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When I was writing about People of Craft, a platform that acts as a central hub for people of color across all creative fields, I got lost for hours discovering new artists. And one of those artists who completely stopped me in my tracks was Shyama Golden, a Brooklyn-based illustrator/artist. Shyama’s background in oil painting is evident in the deeply saturated forms she creates — whether they’re plant life, portraits or patterns — but her graphic design prowess shines brightly in her ability to manipulate these renderings through working digitally on an iPad Pro.
Shyama’s work, to me, is a bit like how I imagine it would feel to experience color for the first time — it’s invigorating and surprising, her works taking on lives of their own with their rich tones. Check out more of Shyama’s work here and her Society6 shop here to support her work and own it in tangible form. I know I’ll be perusing her images for a color jolt this weekend as the weather has been rainy here in Southern California. Wherever you’re cuddled up this weekend, I’ve included some links below from around the web to keep you inspired. (And if you’re marching Saturday, please stay safe!) —Kelli
This post is brought to you by the Affordable Art Fair NYC. Find the artwork that brings your home to life at our spring fair, March 22 – 25. That’s this weekend! Explore two levels of original contemporary art, showcasing over 300 artists by 72 galleries from around the globe, with artworks priced from $100-$10,000.
Proud Origins: Ayumi Horie’s Migration Cup for The Democratic Cup is a refreshing interpretation of “a familiar example of a conversation for anyone who is read to be ‘not from here’, i.e. a person of color or anyone with an accent. It has probably happened to them many, many times. Sometimes this is meant sincerely and with genuine curiosity. Other times, it is a clumsy attempt to get at the root of ethnic identity.” Powerful and — as always — beautiful work from Ayumi.
Surfer Chic:Raili Clasen, an interior designer in my neck of the woods in Orange County, CA, shared her seriously gorgeous modern surf-style home with Sunset Magazine. Check out more here.
Fast Plants: I’m a vegan with two little ones at home, so I’m always looking for fast meals. This 5-ingredient recipe for Indonesian Satay Stuffed Sweet Potatoes by Jenné Claiborne of Sweet Potato Soul is calling my name.
Jenna Cook and Brandon Curry are a couple that know what they want and will make the efforts to make it happen. They’re also not afraid, or unfamiliar, with living in a construction zone on the road to restoration and renovations. Brandon is a realtor for Sotheby’s and Jenna is pursuing her degree to become an elementary school teacher. Jenna and Brandon moved into their 1,800-square-foot, 1926 house in Ferndale, MI — with their beloved cat, Richard, in tow — the day it closed just over a year ago. Since then, they’ve been working on modernizing their nearly 100-year-old home while also highlighting its traditional charm, and are now just nearly “done.”
Last on the list is turning their basement into a home theater, craft room, and laundry room. Once the basement is wrapped up, they’ll finish the house by remodeling the upstairs bathroom. With the exception of the flooring and installing new windows, they’ve done nearly all of the interior work themselves. However, it’s not all work and no play for this couple — in their downtime (when he’s not soaking in epsom salts to recover from a strenuous house project) Brandon can be found fixing up his vintage Land Rovers, or serenading Jenna with songs and interpretive dance as his heart inspires him. Jenna loves interior design, baking, traveling, and reading — the last of which makes their charming little library all the more perfect.
The act of creating a home together, and living through the process of their renovations, has brought Brandon and Jenna closer and given them a deeper respect for one another. Follow along to get the nitty gritty on the transformations they’ve brought their house through over the last year. —Rebekah
Photography by Jenna Cook
Image above: The downstairs bathroom makeover involved bringing it a more classic look that nodded back to when the home was built in 1926, with some modern amenities and charming Hygge & West wallpaper to boot. “Welcome to the world’s largest half bath,” Brandon jokes. “This bathroom had the same cabinets and countertop as the kitchen, except the bathroom vanity cabinet was strangely low to the ground. The tile was a continuation of the kitchen tile as well. When we removed the kitchen flooring we removed the bathroom flooring and removed the vanity and counter as well.”
