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I knew it was only a matter of time before this post popped up somewhere on our Top 20 lists. Mainly because almost every.single.week I get an email or message from someone asking about this project and where to find the instructions. Paper flowers have not lost their allure and these absolutely ginormous versions made by the team at Ruche were wildly popular with all of you. Whether you use these for your wedding decor (I’ve seen so many lovely weddings from readers who did this!), a birthday party, or just some cool DIY decor inside, this project is SO much fun and can be customized in so many ways. Happy paper flowering! xo, Grace

#2: Giant Paper Flowers from Ruche

  • Who Made This: The Ruche Team
  • DS debut: February 2012

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I love that we are revisiting some previously featured homes here at Design*Sponge, as the blog winds down in our final months of publishing. So often, homes that we’ve featured have gone on to evolve and grow over time, while still holding onto their original spirit. Such is the case with today’s tour as we revisit the home of Carmeon Hamilton. Carmeon lives in Memphis, TN with her husband and her son, where she works as an interior designer, merchandising manager, blogger and content creator. When we first featured her home, she had just moved in four months prior to the feature. With subtle changes, a few DIY projects, and a lot of plants later, I hope this feels like a completely new tour for you.

When Carmeon and her family were looking to buy their home just three short years ago, they knew that they wanted a home that was in an established neighborhood, had mature trees (which is one of the perks of Memphis: beautiful, mature trees throughout the city), and a home that sat on a larger lot. Within five minutes of being inside this house, Carmeon and her husband Marcus knew that it was the home for them — its 18-foot ceilings and natural light that poured in from the two-story windows spoke to each of them. It has proven to be the perfect choice for Carmeon and her family both inside and out in the community. “Our neighbors are some of the most incredible humans and they’ve welcomed us with open arms,” Carmeon shares. “One neighbor does all of our lawn work. Another gives us food out of their backyard garden! There’s an annual neighborhood garage sale that happens at the end of every summer, where people from all over the city walk our neighborhood streets. Food vendors show up and it ultimately becomes a block party! We’ve made purchases over the last two years, but are hoping to set up shop and sell this year.”

Sometimes it’s hard to not bring your work home when you’re an interior designer, but Carmeon has this sage advice to offer, “Decorating this home has taught me to take my time and to enjoy things as they are for as long as I want. There’s no pressure to make major decisions, like total kitchen renovations. Small adjustments, like a can of paint, can make a huge difference before having to tear down any walls or rip out any cabinets. Patience is really key.” As a self-proclaimed modern bohemian, Carmeon believes in elevating the everyday and finding beauty in the now. In both her corporate and entrepreneurial worlds, she seeks to not only discover the beauty in all things, but to also help others find that beauty in the things that surround them every day. She’s living that motto well in her own home. Follow below for a tour of this serene retreat. —Erin

Photography by Kim Thomas@kpfusion

Image above: The wet bar shelves were a late-night DIY project that Carmeon tackled herself.

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It feels fitting that the final two home tours in our Top 20 Countdown are in the borough where it all began. Back in 2003, I moved to Brooklyn, NY from my home state of Virginia and I was proud to call this amazing borough my home for 12 years. This was the borough where I found my way, my voice, and my first passion project: Design*Sponge. So I love that both the #2 and #1 spot on our home tour count down showcase incredible homes in Brooklyn. This home belongs to Melissa and Keye Lee, who have, without a doubt, one of the chicest city homes we’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing. The sophisticated minimal interior was an instant hit with readers and our team was smitten as well, mainly because of all the gorgeous pets that found their way into the photos. Just when you think this home is all about black and white, the deep blue office hits you and it’s love at first sight all over again. I hope you’ll enjoy revisiting this home tour as much as I did. xo, Grace

Photography by Ty Cole Photography

#2: A Uniquely Renovated Brooklyn Brownstone

  • Who Lives There: Melissa and Keye Lee
  • Where: Brooklyn, NY
  • DS debut: July 2015

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL TOUR

Townhouse renovation in Brooklyn, New York.

Townhouse renovation in Brooklyn, New York.

