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Design*Sponge's Grace Bonney Has Design Advice For Renters

Next week Grace Bonney, founder of the DIY website Design*Sponge, will get back to her Virginia roots and give a talk at Richmond's R. Home event, followed by two evenings of booksignings where she'll also lead the audience in a craft project. One of those nights her parents will be bringing an extra dose of DIYness to the evening by supplying everyone with cupcakes. Of course, if you can't wait until then you can check her out on tomorrow's Martha Stewart show or read our interview with her in honor of Renters Week. She gives advice on how to make a rental feel like a home and contributes to our Horror Stories with her experience with a neglectful landlord.

You mentioned you grew up in Virginia Beach, can you share any design-related anecdotes from while you were growing up?
Growing up in Virginia really have me an appreciation for art, design and architectural history. There's just so much of it. From the architecture of Monticello to the beautiful glass cloche farming styles on display in Colonial Williamsburg (where I went to college), there are so many details to see and appreciate. I think that depth of historical inspiration constantly informs the way I design and make things. I'm always looking for ways to alter or modernize older pieces of furniture or interesting objects from antique fairs. I really love having a mix of old and new at home.

Since it is Renters Week on Curbed could you pick out a couple of your favorite projects from your book that people could do to let them put their own stamp on where they live, even if it is temporary.
I love easy DIY upholstery, so I always suggest things like the upholstered headboard and upholstered rolling storage bench that I made for my rental apartment. Both let you bring color and pattern into your home without damaging anything permanently. I also reupholstered some beautiful old wooden/metal chairs with old men's flannel shirts. I love using shirting as fabric because it has so much more texture and character. I also love the spool table library because it really lets you upcycle a common found object into something fun. And I made my own mercury glass bottle lamp with a DIY fabric shade (in the book).

Gallery interlude: Here are a few of the projects from her new book, Design*Sponge At Home.

On Curbed we're sharing Rental Horror stories about living situations gone bad. Do you have one to add to the collection?
My old landlord literally poked a hole in our ceiling and it remained there for over two more years because she refused to fix it. So I put tape over it in an X shape to show her where it needed to be repaired. Two years later, it became a running joke that "that's where the treasure is buried".

Do you have any traditions of things you have to do first when you move into a new space?
Always the kitchen. More than anything else, you have to have a way to feed yourself and fill the house with good smells. After that I set up the bathroom and then the living room. Those are the rooms I'll use the most, so I always start with those. I think the best thing to remember is to get your home functional first. Nothing gets in the way of feeling welcome like boxes. So unpack and then focus on adding softer touches like table lamps, soft throws for the couch and fresh flowers.

What are some of the differences you've noticed with how people decorate their homes in New York compared to all the places you've visited?
New Yorkers seem to embrace eccentricity a bit more than homes I've seen outside of the city. People display oddities (like Victorian-era taxidermy) with pride and don't consider it off-putting. I love that quirkiness.

Were there any projects in this book that surprised you?
I'm constantly surprised. It may feel like there's nothing new under the sun, but I'm always amazed at how clever people can be in their homes. There's a home in the book (Matt Carr, Toronto) that has coffee tables sawed in half and turned into wall shelves that made me say "WOW". I never would have thought to do that and the result is both quirky and sophisticated at the same time.

Can you give people an idea of what to expect from your talk at R. Home and the booksigning/craft event at Anthropologie?
For R. Home I'll be talking about not only the book and how it came about (and what's inside it) but how and why I chose to start the site and what keeps it going seven years later. At Anthropologie we'll be teaching people to make their own custom wax seal stamps, which is one of my favorite projects from the book.

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

· Design Sponge [OfficialSite]
· Grace Bonney's Book Tour Schedule [OfficialSite]
· Martha Stewart Show [OfficialSite]
· Design Sponge at Home [Official Trailer]
· All Horror Story posts [CDC]

Photos from Jamie Beck, Terri Glanger, Lincoln Barbour, Kim Jeffery, Joy Thigpen, Emerson Made.