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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Project Sip: Meyer Lemon Gin Cocktail

Project Sip: Meyer Lemon Gin Cocktail

© Kathryn McCrary Photography Atlanta Lifestyle Photographer Project Sip Jenn Gietzen Write On Design-64
A few years ago, Meyer Lemons really had their moment in the sun. It seemed like they were the star of every menu, from appetizers to cocktails and desserts. Originally from China, Meyer Lemons taste like a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. It’s that extra punch of sweetness that makes them perfect for desserts and cocktails and today we’re sharing a delicious drink recipe from the Project Sip team, Jenn Gietzen and Kathryn McCrary, that showcases Meyer Lemons in all their glory. This recipe calls for gin, but I’ve found that you can easily substitute in some seltzer if you’d like to make a non-alcoholic version. The shot of rosemary simple syrup really seals the deal for me with this one — it’s a perfect late winter drink. Enjoy! xo, grace

*You can check out their last five drinks right here!

© Kathryn McCrary Photography Atlanta Lifestyle Photographer Project Sip Jenn Gietzen Write On Design-65

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Flower Identification App

Flower Identification App

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Until recently, there wasn’t a week that went by without me asking, “Why isn’t there an app where you can just upload a picture of a flower or plant and have them tell you what it is?” I’m always outside or in a garden shop trying to figure out what things are and I’ve found, more often than not, that people working in larger garden or home stores don’t always know what plants they’re selling. So I started carrying around a pocket-sized flower guide with me everywhere I went. Then I realized I wanted to know more about small trees and flowering plants, so I started carrying around a small tree identification book, too. My book load was starting to get a little ridiculous compared to the size of my daily bag, so I decided to resume my search again for an app and, thankfully, there is now an app for flower identification!

LikeThat Garden: Flower Identification is a free (yay!) app in the iTunes store that lets you snap (or upload) a pic and in a moment, they’ll tell you what it is. There have been a number of plant identification apps that have popped up over the years, but they’ve never worked for me. I’ve always ended up with the wrong plant or a “Sorry, we can’t find your flower!” error message. But so far, everything I’ve uploaded to this app seems to pop up instantly. With spring approaching and gardens getting ready to come back to life everywhere, I thought this would be a particularly handy app to have for anyone looking for a little inspiration. Flower Identification is only available for iPhones right now, but they announced they’re expanding to Android next month, so stay tuned! xo, grace

*Photo by Maxwell Tielman

DIY Clay Wind Charm

DIY Clay Wind Charm

DIY Clay Wind Charm

When I was younger I collected wind chimes. We would keep them in the garden hanging from trees and in the summer I was never happier than when I sat underneath the chimes on a summer’s evening, listening to them clang musically in the breeze. The current decor trend to hang everything — from plants to your fruit bowl — has had me reminiscing over the decorative aspects of chimes. Hanging disks or tubes to create a collection of shapes, rather than a sound, seems to fit perfectly with this trend. Instead of metals I used an air-dry clay to make these decorative indoor chimes as subtle in their sound as they are in their aesthetic! —Fran VIEW MORE

Materially Crafted: A DIY Primer for the Design-Obsessed

Materially Crafted: A DIY Primer for the Design-Obsessed

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I love a good DIY book. Primarily because they remind me (hopefully over and over again) that beautiful design isn’t something you have to buy in a store or take down from a shelf. Sometimes the best things you can decorate your home with are the ones you make with your own two hands. Victoria Hudgins of the blog A Subtle Revelry has a brand new DIY book out and I’ve already dog-eared a few pages to tackle this spring when it starts to thaw outside. Her book, Materially Crafted: A DIY Primer for the Design-Obsessed, focuses on materials and great ways (including 30 main projects) to transform them into something special. I think material-based projects are the best to tackle, because they leave you feeling comfortable and proficient with something you can now carry over and try again in a new way. Victoria has been kind enough to share a full project from the book today — one that is perfect for pre-spring. This hanging orb planter (don’t worry, the pot is attached!) lets you show off your favorite plants and turn them into a dramatic hanging display — or just a single bold strand of statement. Thanks so much to Victoria for sharing this with us today and a big congrats on her new book — you can check it out and pick up a copy right here. xo, grace

