Halifax, Nova Scotia City Guide

Halifax, Nova Scotia City Guide

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Katie Tower grew up in a suburb just outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia’s downtown core. “The community I lived in is part of the amalgamated Halifax Regional Municipality (similar to the GTA),” Katie explains, “which was recently renamed to just Halifax.” A freelance art director and designer, Katie has called the North End of the city home for just over two years.

“Halifax has really awesome community vibes,” she says, “It’s a city that feels like a small town and, if you’ve lived here long enough, it’s pretty much impossible to walk down the street and not see a familiar face.” With a strong music and creative scene and lots of small businesses popping up all of the time, it’s an extremely walkable coastal city with a bustling downtown waterfront — especially in the warmer months. And if you ever grow tired of the city life, just a short drive away you’ll stumble across a ton of amazing beaches, lakes, and other rural wonders. Today, Katie is virtually touring us through this great and diverse Canadian city. Enjoy! –Sabrina

Photography by Katie Tower

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Paint it Black: 15 Bold and Beautiful Dark Walls

Gwen Hefner's dining room is impressive (and as she admits, over-the-top) without being too stuffy or overtly so. Painting the walls in a rich black celebrates her home's traditional bones while offering a modern twist and a great supporting foundation to the gigantic mural illustration of the Aosta Valley in Italy. The room is both confidently bold and welcoming.

Paint it Black: 15 Bold and Beautiful Dark Walls

For a considerable amount of time, whites and neutrals dominated the interior space — and, admittedly,  still continue to, whether you’re a lover of the trend or not. But one thing’s for certain: As much as I love a clean, minimal space, there’s no reason why that aesthetic can’t be accomplished using white’s counterpart: black (or close to). I personally love the hue (or lack thereof) and how, when done right, it instantly grounds a room, makes it feel deliberately finished, adds character, and becomes a fantastic backdrop for your art, furniture and life.

If you’ve thought about painting it black and previously shied away from the idea, think again! These 15 dynamic and bold rooms showcase black (or nearly black) in all of it’s beautiful nuances and demonstrate just how different you can make a dark room look and feel — from a classic bathroom to a playful bedroom. –Sabrina

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12 Storage Ideas for Under Stairs

It has always been my dream to have hidden storage like this. It feels like a secret doorway, but it's actually just a neat and tidy way to organize everything from hats, coats and gloves to pantry goods. This sort of design requires some custom carpentry, but it's a feature that makes a home feel special and well thought-out. Design and photo by Miles Enterprises.

12 Storage Ideas for Under Stairs

This weekend we visited the new (but very old) home of friends of ours who previously lived in Brooklyn. They took the leap and bought a beautiful home from the 1850s and are now in the process of planning their full list of “to-dos” at home, from big to small.

One of my favorite features of their home is a grand staircase right past the front door that has some awkward storage space underneath. Most people would probably stick a coat rack there and call it a day (and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that), but this little space felt rife with potential for something really special. I immediately started sketching custom-built cabinetry and hidden storage in my head, so I ran home and started this roundup for them to get the ideas flowing. They certainly aren’t the only ones who could benefit from a little creative under-stair storage (it’s a great place to hide cat litter boxes!), so I threw in one of my favorite hidden cat spots, too! xo, grace

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Statement Pieces Breathe New Life Into a New Jersey Victorian

Statement Pieces Breathe New Life Into a New Jersey Victorian, Design*Sponge

Statement Pieces Breathe New Life Into a New Jersey Victorian

That one piece. We all have it. The day you found it, you were probably skipping through a shop, and in a flash everything went dark and there it stood. A lamp. A sofa. A mirror. Whatever it was, I’m sure it came home with you, and an entire room was built around it. For me, it was a blue velvet sofa. A couple years ago it was on super clearance, and I didn’t even measure it before giddily snatching it up. Luckily the sofa fit, and since then, it has informed every design decision I’ve made for my home. Put simply, it’s the pièce de résistance of my place, and I’m not alone in my strategy. Joey and Mark of Ball & Claw Vintage have decorated each one of their New Jersey Victorian’s rooms around unique statement pieces.

When Joey’s job left Manhattan and relocated to Jersey City, neither he nor his partner, Mark, were convinced they should leave behind their Brooklyn home and start fresh. To help them decide, the couple took a drive out to visit the area and were quite surprised by what they found. The Park Slope-esque neighborhood was much more metropolitan and fun than they had imagined. On the quick jaunt, Mark and Joey chanced upon a local who recommended his real estate agent and *poof* insta-home! Featuring 5 bedrooms and 4 baths, parquet floors, stained-glass windows and many other gorgeous original details, the home the agent showed them was a stunner for sure.

