How To Be Happier

How To Be Happier


Sometimes the hardest thing in life (other than that whole “being alive” thing) is being happy. Everyone is trying to find happiness or stay happy in any way they can. We all have some idea of what it feels like, and yet, if we’re such experts on being happy why are we not just doing it constantly?



There is no BIG SECRET THAT EVERYONE EXCEPT FOR YOU KNOWS, although it can sometimes feel like that. Lately I’ve been forgetting these basic, common truths, so this post is me telling myself what I already know. Hopefully you’ll find the reminder equally useful. –Adam J. Kurtz




how to be happy happier: embrace yourself, acknowledge the sad, create & meet goals, find fresh inspiration, sunshine & rainbows, celebrate everything, feel content, forget the destination


embrace yourself: life is constantly reminding us about what we dont have, but what about all that we do have? what makes you special? what do you have to offer the world around you? what do you enjoy? find the things that you do love about yourself. theyre enough.


acknowledge the sad: hiding your darkest feelings from strangers is probably smart??? hiding them from yourself is not. recognize what is hurting you. take steps to address it. this might mean talking to somebody who understands. this might mean taking real time to process.


create and meet goals: having something positive to look forward to is important. we no longer have the structure of childhood to keep us motivated and subsequently rewarded. so set goals for yourself, big or small. then meet them. then set new ones & keep on going (forever).


find fresh inspiration: your thing can start to feel like the only thing, but theres just so much to experience, learn or invest in. this doesnt mean a career change, its just nice to remember the world has plenty to offer. travel more, read more, learn new skills & try new things.


sunshine & rainbows: its not all sunshine and rainbows, but a lot of it actually is! sunshine is literally good for you, so go soak up that vitamin D. the sun is a massive star that will outlive all of us. as for rainbows, well, youve got to weather the storm first. hang in there.


celebrate everything: the things you take for granted are likely major accomplishments for someone else. paying rent on time is an accomplishment. getting errands done is an accomplishment. even just waking up is an accomplishment worth celebrating (possibly with coffee).


feel content: nobody gets everything they want. there will always be something. new problems arise. instead of striving for perfection, strive for contentedness. find a way to be happy with what you already have and youll always have exactly what you need.


forget the destination: you dont even need this one but here it goes anyway!!!!!! happiness is not a place, it is a journey. you do not arrive at joy, but you can strive to create it in small & enjoyable ways. stop searching for the end or itll find you before you ever find it.





If you have other tips or advice on being happy, let me know in the comments. Sorry, does this sound desperate?? I just feel like I could use a little extra help this month and maybe I’m not the only one.







Adam J. KurtzAdam J. Kurtz (better known as ADAMJK) is an artist and author of 1 Page at a Time: A Daily Creative Companion. His dark (but optimistic) humor comes to life in an offbeat line of gifts and small trinkets. Follow him at @ADAMJK or in real life (he lives in Brooklyn because of course he does).









Memorial Day



I grew up in a city with a strong military presence and pride, so holidays like today always take on a special significance. Memorial Day is dedicated to the brave women and men who gave their lives in service of our country, and today we wanted to take a moment to honor their memory and express our gratitude to their families for the great sacrifices they all made.


It can be easy to get caught up in the heat of an election season, debates and controversy, but holidays like today are an important and much-needed reminder that there are people who have given everything they have for our county and are no longer here to have their voices heard. I live across the street from our town’s small cemetery, and this morning I plan on visiting to leave flowers. If you happen to be near your town’s cemetery, a walk through to honor today’s holiday is always a nice way to put the day in perspective.


We all know the importance of home, so our entire Design*Sponge team would like to honor and remember all those who died in the service of our country, ensuring we would have those safe spaces to call home here. –Grace


*Image above from Erin and Ben’s home


Michael Mapes + Best of the Web



Sometimes I see art that makes me feel completely and utterly dumbfounded. And this week, that artwork belongs to the incredibly talented Michael Mapes. Jessica Marquez emailed me a link to his work the other day, and I spent the next 10 minutes trying to pick my jaw up off the floor.