Entrusting an interior designer to interpret your own personal style, and then translate it throughout the walls of your home, isn’t always the easiest surrender of control. And for those with endless creativity and inspiration springing from their life’s work and surroundings, that personal style can become even more nuanced, more difficult to convey, let alone execute at the hands of someone who is not yourself.
For Nicki Pombier Berger — an oral historian, educator and artist — articulating her vision for a full-apartment renovation in Brooklyn’s Park Slope to designer Elizabeth Mercer Aurandt first included talking at length about the project at hand. For Elizabeth to fully understand the inner workings of Nicki’s brain and the type of space that would feed her clever idea tank, she, as Nicki says, “internalized and metabolized” her ideas to bring them to life. After this gathering of ideas, Nicki says, “[Elizabeth] gives back a portrait of myself that I wouldn’t be able to come up with on my own.” Aside from the aesthetics of the home, it needed to be welcoming and functional for Nicki’s two sons, aged 5 and 13, one of whom has multiple disabilities.
Elizabeth, who grew up immersed in the arts — from performing music to studying visual arts to jewelry design — was up to the task of executing the needs of Nicki and her family, and used nature to greatly inform the apartment’s design. “I had gone camping on and around Lake Superior with my family while I was working on this project,” Elizabeth recalls. “As we were walking different parts I took note. There was the beach and that became the kitchen and the dark stones became the bathroom. The deep woods were a reflective place and that was the study. There were also lots of wildflowers and that was translated to the bedroom. Nicki goes to some of the areas [where] we were with her family, and I knew those were places she really loved, so it was a good place to pull from.”
A rental for over 20 years, the apartment was in need of several updates before aesthetics came into play. “When we opened different areas up there were crumbling exterior walls, plumbing issues — we had to get things up to code,” Elizabeth shares. “Lots of repair work came before the pretty stuff.” Repairs led the way for a full kitchen redesign that involved preserving existing wood flooring and incorporating a hutch that was original to the building. Trim paint, custom shelving and interesting artwork were features added to Nicki’s study, and her bathroom’s original cast iron tub was refinished to maintain the space’s character.
In Nicki’s bedroom, the greatest surprise to her of all is a bold wallpaper she chose that’s a departure from the rest of her apartment’s neutral palette. Her selection of this pattern was a result of honing in on what she was instantly drawn to, not unlike how Elizabeth deeply pinpointed what she perceived to be Nicki’s greatest needs for her apartment. “It is reflecting back to myself everything about my life,” Nicki says. “It shows back to me the things that I love. For me that is important because, in addition to being a mother, I draw a lot of meaning out of the work that I do and the people I engage with in the world. To have my home be a surface for that is validating on a daily basis.” —Kelli
Image above: Before Elizabeth redesigned the kitchen, it was dark and lacking proper storage. Reconfiguring the space — including the sink and range placement — opened up new cabinet opportunities to improve functionality while elevating the room’s overall design.
Last week we had a community discussion about trends. I wanted to talk about why my thoughts on them had changed and what that shift taught me about judgement in design. More so than any other post in the past few years, people joined in the conversation in a big way and the viewpoints and feedback you all shared (both in the post and on social) opened my mind and renewed my faith in talking about deeper issues here. Hearing everyone share their thoughts in such open, vulnerable, and constructive ways was powerful.
Several important issues arose in those conversations that we’ll be addressing in posts over the next few weeks, but one in particular stayed with me because it’s a conversation we’ve been having internally here at Design*Sponge for a long time: can we ethically support handmade/independent work and big box stores at the same time?
