How to Be An Active Ally for Refugees and Immigrants

How to Be An Active Ally for Refugees and Immigrants

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from working here at Design*Sponge for the past 12 years, it’s that every person’s story deserves to be heard, understood and respected. When our community embraces a richly diverse group of people from all backgrounds, religions, ages, races, abilities, identities and points of view, we all benefit. Lately there’s been a lot of talk about immigration, refugees and what it means to feel safe at home. I know some will feel those discussions don’t belong here, but all I can see are the millions of ways in which those conversations intersect what we do here every day when we discuss homes, businesses and how families live and love. Our creative community is made up of thousands upon thousands of people who came here from other countries, and our goal at D*S will always be to welcome them into our homes, online and off. Because my personal life is devoted to social and activist causes (if you don’t follow us on Instagram, that is where most of those posts live), I’ve been hearing from people who would like advice or guidance on how to be an active ally to those directly affected by changing immigration and refugee policies.

So today I teamed up with Libby VanderPloeg (who has been an incredible example of someone using their art to inspire activism and discussion) to create a practical guide for being an active ally to immigrants and refugees in your community. The key word here is active, because so many people are seeking concrete ways to help, so we spoke with experts at several organizations to create a list of 8 actions you can take, no matter where you live, to help out. The most important thing is to listen first, so be sure to check out the end of our video above for ways to plug into your local immigrant and refugee community to hear what they need help with most right now. Thank you to Joshua Gershman at the International Rescue Committee for his guidance and feedback on this video. xo, grace

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Modern Etiquette: Handling Difficult Conversations Online

Modern Etiquette: Handling Difficult Conversations Online

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It’s been a while since I updated our Modern Etiquette column (3 years to be exact, yikes!). But every day when I log in to answer comments here, these posts are where people come back again and again to talk, debate and connect. That got me thinking about some of the communication hurdles we’re facing right now in our world and how even the most tense of topics can still be places we’re able to see, hear and understand each other.

So rather than rebooting this column with something light like gift-giving or housewarming gifts, I wanted to tackle the elephant in the room: starting, handling and compassionately ending difficult conversations online.

I’ve spent the majority of my adult life navigating difficult conversations online, from the casual troll commenter and vicious personal attacks to the occasional Twitter battle or social media meltdown. No matter who you are, some version of a tough talk will come your way online at some point, and I’ve found there are most definitely some do’s and don’t’s that can help you get through these moments with patience, kindness and respect. It doesn’t require Herculean strength or a psychology degree — just some basic guidelines that will help you connect with your online neighbor (and your in-person neighbor, too). The goal of these conversations isn’t to convert people to your way of thinking, but rather to find ways to communicate your personal stories so you can shine a light on the things you have in common (shared values, concerns, fears), instead of exacerbating the differences. Read on for my take on navigating the tricky world of tense online conversations… xo, grace

Illustration by Anna Emilia

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Paintings by Inès Longevial

Paintings by Inès Longevial

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As the winter days stretch on and our neighborhood color palette is limited to beige, brown and grey, I find myself gravitating toward artwork that embraces bold, bright color unabashedly. French artist Inès Longevial celebrates the human body in such jubilant colors and shapes, and hints at sensuality and form in a subtle but palpable way. If, like me, you idolize people who have such a wonderful grasp on color theory and how to combine hues in a powerful way, be sure to check out Inès’ website and Instagram feed. They are sure to brighten your day. xo, grace

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Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren

Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge

Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren

In a new converted warehouse studio in EaDo, just east of downtown Houston, TX, menswear apparel and accessories designer Kathrine Zeren has created a multipurpose workspace that can easily transition to a showroom, while also being reflective of her personal aesthetic. With the space’s big window and plenty of natural light — shared with another designer, bag maker Mackenzie Conlin — Kathrine works on her collections, which exclusively support American manufacturing and use only sustainably-sourced fabrics. Her latest is a collaboration with textile designer and fiber artist Kari Breitigam to create one-of-a-kind, hand-dyed neckties and bow ties. The space is divided in two by a temporary wall that provides some privacy but plenty of opportunity to talk. “I can get [Mackenzie’s] advice on construction,” Kathrine explains, “And it’s also nice to have the company and white noise of working near someone.”

