Why Customer Service Matters Now More Than Ever

Why Customer Service Matters Now More Than Ever

lifeandbusiness_val2

Val Geisler has been planning and organizing for as long as she can remember; from being the (self) assigned cookie-sales organizer at Girl Scouts to being a stage manager of various operas. She was even the woman who organized bringing lululemon to the US! So it was a natural progression for her to open up her own consulting and support agency, aspire&grow, to help creative “solopreneurs” achieve their goals. No stranger to systems and technology, her 12 years of experience has led her to work with everyone from multinational companies to nonprofit groups and small-business owners, all in an effort to help them reach their goals, big or small. And the number one thing she thinks all businesses should have, big or small? Great customer experience. Today Val is sharing the three things you should be aware of — or implementing — to up the ante of your business. –Sabrina

VIEW MORE

Life & Business: Kaye Blegvad

Life & Business: Kaye Blegvad

KAYE_lifeandbusiness
Kaye Blegvad first caught my attention when I stumbled upon her interview on Your Dreams My Nightmares, an interview podcast hosted by Sam Weber featuring his conversations with illustrators, designers and artists. Her sincerity and gentle intelligence were as apparent in her chat as they are in her work; from her signature illustration style, to her line of handmade jewelry, Datter Industries — I’m eying her cat face ring — to her self-run, tongue-in-cheek pornographic magazine, Horizontal Press. Her process is always part of the finished product, and the subtle humor and commentary she injects into everything she touches is charmingly earnest.

Kaye currently lives and works in Brooklyn, but when she’s craving a change of scenery, she’ll hop over the ocean to live in London, England, where she grew up. And despite her busy schedule, she took the time to chat with us about how hobbies can be lucrative, streamlining your management so you can get to the things that matter, and the importance of enjoying what you do, “otherwise, you may as well be working for someone else.” –Sabrina

VIEW MORE

Mumbai, India City Guide with Sheena Dabholkar

Mumbai, India City Guide with Sheena Dabholkar

cityguide-mumbai
I’ve been fascinated with India ever since I watched the 12-episode travel documentary Around The Next Bend in 2012. Unlike many travel shows which can be over-produced or edited, best friends Adrian and Dustin had no idea what they were doing or where they were going when they signed up for the show. They only had two self-operated cameras and one mission: to row over 2,500 kilometers down the Ganges River in an inflatable raft, from New Delhi to Dhaka. What I loved about the documentary was that they filmed everything; they didn’t edit parts out, they didn’t avoid areas, instead they bonded and interacted with lcoals in an attempt to fully understand and immerse themselves in the history and culture.

Much like the documentary, Sheena Dabholkar’s guide to Mumbai (or Bombay, depending on who you ask) is just as candid, expansive and enlightening. Sheena is a freelance lifestyle photographer, design journalist and art director, who also blogs about travel and design. She’s collaborated with MTV and Hermes and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and Wallpaper* to name a few. Though she was born in India, she grew up in New Zealand and moved back to her hometown in 2009. Sheena makes traveling a priority, but her home base will always be Mumbai. Click through to read Sheena’s entire city guide, divided into four regions just to make our lives easier. –Sabrina

VIEW MORE

A Spanish-Style Home in San Francisco That Balances Function and Beauty

Whoa! Their cacti is something to be proud of.

A Spanish-Style Home in San Francisco That Balances Function and Beauty

Right on the border of the Presidio and Marina in San Francisco live UI designers Sara (who also runs the blog Design Comb) and Rich Combs, and their two cats, Link and Elle. Together, from their 1926 Spanish-style apartment, they run the design studio Hexagon, so having a space that fosters their creative spirit and pays homage to the home’s Spanish influence was important to the couple. But, as with any rental space, their opportunity to customize and renovate was slim to none. They’ve had to practice patience and improvisation to create a functional, beautiful space: Instead of  tearing down walls and pulling out the power tools, they’ve utilized intelligent design, decor and cans of paint. But the age (and limitations) of their apartment doesn’t bring all bad. Both Sara and Rich are smitten with the charm and character of the building — from the beautiful, Spanish tile-studded entryway to the hand painted ceilings — and they have a view of the Golden Gate bridge, which can’t be beat!