For me, the answer is complex. And it’s one that’s still evolving because we are always discussing this issue amongst ourselves at Design*Sponge. Whether it’s related to ad campaigns with large retailers, sourcing shopping posts, choosing where to host events, or finding new and better ways to support handmade and independent work that allows us to still stay afloat as a business — this topic is always on our minds. And no matter where you fall on the spectrum of feelings about retail, my biggest hope for this discussion is to understand each other better and then work together to unpack and clear away the judgement that happens when we talk about where and how people shop.
For the past 10 or so years, we’ve been hearing from readers who are very concerned about retail choices and how they’re presented. Their points of view are best represented up by four comments we get almost every week at Design*Sponge. They sound like this:
Behind these comments are some very important points and concerns and I want to unpack them a bit (and hear your points of view on them) so we can look at things more closely and try to understand everyone’s concerns.
The single biggest concern we hear about retail here is cost. The vast majority of comments we receive are a strong and passionate request for more affordable design options. Things under $100, under $25, and under $10.
When it comes to cost, it’s important to remember a few things:
High-quality goods and handmade work typically come with higher price tags.
People need things for their home and life that they can afford.
People who produce things (which includes indie makers AND people working for and producing goods sold at box stores) deserve fair wages and safe working conditions — which come with a cost.
I completely understand why a lot of people want, say, sofa options that are under $500. But I also understand why most people making and selling sofas can’t afford to sell them for that price. But does that mean that the people who need someplace to sit don’t deserve to have options? The answer is complex, because I want to work hard to provide resources for everyone, but I also don’t want to promote and provide resources that are connected to companies that don’t pay workers fair wages so they can ensure low low prices.
So what should we do? For me the answer is to work harder to provide a wider buying (and non-buying) range of options for as many people reading as possible. That means options from independent designers who make things by hand, things from mid-range stores that produce in factories but offer more specification, things from box stores that offer lower prices and resources for reused, thrifted or upcycled pieces that don’t require purchasing necessarily or, if they do, come with reduced price tags (which is something I need to work harder on).
One of the issues I overlooked for a long time was accessibility. I spent most of my life living in a large metropolitan area and failed to think outside of my own bubble to consider what everyone in our broader community has access to. This is a concern so many readers (and our own team members) discuss regularly. So let’s look at some of the issues to consider when talking about accessibility:
Regional availability: Not everyone has access to small studios, indie shops or retailers that provide a broader range of options, both style-wise and financially.
Accessibility: Not everyone is able to travel and and use stores (of any kind) because of mobility issues or financial concerns.
Financial accessibility: Everyone has different budgets, which means that even if a certain type of retail IS available in a given area, it may not be financially accessible.
This issue has really opened my eyes to the wealth of accessibility in my life and how much I’ve taken it for granted. On most days I can leave my house, get in my car, and drive somewhere to pick up something (be it groceries or a home good) that I need at a small range of stores, from small local to big box brand. This isn’t the case for everyone in our community and I want to do better to think about what sort of stores are truly accessible (in all the ways described above) for all of us and how to better represent and provide those resources here.
This issue is probably the most “hot button” topic in comment sections when it comes to retail and it’s honestly quite sticky. Because questionable ethics are not limited to the decisions of “faceless corporations,” they’re something we unfortunately see in the world of indie design, too. The primary concerns I hear most about are:
Environmental impact: People’s concerns about environmental impact are most often mentioned in relation to big box stores and their effect on the environment from shipping and production to the ethical sourcing of materials. And while their scale of production definitely makes their decisions have a larger impact, it’s important to remember that not all independent makers source things in a low-impact way. For me, this is an issue to examine in relation to transparency and how important that is in retail.
Labor ethics: This is my biggest personal concern and one I struggle with a lot. From how workers are paid to their working conditions to how the brands that are carried in a store are treated, the concerns about labor/production ethics in retail are real. Again, this falls into transparency for me and means that I’d really like to see more honesty and openness from stores about how their employees and brands are treated so we can make informed decisions about how and where we choose to spend our money.
