Happy Birthday Design*Sponge: DS Turns 11!

Happy Birthday Design*Sponge: DS Turns 11!

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I feel like I blinked and this summer flew by before I even knew it. As spring came to a close we started on the very beginning of a new book project that happily consumed every hour of our summer (and not just mine, but Kelli’s and Sasha’s, too). As we flew from city to city meeting amazing women and talking to them about their careers, we found ourselves changing. And that change has inspired some big changes that are about to take place here at D*S, too. What I’ve learned from working on just two and a half months of our book project is that we have a lot more work to do here at D*S. We have to research harder, write with more purpose and passion, dig deeper into the community we love and celebrate here and step confidently toward our next track, which is all about creating an online community that reflects the full range of creative people we respect and admire.

Starting in September, we’re introducing new writers and new columns, and we’re coming back with a fresh look on the way we approach the idea of home and creativity. I want to know more about the people who create the things we love, what makes them tick, what makes their houses turn into homes — and I want to hear a wider range of people’s stories. I want to hear from people just starting out, people celebrating their 20th year of running their own business, and I want to hear from people who haven’t had the chance  or the platform  to share their stories yet.

Today Design*Sponge turns 11. It feels like a slightly uneventful birthday after making it a full decade last year, but something about being in the first year of a new decade feels 100% right. I feel like we’re just starting to understand and become clear about what our purpose is NOW. Not since the early years of writing here have I felt so focused and clear about what I want to achieve here. I understand what is missing from not only our site, but the community as a whole, and how we can work together here to solve that problem and better reflect the creative world we celebrate here every day. Working on our new book (which I could not be prouder of. I cannot wait to show you all what we’ve been working on) has completely changed the way I view this site and has given me the renewed passion, excitement, energy and purpose I needed to take Design*Sponge into our second decade.

Next week our team is taking a much needed week off to relax and prepare for the new posting we’ll be doing here, starting September 2nd. But don’t worry  there will be EXCELLENT new content here all next week. And the best part  it’s all been written by YOU.

Starting next week I’m going to be posting our D*S Essay Contest Finalists. You’ll get to read incredible essays about HOME, written by members of our online community, and on Friday you’ll get to vote for your favorite. The winner will receive $500 and hopefully we’ll get to hear more from them (maybe here in post form, too!) online.

Whether you’re new to the site for the first time today or have been reading since the beginning, thank you for supporting Design*Sponge over the past 11 years. We cannot wait to get back to work and show you what we have in store. I have a feeling 2015 is going to be our best year yet. We’ll see you next week with our essay finalists and back here on Wednesday, September 2nd for our first week of regular blogging! Until then, have a wonderful end of your summer! xo, grace and everyone at D*S!

*image above via My Little Day

In the Kitchen With: Meike Peters’ Mediterranean Baguette

In the Kitchen With: Meike Peters’ Mediterranean Baguette

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Through Instagram, I eat dream meals every day from all over the world. If it’s not the breakfast project by David Hagerman, or the latest behind the scenes shoot by Matt Armendariz or Gaby Dalkin, it’s something equally wonderful, like the beautifully colorful images of Meike Peters, the voice and photographer behind the blog Eat in My Kitchen. I was hooked by her spicy cumin guacamole and bacon sandwich and asked her to come up with something just as enticing. She presented me with a Whipped Chèvre, Grape and Fig Baguette with Bacon, Honey and Thyme, influenced by the flavors of the fading Mediterranean summer. The sandwich is here just in time for those September figs, which should be appearing in the markets any time now. —Kristina

Why Meike loves this sandwich: When I started Eat in My Kitchen, I decided to share a sandwich recipe once a week — my Sandwich Wednesdays. It became a loved tradition; sandwiches have something utterly satisfying about them and — at the same time — they’re ultra quick to prepare (most of the time). I like them lusciously filled, a bit messy, and I always try to put the main focus on no more than three flavors. Here, it’s the sour note of creamy whipped chèvre, the sweet depth of ripe figs and dark grapes combined with the crisp bacon’s saltiness. Refined with syrupy honey and fresh thyme, it all goes in between a baguette — it’s a late summer sandwich feast inspired by a picnic in the south of France!