Other than drawing inspiration from the building’s history, Sara and Rich’s love of travel and culture influences their home style: the walls are filled with artwork, surfaces are covered in plants, and their shelves brim with books. “It makes it fun to come home,” says Sara. And while their space is anything but calculated, they only had one design rule when it came to buying furniture (one I think we should all follow): they had to be obsessed with a piece in order to bring it home. So it’s safe to say that their goal of creating a space “that felt like us” was definitely achieved. –Sabrina

 

 

VIEW MORE

Studio Tour: Block Shop Textiles

Block Shop Textiles Studio Tour, on Design*Sponge

Studio Tour: Block Shop Textiles

Makers, craftsmanship, heritage and tradition; while these terms have always been part of the design vernacular, they have become modern-day buzzwords. However, the larger commercial marketplace is still dominated by fast fashion and mass production. For me, it’s not enough to discover something beautiful — I need to know the back story in order to be connected to it in a meaningful way. Block Shop Textiles, with an ethos that combines artistic inspiration with an ethically-minded business approach, has this story in spades.

Today I am excited to give you a glimpse into the world of sisters Lily and Hopie Stockman. Together they bring that admirable combination of creative vision and business acumen to the table. Both with backgrounds in painting, they took winding roads to where they are today. Hopie worked in finance before turning back to creative pursuits. Lily followed her painting studies by leading a National Geographic-sponsored trek across the eastern steppe of Mongolia, followed by a move to Jaipur, India where she studied Mughal miniature painting. It was during this painting apprenticeship in 2010 that she met Vijendra Chhipa, a fifth-generation master printer, and learned about hand block printing and natural dyes. At a time when demand for this time-honored tradition was being replaced by cheaper, chemical-based screen printing, Lily and Vijendra started creating beautiful, oversized scarves. Six months later Hopie joined them and a business plan was developed. Fast forward to present day and Vijendra is now the foreman of Block Shop, where they employ over 20 printers in the village of Bagru, India.

Read more about the fascinating textile process after the jump!

 

VIEW MORE

An Open and Industrial Loft in Brooklyn

An Open, Industrial Brooklyn Loft

An Open and Industrial Loft in Brooklyn

It’s not often that reconfiguring a home in terms of room size and family needs can come without remodeling or demolition of any kind — walls generally need to come down or go up and serious renovation plans are sometimes involved. In an open-concept loft, however, spaces are what we make them and the options are infinite. Furniture placement, rugs and clever dividers have given this industrial Brooklyn loft spatial definition while keeping the cool factor of the studio layout.

Natalie, a writer and blogger, Brandon, a tax attorney, and preschool-aged Huck Holbrook moved into this gorgeous space almost on a whim. They loved their West Side apartment, but when a Brooklyn loft in a better school district opened up at a great price, they were sold even before stepping inside. The blank canvas has given Natalie and Brandon a never-ending game of Tetris (that they kind of love). “We moved in on a Friday and I managed to get the entire place unpacked by Sunday, but the actual process of working within the space and finding the best layout took us almost a full year,” Natalie says. “It’s an open studio floor plan — one giant box — and so the furniture and space arrangement possibilities are endless. I’ve been very mindful the last few months of how we live and what we need our space to accomplish for us, and here and there I’ve been tweaking our space to accommodate.” The overall impact their loft has had on the Holbrook family’s lifestyle doesn’t stop there.

Without walls, keeping a clutter-free approach in each room is a necessity. “No bedrooms means no closets, and rather than stuff all our things into creative storage all over the place, we decided to just get rid of the stuff. We’ve learned to live with so much less, and it’s been life-changing,” Natalie says. “As a result, our space feels airy, clean, and calm. It’s been the most freeing, relaxing decision we’ve ever made. We absolutely love our new, light footprint.” Natalie and Brandon have turned their “giant box” into an intentional living space that is perfect for their current needs. And if those needs change, so will their home. —Lauren

Photography by Natalie Holbrook and Cheyenne Mojica

VIEW MORE

Confetti + Donuts

Confetti + Donuts

donut_paper_napkins_3ea35ce2-3ac1-49ca-bdbd-1661b797a83c_1024x1024
This weekend we found carpenter ants and wasps upstairs, heard something rummaging around in our attic and just before bed I managed to mess up our toilet and it overflowed into the bathroom and hallway. Whoops. So to overcome my major case of the Mondays, I’m starting the day with this sweet bit of (almost) literal design candy: donut and confetti napkins at Leif. A few of these and some actual apple cider donuts from up the street and I think I might just kick these Monday “time to call the plumber” blues. xo, grace

confetti_paper_napkins-2_30fd775c-fe94-4395-954c-5b1b00cff0f4_1024x1024

Alea Toussaint Wallpaper Download: Day 7!

Alea Toussaint Wallpaper Download: Day 7!