Like so many issues related to retail, I think greater transparency is an important step for all brands, big and small. To better explain their methods — from hiring and worker support, to sourcing and environmental impact — would be helpful in making sure anyone that chooses to shop at their store knows what practices that shop uses.
One of the comment threads that’s started to appear a lot is the way in which retail is perceived as being more or less “original” – with indie design being assumed as the inherently more original option.
I think a lot of the concern comes from the all-too-frequent examples of indie artists being copied by some larger brands. I share that concern whole-heartedly and spend a lot of time behind-the-scenes talking with designers about options for handling this. (Note: please don’t call out a brand publicly before addressing the issue with counsel. It can save you from a counter-suit and can also help with settlements if things come to that. I’ve seen too many artists counter-sued for calling out brands, even when they’ve been copied and the case is clear.) While the scales definitely seem to tip in the direction of large brands knocking off smaller brands, indie design isn’t immune from copying either.
The bottom line is this: “originality” in the larger sense is hard to pin down. So many trends and styles have their roots in pre-existing looks/designs, both past and present. That type of trend-adjacent design doesn’t bother me in the same way that copying does.
Last but not least, the issues of quality and quantity are always present when we discuss indie and box store design. The prevailing perception seems to be that indie stores are inherently higher quality and that smaller quantities are inherently “better” than larger ones.
But let’s break the issue of quality down a bit. We’ve all seen indie work that isn’t high quality and we’ve all seen box store work that isn’t high quality. So while I don’t think either retail form has a monopoly on goods that aren’t made well or with high-quality materials, it’s of course important to be concerned about quality because we all want to make sure we get the most for our money.
When it comes to quantity, I’ve seen a lot of discussion around the idea that higher quantities of goods somehow equal “bad” design. But I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. One thing I think about a lot with this issue is how many designers who would love to be able to make a living selling their work through their own company. And part of making that possible (i.e.: paying yourself a living wage and being able to afford healthcare) is scaling your business (or, alternately – but less popularly – your prices) to produce more that can be distributed more widely. So when I think about supporting indie design, I think about the importance of supporting those designers at all chosen stages of their career, whether that’s producing limited quantities at a local makers fair or taking the leap to expand to hiring more employees and producing larger quantities that get sold at larger stores around the country.
Final Thoughts (for now…)
This topic is one we will probably always be thinking about, discussing, and evolving our feelings and decisions on. Because ultimately we all care about independent design, it’s the reason we write here and the reason I started Design*Sponge in the first place. But we also care deeply about offering inspiration and resources that are accessible to everyone in our community, regardless of budget, location, or accessibility.
I’d love to know how you feel about this topic. Do you have a strong feeling about retail options? What are the options where you live? Have you ever felt judged by the way you shop? Have you ever judged the way someone else shops and now understand that issue a bit more clearly (I know I have, unfortunately). Do you see retail evolving or do you feel like options are becoming more limited? Do your decisions about retail have more to do with budget, location, accessibility or ethics? Or all of the above? Let me know in the comment section below. I would love to hear YOUR thoughts and stories so we can all understand each other better and learn to talk about retail options with less judgement and more compassion and connection. xo, Grace
*Note: I know there are some people who feel any and all retail is negative and don’t like or want to support that in any way. I respect that decision as well, so please understand I know that is a choice for some people. But the overwhelming feedback I’ve received over the past 14 years from our readers here is that people want to talk about how and why and where they shop.
I love everything about Stacey Blake’s aesthetic. From the moment you walk into her Fayetteville, NC home, there’s color everywhere you look, with bright hues flowing perfectly from one room to the next. She’s not afraid to take design risks — something I’m working on in my own home — and I think her bold choices are so awesome. When Stacey and her husband began decorating their soon-to-be daughter’s nursery, it’s no surprise that it, too, would have lots of color. However, Stacey also found the design left her a bit pleasantly surprised when she settled on white walls for part of the room, to balance it out.
