Negativity Online: An Essay Inspired By 200,000 Comments

Negativity Online: An Essay Inspired By 200,000 Comments

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By the time this post goes live, I will have moderated over 296,000 comments during the past 10 years of blogging. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading and approving each one, it’s that people can be toughest on the things they love the most.

Most bloggers (and stat counters) will tell you that people don’t say much online anymore. Comments are being replaced by shares, likes and pins and unless someone has an extreme opinion, they tend to just read and move on. But when we read something that touches a nerve, or worse — an insecurity — the meanest parts of us can come out. In the beginning of my blogging days I was way too quick to be snarky online, but after years of having that sort of negativity directed toward me, I learned it was better to think first and speak later (and most times not to speak at all). Mainly because I believe that most people on the internet are trying to do their best. Whether that means putting out our best writing, artwork or the best version of our homes, we’re all just trying put our best foot forward.

But it seems like more and more these days we’re judging each other based on what we think we know of someone from photos, so it feels like a good time to stop and think about what we say, who we’re talking to and what the consequences of our words are. Because no matter what sort of home we’re looking at, we’re looking at real people inside of it. And I’ve grown tired of seeing people tear each other down based on assumptions that get us nowhere — except further apart from each other and our community.

So today I want to talk about how we might change the course of our conversations. Because no matter what inalienable rights we have to scream at each other on the Internet, it doesn’t release us from the obligation we have to deal with the repercussions of our negativity. I believe there are better ways to define what our problems really are and better ways to speak to each other and work toward creating a more accepting and understanding community.

*Photo above by Oddur Thorisson from Manger

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Sweet Paul Spring 2015

Sweet Paul Spring 2015

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Never mind the groundhog’s shadow or the year’s first robin sighting; the arrival of spring magazines in my mailbox is always my favorite harbinger of good things to come. Even if the sky is overcast and snow is still falling outside, the flowers, color, and freshness held within the next season’s glossies are always enough to help me power through the final days of winter. This winter has been especially brutal, so when our advance copy of Sweet Paul’s Spring ’15 edition arrived in the mail, I burrowed into it in near rapturous glee. As is typical with Mr. Paul Lowe’s beautiful quarterly, it did not disappoint. From delicious-looking recipes with spring’s best flavors to a wonderful Cakes-n-Cocktails celebration of the magazine’s fifth year, each page is filled with HELL-YES doses of color. (There’s even a little peek at one of my favorite upstate attractions: The Phoenicia Flea!) The issue hits newsstands Friday, but to help get y’all in the spring mood early, Paul was kind enough to share one of the glorious Easter egg DIYs from the upcoming issue. Continue after the jump for all of the tutorial! —Max

Egg project ideas and photos by Dietlind Wolf

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Life & Business: Shannon Whitehead of Factory45

Life & Business: Shannon Whitehead of Factory45

Life & Business: Shannon Whitehead

Shannon Whitehead received her lowest grade ever in her entrepreneurship class in university where she studied journalism. After graduating, she hopped on a plane and traveled the globe as a bartender, living in Australia, Southeast Asia, South Africa and all of the countries in between. Upon returning home, she was so inspired by environmentalism that she decided to launch a sustainable apparel company, running into all of the obvious road blocks along the way. Surprised by how difficult it was to start a sustainable and ethical company, she set out to solve this very problem. Today, Shannon works with aspiring designers and entrepreneurs to launch clothing companies that are sustainably and ethically made in the U.S. through her company, Factory45. She found a need and filled it, creating the very thing that would have helped her when she was launching! Today, Shannon’s chatting with us about her thoughts on criticism, her most embarrassing business moment and what it means to be “successful.” –Sabrina

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Life & Business: Simple Tips For Success by Adam J. Kurtz

Life & Business: Simple Tips For Success by Adam J. Kurtz

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Adam J. Kurtz (or as some know him, ADAMJK) is an artist and author of the creative journal 1 Page at a Time. He also creates art and creative content for BuzzFeed BFF and is an all-around inspiring, cool dude who’s constantly making and doing. A visit to his Instagram account always results in a snicker. You may remember him from this post where he shared his gleaned wisdom from 2014, and today he’s back to share his 8 — errr, 7 — simple steps for success of any kind, big or small. We so often over-complicate things and create our own barriers, but his tips are refreshingly honest, relevant and act as a swift kick in the bum to do more and be more. Pin away, my friends! —Sabrina

All images by Adam J. Kurtz

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24 Hours in Fresno, CA with Ellie Koleen

24 Hours in Fresno, CA with Ellie Koleen

24 Hours in Fresno, CA

Sandwiched between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Fresno sounds like the perfect cold treat for a hot day (one fresno, please!), but as photographer (and Fresno-native) Ellie Koleen shares, it’s a town with a population of half a million happy people in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley. A region rich with heritage, industry, and a diverse mix of people, Fresno is a beautiful place to spend a day — or week — if you ever find yourself in California! Read Ellie’s 24-hour city guide filled with unique charms, easy living and great grub after the jump! —Sabrina

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An Eclectic & Industrial Vancouver Loft

Nicole and Andrew's  loft floods with natural light from giant windows and skylights. The clean lines of the loft mix perfectly with the eclectic personality of their pieces.

