Molly Yeh’s Chocolate Tahini Cake

Molly Yeh’s Chocolate Tahini Cake

Chocolate Tahini Cake from Molly on The Range | DesignSponge

Usually our first In the Kitchen With post in January promotes a return to “healthy” eating. I decided to break with tradition this year and post a cake recipe. Before reading Molly Yeh’s blog, Molly on the Range, I would have probably never eaten chocolate and tahini together unless I’d had a Reese’s peanut butter cup type happy accident — even though they are two ingredients you will almost always find in my home. Molly did it for me! One of the many recipes she combines the two in is her Chocolate Tahini Cake with Tahini Frosting from her cookbook Molly on the Range. If you are a bit skeptical, try it to believe it. (And make it in the form of the little mini cakes because they are so cute, and look at how much trim is leftover for snacks!) —Kristina

Why Molly loves this recipe: Whoever invented the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” clearly didn’t have a pyramid of tahini jars in their pantry and a bowl of chocolate cake batter in front of them. It’s true that there aren’t many better things in life than a rich chocolate cake, but a chocolate cake with nutty tahini sends this thing right over the edge into a territory that’s similar to a chocolate peanut butter cake but every so slightly fancier. The chocolate here remains the star of the show, but with tahini there to play a hearty supporting role, everybody shines their brightest and this cake becomes the dessert of your grownup birthday party dreams.

Molly on the Range cookbook | DesignSponge

Cake and cover photography by Molly Yeh  | Cooking and headshot photography by Chantelle Quernemoen

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Our Team Resolutions for 2017

Our Team Resolutions for 2017

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I’ve gone back and forth over the years with the concept of resolutions. Some years I love to list them out, make a mood board and really focus myself on intentions for the coming months. Then some years I feel like throwing up my hands and just taking the year as it comes, trying to find lessons and learning opportunities as they unfold. But this year our team decided to get together to pause, look back at the year before and then work together to help each other stay true to our goals this year, no matter how big or small. To make things even more fun, we coupled our resolutions with pictures from our childhood. Hopefully my pigtails (above) can give you a little morning laugh. What are your resolutions, goals or intentions for the coming year? xo, grace

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Before & After: A Modern, Wheelchair-Accessible Bathroom

Before & After: A Modern, Wheelchair-Accessible Bathroom, Design*Sponge

Before & After: A Modern, Wheelchair-Accessible Bathroom

Eighteen weeks into her pregnancy, Amy Webb, her husband and daughter waited anxiously to hear whether they’d be bringing home a bouncing baby boy or girl. As the ultrasound commenced, however, the technician hesitated. “I’ll be right back,” she quickly stated, and *zip* she was out of the room. Minutes stretched on and time seemed to stand still until she returned with their doctor. Much to their surprise, just as they were being told their baby was a girl, the physician revealed she would be born with extremely challenging limb differences. “We left the office with no answers. This completely unknown condition was either ‘incompatible with life,’ or if she did live, she was clearly going to have a host of issues, all of which would remain unknown for an indefinite amount of time,” Amy tells us.

It’s been nearly seven years since that scary day in the doctor’s office, and in that time Amy and her family have learned invaluable lessons about unconditional love, problem solving and how much of an amazing gift their differently-abled little one is. The joy and inspiration Lamp, the kiddo’s online moniker, has brought to her family even prompted Amy to begin documenting their life through her blog This Little Miggy Stayed Home. It was here that we first discovered her stellar knack for advocacy and the beautiful bathroom makeover we are walking you all through today. Alongside her husband, Amy’s merged modern amenities, stylish touches and accessible designs that work tremendously well for their daughter and are also easy on the eyes. Click through to see all of the ways they’ve made their space perfect for every member of their family, no matter their needs. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Amy Webb

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What’s In Your Toolbox: Lorraine Nam

What’s In Your Toolbox: Lorraine Nam

What's In Your Toolbox: Lorraine Nam, on Design*Sponge

Creating a better reality is a goal that many people have in common this new year. Brooklyn-based paper illustrator Lorraine Nam makes her own fantastical three-dimensional worlds by hand from flat sheets in vibrant colors. She cuts and glues her miniature set props, then styles a scene to photograph or animate for the final piece. Also interested in the spaces where other artists make their work, as she loves “seeing what they’re seeing,” Lorraine is a co-founder of studio visit blog #ffffff walls where she focuses on “artistic practices and the artist studio. We interview different artists creating work in a dedicated studio space and take a snapshot of their work in that moment in time.” Here’s a look at the woman behind all of these scenes. —Annie

