40 Valentine’s Day Cards to Send to Loved Ones

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40 Valentine’s Day Cards to Send to Loved Ones

Over the years, I’ve heard from just about everyone and anyone with a computer that they have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. But whether you’re in love with love and can’t wait to start making DIY valentines, or would rather explain the evils of the “Romantic Industrial Complex,” it’s hard to escape the endless parade of cards, gifts and candy every February 14th. I’ve always been a fan of having a special day to tell the people you admire and care about (friends, colleagues, mentors, family) how much they mean to you, but I understand that it can be a bit much with all of the ads and pressure we see in the media to find the perfect gift.

So this year, we’re going to share some low-key DIY ideas that are easy on your wallet and leave the focus on a special message or note of appreciation. But before we dive into those, I wanted to share my favorite part of Valentine’s Day — the celebration of a handwritten note. If you’d prefer to DIY it all, we have some ideas for you here, but if you’d like to pick up a card to fill out instead, here are 40 of my favorites (and a few non-cards) from the wide world of independent designers. xo, grace

*Most of these designers sell their work at indie shops across the country, so if shipping costs for cards feel too high, be sure to check their sites for stores near you.

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Teenage Bedroom: Susie Ghahremani

Teenage Bedroom: Susie Ghahremani

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If you’ve set foot in a Design Sponge-worthy, brick-and-mortar boutique in the last 10 years or so, there’s a good chance you’ve seen some of Susie Ghahremani’s charming work. In fact, if you’ve browsed Etsy with the intention of finding detailed, whimsical animal-centric art, I can almost guarantee you’ve crossed paths with one of her hedgehog pendants or squirrels playing guitars. I’ve been a fan of Susie’s for at least a decade, and I had the pleasure of working with her on an art installation back in 2010, when she created some custom pieces for the outer-space-meets-southwestern theme. So I’m especially excited to share Susie’s Teenage Bedroom hopes, dreams, and decor with you. Enjoy, and thanks, Susie, for sharing! (Full disclosure: I was adding links to this post and accidentally bought this enamel otters pin!) —Janet Varney

*Click here to see Jasika Nicole Pruitt’s teenage bedroom…

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What’s In Your Toolbox: Lorna Scobie

What’s In Your Toolbox: Lorna Scobie

What's In Your Toolbox: Lorna Scobie, on Design*Sponge

In her own Jungle Paradise: a coloring escape into the wild (publishing soon in the US), Lorna Scobie outlines a lush dreamscape meant for imaginative adults to fill in. Lorna, a “designer of cheeky animals and the natural world,” uses the tools readily available to creative children in their artistic pursuits for her own advanced doodles. In sketchbooks, Lorna wields watercolor paints, colored pencils, and fine black markers (“to draw the eyeballs!”), creating scenes of lovely interactions between people, animals, and their environments.

Her own London home studio provides a proper workspace and storage for inspirational books, knick-knacks, and supplies, but Lorna has been known to spontaneously stop and capture “a funny scene or an animal with lots of personality” in drawn snapshots, a skill she works on “at least every day.” —Annie

Photography by Lorna Scobie

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18 Embroidery Instagram Feeds to Follow

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18 Embroidery Instagram Feeds to Follow

If you read design and lifestyle magazines and blogs, you know that ceramics are having a major renaissance right now. Everywhere I look, there’s a new article on the next wave of ceramicists, and it seems like (thanks to pottery classes everywhere) we’re all learning how to make our own dinner plates. I think any resurgence of handmade goods is fantastic. And man, do I love anyone who knows how to make something beautiful on a potter’s wheel. But lately, I’ve been feeling a new wave of artists and makers start to swell — and their focus is on embroidery.

All over the Internet (on social media and in shops and online boutiques), embroidery seems to be having a huge comeback. Most design trends are cyclical, so I’m sure we’ll see embroidery come back over and over, but right now my Instagram feed is flooded with amazing people making magic in embroidery hoops. But instead of traditional designs, these artists are embroidering more aggressive sayings and mantras, embracing the darker side of stitching; and tapping into the type of delicate imagery we’re seeing in the poke-and-stick-tattoo scene that’s happening right now, too.