An Eclectic & Industrial Vancouver Loft

I love the way that homes speak for the people who live there. Loved pieces and styles are what make a house feel like home no matter what the architectural structure is. To me, a well designed home incorporates the housing style and homeowner’s style in a cohesive way. This renovated loft mixes the minimal, industrial building design with mid-century pieces, treasured objects and books for a space that truly reflects the homeowners.

Nicole Phillips, a freelance graphic designer and Andrew Walker, manager, are creatives working in the city of Vancouver. When they finally found their loft, they looked past the 1990s wall colors and outdated fixtures and focused on what they wanted from a space. “Vancouver has a limited selection and affordable options rarely become available, so when this one came up, we jumped on it,” Nicole says. “Aesthetically, we chose this loft because of the large windows and two skylights that let in so much light.” The couple didn’t waste any time making it work for them practically, too — the built-in bookshelf, kitchen/bath update, beam and wall painting all took place within the first three weeks of owning their home.

“The main goal was to divide the open loft space up into a live/work space without it feeling cluttered and divided – we wanted all areas to feel cohesive in style and flow from space to space,” Nicole says. “When we first moved in, we had to pair down our belongings and mesh our design styles; luckily we have a very similar style.” The moments throughout the space of collected antiques, books and objects all point to the creative minds of the people who call this loft home. While the home is significant on its own, Nicole and Andrew have helped it come alive with their collaborative style and creative vision. –Lauren

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A Whimsical Apartment for Two in Columbia, MD

View More: http://sarahbradshaw.pass.us/katie-vails-apt

A Whimsical Apartment for Two in Columbia, MD

My favorite homes are those that are made up of a balanced mix of textures, materials, patterns and colors, where it’s difficult to pin it down to a single style. In just a few square feet of any room in Katie Vail‘s home, you’re sure to find leopard print, gold, Lucite, wood, metal and polka dots. Her Columbia, Maryland apartment is flirty and light while flaunting plenty of character and boldness, and it’s this complex mix that I’d use to describe Katie herself. As a former Army Captain, Katie is regimented and rises before the sun to run or hit the gym with her husband, Tom, an EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) officer in the Army. And though she’s strong-willed and hard-working, she’s also charmingly down-t0-earth, super-sweet and loves exploring her creative side through her blog Life with a Dash of Whimsy and with her online Etsy store, DashOfVintageWhimsy.

Katie and Tom are newlyweds and have lived in this space for just under seven months, and though they’re aware they may have to up and move at any time given their transient lifestyle (Katie’s hoping for Germany or Hawaii next!), Katie spared no expense when it came to decorating and making their apartment a home. After all, Katie and Tom know more than anyone how important home base is. –Sabrina

Photography by Sarah Bradshaw.

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Old School Charm In A Brooklyn Railroad Apartment

Jeffrey's side of the bed. Pyramid mirror and stool by Bower. Rug by Joinery.

Old School Charm In A Brooklyn Railroad Apartment

When I came to photograph the Williamsburg, Brooklyn apartment of Jeffrey Renz and Irene Blazquez a few weeks ago, it was a blisteringly cold winter day, one that New Yorkers have sadly grown more than accustomed to this season. Inside this 1900 railroad flat, however, one would never know. With tall windows, incredible natural light, and the charming hallmarks of a timeworn New York apartment, the space has enough warmth to make the cold seem far away.

By day, Jeffrey works for BOWER, a New York-based home design company; Irene is an architect and photographer. Together, they have crafted a home that combines both of their sensibilities. It’s a home that melds new concepts in design with vintage pieces, one that embraces all the spacial peculiarities of railroad-style living. “We loved it immediately,” Irene says of the apartment. “The neighbors seemed lovely and the space was big and extra white. It had more closets than we knew what to do with, cabinets that had been painted over a million times and molding that gave the space its unique character.” From the couple’s plant-filled kitchen to the living room that comfortably sits gatherings of 10 friends, Jeffrey and Irene have been able to attain what I think is one of the highest achievements of any nesting endeavor: a home that you never want to leave. It’s the sort of place that makes this winter’s stay-inside snow days bearable — even welcome. —Max

