Color Stories We Love: Pink & Red

The natural hues of fresh beets and flowers look perfectly at home on top of this classic pink backdrop. This image comes from the delightful Denai Jones' Instagram feed.

Color Stories We Love: Pink & Red

In a month filled with tons of pinks, reds and everything in between, I’m always pleasantly reminded of my favorite childhood outfit that I wore every single day for a whole month when I got it back in the day. I wore a uniform to school, but I’d change into my maroon and pink striped mock turtleneck and matching pants with pink heart patches on the knees as soon as I hit my bedroom after school. Why this outfit held so much charm for me, I don’t remember, but the colors have remained favorites of mine ever since the tender age of six. Today we’re taking a field trip through one of our favorite color stories ever — pink + red. Grab your lunch and meet me in the back of the bus! –Caitlin

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10 Great Kitchen Islands

10 Great Kitchen Islands | Design*Sponge

10 Great Kitchen Islands

It’s always fascinating how social changes can affect the way we want to live and use the space in our homes. One of the most noticeable changes in recent decades has been the shift from separate kitchens to a preference for open-plan layouts. While cooking used to be confined to a space that was isolated from social activities, time in the kitchen is now seen as one of the social highlights of home life. With new preferences that blur the line between cooking and living spaces, the kitchen island has developed into a much desired and loved part of every spacious or open-plan kitchen.

Kitchen islands can offer everything we want from our modern day kitchens, from generous counter space and storage to seating for family members or guests who want to join the fun. They also give us more opportunities to be creative with our kitchen designs. These 10 great kitchen islands all add something special to their respective spaces and prove that options for creating unique focal points are endless. They do have one thing in common though — they truly make these kitchens feel like the heart of the home. —Sofia

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Before & After: Two Bedrooms Go from Dark to Doused in Color

Before & After: Two Bedrooms Go from Dark to Doused in Color, Design*Sponge

Before & After: Two Bedrooms Go from Dark to Doused in Color

Designer Solana James and her husband are huge fans of fixer-uppers. So much so that, when looking for a new home, they only considered options they could really sink their teeth into. The more outdated, rundown and “ugly,” the better. Luckily for this couple, they found the perfect option in Northampton, MA. Wood paneling, dingy carpet and a general lack of cheerfulness were the name of the game in this house before the pair flipped its nursery and their bedroom.

These two understand the power of a paint job and a nice floor. That being said, they began the renovation process by dousing both rooms in new hues and replacing both spaces’ old carpet with wood flooring. Solana is a vintage collector, so after this renovation it wasn’t too hard to track down accessories and thrift store finds to pepper throughout the revamped rooms. All they had to do was “shop” the rest of their home and some of their go-to stores to find pieces to fill in the blanks of the nursery and bedroom. It was as simple as that.

All-in-all, the nursery and bedroom makeovers prove that Solana is one gal who is not afraid to be bold. There’s hardly a neutral in sight. Even the white, tan and black finds she did incorporate have been jazzed up with a happier hue to help them fit her rainbow-esque point of view. One thing’s for sure: this style has created two spaces that are full of fun. Click through to see both transformations and to read more about how Solana and her husband flipped these beige spaces on their heads. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Solana James

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12 Wallpapers That Celebrate Nature

https://shop.miltonandking.com/shoreline

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12 Wallpapers That Celebrate Nature

Since wallpaper sets the mood in a space, I thought wintertime was the perfect time to gather a dozen examples that take inspiration from the natural world. These 12 wallpapers would brighten any room in any season, but in the midst of the grey days of early February, they seem especially cheerful — and they’re a welcome reminder that spring is only a couple months away. If your tastes run a bit more neutral, be sure to click through to see the black and white options that pay homage to the moon, the stars and the stone below our planet’s surface! —Caitlin

Image above: Shoreline by Milton & King + Poppytalk, part of their Tastemakers collaboration collection

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A Modern-Day Neighbor in Old Rothesay

