Creator of Design*Sponge and therefore supreme ruler of the interiors blogging world, Brooklyn-based Grace Bonney on the joys of working from her sofa, the great outdoors and the gravitational pull of good design.
Describe your workspace. My workspace is my sofa. I know it’s terrible for my posture, but I’m most comfortable sitting cross-legged with my cats next to me. It’s one of the perks of working at home. Running a website, you don’t need a ton of office equipment. I use my laptop and iPhone religiously, but other than that everything else is pretty much virtual. I love being able to pack up my laptop and feel like I have my entire office traveling with me.
Desk-free working must be lovely. Well, although I don’t work on it, I do actually have a desk, and it usually just has a stack of folders filled with inspiring clips from magazines and books that I need to eventually go through.
Who or what inspires your work? Talented women who’ve done things their own way: Martha Stewart, Donna Hay [right], Ina Garten, Dorothy Draper. My dream would be to get them all around a round table one day (obviously Dorothy couldn’t join us) and just listen to them talk. I love listening to anyone who is 100 per cent clear on their vision and passionate about what they do. No matter what niche they’re in, passion is always inspiring.
What’s your favourite piece of design? It’s impossible to pick one, but I’ve always been drawn towards the work that Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec do [right]. It’s more modern than most things in my home, but I consistently love everything they produce. In fact, my first blog post in 2004 included their bud vase.
You know a design is a success when… I feel a gravitational pull towards it, but it’s different every time. So I’d say to an artist, if you’re able to inspire that gut-level draw towards something, you’ve done well.
Why did you set up Design* Sponge? I was unhappy in my job and had always wanted to write for a magazine, so my boyfriend (now husband) suggested that I start a blog as a way to build up an online portfolio of the things I loved, in hope of one day submitting it to a magazine as an application. But the site seemed to fill a niche and it ended up becoming the job I didn’t know I could have. In six years it’s gone from a one-woman show, mainly focused on products, to a 20-person team of freelancers that contribute articles on everything from interior design and design history to recipes, floral design, entertaining and do-it-yourself projects.
What is your favourite part of your business? The ability to follow my passion and my interests wherever they lead me. When I’m bored or uninspired I can make it my job to seek out inspiration and find something I love and am passionate about. And sometimes that happens in the middle of the week during prime work hours. That’s something I couldn’t do if I had another job. I couldn’t just take off on a whim and decide to drive to a flea market.
What makes a great room? I look for a color palette that intrigues or soothes me, or a pattern choice that really makes a statement. I’m very black or white about things, so I tend to like a room that makes a dramatic statement, or something that’s calm, subdued and simple.
What music do you listen to while you work? I actually watch movies more than listen to music. Movies are the perfect chunk of working time. I work really intensely while they’re on and then take a break when they’re over. I tend to work all day every day without stopping. I’m a bit of a work-a-holic.
Describe your style at home? Our home is a mix of vintage and modern. I love working antique or family pieces into more contemporary designs so we tend to have a bit of both in each room. I’m still trying to find my groove in terms of a clear-cut style, so things are still a bit hodge-podgey right now. When I’m older and have a bit more of a budget at my disposal I’d like to invest in some nice antique rugs to really pull my things together. Right now large finishing pieces like that are outside of my range.
In another life, you would be… A food stylist. If I could spend my days surrounded by beautiful food and just arrange it for photoshoots I’d be a happy woman.
Describe the perfect weekend. No work. A car ride to a farm upstate and lots of amazing food. When I have free time I like to escape the city as much as possible and get outdoors. Nature is the ultimate stress-reliever for me.
Any claims to fame? I think I’m still working on bigger projects for the site so I don’t know if any one thing stands alone. But I am very proud of the “Biz Ladies” series I started in 2008. I realised that the designers I knew were in need of business help, so I funded an eight-city tour on my own dime to travel across the country and hold meet ups where hundreds of women running their own design-based businesses could come to get free business advice. It’s since turned into a weekly column on Design*Sponge. I still hear from people who say that certain articles helped them get their businesses up and running and that makes me feel really good about what we do at the site.
What invention would change your life? A robot assistant. I’d love to have a friendly machine I could program to do all the personal tasks I can’t find the time to do. And I’d feel dreadful assigning such boring tasks to a real human assistant, so some sort of friendly robot would be amazing.
Interview by Vicky Cockell. Photography by www.anthologymag.com