10 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Mantel

10 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Mantel on Design*Sponge

10 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Mantel

The mantelpiece could be considered one of the most consistent displays of decorative personality across all homes. Originally designed to be ornamental, it isn’t any wonder that eyes are immediately drawn to the characteristic form and fitted shelf to help center a room. What happens around the mantel is almost as important as what happens above, inside or placed on top. Mantels provide warmth whether the hearth they host is functional or not.

After moving into a new home a couple of months ago, I found myself somewhat lost in a new space with a troublesome mantel, so I turned to the archives for inspiration. The most logical solution seems to be placing a mirror above to add depth and reflect light within the space. This is an elegant and timeless approach, but I was looking for something a little more unique. I landed on these 10 creative ways to decorate a mantel from resourceful homeowners that thought a mirror wasn’t quite enough to reflect their personality. –Bethany

VIEW MORE

What’s In Your Toolbox: Rie Elise Larsen

What’s In Your Toolbox: Rie Elise Larsen

What's In Your Toolbox: Rie Elise Larsen, on Design*Sponge

It was two decades ago that Danish designer Rie Elise Larsen started making things professionally: first as a storefront window decorator, then as an interior stylist; eventually becoming a design consultant, author, DIY website creator, designer, crepe-paper artist, and workshop teacher, with a wholesale company in her own name. Today Rie describes herself as a visual storyteller. She makes magical things that lift her up into a world where everything is possible, and it brings her great joy to share her universe.

“Happiness is not something that is around us; happiness is something that is within us,” she offers. “Even so, it helps us to be surrounded by the things that make us happy!” Beautiful colors, intricate textures, patterns, and fine detail are big parts of her world, making tangible all the ideas that are “marooned” in her notebooks and head. “I always try to focus on the best in everyday life,” Rie says. “Maybe creative blocks hit us when we forget to appreciate how lucky we are.” —Annie

Photography by Anitta Behrendt

VIEW MORE

Patch Pocket Heart + 2 Valentine’s Day Inspired DIYs

Patch Pocket Heart + 2 Valentine’s Day Inspired DIYs

lshanging-heart

Hearts come in many shapes and sizes this time of year, but I’ve always preferred the slightly uneven, handmade versions that someone took the time to cut out and make by hand. These three DIYs are exactly that. Whether they’re filled with love notes, candy or just come as they are, these handmade tokens of love are little reminders that someone in your life is special. I hope you have a little extra time this week (or weekend) to play around with some materials you may already have on hand and see what you come up with!

Click through for instructions to make this Hanging Valentine Patch Pocket and for two more sweet Valentine’s gifts including a Custom Clipboard and a Ribbon Covered Heart that harkens back to the days when boxes of chocolates came festooned with a lot of ruffles and ribbons! –Caitlin

hanging-heart

*This post is brought to you in collaboration with Waverly Inspirations. This project, ideas, and words are from us here at D*S and were created by us, for you. Thanks for supporting our sponsors that help us create and publish original content like this. The Waverly Inspirations collection is available at Walmart.

VIEW MORE

A Home for Pattern and Play in Indianapolis, IN

A Home for Pattern and Play in Indianapolis, Indiana | Design*Sponge

A Home for Pattern and Play in Indianapolis, IN

Sometimes it’s easy for me to see beautiful homes online and assume that those spaces belong to people without longing, grief or sadness. The photos are perfect and thus, their lives must be too. Objectively, I know that’s not true of my own life and other lives of the D*S team — that a pretty home doesn’t equal an easy life — but sometimes, it feels true, doesn’t it? If you were to just look at the photos of Natalie and Dan Seitz’s home, you might be tempted by the bright colors, fun patterns and lovely artwork to think that the last four years of their lives were fairly commonplace for an emergency room physician (Dan) and a social worker (Natalie) in middle America. But life is just settling down and getting “normal” for the first time as a family of five.