Michael makes stunning pieces that are comprised of tiny bits of paper, glass and other ephemera, carefully pinned onto boards. Up close they look like a detailed cabinet of curiosities, but from a distance they create grand, mosaic-style images. Michael’s “Dutch Masters” series is what first caught my eye and I love that every tiny (and I mean tiny), pinned detail feels like its own miniature work of art – from clippings of paper and photographs to fabric samples, botanical specimens, x-rays, clay, thread and bits of glass. If these pieces don’t inspire you to make something with your own two hands, I don’t know what will. At the very least, hopefully they’ll inspire you to dig deeper into Michael’s website and enjoy his spectacular body of work. xo, grace









    • I’ve been working on getting “After the Jump” back up and running and have been listening to a million podcasts in preparation. One of the podcasts I’m most looking forward to is “Code Switch” at NPR. The way our identities affect the way we live and interact with those around us is a fascinating and important topic.
    • Meghan’s garden trellis DIY makeover at One Kings Lane is genius. Seriously. This is such a chic way to makeover a small backyard space (or a fire escape!).
    • These black and white tiles! Oh man, they are my home equivalent of a little black dress (or jeans). Always a good idea. (SFGirlbyBay)
    • Need some snacks for the holiday weekend? And some podcasts to go with them? I love this roundup of both at Food52.
    • Speaking of putting your feet up – how cute are these new shoes? I haven’t been this excited about fashion in a long time. Hellooo, winky face.



11 Creative and Unconventional Side Tables

11 Creative and Unconventional Side Tables

Ah, the humble side table – one of the most utilitarian pieces of furniture one can own. For the most part, it serves a functional purpose – offering a spot to rest a cup, book, or your phone – but it’s generally the decorative knick-knacks, lamps and art we store atop that take the cake when it comes to adding style and beauty. However, that’s not to say that the side table can’t be beautiful in and of itself.


No matter the room or furniture piece, some easy ways to add visual interest, texture, and fun is by challenging the norm, getting creative and/or discovering a new use for an object intended for something else – be it a bar cart, DIY creation, piece of vintage luggage, or an upholstered footstool. Today I’ve rounded up 11 creative and unconventional side tables from a handful of past home tours to inspire you to rethink your surfaces! –Sabrina 


Before & After: “MOHO” Style in a Colorful Family Home

Before & After: “MOHO” Style in a Colorful Family Home

“I call my style MOHO,” says Kari Firak, a writer, social media manager, photographer, stylist, and blogger. “Modern boho – like equal parts Stevie Nicks and Devo.” She hates clutter, but at the same time, wants her home to feel lived-in and loved. “I’m talking white walls filled with vintage artwork. IKEA furniture on Moroccan rugs. There’s a fine line between mid-century and middle-aged cat lady, and I want to walk that line,” she jokes. Alongside husband John (“With his last name making mine into a palindrome, we knew it was fate!”), a photography teacher, and their small kids Max and Lola, Kari spruced up their 1,700-square-foot, 1910 Victorian in Crystal Lake, IL with stylish and functional solutions. Though she loves color, Kari “has a thing” for white walls. “It always feels crisp and clean to me, refreshing,” she offers. “It also opens up the small rooms we are working with, making them feel larger. White walls create a blank canvas; I can go as crazy as I want with everything else in the room.”


Before she even began working on it, the house had good bones with its original wainscoting and crown moldings. The biggest adjustment was made to the living room. The previous owners used half of the long space as a living room, and the other part as a sitting room. “We just aren’t formal enough to have a separate dining room,” Kari explains. “With small children, and since I work from home, it made more sense to make the formal dining room into an office and playroom.” They then turned the other portion of the living room into the perfect family table spot around which to share meals. New ceiling light locations and fixtures were added to made the space adaptable to different purposes. “A combined living room/dining room makes entertaining more friendly, and the office/playroom gets much, much more use than if we had left it as a formal dining room,” Kari says. In the laundry room, oak cabinets and countertops surrounded the old washer and dryer. Their bulk filled so much of the tiny area that the homeowners removed them immediately after moving in. Custom shelves feel airier, and provide the open type of storage the couple prefers. Though there are still projects left to complete, Kari appreciates a home that is always in need of a little improvement. “It keeps things interesting!” –Annie


Photography by Kari Firak


Reading Spaces: Author Tanwi Nandini Islam

Author Tanwi Islam


One word describes author Tanwi Nandini Islam: Captivating.


I am sitting in her living room as she talks to me about apothecaries, Bangladesh, and Toni Morrison. It took me 72 hours to finish reading her debut book, Bright Lines, and now I want to be her friend. Her quaint Brooklyn home is colorful and vibrant; filled with custom bookshelves and an array of beautiful found objects. I am not surprised by the richness of the space – I imagine this is the backdrop where most of her writing comes to life.