From flowers and foxes to names and complete landscapes, these embroidered designs feel perfect for the season. While I’m in no way an expert crafter, I’m excited to swap out some of my normal “while-I-watch-movies” routines for crafting some custom embroidered pieces on hoops this winter. It’s the perfect way to learn something new and pass the time inside while the temperatures drop below zero outdoors. Read on to discover 18 of my favorite embroiderers to follow on Instagram and, as always, please feel free to suggest your favorites in the comment section below. I’m excited to discover some talented new artists. xo, grace

*Stay tuned for another roundup next week of some skilled embroidered-patch makers, curated by artist and designer, Tuesday Bassen!

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DIY Project: How to Recolor Your Grout

DIY Project: How to Recolor Your Grout

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​I sure do love a nice, bright and clean-feeling bathroom. ​I can’t count the number of apartments I have lived in where the bathroom tile just looked really gross. And I could never do anything about it while being a renter (this was one of the many moments when I knew I was meant to be a project-doing homeowner one day!). Now I finally have a house that I adore — although not everything made the cut during our renovations. This super simple technique — of basically repainting the grout without having to redo all of your tile — came to my rescue. Read on below to learn how! –Erica Loesing

Photography by Kimberly Murray

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Fine Art Focus: Tomás Rivas

Fine Art Focus: Tomás Rivas

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Tomás Rivas is talented artist based in Santiago, Chile. After studying sculpture and architecture, he created his own studio practice where he uses drywall to create incredibly detailed artwork that plays with the relationship between two-dimensional and three-dimensional pieces.

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As a major art history buff, I love seeing how Tomás uses carved drywall to recreate architectural detailing reminiscent of Greek columns, borders and molding. The meeting of ancient design techniques and modern ideas makes for pieces that feel both contemporary and traditional at the same time. I really enjoy the way Tomás works with negative space and color to create his installations. These are pieces that are definitely going on my list of “must see in person” installations one day. Read on to learn more about Tomás’ work below. xo, grace

Artist: Tomás Rivas
About: Tomás was born in 1975 in Santiago, Chile. He received his BFA and MFA from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. After working in Milan as a printmaking apprentice, he received an MFA in sculpture from the University of Notre Dame, where he has taught classes.
Work: Tomás creates detailed artwork and installations that examine the relationship between two-dimensional and three-dimensional work. He has become celebrated for his large-scale carved drywall works.
More: You can read more about Tomás’ work here, here, here, and here.

All artwork (c) Tomás Rivas. Images from luxartinstitute.org

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Life & Business: Growing a Great Team by ERIN BENZAKEIN

Life & Business: Growing a Great Team by ERIN BENZAKEIN

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As any business owner or freelancer knows, the number of hats you have to wear is countless and, after a while, can weigh heavy on you. Not to mention, some of those responsibilities you have to tackle can be things for which you’re simply not wired. Almost no one is good at absolutely everything, and that’s okay.

Too often, we beat ourselves up over our weaknesses when we should be celebrating our strengths and seeking out the right partners. In the early years of business, Erin Benzakein of Floret had a tendency to get overwhelmed with her never-ending list of emails and paperwork aspects of her business. Each morning and each night, she’d beat herself up about everything she failed to do in a day — something many business owners do when trying to juggle it all. It wasn’t until she recognized her strengths and began celebrating them, rather than focusing on her weaknesses, that she came to realize that doing it all wasn’t something to be proud of — and similarly, failing to do it all wasn’t something to be ashamed of.

