Interview with Grace Bonney


Grace Bonney


Position: Writer & Editor
Location: Brooklyn, NYC

Grace has a great eye for design and a wonderful way of sharing neat new things…

CL: Somehow you created this sort of worm whole for all things amazing and beautiful.. because they all end up on your Design Sponge… Why did you start DS?

Grace Bonney: Well to be honest, D*S started as a hobby- a way to spare my boyfriend from incessant design commentary. It just sort of grew from there- I’ve added and subtracted features as I’ve gone along. Usually I’ll come up with an idea (or someone will suggest one) and Ill work pretty intensely to get it up and running in a few days. The web is a perfect medium for someone as antsy as I am.

CL: What about home and product design struck your interest and how did you get started?

Grace Bonney: I think my love of design comes from my parents- my mother is extremely interested in interior and garden design and my father has a big love of architecture and photography. I grew up around those things and I think it just took me a while to realize that my interests fell somewhere in between. To be honest I didn’t even know “design” existed until I was in college. I always loved products- furniture, lighting, things like that- but I grew up in a pretty traditional southern town where “artists” did things like painting or sculpture. Design just wasn’t a category I knew about. But when I decided to major in art my professor handed me a book on women in design and opened my eyes to the world of industrial design and the beauty of “products”. I think it was just a natural progression for me to turn to home products as opposed to more traditional industrial design- though I certainly appreciate objects outside of the home world.

CL: Light and Colour are like the Brad and Jen Angelina of design So let’s take a moment to talk about lighting. In an art gallery the paintings on the wall have very bright consistent light… but in the home… who knows what sort of light you’re getting.

Is there an ideal set-up for lighting a room that best enhances the colors of the room? Ie, if you have a room with Big Windows… a light wall color works best with a dark trim? Enhanced by dark furniture and products?

Grace Bonney: Let me say first that I’m totally on team Aniston. I cant think of Angelina without screaming “home wrecker!” in my mind. Though, back when I worked for Vitra, Brad Pitt was a hot topic- he was apparently a big fan of Vitra’s furniture and met with their CEO a few times, Rolf Fehlbaum. I used to hope (like a moron) that heŇ’d magically show up at our holiday party one day. Anyway, back to lighting…

I’m a big fan of natural lighting combined with artificial light kept at mid-levels. I despise, with a capital D, overhead lighting. Unless of course it’s done gently with soft overhead pendants. Something about spotlights, track lighting and harsh ceiling lights sucks the warmth out of a room. I think that natural light should be the focus of any room. If you’ve got it, flaunt it- natural light makes every room feel warmer, brighter and, in most cases, larger. The nice thing about natural light is that it can handle dark colors and enhance a lighter scheme. So if you’ve got an abundance of natural light- feel free to go to either color spectrum, you’re pretty safe. But if you’re working with smaller spaces and less natural light try to balance the colors and your lighting scheme. If you’re working with deep colors (chocolate browns, reds, deep burgundies) try to keep your lighting rich and warm. Avoid those bulbs that tend to make things look cool- blue lights I think? They just don’t do a dark room any favors. I like to mix table lamps with sconces in a dark room- sconces always add a nice warmth to a darker room.

No matter what your choice, make sure its something that feels warm and comfortable. If you’re going ultra light (think Scandinavian: white walls, blond wood) try to keep the wood warm and the accessories welcoming. Nothing’s worse than a room that looks and feels cold. The right light and the right use of color and texture in a room can keep any home looking warm and approachable.

For me, the must have lighting of the moment is divided into two categories: hanging lights and table lights. I’ve never been a fan of track lighting or floor lighting because I think there’s something nice about having light near your face- a warm table lamp or a slightly head-level pendant are always great options. The classic never seem to go out of style (Nelson Bubble Lamps, a great crystal chandelier, Akari Lighting..) but these days I love the trend in resin lighting. Resin, whether clear or colored, lets such a soft light shine through. Nothing kills a room’s mood like an exposed bulb or harsh lighting- something about the soft shine of light through colored resin always makes me smile. You can find resin lights by a number of different companies these days in all sorts of price ranges.

If resin isn’t your thing than I highly suggest checking out stores like Velocity Art and Design, Design Public, 2modern, Gnr8 and YLighting for overhead options. Anthropologie actually carries some great chandeliers these days, too. And if you’ve got a little extra change in your pocket I’m a big fan of Niche Modern’s pendants. They’re use these great old-timey filament bulbs that give a room real character.

