Life & Business: Nana Osei of Bôhten Eyeglasses

Life & Business: Nana Osei of Bôhten Eyeglasses

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I first discovered Bôhten when I saw them on Dragon’s Den (the original Canadian version of Shark Tank). Although he didn’t get an investment, founder Nana Osei’s business pitch, brand story and model resonated with me and countless others and a year later, CBC caught up with Nana in a Dragon’s Den update.

Bôhten’s journey started in the mountainous region of Kwahu, Ghana. Inspired by his Ghanaian roots, his love of nature, but mostly by his late grandfather Andrew Hanson Osei — Ghana’s first land surveyor in the 60s — Nana launched his eco-luxury eyewear line made from reclaimed wood sourced in West Africa. Not only are his eyeglasses socially and environmentally conscious (being handcrafted in a zero-waste facility), but the design and function is top of mind. Today Nana is joining us to share his unique business story! Sabrina

Photography by Fitzroy Facey Photography and J. Morren

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24 Hours in Marbella, Spain with Michelle Hastwell

24 Hours in Marbella, Spain with Michelle Hastwell

24 Hours in Marbella, Spain
Marbella is a culturally diverse city on the coast of the Andalucian region in Spain and, yes, is as romantically beautiful as you’d expect. Boasting on average over 320 days of sunshine a year, gorgeous beaches, more than 10 golf courses, cafes on almost every corner and a nightlife in the summer months to rival any major city, it’s no wonder Marbella attracts so many different kinds of people, including London-native Michelle Hastwell.

In between eating out, drinking tons of coffee, and raising her son (age 10) and daughter (age 7), Michelle runs a wedding and event decoration business, Gorgeous Event Decoration. As a business owner, she’s explored Marbella high and low, seeking out the best cafes, shops and attractions. Today, Michelle’s sharing her ideal 24 hours in Marbella, which she promises is “much more than champagne parties and celeb-spotting!” –Sabrina

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A 1930s Beach Cottage in Stratford, CT

In the main living area is a vintage range and marble fireplace surround that dates back to the 50s-era renovation. Unfinished oak floors and newly whitewashed joists in the ceiling date from the same period.

A 1930s Beach Cottage in Stratford, CT

So many stories of people and their homes involve some kind of happenstance, luck, the universe coming together — or whatever you’d like to call it. I believe that people and their spaces were often meant to be connected in some weird way. And it’s this hard-to-define phenomenon that brought Matthew Preston and his early 1930s beach cottage together.

Matthew is an urban planner turned business owner who imports specialty building products. When he first started Bridgeport Design Group, his planning and design firm, with his good friend and architect Nils Wiesenmüller, this beach home fell into their laps out of nowhere. “We were sitting in a diner one rainy November morning, when Nils stumbled upon a classified ad for a beach house for sale,” Matthew explains, “He called the number, and an hour later offered the owners their asking price!” And just like that, Matthew and Nils had a new project on their hands. The home wasn’t winterized and needed a lot of remodeling, but the space and the light were just magical and they fell in love immediately.

Matthew and Nils renovated the home on a shoestring budget, using salvaged materials wherever possible and only splurged on pigments from Kremer Pigments in New York. Above all, they wanted the place to still feel like a beach house when they were done with it. “So many of the cottages nearby have been ‘upgraded’ to death, with vinyl siding, wall-to-wall carpeting, central air conditioning, and big-screen TVs,” Matthew says, “[You] walk into some of them and you feel like you could be in a 1980s condo in Orlando, rather than on the beach in Connecticut.” So in staying true to the home’s history, they created a simple, peaceful place with a focus on the view, the light, the air, and the sound of the surf.

After Nils moved back to Germany, Matthew purchased the home from him to keep it “in the family” and now uses it as a much-needed retreat and rents it out on Airbnb, so you, too, can escape the frenetic world and reconnect with nature and friends. —Sabrina

 

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Modern Meets Rustic in a 1900s Farmhouse in Bell Buckle, TN

The mirror on the living room mantel is one of the first and most treasured heirlooms Elizabeth acquired. Her parents found the mirror when they moved into the home in which Elizabeth grew up. The home, which was built in the early 1800s, served as the small town’s first telephone company and as a boarding house for school teachers before sitting empty for several years, at which point Elizabeth’s family purchased and renovated the home.

