Gratitude and Thankfulness



This past year has included more big life moments and change than I could have ever predicted, but all of which I am incredibly thankful for. From a new (first) home and new friendships to new family and new projects, 2015 has been a year full of things for which I am so very grateful.




In addition to these wonderful moments, for me, this year has most definitely been the best year of working at Design*Sponge. This was the year I made big changes, trusted my gut, expanded our team and, most importantly, learned to ask for what I really wanted and to have faith in the amazing people around me to push us toward our next chapter with strength, purpose and meaning. I could not be more thankful for the people I get to work with here every day and for the new faces joining our team (many of which are above — stay tuned for new columns next week!).


So for this Thanksgiving, I wanted to thank the amazingly talented, kind, thoughtful and hardworking people that make up our D*S writing team. From Los Angeles and NYC to Canada, London and Italy, our team is spread far and wide but I’ve never felt closer to all of them as a community. They are the people who make this dream job possible, and today I am thankful for them and for all of you out there who are a part of our extended family. Thank you for supporting us, for supporting the artists, designers and makers we love so much and for continuing to give us a space to talk about the things, places and people we admire. From all of us at Design*Sponge to all of you reading, best wishes for a safe and happy holiday. We will be back on Monday with beautiful homes, DIYS, recipes, interviews, inspiration and holiday content. Until then, thank you from all of us. xo, grace

Florals above by Swallows & Damsons, photographed by India Hobson


Life & Business: Diamond Troutman


If you ask any successful businessperson how they got started in their field, many will answer with: by just starting. Each thing you do on the road to your career goal — and each opportunity you take advantage of — only adds to your experience and your portfolio, and ups your confidence. Putting the time in might be the only way one can guarantee that they’ll learn and grow.

For Diamond Troutman, her career as a Content Producer and Creative Consultant only took off as a result of lots of doing and plenty of trying. After studies brought her to Paris, France, Diamond used this opportunity to launch the travel blog, Paris Elsewhere, where she documented her experiences and honed her signature writing style. As a result of building this platform, she was able to collaborate with and shadow many fellow bloggers and content producers whom she looked up to. Without fully being aware of it, over time, Diamond managed to interject herself into a valuable community that eventually became her own audience and client-base.

Today, the effervescent Diamond is joining us to share more about her career journey, why formalities and standards are vital, and what it means to foster a collaborative client environment. –Sabrina

Why did you decide to start your own business, versus work for someone else?

Starting my own business challenged me to exercise my creativity and reflect expertise in the field of content creation and creative direction. In developing a business in-line with my values (people, creative process and product), I have succeeded in fostering, firsthand, a real connection with my community and forging a unique, collaborative client environment.

What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

When starting a business, it’s important to determine that you’ve got a great idea. Perform research! Discover your market, especially your competitors. What are your objectives? While developing your business concept, take the time to reflect on your personal brand. Establishing confidence in your personal brand and protecting your reputation will prove influential in networking with other entrepreneurs or professionals in your industry.

Can you remember when you first learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was and how you knew it was what you wanted to do? 

My career began in 2011 as a blogger. When French and Sociology studies took me abroad to Paris in 2012, I made an effort to immerse myself extracurricularly in the creative culture by meeting other bloggers, shadowing them at photo shoots, interviews and events. The experiences from that summer introduced me to entrepreneurs and mentors, from whom I learned that my creative passions could become the tools for a successful career.

With this inspiration and guidance, I continued travel and food writing on my blog, creating a portfolio that landed opportunities to explore a writing-intensive career.

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What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?

Time is an element of sacrifice and achievement when starting your own business – it takes time to build relationships with clients, explore and manage the creative process. Once you’ve built a strong rapport with clients and you’ve streamlined your process, you can address time head-on.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?

