In San Francisco, Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature

Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge

In San Francisco, Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature

When editor Chrissy Loader first moved into her San Francisco, CA flat a decade ago, she discovered a 1970s Jimi Hendrix poster stuffed into the hollowed-out recess of a pocket door. A more recent kitchen renovation revealed that the walls and floors of her second floor-through unit in a 1900 Victorian townhome had been insulated with horsehair and debris from streets in the North of the Panhandle neighborhood. “I appreciate how there’s history not just in my home’s architecture, but literally embedded in its walls,” Chrissy shares. “It makes me feel like I’m part of my home’s long legacy.”

For Chrissy’s part, the additions have been more familiar. Several rooms in her 1,495-square-foot apartment are inspired by beloved books. “As a writer and reader, I decorate in and around (and through!) literature,” she explains. “My bedroom is inspired by The Lover and my guest room by The Sheltering Sky.” The home’s softwood floors, kitchen pass-through, and other original architectural details lend a sense of romance that, to Chrissy and her guests, feels welcoming and classic at once. “I really like the way the Victorians lived — they had a double-parlor where they would socialize and entertain, a looooooong hallway, and a dining room where people would actually sit down and share a meal together.” Her own favorite homes “are reflections of well-lived lives – they tell a bit of a story.”

Many years ago, a stylish older neighbor reassured Chrissy that she would develop a beautiful home for herself in time. “She told me, just wait,” Chrissy recalls. “You’ll collect things you love, and your home will reflect your adventures. It’ll happen.” She has surrounded herself with old things, European touches, Danish design, and the ocean, cacti, and natural light reminiscent of her native California. Also along for the journey is an imaginary friend (of sorts) who guides Chrissy’s decorating choices. “He’s my mythical San Francisco Auntie Mame, a gay man with a French grandmother who likes tea time, madeleines, and Lillet (sort of like Proust crossed with Tim Gunn).” He would certainly appreciate the home’s days gone by. “As the paint wears,” Chrissy reflects, “I find purples and pinks and avocado greens that remind me there’s a history within its walls.” —Annie

Photography by Rachel Styer at Feather Weight

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A DIY Interior Overhaul in Austin, TX

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A DIY Interior Overhaul in Austin, TX

“The biggest challenge with an older home is the unexpected discoveries that complicate and delay a project’s timeline,” explains homeowner Lauren Daniel, summing up the lessons learned from every renovation project ever. She would know, because along with husband Chase, she just finished a six-month renovation of their first home in Austin, TX — which was built in 1960 and not updated since. They purchased with the intention of doing a complete cosmetic overhaul, but ended up fixing much more. A cramped bathroom, awkward built-in garage, and inefficient 1,200-square-foot layout needed to go. Two layers of flooring under the carpet had to come up, some of the main bathroom’s studs were rotted through, and old wallpaper that had been painted over several years ago bubbled and flaked.

The Daniels both enjoy a modern minimalist look that still feels warm and inviting, but the original state of the home was anything but. Chase, an architectural project designer and freelance photographer specializing in travel, commercial, and architectural work has a strong aesthetic point of view. Lauren also works in the design field as a manager of marketing and graphic design at an ethical fashion brand in town, so she contributed to the look of the interiors as well. Within their new white space they incorporated lots of antique and homemade furniture, plus cozy hardwood flooring throughout.

Because they did the renovation themselves, the couple worked on the house after nine-hour days at the office and every single weekend. From the vintage clawfoot tub Chase restored, to the 100-year-old barnwood kitchen backsplash Lauren nailed into place, to the invasion of carpenter ants upon replacing a sliding glass door, “Every piece of our home has a story, which is all we could ask for.” The couple solved each piece of the puzzle themselves — along with some friends and family — and are most thankful for the hands that came out and helped. They scraped tile, taped and floated drywall, sanded wood finishes, painted walls, helped to lay floors, and installed fixtures. “I love that our house was put together with help from the people we love,” Lauren concludes. “It makes it a home.” —Annie

Photography by Chase Daniel

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Fine Art Focus: Marina Adams

Fine Art Focus: Marina Adams

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I have a deep and abiding love for creative partnerships. Whether they’re romantic or platonic, there’s something about two talented people coming together and seeing how their work informs and supports each other. I, in no way, think a partner’s work should define or overshadow another person’s projects, but I think there’s something so exciting about imagining the creative conversations they must have over meals and on trips. I could write some great fan fiction about some of my favorite artistic couples.

