Anatomy OfInteriorssneak peeks

The Anatomy of a Home Tour

by Kelli Kehler

Here at Design*Sponge, we’ve covered a wide spectrum of topics, from DIY how-to’s, to artist profiles and studios, to recipes, to pop culture topics and essays that run the gamut in subject matter. But through the years, our main focus has always been home tours. They’re our bread and butter. They’re our window to the world, and after publishing, reading and editing thousands of them, we still can’t get enough of them.

Year after year, readers entrust us with showcasing their homes — an intimate look at their life — and it’s something we don’t take lightly. We honor this trust by handling the home tours of others the way we’d want someone to tell the stories of our own homes, and we work to get the details just right — “What personal pronouns would you prefer we use?” and “Are you comfortable including the names of your children?” and “Are there ways we could better and more respectfully describe these cultural family heirlooms?” — because those details all work together to tell the story of you. After all is said and done, the greater conversation is not about design, it’s about life at home.

Our very first home tour published in 2007 — a small, one-photo peek inside the Portland home of artist Amy Ruppel — and it was written by Grace. She tells me, “I didn’t have any idea that people would want to see more content like this (at the time I mainly wrote about new product designs) and so I called it a ‘sneak peek’ because it felt like we briefly stepped inside Amy’s entryway, snapped a picture, and then ran out!”

“Over the past 11 years of running weekly home tours,” Grace continues, “we’ve featured almost 2,000 interiors and we’ve gone from running primarily submissions to spending the bulk of our time reaching out directly to people from a broad range of backgrounds and styles. I was the first and only home tour writer for years, and then we expanded to a small freelance team of three writers, then to two full-time writers (Amy and Max!) and now we’re a team of seven freelance writers spread across the world from Finland to California.”

As part of my Managing Editor duties involves editing all of our content (and writing home tours myself), I’ve had my hands on nearly every single home tour that’s published in the last 4+ years (aside from when I took two short breaks to give birth to my daughters); and before that, I was a hardcore D*S fangirl. I know our process like the back of my hand — a process that often takes 3-4 months per home tour — and with input from our talented team, today we’re going to pull back the curtain for you on The Anatomy of a Home Tour. —Kelli

How We Choose Them

Our primary objective here at D*S is to represent homes, and people, from all backgrounds. We pay special attention to ensure that people from underrepresented groups (people of color, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, etc.) are represented and celebrated here. We want everyone to feel seen, heard and safe on this site. We are constantly working to expand our search techniques for new homes while staying abreast of changes in the outside world and ways to be more inclusive.

That main focus leads me to our next criteria — we are always listening to you. In the past several months we’ve worked to track down homes that are more colorful and unique, preferably with interesting architectural details, because we’ve received a large amount of reader feedback requesting those aspects. While we are cool with trends and fans of many trends ourselves, we try not to feature the same types of styles over and over again, in an effort to offer our audience the best variety possible. These days, that entails us passing up more and more homes that might have, for example, all-white walls, plenty of plants and modern farmhouse details in a muted color palette — because while that look is beautiful, we’ve already shown it here before and there’s plenty of examples of that style to find all over the Internet and social media.

Lastly, and this is a big one for us: we don’t publish content that’s been published elsewhere. Why? Because we deeply value originality, and we also respect our colleagues in the interior design world. We don’t want to step on the toes of competing publications (especially online), so one of the first questions we ask someone we’re considering for a home tour feature is, “Has your project/home been submitted or run elsewhere online or in print?” If the answer is “yes,” we will sadly have to pass on publishing the home tour.

The most exciting thing about the process is seeing the final home tour photos for the first time, it’s like opening a present! -Sofia

How We Write Them

First, we either reach out to someone for a potential home tour, or we receive a submission (in our mailbox at submissions@designsponge.com). If the homeowner is game to have their home featured, they send us a round of what we call scouting shots — these aren’t perfectly polished, but they give our team an idea as to whether or not the home will be a good fit for Design*Sponge. If the scouting shots are approved, we then ask the homeowner to submit their final images within two weeks — while following our photo guidelines. (We don’t currently have the budget for an in-house photographer, so we love to work with homeowners to snap their own pictures, with our help and guidance.) Once we receive final images and approve them, we send our homeowners a questionnaire for them to complete within two weeks, and their answers to those questions heavily inform how we write each home tour.