Although it felt like a huge leap and financial stretch at the time, enlisting the help of a friend whose strengths were all of Erin’s weaknesses led to exponentially more business, and made Erin’s job far more enjoyable; which not only made her happier, but a more productive, better worker. Business bloomed and she hasn’t looked back since. For the second post in Erin’s 3-part series, Erin’s chatting with us today about strengths-based strategies to build your business and grow a great team. –Sabrina

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What’s In Your Toolbox: Atiya Jones

What’s In Your Toolbox: Atiya Jones

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Living and sometimes working out of her Bed-Stuy brownstone apartment, artist Atiya Jones finds herself “influenced by all that stuff she thought she wasn’t paying attention to in biology and chemistry class.” Creating organic-seeming yet orderly patterns in so many aesthetic mediums, Atiya makes her mark “on surfaces from tabletops, paper, construction panels, glass, and textiles.” Her drawings feel like soft mazes, taking cues from the intricate veining structures of leaves and plants’ biological processes. “I’m attracted to the idea of making scientifically-informed work,” Atiya says.

She is currently completing a well-documented artist residency at The Yards in Rochester, NY and is anticipating another with Have Company in Grand Rapids, MI in March. Atiya has been tracking her creative progress since childhood, and refers to her journals and “old love notes” for frequent inspiration. She’ll soon be returning home to boyfriend Matthew and his own contribution to her process in Brooklyn: “I’m so lucky to have an in-house DJ to spin while I draw!” —Annie

Photography by Caitlyn Barrick

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A Chicago Family’s No-Holds-Barred High-rise

A Chicago Family's No-Holds-Barred Highrise, Design*Sponge

A Chicago Family’s No-Holds-Barred High-rise

When The CHICago Life’s creator Amelia Canham Eaton and her husband, Peter, enrolled in grad school, the pair was a bit hesitant. The decision meant they’d be trading in the tree-lined streets of Chicago, IL’s Lakeview neighborhood for the high-rises and bustle of downtown. Frankly, both figured they’d immediately move back to a quieter neighborhood to raise a family after graduation. Over the years, though, they have fallen so in love with living downtown that the couple is sticking around to raise their growing baby, Connor, in a condo atop the glittering Second City.

Initially, the all-white, two-bedroom spot didn’t have much pizazz, and that wasn’t going to cut it for design-enthusiast Amelia. But she quickly realized that the blank slate would be the perfect place for her to experiment with different styles. As you’ll see, these experiments have left her with a home that’s far from ordinary. Bold, black paint jobs, unique artwork and even a touch of dalmatian-print wallpaper are just a few of the eye-popping elements she’s tried out in her home. “We want the space to reflect our eclectic style, while also being kid-friendly and relatively clutter-free. It’s also very important that it feels inviting – we love to casually entertain,” Peter and Amelia say. Human guests aren’t the only ones welcome in the condo. The family’s two black labradors were also top-of-mind when Amelia was designing the family’s home. “We didn’t want anything to feel too precious that they couldn’t enjoy it also. Keeping them off furniture just isn’t our reality. We all love to curl up together!”

With someone so in love with decorating at the helm of the design process, the majority of the abode will never truly be finished. The one exception is Connor’s room. His parents both agree that everything in his nursery came together so perfectly, that the space feels completely complete. When you take a peek inside, notice how his room’s custom moldings and wallpaper create a bright nest for him to grow into. It’s my favorite room in their home. Which one’s yours? —Garrett

Photography by Hallie Duesenberg

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Charlotte, NC City Guide

Charlotte, NC City Guide

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Perfectly positioned between quaint mini-cities, the countryside and lakes, and a short drive to mountain ranges and the ocean, you’ll find Charlotte, North Carolina, home to Anna Naphtali. After traveling the world, living overseas — and currently working bicoastal — Anna returned to the place her family has called home for generations. Boasting plenty of charm and friendly neighborhoods, the Queen City also offers rich pockets of arts and culture, which is a huge part of what keeps Anna here.

When she’s not on the road, Anna can be found in her shared studio space nestled in the heart of Historic South End, which houses her multiple creative businesses: Style Co., The Colorful Living Project / The Project Studio and Geraldine Press. “I’m living within the dichotomy of being part city and part country,” Anna explains. “I need the energy of skyscrapers and high heels and the quiet of farmland and southern fields. That’s the beauty of living here — you can have a taste of both. You’ll find everything from nature trails to sipping rooftop cocktails in this guide.”