A short time later, the couple’s Brooklyn home was on the market and the keys to the new Victorian were in their hands. From the get-go, the guys set out to modernize – but not compromise – the integrity of their gorgeous new space. It was built in the late 1880s, and as with any old home, it came with its quirks. New wiring, updated plumbing and general cleaning-up took place before the real fun began: decorating. On weekends, these two vintage-lovers drove all around the Northeast tracking down stellar finds. The home’s two stunning fireplaces, as well as eclectic rugs and doors, are just a few of the fun and unusual touches they picked up.

Each of these statement pieces have greatly inspired every inch of the space that surrounds them. As visitors walk from one room to the next, they see that each one is decorated in a different color and style but always with the eclectic touch the couple is known for. “We love when people say they feel like they are in a museum whenever they walk through. We especially love to use lots of color, large art pieces, plants, and textiles when decorating a room,” they share. They couldn’t imagine being able to create a home so personal and inspirational with new construction or inside a giant condo, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s the original quirks and unique finds that make this particular home sing. Click through to see more, and enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Jen Chanyi

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Monday Mood: Small, But Mighty

Monday Mood: Small, But Mighty

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Dream big, start small is my mantra today, and going into this week, I’m inspired to make small changes now that will have big impacts later. On a small scale, I’ve been putting a pinch of baking soda in my morning coffee lately to combat the acidity — and it’s done wonders for my sensitive tummy. On a medium-sized scale, I’m forever-tweaking my home with tiny transformations to make it function better. And on a large scale, I’m newly engaged (!!!) and trying to make small choices now that might save me stress in the long run.

Call it efficiency — call it delayed gratification — it’s all about making the most with what you’ve got, and discovering the small things you can do now that save you oodles of time and/or heartache later. Be kind to yourself and give it a try! Setting the tone this week are a handful of small bit mighty ideas on everything from combatting bedhead and organizing your bottomless pit of a handbag, to making the most of every nook in your home and little tweaks that will change how you live. —Sabrina
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Best of the Web + Dusen Dusen for Paperless Post

Best of the Web + Dusen Dusen for Paperless Post

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Two years ago, Max did a great piece on the revival of Memphis-era design trends. Giant squiggles, geometric shapes, and bold primary colors were popping up everywhere — and one of our favorite artists exploring the modern interpretation of that style was Ellen Van Dusen of Dusen Dusen. I loved Ellen’s last collection (modeled by Aidy Bryant), so I was excited to hear that she was launching a new capsule collection with Paperless Post.

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The Dusen Dusen for Paperless Post collection has 10 brightly-colored invitations inspired by rooftop parties and late-night dancing. Each design features a vivid graphic and/or geometric pattern that feels perfect for summer parties. I love seeing all of these colors after a cold winter of neutrals, so these are going on my wish list for any summer soirees. Click here to check them out online and to order. xo, grace

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In the Kitchen With: Great Lower-Carb Dishes

In the Kitchen With: Great Lower-Carb Dishes

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As the food editor here at Design*Sponge — and a passionate home cook, and an avid cookbook reader — when I hear that someone is making significant dietary changes, I am interested in understanding what options are available to them, how easy the transition is, and whether preparing the food presents any challenges. Lately, it seems that the number of people in my life who have turned to a low-carb diet for health reasons is growing. I’ve spent a lot of time going through my cookbooks to find low-carb recipes, and trying them myself.

This week, I thought I would post a roundup of some of my favorite lower-carb recipes from the column over the past year for those of you who may be looking for new dishes to try. If you have any requests for any particular type of dish, please let us know and we will gladly include them on the column! —Kristina

Image above: Sundays are Pad Thai days at my house, but the rice noodles are a deal-breaker for low-carb diets. Luckily, Laura Wright created a Raw “Pad Thai” Salad that can sub in. Laura loosely nicknamed her salad a “Pad Thai” for its seasoning which is hot sweet and sour, like the best Pad Thai, and she made the noodles from vegetables.

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A Kid-Friendly and Fashionable Home in Chicago

A Kid-Friendly and Fashionable Home in Chicago, Design*Sponge

A Kid-Friendly and Fashionable Home in Chicago

When you have young children, not many items in your home can be too precious. The second you get a tablescape designed or a bed made, the kids come barreling in with messier things in mind. That being said, designing a stylish and functional space sometimes leaves parents feeling a bit perplexed. Crystal Blackshaw and her husband Leon are no strangers to this challenge — they’ve got two creative girls running around their Chicago, IL home. When it came time to outfit the apartment they all share, the couple will admit that they, too, were a bit stumped as to how to balance fashionable designs with functional ones.