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Marina Adams is one of my favorite contemporary painters and, after apparently living under a rock for the last 25 years, I learned she happens to be married to another incredible painter, Stanley Whitney. I have more on Stanley’s remarkable work coming later, but today I wanted to pause and celebrate Marina’s beautiful and moving art.

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Marina works with bold swaths of color and thick brushstrokes in the way I always hoped to while I was in college. Her color combinations and overall palettes are emotional, inspiring and always stir up strong feelings when I look at them for an extended amount of time. I love the way she works with large-scale shapes and big areas of color. There’s something collage-like about her works on paper and each one makes me rediscover how wonderfully complex and moving seemingly “simple” compositions can be (they are, of course, anything but simple). Today, I wanted to share some of my favorite works of hers and include some links for further study. If you’ve never seen Marina’s work before, I highly suggest the Youtube link below — it’s wonderful to see these pieces discussed in video form. xo, grace

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Artist: Marina Adams
About: Marina splits her time between New York City and Parma, Italy. She received her fine art degrees from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and Columbia University’s School of the Arts.
More: You can read, see and hear more about Marina and her work here, here, here, here and here.

All artwork (c) Marina Adams. Images via MarinaAdams.com

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14 Hudson Valley, NY Homes We Love

This Saugerties home is my dream house come to life: All those tall ceilings and amazing woodwork. The couple behind Brooklyn fashion brand Alter live here and have done an amazing job renovating their home with such love and care.

14 Hudson Valley, NY Homes We Love

A few months ago when I started feeling sick (and later found out I had Type 1 Diabetes), I found myself slowly walking down our sleepy farm-town road, wondering how I would have handled this diagnosis if I was still living in the city. While some people find the city relaxing, after 12 years in Brooklyn, city life started to bring more stress to my life than joy — and moving to a rural area felt like an irresistible siren song I didn’t quite understand yet, but couldn’t resist. And now, less than a year since my diagnosis, it’s all starting to feel like it was meant to be, as if the universe decided to push me (and my family) to a quieter, more peaceful place where I could slow down, focus on my health — both mentally and physically — and be near mountains and rivers that help put any problem into perspective. It’s these small moments of tranquility and clarity that make me love and appreciate living in the Hudson Valley, and I’m so proud to now call this area my home.

I remember the first time I drove through the Catskill mountains as the sun set. I said out loud, like a total dork, “Well THIS is why there was a whole movement of painters named after this area.” The light that comes through the mountains, trees and lakes here is warm and calming and even in the heaviest storms, there’s something about the air and open vistas that feels so strong and safe and sturdy. It’s no wonder that anyone would want to live here and it’s definitely not a surprise that this area, only a few hours from NYC, would be a place where generations of creative people would move and set up their homes and studios.

Over the past few years we’ve shared a handful of homes from this general area (some further upstate than others), and today I wanted to celebrate 14 of my favorite. From renovated farmhouses with wide plank floors to modern concrete homes nestled into the sides of mountains, these spaces remind me of the people and places I’ve come to love so much over the past year and a half. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do. And, if you’re in the area this summer, check out my personal guide to my home county, Ulster County! Spring and summer are definitely my favorite time of year up here. xo, grace

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The Rhode Island Home that Settled Down a Wanderer

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The Rhode Island Home that Settled Down a Wanderer

Settling down. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more loaded term. It’s the butt of jokes on sitcoms and conjures up stereotypical images of suburban picket fences, diapers, boring nights in and lights out by nine. No matter the interpretation, it’s always associated with giving up something exciting in exchange for something bland. No one ever talks about the mental aspects of settling down, though, or how it takes great maturity to do so. I believe, at its core, it’s an outward manifestation of how you’ve become settled within. You’re confident enough to start a new chapter, and you’ve found the right place to do it.

Growing up, Studio KCK’s founder Kelly Knapp followed her parents around the globe, living in 10 countries and moving “more times than she is old.” While her parents did a wonderful job making her feel comfortable no matter where they were, the constant shuffling never afforded Kelly the opportunity to 100% settle down. “I always think of moving and starting fresh,” Kelly says. “It has to be that ingrained, transient sense of being always on-the-move that comes with having an international upbringing.”

