shoppingsmycardio interviews: design*sponge

for those who aren’t familiar, grace bonney is the editor and founder of design*sponge, the ultimate resource for all things new, stylish and fabulous in the world of home design and accessories. she’s also a contributing editor for domino magazine. so, in a nutshell, she’s amazing.

i am positively addicted to her site – it’s the first place i check for inspiration whenever i’m ready for some changes to the home decor at casa SMC, whether it’s a fabulous new serving piece for my upcoming soiree, a new piece of art, or a complete room remodel.

grace is such a sweetheart that she very kindly offered to share some of her expertise and advice with all of us. i loved her answers so much that i’m actually splitting the interview across two days – it’s just too much good information for one post. so, look for the second half later this week. and now, without further adieu…

SMC: I think it’s pretty safe to call you the queen of design blogging – design*sponge is such an amazing resource for so many people! Can you give us an idea of how design*sponge came to be? Did it begin through your work with one of the many magazines you’ve written for, or was it more of a personal outlet? 

design*sponge: Well, I wouldn’t call myself the queen of anything – except maybe queen of ‘America’s Next Top Model marathon watching’. Design*Sponge has always been such a fun project to call my “job” and I’m just happy that people are still reading and enjoying it.

When I started things in 2004 I was just trying to find a personal outlet for my endless design chatter (my boyfriend could really only handle so much). I tested out a lot of formats and styles and ended up settling on a product-focused blog with occasional personal mentions, because that represented me at the time. But as I’ve changed changed and grown up a bit more I’ve tried to move away from that format and focus on evergreen content- pieces that will be pertinent months or even years down the line (like city guides, product guides, diy projects and home tours). The magazine work was just a really lucky offshoot of the site- it started with a few newspaper pieces and lead to a 2-year stint at House & Garden Magazine. Now I’m a contributing editor at Domino and enjoying having a place to write outside of Design*Sponge.

SMC: Your email inbox must just be a treasure trove of great ideas. What is the most fantastic piece you’ve seen this week?

DS: Oh man, right now I’m so far behind on my email I don’t even know. The good and bad thing about being a one-woman-show (in terms of email and day-to-day operations) is that I have to answer several hundred detailed emails a day. 75-100 of those will be emails with a zip file full of home photos asking for a personalized list of suggestions, a few hundred will be small product requests (great sofa under $500? Dining table in hot pink?), a few dozen will be assignments and correspondence regarding projects we’re working on at the site and then 150-200 of those will be submissions. I love answering everyone’s emails personally but I can fall behind pretty quickly so this week I’ve barely dipped into the submission folder. I did see a few great additions to the ShopSCAD online shop, some new cards from Blue Ribbon Letterpress and some great new furniture makeovers from Knack Design.

SMC: How would you describe your personal design style? And can you translate that into a few key pieces that you have in your house now?

DS: Right now? Chaos. My home is in flux right now and always represents where my head is at the moment. With site projects and wedding planning coming up I’m a big mess of ideas so my house is a big mess of ideas. But right now I think I’m starting to embrace a bit more traditional style with an emphasis on strong wooden furniture and feminine patterns. I’d love to go for a modern-day Dorothy Draper look if I could but I don’t think I could pull it off. I think I’m perpetually the girl who wants to be classy and cool but always ends up a little frazzled.

SMC: One of my biggest design challenges is budget, and another is time. If I had my way, I’d just gut my house and do things exactly the way I want them, from top to bottom. But, of course, that’s not reality for most of us. What sort of baby steps do you start with when you want to start making changes? Say, for example, that you had $100 to spend – what would you do? What about $500?

DS: I guess it really depends on your needs – but I know that’s not a fun answer. If I had $100, honestly I’d save it up and get that to around $500 or $1,000 and then tackle a room makeover. I’m trying to focus on encouraging people to invest in nicer pieces so they end up throwing away fewer pieces each year.

That said, if you have $100, I’d suggest hitting the flea market or thrift shop where you could find a chair, chandelier or maybe even a great dining room table that just needs a little paint/fabric love to give it a facelift. Re-habbing old furniture is a great way to stretch a tight budget.

SMC: If you had to design an entire house, from furniture to knick-knacks, using just 3 online sources, what would you choose? (I know, it’s torture…)

DS: Off the top of my head: Shop SCAD, Orange (a vintage store in LA) and Heath Ceramics. I’m trying to combine crafty with vintage but keep things simple.

SMC: What are your favorite, no-fail home decor tricks to employ when you’re really stuck for ideas?

DS: That’s an easy one – I turn to my trusty staplegun. I have a huge collection of fabric I keep in my utility closet and when I’m bored I redo the seat cushions on my desk chair or any small seats/stools that are easy to swap out. I also love to use gift wrap as impromptu wallpaper in unexpected places like door molding and inside cabinets or drawers.

a huge thank you to the fabulous design*sponge for all of this fabulous advice, and stay tuned for the rest of this interview later this week – grace gave loads of wonderful advice for buying art and restyling your own home.

(ps…i just want to point out that that last tip is a truly fabulous one…i never realized how easy it was to reupholster a chair until i just stopped being scared and tried it. now i’m addicted!)

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