Townhouse renovation in Brooklyn, New York.

Townhouse renovation in Brooklyn, New York.

Townhouse renovation in Brooklyn, New York.

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When the Design*Sponge team first met Kevin O’Gara in 2015, he was a high school student and design blogger who had impressively made-over his Dad’s home. It wasn’t long before Kevin began writing for us, and his contributions to DS continued to showcase his boundless talent, both as a writer and interior designer. Since he last graced our web pages, Kevin has, not surprisingly, amassed an even greater resume of work and successful projects under his capable belt.

“I am an Atlanta-based interior design and lifestyle blogger, with design blog Thou Swell and product line Kevin Francis Design with my first collection of maze-inspired rugs, The Labyrinth Collection. I founded my blog as a sophomore in high school to share home and garden, decorating, entertaining and inspiration from emerging Southern design. I transferred from Cornell University’s Design & Environmental Analysis Program to their Hotel School sophomore year to focus on business and entrepreneurship with a hospitality lens, and I’m excited to take a leave of absence this upcoming year to stay in Atlanta and focus on my design work and new business ideas.”

This past year Kevin has happily resided in an 800-square-foot apartment off campus (in the walkable neighborhood of Collegetown) at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY with his roommates, Nina and Olivia. The brand new apartment building finished construction in Fall 2018, just before the trio moved in, and offered them three bedrooms and three bathrooms, with one common living/kitchen/dining room. Upon moving in, Kevin instantly knew he wanted to use the apartment’s design to brighten up their moods and surroundings during Ithaca’s trademark dark days.

“Ithaca gets very dark and cold throughout its long winter, so walking into a colorful, layered, tropical-inspired space was such a great contrast from the outside,” Kevin shares. “I made sure there were layers of ambient lighting, so at night it felt really warm and welcoming with table and floor lamps illuminating the corners of our living rooms. My bedroom was small but cozy, and the depth of the jaguar mural gave the room the feeling of a real retreat, with the crispness of a serene white bed that I could always count on for a good night’s sleep.”

As for the main room that incorporated the kitchen, living and dining area, Kevin’s vibrant design and melange of textures and colors provided a lively backdrop for get-togethers with friends — “We love entertaining and throughout the year we hosted parties for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and an end-of-the-year party; all with themed decor, snacks and drinks,” Kevin says.

Though he’s moving on from this home to head back to Atlanta and buckle down on his design work, conceptualizing this apartment’s aesthetic and collaborating with his roommates proved to be an invaluable lesson and added experience for Kevin. “This apartment was definitely a bit of a departure from my style, which is typically a little more restrained, but being able to respond to my environment and have fun with the space felt really great,” he shares. “I learned the importance of sharing lots of visuals with my roommates so they could see what was going on in my head during the design process and incorporating personal details to make the place really feel like home for us during the school year.” For whatever projects come Kevin’s way in the future, we’re excited to see how his career and style evolve. —Kelli

Photography by Kevin O’Gara / @kfogara

Image above: Kevin shares, “My two roommates are close friends at Cornell, with Nina in the Hotel School with me and Olivia [is a] Communication major. I’m from Atlanta, Olivia is from Arkport, NY and Nina is from Ocean City, NJ. Olivia and I became friends the first week of freshman year, and met Nina through a mutual friend sophomore year and signed our lease together. We’ve been a great trio and have had so much fun in our apartment together. I am so grateful they gave me the reins with our tropical apartment design!”

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Over the past few months of gathering our Top 20 Recipes, Kristina and I have laughed about how all of the top spots belong to either end of the spectrum: super healthy or super decadent. I’m someone who prefers to delve into the latter, so I’m excited to revisit this delicious Salted Caramel Mousse and Popcorn recipe from Steph Michaelis. This is such a fun and tasty way to wind down any meal, and I hope you’ll check it out! xo, Grace

#3: Steph’s Salted Caramel Mousse and Caramel Popcorn

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Sometimes I look through the homes we feature here at Design*Sponge, and a color that a homeowner selected — or the light that streams into the room in the photo I’m looking at — invokes a certain feeling within me. It’s like hearing a song that instantly transports me to a time or place in my life. Such is the case with the home of Daniela Schinke, a teacher and blogger based in Kassel, Germany, that she shares with her husband and her two youngest children. I look at the pictures of Daniela’s home and suddenly I hear the beautiful piano playing of Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, an Ethiopian nun. The muted tones of the home blend together from one room to the next like a well composed song, tying each hue together seamlessly.