When it comes to writing home tours, Garrett, Sofia, Erin, Rebekah, Lauren, Grace and I have our own quirks and methods, but I think Garrett really sums up what makes a home tour memorable. “Stand-out interiors features really start with the homeowner,” he says. “The more vulnerable and forthcoming they are, the more personal and captivating their story will be. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. We are in an age where our online personas are just as important, if not more so, than our real selves. Oftentimes, this preoccupation with keeping up appearances gets in the way of homeowners presenting their authentic selves. When this happens, the story suffers greatly.”

Rebekah echoes this sentiment: “It’s great when people write like they’re telling me a story,” she says. “It’s up to me to retell it to our audience, but it feels even more intimate when I feel like I was brought into the home and painted a picture of what life is like in that house.”

Sofia imagines each person living in the home when she writes each tour, relying on gems of interesting tidbits that are provided to her by the homeowner to drive the narrative. “The most rewarding thing for me about the home tour process is that people open up not only their homes but their lives to us,” she shares. “My favorite thing is learning about the homeowners and envisioning their lives while I write. I never really plan a home tour — I start with a piece of information that intrigues me and let that take the story where it wants to go. Home tours are really just glimpses into the world of others — often there are so many wonderful stories and details that don’t make it in simply because there’s no room!”

Erin’s preferred method is to approach all technical parts of a home tour first (uploading photos, tagging the blog post to optimize search functionality on our site, writing the photo captions) and writes the story last — which is the complete opposite of how I write them. “I save the story for the end, because after looking at the images and getting everything together, it helps me see what direction to take the story,” she says.

No matter who on our team writes the story of your home, you can be assured that it will be handled with care. We’re constantly tweaking our processes to ensure that we help the homeowners tell their stories to us in the best way possible. “The recent revamp of our questionnaire to make it more personal has been fantastic,” Garrett adds. “Not only has it made our stories more interesting, but it has kept all of the writers on our toes, resulting in some of the best writing Design*Sponge has ever featured.”

One thing that I love about doing home tours is the hunt. I could search for homes all day long. -Erin


The process of producing a home tour for publication on D*S isn’t always smooth sailing. One of the biggest issues we encounter is finding out, usually last-minute, that someone has been working with a similar site or publication without telling us (even though we ask upfront). While we understand the desire to have as much press and attention on an interior as possible, we work hard to offer fresh content to our audience, so we occasionally have to back out of a home tour (often after months of work) if it appears elsewhere before our publish date. It’s definitely a tough day when you see the home tour you’re about to publish show up on a similar site, after being told there are not competing stories in the works, but it happens.

Another problem we run into is not finding the right fit or angle for final photography. Because we’re an independent site with no in-house photographer, we spent a lot of our time working with homeowners to help them take their own simple, bright photos of their home. But sometimes communicating those needs and descriptions remotely doesn’t always work out.

And, of course, there’s just plain ol’ ghosting: someone will verbally commit to a tour, send us photos, and then disappear! That’s always a bummer, too.

The Future

We are always working to be more inclusive, and appreciate your feedback in ways we can improve upon that. Along with continuing this focus, we also will continue to reach further outside the same circles of social media or popular pages of the online world to find new homes to feature that haven’t been showcased elsewhere.

We are in a constant pursuit of homes that drive inspiration and creativity forward into new aesthetic realms that might feature a room or detail that makes you say, “Wow, I have never seen that before! If you know of a home like that — including your own — we want to know. To that end, we are also always in search of spaces that embody home to whomever lives there, a celebration of self, family, heritage, personality, and so many more facets that make someone who they are.

“During my three and a half years at Design*Sponge, our features have become much more about the stories a home holds as opposed to its look,” Garrett says. “I’m so honored I get to be a part of this shift in focus.”

We all feel that way here at D*S: it’s an honor to tell the story of your space, and we thank you for allowing us to do so for the last 11 years. I’ll let Sofia take this thing home: “Having had the opportunity to work with homeowners all over the world has been so rewarding — not only do I now have a never-ending list of places I want to visit, I’ve made so many meaningful connections. I’m yet to meet a homeowner I’ve worked with in person, but I can’t wait for that to happen.”

