Behind the Scenes of Book #2 + Best of the Web

Behind the Scenes of Book #2 + Best of the Web

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In less than a month, we are almost halfway done with the photographs for the next Design*Sponge book and I couldn’t be happier about the way they’re turning out — or the process of meeting these amazing women in person. Working alongside Sasha Israel on the east coast has been a total dream and the even bigger dream has been having a team that’s so hardworking and helpful that I’ve been able to take a brief pause from writing to travel for these shoots and be present for this amazing process. It’s rare that my mind isn’t already “on to the next one” during any given moment, so to be able to step away from my laptop to plan, enjoy and live in these photoshoot moments has been monumental. These are memories I will hold on to for the rest of my life and I cannot wait to share them with you in book form next Fall! In the meantime, I wanted to share a few behind-the-scenes peeks at this week’s shoots, from San Diego to NYC. xo, grace

Images above: office dogs from some of this week’s shoots, a mirror selfie moment with Hana, and Caroline photographing Jasmine Wright in California.

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Sasha out on a tiny NYC balcony in 90-degree weather, getting the best shot.

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In the Kitchen With: Diana Leahy’s Rosewater Pancakes

In the Kitchen With: Diana Leahy's Rosewater Pancakes, on Design*Sponge

In the Kitchen With: Diana Leahy’s Rosewater Pancakes

Breakfast is the most important meal of any day. Kicking off the morning with good nutrition can enhance the way you look and feel and give you the right energy to start your day on the right foot. Diana Leahy knows this better than anyone; as a home cook with food sensitivities and founder of the all-encompassing wedding consultancy Freeheart Project, she can attest to the many mental and physical benefits of a natural diet. Whether you’re following the autoimmune protocol like she is, eating paleo, raw, gluten- or sugar-free, Leahy’s rosewater pancakes are full of real ingredients that will support your biggest and smallest activities alike. —Annie

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Taking Control of Change in Life and at Work

Taking Control of Change in Life and at Work

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve felt more excited, awake and like myself than I have in a long time. Mainly because I’m working on a project that means so much to me and feels so timely and important. While I’m normally a major homebody and highly affected by stressful schedules with a lot of travel, all of my back and forth (via train, plane and bus) for our book’s photo shoots has made me feel alive.

Moments like this call attention to all the times you realize you aren’t feeling that way. And having this recent moment of energy and focus has helped me pay better attention to what I need to work harder on to change at home and at work.

I realized that this book project only happened because I recognized a moment where I was unhappy and needed to make a change. I wasn’t inspired or moved by our old book topic and, with some major help from Julia, sat down to create a new proposal that captured what I was truly passionate about right now. That moment of inspiration and honesty lead to the excitement I’m feeling now and reminded me that I needed to do this everywhere in my life.

So, last week, I sat down and looked at the parts of my day and life that aren’t working the way I’d like them to. I took a good, hard look at what was making me happy — and what was bringing me down — and decided to take the first step toward changing all of them into something new. The first big step was a difficult one, but after a year of being unhappy in my own body, I joined Weight Watchers.

Image above by Molly Jacques Illustration

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Before & After: A Logan Square Stunner for the Color-Averse

Before & After: A Logan Square Stunner for the Color-Averse, on Design*Sponge

Before & After: A Logan Square Stunner for the Color-Averse

“When you’re looking for a fixer-upper, there’s less of that struck-by-Cupid’s-arrow feeling,” admits Lauren Ross, who recently updated every last surface of her 1895 frame house in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. With the help of handy boyfriend Kevin and his expert contractor father, the past 9 months were spent DIY-ing major renovations like expanding and gutting the kitchen, moving and replacing a deathtrap of a stairwell, laying all new hardwood flooring, installing a gas fireplace, and adding additional closets.

Throughout the process, Ross geeked out on the building’s long history. “I felt good about inheriting a house that had been home to the previous family for 40 years,” she shares. Every aesthetic decision she made, from selecting doorknobs to moldings, was influenced by what would have been there in times past. The ceiling medallions fixed above nearly every hanging light also work within this historic framework, but Ross reveals she acquired them to cover unpatched electrical holes when she needed to focus on more pressing matters.

