Before & After: A Philadelphia Family Apartment in the Heart of the City

Before & After: A Philadelphia Family Apartment in the Heart of the City, on Design*Sponge

Before & After: A Philadelphia Family Apartment in the Heart of the City

The “envelope” of a renovation project is critical to its success. Mona of Mona Ross Berman Interiors in Philadelphia first sorts out the floor, walls, lighting, windows, hardware, doors, and other finishes in a home before focusing on bolder decorative touches. “Many people assume that furniture and accessories are what designers focus on to make a space work,” she explains, “But really, I always start with the envelope because if that’s not working, nothing will look right.” Her firm helped their clients — a family of six, including four daughters — transform their two-bedroom pied-a-terre at The Dorchester overlooking Rittenhouse Square. Built in 1980, the apartment needed a complete overhaul to give it the modern look the couple desired. Along with the help of contractor Kenny Grono of Buckminster Green, they gutted the kitchen, removed crown molding, repainted traditional oak parquet floors in sleek black, re-tiled bathrooms, and lightened up what was overall a dark, dreary space.

Though the project had a relatively short eight-month timeline, several months were spent upfront planning what was to come. “Taking time at the start of the process is critical,” Mona advises, “Because without good planning and a strong team in place, the project is likely to run over budget and over schedule — and drive everyone a bit mad.” Rethinking the floor plan proved necessary. The design team had to create sleeping quarters for three teens, a toddler, and their parents. They wanted to open up the kitchen and main living space to create a large great room. They also hoped to reallocate closet space for laundry and even a nursery, and to carve out a mudroom to help keep things tidy.

“We had to figure out how to bring more light into the apartment,” Mona adds. Heavy traditional draperies were covering up large mid-century modern-style windows. The team then added track lighting, flushmounts, and baseboard fixtures wherever possible, as electrical wiring for recessed lights was not an option in each location. The parquet floors also appeared dingy, but it was too expensive to replace them and not worthwhile to refinish them. Instead, they were painted black to provide a simple, neutral backdrop for contemporary furniture. Crown molding was also removed for a more modern and simplified feel. In terms of layout, the master suite was reconfigured to create more closet space and additional privacy. What was once a closet became a very small but working nursery for a toddler.

The team’s guiding aesthetic principle was to create a modern, almost hotel-like vibe so the family would feel like they were “getting away” when they stayed in their city apartment. Functionally, it needed to accommodate a large family that entertains often. “When we realized we could make that work,” Mona shares, “We were all thrilled.” —Annie

Photography by Courtney Apple

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12 High-Style Spaces in Virginia and West Virginia

This blush-hued guest room at the Quirk features art by Aimee Joyaux. Local, Quirk Gallery artists decorate all of the Richmond, VA hotel's guest rooms.

12 High-Style Spaces in Virginia and West Virginia

Growing up in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, we were only an hour and some change from Washington D.C, across the local bridge from western Maryland, and 15 minutes from the Virginia state line where the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers meet. Being closer to D.C. and Virginia’s horse country, it was often difficult to explain to my NYC friends that I wasn’t a mountain mamma from the “almost heaven” (as in mountain-height) state of West Virginia, but rather an East Coast valley girl from the Shenandoah Valley.

I’m as fascinated by the coastal and colonial homes of Virginia as I am with the farmettes, cabins and former mills of West Virginia. Click through the slide show to see some great examples of homes in these neighboring states that represent some serious style. —Caitlin

*Sadly, many West Virginia counties, families and businesses have been affected by massive flooding last week, including the famed Greenbrier Hotel and Resort. Please consider helping their recovery efforts, if you can, by donating through the Greenbrier’s Neighbors program here.

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DIY Paper Mushroom Tutorial

DIY Paper Mushroom Tutorial

Paper Mushroom Tutorial by Kate Alarcón for Design*Sponge

I was putting folded laundry away in my son’s drawers when I happened to notice a honeycomb ball on top of his dresser, with its bottom pointed toward me. Normally, honeycomb paper is cut and shaped to highlight the honeycomb pattern, but the bottom of the ball showed a ring of perfectly spaced paper rays. It struck me that it looked just like the gills of a huge mushroom, and I filed that thought away for future reference — maybe a holiday window display?

Then about a week later, I was at Impress Cards and Crafts, where I teach paper flower classes, and —gasp! — I found tiny honeycomb paper designed for use in handmade cards. I hadn’t even known that honeycomb paper came in anything other than the large size used to make party decorations.

