Merry (Tiny) & Bright: A Modern Twist on Holiday Sparkle

Design*Sponge | Holiday Lights

Merry (Tiny) & Bright: A Modern Twist on Holiday Sparkle

Having a small living space can put a bit of a damper on holiday decorating, especially if you’re the kind of person who likes to go all-out: Christmas trees, stockings, twinkle lights, and manger scenes galore! Still, having an apartment, condo, cabin, houseboat, or dorm doesn’t mean you have to opt out of the festivities. What it does mean is that you might have to get a little creative—and who doesn’t love that?

Decorating my own Brooklyn apartment for the holidays has always seemed like more trouble than it’s worth. With two dogs, a studio setup, and five floors to walk up, carting a Christmas tree (or even a wreath, for that matter!) into the apartment is a daunting idea. This year, however, I decided to challenge myself a bit and distill my notion of holiday decorating down to what I really love most about the season: the lights! After all, there’s nothing like a bit of sparkle to take your mind off the fact that the sun is now setting at 4pm!

With a little bit of help from the fine folks at Target, I gathered some supplies to turn my apartment into a glowing holiday retreat—perfect for some cocktails with friends or even a cozy night indoors with a good book. We’ve got 3 tips for bringing the razzle dazzle of the holidays into your own home—check them out in the slideshow! —Max

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What We Believe: The Design*Sponge Mission Statement

The Design*Sponge Mission Statement: What We Believe

What We Believe: The Design*Sponge Mission Statement

After 10 years, 6 redesigns and nearly 16,000 posts, I thought it was time to sit down and define what we stand for here at Design*Sponge. This site began as a small personal hobby during my lunch break and has grown and changed in ways I could never possibly imagine. I’ve gone from blogging alone in my room to managing over 20 people to narrowing down to a small, nimble and devoted team of colleagues that I wouldn’t change for the world. When I first started, there were less than a handful of us talking about design online. We didn’t need to stand out because there wasn’t a crowd to differentiate ourselves from. But 10 years later this incredible design community has grown to such great heights that I think it’s important to talk about the things we do (and don’t) believe in here. I’ve spent months thinking about why we write this blog, what matters most to us and what informs every single thing we post. And what I ended up with was a manifesto of sorts, a list of 10 statements that lay our hearts, minds and beliefs on the table and hopefully will help you get to know us better as we are today. One of the greatest joys of my life so far has been getting to learn and grow alongside all of you and I hope that sharing our goals with Design*Sponge can us connect even more as we move forward. xo, grace

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Spinach & Turkey Lasagna from The Yellow Table

Spinach & Turkey Lasagna from The Yellow Table

Spinach and Turkey Lasagna Recipe from The Yellow Table Cookbook by Anna Watson Carl.
I’ve eaten some truly special meals since marrying Julia and it’s been a joy to accompany her to restaurants and food events where exciting ingredients and chefs are on display. But of all the events she’s taken me to, few have compared to the dinner we shared at the home of Anna Watson Carl.

Anna is the founder, author and cook behind the blog The Yellow Table. We’ve been lucky to share two of her recipes on Design*Sponge before, but the best bit of luck was being invited to a dinner at her home in downtown Manhattan to praise her new self-published cookbook, The Yellow Table: A Celebration of Everyday Gatherings. Anna arranged for a small gathering of friends to eat a meal from her book around the now famous yellow table (which belonged to her family and now lives with her in NYC). Every bite was incredible and to see and hear about the love that went into every recipe and the book (self-publishing is no small undertaking) made the evening a night I’ll never forget. We got our copy of Anna’s book last week and I was excited to finally flip through and get a chance to celebrate it here on Design*Sponge. I’ll be interviewing Anna about her self-publishing experience next week, but in the meantime, she’s sharing her Spinach & Turkey Lasagna recipe with us here today. It’s light but still warm and filling – perfect for winter. A huge congrats to Anna on her book, which you can now pick up right here! xo, grace

Photograph above by Signe Birck

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18 Handcrafted Holiday Gifts

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18 Handcrafted Holiday Gifts

A few months back, I wrote a small, somewhat exasperated essay about the challenges that face modern-day consumer, from the issues surrounding unfair working conditions and underpaid labor to the environmental impact of mass-scale production. Since that point, I’ve tried to keep these issues at the back of my mind whenever making purchases. Do I know who the maker is? Do I know where this item was made? Was it made safely and ethically? Because of this, I’ve decided that most of the gifts I give this holiday will be of the local, small-batch, handcrafted variety. Luckily, I’ve had the chance to meet some truly incredible artists, makers, and craftsmen over the past year, many of whom live a close distance from New York. From beautiful heirloom-quality jewelry to delightful little stocking stuffers, here are some of my favorite handmade gifts for 2014! —Max