Suggested For You


  • I love the house tours! My one request would be to feature more homes in the Midwest. I feel like it’s a region that is often underrepresented design-wise, even though there are lots of beautiful homes and artists and artisans living there. And not just Chicago! There is so much more to the Midwest. Every time you do post a Midwestern house tour I get SO EXCITED!!!
    Thanks for all your hard work–it brightens up my day.

  • I find home tours aspirational as well as inspirational. I never get tired of perusing interiors, which is how I came to be a loyal follower of Design Sponge. Your aesthetic resonates with me. I always look forward to clicking on to your site. Thanks for this behind-the-scenes look at your process. Stay encouraged as you continue to produce wonderful work!

  • Thanks for offering a peak into your process. I’m very drawn to house tours. They’re one of the main reasons I read DesignSponge and other design sites. I find them incredibly inspirational. I also love how thoughtful you are regarding inclusivity and highlighting unique homes and design.

    I’m curious if you have thoughts on fairness around compensating participants for their role in content creation. I understand that you’re compensating your writers to co-create the content—but what about those whose homes are displayed?

    I think about these types of issues a lot, particularly as I used to do concert photography, which has its own odd dynamics around compensation (e.g., some photographers are paid via their publication, some are there solely for the benefit of free concert tickets and the opportunity to capture an interesting experience).

    I’ve always assumed that participants are willing to share their homes on DesignSponge because it exposes their venture/art to a larger audience (it seems that the majority of your participants are small business owners/artists). But I’m also curious why someone might highlight their home if not promoting a business or personal brand. I assume they’re not receiving monetary compensation. Do you have thoughts on a fair approach to content co-creation and compensation?

    • Hi Beth

      That’s a good question. We don’t compensate home owners. I don’t think there’s a clear cut right/wrong answer to how that’s handled. For the history of editorial creation, most people who are the subjects of a feature are not compensated for their feature. Ie: homes shown in magazines, businesses profiles in publications, people being interviewed, etc. The understanding that has always existed is that the people receiving attention/press are being “paid” in that exposure. But as blogs and publications have advanced, the idea of “paying in exposure” has become a real problem for creatives- because creatives are usually asked to work for free, even when it’s not their work that is specifically being celebrated or promoted (ie: artists, illustrators, writers, designers, photographers).

      So for me, people being featured in home tours have always fallen into the category of receiving compensation in the form of promotion. Typically with our home owners that means promoting a small business, as you mentioned, of some type of creative project related to the design world. And in exchange for sharing their home with us (or a studio, shop, etc.), we promote their work and their story across platforms that reach over 2 million people who are actively looking to support and patronize businesses and projects like theirs.

      That said, there are plenty of people who love homes, design and decorating and are proud of their spaces and simply want to share them with an audience of like minded people. In the way that some poets and artists and makers share their work online just to enjoy the process of sharing and feedback, the same goes for homes. But these days, and for DS in particular, the majority of homes we feature are from people directly looking to promote a business, project or publication. Design*Sponge has always used interiors as a way to talk about other things: people, social issues, business, etc. So for me, homes are the way we essentially promote and celebrate people in our community (rather than a straight forward business/brand feature).

      Happy to answer any more questions or concerns you have,


  • I look forward to reading the home tours. And I mean reading, not just slipping past the images. Of course I like the images too, but appreciate the narrative that accompanies and frames them. I enjoyed reading this article. It explains the editorial care that is obvious in the selection and presentation of your tours.

    • Thank you so much, Sally. That’s our goal, to create a great narrative that frames the home and tells its story. Thanks for reading!


  • I love your home tours and appreciate the care taken in presenting them. I must say the remodeled fisherman cottage in Tasmania (third picture down) is my favorite. Simply looking at the photos is so amazingly calming.

  • I appreciate that you try to offer real homes with real people, not super rich people’s houses that we can’t afford. I like that DS recognizes the beauty in simple abodes that are more about the home than the house.