Modern Meets Rustic in a 1900s Farmhouse in Bell Buckle, TN

I sometimes fantasize about moving to the country and living in an old farmhouse that allows for a slower, more intentional way of life. (I’d have dogs and barn cats and may even raise chickens in this dream of mine!) As it turns out, this dream was a mutual one that came true for Elizabeth Ulrich, her husband Will and their three dogs, Nigel, Mumford and Topher. As she explains, “We stumbled upon the listing for this farmhouse on Craigslist, and less than an hour later we were touring the space and agreeing to the lease!” The creaking floors, the beadboard walls, the tall windows and all of the original architectural details sold Elizabeth right away, and — before they knew it — they were moved into this 2,520-square-foot farmhouse, just an hour outside of Nashville in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.

Will is a teacher and runs a podcast network and Elizabeth is a stylist and interior designer who also owns a vintage prop house, Stockroom Vintage. They both work from home (when Elizabeth isn’t on set), so every room — from their bedroom, living room and even their kitchen — has to function as a clean, cozy, soothing workspace. But their home wasn’t always this picture-perfect. Every wall had to be repainted, the fireplace that was affixed with layers of crinkled tissue paper (eek!) had to be restored and the floors are still uneven, calling for wood shims under nearly every foot of furniture. It took a lot of work to fix up and it’s ever-evolving, but Elizabeth and Will like it that way. “We love adding pieces, changing up artwork and vignettes and keeping things fresh.” As part of this exercise in evolving design, Elizabeth plans to host styling workshop retreats at their home where fellow creatives will bunk up and come to relax, refresh and be inspired.

Though they’ve only lived in this rental home for just over seven months, it’s the perfect place for Elizabeth and Will, who love to cook, hang out in bed with their adorable dogs and go for lots of nature walks. And after such a long, cold winter, they’re looking forward to hosting many backyard summer get-togethers spent fireside (where’s my invite?!) –Sabrina

Photography by Alissa Saylor Photography

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Updates Around Our House Part 1+ The Big Move

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Updates Around Our House Part 1+ The Big Move

Last week’s post about the way we talk to each other online generated more deep and substantive conversation than I could have ever hoped for. Not only did I feel like I got to know so many of you better, I also got to hear more about what you’d like to see (and not see) from us here at DS. Those comments and heartfelt emails inspired us to do a few things. First, we’re launching two new columns here designed to further embrace — and give visibility to — the ups and downs of creating a home. One will focus on readers’ homes and how we can help each other through tough spots and another will focus on professional designers and how we can learn just as much from their mistakes and challenges as their triumphs. We’re working on interviews now, so stay tuned. And in the meantime, I heard your desire to see a more balanced representation of homes here on the site. We’re currently emailing hundreds of new people in a wide range of places and stages of life, but today I wanted to start with the most personal place of all (for me): our home upstate. I figured that if I want us all to be more comfortable with sharing the good and bad parts of our house online, I should start with my own.

Before I jump into our work so far, the biggest news around our house is this: Julia and I have decided to move upstate full-time! After almost four months of living here part-time we can’t believe how much happier we are. For me, I don’t think I realized how much living in the city affected me until we left. I breathe more easily. I snap less. I relax more. I take better care of myself and the people (and pets) I love. Living in New York City felt to me like being given the greatest gift with an expiration date. A part of me always knew I would move away at some point, when I was ready to let go of the fear of missing out, the pace, the competition and the “idea” of being at the center of everything. I still think New York is the most exciting and inspiring place to live, but my priorities changed and I know that everything I need is right here at home with me. So today I’m excited to welcome you into our home and share some of the things we’ve been working on so far. These photos aren’t professionally styled, altered or photographed. They’re what I snapped around the house this morning with my phone and represent how we live at home these days. xo, grace

*This post will share photos of downstairs and outside. Stay tuned for a peek upstairs later this week.

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Kate Zaremba Wallpaper

Matisse is my Muse Wallpaper by Kate Zaremba.

Kate Zaremba Wallpaper

This weekend I fell into an Internet research hole trying to figure out just how difficult DIY “faux” wallpapering really is. Just about everyone and their sister has pinned this gorgeous image of The Painted House’s DIY rollers and I’ve long dreamed about using them for a room in our house. But then I read this post on Remodelista and decided perhaps it’s better for me to stick to pre-made paper I don’t have to worry about smudging quite as much.

