August 23, 2011

Design*Sponge at Home by Grace Bonney [book review]


Yesterday was a great mail day. I got this...

Design*Sponge at Home
buy: amazon | book depository

... and spent hours after work devouring it. I finally went to bed at 4.30am  :) 

This is the first book I've ever pre-ordered and lucky me, I'm among the few (ok, maybe thousands, since it's #3 on the Amazon Interior Design/Decorating category) to get hold of a copy before it's even released September 6. Thank you, Book Depository!

Design*Sponge at Home is the labor of love of Grace Bonney, creator of Design*Sponge, the wildly popular home decor/design blog that has 121,622 RSS subscribers last I checked. Design*Sponge is one of my favorite websites for staying up-to-date on design trends and new products. I also love the DIY ideas, home tours and "BIZ ladies" features, which provides a range of helpful information for small businesses, from hiring to branding to optimizing website design.

The book brings to print some of the blog's best-loved features, and what a treat it all is.

** Sneak Peeks takes us on tours of the homes of artists, designers, florists, bloggers and shop owners - 65 apartments and houses of varying designs and styles across the US and as far away as South Africa, Singapore and Australia. Among them: city apartments, townhouses, a log cabin, a summer cottage, a converted factory, a renovated church, a farmhouse and the author's apartment in Brooklyn. The photos are enough to give you a serious case of home-envy but hey, you can try replicating all that gorgeousness with the decorating and renovating and tips included in the sidebars. There are even lists directing you to sources for essentials like textiles and furnishings (plus a resource guide at the back of the book).

Most of the home featured have not appeared on the blog, so the Sneak Peeks here are weeks' worth of blog content even for die-hard followers. One thing I miss is "the thing we love most about our house / our favorite thing to do at home" from the tours on the blog but you get a pretty good look at the style, motivation and inspiration of the homeowners from the photos and the short write-up introducing their homes.

:: DIY projects: 50 of them. Half are Bonney's favorites from the blog archives, the others are new projects from readers and contributors. The cost, time needed and level of difficulty are indicated so you can more easily pick your projects. There are also suggestions for varying and personalizing some of the items.

The projects include practical things like tea towels and display jars, as well as decorative accents like window films and pressed botanical specimens. There's a chapter on DIY basics but for some items, you'll need to already know how to get going, for instance how to use a sewing machine or a glue gun. But there are plenty of easy projects for complete beginners. Among the simplest are a cake stand, which basically involves glueing an plate to a candlestick; brick bookends (wrapping and glueing decorative paper to bricks); and map-covered boxes. The most difficult project is this.

butterfly dome DIY project from d*s book
cost: $200 | time: 2 days | Difficulty: 4/4

The instructions are clear and concise and it really doesn't look intimidating although of course, I haven't yet tried to handle butterfly wings!

:: Before & After: another wonderful Design*Sponge feature that made it into the book. If you're not familiar with the blog, this column is where furniture and rooms get a bit of love and a makeover. Again, the cost, time required and difficulty level are listed. The good thing is there are lots of projects almost anyone can tackle with a bit of paint, some glue and a hammer. And at least 10 cost less than $50 to complete.

This is one of the things I love best about the blog and the book - it makes home decor and renovation so accessible and affordable. You don't need to be rich and hire a professional to beautify and transform your home. You don't have to be a serial DIYer or spend buckets of money to turn your home into a beautiful place that reflects your personality and style. You can do much of the work yourself if you like, and there's plenty enough in the book to get you going.

Here are a few photos of what's in the book.

Design*Sponge at Home Sneak Peeks:  Marcus Hay's 500 sq ft apartment in West Chelsea, New York

Design*Sponge at Home Sneak Peeks: Juli Daoust & John Baker's summer cottage in Georgian Bay, Ontario

Design*Sponge at Home DIY: freezer paper monogrammed handkerchiefs by Kate Pruitt.
cost: $10 | time: 2 hours | Difficulty: 2/4

Design*Sponge at Home DIY: rolling storage bench by Grace Bonney
cost: $40 | time: 2 hours | Difficulty: 2/4

Design*Sponge at Home Before & After: Ikea dresser makeover by Eric Teng | suitcase table by Keeley Durocher

Design*Sponge at Home Before & After: chairs by Carmen McKee Bushong | sunburst mirror by Michelle Hinckley

Design*Sponge at Home Flower Workshop: Teacup arrangement ($25-$50) | Rainbow Fade Arrangement ($50-$100)

There is a chapter devoted to flower arrangments with guidelines on the basic you need to know and instructions to create 20 arrangements. Design*Sponge editor Amy Merrick created 10 arrangements to illustrate key lessons in floral design, while contributor Sarah Ryhanen came up with 10 designs inspired by some of the homes from the Sneak Peeks section of the book.

In this trailer, Grace Bonney introduces her book.

Design Sponge at Home (Official Book Trailer) from The Panic Room Videos on Vimeo

Isn't it so true what she says about keeping your eyes open for great ideas and how inspiration is everywhere? Design*Sponge at Home is full of inspiring and do-able ideas that will get your creative juices flowing. It's interesting to see the different styles and tastes of people reflected in the homes they live in; and the photos, guidelines and suggestions will inspire you and help you get crafty and creating so you can bring your own personality to your own home, whether it is by adding accents to rooms and furnishings or taking on a major renovation project.

I'll be the first to admit this review is tinted by my love for Bonney's blog but you can't go wrong with this book, whether or not you're a D*S fan. If you're completely clueless about home decorating and DIY and want to start, there's so much in the book for you. If you're a professional or expert, who doesn't love home tours? And take it from designer Jonathan Adler, who in his foreword says, "When Gace started Design*Sponge, she thought she was staring a design blog. But she wasn't just starting a blog, she was starting a revolution. And now the revolution has a bible."

5+ stars. Well worth the money.

If you've never read Design*Sponge, what are you waiting for? It's a fantastic place to get a lot of eye candy and find out the latest trends and designs. Additionally, what makes it different from other home decor and design blogs for me is that Grace Bonney is not shy to start discussions - and take flak - on issues that matter, like when she talked about what she felt was the lack of innovation at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in May and her response to a New York Times article on online magazines.

Bonney also acts on her belief in giving back to the community. A wonderful series I enjoyed was Design by the Book, in which Design*Sponge worked with  the New York Public Library to come up with a series of videos showcasing local design talent in the blog's home base of New York City.

In true Design*Sponge style, the book launch events will not be just book-signing parties but will include craft sessions with fees and donations from sponsors benefiting local arts charities. If you live in the United States, you can find out more about the book tour here.

Design*Sponge at Home
Author: Grace Bonney
Publisher: Artisan
ISBN: 978-1579654313

buy at Amazon
buy at The Book Depository (free shipping worldwide)

[ check out my other book reviews ]
[ check out my posts on design ]
[ check out my posts on art ]
[ check out my posts on homes and interior decorating and design ]

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