I brought home a packet in “ivory” and kept it on my nightstand so I could spend some time every night just messing with it. As I shaped, stretched, and manipulated the honeycomb paper, I was struck by how organic it looked and felt. I made a three-dimensional shape and played with it, turning it inside out. Somehow the way it moved reminded me of some kind of sea creature — maybe a jellyfish or sea anemone?

Paper Mushroom Tutorial by Kate Alarcón for Design*Sponge

I became a little bit obsessed and started reading about honeycomb and other hexagonal structures in nature. I learned that this pattern appears on salt-worn rock formations, insect eyes, and inside bones. Just as with crepe paper, I was charmed by the notion of using a manufactured material to explore structures in nature, particularly when the material itself is inspired by natural forms. I needed a material that was bulky but also light and regular for my mushroom gills; nature uses this honeycomb structure for the same reasons.

I hope you’ll whip up your own colony of mushrooms. They mix beautifully with paper flowers (how cute would they be arranged with some paper hellebores and daffodils?!), and I think a little pot of them would make an enchanting gift. —Kate

Paper Mushroom Tutorial by Kate Alarcón for Design*Sponge
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Why Mirrors Will Always Be Impactful in Design, Part 2

If you have open wall space and a mirror, you have the opportunity to create a design moment or functional zone. Since Kristen Cesiro didn't have enough space to get ready for the day in her tiny Brooklyn bathroom, she designated this area in the bedroom as a vanity. An Anthropologie mirror pulls the whole space together.

Why Mirrors Will Always Be Impactful in Design, Part 2

I recently professed our love and appreciation for the almighty mirror, a tool in the design world that has proved to be steadfast time and time again.

Mirrors hold aesthetic power in their ability to function both as a “look-at-me” focal point or grounding agent in a room and a strategic, barely-there chameleon that works to amplify other design elements or home features — like wallpaper, ceiling height, and natural light.

So without further ado, as promised, here’s Part 2 of our deep-dive into the magical prowess of mirrors. —Kelli

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Making The Ordinary Extraordinary with Aubry Bennion of Hello Maypole

Making The Ordinary Extraordinary with Aubry Bennion of Hello Maypole

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Striking a balance means something different for everyone. For some, it means cutting ties or quitting a job outright to pursue a passion. For Aubry Bennion, it meant launching a business while remaining supported by her corporate job — one she still holds even after reaching successful heights with her small business. Born out of a love for celebration, Aubry Bennion started Hello Maypole as a way to bring joy to life’s most ordinary occasions through her line of fun and colorful felt balls that can be mixed or matched, suspended by string as a garland or DIY’d into a wreath.

Balancing a fun-loving attitude with business savvy, Aubry is joining us today to chat more about her start on Etsy, the stress of juggling many (felt) balls, what it means to run a niche business, and how, in today’s age, even a business with the humblest of beginnings can have a fighting chance. –Sabrina

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A Dozen Talented Stylists to Follow on Instagram

A Dozen Stylists to Follow on Instagram | Design*Sponge

A Dozen Talented Stylists to Follow on Instagram

The world of social media and blogs has opened many eyes to the work and incredible talent of photo stylists behind gorgeous print ads, movie sets and editorial photo shoots; a perspective that we didn’t have before the digital era. Interior and prop stylists are popping up all over Instagram, sharing their recent projects, their home styling, and the behind-the-scenes glimpses into their days. We’ve gathered 12 interior and photo stylists who inspire us with their creativity and curated feeds. These stylists from all over the world are doing their part to showcase the work of designers, photographers and brands in the best and most beautiful way possible. –Lauren

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5 Decorating Tips We Learned From Chicago’s Freehand Hotel

5 Decorating Tips We Learned From Chicago’s Freehand Hotel

5 Decorating Tips We Learned From The Freehand Hotel, Design*SpongeLooking around, you’d never know that Chicago, IL newcomer Freehand Hotel is a hostel. Hostels are often thought of as seedy, and not the kind of place where you’d be kicking back in a mid-century lounger holding a tiki drink and bobbing your head to an up-and-coming DJ. That’s what makes this place so unique. Its fabulous furnishings and laid-back attitude are reinventing affordable and stylish lodging.

The look is thanks to the designers of Roman and Williams, the same team behind Ace Hotel NY and the Highline. They’ve taken what was one of Chicago’s most-notoriously unsavory motels and flipped it into the gem that it is today. The space’s new style has been deamed “folk, prairie,” and its warm tones, inspired by the Midwest, give both the guest rooms and public spaces a revitalized coziness and an approachable charm that you simply don’t get with other modern, streamlined places. All in all, it’s impossible to leave without an itch to redecorate your own pad in such a retro way — I know I left with endless decorating inspiration. While my notes were copious, I’ve pared down what I found most inspiring about the hostel into 5 ways you can bring the look of Freehand Hotel home. Follow these, and your space can be just as unique and fun as my favorite new spot in Chicago.

