I want to be kind and compassionate to everyone in my life and community? Absolutely. But beyond that, I recognize that it’s impossible to please everyone and be everything to every person. I don’t know if I could have actually accepted that at the age of 23, but if someone had told me more often I might have let go a little earlier.

When you run your own business, it can be easy to assume every decision is a personal one. Someone moved on to a new job? They must hate me. Someone decided to share their home with a different site instead? Clearly I’ve deeply offended them in some way. An ad campaign went to another person in the running? I’ve got to rebrand and start over because obviously something’s majorly wrong.

I’ve gone through all sorts of paranoid moments in my career when I forgot to remember that for most people, you’re just a co-worker or a friend or someone they got to know through the Internet. Their decisions rarely have much to do with you and if they do, they’ll probably tell you. This is not to shirk all responsibility for one’s behavior, but over the years I’ve learned to trust that people will tell me if they’re upset — or that I’ll be paying close enough attention to notice the hints they drop. So while it’s true, some business decisions are personal, usually they have more to do with business and that’s okay — it frees you up to make decisions based on business, too, and not intend anything beyond that.

If I had a nickel for every time a person (usually an older white man) sat me aside early in my career to tell me how I needed to a) get investment money b) hire a CFO c) stop paying my employees as much or offering them healthcare or d) quit and work for someone else because my business couldn’t “scale” fast enough, I’d be a very wealthy woman. And while I’m comfortable and able to pay my bills and so thankful for that, I’m much happier knowing that I’ve done my best to choose my team and their comfort and job security over growth for the sake of growth.

In full transparency, I spend more time than I’d like to admit thinking about what I would do if we did have VC money. Oh, the guest writers I’d hire! And the raises and bonuses and perks I would offer my writers and editors and long-time co-workers for their dedication and talents. But that’s not our situation. We are a small, independent blog that has two full-time employees (just me and Caitlin) and does its best to make ends meet while paying our writers as much as we possibly can. It’s not easy (more on that in my State of the Blog Union essay next week), but having the power to say “yes” or “no” to ad campaigns or partnerships or editorial decisions without having to run it by other people for approval is a wonderful feeling. I wish I could combine that feeling with greater financial stability, but for now, we’re making it work and I’m beyond proud of our small team and what we’re able to do.

Some people will think success is all about numbers and money and awards, but for me, it’s about what we will leave behind at the end of the day. And right now I’m proud of the work we’re doing and the efforts we’re making to change our site for the better and continue to evolve and grow at our own pace. It doesn’t make our business any less valid, loved or important.

One of the weirdest parts of being someone who works online is being in a position (a position most of us put ourselves in, I know) to live out some or all of your life in the public eye. Not Beyonce-level public eye, but enough that people in your community will have an opinion on who you are, what you do and how you share that online. It’s easy, painfully easy, to fall into believing the version of yourself that lives online. Because most of us present only the best parts of our life. So if you believe that version of yourself, you’re leaving a lot out.

I understand why most of us don’t share the full story — because oftentimes when we do, people attack, criticize or editorialize as if you’re not a real person. And no matter how thick your skin is, it’s not fun to spend most of your day reading about how people think your hair/face/clothes/dog/house/business is awful. Finding that balance where everything seems “just relatable enough” is impossible. I tried, naively, but then gave up. When was that? I wish I could say year two, but it wasn’t until last year, year twelve of running Design*Sponge.

It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes that I gave up trying to play a part I never played well anyway. With the full-time job of managing a chronic illness on my plate I finally stopped worrying about being the least appropriately dressed person at a work event (sorry, sound guy who thought I, “shouldn’t wear jeans on stage”) or having the “right” haircut or shoes or vacation destination or hashtag or “brand extension” or whatever… none of it seemed important anymore (and it never really was). Letting all that go meant letting some people down, and that’s an odd feeling (I’ve actually had people tell me that they were “disappointed” to find out I’m not a) wearing pink b) so “serious” or c) not into the same blogger trends they thought I’d be). I do my best to share as much of my full self online as feels appropriate and safe and respectful of the people I share my life with, but I’ve come to accept that there will be parts of me (good and bad) that will never go online and mean that no one really knows the full story. But that reminds me of something even more important: that means I don’t know anyone’s full story either. So the people online who I follow, love or pay attention to aren’t sharing their full selves either and that means we can all remember to cut each other some slack and know we’re doing our best to share what feels okay at the time. I much prefer loving and accepting all of the complicated parts of people rather than the 2-D shiny versions of themselves.