Bright Lines is an engrossing novel, with vivid, bold characters – a story of immigrant parents, first-generation children and the need to reconcile traditions with present day realities. The story begins in Brooklyn, where Anwar and Hashi Saleem have raised their fiercely independent daughter, Charu, and their quiet, unassuming niece, Ella, as sisters. Collectively, their lives shift and decisions (or impulses) appear misguided throughout the narrative. The story centers on the young women, Charu and Ella, who magnificently embody Brooklyn: fearless, flawed, and fascinatingly self-aware. The reader is struck with young lust, infidelity, and the longing for full acknowledgement. Tanwi writes not only about the intimacy of youth, but her sensibilities towards exploring sexuality is beautifully reflected in Bright Lines.


Together we discussed what books live in her personal library, Gabriel García Márquez, and the fictional heroes that influence her storytelling. See my conversation with Tanwi after the jump. –Glory


Photography by Kylie Thompson




TW Home Frida


What are you currently reading?


Kaitlyn Greenidge’s We Love You Charlie Freeman and Ranbir Singh Sidhu’s Deep Singh Blue.


Describe yourself as a reader.


I’m quite fickle as a reader, meaning I am the first one to put it down if the first 50 pages don’t appeal to me. But when I find one that I absolutely love, it takes over me, as if I’ve caught a cold. I will literally not put a book down until I’ve made a 100-page dent in it, and anytime I have started a book, it takes me a couple of days of nonstop reading to finish it.


Books Tanwi


What books might we be surprised to find in your personal library?


My father is an avid collector of books from garage sales, libraries – and I’ve amassed a lot of his books for research or just personal interest. There are books in my collection from the 1960s-70s, a nautical knot-tying book, versions of the Qur’an, editions of Robinson Crusoe, Tess of D’Urbervilles – stuff that’s wildly different from what I read now.


What specific genres do you enjoy reading?


There’s something about the notion of genres that bothers me – since I think literary fiction draws from historical fiction, science fiction, so-called women’s fiction. Octavia Butler opened my eyes to science fiction, while Toni Morrison’s novels all paint searing portraits of Black American life throughout history. I remember reading Paradise and loving how deep a metaphor the book was for the often conflicting movements for racial justice and feminism – a conflict created by misogyny and racism. I love reading diasporic work that illuminates the experience of South Asian people outside of the U.S., like Abraham Verghese’s Cutting For Stone, which told the story of a pair of South Asian twin brothers in Ethiopia, or in terms of a transnational Filipino diaspora, Mia Alvar’s In the Country.


Blue wall Tanwi


Who’s your favorite fictional heroine?


I will always love Lauren Olamina from Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower series. She is young, fearless, soulful and wants to save the world. What’s not to love about that?


Name a book from your childhood that left a lasting impression.


The book I return to every five years or so is The Autobiography of Malcolm X; I read that at a very young age, as did my partner. We both were so inspired by that book, a very real connection between my experience as a young Muslim with one of the most famous ones in the U.S. Around the same time, I also read Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club and Mario Puzo’s The Godfather – so clearly I’ve always had a love of multiple POV novels! When I recently connected with Amy Tan over my Ancients perfume, it was like a million dreams had just collided.




What was the last book that made you cry?


Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You. I wasn’t quite sure if I even connected with Lydia, the girl who died. But something about her eternally listless, lost way of being in the world, which ultimately led to her death, haunted me.


What book(s) do you find yourself recommending to friends?


It’s one of the wonderful things about being an author, I get to recommend my author friends’ books to friends. Through various readings I’ve done over the last year of promoting my novel, I’ve met so many incredible authors whom I am excited to know and share with my other friends!


TW Home 2


How do you decide what book to read next?


I do read reviews – although much more critically these days. If there is an insanely hyped book, I usually buy it and hoard it for when I next take a vacation. I want to read it without the noise surrounding it. In this case, my next book on rotation is Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies.


Tanwi w: bookshelf


What author, living or dead, would you most like to meet?


Gabriel García Márquez, even more so after my last trip to the old city of Cartagena, Colombia, where he drew so much of his inspiration. I would love to eat a never-ending meal with him and walk around his old haunts.


Bright Lines


Needless to say, I highly recommend Bright Lines. And so does the First Lady of New York, Chirlane McCray. The debut novel is the inaugural selection for the Gracie Book Club!


Follow author Tanwi Nandini Islam on Twitter.


11 Creative and Unconventional Side Tables

11 Creative and Unconventional Side Tables

Ah, the humble side table – one of the most utilitarian pieces of furniture one can own. For the most part, it serves a functional purpose – offering a spot to rest a cup, book, or your phone – but it’s generally the decorative knick-knacks, lamps and art we store atop that take the cake when it comes to adding style and beauty. However, that’s not to say that the side table can’t be beautiful in and of itself.