Ross took a more minimalist approach in decorating the refreshed space. “I am fanatical about not accumulating meaningless or useless stuff. This meant having super-human self control in the décor aisles of Target,” she jokes. Luckily, she was able to repurpose almost all of her furniture from previous residences. The homeowner is inherently more comfortable with grey, black, white, and wood tones, but wanted to prevent the space from becoming a sea of neutrals. Claire Staszak of Centered By Design helped her color-averse client choose furniture, art, paint colors, and vibrant, eclectic furniture pieces to enhance the existing collection. Despite being a lean and mean construction crew of three, the team completed the renovation at once instead of maintaining an indefinite work zone. Though it was a whirlwind, the excitement they felt at seeing it come together, knowing that it was a result of their own hard work, just can’t be beat. —Annie

“After” photography by Joe Tighe

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Our Favorite Floors: 25 Reasons to Look Down

Image above from wearemaven_ on Instagram

Our Favorite Floors: 25 Reasons to Look Down

Living in the city, I was constantly reminding myself to look UP. So much of my time was spent trying to dodge people and cars and bikes on the sidewalks that I rarely deviated from looking straight ahead. Now that we live in the country, I’ve learned to look up more, but this month’s hashtag has been a wonderful reminder to look down, too. From incredible wooden plank floors and cement tiles to messages written in mosaics, this month’s hashtag challenge photos were nothing short of spectacular. I was happy to see such a great mix of materials (and shoes!) as well as a few furry friends enjoying cool tile floors and soft rugs. Thanks so much to everyone who shared their photos with us this month. Enjoy the floor show! xo, grace

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For the Love of Blue + White: Contemporary Clerkenwell Dishes

For the Love of Blue + White: Contemporary Clerkenwell Dishes

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When it comes to tableware, I’ve developed a major love of blue and white. Luckily, when Julia and I combined our belongings, it turned out I wasn’t the only one. I grew up eating dinner on Spode-style plates (here they are at our home now) and Julia’s family also had a beautiful collection of new and old plates, like the blue (sort of) splatterware her parents gave to us when we got married. When we moved upstate I decided to turn some of our favorite pieces into a plate hanging/wall display in the kitchen, so we could look at them every day and take them down whenever we need them for entertaining. I’m always keeping my eye out for great, old pieces to slowly add to our collection, but when I saw these new pieces from Clerkenwell at House of Folk, I was smitten.

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Clerkenwell has a long history of fine bone china and this new collection has a slightly more minimal feel with more whitespace on the plates and the addition of sweet little animals, like rabbits and foxes, on the plates and bowls. I’m itching to buy one of these plates for our wall, but in the meantime, I’m pinning them and adding them to my dream list. That little fox is too cute for words. Click here to check out the full collection and shop online. xo, grace

DIY Stencil Pattern Beach Towel

DIY Stencil Pattern Beach Towel

DIY Stencilled Beach Towel

Getting to the beach is a rare luxury for me. So when I do make it down to the coast I like to make the most of my stay there and spend as much time as I can next to the sea. As much as I love going for a quick dip to cool down, what I’m really there to do is cover myself head-to-toe in sunblock, relax and have nothing to do but read and watch the world go by. So of course when I have all that time on my hands my mind wanders back to work and the ideas come flowing (isn’t that always the way).

So even though I’m far from the beach right now, what better time to make some holiday DIYs for next time I’m sunning myself? —Fran

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A Red House Legacy Way, Way West

A Red House Legacy Way, Way West, on Design*Sponge

A Red House Legacy Way, Way West

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, we’re able to visit interesting homes throughout the country and around the world. This blogger’s Anchorage, AK abode happens to be a little bit of both. Mera Matthews and husband Chester Gilmore are a couple of attorneys who work together by day, and reside at the 1944 home in which Chester grew up. Mera joined him eight years ago, and then came three-year-old daughter Opal, along with four beloved rescue pets – dogs Cora and Winifred, and cats Cromwell and Wolsey, who complete the family. (“Adopt, don’t shop!,” the pair insist.) To indulge her visual side, Mera co-writes the blog Red House West with her best bud Katie, who inhabits a similar structure in faraway Eugene, OR.

