Having a fireplace is on the must-have list for most people I know that are house-hunting. It’s a focal point around which to anchor a room — other than a television. It welcomes conversation and encourages guests to stay a little while longer. Depending on the shape they’re in, the era they were built and the materials used, not all fireplaces are automatically cohesive in a space. While they seem untouchable and hard to transform because of their size, character or style, there are actually several ways to update and make-over such a prominent element of a space. These 10 Before & Afters showcase what some imagination can do to create cohesion between a homeowner’s style and the fireplace. –Lauren
As the snow continues to pile higher and higher around our house (poor Hope got stuck in the snow in our yard last night and I had to come get her out!), I find myself dreaming of sunny vacations at the beach and bright patterns to go with them. As much as I’ve tried to embrace winter whites and cozy neutrals, these colors just feel like the jolt of energy and sunlight I need on this long stretch of cold winter days. Hopefully these cheerful patterns and hues will pick you up, too! xo, grace
Image above, clockwise from top left: Josef Frank Spaces Book $35, Key Strap $16, Wild Confetti Clutch $98, Jeweled Bugs Scarf $375, Palomitas Mini Backpack $158, Indigo Tray $550, Round Cushion $160, Mipo Fountain Pen $25
I have this thing with shop decor — how shops merchandise, decorate for the seasons, what they do with their windows — I love it all. It goes back to when I was nine and traveled to New York City for the first time. I remember being so taken with shops there. It was January and even though it was cold and rainy outside, all the shops were so inviting and warm, because of the effort they had put into decorating for the season. The restaurants took that same road, from the art on the walls to the arrangements on the tables, each place where we ate paid attention to how the customer felt when they walked in. These retail spaces fostered a special environment, a warm place, one that you wanted to return to, over and over.
I’ve rounded up 10 places that give me that same sort of feeling I got when I was a child in NYC. Spots from London to Los Angeles, shops and restaurants, that all pay special attention to the feeling they will leave you with — or maybe something that draws you in, in the first place. —Erin
Seeing potential in a new house can be challenging. As fun as it is to watch real estate shows where a virtual mock-up of what could be accompanies each home showing, it’s not real life. Even for interior designers and decorators, inspiration isn’t going to come immediately. It takes work to uncover the design possibilities each space holds. For Vanessa Francis, the task was even harder because she and her daughter were moving into a much smaller house after her husband passed away last year.
Vanessa, an interior decorator, purchased a home five months ago in Milton, Ontario. Its smaller footprint compared to her previous house in the same town meant Vanessa had to get creative with utilizing the space well. “Since the home is over a thousand [square] feet smaller than our previous home, it was a challenge to lay out the furniture, especially in the open-concept living and dining room which runs parallel to the kitchen,” Vanessa explains. She started imagining and redesigning the space to serve her and daughter Maya well. “I really wanted the home to be more us and have our stamp on it. It was a typical builder home with next to no upgrades and it felt dark and sad. I wanted to lighten and pretty it up for my daughter and me. I know it sounds corny, but I wanted our new home to be a peaceful and happy haven for us after our devastating loss.” For the kitchen, that meant white cabinets, glass upper cabinets and a large blue island with plenty of room for Maya to do homework or for dinner guests to congregate.
Scraping the ceiling, installing new flooring, painting the walls and the cabinet installation all happened in three weeks before Vanessa and Maya moved in. “When we first saw the home, all the walls were a dark grey, the kitchen cabinets were dark brown and there was a combination of dark laminate and cheap floor tiles throughout the space. I wanted to brighten and simplify the space. Getting the shell right — floors, walls and ceiling — was important,” Vanessa shares. Once they moved in, Vanessa finished the kitchen remodel with drapes, stools and accessories. The kitchen before the makeover was short on counter space and cabinets because of a small eat-in dining area competing for square footage. Vanessa knew that expanding her workspace, increasing the pantry size and creating a more beautiful space would serve her better than an extra eating nook.
The result is a beautifully designed space. The blue-green island, moldings, and built-in look of the wall-to-wall white cabinets give the once dark and cut-off kitchen a new and lovely life. “I am most thankful that my daughter and I have a warm and peaceful home where we can heal and be happy again.” –Lauren
Photography by Ashley Capp
There are few things in the world of business that delight me more than a mother-daughter team. There’s something so special about intergenerational duos that are able to bring so many different layers and levels of wisdom and creativity to the table. And when it comes to Maya and Teta Gorgoni of Royal Jelly Harlem (above left and right, respectively), the wells of creativity and wisdom run deep.