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Free Pattern Download from Willowmark: Friday

Free Pattern Download from Willowmark: Friday

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It has been such a treat to have Jen Lashek of Willowmark Works with us all week, sharing beautiful watercolor pattern designs she created just for DS. So far she has already shared four downloadable designs and today she’s back with the fifth and final pattern. This is my favorite of all five designs and I have already transformed my laptop background with this soft, geometric pattern. Thank you so much again to Jen for creating these for us this week. You can check out and follow more of her work right here on Instagram and CLICK HERE to download Jen’s final pattern design for all your tech devices (please note: these are for personal use only).

Before & After: A Big Sea of Bright

Before & After: A Big Sea of Bright, on Design*Sponge

Before & After: A Big Sea of Bright

When Giulia Doyle of Audrey’s 74 moved to Ottawa, Canada from Switzerland over a decade ago, she didn’t expect to find a carved antique armchair from her great-grandfather’s hotel for sale in her new city. The vintage piece now takes pride of place in a home she shares with husband Bruno and their two small children, along with endless refreshed details that brought the residence from “a big sea of brown” to a contemporary home for a vibrant young family. The 1,400-square-foot sidesplit was built in 1958, and when the Doyle family purchased it almost six years ago, they sought to undo the shoddy renovation work it had seen throughout the years in order to uncover its full period potential.

In the living room, a previous owner had installed an efficient wood-burning fireplace insert, but had unfortunately also added floor tiles to the walls and hearth. The Doyles knew from an earlier real estate listing that a white brick surround was hiding underneath, and they set out to restore its condition. They chipped away the tile and then the messy, dirty grout and mortar. The dust from this process permeated every room. Hours and hours of work finally revealed the storied white brick. Giulia has been debating painting the door’s brass edge, but has recently grown to like it. The couple searched far and wide for the perfect piece of artwork to hang above their masterpiece until Giulia’s grandparents gave her the 1960s Jean Le Beut landscape painting displayed there now. The frame features brass detailing, so its age and finish tie into the other elements of the space.

Updating creature comforts in a home of this age turned out to be more challenging than the couple anticipated. They hired professionals right after closing to swap out the oil furnace for a gas model, and to install ducting throughout most of the house for forced air heat and AC. The resulting obsolete wall-inserted radiators took years for them to remove because of all the patching, painting, and baseboard replacement needed (they sadly could not find a match for its original profile). The pair have been tackling one large project every year, and have many more ideas on the list.

But for now, Giulia is happy to have created a bright and friendly house that is safe, comfortable, and not too precious for kids. There are no “no-touch” zones here, and the four residents live in the whole house. They share every meal at the dining table, and Giulia uses that same room for her photography because of its great light. The space flows directly into the home’s living room, where the combination of its 10-foot-long windows with those across the way offer enveloping north, south, and west-facing views of the scenic neighborhood. —Annie

Photography by Giulia Doyle

 

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An Antique Connecticut Farmhouse Made Modern

An Antique Connecticut Farmhouse Made Modern, on Design*Sponge

An Antique Connecticut Farmhouse Made Modern

Two years ago, a fatigued driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into the 1780s Connecticut farmhouse of Haldan and Gina Block. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but the impact rattled the aged foundation supports below a windowed bump-out in what is now the home’s library. The brick columns were ultimately fixed, but the accident caused the house to shift just enough to crack the room’s old plaster walls. That stroke of bad luck turned good when, upon making repairs, the couple felt inspired to paint the walls black and create a serene reading nook of the space.

Even beyond mishaps, the homeowners are particularly well-suited to the types of modernization projects required of this 1,160-square-foot structure in the Lower Connecticut River valley. Both natives of the state, Gina is an art director and graphic designer at organic food company Jovial, and Haldan is a lead at Erik Block Design, the design-build firm founded by his brother. The couple’s combined knowledge makes them a great team for shaping the home with their needs in mind. Gina first showed Haldan a picture of this house from a real estate listing, and he joked that they should have a look at it quickly before it fell down. She took him seriously, and suggested they drive by when mountain biking nearby. They of course both instantly fell in love with it, the downtown Higganum area, and the pristine surrounding landscape.