Chester’s parents bought their house back in 1972 just before he was born. In 2006, once the senior Gilmores retired and decided to leave the state, they were able to sell this ideally-located downtown home directly to the kids. It’s one of the oldest residences in Anchorage, and is situated one block north of access to over 100 miles of maintained ski trails, and one block south of a favorite bakery. Mera has always felt passionate about decorating, but it took some time before she felt comfortable making changes to a home that held 40 years of her husband’s family history (through no fault of her in-laws, who have been supportive in watching the young brood make the space their own). She managed to complete a major kitchen remodel about five years ago, and since then has felt more at liberty to put her own stamp on the interiors.

That is, when she can see them. Due to its northern geographic location, the city receives only four hours of daylight in the winter. In the summer, it’s showered with almost 20 hours of sun each day. Residents adapt their decor to facilitate normal waking and sleeping conditions as much as possible. Mera’s eyes get hungry for color in the snowy season, and the bright pinks and yellows in her decorating feel to her like a little bit of sunshine. Chester’s parents did their own remodeling years ago, and one of the things they accomplished was adding a south-facing window to every room but one, which maximizes available natural light. The renovation also left rooms with lots of quirky angles and unique charm, which will allow Opal to experience the personal history of the place as she grows. —Annie

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MINE: Vintage Trim & Notions

The colors in this color story, not to mention grosgrain and rick rack, are the hues of my imaginary world from childhood. I had a Garanimals pantsuit in these shades of red and pink, complete with knee and elbow patches woven into the polyester. I absolutely adored it!

MINE: Vintage Trim & Notions

This past week I’ve been tackling some familiar boxes in my basement re-organization project. They’re actually not even boxes. They are all sizes of clear, zippered bags that held comforters, pillowcases and the like from friends and family that I solicited over the years for my massive trim and ribbon collection. And yes, you could find me around the Christmas tree sorting the recyclables and stuffing zippered plastic bags in my loot bag.

With all of the trim and notions, one would think I was a master seamstress who could be found adding delicate lace trim to Cinderella-like gowns and preppy grosgrain to customize whiter-than-white Keds. This is not the case. I do have a few sewing machines, one in actual working order, but I rarely use it. The others I’ve taken apart to see exactly how the machines work.

Going through my bags upon bags of ribbons, zippers, trim and beyond, with my sewing machines staring me down in the background, it occurred to me that I’m not a maker — I’m a conceptor — although I’m pretty sure that’s not really a thing since I haven’t heard about a new Conceptor movement or read any “I See Finished Things In My Brain” headlines.

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A Beloved Family Home in Washington, D.C.

The family's downstairs powder room has a bold dark paint color. But the mirror makes sure enough light reflects in the room to keep it open and bright. "The mirror in the powder room was the very first thing I purchased for the home and one of the last things that we hung up. It's a perfect fit for this tiny little space", explains Ibie.

A Beloved Family Home in Washington, D.C.

One of the things I love most about sharing people’s homes here is that these stories live on the internet for years to come as a wonderful archive of a particular time, place and stage in people’s lives. Whether circumstances change because of a new job, a new member of the family or any other major life event, it can be fun to go back to these posts and remember what that time and place in life was like. Such is the case for today’s home tour with the Falcusan family in Washington, D.C.

Ibie, the Export Control Counsel for a leading aerospace company, and her husband Jeff, the Chief Program Officer of an affordable housing trade association, have lived in this beautiful Washington, D.C. area home for the past five years. But next month, they’re packing up and moving to Arizona. It will be a big change in both climate and lifestyle, but they’re excited for the move. So getting the chance to document and celebrate the home they’ve built here with their son, Jude (who I got to hold when he was just a baby at the D*S Book Tour event in DC!) is something really special.