The most challenging aspect of running your own business is assuming the many roles of the business environment. Many advocate that the quality of your team will make or break you. Currently, I’m a one-woman show, coordinating every aspect of my business from project management to creative direction to public relations. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to develop and sustain positive relationships with clients and members of the community. Community is a valuable resource for collaboration and support.

Handwritten Note

Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences that you learned from or that helped you improve your business or the way you work?

Sharing vision is very difficult when an individual or business is in the process of cultivating brand identity and signature style. I’ve learned that creative direction is a mutual effort, which is why I advocate a collaborative client environment. Before, I would take on writing assignments to complete tasks for clients, whereas I now consult with clients all throughout the process to ensure that my work fully promotes their mission and longterm goals.

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?

Pursue what you love, and do so intelligently.

What’s the first app, website or thing you open/do in the morning?

The first thing I do in the morning is access my mailbox to consult with clients, publication partners, and press-related inquiries.

Diamond Apartment Tour_Bedroom1

Has failing at something or quitting ever led to success for you? Walk us through that.

I very strongly believe in asserting my expertise and standards, therefore formal business documents like agreements and contracts are absolutely necessary for each assignment. Having experienced mishaps in business due to failed communication of ideas and process, I have made an imperative effort to address potential problems ahead of time. Beginning freelancing is incredibly challenging if a logistical foundation is not in place. One must demand respect for the time and skills dedicated to the job.

What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious? 

Being your own boss requires you to set the example for the your business’ work etiquette/culture. In order to seriously plan for the growth of your business, you must set the standard – this includes assuming a schedule to work by (ie: 9 am-5 pm), determining your methods for client consultations and project management, even your company dress code and rules for conduct.

When you’re in the beginning stages of business development, your personal brand makes the first impression before your business. Solidifying your brand and establishing your business’ brand is very crucial.

Can you name your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your business experiences?

One of the biggest rewards of business is to see your client succeed. When your client is honored by community and in the press, you are awarded the utmost worth. One memorable success was witnessing a client surpass her expectations for brand launch and reception by 200% via Kickstarter; another was learning a client had secured a television spot on ABC.

If you were magically given 3 more hours per day, what would you do with them?

Perform market research, study the ever-developing world of social media and practice more creative writing prompts!

In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?

1. How strong is your personal brand?

2. Have you investigated the economics of your idea?

3. Have you created a business plan to address the business entity and financial risk?

What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?

Brand Aid by Larry G. Linne and Patrick Sitkins (forward by Michael Fertik, CEO of, Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley and David Kelley, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, and Skillshare.

DIY Metallic Acorn Napkin Ring



I can never find the perfect table decorations for Thanksgiving. Since Thanksgiving is just a day away (it definitely snuck up on me!), today I’m showing you how to make last minute metallic acorn napkin rings that are sure fire way to wow your guests. They’re metallic too, so they’ll add a perfect touch of shimmer to your table setting. Check out the DIY below and don’t forget the gold paint! —Sam





-Acorns (artificial or real will work)


-Gold and silver craft paint


-Small paint brush


-Elastic string


-Drill and drill bit slightly larger than the diameter of your elastic


-Parchment paper



Step 1: Paint the acorns silver and gold and place on a sheet of parchment paper to dry.


Step 2: Once the acorns are dry, drill a hole all the way through the middle of each one.


Step 3: String the acorns onto the elastic string. I used 7 acorns per napkin ring.


Step 4: Cut the elastic string and tie off with a double knot. Trim any long ends and place over your napkin!




The Philly Love Notes Loft

The Philly Love Notes Loft

In a converted shoe factory loft from the turn of the century, Emma Fried-Cassorla and James Healy make a 600-square-foot studio in the Callowhill neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA their home. James, an ex-jet engine engineer turned web developer, had been living in the flat for a while before he and Emma, an ex-neuroscientist and now communications manager for the Delaware River Waterfront, decided to move in together. Before this apartment, James lived a pared-down life on a 50-foot sailboat for almost two years. The couple wavered back and forth about living in the studio together but decided to try it; the two walls of windows and amazing light meant that no other spaces could compare, even if they were bigger.