DS_Floral_Orange_instagram_1800x1800
Today is the final day of Alea Toussaint‘s beautiful wallpaper downloads. It’s been such a pleasure to have her gorgeous handmade patterns on the site this week and I’m so appreciative for all the hard work and creativity she put into each handmade pattern. I’m going to rotate them around on my phone and computer all spring and today’s pattern (DOWNLOAD SUNDAY’S PATTERN HERE) If you missed any of her earlier patterns this week, download them all right here: Monday’s pattern, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Thanks, Alea! xo, grace

Click PLAY below to watch today’s pattern come together in a fun video from Alea and click here to follow more of Alea’s work on Instagram.

Free Pattern Download from Alea Toussaint: Day 6!

Free Pattern Download from Alea Toussaint: Day 6!

DS_Nuts_instagram_1800x1800
Happy Saturday everyone! Alea Toussaint has been sharing beautiful handmade pattern downloads on DS all week and she kindly agreed to make some for the weekend, too! So today we’re sharing pattern number 6: a playful piece comprised of mixed nuts, seeds and berries. This makes me want to pack a snack and head out for a hike today. CLICK HERE to download this new pattern for your computer or phone backdrop. Thanks, Alea and have a wonderful Saturday! xo, grace

Free Pattern from Alea Toussaint + Best of the Web

Free Pattern from Alea Toussaint + Best of the Web

DS_Floral_Pink_instagram_1800x1800
It’s been such a treat this week to have artist and designer Alea Toussaint at DS, sharing custom, handmade patterns with all of us. Alea has kindly offered to continue through the weekend, so tune in tomorrow and Sunday for two more free downloadable patterns for your computer and phone backgrounds! To download today’s pink floral pattern from Alea, CLICK HERE. Julia and I are off to visit her family for Passover, so I’m closing up the laptop early today. Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday this weekend to anyone and everyone celebrating. xo, grace

Below is a summary of this week’s highlights from DS and around the web:

bestoftheweb

bestofds

In the Kitchen With: Marnie, Andrea and Jen’s Deviled Eggs

In the Kitchen With: Marnie, Andrea and Jen’s Deviled Eggs

COVER.-The-Picnic-Hi-Res_Web
It is always a treat for me when we have illustrated recipes on the column, such as these by Emily Isabella bringing to life what authors Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker and Jen Stevenson refer to as the “king of canapés,” also known as the deviled egg. Marnie, Andrea and Jen lead the Portland Picnic Society and today’s recipe for the deviled egg with twelve variations and homemade mayonnaise comes from the Society’s first book, The Picnic: Recipes and Inspiration from Basket to Blanket. It is a lovely, hand-illustrated cookbook which covers the ABCs of picnicking. It’s full of useful tips, such as those for transporting deviled eggs: Pack a container of already prepared egg whites and a resealable plastic bag of filling in a cooler. Once you arrive at the park, snip the corner of the bag and pipe away! —Kristina

About Marnie, Andrea and Jen: Marnie Hanel writes for The New York Times Magazine,W MagazineDepartures, and Marie Claire. Andrea Slonecker is a cookbook writer, food stylist, the recipe editor of Kinfolk, and the author of Pretzel Making at Home and Eggs on Top. Jen Stevenson runs the Portland food blog Under the Table with Jen and is the author of Portland’s 100 Best Places to Stuff Your Faces. Together, Hanel, Slonecker and Stevenson lead the Portland Picnic Society, a group that was founded to celebrate the art of picnicking.

VIEW MORE

Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin’s Canadian Cottage Transformation

Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation

Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin’s Canadian Cottage Transformation

Colin and Justin are a fun-loving international design duo hailing from Britain who I first fell in love with years ago when I glimpsed them on CityLine (Toronto’s morning show). Their wit, sense of humor and down-to-earth attitude and design style has since won thousands over.

They’ve interviewed Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Madonna and many more as red carpet reporters for City TV and they develop proprieties across the globe. But if that wasn’t enough, they also manage a rental portfolio in Toronto, London and Glasgow, are columnists in The Toronto SunCottage Life Magazine and Huffington Post, and have their own home product line, Colin and Justin Home, available in Canadian stores such as HomesenseMarshalls and Winners and via American retailers like HomeGoods and TJ Maxx. While all of these things add up to the reasons why I’m a super-fan, I’m most giddy about their recent doings.

Mere months ago, they undertook their largest design challenge yet: to renovate a massive (and extremely run-down) cottage in northern Ontario in — gulp — 12 weeks. I followed along with their process on Instagram and now, they’re finally done and breathing a sigh of accomplished relief. But the best part of all? They taped it all! Their show, Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pressure, airs on Cottage Life television (and not since the days of Extreme Home Makeover and Genevieve’s Renovation have I been so excited for a home show)!