Dating back to the 1880s, the house was formerly part of an old monastery complex that was partly destroyed during World War II. Once rebuilt, two rooms ended up with slightly higher ceilings in addition to some very low-height rooms. Based in a small district within Kassel, Daniela shares this about her rented home of now 19 years: “We live close to fields and meadows. We always say we live in a village in the middle of the city. The infrastructure is very good and you can do everything on foot. Cafes, shopping and the tram are practically on the doorstep. [We can find ourselves] in nature […] in two minutes; Here we also have a beautiful, wild allotment. Our district has been incorporated very late and impresses with its originality and the many half-timbered houses. Many young families want to live here, so the housing market here is very rare.”

After previously living a short time in a more newly constructed flat, Daniela realized that it didn’t work for her needs — she values a home with history and patina. “[This current] apartment was in a very bad condition and was not nice when I moved in, but she had potential,” Daniela reflects. “We changed and renovated a lot when I moved to it; on the beautiful old floorboards stuck dark grey carpet and the floorboards had to be freed from ‘ox blood.’ The old doors and skirting boards were all freshly painted and the kitchen completely redesigned; Here, PVC stuck in the tile design on the walls. We partly designed the kitchen ourselves and built it together with a friend. At that time, we partly used the old kitchen furniture and varnished it (and now white again). Also the tiles and the floor in the kitchen received a freshness cure.”

“I love to decorate my apartment regularly and to renovate it every once in a while,” Daniela continues. “So I paint every now and then the walls in other colors.” Scroll below to get a beautiful peek at Daniela’s home, in its current state, before she makes one of the frequent changes that she tends to make around the house. Follow her on Instagram to see what changes she makes next in her home. —Erin

Photography by Daniela Schinke

Image above: “I enjoy change, playing with colors, beautiful pictures; I love to discover old furniture and to combine it with beautiful, simple design pieces. A mix of old and new embodies for me more personality in living than a uniform look. When setting up [a home, these factors are] important to me: color harmony, joy of trying and especially [making it feel livable]… This is not an exhibition space, but a home! ” Daniela shares. 

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We were so lucky to have not one but three amazing Life & Business posts by Erin Benzakein of Floret Flowers as part of our history. I have so much respect and admiration for the way Erin has run and communicated about her business online, so this post about using social media to tell your brand’s story was a personal favorite of mine. It’s full of meaningful and straight-forward advice that applies to any business trying to get their mission and day-to-day life across without getting lost in trends and hashtags. Thank you for sharing so much with us, Erin! xo, Grace

#3: Tips For Using Social Media To Tell Your Story

  • Who Wrote This: Erin Benzakein of Floret Flowers 
  • DS debut: January 2016

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It’s been fascinating to watch interior design services transform over the last decade. The basics of design haven’t changed much — standard counter height is still 36 inches, standard seat height is still 18 inches and standard door height is still 80 inches — but the business of interior design has definitely shifted. When I graduated from college in 2011, my first job was working as a design assistant for an interior designer. She had owned her business for 20 years. The DIY movement that had partially bloomed out of the recession was confusing and a little scary to her. For homeowners and renters, design felt like a risky investment with the housing market where it was. At the time, hiring an interior designer seemed like a luxury reserved only for people with high-end tastes and budgets. Plus, the internet had opened up access to inspiration and products that people could source for their homes without the help of a designer.

Like everything does, the industry has adapted and opened up to a new generation with a broader range of services, price points and more accessibility to those in smaller communities.

Image above: Design by Lexi Westergard Design | Photography by John Woodcock


Image above: Design by Lexi Westergard Design | Photography by John Woodcock

While I love to write about interior design all day, I thought advice on how to hire an interior designer should come from one. I asked Phoenix, AZ designer Lexi Westergard of Lexi Westergard Design, about the process and what to expect when reaching out to a designer.