Now that I’ve gotten to dip my toes in the wallpaper pool (via our downstairs bathroom makeover), I’ve started bookmarking papers I’d like to try at some point. Last week I discovered Kate Zaremba’s wallpapers via our #dswallpaper challenge and I immediately loved their Matisse-inspired shapes and colors. Her collection has a wide range of styles, from more contemporary geometrics and line drawings to Ikat fabric-inspired patterns. But for me, the Matisse-inspired pieces are what really set her work apart. I love seeing wallpaper that isn’t afraid to be bold, bright and in-your-face. I think that sort of pattern is just what a small space needs to bring it to life. You can also always buy a single roll and use it for smaller-scale projects around the house, like lining dresser drawers and the backs of cabinets or bookcases. Click here to check out Kate’s work online and to place an order and click through to see seven of Kate’s great wallpaper designs. xo, grace

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Signing Off: My Favorite Posts & A Heartfelt Goodbye

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Signing Off: My Favorite Posts & A Heartfelt Goodbye

When I first started blogging in 2002, way back when unloading all of your teenage angst onto LiveJournal was all the rage, I don’t think I, let alone anybody, could have predicted the way that this medium would transform. Even as I went through high school, uploading photographs, videos, artwork, and musings to my TypePad site, I saw it more as a hobby — something that could be used as a creative outlet and a way to connect with people around the world — but never as an actual career or way of living. Flash forward over 10 years, and I find myself in the bizarre and brilliantly wonderful position of being able to put all of the random skills I had accumulated throughout my awkward teen years to use (who knew that futzing around with Blogger templates could have been so useful?), and in a way that lets me engage with some of the things I love most — art, food, design, and decor.

When I first started at Design*Sponge as an intern, I was thrilled to just be able to meet and talk to people who shared this strange conglomeration of nerdy interests, people who saw the internet and that oh so divisive vocation — Blogging — as something wonderful; a way to share personal opinions, beautiful findings, and creative projects. Throughout my time as an editor at this fabulous corner of the web, I have grown more than I ever thought possible, met some of the most awe-inspiringly talented people I could ever hope to meet, and had the opportunity to do something that is a rarity in this world: to do what I absolutely love and support myself doing it.

There is a moment in every situation, however, when it is time to move on. It is with a deep sadness, but a hopeful optimism that I let you all know that, for me, that time is today. Next week, I will be starting at a new job, as Creative Director at an interior design startup called Décor Aid. While I am so excited for what the future holds, there are no words to express how I am feeling right now; how grateful I am for all of the kindness, generosity, and support that I have received not just from my wonderful coworkers at Design*Sponge, but the entire Design*Sponge reader community as a whole. All I can say is that I see amazing, bright things on the horizon and have all the best thoughts for the future.

To Grace, our extraordinary, visionary Editor-In-Chief; to Caitlin, our tireless, passionate Brand Director; to Kelli, our wonderful Team Manager; to Kristina, Shannon, Sabrina, Garrett, Lauren, Francesca, Stephanie, Amy, Silka, Kate, and any of the other incredible individuals I have had the honor and pleasure of working with during my time here — thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You are all ROCK STARS and I am so happy to have met you.

This is, I hope, not the end of my relationship with Design*Sponge and its readers, but the start of something new. This will be my last post as a full-time member of the D*S team, but I have plans to pop-in to say hi and contribute on a freelance basis whenever possible. I would like to end my time here the way that I started: on a high note. I’ve put together a slideshow of some of my favorite projects that I have worked on while at Design*Sponge, from entertaining stories to home tours. Enjoy! xoxoxoxo —Max

[Editor’s Note: I’ve had the honor of working alongside over 40 writers during the past 10 years of running Design*Sponge. Each and every one of them has been a joy to work with and while we are all so sad to say goodbye to Max, we are so proud of him and wish him the best of luck at his new job. He is a bright and talented writer, designer and photographer and I can’t wait to see what this next chapter brings. xo, grace]

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15 Pies for Pi Day!

Chocolate isn't for everyone, so this Blackberry and Balsamic pie is perfect for anyone who prefers their pies on the tart side.

15 Pies for Pi Day!

Our fearless food & drink leader, Kristina, is out this week working on her cookbook (!!), so I’m filling in for her recipe column today. She’d probably prefer that I focus on something healthy, but because tomorrow is national Pi Day I thought I’d take the chance to embrace the Pi/Pie homophone and share my all-time favorite pie recipes! From chocolate chess pies to banoffee, citrus and shaker pies, there is something here for everyone. I’ve also included helpful recipes for making your own pie crust and gluten-free recipes for anyone who can’t have that on their menu. xo, grace

*Want to support the math community and math education in honor of tomorrow’s holiday? Click here to support the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics online.

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Home Ec: How to Save Your Plants (and your Money!)

OVER-WATERING: Let's start with the error I'm most guilty of - one too many visits with the watering can. I treat plants like members of the family and like to visit them throughout the day to see how they're fairing. No matter what they look like, I'm always convinced they need more water. Usually, they don't. HOW TO TELL IF YOU'VE OVER-WATERED: The leaves of your plant will look wilted even though the soil is moist. They'll also start to look pale yellow or have brown tips. Those are classic signs of over watering.  TO FIX: If you notice these signs, back off of watering your plants a few days until things dry out. Then slowly ease back in, making sure you water slowly and let the plant absorb, rather than flooding it.  [Photo Anna's Home Tour]

Home Ec: How to Save Your Plants (and your Money!)