Today, the effervescent Colin and Justin tour us through the cottage they made over during Cabin Pressure, Season 1 and were kind and, not surprisingly, gracious enough to write their own essay on this monstrously awesome project of theirs. Read it all after the jump, including how to enter a contest to win a trip to this spectacular cottage! –Sabrina

VIEW MORE

Home Ec: How to Care for Rugs, Carpets and Floors

RUGS: CLEANING
Keeping your rugs clean and not letting stains sit will help your rugs lead a long and healthy life.
1. Shake out, air dry and vacuum your rugs regularly : This will help prevent dirt and stains from setting into the carpet.
2. Hand-wash if possible. If you have a rug that can handle washing, wash it in a full tub with 2 cap-fulls of a gentle dish soap  and let it air dry.
3. If you have a delicate antique rug or a rug with colors that will bleed, hire a pro. I have our rugs professionally cleaned once a year at a cleaner that doesn't use chemicals and it's worth it.
4. Nature's Miracle: If you need to clean a pet/bio stain, I swear by this cleaner. 
5. Be Careful with Sisal! Follow these steps for natural fiber rugs! [Photo from Jen Chu]

Home Ec: How to Care for Rugs, Carpets and Floors

The vast majority of the cleaning work I do at home revolves around cleaning up after our pets. No matter how well trained they are, accidents happen and they almost always happen on my favorite rug. So I’ve become something of an amateur rug and carpet sleuth, sussing out which techniques, tools and tips actually work for cleaning and maintaining floors at home. Flooring is one of the most important parts of our homes — it sees the most wear and tear, but with a little upkeep, it can do its job and stay looking nice for years and years to come. So, how do you take care of your carpets, rugs and floors and protect your investments in all of them? Today I’m going to walk you through simple techniques and tips for keeping your floors (wood, tile, carpet, rugs and synthetic) in good condition for the long haul. No one wants to save up for a beautiful rug or new hardwood floors, only to have them damaged a year later, so these tips will ensure you spend wisely and avoid costly repairs or fixes. xo, grace

*If you have any tips or secrets (Please tell me someone has a tip for cleaning sisal rugs!) you swear by to maintain your flooring, we’d love to hear them below! All of the comments on these posts have been so helpful and spot-on. Thank you for sharing your advice!

unnamed

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!

VIEW MORE

The Little NoPo Farmhouse Makeover

24_nopo copy

The Little NoPo Farmhouse Makeover

One of the things I most admire in people is the ability to see beyond what’s directly in front of them. When it comes to home design and renovation, it’s a valuable skill to have and it can lead to not only savings and real deals in real estate, but it can really open the door to great creativity and the possibility for a space that truly reflects the people living inside.

Andrea Selkregg, a lawyer, and her husband Malcolm, a graphic designer, recently moved back to Andrea’s hometown of Portland after they realized that their growing family would get more space and house for their money up north than in their adopted hometown of Los Angeles. So they packed up, met with a realtor and looked at house after house until they stumbled upon this 100-year-old farmhouse. It had been on the market for months and viewed by over 50 people, all of whom deemed it a “tear-down.” But Andrea and Malcolm were up for the challenge and excited for the opportunity to make a space entirely their own. Through smart space planning and a liberal use of white paint (always great for making rooms feel bigger), their 960-square-foot home now feels like an airy oasis. I’m blown away that they made all of these renovations between October 20th of 2014 and right now, but they lucked out by having a contractor in the family who could help them navigate the process and speed things along. Andrea and Malcolm still have plans to work on the home some more (they want to open up and raise the ceilings), but for now, they’re so happy to live in their own little historic farmhouse. They put together this makeover to share with Malcolm’s family in Hawaii and I’m so glad they were open to sharing it with us today. This house really made me smile and I’m so happy to see how much love went into this one space. xo, grace

VIEW MORE

Studio Tour: Sarah Neuburger of The Small Object

The Small Object studio! This wreath was made from old cigarette boxes. (Not made by Sarah, but purchased at an antique store.)

Studio Tour: Sarah Neuburger of The Small Object

Earlier this week, we got a peek inside the Decatur, GA home of artist Sarah Neuburger of The Small Object and her wife, Edurne, who works as an RN in a medical intensive care unit. I was so touched by all the personal details in their home, and the stories behind their artwork and the objects they chose to decorate their space. Sarah keeps a home office in their family home, with a separate entrance for clients, and she was kind enough to send photos of that space in addition to their full home tour. I’m so excited to share this today and see where some of my favorite stamps, books and posters come from. I hope you’ll enjoy this peek inside her home studio as much as I did — I wish I could borrow that rotating wheel of stamps for a day, I would give every book in our house an “Enter the Universe” stamp. xo, grace

VIEW MORE