After several years as a womenswear designer for a large retailer, Kathrine decided to take time off to do some volunteer work in Eastern Europe and South Africa. At the time, she made neckties as a way to raise money for her trip, and it seemed like a fun challenge. She had never ventured into men’s clothing or accessories, but had always looked to it for inspiration, loving the quality of fabrics and attention to details she hadn’t seen in womenswear. Some time later, she decided to turn this newfound love into a line. Having often found it a struggle to balance her conscience with the fashion industry norms, she was inspired by other socially conscious companies to go about business differently. But being creative can be a messy process at times, and it’s a hard to have people over for dinner when there are fabric scraps, editorial cut-outs, and half-made samples covering everything. In her workroom, she has the ability to spread out, and to use the big white wall for pinning ideas.

Though it can be difficult to do when you’re looking straight at a new project, having a new studio space has also taught her that it’s necessary to take mental breaks in order to come up with new ideas. “When I had everything at home, it was difficult to pull myself away, and I’d just keep working until late at night — without being very productive. Removing myself from my work at a reasonable hour has helped me to approach things with a fresh perspective each morning.” —Annie

Photography by Jeff Gilmer

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Black History Month Spotlight: Lisa Hunt

Black History Month Spotlight: Lisa Hunt

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I believe goals are meant to change and grow with a business over time, and here at Design*Sponge, ours are always evolving. What began as a site purely about things and how we arrange them in our homes has turned into a community of people who are equally interested in the people and stories behind those things. In that change of focus from products to people, I realized I had a lot of work to do to make sure Design*Sponge reflected everyone in our community. So over the past few years we’ve worked hard to ensure that every part of our site, from our team and the homes we show to the products and designers we cover, are inclusive and welcoming every day of the year.

This week marks the start of Black History Month and in addition to our commitment to covering designers of color every week of every month, I’m going to be posting special spotlights all month that celebrate some of my favorite black designers, artists and makers. As always, we love to learn about new creatives we should be covering here, so if you have any suggestions, please feel free to share them below. But until then, I hope you’ll enjoy these special spotlights this month. xo, grace

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Today’s spotlight is artist and designer Lisa Hunt. I had the honor of interviewing Lisa for In the Company of Women and continue to be inspired by her bold style and stunning use of gold leaf. Read on after the jump to learn more about Lisa and her work — and catch an excerpt of her interview from the book! xo, grace

Photography by Sasha Israel for In the Company of Women

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3 Handmade Heart-Themed DIYs

3 Handmade Heart-Themed DIYs

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The nostalgia of conversation hearts holds a special place in popular culture, and we couldn’t think of a more fun idea to turn into a Valentine-themed DIY. Luckily, we didn’t have too! Beth Salvini, the artist behind Big Fun, specializes in papier mâché and clay sculptures that are handmade in Brooklyn, NY. And she created this adorable project that will bring a big smile to anyone’s face — Conversation Heart Charm Pins. Head over here to get the full instructions and make this Valentine treat for yourself or someone special.

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This next heart-themed project is about as simple and sweet as it gets! Even if you’ve never sewn a stitch, a few studious moments will have you on your way to creating these Chain-of-Heart Napkins with ease. I managed to create six embellished napkins in about two hours after a little practice!

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, a talented book and textile artist, created this DIY for Design*Sponge and it’s always been a reader favorite — especially this time of year. Pick out some pretty napkins, bake or buy a rosewater pound cake and craft these for a lovely Valentine dessert with a friend or loved one. Get the full instructions right here.

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Click through for our final DIY that shows you how to literally wear your heart on your sleeve! It’s beyond easy. –Caitlin

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Winter Shopping Favs: Grace’s Latest Picks

Winter Shopping Favs: Grace’s Latest Picks

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You know that time of year when it’s grey and cold and you just want to switch things up at home to feel energized again? I’m right in the middle of that time, and instead of actually buying new things, I’m emptying my desktop wish list folder and sharing my winter favs here instead. From dramatic single drop earrings and stunning art books to nubby winter white blankets and hand-printed calendars, any one of these pieces would be a nice winter addition to your home (or wardrobe). xo, grace

Image above, clockwise from top left: Katharine Watson 2017 Write-In Wall Calendar $22, Desert Dog patch (it looks like Winky!) by Eradura $48, Feminist Keychain $15, Croissant Pin $19, Safety Pin Pin $19, Black Fireplace Matches $36, Egg Card $6, Pearl and Jade Drop Earring $98, Opal Stud $130, Puff Blanket $350, Olimpia Zagnoli’s visual take on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz $25, Kilim Pillow $88, Moon Plate $48