    I also like that you guys don’t glorify the gentrifying hipsters (who frankly, have shitty taste anyway). If I see one more over effusive tour of “Tavin who’s lived in Ft. Greene for a whole 6 months, look how she turned a run down brownstone that used to house 5 families and now is home to her, her pet iguana, 3000 ironic pez dispenser collection and her blossoming crochet business!” on AT Ima vomit in my mouth and swallow. Oops, it’s too late.

    I love house design, but gentrification’s a killer and many house design blogs fuel it. Yours doesn’t seem to at least.

    • JWA

      Thank you for the laugh- while I of course don’t think gentrification is funny, you hit the stereotype spot on. The Pez collection…

      I still fall into that trap sometimes and I’ve run a lot of homes that fit that bill. While I try not to judge home owners on their choices and their roles in gentrification, I do think it’s MY job to make sure we do a better job of asking about how someone came to own/rent a home and who they might have been displacing, even if unintentionally.

      We’ve been asking about this for the past year (I regret that we only started doing this recently and it’s 100% my fault) and it’s lead to a major drop in the number of homes/makeovers we run because so many projects are connected to people (usually people from marginalized communities) being displaced. So we’re trying to work harder to find homes and projects that highlight people who are keeping community in mind and working to support those that came before and who have been in that community for a long time.


  • Thanks so much for this important post. I so appreciate the move toward a more diverse and inclusive collection of stories on your site. I’m wondering if you’ve ever considered adding more age diversity to your line-up? I realize that older people may be more difficult to reach, but I really do think we miss out on so much richness and history when their spaces aren’t shown. Maybe a specific nomination process could work?

    • Ginger

      Absolutely! I’ve been talking a lot about this in other posts lately and in the comments sections, but we haven’t done a call out yet. It’s a huge goal of ours and one we are actively working in improving. We haven’t done a call out, but that’s a great idea- maybe we’ll do one soon. Thanks!


  • I loved reading the ‘back story’. Had no idea how home tours were done. In fact in imagined camera crews and stylists etc.. I love that the homes featured ‘are’ the homes of those covered and not put together for the shot.

    • Bahia

      Thanks! Yeah, we’re pretty low budget here so we do everything as DIY style as we can. Some home owners (especially those who work in design) do work with friends who are photographers to take pictures, but we encourage everyone to work with us and the photo guide we’ve built to take photos (we request no styling and no professional propping) that feel approachable :)


  • I’m very heartened by this post! It’s amazing that so much heart goes into creating something as seemingly “simple” as home tours. This is the first comment after many years of reading. Continue to be incredible!

    If I could offer a suggestion, I would love to see home tours from individuals. As a single/unmarried 30-something homeowner living independently, sometimes it’s hard to relate to the “we,” “us,” “our.”

    • Cristina

      Thanks so much for your feedback- that’s a great point. We will be sure to put out a call out for homes that fit this bill :)


  • I love DS home tours, and I’ve been a loyal reader since the beginning. I truly appreciate your commitment to diversity as well. As a 49 year old whose youngest child will be moving out to go to college in August, I also appreciate your commitment to age diversity. Nurseries are cute, but so are homes that have changed as the children have grown, like our house. I love your site, and your good heart. xoxo kim

  • I love that you treat homes as dynamic, evolving, imperfect things that tell the stories of the people living in them. Even if I don’t care for a home’s particular style or color palette, I still always leave inspired because you place it in a meaningful context (eg I might not have chosen x color but I love how it works with the owner’s favorite heirloom or makes them happy). Your commitment to including underrepresented voices is awesome! Though beautiful, your home tours don’t just resort to being eye candy and I appreciate it. I come away feeling happy/inspired/warm/optimistic [rare these days!] because there are so many creative, kick a** individuals out there. So thanks for that.

  • I immensely enjoy the home tours. One thing that I would love to see on the blog is greater focus given to homes that have a very small environmental footprint. In a world where our environement and wildlife are suffering because of human activity, I think that it is paramount that greater attention be given to this area.

    • Selma

      Thanks for your feedback. We’re working on some stories like this. We’re taking our time because in the discussion about home size and environment, there’s often an overlap with some of the classism and judgement that we see directed toward people who aren’t living in small homes or homes that are super eco-friendly by choice. I want to make sure we focus on small/small footprint homes in way that doesn’t align too much with judgement or elitism.