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#DSWallpaper

#DSWallpaper

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Over the past 10 years, the world of wallpaper has taken a wonderful turn. While we’ve seen the return of bold foiled and mylar papers (courtesy of companies like Flavor Paper), we’ve also seen hand-drawn patterns turn into digitally printed papers and open the door for an entire generation of up-and-coming independent designers. We’ve also seen the arrival of mass-marketed, removable wallpaper that makes decorating walls possible for anyone in a rental (or an indecisive mood). To celebrate the incredible wealth of designs we’ve been seeing online, I decided to dedicate this month’s hashtag challenge to WALLPAPER. Whether you’re snapping a pic of a new paper you’ve installed in your own home or just sharing a great pattern you saw on the walls at your favorite restaurant or hotel, upload your photo and hashtag it #DSWALLPAPER and we’ll share our favorites on our social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram) and here on DS at the end of the month! xo, grace

(Photo above from The Wythe Hotel)

Need more wallpaper in your life? Click here to check out last year’s biggest wallpaper trends at ICFF, here for our top 51 Wallpaper Sources, here for our favorite wallpaper in home tours, here for the 12 wallpaper patterns we ALWAYS trust and here for our DS wallpapers series of downloadable wallpapers for your tech devices!

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Image above from Hayley’s home tour.

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Image above from Megan’s DIY wallpaper treatment project.

American Museum of Natural History x Etsy

American Museum of Natural History x Etsy

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Seven years ago I walked into the New York Public Library to embark on one of the most fun and creative collaborations I’ve done to this day. Along with the librarians from the NYPL, I worked with five artists from Brooklyn to document the creation of products they made, inspired by the library’s collections. The final result was a four-part video series, Design by the Book, and a huge party at the library that debuted each designer’s collection to excited viewers and fans. It will always be one of the highlights of my work life and I’ll never forget how exciting it was to air the final episode in person in front of friends and family. A few similar projects popped up shortly afterward (it meant so much to talk to other public libraries about how to do something similar) and I was thrilled to hear yesterday that Etsy collaborated with another great NYC institution, The American Museum of Natural History, to create new work!

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The American Museum of Natural History is one of the greatest, most inspiring and most legendary museums in NYC culture. It’s been depicted in countless movies, has hosted numerous Hollywood parties and book debuts and seems to loom large in the childhood of anyone who grew up here. It’s quite simply one of the most special places I know. The gem room there is basically my dreams come to life. So it’s no surprise that Etsy’s wholesale artists were able to find plenty of inspiration to create special pieces. From prints inspired by ancient eggs and jewelry inspired by fossils to posters and banners dedicated to wildlife and travel, the pieces these artists created capture so much of the museum’s spirit of discovery. To check out the full collection and shop online at the AMNH, click here. A big high five to everyone involved for celebrating such a wonderful museum and all it has to offer. xo, grace

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In the Kitchen With: The Pollans’ Grand Marnier Cake

In the Kitchen With: The Pollans’ Grand Marnier Cake

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After our last Behind the Bar cocktail, the Long Kiss Goodnight, which featured Grand Marnier, I started to look around for other ways to use the liqueur in my cooking. I found one great way in this week’s recipe from the Pollans’ Cookbook for Grandma Mary’s Grand Marnier Orange Cake. The Pollan family includes many familiar names: Tracy Pollan — Emmy-award nominated actress and wife of Michael J. Fox; Corky Pollan — New York Magazine’s ‘Best Bets’ editor of 18 years and style director of Gourmet Magazine; sisters Lori and Dana Pollan; and food-guru brother Michael Pollan, who wrote the foreword for the family’s new cookbook. As for the cake, the addition of Greek yogurt makes a moist, soft crumb, and the orange scent added by the zest and glaze is heavenly for citrus lovers. The cake also has excellent keeping qualities, if you manage to save any once it is presented to your family or friends!  -Kristina

Read more about the Pollan Family and their work here.

See how to make the delicious bundt cake after the jump!

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Home Ec: DIY Stress Relievers

A spa massage is great, but you can also treat yourself to a home massage with this DIY massage oil recipe. Infused with bergamot, lavender and rose geranium, this mix is perfect for banishing winter blues. If you have a partner, ask them to treat you to a massage with this! If not, try using this on your legs, feet, hands and arms to start - it can work wonders for tired feet.