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Architectural Charm in the Suburbs

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Architectural Charm in the Suburbs

Moving to the suburbs can be hard – especially if the home being left behind in the city is a 100-year-old house with incredible charm. The odds of finding a home with character in a newly developed area are slim. When Mark and Jami Nato needed to find a home quickly (Jami was eight months pregnant when their old house sold) in the suburbs of Kansas City, they were thankful to find a house they could make a month’s worth of changes to and feel at home in. They’ve lived in their 1980s Cape Cod colonial for just six months and have turned it into a refined, beautiful space with architectural personality throughout.

Mark works in surgical sales and Jami is a blogger and stays home with their four kids, Layne, Lila, Penelope and Pruett. “We moved from the city to the suburbs for our special needs kiddo to have a good educational opportunity. In the suburbs there is so much new construction,” Jami said. “We thought we would end up in something generic, but when we saw this home, we fell in love.” To get the home ready for the new baby, Jami and Mark narrowed down their priorities. Carpet removal, a kitchen update, and fresh paint on the walls and trim were the most important to get done first.

They’ve decorated and designed their home perfectly for the way they intend to use it. “We want to live here, really live here. I never want my kids saying they were afraid of certain rooms or that they didn’t feel welcome where they lived. Basically, we just wanted a home that exudes hospitality, for ourselves and for others,” Jami said. Each piece is special and loved by the Natos, complementing the beautiful structure it lives in. They have turned this unusual suburban house into the best of both worlds – what they need and what they love. -Lauren

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Studio Tour: Souda

A Mitre Stool sits atop a platform in the Souda studio.

Studio Tour: Souda

It’s easy to feel slightly envious of Souda, the Brooklyn-based design collective founded by Parsons alumni Shaun Kasperbauer, Luft Tanaka, and Isaac Friedman-Heiman. When we first covered their work in early 2013, the ink on the trio’s undergraduate degrees was still drying, their collection consisted mostly of thesis work, and they were still laying the groundwork for their business. In the subsequent two years, Souda has already achieved the type of success and accolades typically reserved for old pros. From winning a New York Design Award and the title of ICFF’s Best New Designer to features in Dwell, Vogue Living, The New York Times, and Wallpaper, their star only seems to be rising.

It’s not really any surprise why. Since their debut collection, Souda has been consistently pushing aesthetic and formal boundaries, expanding upon their already experimental ethos. With an oeuvre that now includes seating, shelving, lighting, and large-scale ceramics, the trio has branched out while remaining true to their style and message. Beautifully crafted using unusual methods like leather slip casting, each piece is as much a treat for the mind and the hand as it is for the eyes. A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of stopping into Souda’s Bushwick studio, a space that the friends have been renting since their Parsons days. With an impeccably appointed office and a massive workspace overflowing with creative energy, it’s hard to believe that this remains —more or less— a three-man operation. Check out all of the photos from my visit in the slideshow! —Max

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Life & Business: Taylor & Elaine of Local Wanderer

Life & Business: Taylor & Elaine of Local Wanderer

Life & Business: Taylor & Elaine of Local Wanderer

Craving more freedom and fun than they had in their careers, two Canadian pals, Taylor Loren and Elaine Rystead, hopped in a car, quit their jobs and started driving. They knew they were headed for Mexico, but figuratively, they had no idea what they were chasing other than what made them happy and what felt right. And, as is often the case, doing what they really love is what ended up being the most rewarding business they could have ever imagined. Today, the lovely lasses of Local Wanderer are taking time out of their globe-trotting lives to chat about business, localism vs. tourism, what a career in social media means, copycats and more. –Sabrina

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