Surprisingly, Kelly tells us her on-the-go nature has recently waned, and Providence, RI may be to blame. She’s fallen so in love the city and how it makes her feel, she’s flipped the script and settled into a charming one-bedroom there. Once the home of one of Rhode Island’s founders, her 145-year-old space boasts hardwood floors, gorgeous original doors and an abundance of light. The natural light beautifully dances off her vast collection of vintage decorations, many of which her family collected on those storied journeys overseas. It goes without saying that each one of them holds great sentimental value to Kelly, but  she most cherishes how the home as a whole has made her feel. Here — like never before — she feels settled within herself. “I can’t imagine moving. [This home’s] helped support me in a time when I’ve sort of come into my own,” Kelly shares. Now that’s a powerful space. Click through to peek inside. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Clement and West

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Infusing Color and DIY Charm into a Cookie-Cutter Home in New Mexico

Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Infusing Color and DIY Charm into a Cookie-Cutter Home in New Mexico

There’s never a dull moment in the Naranjo family’s household. With three daughters (ages 13, 15 and 20), and two dogs (Liberty the Great Dane and Luka the Yorkie), time has flown by for Nichol and her husband Dominic.

After buying this starter tract home in Albuquerque, NM a decade ago, the plan was to tackle some light renovations and flip it a few years later. But, as Nichol points out, “then the market crashed.” Forced to stay in this home for longer than they anticipated, Nichol has since gone above and beyond to infuse it with some much-needed character and charm. “We actually bought our house before seeing floor plans or a model home, and luckily, we still love it. The lack of character has only been met as a challenge, one that I welcome,” she shares.

Throughout the process, Nichol found a passion for interior decorating and design, one which has inspired her to make it a profession. She’s still homeschooling her youngest daughter, Téa, but after she enters high school in the near future, Nichol plans to launch her business beyond Instagram. Despite the fun she has designing her own home, she was quick to realize that there’s only so much that decorating can fix. “My wheels are constantly turning as I walk through or sit down in any room in our house,” she says, “but I wish I had more living space for dinner parties, etc. Our bedrooms are quite large and if ever we move, I would rather have that square footage in the areas where we entertain!”

A functional and beautiful refuge for the whole family, “and anyone else who comes into our home,” Nichol’s goal with the interior was to create a space that feels safe and comfortable. “Life can be difficult for everyone at some point,” she admits, “and I want my home to feel like an escape from any difficulties, if even for a moment.” –Sabrina

Photography by Dominic Naranjo

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DIY Swan Succulent Planters

DIY Swan Succulent Planters

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I don’t think I’m alone when I say that succulents are some of the few plants I can keep alive. I love all the cute little succulent varieties, and I can’t help but add to my collection. Another thing I’ve been collecting are these miniature swan favors. I’ve found different sizes and shapes at discount stores and thrift shops, and they are too adorable to leave behind. The finish on them is usually a bit tacky, though, so I gave these beauties a quick DIY makeover and turned them into planters for my little succulents.

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Right now, I have these lined up along my windowsill, but they’re perfect centerpieces for a spring gathering, too. Or keep them as favors and give them as gifts to your party guests! —Kathleen

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Updated Style: Industrial Design

Updated Style: Industrial Design | Design*Sponge

Updated Style: Industrial Design

America’s warehouses and factories that were built during the Industrial Revolution had a particular look: Simple lines, metal and wood. Contrasted with the luxurious residential Victorian design of the same time period, the furniture and fixtures in industrial settings were designed solely for practicality, not beauty. The materials used were commonly available, unfinished and unwanted in residential interior design at the time. Caged pendant lights, metal storage and rough, wood furniture got the job done in these turn-of-the-century commercial properties, but were not welcomed into the homes of the owners and laborers of these places. Thankfully, these pieces haven’t stayed overlooked by the design community.

Today, vintage shops and modern furniture lines alike are stocking authentic and inspired pieces from the Industrial Revolution era. This design style once thought of as ugly and purely practical is now considered edgy, pretty and intriguing to include in interior aesthetics. Over the past seven years or so here on Design*Sponge, we’ve seen homes take on a completely warehouse-like look and we’ve seen rooms hint at an industrial style with one or two pieces. DIY lovers have been embracing industrial materials such as metal piping for shelving and garment racks, and restaurant designers have been setting out all-weather galvanized chairs on their patios. We see vintage industrial style mixed with modern design, traditional pieces, mid-century, farmhouse and minimal design. The rustic yet streamlined qualities of this style make it easy to incorporate into almost any aesthetic. Click through to take a look at the updated ways we’ve seen vintage industrial design show up in Sneak Peeks over the years. –Lauren