Inspired by the richness and diversity of African design and prints, Maya decided to launch her own collection of fashion and home designs in 2011. Working with her mother, Teta, Maya launched her first series of designs from her home neighborhood of Harlem, New York City. The vivid colors and bold patterns in her work have created a devoted following of fans across the country, including some well known names in entertainment. Maya and Teta’s loyal customers come back time and again to support their eye-catching work, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll continue to expand into the home furnishings world, too. I’d love to see more of these amazing patterns on chairs, sofas and more. Until then, read on after the jump to learn more about Maya and Teta and catch an excerpt of their interview from In the Company of Women! xo, grace
Lifelong Midwesterners, Jaime and Tyler Rovenstine love the character and architectural details of older homes. As an artist and museum professional, Jaime’s eye for thoughtful contrast and composition is evident in each room of their early 20th-century home and her dreamy work spills color onto the walls. Tyler is an award-winning barista and coffee consultant, so it’s no surprise that the space is full of vintage furniture and soft light to enjoy a cup of comfort. The active couple also owns a coffee bar called Monarch, opening this spring in Midtown, Kansas City, MO. Evenings are often spent at home painting, planning and enjoying time with their spunky two-year-old, Frances, and Merle the dog.
While expecting their daughter, they searched for a longterm space that would provide a studio for Jaime and something within proximity to their jobs and friends. “Because we share one car and often bike to work, we wanted to shrink our circle of living.” They landed a 1900 “Shirtwaist” style house — a residential architectural term that is unique to the Kansas City region. Shirtwaists are marked by a first level made from brick or stone with wood siding on subsequent levels, a steep roof and symmetrical layout, built between 1900 and 1920. This house had all the details they wanted; hardwood floors, wood molding and original pocket doors. But owning an old home isn’t all historical charm and beauty. Jaime and Tyler would love to replace the old windows to improve the energy efficiency of the house and renovate the bathroom that had been added as an awkward addition to the original structure. After painting almost every room, tiling the kitchen backsplash, updating fixtures and a handful of other necessary home improvements like replacing gutters, they still feel like they are in the process of creating a home and have tried to tackle projects at a slower pace that allows them to prioritize time with Frances.
Jaime’s workspace is nestled in only one room, but her palette is carried throughout the house with blushing pinks and a keen balance of shapes and forms. Her goal for every room was to craft a space that reflected their personalities, while generating warmth and comfort for hosting friends and raising Frances. Each object has been carefully sourced from antique stores, handed down, or created by an artist they know to collectively show who they are. Jaime and Tyler love how these meaningful pieces tell their story and wouldn’t mind living in this house forever. “We have a great front porch that overlooks an active block in the middle of the city. The first week we moved in, we ate outside every night and just grinned because we were so excited to be there. We still feel the same way.” —Bethany
Photography by Kaley Cornett
Every winter I find myself wandering around our house, trying to add an extra blanket or candle to each room to make things feel warmer. Coziness is essential when temperatures start to dip, so I’ve been thinking about all the ways you can cozy-up a room without doing anything too major. It all comes down to soft fabrics, warmer lighting and scents and textures that make you feel comfy. So if you’re looking to make your home a little cozier this winter, click through to check out some of our go-to tricks and finds to warm up any space. xo, grace
One of my favorite elements of our home tours is the final slide where people share what they love about their home in their own words — a singular statement that encapsulates what makes their home so special to them. Keep in mind they “built” their home, arranging all the furniture, objects and even colors, to create a series of spaces where they, and their families, can relax, thrive and love. It just doesn’t get better than that.
We made it our mission in the past few years to showcase all types of homes, not just those with the latest must-haves in home décor. Our search for real homes, real families and signs of everyday life have brought more warmth to our own hearts and we are so thankful for all of those who have boldly shared their spaces (and families) with us. We’ve learned that color and pattern can transform a room and that small details make a house a home. We’ve also learned that you, our readers, enjoy and take as much inspiration from a home that looks lived-in as you do from a styled, well-lit and professionally photographed home. And we couldn’t agree more. Here’s to the love that goes into homes across the world! –Caitlin
Click through the slideshow above for a sweet collection of “What I Love About My Home” images. You’ll walk away smiling.
As February rolls around, hearts start popping up in every store, restaurant and coffee shop around town. And while I’m normally not a fan of holidays taking over long before they actually start, I have a soft spot for hearts and the general pink-and-red color palette that happens with Valentine’s Day. So to honor this year’s holiday, I’m sharing 14 of my favorite heart-themed designs for your house, office and wardrobe. Here’s to love! xo, grace
Image above: 1. Heart Door Mat $10, 2. Heart Marquee Light $29.99, 3. Heart Studs $345, 4. Heart and Arrow Measuring Spoons $54, 5. Heart Stickers $4, 6. Heart Puzzle $15, 7. Emoji Heart Cards $48, 8. Miniature Panton Heart Chair $335, 9. Heart Lollipop Patch $12, 10. Heart Rug $249+, 11. Heart Dish $75, 12. Heart Gloves $79, 13. Heart Sneakers $120.