I’ve struggled a lot with falling in love with a niche of the world that I felt, for a while, wasn’t contributing anything serious or deeply substantial to the greater needs of people in our society. I fell into narrowly defining design and my own design blog as purely aesthetic pursuits. I thought to myself, “Well, wallpaper never saved anyone’s life” and fell into a spiral of thinking I needed to change careers and fields if I wanted to contribute something substantial to the world. But thankfully I learned that that was misguided and narrow-minded thinking.

In addition to the realm of engineers and designers designing products that provide housing and shelter and food/water sources for those in need, design has the power to get people talking and discussing the way in which we create safe and welcoming spaces. And what I’ve most enjoyed about the past few years is being able to have those conversations about even deeper topics like race, immigration, religion and cultural appropriation. Those topics feel “too heavy” to some (I was told to stop talking and just “post pretty pictures” last week, which felt like the digital version of someone telling young women to “smile more”), but to me, they’re one of the ways in which design can facilitate change and meaningful conversations about what happens in and around our homes — who we welcome in, what our boundaries are and how best to share the resources we have with those in need.

Starting out, I was fully infatuated with the aesthetic and surface nature of design, but once it started to feel limited, I panicked. I wish I had known then that it would be my duty and my job to work on finding those connections (they already existed, I just needed to join the conversation already happening) between design and world issues to find an entirely new love and joy for the work I am fortunate to do every day.

Last but not least, this final lesson is one of the biggest I wish I’d known when I first started. It’s so easy to get caught up in 5-year plans and the pressures of people asking you “what’s next?” when things appear to be going well. It’s never enough to just enjoy what’s happening now, it seems like there always needs to be MORE. But I wish I’d known that was wrong — all wrong.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with cherishing the heck out of the way things are right now, and taking time to soak in all the joy and learning and friendship and excitement and all the complicated feelings that come with running a business. If you get to do something you enjoy with people you like and also pay your bills with that? That’s a pretty great situation. So don’t worry about what your business will look like in five years. Maybe it will become a huge empire! Maybe it won’t! Either way, if you run things with a careful head on your shoulders (don’t overspend as if you won’t have a business in five years) and take care of yourself and the people who join you in your work, you’ll be running a business you’re proud of.

Suggested For You


  • Dear Grace, Brava to you, lady, for doing this your way, authentically, at least for the decade or so that I’ve been faithfully reading. We all evolve, with luck, and given that D*S is a direct extension of yourself, of course this site has grown beyond pretty pictures to capture the deeper aspects of shelter, sustenance, and safety-which are the hallmarks of home. I’m sure that I’m not alone in that I always appreciate when you’ve taken a pause to reflect and comment upon events that impact you, and me, and all of us. Your measured posts and thoughtful responses impress upon me your skills as a writer, as a commentator, and what I’m inferring as utter decency that seems essential to your online persona. Wishing you luck with what lies ahead. PS, I’m sure I’m also not alone in your readership for thinking that my wife and I would love to host y’all for a meal or a cake or a cocktail if you ever land near Boston. Best wishes to you! -Bree

  • I’ve so missed your long-form essays. They’re, actually, one of my favorite things about D*S. Looking forward to next week’s “State of the Union”…and to the next thirteen years of inspiration, empowerment, and community.

    With Love,


    • Thanks, Jessica- there are a LOT more coming (from me and other guest writers). I took a break this summer to deal with some personal issues and am coming back now to write more ;)


  • Grace, I’m pleased to have read D*S from the get-go. Over the years, other blogs have come and gone, but this one remains my daily staple, and I love how it’s evolved. Change is truly the only constant and your (and your team’s) embrace of that is what makes this a special place on the internet. The depth and honesty of this space is refreshing in a sea of design blogs that seem tone deaf to the world around them (“just pretty pictures” = zzzzzz). Keep growing, keep changing, and thanks for letting us join you on the journey. It’s an honor to be here. (And FWIW, your hair is always chic and adorable. 😉). xo!