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Stockings, Tree Skirts and Holiday Extras

Christmas Stockings, Tree Skirts and Extras at Design*Sponge

Stockings, Tree Skirts and Holiday Extras

Now that we’ve covered holiday lights, garland and ornamentsgift wrap and cards, it’s time to share the last bits of holiday decorating before we move onto gift guides next week! From striped stockings and copper Christmas tree skirts to tiny bottle brush trees (my favorite) and candle holders, these are the last odds and ends that help bring holiday cheer inside. What I loved so much about this year’s selection of decorations from stores and independent makers was the wide range of styles. From bright colors and classic neutrals to unexpected bits of coppers and gold, there’s something here for any home that wants to celebrate but still stick to their unique style. I hope you’ll enjoy these and, more than anything, I hope that everyone enjoys a safe and happy holiday. xo, grace

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A One-Stop-Shop Holiday Party with Staples

Our party snack and bar cart! We used Staples' in-house copy center to print oversized posters with holiday phrases on them—perfect for photo booth backgrounds or just some extra flair. Download the set here!

A One-Stop-Shop Holiday Party with Staples

The invites are sentthe decorations are madethe gifts are purchased! Now that all is said and done there’s only one thing left to do. PARTY. Thanks to our buds over at Staples, we got everything we needed to throw a pretty bangin’ celebration—garland, serving ware, table covers, and some snazzy wall decor—all using office supplies! We were even able to carry our chalkboard theme through to the end! (We’ll pat ourselves on the back later. It’s time to dig-in to some holiday treats!) —Max

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Before & After: Brienna’s Curb Appeal Makeover

Brienna's Curb Appeal Makeover on Design*Sponge

Before & After: Brienna’s Curb Appeal Makeover

My loyalty to design television waxes and wanes, but I always go back to shows that focus on curb appeal. So much of what sells (or rents) a home has to do with first impressions and few things can do that more quickly than a beautiful home exterior. Today’s before & after is the final step of one designer’s home buying process. Brienna Wagner bought this 1910 bungalow almost 7 years ago and this past summer, after finishing the interior, decided to tackle the street view. New brick, paint and siding gave this cheerful home the updating it needed and now it’s bound to make any person driving back stop and notice. Click through to see Brienna‘s process and hear more about her paint colors and finishing choices. xo, grace

*A quick note: you can now find Before & Afters under the DIY tab!

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DIY Acrylic Gift Tags

DIY Acrylic Gift Tags

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Each year, we have a small theme under the tree. Usually it’s a color scheme, a pattern mix, or a selection of embellishments we use to decorate and tag each gift. After working on a few acrylic projects these past few months, scaling them down to a tag-sized version was the perfect solution for holiday gifting! I love that these tags will go well with all different colors of paper to create some fun pops under your tree or on the table. Plus, the recipient can keep the tag and display as an ornament for years to come! -Lauren Saylor

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Ivan Cash on After the Jump

Ivan Cash on After the Jump

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Like most people, my guilty pleasures involve spending too much time in front of screens and clicking on links that promise to tell me what job I should really be doing and how to make my hair shinier. Most of the time, those lunch break links lead me to fluff, but on other days, they lead to something spectacular.

A few weeks ago I followed a link from Facebook over to an incredible video project that interviewed people in different cities about what the last photo on their phone was. From London to Alabama, the answers were both fascinating and thought-provoking. Those videos lead me to others by the same interactive artist and filmmaker, Ivan Cash, and I jumped at the chance to interview him on my radio show before the holiday break. I assumed that Ivan would have interesting things to say, but I left feeling so much more inspired and invigorated than I expected. His insight into the way loneliness affects storytelling and vision – and, in a way, leads to intimacy – really opened my eyes to how the same is true of blogging and publishing online. From his early days of making the front page of the Daily News to his impressive roster of films and commercial work, Ivan is most definitely a voice we will be hearing much more of for years to come. Thanks so much to Ivan for joining me for episode 97 and thanks to all of you for listening. xo, grace

To Listen: Click here to listen online or click here to Listen on iTunes.

*Photo Credit: Luis Peña/El Peña

Holiday Lights and Garland

Holidays Lights and Garlands on Design*Sponge

Holiday Lights and Garland

I don’t know if it’s because I grew up in the south or just a predisposed fondness for tiny clusters of things, but I love holiday garland. More than ornaments or stockings or any other detail, it captures the spirit of the holidays me. I try to find time to make my own (popcorn and cranberries for the tree, pinecones for a countertop of two) but when there’s no time for DIY, I like to hunt down beautiful strands of lights, bells, tassels and greenery to make our house feel a little more festive. This year I’m trying to keep things a little simpler, so I decided to round up garlands that have texture, light and a little bit of shine, but that don’t hit you over the head with red and green. I hope you’ll find some that work for your home and will help add a little sparkle and glow. xo, grace

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Shop Tour: Swallows & Damsons

One of Anna's incredible flower arrangements.