What questions do your new/prospective clients commonly ask you when they reach out?

New/prospective clients are always wanting to know how much is hiring a designer going to cost, and how soon can we complete their project.

What information do you need from them to get to know their project?

Prior to starting a project we always have our clients fill out a design questionnaire. This helps us get a better understanding of their project and get to know a little more about them. This questionnaire also has a spot for them to upload their Pinterest page. We rely heavily on their Pinterest page to get a feel for their style and what they envision for the space. We also want to know budget for the project.

Do designers generally have limits on the size (too small or too large) of a project they’ll take on?

Every designer works differently in the types of projects and budgets they take on. When I started off, I would take projects with all different budgets, both high and low. Now that I am more established, with our Full Service Design clients we specialize in luxury design thus resulting in higher budgets. We did just start offering a Virtual Design Service that helps clients with all budgets.

What should people take into account when choosing a designer to work with?

Budget/personal style/full service or cosmetic only/etc. All of the above. It is important to choose a designer that you love their aesthetic and their work. It is also important to learn how a designer works and what their process is to make sure that you would be a good fit [for each other].

What advice would you give to people considering whether to hire an interior designer or to design a space themselves?

I would find a couple of designers [whose] style [you like] and talk to each of them to see how your personalities work together. I also find that most clients that love my style trust in my vision throughout the process, creating a more seamless project.

What are a few things you wish people knew about the benefits of working with a designer?

If you are thinking of hiring a designer for a remodel or new build, I would hire them at the planning stages. A designer will have insight that your architect or builder will not think of, like furniture placement. I would also hold off on buying anything if you know you are going to hire a designer. This will help you avoid making any mistakes in purchasing items that don’t work in the space or won’t fit.


Image above: Design by Lexi Westergard Design | Photography by John Woodcock

Takeaways
+ Know your total budget before reaching out.
+ Ask a few designers you’re interested in working with about their fees and process.
+ Have an understanding of your personal style and what you’re wanting from your space.
+ Find someone you trust and enjoy spending time with to tackle your design projects.
+ It doesn’t have to be a giant, expensive project — designers can help you source a few key pieces or come up with a color palette if that’s all you need.

If you’ve been wondering how to start working with an interior designer, I hope this helps! –Lauren

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Want to meet the most popular kitchen we’ve run here at Design*Sponge? Say hello to this beautiful green kitchen that Anna and Austin Smith created in their Denver, Colorado home. I still get messages about this green kitchen (mostly asking what color paint this is — it’s Benjamin Moore “Cushing Green,” lightened with “Simply White”) on social media every month. When something makes that type of impact, it always stays with us and I’m happy to see this cheery space pop up on the Top 20 Countdown. xo, Grace

#3: A Fixer-Upper Gets a New Kitchen in Denver, CO

  • Who Lives There: Anna and Austin Smith
  • Where: Denver, CO
  • DS debut: January 2016

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL TOUR

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Our spring cleaning makeover fever is starting to crest, and after the living room, bathroom, back door and runner makeover, we’re starting to slow our pace a bit. But… not until we finished this one last project: our bedroom.

Julia and I have kept our bedroom pretty minimal since we moved in. Like, mega minimal. Just a bed, two side tables, one lamp and literally nothing else. Except for our beloved sound machine, which helps dampen out the sound of occasionally barking dogs who spot squirrels during the night.

After giving the rest of the house some love, we decided to turn our attention to this overlooked space. We wanted to keep things simple, but we also wanted our room to feel a little more special, and a little cushier. Like a comfortable hotel room where we could feel removed from work and to-do lists and leaking pipes (cue our latest project: fixing the leaking tub pipes!). So we batted around a lot of ideas and almost moved forward with a decision to install shiplap in the room and embrace our farmhouse’s history. But the price felt prohibitive and we went back to the drawing board for something simple.