Image above: Neon Heart Table Lamp $129
It isn’t unusual for people to test out products before buying them — glasses, clothing, cars — but buying a house is usually a leap of faith. For Stephanie Hayward and her husband Brandon Pence, renting a house for four years was how they found their home in Columbus, OH.
Stephanie attended Ohio State University in Columbus and Brandon moved shortly after completing his graduate program at University of Michigan. They fell in love with the city and chose to live in a developing neighborhood close to downtown with a lot of new restaurants and shops and only a short bike ride to work. Both Stephanie and Brandon are trained architects, but Brandon found his path in web design and development three years ago, while Stephanie practices architecture as part owner of a local firm. They rented a two-bedroom house for four years until one Sunday morning their landlord, who was working on repairs that had broken the night before, offered to sell the house to them. “We thought it was an outrageous idea at first, but then realized that it’s not every day you get to test drive a house for four years before deciding to buy it.” With experience under their belt, Stephanie and Brandon knew exactly how they wanted to transform their rental into a home. They dove right in with a construction loan and a six-month deadline from the bank. The house was completely gutted and they had to move out for a portion of the renovation. “Even though we met our deadline and the contractors were out in six months, it probably took a full year before the house really started to feel like home.”
Stephanie and Brandon have been thoughtful with distributing their space. At just over 1,000 square feet, every inch counts. In the rental, a half bath and laundry took up over half of the kitchen. During the renovation, they increased the size of the bedroom closet, adding in a stacked washer and dryer, and moved the half bath under the stairs, making each of the spaces more useable. While out of the house during the renovation, they took time to assess what they needed and what they could live without. “We have been very conscious of keeping clutter to a minimum. Part of the reason our house feels so much bigger now is because we got rid of so much stuff!” These simple changes maximized the living space and transformed the house into exactly what Stephanie and Brandon had envisioned. —Bethany
Photography by Megan Leigh Barnard
In the past nearly 13 years of blogging here at Design*Sponge, there have been a few interiors that stand out in my memory and my heart. And the incredible goldenrod staircase (below) that Ishka Designs created is one of them. Based in Brooklyn, NY, Ishka Designs is the design team of Anishka Clarke and Niya Bascom. I had the honor of meeting Anishka and working with her for In the Company of Women and I found myself endlessly inspired by her design sensibility and her beyond-her-years wisdom. So for today’s Black History Month spotlight I’m thrilled to be talking about Anishka Clarke and her work. Read on after the jump to learn more about Anishka — and catch an excerpt of her interview from the book! xo, grace
This morning when I was reading the newspaper, I found myself thinking of an answer that chef Carla Hall gave during her interview for In the Company of Women. When asked what the world needed more of, she said, “The world needs more face to face conversation, perhaps over a meal, so we can really get to know each other without assumptions.” I’ve been thinking about the way food brings people together and can teach us about each other’s cultures and values. In those simple moments of sharing a meal together, we get to connect with each other, learn, and undo assumptions and stereotypes, all while creating new bonds of mutual understanding. So as we head into the weekend, I wanted to share 6 recipes from our archives that celebrate Middle Eastern cultures and refugees that have been at the center of difficult conversations in world news. These places and people are far more than the sound bites being played on television, and these dishes (and the stories behind them) tell an important narrative about their history and the universal values of feeding and comforting the people we love. xo, grace
Image above: This recipe for sweet Somali flatbread, malawah, and spiced milk tea is from Halimo, a former Somali restaurateur in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. This recipe is part of a cookbook project, Between Meals, by the Bay Area organization, Refugee Transitions, whose mission is to assist refugee and immigrant families in becoming self-sufficient in the United States. Created by food stylist Dani Fisher, and writer and educator Lauren Markham, Between Meals shares the expertise and stories of newly-arrived refugee women, from Burma to Liberia to Afghanistan.
Hawa Hassan of the traditional Somali sauce company, Basbaas Sauces, shared her recipe for Sabaayad, or Somali chapati, with us last year. I was moved and inspired by Hawa’s story of living in a UN Refugee camp and the way in which food has been a cultural connector for her.
Bethany Kehdy was born and raised in Lebanon and her recipe for tabouleh quiche puts a whole new spin on a delicious Lebanese classic.