Embroidered Jewelry by Céleste Mogador

Embroidered Jewelry by Céleste Mogador

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I am completely and totally obsessed with French artist Céleste Mogador‘s incredible handmade embroidered jewelry. I first discovered her work on Instagram and I’ve been saving and collecting photos of her beaded and embroidered cards, eyes and arms. All of the bright colors and shiny beaded details are too beautiful to resist. They’re like the jewelry version of candy. Her work has inspired me to try out a few beading projects I’ve been eyeing online. Click here to check out Céleste’s work online and on Instagram. xo, grace

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11 Designers Share: Tips For Adding Warmth To A Room

Land vs. Ocean for Design*Sponge

11 Designers Share: Tips For Adding Warmth To A Room

These chilly, grey months of winter make me think ahead to spring and its flowers, sunshine and color. I love winter for about a month, but by mid-February, I’m counting down the days on my calendar until it’s over. Some of the ways that I personally add warmth to a room is by starting with a neutral sofa and adding in lots of colorful pillows that work well in the room and with the bright art on the walls. I also find that mixing patterns adds a certain level of warmth — something you can keep around all year long.

Since we still have some time ahead of us before the seasons change, we’ve asked 11 designers to tell us how they decorate a room to add warmth and make winter a little more inviting. From lighting to surrounding yourself with meaningful, found objects, this is a great roundup of resources that I know I’ll personally be turning to when I need a change. —Erin

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The Ins and Outs of Collaboration with Rebecca Atwood & Sarah Laskow

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The Ins and Outs of Collaboration with Rebecca Atwood & Sarah Laskow

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We’ve always been huge fans of surface and pattern designer, Rebecca Atwood, and her ever-growing line of textiles, home goods and wallpaper. Her recent book, Living With Pattern, is a much-loved edition filled with approachable homes layered in various scales, colors and materials of pattern. Recently, Rebecca collaborated with longtime friend Sarah Laskow on a range of bespoke pillows made from Rebecca’s textiles and Sarah’s hand embroidery work. We had chance to catch up with both women and ask them about the collaboration. You can see the full collection up close and personal after the jump!

Image above: Rebecca Atwood & Sarah Laskow in the studio

Can you tell us how your latest collaboration came about?

Rebecca Atwood: Moving beyond print to explore new techniques has been a goal of mine. I’m fascinated with how we can create pattern through structure, stitching, fibers, and texture. One of the things I love most about textiles is that they are meant to be used, touched, and shared and I wanted to expand our language of techniques beyond surface transformation. Working with Sarah, one of my best friends since college, was such a natural fit to start exploring these ideas. Prior to starting my own line, I’d worked with Sarah for developing embellishment and fabric manipulation samples for home products and so I knew we worked well together. It was a very natural decision for us to collaborate.

Sarah Laskow: Rebecca and I have been friends since college and I have had the joy of watching her line come about over the past few years. As her product began to expand beyond prints, we started talking about how she could add embroidery and embellishment into the collection. I was honored that she wanted to start with a collaboration of one-of-a-kind pillows!

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Click through to see more behind-the-scenes details from the collaboration process and the full line in the slideshow, with close-ups of Sarah’s beautiful embroidery! –Caitlin

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On the UK’s Southern Coast, a Potter’s Colorful Modern Flat

On the UK's Southern Coast, a Potter's Colorful Modern Flat, Design*Sponge

On the UK’s Southern Coast, a Potter’s Colorful Modern Flat

On a cold day earlier this year, I decided to pass the time by wandering around some of my favorite stores. With coffee in one hand and my boyfriend’s hand in the other, I ended up in West Elm where I was struck by the work of  potter Stella Baggott. I’m telling you, to know her latest collection is to love it. Full of brilliantly-colored decanters in mod shapes, the pieces are cheerful and memorable. Come to think of it, her home in Brighton, UK isn’t much different.

Located only an hour’s train ride from London, Brighton is a relaxed and creative coastal town. It’s the perfect spot for an artist looking for inspiration and a place to work and play. At the time of her move, Stella had been priced-out of London, and she was a bit worried about where she would end up. Luckily, she was able to snag a flat in the East Sussex spot with an almost identical floor plan to the one she had in the big city. Built in 1812, its 800 square feet were, unfortunately, not decorated how Stella would have liked, but you’d never know now that it’s been given a mid-century makeover.

The first thing Stella did when she moved in was paint everything. Decked out in taupe, the dingy walls were neither her style nor did they do anything to brighten the parts of the home that received minimal light. A simple coat of white and a few dollops of color have since done the trick though, and Stella couldn’t be happier with the results. Each little decor move she’s made has helped her achieve the “homey and inviting” vibe she was looking for.