No matter the room or furniture piece, some easy ways to add visual interest, texture, and fun is by challenging the norm, getting creative and/or discovering a new use for an object intended for something else – be it a bar cart, DIY creation, piece of vintage luggage, or an upholstered footstool. Today I’ve rounded up 11 creative and unconventional side tables from a handful of past home tours to inspire you to rethink your surfaces! –Sabrina 


DIY Drawer Organizer

DIY Drawer Organizer on Design*Sponge


This isn’t my first DIY project using marbled contact paper, and I promise it won’t be my last! It is such a versatile material that I’m sure I’ll find a way to use it around the house for years to come. As I mentioned in my faux stone mirror post, my favorite place to collect retro faux-stone contact paper is junky dollar stores. Isn’t this cloudy blue one such a throwback? It reminds me of tile my grandmother picked out in the 60s.


DIY Drawer Organizer on Design*Sponge


I love the trend of putting surprise pops of color into kitchen cabinets, so I thought it would be just as fun to do something similar – but in drawers! I used this organizer for my workspace, but you could just as easily use it in a kitchen drawer for utensils instead. The best part is that it’s renter friendly – no wasted time priming and painting interiors of drawers. Instead, just pop this baby out when you’re moving and take it with you! –Kathleen




DIY Drawer Organizer on Design*Sponge






-craft knife


-bone folder






-marble contact paper (at least one full roll)


-drawer organizer (wooden with right angles is best – plastic curved ones will be trickier)



Step 1: Start by cutting a piece of contact paper to fit into a compartment. Use a ruler to measure the length and width of the compartment and draw this onto the back of the contact paper. Add panels onto each side to accommodate the depth of the compartment, and a little more still to cover the top surface.


DIY Drawer Organizer on Design*Sponge


Step 2: Peel the backing off of the contact paper piece you just cut. Cut the side tabs off of the backing and reattach onto the sticky contact paper, leaving the center as-is. This will help prevent the contact paper from getting stuck to itself in the next step.


DIY Drawer Organizer on Design*Sponge


Step 3: Carefully put the contact paper into the compartment, folding back the side tabs to keep them out of the way. Attach and smooth the center out as much as possible, trying to avoid creases and air bubbles. One at a time, remove the backing from the side tabs and smooth to adhere. As you go, gently slide the bone folder along the inner edges of the compartment to get a crisp edge. Be careful, though – if you press too hard with the bone folder, the contact paper will tear.


DIY Drawer Organizer on Design*Sponge


Step 4: Attach and smooth the excess over the top surface of the organizer. Use a craft blade to carefully remove any contact paper that extends past the top edges.


DIY Drawer Organizer on Design*Sponge


Step 5: Repeat for the remaining compartments. Since my organizer had three identical compartments, I measured and drew one onto the back of the contact paper, cut it out, and then used that to trace two identical shapes for the matching compartments. Don’t worry about the gaps in the corners just yet!


DIY Drawer Organizer on Design*Sponge


Step 6: For any small gaps on the top surface (excluding the outer-most edge), I cut and attached a scrap of contact paper into an abstract blob (the round, natural shape blends in better than a straight edge) to fit the space. If some of your compartments have gaps where the contact paper doesn’t quite meet, do the same. If your contact paper isn’t adhering in some spots, try applying a thin layer of white glue with a paintbrush where you’re noticing the problem.


DIY Drawer Organizer on Design*Sponge


Step 7: To finish up, trace the exterior sides onto the back of contact paper, leaving excess tabs to wrap under the organizer for a nice edge and to wrap onto the top surface to cover any of those gaps from before. Once everything is adhered and as smooth as possible, use the craft knife to carefully remove any remaining excess.


DIY Drawer Organizer on Design*Sponge


DIY Drawer Organizer on Design*Sponge


DIY Drawer Organizer on Design*Sponge


DIY Drawer Organizer on Design*Sponge


Challenging the Status Quo with Ira Studio’s Manasa Prithvi

Challenging the Status Quo with Ira Studio's Manasa Prithvi, Design*Sponge




























It takes a bold and brazen individual to turn their back on conformity. To do so is challenging. To do so can make it harder to be heard. In the end, however, those who step outside the box and shout for change are those we remember and those we look up to.