      • This doesn’t quite go with your above comment about people who choose to live larger or not super eco friendly homes but I agree with the part about elitism and judgement. For example, in Australia there are very generous subsidies for solar panels which on one hand is great but only the very well off or wealthy can afford them. These people in many cases effectively no longer pay for electricity. Meanwhile power costs from the grid have gone up astronomically in the past few years and many poor people, often the elderly, cannot afford to heat or cool their homes adequately. A similar situation will develop with electric cars which are currently very, very expensive but as more electric cars hit our roads which are financed by fuel excise, it will again be poorer people who can’t afford to upgrade their fuel guzzling cars who will be effectively subsidising the wealthy. I don’t like to criticise people who are trying to do the right thing by the environment but there is a flipside and sometimes costs are unfairly being born by others. But then as you sometimes point out there is privilege and non-privilege. Sometimes the privileged need to be more aware of and acknowledge their privilege. I also know a lot of very privileged people who can be quite inconsistent in these types of issues! I am privileged myself, have a largish house which although not super eco friendly does comply with some basic requirements in terms of orientation, insulation, double glazing etc. I would love to have one of those super sealed houses which are completely airtight but I am in a rural area and we don’t have that type of technology here – in fact I’m not sure it is available in Australia. I have only seen it on UK design shows. A super eco house takes a lot of research, commitment and money. Not everybody has the resources to do it and not everybody gets the opportunity to build a house.

  • 1. From week to week there is a nice variety of homes showcased – I never know what I’ll be seeing.
    2. I like the diversity of the people who live in them.
    3. I like the diversity of places.
    4. One of the best ways to get to know someone is to be invited into their home – it’s personal space. On D*S we see real homes perhaps of people who aren’t like us and we get to know them a bit. That’s a good thing.
    5. I love reading what people love about their homes.
    6. The photos are really great. Even more so now that I’ve learned they are taken by regular people.
    7. I always open a Home Tour as soon as I see it in my inbox.
    Keep up the great content!

    • Deb

      Thanks so much! This one really got to me: “4. One of the best ways to get to know someone is to be invited into their home – it’s personal space. On D*S we see real homes perhaps of people who aren’t like us and we get to know them a bit. That’s a good thing.”

      I couldn’t agree more :)


  • Hi Beth & Grace; Thank you for that further ‘edification’ – I have the chance to live in house with many beautiful features but also with (too) many pitfalls of hidden or unknown weaknesses. It had been suggested to me several times to feature our house in European mags but it’s YOUR way of showing homes that appeals to me. Everybody with some taste (and often pots of money) can create a beautiful home – my homes always told a story and that is what makes your posts so unique too. I don’t always totally agree with owners’ tastes but find it also always interesting and often fascinating with what they come up to overcome difficulties. I have no business to promote and I share my ‘little’ stories with friends, and I find it especially fascinating (not knowing much about the US) to find a variety of places to ‘get to know a bit’. Having lived for a short while (2yrs) in Canada, and several years in UK and France (still living), my SWISS view and home-experiences (in my own country where I also lived in several diverse situations) is being enriched by your careful work.
    This article is very enlightening and shows how much work and dedication goes in every post. Thank you for this.

    • Kiki

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here. I appreciate your feedback and knowing that our way of sharing homes (which is still evolving, always) feels appealing to you. Thank you :)


  • It’s really fascinating to peek behind the curtain of a blog I’ve been following for years. I think part of the work is knowing how to make it look effortless – it feels like the homeowners opened the door, invited us in and started chatting away like old friends.

    I’m one of those people who always reads the story. I’ve developed this weird process in which I study the picture for details that catch my eye, read the text, then go back to the picture and study it some more to catch what was mentioned in the text.

    I appreciate and enjoy all of your home tours, though the lived-in ones are my favorites. From a wish-list perspective, I’d like to see more homes that don’t belong to artists. I understand that non-artsy people might be less inclined to share their homes (for some of the reasons you’ve already mentioned). But I’m the super curious type who wants to know how the girl at the bakery decorates her home. Or my dentist. Or a high school teacher. Artist homes are beautiful, but there are times when I’m looking for aspirational and times when I’m looking for relatable.

