A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand

A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge

A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand

Our homes are powerful instruments of inspiration. There are few places that we can walk into and decide to change and personalize through furniture, color and finishes. Home is a safe place to express our personalities, tastes and creative innovation. Artist, textile designer and graphic designer Thao Nguyen and craftsman and builder, Anthony Angelicola have transformed a dilapidated carriage-house-turned-mechanics-garage into a minimal and rustic home for them to share in Philadelphia, PA. The project has taken them three years, and the result is breathtaking.

When this 1914 shell of a house in the Fishtown neighborhood was brought to Thao and Anthony’s attention, they weren’t looking to buy. Thao was working in Brooklyn, NY and Anthony in Philadelphia. When Thao was hired to be a textile designer for Urban Outfitters in Philadelphia, they decided to take on the renovation project and turn this house into their home. “The property was a complete shell (no interior walls, no plumbing or electrical) and [it had] some serious roof issues. It was formerly used as a mechanics garage and upholstery factory — there were a lot of existing materials we removed that allowed us to better appreciate the original architectural details,” Thao says. “We worked together to plan out the interior space and slowly worked on the renovation whilst maintaining full-time jobs. The process to make the home bare-bones move-in ready took 11 months, with us doing a majority of the renovation work ourselves including putting in skylights, sandblasting the wood beam ceiling and restoring the pine floors. Once we were able to move in, we worked another two years on the finer finish work — such as designing and installing custom oak french doors, open kitchen shelving and modern bathroom vanity.”

The process has been long and well worth it. The cozy-yet-minimal furniture and styling inside Thao and Anthony’s home is so beautifully done. Each room feels like a piece of artwork and the house itself, a gallery. “We wanted our home to reflect our favorite experiences traveling and appreciating art. One particularly is experiencing Donald Judd’s work out in West Texas — his philosophy for curating his home environment and work has a strong influence on how we approach furnishing our home. We designed and built many of the furniture pieces in the home to suit our needs but to keep in line with our simple and handcrafted aesthetic.” Their home’s transformation was spurred from inspiration, and their house is now the muse fueling their new home furniture line, Fire on the Mesa. This peaceful, eclectic and gorgeous home has been many things in the last 100 years, but it’s finally at its best. –Lauren

Photography by Heidi’s Bridge

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11 of The Best and Brightest Homes in Ontario, Canada

The Best and Brightest Homes in Ontario, Canada

11 of The Best and Brightest Homes in Ontario, Canada

“Yours to discover, (and you’re gonna love it) Ontariioooo,” has been the adorable unofficial anthem of the province since as far back as I can remember. And while many of us as born-and-raised teenagers jokingly referred to it as “Onterrible” growing up, the mature, adult me has grown to love this vibrant corner of the world. Housing the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto — which was just declared the most diverse city in the world — as well as the nation’s capital, Ottawa, Ontario and its residents have a lot to be proud of.

While many interior design sites are flooded with amazing Brooklyn brownstones and LA lofts, Ontario also boasts some gorgeous homes (some of which we’ve featured here on Design*Sponge), but they often humbly shy away. So as the resident Canuck on staff, it’s my honor today to share 11 of my favorite home tours within Ontario, specifically in the GTA (greater Toronto area), where I hang my hat. –Sabrina

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An English Home Where White Paint Allows Colors to Pop

An English Home Goes from White to Wonderfully Colorful, Design*Sponge

An English Home Where White Paint Allows Colors to Pop

I started settling into my Chicago apartment five years ago and was very careful about how I decorated it. It was the first time I had lived on my own, after all, and I wanted it to be just right. After some serious mood-boarding and deliberation, my first purchase ended up being a vintage rocking chair. I was such a planner, the poor thing sat solo in my living room for a good month before I slowly began filling in the home around it. While it took much longer for it to all come together, I cherished this ability to go back and forth on all manner of decor decisions and to really plan out what I wanted my space to feel and look like.

Crafty mom Betina Bianculli, on the other hand, was in a different boat when she, her partner Joel and daughter Manuela moved into their Norwich, England home. They agreed to play host to Betina’s mother a mere three weeks after moving in. It seemed daunting, but the strict deadline lit a fire underneath the brood, and they quickly began prepping for what was sure to be a decorating sprint. The first step was coating many spots in the house in white paint. Fanatical color-lover Betina knew this clean slate would offer the perfect backdrop to any kind of furniture or statement piece that came her way, no matter the style. In fact, her strategy worked so well she even extended the shade to the bedrooms’ wood floors. Manuela’s flamenco dress and orange bunk bed stand out more than ever when displayed in such a clean setting, and Betina’s cacti-patterned bedding takes center stage thanks to the recessive floor color.