While Stella’s vibrant yellow door, bold black walls and vintage finds are absolutely inviting and eye-catching, my favorite part of the home has to be how it’s styled with Stella’s own work. She proudly displays pots, decorative planters and one-off designs in almost every room of the home. How lucky she is to have a set of one-of-a-kind decorations at the ready! Their turquoise green and blue hues add even more color to the flat, and I’m all for that. Click through to see them sprinkled throughout this marvelous space, and atop one of the prettiest fireplaces I’ve ever seen. It’s a stunner. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Stella Baggott

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3 Pasta Dishes That Are As Delicious As They Look

3 Pasta Dishes That Are As Delicious As They Look

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Growing up, my family ate pasta pretty much every day of the week. I’m not just talking spaghetti and red sauce. It was the mid-70s, during the heyday of Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook, and my mom would drag me along on what seemed to be very long car rides just to find alfalfa sprouts, a sunchoke or a vegetarian restaurant. Our dinners were generally colorful pasta dishes filled with every bean and vegetable you can imagine.

My fondness for pasta lives on and these three recipes represent all I love in a good pasta dish — color, flavor and a little bite!

First up, Melissa Clark’s bacon, rosemary and tomato pasta! The rosemary-bacon combination is so popular in my house that on special “big breakfast” occasions like holidays and birthdays, we sprinkle the herb on our bacon and eggs and call it fancy. Melissa incorporates a twist that I especially love, balsamic vinegar! Get her recipe here and make it ASAP. (Vegetarians and vegans, all three of these recipes are easily converted, so add them to your menu!)

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Click through for two more tempting pasta dishes, including one that uses the absorption technique for a full-flavored, no-boil method! —Caitlin

Images above by Kristina Gill

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A House Finds Its Heart In Color in Edinburgh, Scotland

Classic Styles Are Made Fresh With Colors And Patterns On Design*Sponge

A House Finds Its Heart In Color in Edinburgh, Scotland

Emily Murray, creator of the interiors blog, The Pink House, and her husband Euan Murray live in The Pink House — which, in addition the name of Emily’s blog, is also their real-life Victorian home in Edinburgh, Scotland. Euan (CEO of The Sustainability Consortium, a global nonprofit group based in the U.S.) and Emily share their pink house with their two sons, Oscar, 7, and Zac, 4. We love Emily’s approach to the design of her home, which stemmed from the love of former less-than-kid-friendly haunts. “Since having kids, I haven’t been able to get out so much to the gorgeous bars, hotels etc. that I used to frequent before the small Pink House dwellers came along,” Emily shares. “So when it came to decorating my family home, I did so in a style that is intended to recreate the fabulous places I used to go. It’s a way of living my old, child-free London party life, but in Edinburgh, and while spending half my time picking Cheerios off the floor or emptying potties full of wee. I’m a firm believer that just because you have kids, doesn’t mean your house has to be drab, dull and simply functional — it can still be fabulous.”

The Pink House wasn’t always so fabulous; when Emily came down from England to house-hunt six years ago, the house’s exterior was a dirty white. While Emily was disappointed to be leaving their England home, both her and Euan’s parents lived in Edinburgh and the willing-and-available childcare helped soften the blow of leaving their London lifestyle behind. So much of finding this home had seemed somewhat meant to be. The Pink House was only the third Emily had seen on her very first day of house hunting and the moment she stepped through the door, she knew it was “the one.” While the colors on both the outside and inside were lackluster, and the open-plan kitchen Emily had on her must-have list was nonexistent, she knew she would “do anything” for this house. “I’m no fatalist or spiritualist, but its soul spoke to me in a way that meant all practicalities went out the badly-fitted sash window,” Emily admits. “So we bought it, and began its transformation into a colorful, fabulous family home.”

The renovations and transformation from the dirty-white Arts-And-Crafts style Victorian to the fabulous Pink House that it is today took six years. And naturally, just as it’s completely finished, the family has decided to place The Pink House on the market. The first step in the renovations was creating the open-plan kitchen Emily had dreamed of, which entailed knocking down the wall between the kitchen and living room, creating a big family room. Emily shares, “The rooms run north-south, so as well as gaining the opportunity to keep an eye on the kids (break up fights) while cooking (heating stuff up), the knock-through also means the north-facing kitchen area benefits from the daylight streaming through the south-facing living area windows.” While knocking down walls for the open-plan kitchen sounds like a big makeover, it was actually the bathroom that made the most radical transformation. The bathroom, like the exterior, was uninspired, but Emily saw to gutting it and creating her dream bathroom in its place. The latest project was taking their dingy basement and transforming it into “The Den” — which acts as their space for watching movies, the guest bedroom and home office, and where Emily’s vision — beginning with grasscloth walls — was brought to life by Jessica Buckley Interiors.