Anissa Helou shared several recipes for mezze dishes with us: Syrian or Lebanese muhammarah (pepper spread), Iranian Borani-e Bâdenjân (onion and eggplant dip), and wholewheat crackers with mastic. Anissa runs Arab supper clubs in her loft and was the first ever chef-in-residence in Leighton House during their Nour Festival in November 2011.
Shakshuka is one of my all-time favorite dishes and has its roots in several Middle Eastern countries, including Yemen and Israel. This recipe that David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl shared (with baked sweet potato chips) is one of my favorites.
Food writer Lucy Malouf and chef Greg Malouf, authors of the cookbook New Feast: Modern Middle Eastern Vegetarian, shared their recipe for Toasted Quinoa with Coriander, Lime and Crunchy Pumpkin.
This piece on Naomie Harris (if you haven’t seen Moonlight, please run to the theater now!) and the accompanying fashion photography are heavenly. So much pink!
The stripes at L’Hotel Marrakech are pretty much my idea of perfect.
Megan Pflug’s rental bedroom makeover is a polka dot dream.
Speaking of pattern, check out this AMAZING red and white wallpaper. Talk about making a bold statement!
I am madly in love with these fabrics from Australia that celebrate color and prints that depict Gundjabarrk (woven dilly bags). Each piece is printed and made by Aboriginal women.
Artwork: Hélène Delmaire
Before & After: Two Bedrooms Go from Dark to Doused in Color
What’s In Your Toolbox: Rie Elise Larsen
It can be hard to know where to start writing about someone when you admire them so much. So I’ll just dive in: I think the world of actress and author Candis Cayne. When I moved to New York City for college, her performances were the stuff of legends among my theater major roommates. Her name always seemed to be in the air and it was always mentioned with deep reverence and admiration. But it wasn’t until her appearance on I Am Cait that I got to learn more about her personal and political views. Her openness, honesty, vulnerability, and sheer joy for life immediately made me sit up, pay attention and join the legions of fans who admire her for not just her performance work, but her strong and unwavering voice.
As I followed along with Candis’ acting and activism work online, I happened upon an image of her kitchen renovation that stopped me in my tracks. Her Los Angeles home is a dreamy California oasis of sunlight, impeccable curved archways and stunning tile work. So I reached out to Candis and her design team, gamble + DESIGN, and to my delight, they kindly offered to share this incredible space with us today.
What strikes me so much about Candis’ home is the way in which natural light, historic details, the outdoors and her beautiful dogs, Sampson and Dalilah, are incorporated. Every space feels grand enough for a stylish LA party, but also welcoming enough that it’s clear that this space was brought together with love, comfort and real life in mind. Thank you to Candis for sharing your home with us today — and thank you for sharing your voice and your love of life with all of us online. xo, grace
Watching millions of people across the globe gather to march for women’s rights was incredibly inspiring to me for a wide range of reasons. There were so many wonderful moments of unity and understanding, but there were also moments of conflict, differences of opinion and spaces where real discussions needed to happen about how women communicate with and about each other. It got me thinking a lot about women in fine art — the way we’re depicted and the way we depict ourselves. I’ve been paying a lot of attention to female-identified painters lately and how they choose to depict women in their work. French artist Hélène Delmaire caught my eye last week because her work raises so many questions, at least in my eyes, about the way women are painted and what is revealed or kept covered.
Hélène’s work has such a great sense of texture and color and uses bold, abstract swaths of paint to sometimes cover the figures’ eyes or faces. Her work makes me think about beauty, sexism and the ways in which women are censored or expected to be, act or talk a certain way. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the color palettes she works in are stunning. I found myself going back to her Instagram feed over and over again to indulge in the rich pinks, purples and greens she uses. You can check out more of Hélène Delmaire’s work online here at her website or here on her Instagram feed (which updates more frequently than her main website). I’d love to hear your take on her work and what it says to you. xo, grace
The mantelpiece could be considered one of the most consistent displays of decorative personality across all homes. Originally designed to be ornamental, it isn’t any wonder that eyes are immediately drawn to the characteristic form and fitted shelf to help center a room. What happens around the mantel is almost as important as what happens above, inside or placed on top. Mantels provide warmth whether the hearth they host is functional or not.
After moving into a new home a couple of months ago, I found myself somewhat lost in a new space with a troublesome mantel, so I turned to the archives for inspiration. The most logical solution seems to be placing a mirror above to add depth and reflect light within the space. This is an elegant and timeless approach, but I was looking for something a little more unique. I landed on these 10 creative ways to decorate a mantel from resourceful homeowners that thought a mirror wasn’t quite enough to reflect their personality. –Bethany
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