It all started with the wallpaper from La Maison Pierre Frey. “I don’t do thematic rooms, and this wallpaper design makes it easy to transition the room from nursery to big girl’s room,” Stacey says. “The pattern is fun and brings in an element of color and whimsy, which is perfect for a nursery.” Since the wallpaper is a bold pattern, she placed it only in the room’s dormer where the crib would be and repainted the rest of the space a warm white, to temper the pattern of the wallpaper. “I could easily choose any color to highlight in the space because the wallpaper has a myriad of colors, but I went with yellow to use around the room mostly because I already had those mustard draperies and it made sense to just continue with that color,” Stacey shares. “I am also really loving the color mustard right now.”
The room is very angular, with no crown molding, so Stacey chose the wall color to match as closely as possible to the ceiling color, which helped with the flow of the nursery. Designing around an existing queen-size bed, from when the room belonged to her middle son, meant being creative with the placement of furniture. For example, the green shelving unit from the “before” pictures is now housed in the closet instead of the room, allowing enough space for their growing baby to play. Many handcrafted pieces were carefully selected for the nursery as well, like the gallery wall of art and the bassinet. Thank you for inspiring us, Stacey, and for sharing such a wonderful before and after transformation with us. —Erin
Homes with surprising backstories always seem to stick with me longer than those that are simply pretty. Oftentimes, these standout houses witness love and loss, momentous personal growth and cheer. I revel in their every detail, all the while hoping to one day build a space just as special.
The Cleveland, TN bungalow of PJ and Thomas McKay is a home with one of the most remarkable histories I’ve ever come across. See, Thomas grew up there, and his most-beloved childhood memories took place within its walls. From hanging out with his parents in the living room to imprinting his hands into the newly-paved sidewalk outside, every one of its corners tells a deeply personal story.
His family’s relationship with the home dates back to the 1980s. After getting the basics of the space figured out, his parents tackled numerous improvements, massaging it into the perfect fit for their growing youngsters. Not only did they wallpaper everything, redo the bathrooms and fix up the kitchen, they also converted the attic into a second floor. This last bold move added two bedrooms to the house’s overall footprint and gave them much needed extra square footage.
In the years that followed, the family nestled further and further into the house. As with almost all homes, though, not all of the stories this one’s collected are cheerful. In the 1990s, Thomas’ parents got a divorce, and everyone ended up having to leave their beloved bungalow behind. Over a decade went by, and the home began to wither and creak as renters took progressively-worse care of it. Late-night parties pounded, persistent leaks loomed and quick fixes became commonplace until it was in such a state of disarray the landlord decided to get rid of it.
Even though it didn’t look great, Thomas couldn’t resist peeking inside the home he had once so adored. Memories flooded back as he walked the property, and before it was even officially listed, he and PJ bought it. In doing so, they gave themselves a truly rare opportunity: the chance to show the home just as much love as it had shown Thomas’ family all those years ago.
For five months the couple worked around the clock fixing every inch of it until it gleamed again. They put in a new kitchen, revamped the facade and brightened the space through traditional furnishings and antiquities. Thanks to their hard work, the space really does look the best it ever has.
Originally, the plan was to flip it once all of the renovations were complete, but the couple tells us they’ve recently changed their minds. Instead, they hope to raise a family here one day. Who knows, maybe their own children will get to put their handprints in the front sidewalk just like Thomas did as a kid. They’d certainly be in good company. For the impressions he and his sisters made all those years ago still remain, ready and waiting for some company. Enjoy! —Garrett
In the early 80s while still in his teens, Jamie Kwong spotted a rustic shack in a TV commercial. The simple waterfront house, which Jamie thought must have been located somewhere in the Mediterranean, felt warm and inviting and made a big impression on him. Well over a decade later, while out exploring the waters outside their Palm Beach, Australia home, Jamie and his wife Ingrid spotted a familiar house on the opposite shore. It was the shack that Jamie had seen in the TV commercial a decade earlier, located just across the bay from where the couple now lived! Over the next 20 years, Jamie and Ingrid would admire the modest fisherman’s shack from afar, only imagining the stories it had told.
