Design*Sponge at Home…Goes on Tour!

by guest contributor Heather Buzzard

These weighty coral texts were never meant to serve as umbrellas, but they were called upon to serve this duty on a rainy Thursday night at Atlanta’s West Elm, where the reigning online DIY queen’s first book was celebrated, signed, clutched, petted and hovered over. Grace Bonney and Amy Azzarito double-team as a touring duo to promote Design*Sponge’s first book, encourage local arts by hosting crafting activities in conjunction with the book signing, and spread the wildfire grassroots movement of low-budget, high-personality creativity.

Amidst the flurry of divine gourmet tarts, sparkling lemonade, and fabric paint, Grace shines like a hand-polished gem. The book line snaked slowly only because she was sure to spend a few minutes with every fan, chatting them up about what brought them out and what their connection is with Design*Sponge, whose longtime online presence has now translated into an uber-successful real life. The crowd was beyond beautiful, a polite and cheery mob suited more to a catwalk or photoshoot than a typical book signing. The aesthetic standards of the audience were clearly up to and beyond the philosophy of the book. But there is nothing high-brow or snobbish about this movement: the fact that this blog-to-book transformation has toured packed spaces in dozens of major cities is a tribute to its inclusivity, mass appeal, and good-natured idea sharing.

As a daily reader of D*S, I am one of 75,000 viewers of the virtual tome of twine, the bible of bell jars, the anthology of wall art. Likewise, these 400 pages (!) are the printed equivalent of a juice detox; fresh fruity floral funky, and with a little blending and a little cleanup you too can create something you’ll feel the nourishing effects of. The book is divided into five major sections: sneak peeks, DIY projects, DIY basics, a flower workshop, and before and afters. The content mimics the website, but is fine tuned and includes over 50 pages of never-before-seen material exclusive to the book. The cross-country book tour event was divided into three sections: crafting (DIY painted resuable napkins), nibbles and mingling, and the signing. Global in scale, eclectic in skill level, distinctly feminine in aura but open to possibility, the book’s insides echo its cover, which was selected out of 45 possibilities for its timelessness and character.

This bit from a dedicated Amazon.com customer review of the book made me chuckle: “WARNING: This book will make you look crazy. I have been carrying this red bible around for weeks like a newborn baby, clutching it to my chest. When people ask me why I have gone nutso, I will gingerly peel it from the front of my shirt and carefully turn the pages for them to see.”

The lovely and impeccably hair styled Lady Grace was kind enough to chat with me for a few minutes in between personalizing enough books to fill a small library…our conversation, naturally, flew to treehouses…

Me: Do you have a favorite Sneak Peek from the book?

Grace: My favorite sneak peak is the Jessica Helgerson house in Portland. It’s actually the only designer house in the book. But I don’t like it because it’s a designer house, I like it because it reminds me of a treehouse. My dream is to live in a place like that.

Me: How was the process of juggling the daily editing responsibilities of Design*Sponge while writing this book?

Grace: It’s really hard. I actually ended up in the hospital aggravating a migraine condition that I didn’t even know I had! That’s how much work I did. But it ultimately taught me that I can work a lot more than I even thought I could, so I work much harder and longer hours now than I ever did before. It really taught me to be incredibly efficient with my time.

Me: People have referred to the book as the bible of a movement. What’s it like to be labeled the leader of this DIY revolution?

Grace: It’s incredibly flattering…but I think mostly what’s special about this revolution is that there is no one leader. It’s a group effort. I think I may have just stepped forward a little earlier in the process, but I really just see myself as part of a larger group movement of people who want to take back design.

Me: What’s next in the works for D*S?

Grace: We are bringing in our second full-time employee and getting our office in January, so that’s our first big project. We’re going to do another newspaper. And we’re going to do a second book, but I need a break before I do that one.

I also got the chance to trade stories and smiles with the wondrous Amy Azzarito, joy of all trades. Her take-aways from the book tour reminded me of the utmost importance of the work going on here. Under the influence of financial crises and natural disasters, homes are being destroyed and taken back. With this, design tends to go to the back burner, but this brand of independent budget decor offers homeowners and renters encouragement by teaching them how to make instead of how to buy. Quality design and a thoughtfully crafted home does not come at the hand of an interior decorator or expensive catalog purchases, but with ingenuity, playfulness, and resourcefulness where it’s least expected. As we were chatting, Amy flipped through my doggy-eared copy of the book to her own Brooklyn home and got a thrill from seeing all the stars and little notes I’d made about her chic flora and fauna filled space.

Image courtesy of www.designsponge.com

Amy’s home is my favorite of the collection. It’s impossible to pore through the book without a pencil or photographic memory – there are so many gold stars to be awarded! On the four-page spread of Amy’s Brooklyn home, I marked up at least 10 projects or details that were extraordinary, one of which leads to a how-to in later pages (the butterfly dome). The dome is something that I’ve seen floating around in the idea world of my head for ages now, but had not been able to translate into a feasible weekend craft project until Amy broke down a stunning million-dollar piece into inexpensive, simple, and doable steps. This de-cluttering of the complicated is the magic that the D*S team has going for them.

The idea of the old-fashioned skill share is harkening its way back into popularity. This book is the illustrated and bound version of this share-the-(artsandcrafts)-wealth movement, a manifesto for the hardware store and thrift shop enthusiasts, a guide for those of us with 12 different kinds of craft glue, a membership card for those of us who wear white shoes well after labor day and want our walls to do the same. The space that we inhabit shapes our being, and when we consciously map out our physical landscapes to embody the same ideals that we hold true (beauty, independence, eclecticism, sustainability), we are able to resonate with our interior landscape and vice versa. The Design*Sponge manuscript makes this abstract ambition as simple and intuitive as tying a bow: easy process and splendid result. The design process should not feel learned, but innate, tying a bow to your own rhythm, with your favorite color ribbon, handmade with love and easily undone to fit all shapes and seasons. Love the pages of this book, love these words, and if you end up hot gluing a few together by accident I’m sure you can refer to the website for a handy DIY solution.

Buy the book here.

All event pictures by me.

About the contributor:

Heather Buzzard is a freshly hatched graduate of Emory University, where she studied creative writing, sociology, religion and environmental science. Her time is spent frolicking as a musician in two Atlanta bands, dressing up for silly photoshoots, inventing recipes, and drooling happily over her Indie Fixx work.