CL: I think the learning and soon to be earning designers are what we have to look forward to and I appreciate a great site like yours taking the time to cover student designers. Are you noticing any trends emerging from the student sector that we aren’t seeing much of in the commercial world?

Grace Bonney: Thank you- I couldn’t agree more about student designers being what we should look forward to.. In fact, it’s why I’m launching a D*S Scholarship in 2007 to support student designers. It’s tough to support yourself and travel and take part in necessary (but often unpaid) internships as a young designer so I hope I can give back as much as possible in this way.

I think student designers across the country vary widely in terms of the projects and materials they’re using. But that of course does tend to point to one trend I’m seeing a lot among all students- local materials. Kids on the west coast tend to hit up lumber yards in the Pacific Northwest for spare or reclaimed wood while students in the northeast often check out city lots and abandoned urban areas for found objects you wouldn’t be able to get in other parts of the country. I think the neat thing about student designers is that they get to create in a way that isn’t limited by a manufacturer, overhead costs or a director or marketing who thinks that a brand needs to go in a certain direction to stay on top of a trend or movement. They get to create things that make them happy, as opposed to a boss. Certainly some schools impose a bit more upon their students but I tend to watch design students for this reason- they create because they can, not because their boss is telling them to. For this reason they often use materials that mainstream design hasn’t used or thought of yet- so while some of the trends they create haven’t hit the mainstream yet, they almost always do. Years ago students were using leftover materials like industrial felt and corrugated cardboard to create products and we’re now seeing that everywhere. I think most things have a way of trickling up so there isn’t much that I’m seeing there that isn’t already slowly working it’s way up to the bigger companies yet. Then again, that may change in the spring when we get to see students’ end of the year projects… it’s always my favorite time of year.

CL: Because students have less of a need to sell and support themselves… do you see them being more adventurous with design or colour usage?

Grace Bonney: Absolutely. It’s fantastic to watch people create almost entirely for the love of creating. As you get older and work for different companies you have a lot of outside pressure on you so it’s great to see student’s working for the love of design. Of course every school varies in terms of what they require of design students but most of the big ones let them create with a decent amount of freedom.

CL: Out of the too many to count great pieces of advice you could offer COLOURlovers on choosing some great products for their homes, what one piece of advice could you give them about adding some more color to the home?

Grace Bonney: Number one would be: don’t be afraid to use bold color in moderation. They key is always to balance things out. Most people can’t achieve that bold, Jonathan Adler meets Palm Beach color scheme on their own without a little professional help to keep it from looking like a carnival. So my advice is to keep it simple. If you love pattern, try adding wallpaper to one accent wall, or just using a bold colored paint or wall hanging. You can always balance that out with neutrals on the other walls or neutral furniture. A room feels lost without a focal point so I think it’s great to use color as that focal point. If that still sounds too scary try using a neutral colored wall (Benjamin Moore’s new metallic paint collection is fantastic for this) and adding color in the form of rugs, accent pillows and accent furniture. One great way to do that is to hit up local flea markets and goodwill stores for basic furniture that can be repainted. Nothing perks up a space like a bright teal chair or a little table painted in a hot pink hue.

CL: Do you have a favorite post out of your so many that you could say is your favorite?

Grace Bonney: My gut reaction is actually the post I did on Karen Combs’ wallpaper studio- Nama Rococo. She’s since become a mega star but I was, by dumb luck, the first person to write about her. Karen is a friend of a friend of the gang at Variegated Inc. The Variegated guys sent me her site the day it launched and I was instantly smitten. Ive been hooked every since. Her hand painted wallpapers are too gorgeous for words.

CL: So Grace please tell us what your favorite color of the moment is?

Grace Bonney:’s a toss up between a bold chartreuse and a nice bright teal. I love those two colors together or used against a neutral backdrop. I also have a soft spot for electric yellow. Creating a small all-white bathroom with little pops of electric yellow is my dream project.

CL: What is your favorite palette?

Grace Bonney: Too many to say really but the neutral + teal + chartreuse is a winner in my book. I always love soft pink + black + white, too. Very southern lady.

CL: Thanks Grace… now off to browse through D*S and find some wall decoration inspiration for my newly remodeled bedroom.

Author: COLOURlover
My name is Darius A Monsef IV & my friends call me Bub(s)(ba). Chief Lover at / Cofounder of Founder, Philanthropist, Designer, Builder & Writer. P.S. I love you.