Ibie and Jeff knew their 1941 brick colonial was “the one” when they saw the rear garden. “Its potential for entertaining was immediately obvious,” Ibie explains. And while the couple didn’t have a child yet when they purchased their home, they both envisioned raising a baby there. Now, five years later, they have a home filled with great design details, loads of character and a happy 4-year-old to enjoy that backyard garden they fell in love with years ago. Ibie shares, “I am so thankful that this home has been a comforting stalwart in our lives. It has shielded us from physical and proverbial storms. This is the home where we entered one of the most important phases of our lives and became a family of three. I will always remember this home with fondness because of the joy it brought to us.” Read on to hear more about their design journey at home. xo, grace

Photography by Ibie Falcusan

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Life & Business: Hannah Trickett

Life & Business: Hannah Trickett

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When a chronic medical issue forced her to leave a busy job as an interior designer, Hannah Trickett rose to the challenge and started Hannah in the House, a blog about all things interiors and design, from her hospital bed. In the face of adversity, Hannah refused to to give up and believe that a simpler life meant one without creativity, design and stylish interiors. Since she launched her blog over five years ago, it’s become a full-time job for Hannah, which has also branched into freelance styling and design consulting. Today, ever-exuberant Hannah is chatting with us about how to persevere in the face of struggle, and the importance of valuing yourself and focusing on your strengths. –Sabrina

Photography by Ola O Smit

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Waterloo, Ontario City Guide

Waterloo, Ontario City Guide

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I spent my teen years and early twenties visiting my eldest sister who lives between Waterloo and Kitchener (AKA “KW” or “Tri-City” to locals), two side-by-side cities just an hour’s drive from me. Even now, in the summer months, my family and I buy a season’s pass to Aberfoyle, a massive outdoor antique market located just east of Waterloo, and try to make it on Sundays whenever I can.

Waterloo and its surrounding areas carry a lot of history, but they also continue to attract young people from near and far for its Universities (Wilfred Laurier and University of Waterloo) as well as the myriad tech companies it’s home to, from Blackberry to Google. Unassuming though it may be, if you’re ever in Southern Ontario and craving a break from the Toronto city hustle and bustle, a short day trip to Waterloo might be just what you need. Today, Jordana Garbati of White Cabana is joining us to share the best of what the region has to offer, from local eats and independent shops, to the best parks to laze around in and festivals to attend. –Sabrina
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A Renovated 1890s Terrace House in The Netherlands

A Renovated 1890s Terrace House in The Netherlands | Design*Sponge

A Renovated 1890s Terrace House in The Netherlands

I watch my fair share of home-improvement shows. I’m excited to own a home some day – hopefully a 1930s craftsman bungalow – but watching these shows has opened me up to the realities and stresses of renovations. Some issues you can expect and some seem to come out of nowhere. Tip and Michael looked at over 150 places (while living in Australia) before they found their terraced house in Utrecht, The Netherlands. They knew it would need some work and creativity to make it their own, but didn’t know all that would be involved.

Tip Atkins Moore, a teacher, blogger and creative adviser, and Michael, a sustainable IT professional and lecturer, found this 1896 home almost seven years ago after a long search. “It was a lot cheaper as nothing had been done to it for 20 years and I was up for something I could put my stamp on (silly, in hindsight, with a child under 2 and another on the way!). There was a lot to fix but [it] had good bones and some lovely, old features,” Tip says. “The largest challenge with a lot of these older homes, even though the character is fantastic, is that they were built without a kitchen or a bathroom, so finding the space for these things while still having enough room for a modern family is hard.” Unexpected challenges — like woodworm, cracked sewage pipes and having their three-week kitchen remodel turn into three months — came up within the first year of living there, but the family has seen their home through those issues and are settled in to their beautiful space.