The most impressive improvements occurred in the kitchen and bathroom. Yes, believe it or not, they were overhauled in three weeks as well. What was once an outdated, avocado bathroom is now light and fresh thanks to its coat of colorless paint and accessories that pop. And by simply installing new IKEA cabinetry and yet another fresh coat of white, the kitchen glows like new. Each of these spaces were topped off by a final sweep of style: the addition of travel souvenirs, photography and mementos. They were put in place just in time for Betina’s mother’s arrival.

At the end of the hustle and bustle, she came and went, and the family had a grand time. With the scramble to kickstart it behind them, their home now plays host to making memories, laughter and all of the shenanigans a young family can get into. A portrait of Betina’s idol, Frida Kahlo, looks down from the mantel onto all the family does, grinning at the pretty life they’re building together and the strength and creativity Betina and Joel are passing onto Manuela. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Betina Bianculli & Liam Bailey

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20 Homes Where Wallpaper Rules

Caroline and Clark Brewer's Nashville home has dreamy modern toile wallpaper in the bedroom.

20 Homes Where Wallpaper Rules

It’s funny how design styles and trends work in my mind. Sometimes I spend so much time thinking about them and over-analyzing them, that once I get them out of my head and onto paper (or onto the blog), I find I actually like them even more. I’ve been thinking about wallpaper a lot lately and how powerful of a tool it can in transforming a space. And with the bold, mural-style patterns we’re seeing on the market today, you can go from a simple room to a dramatic space in an instant. To give some real-life inspiration and examples, here are 20 of my favorite homes where wallpaper has a huge impact — whether on an accent wall, a full room, or a tiny jewel box of a bathroom. Enjoy! xo, grace

*If you need any more wallpaper sources, here are 12 patterns we always trust and 51 resources for shopping for wallpaper online!

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#DSCandid + Moments from Daily Life

#DSCandid + Moments from Daily Life

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Here at Design*Sponge, one of the things we talk about the most is the concept of “real life.” You know, “What does that room look like in real life? Is it always that neat and tidy? Can you really get away with a white sofa and kids?”

For me, the word “real” is as problematic as the concept of “authentic”: what does it actually mean? And who am I to determine what is real and what isn’t? I’ve come to the conclusion that “real” means different things to different people, and what’s “real” for one person is totally unrealistic for another. And that’s totally okay.

Most people think very carefully about what they post online and they try their best to put their best foot (and pictures) forward. But I know that deep down, a lot of us wonder what things look like when they’re not being styled for that perfect Instagram shot. Statistically, we can tell you from 12 years of blogging that people prefer styled pictures and interiors, but when it comes to conversation, candid shots always generate more a meaningful discussion.

So for this month’s hashtag challenge, we’re embracing a life less styled. Not because it’s any better or worse than any other type of life, but because I think it’s important to show spaces and people and ideas that aren’t “perfect,” as much as it’s nice to see things that seem like they are.

Upload a candid moment from your creative life and share it with us at the hashtag #DSCandid, along with a story about what’s happening in the picture.  Hopefully these photos will inspire some moments of openness, understanding, empathy and humor. Because if you can’t look at my living room above and laugh, you’re clearly not imagining the amount of hours I spend on my knees picking up tiny tufts of shredded dog toys. xo, grace

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Above: Candid moments from Kelli and Caitlin’s homes

Monday Mood: Outdoor Bliss

Monday Mood: Outdoor Bliss

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Today up in Canada, we celebrate Victoria Day (AKA the May Two-Four weekend) — a federal public holiday in honor of Queen Victoria’s birthday. In a snapshot, it’s a weekend filled with fireworks, outdoor fairs, concerts and events, and most importantly, it officially kicks off patio season with backyard bonfires and s’mores enjoyed nationwide.