In 2013, during one of their sailing excursions, the couple spotted a “for sale” sign in front of the crooked little shack that they had loved for so long. Both surprised and thrilled by the opportunity, they steered for the shore to take a closer look. Originally built in the 1920s by local fishermen to a style heavily dictated by the steep bush block, the shack was completely untouched and exactly how Jamie remembered it from the commercial. He and Ingrid were both completely taken by the shack’s unique history, not to mention the breathtaking views overlooking the bay. “It was the most special place we’d ever been so we knew [it] was the one. After being attracted to the shack for around 30 years, when we saw it for sale, it was a no-brainer,” Jamie shares. What soon followed was an environmentally friendly restoration, renovation, and rescue project that took 18 months to complete.
Located on Great Mackerel Beach, the shack and its neighboring beach houses can only be accessed via boat across Pittwater bay or via hiking trails through the 37,000-acre Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Just as a century ago, building or restoring anything meant using what was available on site, transporting it by rowing a boat out the front or carrying it through the national park all the way to the shack. “There was clearly a lot of work to be done and the boat access only made this more challenging but we had never felt so sure, so determined and so at home,” Jamie explains.
To bring the shack back to its former yet humble glory, Jamie, a CEO and creative director, and Ingrid, a graphic designer and artist, wanted to acknowledge the shack’s history by working with the traditional methods and the same makeshift approach that the fishermen had relied on all those years ago. The shack was taken apart bit by bit and rebuilt exactly as it was, weird angles and odd roof lines included – just about everything in the shack was either repaired, recycled or repurposed.
Jamie and Ingrid strongly believe that making a home shouldn’t cost the earth – literally. To get the renovation work done with this principle in mind, the couple had help from an environmentally friendly French builder named Jerome, along with numerous backpackers and travelers from around the world. “There were carpenters, stonemasons, furniture makers, electricians, landscapers and laborers from across the globe who all grew to love the shack as much as we did. They brought with them centuries old carpentry and stone masonry techniques that give the shack its warmth and character,” Jamie says.
When it came to furnishing the shack, the couple made use of leftover building materials to create unique pieces for their home — the ramp that was originally built to transport materials from the beach was used to build a king-size bed, fallen trees and stumps were used to make tables, and old floorboards were transformed into kitchen cabinets. In addition, Jamie and Ingrid embraced the idea of finding and collecting everything secondhand for the shack. “We made a list of what else we needed and then spent about two years finding it all,” they share.
Today, The Little Black Shack is filled with Jamie and Ingrid’s favorite, much-loved and well-worn pieces that make them feel comfortable and at peace — nothing fancy, just a warm family home with things gathered, made and found. What was originally meant to be a getaway from the mainland has quickly turned into a future forever-home. “Our aim is to one day live full-time and completely off the grid at the shack, generating our own power, growing, gathering and catching our own food,” Jamie and Ingrid share. For now, the couple and their three children Indiana, Jye and Fin enjoy the shack on weekends and holidays. After suggestions from friends and family to open the shack to others, Jamie and Ingrid do just that. “Until we can live here permanently, our aim is simple: positively influence our guests and the environment, one group, one weekend at a time.” —Sofia
Image above: Built at various heights and joined together at odd angles, The Little Black Shack stands humbly on a steep bush block on Great Mackerel Beach. The shack can only be accessed by water or by walking through Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
Lately I’ve been finding myself spending more and more time with collage. It feels perfectly tied to the 90s resurgence happening in fashion right now and it connects to my 90s high school experience, where I spent most of my down time collaging (and then laminating or decoupaging) everything and anything with photos I tore out of Rolling Stone and Vogue.