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned over the past few years is to invest in things that last. Whether that’s well-made furniture or textiles that won’t shred after the first wash, waiting and saving to get something that will last for years has been worth it. When I was younger I was an impulse buyer, scooping up little things here and there in what was probably a misguided attempt to build an insta-home that felt filled and finished immediately. But I’ve learned that that most homes are never “finished” and most of the spaces we look at and love right away took decades to evolve and get there. So these days I’m all about finding ways to preserve the things I already have and fix, rather than replace, pieces around the house to not only save some money, but teach myself some new household skills. So for the next few weeks, I’ll be focusing on how to fix things around the house.

A few weeks ago I did a post on how to know which plants will do best in which parts of your home, and I got a ton of follow up emails from readers asking, “Yes, but how do we keep them alive after that?” It made me think about my own struggles to turn my black thumb into a green(er) one and the lessons I’ve learned from making sure my plant investments stay alive. So today I’m going to walk through some of the common problems with houseplants and how to fix them. Into every plant’s life a little over-watering, aphid and bug and mold drama might fall, but you don’t have to toss your plants – you can save them (and your money!) by bringing them back to life and health. xo, grace

 

This post and the Home Ec section are brought to you by Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day. Visit the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Home-Grown Inspiration section featuring 20 DIYs, including seven from Design*Sponge!

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Worley’s Lighting

Worley’s Lighting

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When Julia and I decided to move upstate, one of the things I was most excited about was having a space that had more natural light. Our kitchen is basically one giant beam of sunshine (which is how we both feel in that room, too) but the rest of the house is pretty dark, as it’s the original portion of the home, built way back in the 1850s. We’re just happy to be here, light or no light, but it’s starting to become silly that we basically use night lights to get around the rest of the house. So we’ve been eyeing good standing and table lamps lately and trying to find pieces that have classic lines mixed with a bit of modern style. A few weeks ago I came upon these lamps from Worley’s Lighting and they’ve been at the top of my list for our rooms. Their simple drum shades and beautiful bases (made of American walnut) are the sort of thing I like to save up for and invest in when I’m able to, because they aren’t so trendy or out-there that I’ll want to swap them out in a few years. I’ve been eyeing the Gwendolyn Desk Lamp as a possible bedside table solution, but they’ve got a slew of sweet-but-simple designs you can check out right here. All of Worley’s pieces are made in South Carolina at a family-run studio and packed and shipped on location. So if you’re looking to add some new lighting at home and want to support an independent company, click here to check out more of Worley’s Lighting online. xo, grace

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Before & After: Tiffany’s Workspace

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Before & After: Tiffany’s Workspace

In light of yesterday’s essay, I thought it would be nice to share a makeover story that was the product of slow change and work done in between work and juggling two small children. Blogger and stylist Tiffany Grant-Riley works from home and needed a space to get things done away from her main living area. She transformed this small room into a home office quickly at first, moving in furniture and necessities to get the job done, but then took her time working with what she had around her to transform her office nook into a space that spoke to her personal style. Inspired by Scandinavian minimalism and a bit of mid-century charm, she updated her 20s-era bureau and an old pine desk to create a clean, modern space where she could be at home — and work. Click through to check out the full process and details on her design choices. xo, grace

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Studio Tour: Nicholas Newcomb

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Studio Tour: Nicholas Newcomb

There’s nothing like going straight to the source to make you truly appreciate a work of art. I have long been an admirer of Nicholas Newcomb’s ceramic work, but a recent visit to his Brooklyn studio converted me to a lifelong fan. Nicholas’ work is beautiful in its simplicity, employing subdued palettes and elemental forms for a look that is both charming and timeless. Within this simplicity, however, is an amazing process and killer craftsmanship, both of which I had the pleasure of seeing firsthand during my studio visit.