Photography by Lorraine Nam

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3 DIYs That Promote Growth In the New Year

3 DIYs That Promote Growth In the New Year

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I switched up my New Year’s game this year and did the opposite of what I usually do. And it was fantastic! I spend a lot of the time focused on the more serious side of self-care and sometimes I simply forget to play. This year I stayed up until 2 am on New Year’s Eve and had a dance party with my family (my 10-year-old daughter was mortified!). I left all of my hefty resolutions from the past at the door. And I actually opened my front door at midnight, pushed 2016 out, and flapped my hands in the air to literally welcome in 2017.

In an effort to spread the new year/new growth love in these first few days of 2017, I want to share three DIYs that promote growth for you to take for a spin on one of these grey days. First up are these adorable swan planters! Customize your swans, plant a tiny green friend within, and then watch it grow as a reminder of your own growth through self-care.

Click through for the swan planter instructions and two more adorable additions for your DIY calendar that are simple, playful and push you towards growth in 2017! –Caitlin

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A Missouri Home With A Storied Past

Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge

A Missouri Home With A Storied Past

The word Kristen Elise Pickell uses to describe her love of the past is anemoia. It’s an invented word, found in John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, and it means “a pang of nostalgia for times you’ve never experienced.” Which is why this 28-year-old high school art teacher living in Kansas City, MO teared up when she toured a 1973 home. The previous owners, Bill and Betty, had worked with an architect on a custom collaboration. Kristen took one look at a home nearly unchanged from its original 1970s conception and rooms filled with stunning vintage pieces, and promptly abandoned her search for a starter home. Bill and Betty were who Kristen imagined herself to be in retirement. Kristen sent a letter to Betty, along with her offer, explaining how special the home was and how much she would cherish it. She was surprised to discover another couple had submitted a nearly identical offer, along with a letter of their own. “It was a matter of a few thousand dollars and somehow they ended up choosing me,” Kristen says. And to think Kristen’s anemoia began years earlier, when she heard the story of her mother and a certain member of the Beatles.

Kristen grew up listening to her mother Sandra tell the story of how she won a radio contest to see the Beatles. It was their first performance in Canada. Her mother described in great detail the rust colored corduroy skirt and jacket with a ruffled bell sleeve top she wore, and the moment Ringo kissed Sandra’s hand, calling her “My lady.” Then, as Kristen was about to enter high school, she discovered a trunk filled with her mother’s belongings. In it were an embroidered top Sandra made, sewing notions, and books on macramé and candle making. Kristen was so taken by her mother’s keepsakes she began seeking out vintage fashion magazines, clothes, and knick-knacks. “I wish so badly that I could have experienced all of these amazing things with her.”

Today, one can see Kristen’s love affair with the past in every room of her home. Weaving together her own finds and family heirlooms with items purchased from previous owners Bill and Betty, Kristen’s home is a vintage wonderland. Kristen was also given the original slides which chronicle the house being built (taken each day of the year-and-a-half building process), records of all items purchased (from large appliances to scouring pads), and binders filled with everything from old wallpaper samples to a catalog from the store where the George Nelson Bubble Lamps were purchased. Oh, and it just so happens Bill and Betty had a cat named Ringo. That’s right, they were Beatles fans, too. “I feel very fortunate to know so much about the original homeowners and the construction and life of my home. I cherish each and every photo, object, and piece of paper they left behind. I’ve now combined my memories and family heirlooms with what was left in the house to start a new story.”

