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INTERVIEW: Grace Bonney, Design*Sponge | Chedva | September 26, 2011

I still remember the day I “discovered” Design Sponge. That day I did not go to sleep, I read post after post until I got to the very beginning. Grace Bonney started Design Sponge over seven years ago (on August 2004) as an exercise/portfolio of sorts to land her dream job in a shelter magazine. Surprisingly enough, the blog became her dream job. Now, with a team of editors, an ad division (headed by her husband), a highly-anticipated book (with a 30 city book tour to follow) and a fun summer newspaper (available for download here), chances are you know and love Design Sponge too. I hope you enjoy our interview with Grace!

RW: When did you know you wanted to write a book?

GB: I didn’t really want to write a book until right before I actually did. My friend Julia (Rothman, who did the illustrations in the book) helped me come up with the format that worked for us and as soon as I could imagine what it would look like, I dove right in. I spoke with our publisher and we started working within that month. I tend to move pretty quickly when I know what I want to do.

RW: What are the differences between D*S the blog, the book and the new newspaper?

GB: They all have different roles in the way we want to share content and what we want to say. I see the blog as a place where I can share up to the minute information in a really casual, informal way. The book was more about speaking in slightly more formal way about a much broader range of design topics that could be used for years to come. I really wanted it to be a practical, and inspirational, book that people could go to on a regular basis for ideas. The newspaper was our first for foray into limited edition, themed printing. I really wanted us to have a place to pick a narrow theme (this first issue was about summer beaches and water) and focus on that intensely.

RW: You worked on the book with the D*S team- do you think that was harder or easier than writing alone? Who did what? And how long did it take?

GB: The team was such a huge help with this project, but I ended up doing the majority of the writing for the book because it needed to have a single, unified voice. But I had lots of help from Kate Pruitt with DIY projects, Amy Azzarito with history sidebars, Amy Merrick with floral designs and Stephanie Todaro with organizing all the details of the book. As much as it would have been great to have more help with the writing, it’s easier to have one person writing everything so it doesn’t sound like a group of different people talk.

The majority of the writing happened in about 3 months, but we spent another year doing photoshoots, adding primers and organizing the book.

RW: D*S covers such a wide scope of subjects in the design and decorating world, even with a relatively long book it must have been hard to focus what you want in and what to leave out- how did you decide? Did you have any guidelines?

GB: I knew immediately what I wanted to focus on because they were the three most popular parts of the site: home tours, DIY and makeovers. It seemed natural to focus on those because they’d give us a range of content to work with but they’d also allow us to showcase a mix of people- readers, designers and our own editors. Most publishers wanted each of those content areas to be their own book (and they could have been) but I loved that we got to combine them into one big chunky design “bible”.

Rw: A book seems like the ultimate challenge and peak a blogger (or anybody really) can wish for- do you have anymore dreams for D*S? Can you tell me about them?

GB: This was definitely the biggest challenge I’d faced so far. Right now I’m really happy just focusing on this project and the 30 city book tour we’re in the middle of right now. But eventually I’d love to try more limited edition printing projects that are specialized- smaller books, newspapers and ‘zines. I don’t have any interest in doing a regular monthly magazine or tv show- I really like the idea of doing things specialized when and if we’re interested in doing them. It’s the best part of my job- getting to do things only when we’re really excited to do them.

RW: Does Design Sponge at home have a target crowd? Who will enjoy it most- “beginners” who want to decorate their homes or design aficionados? Or maybe a bit of each?

GB: The book will hopefully reach a broader audience- not just our normal 20-something city-girls, but rather a range of ages and people in different parts of the globe. I created the primer sections of the book because I knew I wanted it to come in handy for younger first-time home owners or renters as well as older home owners who’d never tried making anything on their own before. I think the skills, tips and ideas presented in the book are really timeless and ageless.

RW: What are some tips you can give bloggers who want to make their blog their job?


1. Focus on what makes you different from other bloggers. Celebrate your unique style, location or taste. What stands out is someone saying something different, not more of the same.

2. Don’t take ads until you absolutely have to. Ad programs are a lot of work to run and distract from content, which is what readers love and are loyal to.
3. Build a support team- your fellow bloggers and designers are their to support and inspire you. Get to know them, support them and meet with them regularly.

RW: We have a blog series about our favorite and least favorite trends of 2011, and our expectations towards 2012. What would you like to see in 2012?

GB: For 2012, I’d love to see minimalism and natural materials come back. Everything has been so ornamental and highly decorative for years now, I’m craving something simpler and cleaner.

RW: You’ve recently moved. What can we expect to see in your new apartment’s decor? Any major changes of your previous style?

GB: I haven’t had time to decorate so it’s still a big white box. Hopefully I can start working on it over the holidays and share pictures next spring. The major changes will be the minimalism I mentioned above- I’m ready to say goodbye to my typical overdose of pattern for a while.

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

Thank you so much, Grace. Readers- what do you think? Would you buy the book, or have you already? For more info on the book tour, outtakes and more, visit this page.

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2 comments to the post

  1. Igor Josif says:

    Hi Chedva, wow this is beyond great. I love Design*Sponge and I certainly love Grace Bonney’s new book which is already in my humble home! Thank you for this great interview! Igor, xo

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