While I flitted about Nicholas’ studio with my camera, documenting in-process works, tools of the trade, and all of the fabulous detritus that studios like this have to offer, he made sure to keep himself busy. As I came in for closer inspection, he gamely shared some insights into his process. I watched as he smoothed down the wobbly sides of a vessel, poured slip into molds, and used his fingers to create the ruffle-like waves on his Chatham bowls. Nicholas’ clear passion for his craft was infectious — and definitely made me wish I had picked up more skills from my college ceramics class. Check out all of the photos from my visit in the slideshow! —Max

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White Pots: A Meditation on Ceramics

White Pots: A Meditation on Ceramics

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you look at something happening and you feel like it’s somehow tied to your future in some way? I feel that way every time I talk to a potter or watch them work. The motions, the repetition, the slow and deliberate (but still light) movements they make on clay — all of those feel familiar and entrancing to me in a way that makes me feel like one day that will be a part of my life. There are some great pottery classes up here in the Catskills, so I’m hoping to start inching closer to that dream this year. Until then, I truly love watching potters at their wheels. There’s something so graceful and determined about their work, and the dedication required to get something from wet clay to beautiful, finished piece is admirable.

So today I’m very happy to share a video from Ayumi Horie, a potter I’ve admired for a very long time. Ayumi is based in Portland, ME and creates cups, plates, bowls, jars and much more that embrace traditional techniques and a decidedly modern bit of illustration. Of all the artists I’ve got stored away in my brain, Ayumi’s work has always been something I could spot and identify immediately — she’s got her own very special style. Ayumi recently launched a site and Instagram feed called @potsinaction to showcase the life of potters’ pieces after they leave the studio, and today she’s sharing a wonderful video she made to share more of her process and the thought behind her work and practice. Whether you’re a potter-in-the-making or just enjoy watching the beauty of a handmade design come to life, I hope you’ll enjoy this video as much as I did. Ayumi’s inspiration for this video is below, in her own words. xo, grace

“What goes into making handmade pottery? What then happens to handmade pots after they leave the studio? These two questions connect my two most recent projects: a video and a new Instagram feed called @potsinaction. This video reveals some of the most beautiful moments of making that happen behind the scenes. When the term “handmade” exists on such a spectrum these days, I wanted to show how working with a material as soft as clay, and so directly, can create an object that hopefully speaks of humanity through flaws in making. A finger swipe imprinted on the wall of a pot freezes a moment of play in time forever. My Instagram feed, Pots In Action, shows the life of handmade pots after they’re in private hands. I feature slices of domesticity and the best snapshots of pots brought along to work and on vacation. I like thinking about the span of the life of a pot from the intimacy of the studio to the crowdsourced contributions coming in daily from all corners of the world.”

*Video Credits: Molly Spadone (Studio Assistant), Michael Wilson (Director and Filming), Chloe Beaven (Video and Sound Editing), Miles Beaven

DIY Balloon Centerpiece

DIY Balloon Centerpiece

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There are few things I love more in life than fresh flowers and plants. They make me happy and they remind me of the outdoors, but they can also cost a small fortune. Most ethically produced flowers are worth their high price tag, but that’s definitely not within most people’s budgets on a regular basis. Many of you have been writing to request projects that use everyday craft store materials, so I’ve been working with our team of DIY contributors to come up with a series of posts that suggest fun, DIY alternatives to areas of our lives that might traditionally call for something pricier, like flowers. Obviously fake flowers can be used as a substitute, but sometimes it’s fun to find an inexpensive spin on a decorating concept and try something a little different.

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Today’s project comes from Luft Balloons, a team that knows a thing or two about working with balloons. Their founder, Elaine Frei, decided to share this project with us when we asked how balloons —  which are readily available and inexpensive to use — can be used to create a festive tabletop centerpiece for dinner with friends and family. Her answer was this “grownup” centerpiece that sticks to a refined greyscale palette. I love the idea of doing something similar for an at-home wedding, but this would be a fun way to welcome guests for a special dinner, too. Keeping the color palette neutral (or all one color) will make the balloons feel more whimsical and fun than childish. xo, grace

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Anatomy Lesson: Our favorite body part designs

Clockwise from top left: Poppy Lissiman's Evil Eye Clutch; Leif Shop's Hands Pillow; Universal Isaac's Dash Pot; Jonathan Adler's Brass Finger Coat Hook; Seb Brown's Hannibal Ring.

Anatomy Lesson: Our favorite body part designs

We interrupt your daily feed of Design*Sponge goodies to bring you this important message: Don’t panic, but the design world may or may not be in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. No, I’m not referring to the back-from-the-dead return of Postmodernism or the reclaimed wood trend that refuses to die (not that we would ever want it to!). My cause for concern is that all of the sudden, everybody seems to have a mad, hungry craving for BODIEESSS! From Isaac Nichols’ fabulously nip-tastic ceramics (NSFW?) and Ellen Porteus’ patterns of hands to straight-up gruesome limb-strewn prints by Faye Moorhouse, disembodied human body parts are all the rage these days. Not that we’re complaining. In all honesty, with designs this cute, consider us bitten. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite new human body-themed designs — dig in! —Max

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