A Modern-Day Neighbor in Old Rothesay, on Design*Sponge

A Modern-Day Neighbor in Old Rothesay

While working on other people’s homes all day, Brittany and Jeff Kitchen, founders of Vantage Build home design and construction, found the perfect location for their own abode after scouting lots for a year. The property sits on a quaint tree-lined street in Rothesay, New Brunswick, Canada, dotted with classic homes and a view of the Kennebecasis River. The Kitchens’ own dream modern-lined home needed to fit within the context of revived turn-of-the-century neighbors that would surround it, without the new build sticking out. “We always gravitated towards a mid-century style home and had trouble finding one we could purchase in the past,” Brittany shares, “So we decided to create one!” The entire design/build process took six months, completed in-house by their small and mighty team.

At first, some of the neighbors were not overly pleased this home was being built, with many objecting to the modern aesthetic. As the design took shape and the Kitchens moved in, they felt a definite shift in the community perception. “Neighbors became more positively engaged and interested in what was happening next, strangers were dropping by to ask where we were sourcing materials from, and we actually made new friends as a result,” Brittany explains. “It was really rewarding to see the community rally with us.”

The home provides an ideal lifestyle for the couple and their pup, Ruby. It’s not too big, has a highly functional layout that allows for comfortable entertaining with friends, family, and their pets. When not at home, the location is within walking distance to the office, parks for dog walks, and wooded trails to keep up with their active and social lives. —Annie

Photography by Jordan Mattie

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Black History Month Spotlight: Amina Mucciolo

Black History Month Spotlight: Amina Mucciolo

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There are few people in the design community who represent happiness, color and fun the way Amina Mucciolo does. Her upbeat attitude, confidence and fearless embrace of sparkle and shine have made her one of my favorite women in business to follow online. So for today’s Black History Month spotlight, I’m focusing on Amina and her smile-inducing work at Studio Mucci. Read on after the jump to learn more about Amina and her work — and catch an excerpt of her interview from In the Company of Women! xo, grace

Photography by Sasha Israel for In the Company of Women

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How to Be An Active Ally for Refugees and Immigrants

How to Be An Active Ally for Refugees and Immigrants

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from working here at Design*Sponge for the past 12 years, it’s that every person’s story deserves to be heard, understood and respected. When our community embraces a richly diverse group of people from all backgrounds, religions, ages, races, abilities, identities and points of view, we all benefit. Lately there’s been a lot of talk about immigration, refugees and what it means to feel safe at home. I know some will feel those discussions don’t belong here, but all I can see are the millions of ways in which those conversations intersect what we do here every day when we discuss homes, businesses and how families live and love. Our creative community is made up of thousands upon thousands of people who came here from other countries, and our goal at D*S will always be to welcome them into our homes, online and off. Because my personal life is devoted to social and activist causes (if you don’t follow us on Instagram, that is where most of those posts live), I’ve been hearing from people who would like advice or guidance on how to be an active ally to those directly affected by changing immigration and refugee policies.

So today I teamed up with Libby VanderPloeg (who has been an incredible example of someone using their art to inspire activism and discussion) to create a practical guide for being an active ally to immigrants and refugees in your community. The key word here is active, because so many people are seeking concrete ways to help, so we spoke with experts at several organizations to create a list of 8 actions you can take, no matter where you live, to help out. The most important thing is to listen first, so be sure to check out the end of our video above for ways to plug into your local immigrant and refugee community to hear what they need help with most right now. Thank you to Joshua Gershman at the International Rescue Committee for his guidance and feedback on this video. xo, grace

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Modern Etiquette: Handling Difficult Conversations Online

Modern Etiquette: Handling Difficult Conversations Online

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It’s been a while since I updated our Modern Etiquette column (3 years to be exact, yikes!). But every day when I log in to answer comments here, these posts are where people come back again and again to talk, debate and connect. That got me thinking about some of the communication hurdles we’re facing right now in our world and how even the most tense of topics can still be places we’re able to see, hear and understand each other.

So rather than rebooting this column with something light like gift-giving or housewarming gifts, I wanted to tackle the elephant in the room: starting, handling and compassionately ending difficult conversations online.