  • Such a great update Bonnie. Bless the troll that referenced the Marimekko panties. That was hilarious. I love that you shared that, and let us laugh at the absurdity with you. I’ve been a reader for ten years and I love the online community that you’ve garnished. In January my home tour was featured on this site, and it was such a privilege. Thank you to you and your wonderful team from bringing such quality original content week after week. Your blog has NEVER jumped the shark. And I think it’s because of your vision, focus, and not taking on more than your team could handle. That quality is precisely what keeps me coming back each day.


    Ashley Yazzie-Ward

  • These types of essays are why Design Sponge is the only design blog that I still follow. Wonderful!

  • Loved your post. I think it’s not easy to live in this era and our society constantly pressures us like as you said: what your bussiness will look like in 5 years,…but just thinking about what really is important in life helps me to fight those effects of society. For example when I’m dying I am not gonna regret that how much money I didn’t make, instead I wished I could be calling my mom more, or being more helpful to people around me.

  • Absolutely beautiful. Thank you. I’ve been reading your blog for probably ten years, and one thing that keeps me coming back is how richly you define “design.” As a small business owner I can relate to so much of this. Thankfully my husband and I are not in the public eye like you are, but we are the same age and have run a design studio almost as long. Our vision and goals have evolved in a similar way. We want to provide good, thoughtful design, stay small, and provide a level of compensation and quality of life to our employees that lets them know how much we appreciate their work. Thank YOU for all your hard work, Grace.

    • Thanks, Amanda.

      And thanks for the consistency you provide your team, it’s hard thing to manage, especially in this economy, but I think that really matters in the long run.

      Grace :)

  • Love this, Grace. Sending you warmth and love.

    (p.s. I was told a few weeks ago to stop trying to change America and get back in the kitchen so I feel you on that one.)

  • Oh, Grace. I love, love, love this essay. It was so interesting to read about how you would freak yourself out when you felt like your work didn’t have any substantial context, because I went through the same feeling in my early 20s about all of my endeavors. Sometimes I still feel that way. I just started a blog where I’m trying to balance the lightheartedness we experience in life with the simultaneously painful and/or thought-provoking elements it offers. I originally wanted to write nothing but serious essays until I realized there were things slightly less serious and fun that interested me, so then I just decided to write about all of it. I have no idea where it’s going, but this article helped me realize it’s okay not to have those ideas right now, to just write what strikes my interest and let the articles develop an overall voice. Thank you so much for everything you do. You are truly an inspiration! <3

  • Wow so much positivity and support in this post it blew me away. A must read!

  • Hello Grace,

    I am an avid design blog reader, and this is the first time I have ever left a comment on an article. I have been reading your blog for years (to put a year on it, probably since 2007) and I remember all the facelifts, stories and transitions along the way. I applaud you for your honesty, openness and commitment to your passion. You are a role model in a very challenging time to persevere and focus on the future. All my best to you and yours.

    Sarah Anne DiNardo.

  • Grace! You’ve been such an inspiration for well over a decade + thank you for all the help and encouragement when NOTCOT was a nascent experiment back in 2005 too! The internet was a crazy different world back then! I love and appreciate your honest and thoughtful reflections and insights on how times have changed, especially that it’s ok to stay small and grow and evolve as a person! I can’t tell you how many times i’ve second guessed whether i ought to become more of who people think i am digitally, but ultimately try to stay strong and see where my path will lead! Happy 13 years of D*S, can’t wait to see what the future will bring!

  • Dear Grace,

    This is the loveliest thing I have read in a long time. You articulate so many lessons and have related the wisdom you have acquired so beautifully and the wisdom is full of love and respect and care and wonderful priorities. Thank you for using your voice to reinforce kindness, equality, and perspective. I love love love this post.