    • Mickey

      Thanks for your feedback- and for reading. I agree, re: non artists. We are working on a few series now that specifically target different demos. But we’ve actually run a good amount of home tours where people aren’t working artists. Sometimes it feels like homes are attached to artists because they’re people who decorate with a certain amount of style and flair, but we’ve run a lot of homes with lawyers, doctors, veterinarians, etc :)

      That said, we’re working on a series with teachers right now and hope to have it up in the next few months :)


      • Grace, as always, a big thank you for all the time and effort you (and your team) put into keeping this website an oasis of sanity, respect and inclusivity on this mighty yet sometimes cruel internet.

        And I’m super excited for the teacher series. :)

    • I agree with this, and it’s a criticism I have of all home tour sites, not just this one. The sheer number of tours featuring artists or designers with in-home studios just makes me feel like I’m reading sponsored content for their design brand. It makes more sense on this site since you also feature artist studios outside the home and do spotlights on artists, but it also contributes to an underlying message that homes are primarily design projects for public display, not practical places for people to live.

      • Hi Nicole

        I hear you. But can I ask you to clarify a bit? I’m curious about why home tours that are inherently creative or well designed can’t also be practical places to live? Everyone’s idea of practical is different (see my comment above).


  • Hello, thank you so much for this interesting post. I’ve really enjoyed your home tours recently and as many have said before me, the way D*S do them has so much more depth and story than just looking at another pretty home. I am a big fan of designing for functional real life living as oppose to just styling or staging a home that is totally none-practical if you really live in it (e.g. having so many cushions that you can barely sit on the sofa anymore/ doing so many open shelvings that you will spend forever dusting your home). I wonder if you guys also think about that when looking at homes.
    Also a little question: I totally get it that you will not publish homes that were already published elsewhere, but what if they get published after you? Do you own the exclusivity of that home tour or are the home owners free to work with other websites/magazines after that?
    Thanks again for the amazing job you’re doing, bon courage!

    • Hi Yanni

      Thanks for your feedback- I agree re: practicality. We try to keep things relatable, while understanding that everyone’s ideal of practical is totally different. For some people (like me) open shelving works totally fine, for others, it doesn’t. I always have a hard time with people who show up to tell people that something in their home would “never be practical for kids”….when they don’t have kids in that home. So I think practicality is a little bit relative.

      We don’t have exclusivity on home tours at all. We’re not a huge magazine, so we can’t really do that sort of thing. We do ask that people wait a month or so to run their home on another very similar site/publication, but we can’t control or demand that, so it’s more of a fingers-crossed hope. Sometimes that works out, sometimes the full tour ends up on a much bigger website two days later. So we don’t mess too much with the idea of exclusivity, we know most people want to get the most of the photos and work they’ve put into home tours and that sometimes means publishing a home in 4-5 different blogs. Our goal is to try to be the first one so we can offer something new and unique to our audience. After that, it’s up to the home owner :)


  • I have been loving the increased diversity of the home tours. I’ve been a reader for 10 years, and in that time the home tours have only gotten more interesting. Featuring homes from such a diverse group has introduced me to new artists, decorating ideas, and even inspired me to keep attempting to have an aesthetically-pleasing home with young children.

  • I love that you request no styling. I take photos of people’s houses/studios/gardens for my blog and don’t move anything either. I think you see more personality that way. I love to see how people arrange things and interesting ways to deal with storage etc. Its refreshing to read a site like yours that takes the time to let readers know how things are produced and is interested in having more of a community instead of just sterile design shoots. Thanks for that!

    • Silvanie

      Thanks- it’s something our readers respond negatively to, so that request came from our desire to try to shield home owners from those comments and feedback. We’ve come to have a second sense about what people will react negatively to and we try to work on that before the post goes live so we can hopefully set the home owners up for a positive experience. It’s not easy to put your home and life out there online :)


      • Thanks, Grace, for mentioning that you are cognizant of shielding home owners from negative comments. Besides the diversity and creativity of the homes you show us, that’s another reason why I prefer D*S over many other websites — your commenters are kind and thoughtful.