The Parisian-style home’s “parquet floors, plaster walls, arches and large picture windows overlooking the lake” caught the family’s eye immediately. All of these pretty elements beg to be shown off and couldn’t be paired with just any-old decorations. “With this apartment, I wanted to contrast the vintage bones with modern touches,” Crystal says. It simply wasn’t practical for Crystal and Leon to accomplish this with expensive heirloom pieces, though. Instead, they’ve combed through Craigslist, IKEA and eBay, seeking out affordable alternatives that if broken or worn out wouldn’t break the bank to replace. One such find was the modern IKEA shelving in the living room. The girls’ books are stored here by color: a great tip for maintaining organization amongst chaos. The same can be said for the design of the girls’ bedroom. Similar – yet slightly different – bedding and headboards give them each a unique spot to call their own. The subtle symmetry of the space also helps trick the eye into thinking their room is tidy, even when it’s not.

The backdrop to all of this fabulous design is an unassuming, matte-white paint job. Now, all it takes is a quick wipe to remove all the ooey-gooey fingerprints the Blackshaw kids leave behind. Being able to provide their daughters this carefree ability to have fun is what Crystal and Leon savor most about their space. Click through to gaze at the rest of the colorful, kid-friendly and fashionable home. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Neighborhooding & M Lindsay Photography

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A Spring Pre-Mother’s Day Celebration with Mom Friends

To mark the spot for new friends who hadn't been to my home before, I hung the Mother's Day card my daughter gave me last year.

A Spring Pre-Mother’s Day Celebration with Mom Friends

With spring finally arriving and the flowers in full bloom, I thought it would be fun to spend a Saturday afternoon out on the porch and in the yard with my fellow mom friends as a sort of pre-Mother’s Day celebration. Being an introverted homebody, I’ve always been a bit shy when it comes to making new friends, but in the past year, I’ve been lucky enough to discover a wonderful group of women who also happen to be moms. Until this year, I was usually found awkwardly standing in the back of the crowd at school pick-up.

Last summer, I had my first dinner gathering with my amazing neighbors here on Princess Street. There were several empty homes for sale that were suddenly populated with the best neighbors one could hope for. This year, I stepped outside my comfort zone once again (thanks, Sabrina!) and invited some fellow moms over for a pre-Mother’s Day get-together.

Since I live in West Virginia and we finally got a Target store within 20 minutes of my house, I can usually be found there late on Saturday nights when Viola, my nine-year-old, heads off to Grandma’s for the weekend. This spring, I noticed some really beautiful marble pieces at Target that fit my annual spring refresh budget. I usually find some great, affordable pieces in the Threshold line and a lot of my basics are from the Room Essentials range. This season’s collections feature more classics than seasons past, so I stocked up on some affordable, luxe pieces with stripes and marble galore.

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 Image above, clockwise: Inspiration from the Ladies of Forêt: Table seating for those moms who rarely sit at the table without a child on their lap! | A classic ladies luncheon dish: Chinese Chicken Salad from Giao Trac | My garden caddy used as a planter atop my favorite marble topped table/bench from Target | Fresh peonies, finally! | Fresh cherries and strawberries | Picnic-style seating with my new throw blanket, cutting board and seat cushion from Target.

I was more than happy to pull some of my new finds outside for our porch party to break them in with my lady friends while we swapped R-rated stories and snacked on delicious food — with no Goldfish crackers or ranch dip in sight. Click through to see our roundup of our favorite Target picks for spring and Erin Gleeson’s mouthwatering Watermelon Salad recipe after the jump! Here’s to moms and mom friends everywhere!

This post is brought to you by TargetStyleShop the new Home collection in stores and online.

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Before & After: An Esquire Magazine Library

Before & After: An Esquire Magazine Library, on Design*Sponge

Before & After: An Esquire Magazine Library

Longing for a grown-up space in which to house the artifacts of their special family history, Sarah and Archie Smart tasked Residents Understood with creating an elegant den — in a spare room previously filled with a random assortment of toys belonging to their two young children. Jessica Centella and Kiera Kushlan, the principals at the Washington, DC design firm, sought to bring the 275-square-foot room back to its original 1936 Colonial-style glory, with some contemporary flair added for good measure.

