Web guru is driven to design

  • Updated: October 24, 2011 - 8:25 AM

Grace Bonney started a blog that caught the DIY wave, and today her Design*Sponge blog frequently tops surveys as the most influential design voice on the Web. We caught up with her.

"Design Sponge" author Grace Bonney.

Only eight years ago, Grace Bonney was just a kid with an idea: that great design doesn’t require a big budget or a professional degree. She started a blog that caught the DIY wave, and today her Design*Sponge blog frequently tops surveys as the most influential design voice on the Web. We caught up with the Brooklyn-based Bonney in a cab while on tour to promote her first book, “Design*Sponge at Home” (Artisan Books, $35).
Q What inspired the blog? 
A Not seeing things I love represented anywhere. I had just graduated from college [William and Mary], and the design scene was about to explode with the handmade indie aesthetic. But in 2003, no one would give those people attention. I walked around town with a camera, and it grew from there.

Q You made your name by blogging. Why did you decide to write a book?
A I waited a long time. I didn’t know if there was a hole in the market. What was really missing, I decided, was a book as beautiful as it was functional. There were how-to books that overlooked the aesthetics or pretty coffee-table  books. Our readers deserved a design bible that encapsulates this style, this mix of old and new.

Q What’s a low-cost way to freshen up a home this fall?
A Use DIY staple-gun upholstery to change out the fabrics on your chair seats. It’s easy to swap out and it makes a huge difference. I love to repurpose old plaid flannel shirts or old sweaters. They feel soft and warm. Something with warmth and texture is good to swap in the fall.

Q How has your aesthetic evolved since you started?
A I dig deeper than I used to. My eye and taste have changed. I’m still drawn to pattern, but I try to look deeper for details and quality. We’re always excited to see pretty things but we expect quality, too.

Q What are you inspired by right now?
A The pendulum is swinging back to much more minimal design. I’m inspired by the woodworkers who are working with salvage material, stripping things down to unpainted raw wood.

Q How is that influencing you at home?
A I just moved and had a huge yard sale. I sold almost everything I owned. I wanted to start with a fresh clean slate. I collect vintage wooden boxes, and those were the only things I held onto.

Q What spot in your house would you never let anyone see?
A My whole house right now. I’m a classic case of the cobbler’s children having no shoes. I keep my office as private as possible. People like to imagine I have a color-coded office, but it’s never neat and clean.

Q Why do you think Design*
Sponge became so influential? 
A I don’t ever really think about it. I keep my head down and focus on what I’m doing. I’ve always worked really hard to maintain an authentic voice and to have slow organic growth.

Q Do you still work 13 hours a day?
A Add a couple hours to that.


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  • Credit: Joy Thigpen Interior from "Design Sponge" by Grace Bonney.

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