Shop Tour: Swallows & Damsons

These days it feels like all roads lead to Instagram. I take at least 10 screengrabs a day from other people’s feeds to contact them about home tours, DIY projects, interviews or just a general ‘Thanks for being so inspiring’ email. And today’s tour of a beautiful English flower shop has its beginning on Instagram, too.

Anna Potter is the founder and floral designer at Swallows & Damsons, an incredible flower shop and studio in Sheffield, England. Originally drawn to the area because of its mix of creativity and community, Anna decided to open her own shop six years ago after working with two of the city’s leading florists. Nestled between antique stores and historic homes (basically, my dream), Swallows & Damsons specializes in one-of-a-kind arrangements for private and public events. I first noticed Anna’s work when she shared a few photos in our #dscolor challenge and I’ve been following her ever since. When she briefly shared an interior shot of the space I jumped at the chance to see more and I’m thrilled to share her very special studio here today. xo, grace

Photographs by India Hobson

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Our Favorite Holiday Ornaments

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Our Favorite Holiday Ornaments

The holidays always sneak up on me and this year I feel more behind than ever. I usually have a decorated Christmas tree at home by now, but it’s going to have to wait for this weekend or next week. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t window shop for some holiday ornaments in the meantime. I typically DIY most of mine (good old cranberry and popcorn garlands) but I like to pick up an ornament or two every year that reminds me of special place, person or moment from that year. I’ve got my eye on the adorable raccoon you’ll see later on in this post, but for now I’m going to work on finding a 4 foot tree that won’t overwhelm our apartment but won’t bum be out by being too teeny. I hope you’ll find something in this roundup that will work for your tree, mantel or tabletop at home. I’ve included a mix of styles, materials and prices and, as always, have included as many handmade pieces from independent designers as possible. xo, grace

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DIY Copper Menorah

DIY Copper Menorah

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I love this time of year! Everyone is so festive – lots of parties are being planned, presents are being wrapped and celebrations abound. While in college, we would deck the halls of our sorority house with both Christmas and Hanukkah decorations, so began the first of many Decembers where both holidays would be celebrated in my home. To help you stylishly celebrate Hanukkah, you can create this copper menorah, which is so beautiful you may be tempted to leave it on your mantel all year long! -Sarah

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DIY Peppermint Candy Bowls from Candy Aisle Crafts

DIY Peppermint Candy Bowls from Candy Aisle Crafts

Peppermint Bowls
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a bit better about not diving into candy in quite the same way I used to. (I think I lived off of various gummy candy varieties for all of 2011.) But when they find a way to blend into my world of crafts and DIY projects, I find them irresistible. So when Paul Lowe mentioned to me that there was a new DIY book out that uses the grocery store candy aisle as its main inspiration and material source, I immediately bought a copy.

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Former Martha Stewart editor Jodi Levine just published Candy Aisle Crafts, a quirky and adorably addictive collection of projects that turn everyday supermarket sweets into clever projects and recipes. Jodi worked for Martha for 19 years as a craft editor, director of our beloved (and sadly no longer in print) Martha Stewart Kids magazine and as a product designer for Martha’s craft collection. She is basically the queen of all things cute and craftsy and this book is a wonderful celebration of how uplifting a DIY project can be. From colorful lollipops and bowls made of peppermint candies to polar bear cakes, Jodi’s projects are literally and figuratively the sweetest things around. Today she’s sharing one of my favorite projects with us that turns everyday peppermint candies into tiny adorable bowls. These would be fun for a kids table at a holiday dinner or a sweet way to spruce up the coffee/tea station after dinner. Thanks so much to Jodi and be sure to check out her book right here. xo, grace

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Hanukkah Decorations

Hannukah Decorations for 2014 at Design*Sponge

Hanukkah Decorations

After Thanksgiving, I had the pleasure of celebrating an early Hanukkah with Julia’s family. We drove upstate to visit her parents, aunts & uncles and meet new cousins for the first time (baby Nate!). While Hanukkah isn’t entirely foreign to me, it’s always so meaningful to see how each individual family chooses to decorate and celebrate. Some families choose traditional decorations, a mix of handmade and store-bought, that are handed down through the generations and other prefer to seek out modern interpretations of traditional Hanukkah pieces like menorahs, dreidels, plates and other tableware. So to start the day I wanted to share some beautiful pieces to decorate if you’re celebrating Hanukkah this year. From stunning handmade beeswax candles to copper and walnut menorahs, there is so much to see and choose from- I hope you’ll be able to find something perfect for your home this year. xo, grace

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