Brooklyn-based writer Grace Bonney—the 30 year old behind the popular style and design blog, Design*Sponge—talks with CultureMap about her first book, Design*Sponge at Home. Based off of her six-year old site that receives 75,000 visits a day and covers everything from DIY to entertaining and before-and-afters, the book is a compilation of favorite posts and never before seen content created especially for the book. Bonney will be visiting Austin October 15 at Anthropologie on North Lamar to do a signing and craft event.
CultureMap: What was the inspiration behind the creation of the Design*Sponge book? Was there a specific moment where you just thought, “I have to do this.”
Grace Bonney: I’d been thinking about doing a book for years, but I hadn’t found the right home for it. Most of the publishers wanted us to do a pre-existing or narrower topic, and I really didn’t feel right about doing a book that only included one topic. Over lunch with my good friend (and our book illustrator) Julia Rothman, she said “You know, you should make a Design*Sponge Bible—something that covers everything you guys do.” That concept really clicked for me and we ran with it, focusing on everything from homes and DIY to makeovers and shopping resources.
CM: Was there one thing you kept in mind during the duration of the process? Maybe a goal you wanted to accomplish or a feeling you wanted the book to have?
GB: Absolutely—I wanted the book to be highly cross-referencing. What I love about a blog is that one post can include links to everything you need. For example, if you’re looking at a home tour, we can include a link to a DIY project that teaches you how to make something in the picture, a link to a home renovation skill that would give you the same look and links to where to buy the pieces in the home. I wanted to keep that wealth of information in the book, so we made sure every home tour and every project would reference or inspire another part of the book. I wanted people to be able to flip back and forth to find anything and everything they need within one book.
What I love about a blog is that one post can include links to everything you need...I wanted to keep that wealth of information in the book, so we made sure every home tour and every project would reference or inspire another part of the book.
CM: What was your favorite part of creating the book?
GB: I really loved getting to work with my team more closely. I rarely get to meet with my editors and contributors in person, but for this project we got to work together on photo shoots and brainstorming sessions. That time with them was really priceless and inspired so many new projects.
CM: Was there any part of the process that took you by surprise?
GB: Absolutely—how hard it was to write. I’m so used to writing off-the-cuff and in a really casual tone. But books are such a permanent form of writing; there’s no going back to correct things or change information. Thinking about my writing in that format made me take everything more seriously.
CM: How did the idea to have craft sessions at your signings come about? What a cool idea, by the way.
GB: What I love about Design*Sponge is our celebration of regional design. I enjoy getting to meet people in different cities and really celebrating what makes each region or city so great. So I wanted each event to do that in some way. The projects were a natural extension of the book (which is heavily focused on DIY) and having them customized by a local artist was another fun way for us to celebrate local talent. We’ll also be working with local artists and designers to create custom backdrops and decorations that celebrate the city itself.
CM: How was the experience of designing a design book, is this something you would want to do again?
GB: It was harder than I could have even imagined (and I already imagined it would be tough), but I would definitely do it again if I came up with the right topic. This book was such a huge range of content areas, so I’d like to focus on something a bit narrower next time so we can go into depth about a specific topic.
CM: Have you ever been to Austin? Is there anything you are looking forward to seeing?
GB: I haven’t! I can’t believe I haven’t, to be honest. I’ve been to Texas several times before, but somehow my work and personal trips have always taken me to other cities. I’ve been dying to visit Austin for as long as I can remember and we’re so, so thrilled to get to visit our favorite places while we’re in town. I’m personally excited to try to fit in some live music while we’re in town—maybe after our event is over.