I’ve spent the majority of my adult life navigating difficult conversations online, from the casual troll commenter and vicious personal attacks to the occasional Twitter battle or social media meltdown. No matter who you are, some version of a tough talk will come your way online at some point, and I’ve found there are most definitely some do’s and don’t’s that can help you get through these moments with patience, kindness and respect. It doesn’t require Herculean strength or a psychology degree — just some basic guidelines that will help you connect with your online neighbor (and your in-person neighbor, too). The goal of these conversations isn’t to convert people to your way of thinking, but rather to find ways to communicate your personal stories so you can shine a light on the things you have in common (shared values, concerns, fears), instead of exacerbating the differences. Read on for my take on navigating the tricky world of tense online conversations… xo, grace

Illustration by Anna Emilia

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Paintings by Inès Longevial

Paintings by Inès Longevial

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As the winter days stretch on and our neighborhood color palette is limited to beige, brown and grey, I find myself gravitating toward artwork that embraces bold, bright color unabashedly. French artist Inès Longevial celebrates the human body in such jubilant colors and shapes, and hints at sensuality and form in a subtle but palpable way. If, like me, you idolize people who have such a wonderful grasp on color theory and how to combine hues in a powerful way, be sure to check out Inès’ website and Instagram feed. They are sure to brighten your day. xo, grace

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Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren

Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge

Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren

In a new converted warehouse studio in EaDo, just east of downtown Houston, TX, menswear apparel and accessories designer Kathrine Zeren has created a multipurpose workspace that can easily transition to a showroom, while also being reflective of her personal aesthetic. With the space’s big window and plenty of natural light — shared with another designer, bag maker Mackenzie Conlin — Kathrine works on her collections, which exclusively support American manufacturing and use only sustainably-sourced fabrics. Her latest is a collaboration with textile designer and fiber artist Kari Breitigam to create one-of-a-kind, hand-dyed neckties and bow ties. The space is divided in two by a temporary wall that provides some privacy but plenty of opportunity to talk. “I can get [Mackenzie’s] advice on construction,” Kathrine explains, “And it’s also nice to have the company and white noise of working near someone.”

After several years as a womenswear designer for a large retailer, Kathrine decided to take time off to do some volunteer work in Eastern Europe and South Africa. At the time, she made neckties as a way to raise money for her trip, and it seemed like a fun challenge. She had never ventured into men’s clothing or accessories, but had always looked to it for inspiration, loving the quality of fabrics and attention to details she hadn’t seen in womenswear. Some time later, she decided to turn this newfound love into a line. Having often found it a struggle to balance her conscience with the fashion industry norms, she was inspired by other socially conscious companies to go about business differently. But being creative can be a messy process at times, and it’s a hard to have people over for dinner when there are fabric scraps, editorial cut-outs, and half-made samples covering everything. In her workroom, she has the ability to spread out, and to use the big white wall for pinning ideas.

Though it can be difficult to do when you’re looking straight at a new project, having a new studio space has also taught her that it’s necessary to take mental breaks in order to come up with new ideas. “When I had everything at home, it was difficult to pull myself away, and I’d just keep working until late at night — without being very productive. Removing myself from my work at a reasonable hour has helped me to approach things with a fresh perspective each morning.” —Annie

Photography by Jeff Gilmer

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Black History Month Spotlight: Lisa Hunt

Black History Month Spotlight: Lisa Hunt

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I believe goals are meant to change and grow with a business over time, and here at Design*Sponge, ours are always evolving. What began as a site purely about things and how we arrange them in our homes has turned into a community of people who are equally interested in the people and stories behind those things. In that change of focus from products to people, I realized I had a lot of work to do to make sure Design*Sponge reflected everyone in our community. So over the past few years we’ve worked hard to ensure that every part of our site, from our team and the homes we show to the products and designers we cover, are inclusive and welcoming every day of the year.