I’m always finding collage artists to follow on Instagram and today I wanted to shout out one of my favorites, Ruben Guadalupe Marquez. Ruben is a photographer and collage artist based in San Francisco who incorporates brightly colored botanical elements into his work. I personally love his dedication to celebrating great LGBTQ artists, writers and entertainers and whenever I look at his Instagram feed, I feel uplifted and inspired. If you need some visual inspiration (Ruben also has an Etsy shop with wearable versions of his work), click here to check out his page (If you love RuPaul’s Drag Race like I do, you’re in for a great surprise). And if you need more online reading inspiration, check out our favorite stories from around the web this week. xo, Grace
Modern Love: This week’s episode of Modern Love features a bittersweet essay that talks about the way furniture in our home can represent so much more. There’s also a funny mention of our blog, Apartment Therapy and Domino at 2:30.
The world of design and design media loves to talk about trends. Some publications focus on touting them and staying one step ahead of the latest thing, while others love to decry them the moment they appear for being too ephemeral and not serious enough. I’ve seen this battle back and forth since the first day I started blogging here almost 14 years ago. I used to document trends until I found myself feeling tired of trying to follow their rapid rise and fall. But then a strange thing happened: I grew to love them again for the most unexpected reason. I fell back in love with trends because of negative comments on our blog.
Over the past few years we’ve seen negative comments about seemingly innocuous things (paint colors, chairs, textiles) grow at a steady pace. And while that development seems to be tied to the overall climate here in the United States related to politics and divisions overall, I’ve found myself defending trends (and the people that embrace them at home) in a big way.
It was in those moments of defense that I found myself having a major change of heart about embracing trends of all sorts. And the reason was simple: trends are so often a gateway for people to find their way into the world of design and, in turn, a tool for helping them express themselves and create a space that makes them happy. I’ve found that so much of the negative press trends have gotten seems to be rooted in what other people think of someone’s home or shopping trends, rather than what makes that homeowner/renter happy. I used to think the same way until I started really listening to the homeowners/renters who were talking about WHY they hung, for example, a “For Like Ever” or “Keep Calm” poster. Or a faux deer antler. Or a macrame wall hanging. Their reasons always boiled down to joy or excitement or inspiration that sprang from seeing that object on a daily basis.
Not that long ago, people’s homes and people’s opinions about those homes weren’t as commonly offered as they are now. And while a small percentage of people ended up having their homes photographed for print magazines, most people didn’t make their design decisions based on what people on social media or blogs would think. But now it seems like everyone and every space is up for judgement in some way (and yes, as a site that posts home tours, that’s something we’re aware we’re a part of — more on that next week) and just about anyone feels it’s okay to make pretty big assumptions about someone’s life, choices, beliefs or personality based on what they see in someone’s home — especially if what they see is part of a popular trend.
I understand lobbing that criticism at someone like me, or a blog like mine. It’s our chosen job to do our best to provide a broad range of home tours that represent different styles and different homeowners/renters. But it’s not up to every homeowner/renter in the world to create a space that everyone else will find thoroughly unique and unexpected (which, to be honest, is hard to find in today’s world of infinite internet sharing and circular inspiration).
One of the central assumptions I’ve seen a lot of (and used to believe myself) was that trends were problematic because they equated low-quality, high-turnover consumption. But what I’ve learned from listening to the people we’ve had the honor or sharing home tours with here is that just because something might feel “of the moment” to someone else, doesn’t mean the owner/renter at hand plans on abandoning that piece any time soon. I fell into the trap of assuming that the trendiness or lower cost of something meant it would be tossed and replaced any day now. But for most people that’s not true. Something doesn’t have to be a) expensive b) utterly unique or c) classic for someone to hold onto it and love it for years to come.