When they bought the home six-and-a-half years back, they teased that they could throw the level away. The residence had undergone a renovation during the Victorian period, and then again in the 1980s, neither of which were sufficient for the Blocks’ lifestyle. During the first three months after closing, they added a bathroom on the second floor, remodeled the kitchen, and turned the downstairs bathroom into a half-bath on one end and a pantry on the other. They stripped wallpaper and painted rooms. They uncovered many pleasant surprises upon removing ceilings and walls. In the pantry and bathroom they found a foundation wall with many layers of concrete and stone. In the kitchen, they found the original structure including a half-log supporting the upstairs floor system.

One less-than-ideal feature of many historic homes is that they tend to have been built for smaller people. Haldan, who is 6’8″ tall, was at first unable to walk through doorways without hitting his head. Removing the kitchen ceiling made the house livable for him. A year ago, he and Gina raised the door openings in the upstairs hallway so that he could fit underneath, and now he can safely walk about the house. They have added their own modern touches, but have also incorporated materials salvaged from jobsites or from the house itself. The Blocks can tell that the home had been loved by all of its previous owners, and while they are fine-tuning each room to their own taste, are also focused on revealing as many treasured antique details as possible. —Annie

Photography by Haldan Block

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DIY Starbust ‘Wallpaper’ from Stamp Stencil Paint

DIY Starbust ‘Wallpaper’ from Stamp Stencil Paint

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Over the years we’ve had the honor of working with thousands of amazing crafters, artists and makers. It’s a joy to work with them all, but there are always a few that stand out in my mind- and Anna Joyce is one of them. Anna is a designer and teacher and the pure joy she feels about creating things by hand is infectious. She’s shared fantastic DIY posts with us and shared her personal business story, but today I’m thrilled to share an even better update: her very first book!

Anna’s first book, Stamp Stencil Paint comes out on September 8th and it is chock-full of beautiful- and easy- ways to stamp, stencil and paint on just about any surface you can think of, from walls and fabric to ceramics, furniture and paper.

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I received my copy in the mail yesterday and spent most of the night flipping through the pages and marking which projects I want to try during our summer break. Every project, even the more involved ones, feels approachable, friendly and doable. There’s not a single “there’s no way I’m going to do that” project in the book and each one feels like an invitation to get your friends and family involved in a fun way. That’s honestly what struck me so much about this book- that it feels like a great way to work together with the people you love to create a home that speaks to you. From DIY Wallpaper ideas (which we’re sharing here today) and make-it-yourself kitchen aprons to modern geometric pillows you can create while you watch a movie any weekend, Stamp Stencil Paint feels fun, practical and like a classic I will reference for years to come. The book comes with stencils and patterns in the back to replicate each project precisely, but I came away most inspired to use these ideas and tweak them a bit on my own to try custom versions of each project. It’s been a long time since I wanted to craft anything other than a good sandwich (this winter/spring’s home renovation projects wore me out), so that says a lot about this book’s content.

I’m so thrilled Anna is sharing my favorite project from the book with us today, DIY Starburst Stencil Wall Prints. I love the dark brown paint she used and it makes me want to break out the stencil paper and redo our living room right now using a deep copper paint. Until then, you can try the project after the jump, but you can also pre-order Anna’s beautiful book online right here. Books start shipping (and will be in book stores across the country) on September 8th! xo, grace

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An Old Home with a New Life in Tacoma, Washington

An Old Home with a New Life in Tacoma, Washington | Design*Sponge

An Old Home with a New Life in Tacoma, Washington

My mother instilled in me a maker’s mentality at a young age. She was a single parent that knew no limits. If I wanted new doll clothes, she’d hand me fabric. When my sister was about to get her license, my mom took a class and restored a junker ’61 Super Beetle into a beauty. I learned alongside her to reupholster a tufted sofa for my first apartment. I’ve both succeeded and failed with the idea that I can at least try to make things on my own. It’s one of my favorite traits I’ve received from her, and one I’d want to pass onto others. Just like my Mom, Lindy Dodge is a maker (and a blogger and instructor). The things she is inspired by, she learns to create herself. She has experience furniture-building, sewing, wood working, leather working, weaving, reupholstering, painting, home renovating, gardening and more. When she and her husband Travis, an engineer, found a home that needed to be restored before moving in, they went for it knowing that they would learn and change with the house.