  • Oh my goodness, Grace! I absolutely loved reading this! I remember commenting on all your posts when I first started my own little business and blog ten years ago, and feeling like I had to be in control of EVERYTHING all the time back then! All these years later, after that first business imploded on me because it actually DID get too big for me to even want to handle anymore, I feel like I’ve learned so many similar things. I’ve learned to let myself live now that I’ve learned that the world isn’t going to stop if I do, and I’m so thankful to have realized not everyone is paying attention – if anything, no one *really* sees it all anyway! It is so refreshing to read all your thoughts on this topic! It really inspires me whenever I have the time to sit down and read your posts. I especially needed this on a day at the end of a week where I’ve been battling myself and asking if all my to dos even really are this anxiety inducing, or if it’s all in my head lol! Thank you for sharing and always staying authentic to your voice <3

  • Thanks for sharing this with us Grace! It’s my first time posting on your blog so I’d first off like to say that I really enjoy looking through your blog posts from time to time. I actually started reading your blog maybe 10 years? ago (I was still in high school back then) and then on and off throughout the years, so I can definitely see how Design Sponge has evolved over the years. I started listening to some Heroine podcasts about a month or so ago and was surprised to find your interview with Majo. I never realized some of challenges that you had to endure to continue Design Sponge and in your personal life, but am glad that you were able to come through as a stronger individual than you were before. You continue to inspire me and I look forward to many more years of reading Design Sponge!

  • I needed to read this today. ❤️ Thank you. Also, I hope you cry yourself to sleep… from watching cute animal videos and laughing too hard!! AND I’d really like some Marimekko panties, too.

  • Thank you so much for this post. I’ve also been reading for a decade and this is my first time commenting. I really respect how you focus on meaningful work rather than scale. And your and Julia’s online voices this year have been important touchstones for me and have encouraged me to speak up against homophobia and racism and sexism and to do more. And I know it’s not always easy for you to be the one who speaks. It is such a pleasure to wake up in the morning and have coffee and look at Design*Sponge, but you can start to feel like you’re drowning if you’re looking at gorgeous interiors when so many terrible things are happening in the world. Thank you for being whole, and for making this site whole, and for being a light.

  • I really love this. This is such practical, good advice. Sometimes it seems like the world of blogs is only full of information that is meant to sell you on something. This post is a breath of fresh air. Thank you for sharing! As a new blogger, it is really inspiring and encouraging to hear this.

  • Such a pleasure to read this. I respect you for this clear and honorable point of view on what it means to grow and change as your business moves through the years. Thank you Grace for inspiring me.

  • Grace,
    I loved reading your words.
    I am very much attracted to your connection with Design + world issues.

  • Thank you Grace for sharing your journey, in such honest way. I love how you sticked to your own vision and stayed true to yourself, evolving as the person you are today. I started my small business just a a couple of weeks ago and I already started to ask myself much of these questions. In order to get a pleasant platform, and to get to the “rules” of social media, you have to provide a certain visual look, which will always be edited, filtered in any way or another, but that I still feel it’s me. On the other hand I want my content to be real, genuine and of service. I am asking myself… How can I marry the two? Can it be “shiny” on the visual and profound on the conversation? Is that communication still honest? I will walk my own path and I will discover as I go, listening to that inner voice that is always right. Thanks for being a role model to look up to.

  • Glad to hear long form essays are coming back. I’ve been missing them too. I’ve gathered from hints on IG you’ve had things going on, but it is wonderful to hear your voice again. And I look forward to long form essays from other writers as well. Hugs to you and congrats on 13 years! Long time fan of the writers and the work of Design Sponge.

  • Hi Grace! I have only been following DS for a few years so have missed out on a lot, so I enjoyed reading this post of yours! I admit I feel guilty about the time I spend reading design blogs because how does painting my kitchen help society … Could you share where online you have those deeper conversations about design and “world issues”? I like the pretty pictures but the “deeper issues” are of real interest to me!