Home Ec: DIY Stress Relievers

I’ve found that as winter creeps on, I find myself curling into a little ball on the couch. When the temperatures drop, I pile the blankets on and all thoughts of good posture and staying stretched out and in shape go out the window. This is the time of year when it would be wonderful to indulge in a spa day and get a great massage, warm up a bit and maybe even hit the steam room. But that’s not in my budget right now, so I’ve been trying to think of simple ways I can create my own stress relievers at home without breaking the bank. So in light of what feels like NY’s millionth snow storm today (and the digging-out we’ll need to do), I’m sharing some of my favorite DIY remedies you can easily make at home with your own two hands. These will help ease sore muscles, calm your mind and relax your body — all good ideas when the icy weather has us all scrunched up and huddling in the wind. xo, grace

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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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Artwork by Faye Moorhouse

Artwork by Faye Moorhouse

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I’m not sure if it’s because winter has me feeling particularly stir-crazy this year, but I’ve lately been jonesin’ for artwork with an unsettling, irreverent flair; work that disregards formal propriety and proudly waves its proverbial bird through the air. Let’s call it my rebellious art phase. I recently stumbled across the work of UK-based illustrator Faye Moorhouse and it has been feeding this morbid desire beautifully.

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From seemingly innocuous drawings of house pets to delightfully misshapen portraits of people, Moorhouse’s work combines a naive, rudimentary style with a devilish darkness that makes for work that is thrilling in its humor, off-kilter charm, and ability to unsettle. With a body of work that includes divinely crude ceramics and self-published zines, Moorhouse’s process reads as both fresh and decidedly punk rock. Check out Faye’s Etsy shop here. Continue after the jump for more images of her work! —Max VIEW MORE

Buffalo’s Cafe Fargo

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Buffalo’s Cafe Fargo

Even as little as five years ago, one would be hard-pressed to find an instance of the terms “Buffalo, NY” and “cutting-edge design” paired together — at least as far as the latter half of the 20th century is concerned. This is why, as a diehard devotee of this fabulous Rust Belt gem, I think I can speak for all Buffalonians when I express just how happy I am that these days seem to be over. Now that my beloved hometown has entered into what appears to be a full-blown Renaissance with Millenials flocking there to “live like kings,” the Queen City’s design scene has gone from a quiet peripheral whisper to, if I may speak frankly, STRAIGHT BALLER.

Take, for example, this newly constructed project space by local architectural firm Davidson Rafailidis. Code-named “Cafe Fargo,” this formally experimental, aesthetically fresh space is housed within a former deli on one of the Queen City’s stunning residential blocks. As rich in ideas as it is in beauty, the space combines centuries-old building methods and aesthetics with modern, energy-saving ideals to create something remarkably new.

“Typically, for a hospitality space, a large amount of the construction budget goes into mechanical systems that provide a uniform indoor climate throughout the year,” the architect notes. “With a tight budget, we took the opposite approach and transformed these invisible mechanical services into two experiential architectural elements that emphasize the distinct pleasures of summer and winter.” Employing Derbyshire, England’s 1590 Hardwick Hall as a case study, the architectural team turned to the decidedly old school technology of Kachelofen — masonry heaters — to heat the space in the winter and gigantic windows to keep everything breezy in the summer. Covered in black and white patterned encaustic tile, the Kachelofen at Cafe Fargo is the largest in North America, emanating heat throughout the space and through an attached heated bench.

To capture the beauty of this unique space, Davidson and Rafailidis turned to the German photographer Florian Holzherr whose images showcase the fantastic potential of Cafe Fargo. “We wanted someone who could really capture the soft, matte finishes in the space, and also a photographer who was used to conveying an architectural idea,” architect Stephanie Davidson says. “He had never been to Buffalo (not a big surprise), but was very engaged in his three days here.” Check out all of Florian’s photos in the slideshow, along with additional notes on the design of Cafe Fargo! —Max

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Before & After: A Modern Bathroom for a 1905 Farmhouse

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Before & After: A Modern Bathroom for a 1905 Farmhouse

I could fill an entire book with the funny stories, quirks and psychology that come with sharing your home online. Putting photos of some of the most private spaces in your life on the Internet can be daunting, of course, but how people choose to curate and handle that is different from family to family. But I’ve found that people universally tend to leave out their bathrooms more than any other room. Perhaps it’s because no one really loves looking at toilets or maybe it’s because it’s one of the last areas to get an upgrade, since it’s one of the least public areas of a home. So when I got a chance to revisit a home tour from three years ago and check out a previously unseen bathroom, I was sold.

Steve and Kalah Kren shared their 1905 farmhouse with us back in 2012. They renovated a few spaces right away, but several rooms, like this downstairs bathroom, had to wait to get their moment in the spotlight. Steve and Kalah wanted to tackle this project with a pro, so they hired designer Kirsten Grove to makeover their space. Their tiny downstairs bathroom was gutted, with the walls knocked down and a totally new tub, tile and sink added. I love how clean and simple the new space feels. It’s the sort of fresh start I love in a home and Kirsten chose great finishes and fixtures to give the room a modern feel. Click through to read more about the makeover and Kirstin’s design details! xo, grace

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