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Jamie Beck photo
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Grace Bonney founded Design*Sponge in 2004 and updates the site with six to eight posts daily, ensuring fresh, timely content. She's also just released her first book, Design*Sponge at Home. Both are chockablock with home tours, DIY projects and transformational before-and-afters.
While she is now Brooklyn-based, Bonney is a Virginia native who got so homesick during college in New York City that she resorted to watching the TV show Designing Women in her dorm room, "just to get a dose of Southern accents," she says.
R•Home: Design*Sponge is known as an arbiter of style. What criteria must be met to be featured on the site?
Grace Bonney: It's really about creating something that elicits some sort of emotion. I'm really not looking for a specific style so much as I am a piece that makes me smile, or makes me have a question, or am in awe of how it was made.
R•Home: How would you describe your personal design style in one sentence?
Bonney: Oh, man! I would say "urban preppy with a dash of vintage."
R•Home: Top three go-to stores when shopping for your home?
Bonney: I really don't shop in stores that much. I think I hit IKEA every now and then for small things, but for most things I try to upcycle. I love the Brooklyn Flea, and I get a huge chunk of things at the Brimfield Antique show in Massachusetts every year.
R•Home: So do you make a lot of your own things, then?
Bonney: I do a lot more staple-gun upholstery than anything else, because it's such an inexpensive, easy way to change things. I really love to buy things that just need a little bit of love, and then I can sort of take it the extra step myself.
R•Home: You have written hundreds of posts about how people live — what trends surprise you most?
Bonney: Upcycling — the idea of buying something from a flea market and then either stripping it down, or painting it or adding some sort of decorative detail is really what we're all about right now. I think it's partly because of the economy and partly because we just love putting our own stamp on things. That mix of old and new is really the only thing that holds our aesthetic together.
R•Home: Any common design mistakes you've noticed?
Bonney: Painting everything white. I just wish people would move away from that as a go-to step. If people thought about stripping paint off of things rather than actually painting things, they'd get a lot more texture and warmth in their home. You really strip a lot of character out of the piece when you just automatically slap white paint on it.
R•Home: Where do you see Design*Sponge and yourself in five years?
Bonney: The way the blog world works, it's impossible to plan that far ahead. For me, I'd love to see us start doing more video work, an online series where we really get to bring things to light, because that final step that's missing from blogs is being able to see people do things in action and get to meet the designers and the people behind the homes that we all love.
R•Home: Final question: Flats or heels?
Bonney: Flats, no shoes if possible!
Want to find out more? Grace Bonney is the guest speaker at this year's R•Home for the Holidays event on Nov. 16 at Plant Zero. Tickets are $27 for lunch, a talk and two late-morning seminars with local designers, or $17 for the lunch and talk only. Details can be found at rhomemag.com/fortheholidays .
*Net proceeds to benefit the School of Richmond Ballet's scholarship fund.