        (And kudos! to the home owner photographers. Most of your tours look like they were shot by professionals, but with an intimacy that shows love for their home.)

        • Thanks, Cynthia

          Moderating comments (and working on continued conversation via email when things get heated or nuanced) is a big job and one I take very seriously.


  • I so appreciate that D*S has a focus on not just bringing us current decor trends. I’m so tired of seeing “modern, white, minimalist” and “rustic French country”, I could scream while wearing a very fashionable straightjacket. I appreciate that your approach involves a sense of fairness, as well. I enjoy looking at $4M houses that I could never afford, but eventually seeing only unattainable opulence gets boring and sad. I’m glad I can come here and see a small(ish) apartment with attainable design features, especially the ones with DIY inspiration.

  • I very much enjoyed reading this. And like others have said, what appeals to me so much about your site, for lack of a better term, is the explosion of color. Nearly every other home tour I read is all white, minimalist, or farmhouse and it feels devoid of any heart or personality. The homes here are so much more inspirational and attainable. I feel like I could implement some of these ideas into my own home. I like that these homes feel well-thought-out and put together while not being overly designed. Am I making sense? There’s nothing wrong with having a designer, but I like homes that look like they came together organically. And the stories of the people behind them are always compelling and lovely. I’m rambling. Bottom line: love this site.

  • I have been reading design*sponge for a long time- like, a loooooong time. I really like a lot of the posts, and in general just enjoy seeing what kinds of creativity and beauty people are capable of. But I noticed something a recent sneak-peak that actually made me a little angry: as I was scrolling through pictures, admiring the plants (because that’s what I do), I realized that the same plant is present in THREE different rooms. And then, in another recent sneak-peak, a beautiful home was featured that belongs to a family of six, but it was so blindingly and oppressively clean, even austere, in the pictures that I just felt like it all had to be “fake”. For instance, the coat rack in the entry way had one coat on it. Like, where are the other coats? A family of six is going to accumulate a lot of stuff- I don’t mean that at all as an insult, but realistically, I just cannot believe that the house actually looks like that. It’s not bad to clean your house when it’s going to be featured on a home design blog, but at what point is it fakery? Am I supposed to believe that the photographs are true to what the house looks like ALL THE TIME? I can’t possibly believe that, and again, I do not mean that as an insult: a house that is full of life and activity and energy is just not going to be a house that has no clutter or piles of paper or anything out of place- and no one should expect it to be so. It just feels a little deceptive. When I read d*s I expect that I could actually go and visit these houses and see (more or less) the same thing that’s pictured on the website, and when it doesn’t feel that way (for the reasons stated above), this site loses some of its authenticity. I think it’s important to celebrate the beauty and love of homes without inadvertently raising the standard of home design to something unrealistic and unachievable. What are your thoughts?

    • Kristin

      Thank you for reading and for sharing your point of view here. I hear what you’re saying and understand that a lot of people feel that styled homes or homes that are tidied up significantly for home shoots feel unrelatable or “fake” to some readers.

      That said, I’m having a hard time staying neutral on this one, because seeing words like “fake” and “deceptive” used about people who generously share their homes and lives with us is a hard pill to swallow. Let me break down why:

      First, not everyone believes this, but I’ve seen it first hand: everyone’s idea of “real” and “practical” are totally different. Just because a family of six seems to live in a house that feels too clean to be true to some (or doesn’t show all six coats), doesn’t mean it’s fake. I know plenty of families that have their kids clean regularly (or have help with cleaning) and make keeping a very clean house part of everyday life. That’s certainly not my life (I’m messy), but I don’t feel I have any place to question or judge it.

      Speaking about judgement, the main reason that people DO clean up or prep their homes for tours here is because commenters can be BRUTAL. And that’s with moderation we oversee in the comment section every day. Home owners have their personalities, their parenting styles and their very identities questioned and read up and down just because of simple things like styling OR the lack thereof. And it can be painful.

      I’ve overseen home tours for 14 years and I can attest to the fact that there is NO right way to style a home to please everyone. If it’s “too” real and things are left the way they would be on a day to day basis, readers jump in to ask “why on earth they didn’t bother to clean up” before taking pictures or question if it’s safe for children to live in something with things “left around in their reach”.