As if all of that weren’t enough to prove Kristen found a home tailor-made for her, Kristen’s art studio even used to be Betty’s studio. Next to a hanging mola, purchased by Betty in Panama, Kristen works as a part-time analog collage artist and weaver. She incorporates vintage and vintage-inspired materials into the prints and collages she sells on Etsy and at Dear Society in Kansas City. Besides working in her studio, Kristen’s other favorite pastime is hanging out at home with her boyfriend Darren and her two rescue cats, Duncan and Pablo. Kristen and Darren tried living together but the cats didn’t get along with Darren’s dog, Charlie. Darren bought a home just down the street, though they haven’t given up hope of living together under one roof. I too hope it works out, because it seems to me Kristen has found a way to turn her nostalgia for a past she’s never experienced into a brick-and-mortar reality. —Liberty 

Photography by Kaley Cornett and Kristen Elise Pickell

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Your Most Inspiring Images of 2016

Your Most Inspiring Images of 2016

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To get ready to tackle this year head-on, I’ve been cleaning out my email inbox, old notes on my phone and trying to glean through all the bits and clips of inspiration to see what to carry forward with me into 2017. And as I look through the things I’ve saved, I’m reminded of all of the incredible images you all shared with us in our DS hashtag challenges for 2016. So today I wanted to highlight our top 12 images of the entire year, based on your likes, comments and views. From sunsets and flowers to cat paws and incredible tiled arches, these photos will get you started on the right path for a creative new year. xo, grace

Image above by @skinny_wolf of @katiemarxflowers via @ameliapresents

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Welcome New Customers With A Great First Impression

Welcome New Customers With A Great First Impression

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With a new year upon us, making the most of the coming months is top of mind. For us here at Design*Sponge, we’re investing more time in pie-in-the-sky projects and creating more meaningful relationships with our readers and those companies, large and small, that share the values we hold dear. With that in mind, we’re sharing a few tips on how to welcome customers (and those who may become customers). Aligning yourself and your business with people who need your expertise is what we all strive for. Make sure you express who you are and how you can help from that very first moment of contact!

Tip #1: Be bold and create a logo, card or other paper collateral that represents who you are, what you do and most importantly, what you and your business are all about. The end result doesn’t have to be bold, and a simple approach like choosing impactful typography to spell your brand in a foil or letterpress card can speak volumes. Here are some lovely examples from Carda & Co for inspiration.

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Tip #2: Invest in high-quality, bespoke business cards and stationery. Any beautifully designed, heavyweight object that people can touch and feel creates a special place in their senses and brain just for you. They’ll remember you before that bookmarked page on the Internet which happens to offer the same product or service.

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Click through for the most important tip of all and get ready to have a great (and prosperous) new year! –Caitlin

This post is brought to you in collaboration with Carda & Co., offering premium business cards and accessories to make a great first impression. Shop their collections here and follow them on Instagram here.

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The Tula Plant Truck Hits the Road

The Tula Plant Truck Hits the Road, on Design*Sponge

The Tula Plant Truck Hits the Road

After adorning An Airy Modern Greenhouse in Brooklyn, NY and co-founding a plants and design business called Tula, Christan Summers and Ivan Martinez have taken their passion for bringing plants to people on the road, building a first-of-its-kind mobile greenhouse. Tulita, as the tricked out plant truck is affectionately called, began as a run-down 1987 Chevy parked deep in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood. Christan found the pre-makeover Tulita for sale on an early morning run, and immediately saw that she had potential — a shape with character and small size, easily maneuverable around urban streets. Once the truck was theirs, Ivan designed the aesthetic and functional transformation, bringing in Master Chef Mobile Kitchens to fabricate the vision. They started by cutting off the roof and reinforcing the interiors with triangulated aluminum cross bars, then installing a retractable service window on the passenger side. After the structure was remodeled, Tulita was painted a dark green symbolizing Christan and Ivan’s love for horticulture. Exterior branding was hand-done in old school lettering by Jon Bocksel, who is a traditional sign painter. The finished greenhouse on wheels has been visiting different Brooklyn neighborhoods since April 2016, relocating itself to local markets and fairs, or wherever city dwellers need the inspiration with which to fall in love with plants.

The truck fits as many plants as possible while allowing people to come inside, shop, and experience what it’s like to stand in a mobile greenhouse — checking out the plants, planters made in collaboration with local potters, and loads of plant accessories. Never ones to stand still, for Tulita’s next iteration, Christan and Ivan are working on ways to upgrade the efficiencies of transit and plant growth. —Annie

Photography by Ivan Martinez and Christan Summers

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January 2017 Editor’s Letter + #DSinspire

January 2017 Editor’s Letter + #DSinspire

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Good morning and happy 2017, everyone! I wanted to take this moment to check in and talk about our plans here at Design*Sponge this year. Last year was a rollercoaster of huge life changes, travel, and emotions, but with all of the change and adjustment came a sort of clarity for me. I realized what’s really important to me and what our mission and voice here at Design*Sponge will be going forward.