  • Oh my goodness, thank you so much! I have a really tiny blog and want to be an artist, wich is basically a recipe to do everything you’ve learned not to do! I constantly won’t post because it’s not perfect, or because it doesn’t have any substantial way to help people, but my favorite thing about your blog is that it’s real and it helps, even with pretty pictures. As a teenager, you want to be popular and perfect. Thank you for the reminder I don’t have to be. 😁

  • Dear Grace, Congratulations on 13 years of success at creating such a terrific business that contributes to the beauty and comfort of our homes. It is good to read of your defining yourself. You are not your product. Deeply respecting that you are a lovely human being who consciously works to contribute to a better world is enough. Keeping good, strong boundaries with what others think is a good and wise thing. Keep it up. You make to difference Grace and we wish you the absolute best! Many blessings! Carol Brenner

  • Thank you for this essay. You put your finger on something I struggled with for a long time: the feeling that I should be doing something “serious” instead of … whatever. My mother was a home economics teacher. She believed it was important to make and keep a home, to teach people to feed and clothe themselves. I loved women’s magazines but was ashamed of that. It took a long time for me to get over the guilt I felt when old friends said they were surprised I hadn’t found the cure for Aids. I think my friends saw what I wanted them to see in me, rather than what I was. One thing I know is that, if you deny your interests and make yourself conform to your ideal public projection, you will have trouble being creative, expressing your ideas, completing your projects. Advice to “follow your passion” doesn’t work as well for me as “explore this possibility.” Toni

  • Thanks for the inspirational post. I love that you do talk more and not just show pretty pictures. Thank you so much for expressing the feelings I have felt in the last year of chaos.

  • What a beautiful and thoughtful flow from the heart! i hesitate to use “essay” because that word doesn’t seem to do justice for the gems from your life that you shared. this is my first time reading your blog, but the title definitely captured my interest. i also hope to begin blogging, and will definitely keep your hard-earned wisdom in mind as i make this journey too. God bless you and team for a wonderful future in every way!

  • I really enjoyed reading this…looking back posts are helpful on many levels and have a way of reaching people at just the right moment, so thank you. I look forward to more!

  • I loved this post – thank you for sharing Grace! I’ve checked in on DS many times over the years, but have only become a regular reader in the last couple years…and one of the elements that keeps me coming back is your honesty and humility in navigating the world – grappling with privilege, allyship, justice. That there is so much more than pretty pictures on DS is a wonderful thing. Love to you and your team – glad to be along on the journey!

  • You’re a force of nature Grace, and bravo to your wonderful team. I’ve been reading Design Sponge pretty much every single day for 10 years, and I honestly start jones’ing for content when the site takes a break for holidays :-)

    It is incredible that you’ve managed to evolve and keep plugged into the zeitgeist without following random trends for the sake of it.

    Keep on keeping on.

  • I learned of Design Sponge when Grace was a guest on an episode of Martha Stewart Live. I visited the site and liked the diy posts especially anything related to flowers. But my interests are gardening and baking, so I wasn’t a regular visitor. I took a break from the internet in favor of books and periodicals for a while, but I returned to see what was new in online food blogs. Honestly, I was taken aback that so few people of color are included on food blogs and websites. I did an internet search and the results displayed an article on Design Sponge featuring black food professionals. I was curious if it was the same Design Sponge from years ago under new ownership/management. I clicked the link and couldn’t believe how much the site had changed in appearance and content. Since I read that article, I have visited Design Sponge most days of the week. Design Sponge doesn’t have to be inclusive as so much of online media is not, so I thank Grace Bonney for her efforts. Happy 13th Anniversary!

  • Hello Grace, I love your blog, I love your posts, this one is as always wonderfully written. I never comment (not fluent English speaker) but today I feel I have to. Keep sharing with us your tastes, ideas and reflections. You are inspired and inspiring. Thanks a lot, I’ll try to comment more often.

  • This moved me to my core and inspires beyond what I can say. Kudos, cheers, and can’t wait to read more.