Leading up to this, my own backyard patio has been undergoing quite the transformation, so I’ve been on the hunt lately for inspiration, cool new products, and DIY ideas to help turn the great outdoors into a secondary living space. I’m sharing some of my findings in the form of inspirational feeds, songs, products and ideas to get you into gear for a beautiful and super-enjoyable summer. –Sabrina

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Jessica Williams for Dusen Dusen

Jessica Williams for Dusen Dusen

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There’s something in the air lately, and everyone seems to be pondering the ideas of minimalism and what that means for their own personal style and needs. Two weeks ago we discussed the concept of all-white homes and what that may (or may not) represent, and then this week I heard from Ellen Van Dusen, who was equally inspired to explore that theme after having her own reactions to the “Marie Kondo aesthetic/mentality.” The result was a brand new look book, and new products, designed around the theme, “Live minimally, maximally.”

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Ellen always has the most incredible (and talented) people in her look books, and this time she worked with the mind-blowingly awesome Jessica Williams. I’ve been a huge fan of Jessica’s since seeing her on The Daily Show, but now I listen to her, and Phoebe Robinson, every week on 2 Dope Queens. If you haven’t listened to their comedy podcast yet, check the link in the roundup below for my favorite episode.

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Jessica posed with Ellen’s latest designs in this super cute shoot that also includes Ellen’s adorable dog, Snips. My favorite designs are those amazing orange cubes and the bright and graphic shower curtains. That’s a market that still needs so much love, so I’m glad Ellen is lending her design skills to a much-overlooked area of the home. Click here to check out the new collection and shop online. Until Monday, have a wonderful weekend! xo, grace

*Speaking of amazing women I admire, have you seen Lizzo’s newest video? “Good as Hell” is as powerful a mood-booster as any song/video I’ve seen in a while. We’re going to see her perform in NYC next week, I’m so excited! Turn it up and dance, we made it to the weekend! Lizzo is going to be in my new book this fall, too. Stay tuned!

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In the Kitchen With: Felicity Cloake’s Shrimp and Grits

In the Kitchen With: Felicity Cloake’s Shrimp and Grits

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When I met brilliant British food writer and cookbook author Felicity Cloake earlier this year, she was just returning from a barbecue trip to the United States. I was genuinely impressed that she had embraced one of the cornerstones of American cuisine. In her gorgeous (Nigella Lawson-approved!) new cookbook, The A-Z of Eating: A Flavour Map for the Adventurous Cook, she revisits another classic American dish from the south, Shrimp and Grits with Bacon and Parmesan. In a small and delicious deviation from the dish’s American origins, Felicity uses Parmesan cheese in her recipe, earning it a spot in the savory Umami chapter of the book. How do you boost the taste of your shrimp and grits? Let us know! —Kristina

Why Felicity loves this recipe: I love grits because they’re basically like pimped polenta — if carbs are your thing, then you can usually trust America to do them bigger and better than anywhere else. It’s comfort food extraordinaire… like a big cheesy blanket, topped with sweet nutty prawns and savoury bacon. The best I’ve ever had, weirdly, despite having traveled round the South several times, are at the Lockhart in London; I’ve only had more traditional, plain grits in the States… but trust me, I’ll keep on looking!

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Photography by Helen Cathcart,  Illustration by Giulia Garbin, Portrait by Alastair Levy

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Decorating With: Lemon Yellow

Betsy Ginn turned her childhood bed into a sophisticated statement with a few coats of Unmellow Yellow by Behr. The white linens and red accents complement the bright bed frame.

Decorating With: Lemon Yellow

There are some colors that seem to be easy to decorate with. They’ve been used for years and they’re generally subdued. Shades of blue will probably never be linked with bad taste, but the color likely won’t stun or inspire the same way a vibrant hue can. Lemon yellow is a favorite among the Design*Sponge team. When we see it included in home tours in an intentional and fun way, we get excited.

It can be hard to take a color often thought of as abrasive — yellow — and incorporate it in decor without it overtaking the room. While there are plenty of small ways to use color throughout our home tours, the rooms that really look transformed by color are the ones that use it on a large scale. An interesting observation of these spaces is that yellow is the dominant color, but it is not the only color used. Because it’s such a “big” color, it might feel safer to use it alone or with only neutrals — but in quite a few of the homes we’ve seen, other bold colors are used alongside of lemon.

It’s not easy to search for the perfect yellow piece since this trend is still approached with caution, so along with a roundup of favorite lemon yellow moments on Design*Sponge, bright and fun product suggestions are included to encourage you to bring this color into your home. Enjoy! –Lauren

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Life with Type 1 Diabetes: Finding My New “Normal” + Embracing a New Chapter

Life with Type 1 Diabetes: Finding My New “Normal” + Embracing a New Chapter

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Last December, I started feeling off. After a lifetime of needing to be encouraged to drink water, I was suddenly downing as much as I could get my hands on. I was sleeping poorly, waking up covered in sweat, feeling both wired and exhausted and without trying, I somehow lost 10 pounds in a week. Then one day when Julia and I were at the movies, I realized I didn’t have enough energy to cross my legs.