Indian product designer Manasa Prithvi is one of those individuals who’s unafraid of rocking the boat. In fact, challenging the status quo serves as the basis of her company Ira Studio. “I wanted to try and create an identity for Indian crafts that [wasn’t] necessarily kitsch or as ornate as Indian design is so well known for,” she says. With this in mind, she’s worked tirelessly to craft unique tables and lamps, each one inspired by Indian heritage while simultaneously pushing it forward. She hopes that, if anything, each piece shows the world a little bit more of what her country has to offer. Click through to hear all about how she got her start and everything Ira Studio has up its sleeve. Enjoy! –Garrett


Photography courtesy of Ira Studio




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


It had always been my dream to start on my own. Having worked for a few years under a designer at a design house [taught me how hard it is] to get your creative voice heard when you are working for somebody else.


I have a strong affinity [for] India’s artistic heritage, especially the traditional handmade products I was exposed to from very early on. The love for those simple pieces of pottery, brass and copper kitchenware [and] the beautifully woven textiles left me with a feeling of longing to create something of my own. There is a need for change in the Indian craft industry and a way to provide fresh opportunities for craft families to remain in the industry. Once this interest developed into a passion, I wanted to try and create an identity for Indian crafts that [wasn’t] necessarily kitsch or as ornate as Indian design is so well known for. That’s how and why Ira Studio was born.


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


I think it all started when I was a kid. I’ve always been inclined towards art and design. My mother and I would visit craft fairs in our city, and our house was dotted with vintage products or traditionally made objects. During my undergrad courses I knew I wanted to design products, but wasn’t really sure what kind. I hadn’t yet developed a unique aesthetic or a design sensibility by then, so I went to London to study Design and Making and completed my Masters in Visual Arts at University of the Arts London. Being in a different country [highlighted] the uniqueness of the Indian artistic heritage and how [much it influenced me]. Further research about the craft industry in India fueled my desire to work with artisans to reinterpret traditional designs and processes for contemporary living.


Challenging the Status Quo with Ira Studio's Manasa Prithvi, Design*Sponge




























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


Do what you love, and do it well. I was always encouraged to pursue my passion, and work sincerely.


What was the most difficult part of starting your business?


It was to get the right people to notice the work: buyers and design publications alike. Apart from things like financing, it’s also a matter of self-discipline. It’s about setting standards for myself and making sure I don’t fall below those expectations.


How did you finance your business in the beginning?


I had encouraging parents and grandparents who generously helped me with the financing in the beginning. Since we make only limited-edition pieces and work with one product series at a time, I didn’t need a lot to start with.


Challenging the Status Quo with Ira Studio's Manasa Prithvi, Design*Sponge 


























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


The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that every product has to have certain procedures and quality controls or it just doesn’t work.


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?


It’s an ever-evolving process. I’m also slowly learning to trust my judgment and go with my intuition.


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


I think I would absorb those magical hours into my personal time. Perhaps [I’d] read, cook better meals or spend it doing something more cultural. These take a hit on normal [work] days!


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


I don’t think I’ve had to make any big sacrifices. I knew that there would be tough times, sacrifices of financial stability and the comfort of a regular job, but when you love what you do this feels totally worth it.


When you’re starting out and are in the early years of your business, it’s hard to strike a balance between work and your personal life. I’m still in the early years of my business and I’m still trying to strike that balance.


Challenging the Status Quo with Ira Studio's Manasa Prithvi, Design*Sponge




























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


Each time I get an email from an interested buyer saying that they love my work or when a client, after receiving the product, lets me know that they really loved it. For me, [that’s] success. It validates the work I do.


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


I don’t think there has been one major event that has led me to success. I’m a big believer of the saying  “Everything happens for the better.” [Not getting] into the design school I wanted led me to studying in London. I believe [this] opened many doors and really broadened my perspective.


Challenging the Status Quo with Ira Studio's Manasa Prithvi, Design*Sponge




















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


1. Be sure and extremely passionate about what you want to do, and know that you are capable of running the show.


2. If you want to stand out, you have to bring something new to the table. These days, most businesses are global, so having a unique voice that can be heard is important.


3. Tough days, uninspiring days, great days, tiring days, days when you want to give up and days when you love your job are all part of the mix. Be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them. 


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


I wish I didn’t do this, but I open my email and Instagram. A quick browse at all the wonderful images gets me going.


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


I’m responsible and answerable for everything. This can be mentally draining at times. The administration side of things can be a bit of a pain point for someone who is creative, but the reality is that you have to deal with it all. I’ve learned to prioritize and set schedules and [put] systems in place.