Travis’ long commute started their search for a rental in Tacoma, WA. Their quest for an affordable apartment led them nowhere and started them on a quick mission to buy a fixer-upper. “Within 5 minutes of suggesting we buy a house, I had already found the one and quickly called on it. It was in need of EVERYTHING! The previous owners were a couple of old women (100 years old and 80 years old) in this huge old house that they couldn’t manage,” says Lindy. “But I looked past it all and couldn’t believe that something like this wasn’t out of reach – budget-wise and renovation-wise. I knew the second I saw that staircase that I needed to live there. The coffered ceiling and beams were a major pull as well. The next day we walked through it and the day after that we put an offer in and we have been gutting, renovating and living [in it] ever since.” Their home a is 3,000-square-foot, 103-year-old house. Lindy and Travis didn’t start with an easy first-go at renovating, but they have done an incredible job with the space.

Their home has the breezy, laid-back quality that they were hoping for. Linda and Travis have combined rustic, vintage, natural and modern elements together within their century-old, character-filled home. “We wanted to create a collected home that felt comfortable and natural and not ‘decorated.’ I realized that I had placed a lamp on a desk that didn’t have access to a plug, just because I liked the decoration of it and I quickly reminded myself of my goal – function and comfortable with an eclectic, cool vibe,” says Lindy. “I live in a home that was built with love and care and then brought back to life.” Travis and Lindy’s house has come alive because of their can-do, hands-on approach and what they have created with it is beautiful. —Lauren

Photographed by Candice Hackett

 

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DIY Canvas Magazine Hanger

DIY Canvas Magazine Hanger

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When I’m looking for inspiration I often head over to Pinterest or Instagram to keep up to date with current trends or look for ideas I can use within my own work. But more and more often these days I’m finding it’s advantageous to step away from the Internet and look for new ideas in more traditional ways. When I’m away from the computer screen I can have some of my best ideas and I particularly love flicking through old magazines for designs and techniques I can modernize and personalize to create something that feels fresh.

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While it’s great to have magazines on hand, storing them can become overwhelming. One way to overcome the clutter is to use them as decoration. This DIY magazine hanger has the added visual element of showing flashes of color on each side of the covers. I think this makes the magazines much more appealing to read and attractive to display. And it’s also a really easy DIY that you can customize to hold as many magazines as you like. -Fran

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Free Pattern Download from Willowmark: Wednesday

Free Pattern Download from Willowmark: Wednesday

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I’m happy to share day three of five beautiful designs that Jen Lashek of Willowmark Works has created for us. Today’s pattern is a pink, blue and yellow design that reminds me of my favorite swimsuits when I was little. I love all these soft washed-out colors. They may me want to run to the beach and soak up some sun and ocean time ASAP. Thanks so much to Jen for creating this for us! You can check out and follow more of her work right here on Instagram.

CLICK HERE to download Jen’s third day pattern design for all your tech devices (please note: these are for personal use only).

Life & Business: Cecily Mendell of Cecy j INTERIORS

Life & Business: Cecily Mendell of Cecy j INTERIORS

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When I first moved into my home, I designed my space around what looked good, rather than what functioned well. I think it’s an innocent mistake that many home-owners are guilty of; sometimes you don’t know how to set up a space until you see how you actually live in the space.

As a mother of two young boys and the principal designer behind San Fransisco interior design firm, Cecy j INTERIORS, Cecily Mendell realizes the importance of keeping the needs of a family in mind when designing a home, but that doesn’t have to mean sacrificing creativity and sophistication. Her interiors are a balance of practical, approachable and beautiful, all with a focus on being a space that serves family, friends, play and relaxation. Having started her career in finance where she experienced long hours and heavy expectations, she’s come a long way and now boasts clientele from San Francisco to Montecito, Los Angeles and San Diego. And those long hours? Well, they still happen from time to time, but the freedom and flexibility she now has to spend time with her family is priceless.