      But if it’s “too neat” people attack them for being fake. And those comments hurt home owners the most. I answer those emails on a weekly basis and speak with owners who feel hurt, scared or upset because commenters forget they’re real people just wanting to put their best foot forward. I often liken it to dressing up for an important event- that decision to dress differently than they do on a day to day basis doesn’t make them fake.

      Styling and cleanliness are frankly a Goldilocks situation- I don’t believe there IS a “just right” that will please everyone. We ask people not to overly style because we know that the harshest comments come from when a home looks hyper clean and neat and styled. But I really want to ask everyone judging those homes (and these people) to take a second and think- if you were going to put photos of YOUR personal home in front of 2 million people, could you understand the urge to clean up and make things look a little nicer than they do on a day to day basis? I know I can. And if you wouldn’t, why does it feel like that gives anyone the right to question (or condemn) others and their desire to?

      I don’t think you’re condemning anyone here, but when people assume that clean/styled homes are inherently “fake”, the dialogue seems to go down a road that leads to people jumping on home owners in a big way and making other big assumptions. I’ve literally seen things go as far as strangers calling a state’s children protection agency to report home owners for having a home that seemed “unsafe” for children. That actually happened here- and it haunts me to this day. So I think it’s important to remember that while we’ve all gotten super accustomed to the perceived “right” to question home owners and their styles and what that “means” about them, it’s helpful to take a step back and wonder if that “deception” is really actually happening and why it upsets us so much.

      I think under some of these questions are deeper issues of classism and wealth and the lack of representation related to homes and families/people that live with lower incomes. We work hard to find homes that fall into that category, but we have more and better work to do there in terms of representation. We have only started to scratch the surface of posting more pieces that discuss these broader social/economic/class/racial issues that underlie some of these concerns, but it’s something we’re working hard on better representing and discussing here.

      I know that’s a really long answer, but underneath that simple question is a really complex and nuanced series of issues and after listening to home owners who’ve really been hurt but a lot of commentary online, I’ve come to better understand why it’s so important to look at these questions and assumptions more closely.


  • I love this post, especially since I was literally wondering the other day how DS curates their interiors.

    I recently purchased a home and am year 1 into decorating it, still finding our family voice, look & feel. It’s amazing to me how easy it was to experiment while renting, but I’m like a deer in the headlights as an owner, so I look forward to the inspiration I see here weekly.

    To read that you have been specifically seeking out unique spaces answers a question I didn’t even know I had. Recently I’d been growing bored with the same old interiors on some other blogs, sometimes hip and inspiring, but more often than not, hip and bland. And to be honest, I hadn’t been checking in with DS as regularly, but then, suddenly, I did … and every time it was like a splash of color and excitement. Once again, DS has become my go to.

    As a graphic designer I crave constant visual inspiration and DS never fails to provide.

    Thank you Grace and team, this is one of my favorite posts!
    (And definitely my longest comment.)

  • I love this story- I was thinking the other day how much I want to know about the process behind your tours and then this appeared! I love the “behind the scenes” stories- please keep them coming! Thanks for all you do- much respect for your centering on equity in all parts of your work.

  • The one thing that stands out about D*S is indeed the stories about the people whose homes are featured. That is what makes it feel real, interesting, intimate and not sterile. As a civil engineer and interior designer myself, I assure you that I’m a big fan of slow design and honestly, I have gotten bored of Insta perfect white interiors with hardly any personal touches, as if the people who live in those homes are ghosts! So, I’m glad you wrote this post, because it might persuade more people to come forth with their homes in the making that may be willing to share their home’s journey, which in most cases (including myself) is a process of carefully and slowly curating memories.

  • Hello!

    Thanks so much for this post. It is so helpful to better understand both the practical process of how one submits their home and also the over-arching, ever-evolving ideological and aesthetic approach that governs DS’s approach to home tours. As others have said, your commitment to diversity and in all its forms and your narrative focus means that DS’s body of home tours is both thoughtful and thought provoking!

    One questions I have had trouble finding the answer to:
    Are the scouting photos sent as part of the initial submission email? Or is that the second step in the process? What should that initial email look like?

    I apologise if this is a silly question, just wanted to clarify :)