In an area on the brink of a real estate explosion, here are Anna’s top finds that the Queen City has to offer. –Sabrina

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Hitting “Refresh” on a 1920s-Era Bungalow

Hitting 'Refresh' on a 1920s-Era Bungalow, Design*Sponge

Hitting “Refresh” on a 1920s-Era Bungalow

Oleander & Palm creator Jeran McConnel was on a mission. It wasn’t uncommon to see her walking the tree-lined streets of Bakersfield, CA, but this time she was hunting down a scarce sight — a rather rare sign. Red and rectangular, she simply had to find a quirky, older home that had one. No luck, and then… presto! Sure enough, her dedication wasn’t for naught. Finally, Jeran had stumbled upon a 1920s bungalow with a “For Sale” sign planted in its front yard. Now she and her husband, Lonnie, could leave behind their above-garage studio and raise their family in a lovely home.

The bones of the place were perfect for the young family. The bungalow’s clawfoot tub, hardwood floors and built-in cabinetry added just the right amount of old-world appeal that Jeran wanted. Not to mention, it was a heck of a lot larger than their place at the time. Paperwork signed, and anxious to start crafting their dream home, the family prepared for the big move.

Since Jeran found the three-bedroom house 13 years ago, improvements have given the 95-year-old space a whole new look. The major changes took place in the owner’s suite and kitchen. These two overhauls kept the family on their toes for a bit – four months, to be exact. When all was said and done, the previous owner’s suite became the family’s bathroom, and a new bedroom addition was constructed. During the renovation, Jeran and Lonnie even had to sleep in the dining room. The kitchen was also totally gutted. New IKEA cabinetry, tile and appliances were brought in so the family could have a fresh start in the space. “It was a huge job,” Jeran says. “It definitely still has a way to go, but I’ve loved this house every year, more and more.”

As with all old, stubborn houses, another round of updates is bound to happen at any moment. For now, however, the McConnel family is more than content — and it’s not hard to see why. They’ve built a bright and modern home in which to make memories, while giving their old house a new look. Click through to see the entire space, and enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Jeran McConnel

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Comfort Zone: Patricia Thomasson

Comfort Zone: Patricia Thomasson

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As someone who works from home, I believe that while the benefits of a personalized live/work space cannot be discounted, at times, a dual-purpose space can make it difficult to separate your work from your personal life and your ability to just relax. For Midwest-native and illustrator Patricia Thomasson, her small but mighty multi-functional space has become the place she feels most at home, despite being located far from it in Queens, New York. Although it is quite literally the space where Patricia rests and catches Z’s, her bedroom / studio also operates in a completely contrasting way, offering her a space for her to create, experiment, and work from.

Although she’s the first to admit that being surrounded by work at all times — even when she’s off the clock –, can cause her to take it too personally, living and working within tight quarters also offers her the freedom to focus her energy on only those things that truly add to her life, while also serving as a daily reminder of the importance of practicality. An ever changing landscape, nothing in her space is permanent, affording it an unwavering permission to ebb and flow according to what she likes that week or day. No matter the season or happenings of a given day, Patricia’s studio keeps her inspired and on her toes, and today, she’s letting us into her domain to chat about what makes her tick, what bothers her, and what humor, recklessness and sentimentality have to do with it all. –Sabrina

Photography by Frankie Marin

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A Gorgeous Georgian Home in Bristol

A Gorgeous Georgian Home in Bristol City, on Design*Sponge

A Gorgeous Georgian Home in Bristol

The decorative antique dealers and interior stylists behind Dig Haüshizzle, a Bristol, UK-based vintage decor store, have a burning love for art and oddities. “It’s fair to say we bring our work home,” joke Cassandra and Edward Nicholas, the proprietors of the business. When looking for a place together five years ago, the main criteria were the period of the building, big windows, high ceilings, and history. They found their 1725 Georgian Grade II star-listed parlor floor flat, and have been working on updating it slowly as they understand how to best use the space and highlight its unique features. For example, after stripping the living room alcove finish, the couple was excited to find original Georgian paint beneath in beautiful patterns. Looking for just the right fixtures has also turned into an overabundance of options. “As people who generally buy for a living, we have seen a lot of lights,” the homeowners admit, “But after five years of waiting, they now have to be perfect.” For the time being, lamps made from old science lab clamps make many appearances both at home and in the shop.