When Emma moved in, the place was decidedly spartan. James had built the Murphy bed (which they try to put up every morning so as not to feel like they’re cooking in their bedroom). All of James’ stuff remains, including the giant Stormtrooper decal. Emma brought a lot of the furniture with her, like the chairs, rug, and dining room set. Since then, they’ve been adding local Philly art and plants that thrive in the light. Two walls of windows means less hanging (hence the clustered gallery wall), but lots of sunlight. In order to make the small studio work for two people, the pair have gotten creative. James ceded the closet to Emma and moved his wardrobe into a small back room that houses the washer, dryer, and hot water heater. He also built a table to fit the nook for when someone requires quiet time in which to work.

Emma, who runs a blog called Philly Love Notes highlighting the wonderful things about Philadelphia as written by residents, also makes custom lasercut maps based off hand-papercuts she makes in the space. Having a corner studio means that they live in a bit of a bubble. Emma keeps the windows open as much as possible, especially for the sunrise, but people can see in. On the other hand, they can watch people walking and driving by, and best of all, the view looks right out onto what will be Philadelphia’s future Rail Park. Emma adores many things about this loft apartment — the natural light that wakes her up every morning, learning to live with less, and most of all, making a relationship work in such a small space. —Annie

Photography by Bradley Maule and Emma Fried-Cassorla

A Nashville Thanksgiving Tablescape



This Thanksgiving will be the first I’m spending away from Virginia (we’re having both of our families at our house for the first time!), so I’ve got a little bit of homesickness for ideas and decorations from the south. Thankfully, Elizabeth Ulrich, the stylist/designer behind Stockroom Vintage and Elizabeth Ulrich Design in Nashville, TN, wrote me an email and was up to sharing an incredibly beautiful Thanksgiving tablescape idea that makes the most of autumn flowers and branches. Inspired by the rustic style at Whooping Crane Farm (where this was photographed), Elizabeth made placecards and styled the table to create a relaxed but festive look for the holiday. Christie Craig of The Farmer’s Florist crafted a beautiful floral centerpiece with dahlias, marigolds and smoke bush, and she’s sharing her how-to steps here for anyone who wants to pull together a beautiful, last-minute look for Thanksgiving. Thanks so much to Elizabeth, Christie and everyone in Nashville for sharing this gorgeous table idea with us today! xo, grace


Photography by Catherine Truman Photography






Flower Recipe





-Branches of autumn foliage


-Smoke Bush


-Wild vines




The Process


1. Start with a small, low vessel that fits well when nestled into your table setting. Low is key.

2. To give your arrangement stability, cut a small square of chicken wire (in this case, approximately 4in x 4in) and shape it into a convex ball that will fit inside your vessel.

3. Start the arrangement with a shape builder, usually twigs and branches. In this case, we used autumn foliage, which guided the arrangement into the particular shape we envisioned.


4. Next, add your filler flowers, the ones with bulky greenery that fill out open space. This will allow you to focus on the details later. In this arrangement, we used incredibly fragrant marigold.







5. We now have a great base to start filling in with color and detail. At this point, you can start adding your main “face” flowers, the ones that will be the predominate focus of the centerpiece. In this case, we used locally grown Cafe Au Lait dahlias at the height of their season.







6. Start adding in detail greenery. Here we used smoke bush and a wild vine from just outside our door. The greenery will add movement and more shape to the centerpiece, filling in any spots that may seem bare.

7. Once you’ve created the full look, be sure to give your flowers plenty of cool water, and if you’d like to go the extra mile for these beauties, give them a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar water to keep them around a bit longer.