P.S. If you want to check out Freehand Hotel for yourself, use code DESIGNSPONGE when booking. You’ll save 15% on private quad, king and queen rooms.

Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography courtesy of Daniel Kelleghan

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9 Summer Reads + Matching Beach Towels

The 100 Best African American Poems by Nikki Giovanni + African pattern beach towel

9 Summer Reads + Matching Beach Towels

My summer plans always include three important things: sunscreen, bug spray and at least five books to read. With a lot of opportunities for outdoor time, these essentials are tucked into a tote bag and hung by the door for spontaneous outings with my 10-year-old daughter and neighbors. Often my daughter and I will disappear into our own rooms to get dressed for the day (or a river float!) and emerge wearing nearly identical outfits.

Needless to say, it’s no surprise that my beach towels end up matching my current read’s book cover. Based on this phenomenon, I thought it would be interesting to round up some great summer books with towels that, well, kind of match. Whether you’re a book person or a swim person, I hope a few of these will make you smile, and maybe even end up in your tote bag.

Happy summer! —Caitlin

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In Indiana, A Stylist Jazzes Up Cookie-Cutter Construction

In Indiana, A Stylist Jazzes Up Cookie-Cutter New Construction, Design*Sponge

In Indiana, A Stylist Jazzes Up Cookie-Cutter Construction

When purchasing your first home, you oftentimes want it all. Your laundry list of must-haves tags along to every showing, a reminder that the potential house has to be in the right neighborhood, look a certain way, and be the perfect price. Finding a needle in a haystack can be challenging, though, and when push comes to shove, sometimes being flexible ends up working out in ways you never imagined. Such was the case in 2013, when interior stylist and blogger Heather Jorde and her husband Connor set out to buy their first home together. Letting go of their hope of owning a quirky, older home in Indianapolis, IN led them to a dream in disguise: new construction.

This disguise came in the form of bland furnishings and little personality, but those aspects actually served up such a rare opportunity that the couple gave it a shot. The home was a blank canvas where they could let their imaginations run wild. Heather and Connor’s greatest out-of-the-box thinking comes to life in the entryway and their daughter Charlie’s nursery. The “cookie-cutter” entry sings thanks to a snazzy, hand-painted graphic. Its modern shape and rustic decorations both combine Connor and Heather’s styles and set the tone for the rest of their Scandinavian-inspired abode. Follow this stylish entryway’s staircase, and you’ll find more one-of-a-kind surprises, including Heather’s DIY pièce de résistance: the stenciled wall in her daughter’s room. This fun tree design is accompanied by a DIY hanging clothing rack. It simultaneously solves the room’s storage issue and gives the home yet another enviable, custom touch.

While this Midwestern home boasts endless pretty moments, it’s the sentiment behind each one that truly makes this house special. Every tweak was designed to bring the family closer together, creating a space that keeps them smiling and laughing. Click through to see exactly how Heather and Connor have made this newly-construced home work for their family and stand out in a sea of sameness. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Heather Jorde

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12 Glorious Ways to Use Tiles in a Room

12 Rooms Featuring Gorgeous Tiles on Design*Sponge

12 Glorious Ways to Use Tiles in a Room

Tiles are a beautiful (and practical) option for wall or floor covering, and make a high-impact finish whether used as an accent or as a focal point in a room. The pattern selections are endless, and are made in a wide spectrum of colors and styles for options that could easily find their way into any type of room. While Moroccan designs add a hint of bohemian romance, small-scale patterns and geometrics provide sharp style, as you’ll find in several of these examples. I often think of tiles in the context of a kitchen or bathroom, but they can be stunning and unexpected when used outside of these areas. While I’m a fan of the tile backsplash for infusing color into a kitchen, covering a whole wall or taking the backsplash tiles down to the floor can bring a lot of energy to the room.

These rooms use stunning tiles to accomplish many different functions, ranging from a stylish finish or colorful accent to practical — though still aesthetically appealing — applications like bathroom floors. While the reasons may vary, there are so many places to use tile in your home! — Kevin

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How To Be Yourself

How To Be Yourself

How To Be Yourself
One of the hardest things about being a “working creative” is finding your style. You’ll grow and change throughout your career (which is good), but it also helps to have some sense of what you’re doing in the beginning. It’s tempting to learn by identifying what you like and reiterating it until it’s yours, but is that really the most honest? Do you want to be someone who is keeping up, or someone who is leading their own way?