An experiment of their style together, the flat changes when Cassandra and Edd have new ideas. It allows them to grow their interior tastes. Luckily for the couple, they usually want to try the same things and tend to come to the same conclusions about their decor. The backdrop of original Georgian features, like the elegant marble fireplaces, make it an ideal setting for their particular type of research. And, to be brief custodians of a historic home makes all the work worthwhile. —Annie

Photography by Matt Somerville

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A Feeling of Wonder and Appreciation in Baltimore

A Feeling of Wonder in Baltimore, on Design*Sponge

A Feeling of Wonder and Appreciation in Baltimore

Two years ago after finding herself while traveling the world, Susanna-Cole King decided to revisit her roots in Baltimore, MD. When she moved into her flat in an 1870s Greek Revival row house — “a mansion sliced into apartments” — after extensive traveling, she started out living with her pared-down belongings and new additions from friends and family members. In order to make it feel like home (read more about what that means in her essay contest entry), Susanna began collecting historical objects, learning their stories, and preserving them. In the present day, “There’s immense suffering in this city,” she reflects. “I look at it and see it as a lot of people hurting, and the potential to grow better together. I believe in being present in a community, being a neighbor to the people you want to care for.”

Susanna wanted her home, a veritable cabinet of curiosities, to give guests the feeling of “embracing you in its warmth.” In her space, Susanna prefers for people “to feel uninhibited to probe about all the memories and history and stories woven throughout.” Though her place is unlike any other, Susanna still feels a twinge of envy every time she stumbles upon another home with desirable features. “Then I get in my car,” she says, “And drive around Baltimore, through gritty makeshift encampments under concrete, moldy couches on curbs, men with sunken cheeks, and blistered palms held heavenward, ghosting down the crooked rows of rush hour, with their cloaks of damp bedspreads, and I’m suddenly overwhelmed with gratefulness that I even have a home.” Susanna recognizes that many people in the city have lost their homes, and this coming-to recalibrates her appreciation for having a permanent roof over her head, especially one that offers itself as a canvas for creativity.

You can read more beautiful, original words on Susanna-Cole’s Keepsake Home over at Apartment Therapy. —Annie

Photography by Lindsay Anne Belliveau

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Fine Art Focus: Maya Freelon Asante

Fine Art Focus: Maya Freelon Asante

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Over the past 12 years of blogging here at Design*Sponge, I’ve read and written about thousands of artists and designers. A small handful will always stand out to me for their innovation and bold choices in color and technique, but few have made a mark as powerful as mixed-media artist, Maya Freelon Asante.

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Maya is based in Baltimore, MD where she creates absolutely breathtaking installations using tissue paper. After talking last week about the way tissue paper can be used to create things like paper flowers, I love seeing how such a beautiful but humble material can be transformed into something as significant and moving as these pieces that Maya crafts. Back in 2005, Maya discovered a stack of tissue paper in her grandmother’s basement. Water in the basement had leaked into the paper and left a “bleeding” stain that so transfixed Maya that she decided to change her artistic focus to create work with this type of paper. Maya’s work has been shown internationally and is now displayed in the collections of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum and the U.S. State Department. Read on below to learn more about her gorgeous artwork. xo, grace

Artist: Maya Freelon Asante
About: Maya lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland. She received her BA from Lafayette College and her MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Work: Maya is a mixed-media artist who makes stunning, abstract sculptures and installations from tissue paper. Her work was described as, “visualizing the truth about the vulnerability and power of the human being,” by Maya Angelou.
More: You can read more about Maya’s work here, here, here, here and here.

All artwork (c) Maya Freelon Asante. Images via maya-freelonasante.squarespace.com. Portrait by Greg Powers.

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