  • Grace – I just wanted to give you a “cyber High-Five!” you consistently post meaningful content and I, as a reader – LIKE ALL OF YOUR READERS – get to choose what I read and what I don’t read. Some days – I’m like…nah…don’t want new computer wallpaper today…. other days…I’m like….ooooh!!!! how???? what???? who???? OR even better…..when you challenge me to see things in a different way……So to those haters….just send them a link to unsubscribe…(really people…it’s that easy…..) But I digress….. It can’t be easy to infuse a design blog with a soul but you have done just that….. Celebrate your anniversary with GUSTO! You deserve it!!!

  • Hi Grace, thanks for writing so thoughtfully about 21st century life and about the timeless challenge of maturing and overcoming the annoyance of having needed some time and experience to get there. And looking forward to future gathering of wisdom.. and the cycle continues! But acceptance grows, as you note. (One of my faves: SHAME: Should Have Already Mastered Everything.)

    You and Julia are so cool and wise. Confession: I hope you do a big beautiful book together.. Design*Sponge meets Martha Stewart Entertaining meets Kinfolk, featuring your place upstate? It would be so so fabulous. Here’s hoping..! Thanks for sharing online and keeping it quality.

  • Grace, I’m really grateful to you for posting this. I’m at a fork in the road, contemplating whether to sign up for a steady paycheck or go my own way. I’ve long admired your talents, your courage, and your kindness, evidence of which can be found from your earliest posts all the way to this one here. There’s one important aspect of Design*Sponge that hasn’t changed and it’s the thing that keeps me coming back…this is a forum for sharing. News, trends, ideas, recipes, tips, hacks, how-tos, it’s a treasure trove of design ideas that inspire people all over the world. What a wonderful thing that is. Congratulations.

  • Grace,
    I’ve been enjoying this blog for, I dunno, 5-6 years? Anyway, thank you for always creating a design blog of substance. There are so many blogs out there that are tone deaf to the way in which design can be superficial, or who glorify or prioritize the parts of design that are superficial.
    I loved to read your bit on how you considered the role of design in the world, and question why it is worth attention and time from you and from all of us. I’m guessing it’s part of what makes your discussions richer, and your profiles of people’s spaces deeper, than the average blogger. It’s an awareness of what spaces mean to the people who inhabit them, and it focuses on more than just the surface level aesthetics.
    I am grateful to you for helping me understand why our spaces are important, and how respecting other people’s spaces is of tantamount importance. As a white woman, I think I could too easily slip into an appropriative (I don’t think that’s a word, but I’m going to use it) mindset toward spaces: that my tastes should be everyone’s tastes, that all spaces can, figuratively speaking, belong to me.
    Thank you for challenging me, and providing thoughtful content that is always worth the consideration of your readers.

    on a personal note, I loved the content you wrote about moving to an old house in the country, and if you ever want to share more, but think nobody is interested, I can emphatically tell you that I would love to hear more.


  • Grace: Another wonderful, thoughtful and honest post.

    One of the reasons I enjoy design sponge is because it is such a personal blog. It isn’t just about the “best” this or that in design, but wonderful, intimate and refreshingly sincere and honest commentary on what you love and like and how you think and view your life and the world around you. It’s very “real” for lack of a better word. (I’d say “authentic” but somehow that doesn’t sound “real”!)

    I commend you for your ongoing courage to share as much of your life as you have. It can’t have been easy given the way folks often respond online. Self-acceptance is challenging for all of us for various reasons, and your example is a wonderful inspiration for the rest of us who have felt extreme criticism for various aspects of our lives, whether online or off.

    Keep up the great work. Most importantly, keep up the self-love. In a world where many try to tear people down, reading Design Sponge is always an uplifting and positive experience.

  • I love this post. Congrats on all of your ongoing success — as success (I LIKE TO THINK) is measured by finding that magic balance of fulfillment, creative autonomy, and a great community around you making it all come together. Not many get to grow from blogging on their lunch breaks to something more – and you have proven well-deserving of it! :)

  • This was a wonderful and timely post. It’s been fun watching the blog (and everyone involved) grow. Thank you!

  • Grace,
    Thank you for being so open and honest. I found your blog years ago in college, and you have influenced and inspired me on countless occasions. This is an excellent post and exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you for being real, and keep up the great work!