Archie’s grandfather David Archibald Smart co-founded the men’s lifestyle publication Esquire in the 1930s, and left him with an incredible collection of magazines and family photos matching the age of the home. The couple wanted to transform their bonus room into a space worthy of displaying the family’s rich story. Taking cues from the original millwork, built-in storage was added for the many magazine volumes. The room’s heavy wooden finishes and paneling remain for budgetary reasons, but were modernized and highlighted by a few generous coats of deep navy blue paint. Additional built-ins mirroring those on the fireplace wall provide floor-to-ceiling book storage while bringing balance to the room.

In a small area built for lounging, the furnishings needed to be comfortable but not bulky — so a large leather sofa is balanced by a sleek, tufted grey model across the way. Unique architecture left little wall space on which to display framed photos, so clearing an area behind the seating results in the creation of a personal gallery. Finally, a colorful shag rug, faux fur throws, and shiny accents add warmth and texture to the scene. Both Sarah and Archie now have a space to call their own – one fit for a refined gentleman or woman alike. —Annie

Photography by Bonnie Sen

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Answering The Door When Opportunity Knocks with Arianne Foulks

Answering The Door When Opportunity Knocks with Arianne Foulks

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Many people see successful business owners as people who got lucky, but if I’ve learned anything from this column and the book Outliers, it’s that, sure, luck can happen. But those people who know how to take advantage of that luck — creating and seizing opportunity after opportunity — are the ones who become success stories.

For Arianne Foulks, what started as a hobby of creating zines and designing websites for pals came at just the time when those things became popular and desired in society in the late 90s. And seize that timely opportunity, she did! Arianne may not have known exactly how to implement money transactions into an online website at the time, but she knew enough to build on, and year after year, she accepted every challenge she could get her hands on, learning as she grew.

Today, Arianne continues to help creative businesses set up their online shops through Aeolidia (which her company jokes is Latin for “awesome”), a one-stop shop for all your brand’s needs, from logo and brand identity, to web design and development, to helping you through the steps that come next. Please join me in welcoming Arianne aboard to share about learning how to recognize an opportunity when you see one, being a problem-solver, and navigating changes to your business. –Sabrina

Photography by Jen Lacey

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What’s In Your Toolbox: Grace D. Chin

What’s In Your Toolbox: Grace D. Chin

What's In Your Toolbox: Grace Chin, on Design*Sponge

With a fiber artist mother, Grace D. Chin grew up in a home where creativity was not just encouraged, it was an integral part of life. It comes as no surprise that as an adult, Grace’s own multimedia explorations range from printmaking, to drawing and paper sculpture. After graduating from the University of Kansas, she has stayed in the town of Lawrence and reconnected with her crafting roots, making paper flower wreaths with messaging that explores intersectional feminism. “It’s all about fighting negative forces in the world and in ourselves by using words. I sincerely believe in the power of internalizing and imbibing positive messages,” she explains. “It was satisfying to translate those ideas into real objects. I’m still pleased and honored that people want to keep the words and the work in their homes.”

Grace uses the time spent in her studio as an opportunity to be vulnerable and honest with herself, finding that this process often allows people “to say something you weren’t able to before.” There is no need for rigid organization during these unscripted moments. “I’ve just accepted that when I’m onto something good, my desk is going to be chaos,” she jokes. Believing that physical movement stimulates creativity, Grace explores her environment to harness “the power of the mind at rest. Wandering is good for the mind.” —Annie

Photography by Kelsey Hunter

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Modern Calling Cards for Life + Business

My new tools of the trade: spring tulip, new glasses, my Luxe business cards and my trusted pencil.

Modern Calling Cards for Life + Business

Grace and I met up in Philly two weekends ago for some much needed face time and to check out this year’s Sweet Paul Makerie event at the amazing Urbn campus, the headquarters for Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and other sister brands under the Urbn umbrellas. At dinner on the evening before the big event, we were talking about business cards and the fact that, well, we don’t really have them. In today’s hyper-tech environment, we tend to make new acquaintances and build relationships online. Sometimes it’s years before we meet an old friend face to face.

In everyday life, however, I’m always running into someone I’d like to stay connected to for personal and professional reasons, but I’ve always been hesitant to whip out the standard business card because it just doesn’t feel right. Instead of sharing something genuine, I feel like the exchange of businesses cards can turn a budding relationship into a networking encounter or a stale ritual. Right around that time, Moo reached out to share with us some new designs and embellishment options for their business cards. Think Gold Foil and Spot Gloss accents! My fear of the dreaded card exchange all but disappeared.

My final four choices: Criss Cross from the Gold Foil collection, Hello from the Luxe collection, What’s the Angle from the Gold Foil collection, and Notebooks No.2 from the Luxe collection. I love the look and feel of all of them, but ultimately decided on the friendly color and font driven Hello range.