After getting married and living in a 2-bedroom apartment in Midtown Indianapolis, IN, Natalie and Dan started the international adoption process. They were matched with twin baby boys from a country in Central Africa and were told Theo and Elliot would be in their home within the year — but shortly after, adoptions from the boys’ birth country were put on hold indefinitely. The baby boys grew into toddlers and then kids without ever having met Natalie and Dan in person. During this time, Natalie and Dan were contacted to adopt a newborn domestically. “We brought Milo home in February 2015. We moved to our current home in November 2015. We were here a few months when we were told that at long last, Theo and Elliot were approved to come to the United States and into our home… three-and-a-half years after we started the process,” Natalie shares. “They landed in Chicago in March 2016. It was one of the best days ever. We grew from a family of two to a family of five in 13 months!”

When it was still just the two of them, they started looking for a house in the Midtown neighborhood of Indianapolis. The neighborhood had been changing drastically as rundown houses were being purchased and rehabilitated by development companies. A single-story house that the Seitz family had driven by several times was being turned into a 2-story home with completely new curb appeal. When they toured it, the inside was just as much of an improvement. “We saw it twice — once while still very much in progress and once when complete. We put an offer in immediately and bought our house before Dan officially had a job. As spiritual people, we had a strong and hopefully-not-too-foolish belief that God would provide. He did,” Natalie says. “Many of the homes in our area are either fully renovated like ours or in need of a lot of repairs. Most of the fully renovated homes were well outside of what we could afford. Though as dreamers, we loved the idea of renovating a house with good bones on a great lot, we knew as new parents to three kids we wouldn’t have the time. We wanted something already set up well, so we could devote ourselves to helping our little men feel secure and comfortable.”

Natalie and Dan and their three sons have turned what Natalie describes as “a little bit cookie-cutter” into a home full of life and interest. Natalie has decorated their space with color in furniture, rugs, art and textiles. Their home boasts a mix of bold colors and patterns while maintaining a modern and clutter-free feel. “We have been striving to minimize excess since before Milo joined our family. All the items that kids require can get to be chaotic, so we’ve pared down our own things a lot,” Natalie says. “We are big believers that fewer things can create a happier life. We’ve seen it affect our moods and the moods of our kids, too. We wanted to create a bright, light, simple, comfortable, colorful space enjoyable for us as adults and for our kids… the kind of space that can become a spaceship with alligators and superheroes during the day and a cozy retreat for reading and catching up on our favorite TV shows at night.” It’s a playful and peaceful space perfect for this new family of five to grow into. –Lauren

Photography by Natalie Seitz

VIEW MORE

Black History Month Spotlight: Betye Saar

Black History Month Spotlight: Betye Saar

BETYE2

There’s been a lot of talk about patriarchy lately, but I keep finding myself coming back to the term matriarchy. I grew up in a family with strong older women who led and inspired the rest of us to find our voices and embrace our creativity. These wise, wonderful women were the matriarchs of our family and I find myself naturally drawn toward women who fill that role in their own.

BETYE4

Artist Betye Saar is one of those incredibly talented women who has inspired not only a generation of artists and women after her, but her own daughters as well. In addition to the rich collection of powerful artwork Betye has created, her daughters, Lezley and Alison Saar, are also talented artists creating deeply meaningful work. Seeing them and their artwork together is a powerful reminder of not just the strength of family and community, but of what women can achieve in the art world when they are supported by each other.

BETYEQUOTE

Read on to learn (and see) more about Betye and her work after the jump. xo, grace

*It’s not embeddable, but please check out this amazing video studio tour with Betye from last year’s LA Times. It’s a wonderful piece. Images above via Daily Bruin and Artsy.

VIEW MORE

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

VIEW MORE

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

VIEW MORE

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

VIEW MORE

12 Wallpapers That Celebrate Nature

https://shop.miltonandking.com/shoreline

PT

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

VIEW MORE

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

VIEW MORE

Black History Month Spotlight: Amina Mucciolo

Black History Month Spotlight: Amina Mucciolo

_MG_5442

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

_MG_5516

VIEW MORE

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

bestofweb23

 

bestofds23

Modern Etiquette: Handling Difficult Conversations Online

Modern Etiquette: Handling Difficult Conversations Online

DesignSponge_ModernEtiquettejpg

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

VIEW MORE

Paintings by Inès Longevial

Paintings by Inès Longevial

prt_670x963_1442553459_2x
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

prt_670x1032_1473070692_2x
prt_500x719_1479829740_2x
prt_500x683_1477924379 copy

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

VIEW MORE