  • I LOVE your blog and the essays from yourself and Caitlin that are published from time to time. While I do enjoy other design blogs, one in particular I can think of while it does have some great content, also has so many advertisements that distract/detract . It also tends to have articles with headings like for example “10 items you MUST have in your home” or “3 things you should get rid of NOW” – these are made up but this is the gist. I like that Design Sponge has no “rules”. I like the holistic approach of Design Sponge – design and beauty are integral to living well and meaningfully in both an aesthetic and holistic sense.

    • Margot

      I’m with you. I don’t believe in rules or intimidation under the guise of “advise”, as with articles like the ones you mentioned. So many scare tactics are employed in order to get clicks and at what cost? There are enough legitimately scary and horrible things happening in the world, the last thing people need is to feel freaked out about which damn accessories are in their house. Eeesh.


  • Grace, bravo for this post and for all the transformation you’ve brought to DS + yourself through the 13 years. I love the new editorial direction, and love that you are finding ways to connect design to the broader conversations that NEED to be happening in our world. Because of you – my world is a little more inspired + informed.

    xx – Jill

  • Thank you for this wise and wonderful article. It’s great advice for anyone who runs their own business. Or heck, just for anyone at all.

  • I’m 71 and a new reader. I’m so delighted with what I’m learning here!! I have long felt design was important to manifest a safe place for children, an inviting space for friends, and a calming space for living. These can be manifested in as many ways as there are people! I walk into a beautiful space or see photos of one and WANT IT! Ha! Then I think: I have cats and dogs; I have health issues; etc. So I re-evaluate my space and maybe rearrange, exchange, or the like. I’d rather have my animals than a silk sofa and a velvet chair- but I can still love seeing them! As you said, we are complex. As for that favorite restaurant that never changes?? I switched from veal parmigiana to eggplant! We need to be adept at adapting and adopting new favorites! Keep em on their toes, so to speak!! Glad I found you…all!

  • Hi Grace and DS team!
    Running a blog for so long is incredible. Thank you for being honest, staying true to yourself. Reading DS blog helps me to relax, it gives me the same feeling as drinking a hot chocolate while it is snowing outside! This feeling is there because of the quality of the editorial content. I hope the best for you and all your team.

  • Gosh Grace, you are so inspiring, and have been for these 13 years. I do remember the beginning, I still have several pieces that you noted on your blog and I purchased and still love. I loved your photos with the cats, and when you bought a piece of furniture that was just like one from my mother’s bedroom furniture I almost fell over. I love your book about women, and even though I really don’t have the “right,” I am proud of you and how you are successful on your OWN terms. Keep it up, you give me hope for the future. All the best to you and your team, and here’s to however many more years you want with Design*Sponge!

  • Great timing since I am starting a new business and am already getting questions about my future that I have no answer to. I’ve started with women’s coats. “How about children’s/men’s coats? You HAVE to vend in Portland/on Vashon Island!” Etc. So based on what you said I will just be courteous & suggest they follow me as I grow rather than try going all directions at once. Whew, relieved!
    Danette Flores

  • thank you for talking about this. i’ve been in this blogging realm since 2010 and now am opening a concept store in my city – but my education is in social work. i’ve so long struggled with that feeling that i’m not “contributing” how i should be with my degree because i like design and creators and products, so it was interesting to hear you mention this. keep doing what you’re doing!!!

  • Grace, thank you so much for this post and all you do. I’m a single 32-year-old who has just quit her job (a job I went to grad school and got paid decently well for) to follow my passion and pursue design. It’s a nerve-racking but exciting time, and I have found such inspiration and hope through your blog and In the Company of Women. Keep up the great work!

  • Excellent, thought-provoking post Grace. Life online has changed an awful lot in the last 13 years. Really enjoyed this – and congratulations on the anniversary!

  • Really appreciated this post. I used to read your blog a few years ago, but sort of of drifted from the online world. It was great to stumble across this and reconnect to your content. It’s always felt quite unique and refreshing to me. Thanks!