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April 14, 2009


Design*Sponge is one of my favorite go-to websites when it comes to matters of the home. Its before and after projects have stunning results, always teach me something and make me have enough confidence to believe I can actually tackle some jobs around the house myself.

In addition, I’m always inspired by the images on the site – from vials of sand or spices used as decoration, or cool fabrics to breathe life in a struggling piece of furniture; the concept is all Grace Bonney. I had a chance to connect with its founder from her locale in Brooklyn and I’m so happy I did. Q&A follows…


dp How did you come up with the Design*Sponge concept and why?

D*S It was really a result of working in a job that wasn’t right for me. I wasn’t happy doing what I was doing, and I wasn’t happy with the magazines I was reading at the time. So I decided to make it my hobby to create something that would feature the type of design and artists I was interested in hearing about.

dp What design aesthetics are you drawn to?

D*S Oh man, it changes on a daily basis. Most days I’m in love with vintage designs mixed with contemporary furniture, but some days I love more minimalist looks. Overall, I’m a pretty girly girl so I like things to be clean, simple and feminine.

dp I love the redesign projects you feature – what’s the largest project you’ve personally renovated?

D*S I haven’t done a ton of renovation – since I live in a rental apartment. The biggest project I’ve done would be making over our apartment without tearing down walls in frustration.

dp How does working and living in Brooklyn influence your site and your work?

D*S It’s played a huge role in the look and feel of the site. When I started DS in 2004 I was really consumed with the artists who were new to the scene, but these  days I try to focus more on the students working in the borough- they’re doing some really cool work. In general, Brooklyn designers are always trying to keep things edgy and different (even if the final result isn’t).

dp What’s your workspace like? Do you need it neat and orderly or do you work better amid chaos?

D*S Ha! Well, imagine a living room. Now imagine me on a couch in that room covered in papers with a laptop on my lap. Welcome, to DS headquarters.

dp Have you been introduced to one artist or designer recently (no matter the genre) that you’re particularly inspired by?

D*S All the time! It changes from year to year. In 2004 it was Lorena Barrezeuta and Lite Brite Neon, in 2005 it was a number of woodworkers in Brooklyn like Palmo Samko, and in recent years it’s been about illustrators like Julia Rothman and Mike Perry.

dp Who are some of your style and design gurus?

D*S Kelly Wearstler, Dorothy Draper – they’re my icons of over the top-ness.

dp What would you say your signature style is?

D*S I think, like a lot of girls my age, I’m still developing that look. I’m definitely paring things down a bit and using less decoration, but I do tend to be drawn to pattern and florals (may be my Southern roots)

dp What do you like to do when you’re not working? How does that influence your work?

D*S I love to spend time in restaurants eating great food. I think in another life I was a chef. I just enjoy downtime away from computers in general.

I think my appreciation for downtime lets me really dive into DS work more fully.

dp How do you think social networking and online commerce is changing your field?

Drastically – though I’m really not into the social networking thing. But e-commerce? Oh man, it’s nuts – everyone has an e-shop now – and that’s great. Now you don’t have to buy a huge brick-and-mortar shop to test things out – it’s fantastic.

For you and the site, what have been the most effective tools to gain readership?

D*S Original content. I think we don’t use a lot of tools on the site- instead we try to focus on creating original content for the site that people won’t see elsewhere.

What do you hope your readers take away from the site?

D*S I just hope they walk away smiling. Even if they don’t buy or make anything from the site- I hope it brings a little brightness to their day. Everyone needs eye candy at the office.

dp How do you select your guest bloggers? What are the criteria for your Design Sponge Scholarship?

The guest bloggers are a group of bloggers, artists and writers my editors and I invite each year. They’re people we think have a unique voice and represent an area we’re interested in, but don’t know as much about.

The scholarship is all about that little spark of promise that you can see in a great artist- someone whose work makes you say “I want to see more from them”

What’s next for you?

D*S Right now we’re just trying to weather the financial crash. It’s a tough time. I’m hoping that when things pick back up I can resume the Biz Ladies meetups and expand on our video series.