I did a little research on the history of the calling card because, even though I knew they were popular during the uptight Victorian peroid, the name calling card seems closer to what I wanted to accomplish when handing over a card with my contact information. (See some gorgeous examples of calling cards from the 1800s in the slide show above.) While I didn’t want to drop my calling card off with the butler, I did want it to be a thoughtful exchange and to express something about myself and my company, beyond simply my name and email address.

I love these calling cards from the late 1800’s, although I'm thankful that we're no longer bound to the social rigidity of that period. The flourish and formality reflects the era. I learned that there was an entire initials code to express reasons for delivering the card to a residence. For example, a lower case p period, r period meant (p.r.) meant you were expressing thanks to the recipient. It stood for the French phrase pour remercier, meaning to thank.

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DIY Spring String Light Garland

DIY Spring String Light Garland

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I’ve been patiently waiting for the longest winter ever to end — and for spring’s floral bounty to arrive. With all the bright poppies and versatile viburnum in full bloom, I just want to put them everywhere!

The spring weather also has me back in the groove of entertaining — which basically entails hanging out with friends and a pitcher of sangria on the fire escape. It’s a venue crying out for some fun decor. So for this project, I’m using my favorite spring blooms in a garland wound around a string of twinkling fairy lights. The perfect cure for spring fever, not to mention providing an easy touch of seasonal pizazz. —Gwendolyn

Photography by Ella Ordona

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A Clothing Designer and Illustrator’s Industrial Loft in San Francisco

A Clothing Designer and Illustrator's Industrial Work/Live Loft in San Francisco, CA

A Clothing Designer and Illustrator’s Industrial Loft in San Francisco

For most, what you do dictates not just what’s in your bank account, but it can influence who you are and how you live. For Lily Harris, her profession did more than impact where and how she lives, it spawned a dream that she’s now seeing through in her downtime — one that follows her while she’s relaxing on her sofa, and one that finds its was into her closest relationships.

Located in sunny San Francisco, CA, this industrial live/work loft is home to Lily, her boyfriend Llew Mejia and their Cornish Rex cat, Maybe. By day, Lily designs children’s clothing for Old Navy and by night, she designs sophisticated handmade-to-order womenswear through Lily Stan Studio. Llew is a textile designer and illustrator and together, the pair is more than just a happy couple; they are a creative and collaborative force that riff off each other on the daily, making their live/work loft apartment an ideal space for work and play.

Built in the early 2000’s, the couple made this their home two years ago after a very short search. Its resemblance to a gallery space — with all-white walls and a contrasting black industrial staircase — hit the mark, despite being in a less-than-desirable neighborhood. After shipping their furniture from Minnesota (where they lived prior), it quickly became clear that while the layout worked in theory, it didn’t work so well in practice. “After a few months, we realized that the way we had set up our space was not conducive to getting quality work done, so we sold all of our furniture in order to start fresh,” Lily explains. With two main goals — function and flaunting their personalities — they kept the walls white and layered in textures too add warmth: sheepskin rugs, large wood pieces, plants, artwork, and a massive comfy sofa that Lily refers to as “a bean bag chair for adults.” Although the space is perfect for how they live now, Lily admits, “I don’t think our space will ever be finalized. We both have ever-changing interests, so I don’t see our taste in objects or books staying the same forever.”

Since moving in, a lot has changed for Lily beyond her interior belongings. After launching her first collection last year, she received attention from global brands such as Refinery 29Urban Outfitters, and W Magazine — and the momentum hasn’t slowed since. Just recently, she launched her second collection, which is meant to be layered and added atop her pieces from the first collection. “My work is really just me making what I want to wear,” she begins, “It does not come out every season like most fashion does because I do not find myself needing a wardrobe reboot every season. I prefer to have a collection of clothing that I can wear together, that layer nicely, and that I can continue adding to.”

Despite the perks of working from home, their situation does pose some challenges. “In living and working in the same space with Llew, it becomes hard to motivate ourselves to work as much as we did before we moved in together,” she shares. “Especially when we know that we could just hang out with each other all day, watch Netflix, and eat snacks in bed… It’s an ongoing challenge to get ourselves to work as much as we did before, but we’ll get there!” They also long for a backyard and outdoor space, wish they could renovate their bathroom to work better for them (it’s currently a large wheelchair accessible space from the previous owners), and are irked that they only have one closet and no laundry. But qualms aside, Lily and Llew are thankful to be living in California and to have a generous amount of space that they can enjoy, from mornings “at the office” to TV in bed at night. –Sabrina

Photography by Ashley Batz

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