Whether hanging out at the beach, hiking in the mountains, swimming in lakes or participating in winter snow-sports with her sons and husband, the great outdoors is where she spends her down time, and also where ample inspiration comes from, which she chronicles on her blog. Today, Cecily is joining us to chat about the puzzle that is business, the importance of being scrappy, and how she turned a hobby into her career. –Sabrina

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Life & Business: Marilyn Schlossbach’s Three Rules To Live By

Life & Business: Marilyn Schlossbach’s Three Rules To Live By

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Life moves fast, and it’s easy to get caught up in the hum-drum and must-do’s of day-to-day life and forget the bigger picture. I, for one, am guilty of over-complicating things, so today’s Life & Business essay from Marilyn Schlossbach serves as a great reminder of a few, simple rules to live by (and ones that can be easily forgotten).

Marilyn Schlossbach grew up fun-loving and care-free, but when her mother fell ill, her life changed forever. While watching over her mother and how food healed her, her spark for all things culinary was set ablaze. Since then, she’s become the fabulous restaurateur behind four bustling Jersey Shore restaurants, as well as a surf and art gallery. In addition to her success in the food scene, what distinguishes Marilyn is her goodwill and involvement in the community. Since 2008, she’s offered free holiday meals to any and all in need on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter through her restaurant Langosta Lounge, she’s joined nonprofit organization Waves for Water to help bring clean water to villages throughout Nicaragua, she teamed with Interfaith Neighbors, a local non-profit, to spearhead the Kula Café, an on-the-job culinary training program and café and even founded her own non-profit, Food for Thought by the Sea, which offers free surf, yoga, gardening and cooking lessons to local children.

Despite her busy schedule, Marilyn always finds time to slow down and give back. She continues to be an inspiration to many, and today, we’re thrilled to have Marilyn share a personal essay on the three rules that she lives by (and ones we all should). –Sabrina

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Oakland, CA City Guide

Oakland, CA City Guide

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When I was in high-school, my home-town tripled in population in one year (which was record-breaking for North America). It was fascinating watching the soul and spirit of the town ebb, flow and grow. For Daniel Scovill and Adam Winig, this fascination is more of an actionable passion. Since 2003, they have been designing, developing and building as the Principal Owners of the architecture and design firm Arcsine, but today, they’re stepping back from their blueprints to tour us through Oakland, a town that continues to inspire them as it grows.

Adam’s attraction to Oakland is an electric one: he loves the up-and-coming energy it radiates and how — despite the countless things there are to do, see, eat and drink–, it feels like a small city. For Daniel, Oakland continues to lure him in with the variety it boasts: from the gritty and vibrant port and street art, to the incredible food and beverage offerings, entrepreneurial businesses, and the secluded trails in the Redwood Regional Park. Oakland always has surprised and gems to be discovered, and due to the location, being smack-dab in the middle of the Bay Area, it’s been an amazing place to grow their business. Today, Adam and Daniel are sharing their favorite Oakland locales and the places that inspire them throughout town, broken down by region. –Sabrina

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Pattern Saves the Day! Caitlin’s Paint + Pattern Office Makeover

The Before and After view from the main thoroughfare of the house. What a huge difference!

Pattern Saves the Day! Caitlin’s Paint + Pattern Office Makeover

For me, a pattern is almost always greater than the sum of its parts. Beautiful color combines with brilliant line-work to create something so over the top that it can transform a room instantly. Pattern always catches my eye and will always be my go-to element for adding something special to a space. That said, it’s really hard not to type the word “stripes” and immediately follow it with like twenty-five exclamation points. In my world, that word is always said or written with !!!!! There’s not a room or corner of our home that doesn’t embrace a good stripe in some way and I think it’s almost impossible to go wrong when you’re dealing with a bold and classic print.

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Free Pattern Download from Willowmark Works: Tuesday

Free Pattern Download from Willowmark Works: Tuesday

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Today Jen Lashek of Willowmark Works is back with a new watercolor pattern to download! Whether you use this to fill your computer, phone or tablet screen, these beautiful blue and purple pattern is sure to add some beachy-vibes to your tech time. Thanks so much to Jen for creating these for us. You can check out and follow more of her work right here on Instagram.

CLICK HERE to download Jen’s first day pattern design for all your tech devices (please note: these are for personal use only).