Right after the new year, I found myself in a doctor’s office hearing the word “diabetes” used for the first time. Though at first it was used in a misdiagnosis of Type 2, it quickly corrected to my actual diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes.

I didn’t know adults could get Type 1 (you can read about the differences here, because they are very different diseases) and the shock was real and immediate. It led to the darkest period of my life so far and, thankfully, after five months of crying, yelling, therapy, exercise, change, lots of dog walks (above) and just letting go, I’ve come to accept that this could be an invitation to one of the brightest and most meaningful chapters of my life.

This summer Design*Sponge will turn 12. More than ever, I’ve come to appreciate that Design*Sponge is a very real home for me. It has been the anchor I’ve so desperately needed at some of the toughest times of my life. And I’ve never felt this more so than over the past five months.

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Before & After: A Mid-Century Post and Beam Home in Mt. Washington

Before & After: A Mid-Century Post and Beam Home in Mt. Washington, on Design*Sponge

Before & After: A Mid-Century Post and Beam Home in Mt. Washington

Renovation superstars Alexandra Becket and Greg Steinberg of the design/build firm ModOp Design work their rehab magic all over Los Angeles. The pair found a rundown mid-century modern post and beam home in need of their help in the Mt. Washington hills. Originally built in 1964 during their favorite era of California architecture, Alex and Greg seized their first opportunity to work on a building from this time. They were glad to achieve yet another first — keeping the home’s 1,668-square-foot original floor plan, which they attribute to the comfortable, open flow of the period layout.

They began the project by tackling all the basic systems, totally overhauling the plumbing, electrical, heat, and AC, replacing windows and repairing original siding. New walnut and douglas fir floors were installed in place of worn carpet and tile — all within a five-month timeline. Despite these grand achievements, Alex and Greg had to leave a few things remaining on their wishlist. They wanted to stain the living room and kitchen ceiling beams instead of painting them white, but the cost would have put them over budget. They also tried to salvage all the wood paneling in the office, but sadly found it was too far gone with water damage to be fixed. Luckily, the built-in bookcase, one of their favorite features of the home, was in great shape and survived the previous years of neglect. “We were able to bring that room back to its glory days!” Alex proudly shares. They also transformed a boarded-up pass-through window from the kitchen to the deck, replacing the glass and setting up a leisurely bar just outside.

Embodying the free spirit of 1960s California, the couple staged the home with mid-century furniture and accessories — mostly vintage pieces they collected over time, including some special hand-me-downs from parents and grandparents. Alex and Greg are most thankful that they were able to bring the house back to life, and to create a new living space for the grateful homeowners who steward it today. —Annie

Photography by Charmaine David

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12 Showstopping Chandeliers

12 Showstopping Chandeliers | Design*Sponge

12 Showstopping Chandeliers

As I prepare to move out of my apartment of three years, it feels a little bittersweet. I got to see this home reach its potential in so many ways, but there are some things that I never got around to. One of those things was replacing the light fixtures. My landlord told me to let her know when I found the perfect chandelier for the dining room and that she would have it installed for me. The lighting needed to be updated and she left it up to me, but I never took the time to find one.

Good lighting isn’t just practical, it can be incredibly beautiful. For centuries, lighting designers have been making unbelievable and stunning designs for chandeliers. The variety that exists today for chandelier styles is broad — from ornate and traditional to sleek and modern, the design combinations are just about endless. These gorgeous centerpieces can be seen in just about any room of the house and can cap off a space’s design with a statement.

While I’m packing boxes, I’m scheming about my new apartment that is a bit rougher around the edges and could really use some TLC and new lighting. As I design the rooms in my head, I am definitely including a few pretty chandeliers in my home this time around (with my landlord’s permission, of course). On that note, here are 12 showstopping chandeliers that I wouldn’t mind seeing in my own home. –Lauren

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Studio Tour: The Summer House India

Rekha and Shivangini, the founders of The Summer House, at the far end of the studio in Bangalore where they stock their fabric and paper rolls.