That’s when Julia spotted Brady Tolbert’s DIY Upholstered Headboard Project. Normally I’m the one poking a phone into Julia’s line of sight and asking her to check out a home project, but this time it was Julia who spotted something cool that would combine our two loves: her love of projects that involve power tools and wood and my love of staple gun upholstery.

Not exactly new to the world of upholstered headboards (until this project, this beauty remained my proudest DIY achievement), I felt like we could wrap this sucker up in a few hours and call it a day. But in all honesty, this took almost an entire day, from about 9am when we left to pick up wood to 9pm when we finally started to hang the mirror above the bed and call it a night. I woke up in the middle of the night with my hands locked in the shape of claws because the hours upon hours of staple gunning had aggravated my carpal tunnel so badly, but the end result was so worth it. But one note: I would highly suggest breaking this project into two, if not three, days of work: one day for all the woodworking and planning and cutting, one day for upholstery, and one day for installation and styling. I honestly still haven’t gotten around to “styling” this room at all because, frankly, I still like our bedroom to be really simple and quiet. It’s a place to relax, fall asleep with the crossword puzzle on my phone and recharge for the next day.

Thanks to my other half for her infinite patience and way with a chop saw, and thanks to Brady Tolbert for this awesome DIY inspiration. Want to make your own? Follow Brady’s DIY steps right here. We added another bit of wall support (see the pictures below), but otherwise we followed this to a T.

Other details? We used this fabric, Airtime Indigo. What a name! The sconces are from West Elm, a gift from Julia’s dad, and the floor mirror is from IKEA — we hung it on the wall instead. xo, Grace

Before & After: An empty space transforms to a softer, cushier room for rest. 

Step One: Lining up all the wood. We combined 12 pieces of 6 foot x 1 foot pine to create 6 long planks that were 12-feet-long each. 

Step Two: Organizing the other supplies. We used upholstery foam (pre-cut by the online foam seller, per Brady’s project instructions, see his post for details!), upholstery batting, upholstery-weight fabric, and a TON of hardware to make this come to life. 

Step Three: Julia had a genius hack for upholstering each channel of the headboard. Rather than using spray mount to keep the foam in place, we used duct tape. You’ll never see it anyway, and it’s way faster (and less smelly). We cut each piece of fabric about 6 inches longer than the board on all sides so we had plenty of fabric to pull and work with. 

Step Four: Upholstering each 12-foot board in our skinny hallway. This took the better part of 4-5 hours. My hands were screaming at the end of this. If you’re doing this at home, take your time and break this into chunks. It’s A LOT of staple gunning (we used a plug-in electric staple gun) and is hard on your hands. 

Step Five: All my upholstered headboard babies! Making 6 of these upholstered “channels” that are each 12 feet long was a BEAST. Lining them up and staring at them, I felt so proud.

Step Six: Ok, the back of this sucker is NOT pretty. We used tons of metal brackets to connect these and hold all the boards together. In hindsight, we should have gotten 6 HUGE industrial brackets to combine them all at once. Instead we used like 4-6 smaller brackets per board duo and it wasn’t as stiff as we’d like as a unit. Hence…

Step Seven: Julia hung a board on the wall that we could use to “hang” the headboard lip on. Then we attached that from the top. It doesn’t really “hang” on this, but it helps the board stay entirely vertical and not sag in the middle from the weight of all the boards and fabric. 

Step Eight: We attached large L brackets on the back (after the main headboard was done — they poke through the channels easily!) so we could have some floating shelves made from leftover plywood from our living room behind-the-sofa table. 

Step Nine: Around 9pm we finally had the headboard hung and done. Now it was time to place the lights (since we had no other light in the room, ha!) and finish the last pieces. 

Step Ten: We hung the mirror (which was a floor mirror Julia realized we could use as a wall mirror if we removed the stand and brackets — yay!) and screwed in the shelves from below into the L brackets we placed in the last step.

Step Eleven: Turk approves!

Ta-da! All done, now we have to work on finding some bigger pillows (and a bigger blanket) to finish things up.

The little “shelf” at the top of the headboard is a perfect soft space to lean artwork or just toss your eye glasses at the end of the night. 

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