Putting together the tablescape















Vendor Credits:


Elizabeth Ulrich Design (Instagram/Twitter/Facebook)


The Farmer’s Florist, Christie Craig (Instagram/Facebook)


Catherine Truman Photography (Instagram/Facebook)


Whooping Crane Farm (Instagram)


Handmade Studio TN (Instagram/Facebook)

Textiles + Tabletop Decor

White’s Mercantile (Instagram/Twitter)

OAK Nashville (Instagram/Facebook)

A Once Neglected Home Beautifully Restored in the Midwest

A Once Neglected Home Beautifully Restored in the Midwest

As much as homes protect people, people, in turn, protect homes. Over time, the elements of nature have a way of transforming an abandoned home into shambles. It takes extra work to bring a neglected house back to life, but the savings and the accomplishment it brings can be worth it. It was completely worth it for Sarah and Kalyn Gibson and their 1920s home.

Sarah, designer and blogger, her husband Kalyn, a financial controller, and their giant schnauzer, Finn, began searching for a home two years ago. The homes they first found were all move-in ready — but at the top of their budget. When the couple toured a 1920s home in Dayton, OH that was in disrepair, they got creative. “It had been neglected and sat empty as a foreclosure for over two years. It was a complete disaster, but we fell in love with its charm and potential,” Sarah says. “It made sense for us financially and we were capable of completing the majority of the construction ourselves, so we pulled the trigger.” Sarah and Kalyn have renovated the entire space beautifully with Sarah’s eye for design and Kalyn’s pursuit of high-quality touches and efficiency.

The process was intense but rewarding. The Gibsons worked on the home together, restored it to its full potential and became truly connected to it. “It was an insane amount of work and took over a year to complete the renovation, but I’m so proud of what we’ve created and more importantly, the fact that we built this space together. Along the journey of transforming our home: we found artifacts in the walls (postcards, toys, documents, etc.), filled six 40-yard dumpsters full of trash and debris, had a fast food Thanksgiving with no heat at a camping table in our makeshift dining room, and discovered what a lot of elbow grease and sleep deprivation would get us,” Sarah says. “We made so many amazing memories during demo, construction, and finally moving in and adding the final details to our home. We definitely can’t envision doing it any other way.” Looking through their tour, it’s almost impossible to remember that this home hasn’t always been loved and cared for. The Gibsons have brought this house back to life and are able to enjoy all of their hard work. –Lauren

Photography by Dana Miller & Sarah Gibson

Revisit: Gallery Inn



The lovely Justine Hand (from designskool and a contributing editor at Remodelista) sent over these photos of her visit to the storied Gallery Inn — an eccentric, family-owned hotel in Puerto Rico that she discovered on designtripper — and they’re too good not to share. I love hearing from folks who have traveled somewhere after reading about it here.



Some other things on my travel mind lately:


The Porcupine Mountains. Thinking about making the trip this summer.


Canvas tents in Moab.


Painted walls in Lisbon.


An old bar reborn as a vacation house.


My summer reading list.


Quarry swimming in Maine.



February 14th, 2014


Last weekend I went to Birmingham, Alabama with two assistants to work on a wedding. It was one of those jobs where everything goes right and we got to eat wedding cake when it was all said and done. Doing flowers, especially for these larger, more involved events, you can either be an artist or the hired help. This family was divine, and I mean truly. Bringing us coffee and cookies, gushing over flowers. Completely setting our studio up, introducing us to their yard man who cut several truckloads of branches and vines for us to use. Not to mention I had my two favorite flower girls by my side and a some really talented local assistants along for the ride. It was heaven, and so validating to remember that weddings aren’t all about show and flash. This wedding had a really big heart.












It’s Valentine’s Day and I should be slinging flowers all over town but instead I’m taking the day off. Michael and I are headed out for coffee and some exploring of our new neighborhood then making dinner at home. Doesn’t 2 years ago seem like a lifetime? (And also just last week.) The rom-com plot thickens, our heroine moves to California to be with a man and also falls in love with the ceaseless orange blossoms and sunshine. The story still twists and turns, but the ending doesn’t seem that important anymore.