When we need inspiration for great interiors and DIY projects we often head over to Design*Sponge, the brain child of Brooklyn-based Grace Bonney. Her site explores handmade products, charming and beautiful interiors, and showcases awesome "before and after" furniture renovations. When we heard Grace and her team of editors were putting together a print version of their website, we immediately pre-ordered our copy. The book, Design*Sponge at Home, came out in October, and Grace has been traveling the country to promote the tome and host fun craft nights and events, which seem like a lot more fun than the traditional book signing. Inside, you can pore over pages and pages of "sneak peaks" at designers' work from around the world, there's a ton of tips and tricks about furniture renovations, and enough DIY projects to keep you busy through next summer. Grace graciously took a few minutes out of her busy tour schedule and gave us some insight into her thoughts on green interiors, all things handmade, and her favorite designers and shops right now.
Inhabitat: There’s obviously a strong DIY movement afoot, else you would not have put out this beautiful tome. What do you think spurred this on?
Grace: I think the DIY movement was inspired by a few things- people’s reaction to a failing economy and a desire to really connect more with the things at home. For years, design was really about “shiny, new, plastic” and that’s hard to connect with personally. So I think people saw a chance to really take back control of how they decorated their home and make it reflect who they are and what they love.
Inhabitat: Why do you think recycled, salvaged and reclaimed materials used in DIY projects are such a hit right now?
Grace: I think any materials that are eco-friendly have been popular for a while now- primarily because we’ve all realized that we have to pay more attention to how design (even at a small personal level) effects the world around us. But I think these materials have the added bonus of looking more worn-in and weathered- which is something people crave when they’re focusing on creating a look that feels real and not like it came out of a magazine.
Inhabitat: Is the DIY movement more about about keeping costs down, creating unique pieces, both or something else?
Grace: It’s definitely about both. People need to find a way to decorate their homes on a budget, but they also are reacting to a lack of relatable handmade design in bigger box stores, so DIY design is a great way to do both.
Image ©Scott Goldberg
Inhabitat: We are huge fans of your Before and After stories with furniture. When looking for pieces to refinish, what are things to look out for so you know you’re buying a good quality piece that can be remade?
Grace: We actually did a whole section on this in the book so we could educate people about furniture a bit more. But my top tips would be to look for quality joinery (dovetail joints over metal hinges) and any sort of stamps or labels that indicate a brand or year it was produced. And of course, hardwood (as opposed to veneer) is always higher quality.
Inhabitat: We talk a lot about daylighting in the architecture and interior projects we cover. What are some easy ways to make a house or a room feel brighter without tearing out holes and adding more windows?
Grace: Mirrors are always a great fix, but I really like to bring in glass or clear materials as much as possible to brighten up a space. I’m a fan of lucite or glass coffee tables because they lighten the visual bulk in the room. I also think that bringing in more natural materials (demijohns filled with branches, etc) really makes a space feel more alive and breathable.
Inhabitat: What are some of your favorite trends in the DIY home interiors movement right now?
Grace: I’m excited to see people covering their walls with salvaged wood. For so many years people seemed to see walls only as a flat canvas to hang art on, but now people are seeing it as a place to play with texture and detail.
Inhabitat: Who are some of your favorite green designers, organic textile makers or architects right now?
Grace: I love Studio Bon and Mod Green Pod – they’re both textile designers who work with green fabrics. And Jessica Helgerson is an amazing interior designer in Portland, OR that knows how to keep things green without sacrificing style.
Inhabitat: How about your favorite vintage, antique or salvage shops in Brooklyn or the New York City area?
Thanks Grace! And good luck with the book tour for Design*Sponge at Home!
Images Courtesy of Design*Sponge