After Julia and I finished our book tours this fall, we spent a lot of our free time doing volunteer work in our area. I have never felt more useful, more plugged into my community and more in touch with what matters most to me in life. Those moments of honing in on what makes me feel good (helping people and making sure families have what they need) helped me clarify what I want to do here at Design*Sponge for the coming year: I want to make design personal again.

Over the past decade I’ve watched design go the way of fast-fashion: favoring quantity over quality and demanding immediate gratification. Trends seem to turn over in a matter of weeks and judgement is quick and harsh if someone’s home/decor isn’t everything the market is demanding.

There will always be plenty of magazines and blogs to cover the latest/greatest anything in our design community, but as I head into my 13th year of blogging here at Design*Sponge (what?!) I know that my mission is to reconnect the things and spaces we love with the people and stories behind them.

I focused on this style with my latest book, In the Company of Women, and it’s going to be our focus going forward this year. We will always talk about exciting new people, artists, designers, objects and interiors — but we want to spend more time finding the things that make them special and presenting them in a way that helps you connect more closely and with more meaning. I want to hear people’s voices in their homes, see what inspires them and, most importantly, connect with all of you in a way that lets us learn from each other, motivate our community and do good together.

To kick off this focus, this month’s content focus at D*S is going to be about coziness and hygge (a concept getting a lot of well-deserved love online lately). We’re going to be sharing homes that exude a comfy-cozy vibe, collecting decorating ideas and tips with that feel in mind, and talking to people in our community who can help us all create a little more cozy in our lives.

This month’s hashtag challenge is all about inspiration, too — so if you’d like to join the fun, share a photo of words of wisdom you see in your everyday life and share it online with the hashtag #DSInspire. Whether it’s a page in a book, something you handwrite on paper, see in a magazine or a message written in tile on the floor of your favorite coffee shop, we want to see what words of wisdom, inspiration and motivation are keeping YOU going this month. Here’s to a wonderful year full of meaning, purpose, connection and love. xo, grace

Image above via Wenderly on Instagram, from the #DSInspire feed 

 

Happy Holidays + Holiday Decorations + See you in January!

Happy Holidays + Holiday Decorations + See you in January!

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Every year our little D*S family takes a week off to relax, restore and spend time with friends and family. But before we head out for our holiday break (we’ll be back on January 3rd!), I wanted to share some of my favorite images from this month’s hashtag challenge: #DSHoliday. You all shared so many beautiful images of wreaths, handmade ornaments and clever DIY decor! I was so impressed and moved by your stunning photos of what the holiday season looks like in your hometown, too. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

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And thank you for sharing with us every other day of the year. From your comments here to your emails and notes on social media to getting to see so many of you in person for the In the Company of Women book tour this year, your feedback, thoughts and inspiration keep us motivated and working harder every year. I can’t wait to share what we have planned for 2017. Until then, from all of us at Design*Sponge, we send you all our best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season and a wonderful 2017. See you in January! xo, grace

Read on for more of our favorite #DSHoliday images after the jump! Images above, top to bottom by: laurenlcarongina__block, heather.dawn.smithawilderkind, familleribeaucourt and lamericaineinprovence

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Luisa Weiss’ Christbrot

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Luisa Weiss’ Christbrot

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I’ve been listening to my Christmas music since the day after Thanksgiving, and I have Love Actually ready to go! What was missing from my Christmas routine was a typical Christmas sweet to bake — a labor of love. Luisa Weiss’ new book Classic German Baking has an entire section dedicated to Christmas baking! I chose the wonderful Christbrot, or Sweet Christmas Bread, evocative of Stollen. Note that the candied fruit must soak for two days prior to baking!

We send our sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the tragic Berlin Christmas Market incident. If you are in Berlin and would like to provide support, you may donate blood through local hospitals or the German Red Cross (On Twitter: Deutsches Rotes Kreuz). It is also possible to make contributions in other ways through the DRK website for those not local to Berlin. —Kristina

Why Luisa loves this recipe: In my recently published cookbook, called Classic German Baking, the biggest chapter by far is the Christmas chapter. The subject of German Christmas baking is so vast that, much like German bread, it really almost deserves its own book. I restricted myself to sharing only those recipes that I truly adore and those that I think are emblematic of the beautiful traditions that are still essential to Christmastime in Germany. In my attempts at developing a great homemade Stollen recipe, I discovered Christbrot, a similar but less buttery baked good. The relief I felt at discovering Christbrot was surpassed only by my surprise when I realized I actually prefer it to Stollen. Now it’s one of my favorite wintertime baking projects and one of the most coveted gifts for friends to emerge from my kitchen.