Looking at Tip and Michael’s bright, gorgeous home, you’d never know it was in such bad shape before they got their hands on it. “I wanted to create a home that served the needs of a family with kids and could grow with us and our needs. It had to be cozy, fun and inviting because we also love to entertain guests,” Tip says. “There is still a lot left to work on to get the house up to par in terms of modern standards, so we are doing it bit by bit, as we manage to save enough money. We love our home, though, and while there are nice-to-haves on the wishlist, we live here happily and comfortably.” This Dutch home has been a labor of love and can finally provide Tip and her family with everything they need to live. —Lauren

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Overlooking NYC, A Lofted Studio Filled with History

Overlooking NYC, A Lofted Studio Filled with History, Heirlooms and Happiness

Overlooking NYC, A Lofted Studio Filled with History

One of the things I love most about older homes is the stories and history they hold from those who lived there prior. There’s something feel-good — and somewhat thrilling — about knowing where a certain scratch in the floor came from, or discovering a stack of old newspapers under the stairs. Getting to peek into the past is a privilege I enjoy in my own home, and one that Emily and Kyle Barry share as well. Their lofted studio was originally built in 1864 and used to be a Governor’s Mansion — and thereafter a community space for underprivileged urban residents — before it became the place Emily and Kyle call home.

Together with her mother, Emily runs Rehabitat, an interiors and styling business, and Kyle works in Brooklyn at West Elm’s headquarters. When they were first looking for a new apartment, the large windows, open staircase, rooftop patio and view of the city that this home offered caught their eye. Located in the heart of booming Jersey City, the couple’s lifestyle strikes a balance between quiet suburbia and the busy hustle-bustle of the city, and they relish in being central to local shops and restaurants — namely the countless flea markets and antique stores at arm’s reach. Emily admits to being a bit of a thrift-store-o-holic, so the biggest challenge when it came to decorating their space was editing down and practicing restraint so as not to collect and stockpile too many things. She admits, “I’ve moved on from furniture pieces to accessories and artwork only because we’re running out of space!” Like many, they think of their home as an ever-evolving space. “The second I think we are [done decorating], I get bored and want to switch something around, or redo the gallery wall, or repaint something,” Emily says. “I’m always battling between what I love about our space versus what I wish was different.” But no matter how many faults they find with their lofted studio space, they feel truly lucky every day to have found such a diamond in the rough. –Sabrina

 

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Thrifty Glitz in the Motor City

Thrifty Glitz in the Motor City, Design*Sponge

Thrifty Glitz in the Motor City

What I love about revisiting a home that we have previously peeked inside of is that the stylistic evolution is always so fascinating. Three years ago, we featured Tracey and Mike Tilley’s sunshiny bedroom makeover, and today they have been generous enough to let us see the rest of their mid-century, ranch-style abode in Detroit, MI.

Anxious but excited, project manager Tracey bought the home after growing tired of tossing money into a pit of rental properties. With such a passion for decorating, it no longer made sense for her to invest so much time and effort into a temporary residence. The hardwood floors, coved ceilings and abundant closet space helped this property win out over more updated and convenient homes. Luckily, the one-bedroom home’s previous owners did a fantastic job maintaining some of the space’s original, 1950s charm. “I got good vibes the moment I walked in,” Tracey says.

Eager to have “a clean, blank canvas to work with,” she spent the first few months of her time in the home refinishing floors, tearing out carpet, and painting walls and ceilings. The decorating process has been slow, yet nothing but enjoyable. With a love for scouring vintage shops and keeping her decor in constant rotation, Tracey set out to mix “inexpensive pieces from big-box stores with vintage, flea-market finds.” Eleven years later, she is still finding clever ways to achieve the look she loves for less. Working on a budget meant that some extra DIY headaches were endured, but Tracey says it’s all been worth it. I have to agree. Truly one-of-a-kind pieces fill her rambler. There’s even a disco ball in the dining room and a full suit of armor guarding the breakfast nook. All these quirky touches set the mood for a fun and glittering home I am sure you’ll not soon forget. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Kate Sassak and Tracey Tilley

 

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