This week marks the start of Black History Month and in addition to our commitment to covering designers of color every week of every month, I’m going to be posting special spotlights all month that celebrate some of my favorite black designers, artists and makers. As always, we love to learn about new creatives we should be covering here, so if you have any suggestions, please feel free to share them below. But until then, I hope you’ll enjoy these special spotlights this month. xo, grace

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Today’s spotlight is artist and designer Lisa Hunt. I had the honor of interviewing Lisa for In the Company of Women and continue to be inspired by her bold style and stunning use of gold leaf. Read on after the jump to learn more about Lisa and her work — and catch an excerpt of her interview from the book! xo, grace

Photography by Sasha Israel for In the Company of Women

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3 Handmade Heart-Themed DIYs

3 Handmade Heart-Themed DIYs

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The nostalgia of conversation hearts holds a special place in popular culture, and we couldn’t think of a more fun idea to turn into a Valentine-themed DIY. Luckily, we didn’t have too! Beth Salvini, the artist behind Big Fun, specializes in papier mâché and clay sculptures that are handmade in Brooklyn, NY. And she created this adorable project that will bring a big smile to anyone’s face — Conversation Heart Charm Pins. Head over here to get the full instructions and make this Valentine treat for yourself or someone special.

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This next heart-themed project is about as simple and sweet as it gets! Even if you’ve never sewn a stitch, a few studious moments will have you on your way to creating these Chain-of-Heart Napkins with ease. I managed to create six embellished napkins in about two hours after a little practice!

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, a talented book and textile artist, created this DIY for Design*Sponge and it’s always been a reader favorite — especially this time of year. Pick out some pretty napkins, bake or buy a rosewater pound cake and craft these for a lovely Valentine dessert with a friend or loved one. Get the full instructions right here.

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Click through for our final DIY that shows you how to literally wear your heart on your sleeve! It’s beyond easy. –Caitlin

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Winter Shopping Favs: Grace’s Latest Picks

Winter Shopping Favs: Grace’s Latest Picks

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You know that time of year when it’s grey and cold and you just want to switch things up at home to feel energized again? I’m right in the middle of that time, and instead of actually buying new things, I’m emptying my desktop wish list folder and sharing my winter favs here instead. From dramatic single drop earrings and stunning art books to nubby winter white blankets and hand-printed calendars, any one of these pieces would be a nice winter addition to your home (or wardrobe). xo, grace

Image above, clockwise from top left: Katharine Watson 2017 Write-In Wall Calendar $22, Desert Dog patch (it looks like Winky!) by Eradura $48, Feminist Keychain $15, Croissant Pin $19, Safety Pin Pin $19, Black Fireplace Matches $36, Egg Card $6, Pearl and Jade Drop Earring $98, Opal Stud $130, Puff Blanket $350, Olimpia Zagnoli’s visual take on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz $25, Kilim Pillow $88, Moon Plate $48

Embroidered Jewelry by Céleste Mogador

Embroidered Jewelry by Céleste Mogador

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I am completely and totally obsessed with French artist Céleste Mogador‘s incredible handmade embroidered jewelry. I first discovered her work on Instagram and I’ve been saving and collecting photos of her beaded and embroidered cards, eyes and arms. All of the bright colors and shiny beaded details are too beautiful to resist. They’re like the jewelry version of candy. Her work has inspired me to try out a few beading projects I’ve been eyeing online. Click here to check out Céleste’s work online and on Instagram. xo, grace

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11 Designers Share: Tips For Adding Warmth To A Room

Land vs. Ocean for Design*Sponge

11 Designers Share: Tips For Adding Warmth To A Room

These chilly, grey months of winter make me think ahead to spring and its flowers, sunshine and color. I love winter for about a month, but by mid-February, I’m counting down the days on my calendar until it’s over. Some of the ways that I personally add warmth to a room is by starting with a neutral sofa and adding in lots of colorful pillows that work well in the room and with the bright art on the walls. I also find that mixing patterns adds a certain level of warmth — something you can keep around all year long.

Since we still have some time ahead of us before the seasons change, we’ve asked 11 designers to tell us how they decorate a room to add warmth and make winter a little more inviting. From lighting to surrounding yourself with meaningful, found objects, this is a great roundup of resources that I know I’ll personally be turning to when I need a change. —Erin

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