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A Quick Course in Ubud Style from Bisma Eight Hotel

A Quick Course in Ubud Style from Bisma Eight Hotel, Design*Sponge

A Quick Course in Ubud Style from Bisma Eight Hotel

The Indonesian city of Ubud, made famous by the wildly-popular novel and subsequent film Eat Pray Love, is nestled amongst greenery and set against an unforgettable vista. Mountainous rice fields, playful monkeys and winding florals flourish here in the cultural center of Bali. The natural wonders aren’t the only thing about the destination that’ll catch your eye, though. Accommodations like Bisma Eight, a boutique hotel smack dab in the center of it all, prove even the manmade elements of Ubud are spectacular. Winding vines inch through its concrete walls and the great Balinese icon Lord Ganesh sits at the entrance, ushering guests inside to take a kite-making class, learn yoga or simply relax.

The accommodations and grounds of Bisma Eight knocked our socks so far off, we couldn’t resist getting more background on its design. As it turns out, when Arte Architect AssociatesFURR and SHL Asia crafted the hotel, they fused modern amenities with traditional Ubud design. Curious to find out what this Ubud style was, we asked the hotel’s Director Tarun Melwani to shed some light on the subject. Luckily for us, today he’s generously sharing some insights into the ancient style. It sounds like class is in session, so put your phones on silent, grab a pen and get ready for a bad case of wanderlust. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography courtesy of Bisma Eight

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We’re Hiring: Join Our Sneak Peek Team!

We’re Hiring: Join Our Sneak Peek Team!


This summer marks the 12th year of Design*Sponge (!!!) and to celebrate, I’m shaking things up. Big time. I had a life-changing medical diagnosis in January (T1D, more on that later), and the silver lining of that difficult situation was a totally new view on work and life.

I’m ready to tackle some bigger projects and have plans this year for a national business conference tour, our new book (yay!), teaching — and I’m bringing back my podcast, After the Jump, with very special micro-themes. So to help me out while I get some of these projects off the ground, we’re expanding our family and looking for new (paid, of course) writers to specialize in Sneak Peeks (our word for home tours). They’ll be joining our existing home tour family and will learn from the best. What do we need from you? A passion for interiors, a familiarity with WordPress, and a knowledge of the online art & design community inside and out. What else? Details below.

Ideal candidates should be:

  • Self-motivated, self-starters
  • VERY familiar with Design*Sponge content, past and present.
  • Enjoy working from home (must be within 3 hours of EST time zone).
  • Must be proficient in WordPress (you will upload your own posts on our custom WP platform) and photo editing software.
  • Have 3-4 hours per week to devote to writing and research.
  • Should have an excellent grasp of all blogs, social media feeds, publications and trends within the art & design community.
  • Should read and keep up with a diverse group of inspirational sources and news.
  • Be free to tele-conference with our full team once a month and with me (Grace) directly once a month.

Want to apply? Fill out the application RIGHT HERE by next Friday, May 20th, 2016. We’re so excited to see our little family grow and can’t wait to find new voices to share here on the site — and to help us take our home tours to the next level. xo, grace

UPDATE: If you applied and only partially filled out the form, you’ll need to start from scratch. Partial entries do not save correctly and cannot be considered if not full filled out.

Music by The Underscore Orkestra at FMA

1 Dream, 10 Years, and Thousands of Baskets Later with Etsuko Yashiro

1 Dream, 10 Years, and Thousands of Baskets Later with Etsuko Yashiro

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Ten years ago, Etsuko Yashiro opened a humble basket-making studio in Cambridge, MA with just a head full of dreams inspired by a trip to Nantucket, MA. A decade later, her business, GrayMist Studio and Shop, has grown from a workspace for one into a community space that hosts classes, a place where artists of all kinds are welcome to teach and learn various mediums, and a public gift shop.

“I’ve always tried to think about GrayMist as more than just a business,” Etsuko shares. “Some of my goals included helping women in any way that I can, and creating opportunities for our community.” Despite being told that her vision was too niche to be a success, Etsuko’s strong will and values never failed her — and her lack of fear has even led her to author a book on the art form inspired by her years of training under renowned Nantucket basket-making master Alan Reed.