Studio Tour: The Summer House India

I stumbled across The Summer House a few years ago — a modern lifestyle brand with an emphasis on handicraft and responsible techniques. I was mesmerized by their tropical, Kinfolk-y aesthetic and felt a sense of nostalgia in their imagery, but I could not put my finger on why — until I discovered that they were based in Bangalore, the garden city of India. Their collection of homeware dotted with simple mango wood vessels, cool marble platters and feather-light garments with slick, modern silhouettes embody the essence of stillness and natural bounty of everyday life in India.

Founded by Shivangini Parihar and Rekha Datlav, The Summer House was born from the duo’s nostalgia for the simplicity and celebration of everyday life that they found lacking in big-city living, which had become a blur of activities. “From missing the purity in our food and the comfort in our clothes and the sturdiness in the wares we bought is when we started noticing that there are more people like us who crave for these little joys of simplicity and functionality,” Shivangini shares.

When the pair met, Shivangini had already quit advertising to fulfill her dream of starting a brand that believes in design that is beautiful, functional and sustainable. She had also been traveling across the country for over a year with her then-nine-month-old daughter, spending time with craftsmen and studying responsible making techniques. She even started supplying designs to companies like FabIndia and Toast, and online retailers like Jaypore. Rekha, at the time, had already set up a beautifully curated boutique store.

By pure chance, the duo met in 2014 for an unrelated project. But, as they say, some things are meant to be. They instantly trusted each other and became partners in work.

Neither of the pair claim to have a design background, but the way they grew up had a huge influence on their aesthetics. Rekha’s mother, an architect, had an exceptional eye for landscaping, so she grew up surrounded by the lovely family garden her mother nourished with creativity and talent. Shivangini spent her childhood in a boarding school in the hills and spent her holidays in her grandmother’s home by a lake or on family farms in the village. Both women grew up surrounded by nature, enjoying its bounty and purity.

Their studio in Jayanagar, an old residential area of Bangalore, is surrounded by old houses and lush, treelined streets, making a perfect creative spot for clearing their heads. Walking distance from Rekha’s home, the studio makes it possible to be close to her children while having an environment in which to work. Shivangini commutes between Bombay and Bangalore.

For these two, The Summer House is both a memory of how things were and a plan for how they want life to be. —Rohini

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Paper Allium Tutorial

Paper Allium Tutorial

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Alliums have always seemed a little bit magical to me. In a garden, the long, smooth stems blend in with the other greenery, and the big globes of tiny periwinkle flowers almost seem to float in mid-air. I imagine them growing in a fairytale garden, alongside foxgloves and moon flowers.

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When I set out to design a paper version, I wanted to capture that enchanted, ethereal quality. I chose a very lightweight crepe for the petals, and constructed it so that each floret radiates out from a central ball on a long wire. This design gives each petal room to stand out from its little floret, uncompressed by the florets around it. I also scaled it up to be about the size of a large cantaloupe. The end result is a big, magical globe of delicate blue flowers that is almost a bouquet in its own right.

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I wanted the flower to feel free-spirited, so I cut my petals freehand, which creates little variations between florets. Once you’ve cut several sets of petals, you’ll probably find that you don’t need the template anymore, either.

This allium isn’t especially difficult to make, but producing enough florets to complete the globe is a big undertaking. I suggest making them a few at a time over a couple of weeks while watching Netflix. You can insert them into the center ball as you go — it’s the safest place for them, and it’s motivating to watch your flower fill out.

If you run out of steam before finishing, don’t despair! My assistant Emma and I noticed that a partially covered flower looks a lot like a dandelion that’s been blown and wished on. And if that doesn’t do it for you, I’ve got just one of these guys up in my shop. —Kate

Photography by Desiree Swanson

Styling assistance by Emma Swanson

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10 Paper Flower DIYs for Spring

spring paper flower diy

10 Paper Flower DIYs for Spring

For the past few weeks, the Hudson Valley has been blanketed in row after row of rain clouds. No fun for anyone who wants to get outside for some fresh air, but our plants and trees are happier than ever. I’ve had flowers and gardening on my mind ever since this weather hit, so today I thought I’d share 10 projects that embrace spring flowers in a way that doesn’t require water, care or a green thumb. Each of these DIY ideas can be done with friends over the weekend, and they’d make for a great alternative centerpiece for a special at-home event. xo, grace

Need some more flower inspiration in your day? Check out the 80k+ entries in our #dsfloral challenge and 26 amazing artists making paper flowers on Instagram.

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