Another issue that patient and kind homeowners/renters have mentioned to me is regional accessibility. So often we see anti-trend commentary combined with anti “box-store” complaints. And while I understand people’s concerns with supporting businesses that don’t support fair labor or wages, it’s important to remember that not everyone has the same access to art and design. Yes, a lot of people can order things online and afford to have pieces shipped anywhere, but that’s not everyone. Not every area has a huge community of local makers and shops to access and, even if they do, the best way for everyone to feel happy and comfortable in their homes is to choose whatever they feel makes them most happy and represented at home. So if that’s from a big box store? Great. If that’s from a small maker? Awesome. If that’s from a thrift store or built with their own two hands? Cool.
“Dated” is the other term I see a lot when trends are discussed. But why are we okay with certain items feeling dated in a recognizable way (i.e. mid-century modern furniture, 40s/50s era Scandinavian enamelware, Dorothy-Draper style baroque furniture) but not others?
My thoughts and feelings about design, decoration and the general world of creatives has greatly evolved over the years and as I recognize and work to rectify mistakes of my own, it’s making me realize howsteeped in judgement so muchdesignwritingcan be. This includes my own writing (I used to think it was my job to declare something “good” or “bad” and I could not have been more wrong) and it’s something that we are working, as a team, to improve upon and hopefully foster here in discussions on the blog and on social media.
Home feels like a place where the only opinion that should matter is yours and your family’s. I know that when we share our lives and homes online, we open ourselves up to commentary and opinions from outside of that inner circle, but I’d like to work harder (and this starts with me here and how we word and present our posts, which is something we worked on BIG TIME at our team retreat last week) on making this online home here a place where people can share their homes as-is, without too much assumption made based on an item’s trendiness. If the color of the year makes you happy — start painting! If the hottest print from 5 years ago sets the mood for your dream room — hang it proudly! No matter what makes YOU feel at home, we want to celebrate that here and we’re working to ensure that our writing and choices (and the way we discuss home tours with homeowners/renters) reflects that.
I’d love to hear what YOUR thoughts are on trends. Do you feel worried about sharing them online if they’re in your own home? Do you love them and do they inspire you to get into design and decoration in your home? Do you feel they’re connected to “throwaway” culture or that they’re something you’ll hold onto for a long time? This readership has seen a lot of trends come and go (and come back again) over the past 14 years, so I’d love to hear what YOU have to say about trends and how you feel about embracing them at home and seeing them online. Is there an angle about this discussion that I’ve missed? I’d love to hear your viewpoints as we work on expanding our minds and listening more to the thoughts and feelings of our creative community as a whole. xo, Grace
One common excuse offered by someone challenged for featuring/hiring/promoting only white people is, “but I don’t know where to find people of color who do this same job.” The cycle of ignoring inclusivity then continues, swirling the same types of faces and individuals into the forefront of so many industries — including the creative industry.
Amélie Lamont and Timothy Goodman met and instantly connected through talking about this very issue, and their frustrations with the lack of inclusivity in the design industry. They teamed up quickly to launch a platform that showcases the work of people of color in the design industry, a now rapidly growing database called People of Craft. Answering the oft used excuse of not being able to find individuals of color in various fields, Amélie and Timothy have created a central hub where talented people can be found across all creative fields — from designers to illustrators to writers and developers.
The name of the platform, People of Craft, is a play on words from the phrase “people of color,” Amélie says, and an affirmation of people not being defined by their race. She says, “It’s also a statement that’s meant to show that despite the stereotypes that the media may portray about people of color, we are all complex, talented, and interesting individuals with stories waiting to be told and heard.”
Highlighting and making visible the work of others is just the beginning for Amélie and Timothy, they share, but ripples of change are already forming from the impact of their platform. “A couple people who are in positions of leadership at companies told me that they found and hired people via the site,” Timothy tells us. Today the duo is shedding light on inclusivity, doing the work to uplift underrepresented groups, lessons learned in creating People of Craft, and more. Bookmark their site to use for daily design inspiration, hire a creative individual, collaborate on a future project, and share the talented work being done across all mediums. —Kelli
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