By now you’ve spent a good portion of your life learning things about yourself, steering them in different directions, giving up, hiding them, claiming new identities and any number of other things that we all do (consciously or not). So maybe, just as an exercise that we like, toooootally don’t need but are doing just for fun, let’s try to look objectively at our guts, and then trust them.

Life is going to tell you a lot of things about yourself that you didn’t ask to be told. Negativity will be thrown at you out of nowhere. But when you’re being true to yourself and doing what you love, none of that really matters. We know this, but it bears repeating: Love conquers hate, and never giving up is how you win. –Adam J. Kurtz

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Brass Plant Mobiles by Natalie Joy

Brass Plant Mobiles by Natalie Joy

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This past weekend, I finally had to admit that my poor, struggling bathroom oxalis was ready to head to the great garden in the sky. No matter where I placed it, it seemed to wilt, and no matter how much (or little) I watered it, I just couldn’t get it to come back to life. So in light of that lack-of-a-green-thumb development, I’ve had artificial plants on my mind.

These brass plant mobiles by Natalie Joy (who also makes the earrings of my dreams) are a great alternative to real plants if, like me, you’ve had mixed results with house plants. Natalie designed brass versions of Philodendron, Monstera, Cactus and Corn plants, and each one feels like a bright and shiny sculptural version of the real thing. If you need a little plant life at home but want to skip the watering, click here to check them out and shop online. xo, grace

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Large Scale Affordable Posters + Best of the Web

Large Scale Affordable Posters + Best of the Web

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As much as I love a gallery wall (and I do), these days my heart really belongs to large-scale artwork. Maybe it’s something about the simplicity of one huge piece or the way that it doesn’t require me to get super precise with a ruler and measuring, but large-scale artwork is my jam right now. The only catch is that it often comes with a higher price tag- especially when you add a frame to the equation.

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Thankfully Eva and the Sycamore Street Press crew have come to my rescue with a new collection of large scale affordable downloadable posters that you can print at your local copy shop. Even in color, all of these prints (after printing) still come out to be $30 or under, so they’re a great value for anyone looking to spiff up their walls without doing too much damage to their bank account. The artwork comes with a fascinating back story, too. Prop stylist and interior designer, Meta Coleman, found a series of antique paintings at her family’s home in Germany and curated this selection to be available as printable posters at the Sycamore Street Press site. If you’re looking for something new for your wall (my tip: try DIYing your own frame like we did to save some $$!) click here to check out the full collection online. Until Monday, have a great weekend! xo, grace

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Gabriel Cabrera’s Super-Fudgy Dairy-Free Ice Cream

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Gabriel Cabrera’s Super-Fudgy Dairy-Free Ice Cream

Before summer starts to sizzle, we want to give you a few options to beat the heat when it arrives. Gabriel Cabrera, the voice and photographer behind Canadian lifestyle blog, the Artful Desperado, has brought us his recipe for Super-Fudgy Dark Chocolate, Cherry, and Tayberry Swirl Ice Cream with a big caveat: get ready to put on your stretchy pants because after one taste, you’ll be ready to eat the whole batch on your own! He has perfected his creamy, luscious, velvety, and super-fudgy “ice cream” as a dairy-free alternative to fruity sorbet. Yep, dairy-free! If you don’t already have one, with last week’s roasted peach popsicles, your cold dessert recipe arsenal should be off to a great start! –Kristina

Why Gabriel loves this recipe: This recipe is one of my faves (and I’ve been testing it and perfecting it for some time now, it’s still a work in progress you could say) because it reminds me of chocolate ice cream cake I used to have when I was a kid, back when I had the power of lactose and could have the whole thing to myself. This recipe can be mixed with other fruits in season or even be spiked with bourbon or kirsch. The secret to its fudgy-ness is in the beaten eggs, yep, it’s basically like a meringue and a chocolate ganache mixed together resulting in a smooth frozen product that’s not rock solid (which happens when you straight up freeze coconut milk).

Food Photography by Gabriel Cabrera, Portrait by Mark Yammine

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11 Beautiful Large-Scale Photographs for Any Space

11 Beautiful Large-Scale Photographs for Any Space | Design*Sponge

11 Beautiful Large-Scale Photographs for Any Space

We all love gallery walls for their economical way to refresh artwork on a whim. They can incorporate so many mediums of art and act as a visual feast in your home. Something a gallery wall can’t do, however, is focus on one gorgeous piece to set the tone of the space.

Large-scale photography has a grand, striking presence while keeping the look minimal and sleek. These 11 images from past Design*Sponge sneak peeks show us how dramatic and artful a single, oversized piece can be. —Lauren

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