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Calm, Cool & Classic Style in Central Vietnam

Living room from Linh Nguyen's home tour on Design*Sponge

Calm, Cool & Classic Style in Central Vietnam

Many folks are moving out of Manhattan, NY these days, so I’ve heard. Some retreat to Brooklyn or Philadelphia, some escape all the way to the West Coast. Last year, Linh Nguyen and Craig Theisen decided to head for the coast, too — the coast of Vietnam!

The two first met at Columbia University, where Linh was studying under a Fulbright scholarship and Craig was completing a Master’s program in social work. Linh, a native Vietnamese from a small town outside Hanoi, had always known she’d return to Vietnam one day. Craig, who had traveled to more than 40 countries with the U.S. Air Force, was happy to join her. After eight years together in Manhattan, they packed their things and settled in Hoi An, a small gem on the central coast, famous for its picturesque streets lined with trees, lanterns, and artisanal shops.

The transition from Manhattan to Hoi An took some getting used to, especially without central air conditioning (the average high temperature is 86 degrees Fahrenheit!). Their home, built in 2014, includes traditional Vietnamese interior elements designed to beat the heat. Marble floors are always cold to the touch and a great place for a midday nap. During the day, bamboo blinds block out the sun, but in the evening, the oversize windows and doors are thrown open to let in the cool ocean breeze. Solid wooden chairs in the living room are easy to clean, and stay cool against sweat and humidity. 

To break up the swaths of hard surfaces, Linh and Craig introduced tropical plants, woven floor mats, and colorful wall hangings and seat cushions. The result is an oasis that feels relaxed and refreshing. —Hanh

Photography by Linh Nguyen

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10 Tips for Creating the Perfect Entertaining Environment

10 Tips for Creating the Perfect Entertaining Environment

10 Tips for Creating the Perfect Entertaining Environment, Design*Sponge

As the lighting is set for the Met’s Costume Gala, party planner David Monn takes one final walk about the space. Solo, he gingerly circles each table adjusting the petals of the tables’ flower arrangements – surely he wouldn’t be the only one to notice their leaves hanging a smidgen too much to the left. It’s quiet in the hall as that all-too-familiar, pre-party hush has set in. He knows it well. It always seems to totally settle the moment guests turn the knob to come inside. He’s ready for them though, and now that he’s tweaked and double checked the arrangements, the space is as well.

It’s all in a day’s work for the celebrated celebrant. The Guggenheim. The White House. The Plaza Hotel. They all know his name, and he’s become synonymous with putting on a stellar night. Recently, his successes led him to publishing his very first book titled The Art of Celebrating, and we are huge fans. Luckily for us, in honor of the book launch, David has taken his wealth of knowledge and organized it into 10 steps to make any holiday bash a hit. From scents and sounds to visuals and food, he’s got you covered. So click through and get ready to take notes! Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography courtesy of David Monn

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What’s In Your Toolbox: Maria Berrio

What’s In Your Toolbox: Maria Berrio

What's In Your Toolbox: Maria Berrio, on Design*Sponge

Using Eastern decorative papers torn to small scraps of color, Colombian collage artist Maria Berrio builds her own patterns on canvas using existing graphical designs sourced from faraway Eastern lands. Maria takes notes from her native South American influences, as well as her life and work in Brooklyn, NY. Despite her seemingly magical ability to create order out of shredded chaos, Maria insists there must be an order to her process. “I try to have a separate container for each painting I do where I put all the cut-outs and papers used for that piece. I’ve learned the hard way that without some organization, one can lose hours just trying to find that one paper I knew I had put around there somewhere.” When asked about her path in the art world,  she explains that, “an artist isn’t a pose or a pair of paint-spattered jeans waiting for inspiration. Your career and your relationship with your work is a marriage of sorts — there will be ups and downs, but you will both change and grow together.” Take a peek below at the real deal. —Annie

Portrait by Jai Lennard

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