One of the most special elements of their home is the “Centenary Scrapbook” they were given when they moved in. When their 15-house street celebrated its 100-year “birthday” (in 1999), the scrapbook was created to share information about why the houses were built, historical information about how they were built, a list of everyone who had lived in each house on the street and even what color their house was originally painted — white. If only every house purchase came with one of these! —Rebekah

Photography by Susie Lowe

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A Photographer’s Art Deco Beach Bungalow

A Photographer's Art Deco Beach Bungalow, Design*Sponge

A Photographer’s Art Deco Beach Bungalow

Photographer Mary Beth Koeth has traveled far and wide perfecting her craft. She’s spent months in Norway learning the ropes, trekked across Europe with Hallmark and interned with some of Los Angeles’ most stellar creatives. Mary Beth says Miami, FL, however, has inspired her and made her smile more than any other exotic location she’s visited. For that very reason, in 2010 she set up shop permanently in South Beach.

The art deco apartment she rents there is the epitome of South Beach style. Built in the 1930s, it features an original fireplace, an eye-catching retro facade and terrazzo tile throughout. Thanks to all these details and more, the right bones were there when Mary Beth moved in. Making the space feel current, though, now that was the challenge — and one she knew she couldn’t rush into. Instead of snagging any old thing she saw, Mary Beth slowly but surely gathered tables, chairs and accessories from her favorite secondhand shops in the city. This mix she’s put together gives the space both a touch of modernity and a touch of her own style: eclectic comfortability.

All in all, these additions create an interesting juxtaposition. Original floors and Mary Beth’s bold finds are surprising complements, and the space’s cheery style and neutral backdrop, while different, work in tandem beautifully. I think my favorite part of Mary Beth’s home, however, is how she’s managed to fill it without breaking the bank. Most of the decorations come from a local consignment shop, and only a select few things are brand-spankin’ new. You’d never know though, thanks to the stellar styling job she’s done. Click through to see exactly how she put it all together on a budget, and enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Mary Beth Koeth

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Cassandra Ott’s Rainbow Paintings + Best of the Web

Cassandra Ott’s Rainbow Paintings + Best of the Web

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After a difficult and divisive election season here in the United States, I’ve been gravitating towards imagery that celebrates unity, love and color. Rainbows are the ultimate symbol of that feeling for me, so it’s no surprise that Cassandra Ott‘s rainbow series is making me smile right now.

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Cassandra is based in Buffalo, NY, where she creates paintings and mixed media collages. Her “Rainbow Perspective” series is painted on found vintage photographs and creates these small moments of wonder and happiness in everyday scenes. And right now, I’m really enjoying looking for these small moments everywhere in life and celebrating them any way I can. You can check out more of Cassandra’s work here on her site and on her Instagram feed. xo, grace

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Giving Back: Julia and I made a series of recipe videos for our local food pantry to celebrate common pantry items turned into easy meals. Over 10k cards, letters and envelopes are about to be connected with groups across the country who want to send their story to their elected officials. Connecting creativity + activism makes my heart sing.

Yum: I’ve never been a big Dutch Baby person, but this chocolate version at Smitten Kitchen looks incredible.

Inked (for now): Want to get crafty and make your own temporary tattoos? The Beautiful Mess team is showing you how.

Balloon Hearts: Speaking of crafts, this balloon wall heart project at Oh Happy Day is funny and fun-looking.

Simple Chic: This is the sleek minimalist Japanese kitchen of my dreams.

Melbourne Pink: This pink bedroom from a Design Files home tour is heavenly.

 

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Social Media Inspiration: 10 Designers and Artists Over 60 To Follow and Support, 10 Young Designers and Creatives to Follow on Instagram

Life & Business: How To Begin Again by Adam JK

Giveaway: The Classic Allure of Barn Lights + A $500 Giveaway

Interiors: In Vancouver, An Old-Timer With New Design, An Eclectic Retreat in Arizona Designed on a Dime, A Home in Central Iowa Full of Memories to Take to East Asia, A Jewelry Designer’s Serene Bungalow in Portland, OR, Peek Inside the Brooklyn Home of our Favorite Envelope Artist

Decorating: 10 Ways to Dress Up Your Shelves with Color, 11 Rooms with Gorgeous Winter Whites, The Sustainability of Natural Stone, 10 Throws to Warm Up Your Weekend

Before & After: A Country Home Gets A Powder Room & Living Room Update