Ever the problem-solver and believer in learning as you go, today Etsuko joins us to chat more about how she got started, why people are your most valuable business asset, the importance of going with your gut, and what one wedding in 1994 has to do with it all. –Sabrina

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Pattern Downloads by Jessica Nielsen

Pattern Downloads by Jessica Nielsen

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This week we have a special treat from surface pattern designer, Jessica Nielsen. Inspired by nature and the design traditions of The Netherlands, Jessica’s patterns would be perfect as a phone background, desktop background, gift wrap or any other tech device that needs a little spring makeover. Today she’s sharing two original patterns with us that you can download right here!* Thanks so much to Jessica for sharing her work with us today. Be sure to check out her website (and Instagram feed) right here. xo, grace

*These patterns are available for personal use only.

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24 Hours in Des Moines, Iowa

24 Hours in Des Moines, Iowa

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Hailing from Des Moines, IA, Evan Olson is the writer behind Say Hello to the City, a blog which shares interviews with local creatives and proudly documents his city’s cultural offerings. “I’ve lived in Iowa my whole life,” he explains, “but it’s only been the last three years that I’ve really grown to love it.” Thanks to some traveling (i.e. perspective), and his commitment to being more of a tourist in his own town, over the years, Evan has come to appreciate Des Moines for how accessible, innovative, and welcoming it is to new ideas. “A couple of years ago, the quality of life here needed to be explained,” he begins, “When someone talked about Des Moines (or even Iowa, in general) you were forgiven for instantly thinking of cornfields, caucuses, or Kevin Costner building a baseball park. But times have changed, and most of those stereotypes have fallen to the wayside.”

Take, for instance, this past January when Politico praised the city’s cultural renaissance, saying, “Lots of cities come up with grand plans. Very few actually complete them. Almost none do so with virtually no opposition and, in the end, widespread approval. Des Moines did.” And the praise doesn’t stop there! Des Moines’ acclaim has been steadily documented by myriad publications including Forbes and the New York Times. Today Evan is joining us to share his favorite places to frequent, “as well as the places I show off to friends when they visit!” Sabrina

Photography by Liz Brown

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15 Rooms That Make Wall-to-Wall Carpet Shine

If we didn't have dogs and a cat, I would be all about a light-colored rug. Light-colored everything, really. But it can be hard to pull off if you have kids or pets that create messes. But if you have a home where you don't need to worry about dirty shoes or dogs tracking in mud, this look is such a soothing and relaxing one. I love the idea of waking up each morning and stepping out onto cushy white floors. Home via  Homestyle Magazine, via New Zealand Design Blog, via Apartment Therapy.

15 Rooms That Make Wall-to-Wall Carpet Shine

Ever since our discussion about all-white walls, I’ve been thinking a lot about design styles — especially those that get a bad rap. And when it comes to design choices that people seem to unilaterally loathe these days, it’s wall-to-wall carpet. A quick search through our archive of over 17,000 posts reveals that the word “removed” was the most commonly appearing word before the word “carpet.” It feels as if every home tour, makeover and shop visit we’ve ever run features some version of someone having pulled up wall-to-wall carpet in exchange for wood, tile or concrete floors.

But what if that’s not an option? For most renters, ripping out existing carpet isn’t a choice they have. And for many of us, putting in new hardwood floors (because sadly, the only thing some carpet is hiding is even worse sub-flooring below) isn’t in the budget. And for even more of us, we happen to like the way soft flooring feels under our feet. I grew up in homes with wall-to-wall carpeting (always installed by previous owners and always in odd shades of green), and whenever we drive to Virginia to visit, I’m reminded of how nice it is to walk around barefoot on something soft and cushy. So today I thought I’d share some beautiful interiors that embrace wall-to-wall carpeting in a number of styles, colors and textures. For all of you who have emailed me with the question, “What do I do with this carpet?” — these homes are the answer. They’ve embraced the look, learned to layer area rugs stylishly on top, and proven that wood floors aren’t the only option for a gorgeous space.

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Sacrifice As a Key Ingredient for Success with Jessica Lee of Hello Baked

Sacrifice As a Key Ingredient for Success with Jessica Lee of Hello Baked

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Jessica Lee of Hello Baked knows more than anyone that the quickest way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach — including clients. Maker of exquisite sugar cookies in any shape, size or color for all of life’s events and celebrations, Jessica freshly bakes every order using premium ingredients, and carefully decorates each cookie by hand with sophisticated designs. And yes, as she assures, they taste just as good as they look.

Today, Jessica is joining us to chat more about her edible art, why quality and quantity are vital, what it means to commit to the entrepreneur lifestyle, and sacrifice. –Sabrina

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