by Joanna Brichetto
Design*Sponge, “the most influential design site in the world,” is now a book. Design*Sponge at Home by Grace Bonney is a one-volume storehouse of projects and inspiration. Like the website, it’s an equal-opportunity resource, meaning that those of us on thrift-store budgets in tiny digs will find as many nifty ideas as will those with far more ready cash and square footage. If you like good design, get ready to soak it up (like a sponge). “Sneak Peeks”—photos of 75 real-life interiors—start the design ball rolling. Good design can come cheap: Witness the concrete block platform bed and tomato-soup-red peg-board pot rack. Then follow 50 DIY projects, along with how-to basics to make (or fake) them. Projects are listed by difficulty and time commitment. Expect clever repurposing like a library table made from an electrical spool, outdoor pendant lamps from wire planter baskets and concrete garden spheres from old lighting fixtures. A fresh flower workshop is included too, but the best bit is an ingenious before/after section wherein trash becomes treasure.
Dish: 813 Colorful, Wonderful Dinner Plates by Shax Riegler begins with a warning: “may induce dish mania.” While it is safe to say that those of us inclined to pick up this book are already besotted by china, it is calculated to attract anyone with an eye for design. Dish is a visual feast, a celebration of the diverse world of dinner plates, from porcelain to melamine and everything in between. An introduction and “eccentric” timeline set a context for the featured patterns, which are divided into sections: Elegance & Tradition; Color & Form; Art & Craft; Flora & Fauna; People & Places; Holidays & Celebrations. Each section is fired with commentary, history, descriptions, technical tidbits, fascinating sidebars and color photographs (including details and a few manufacturer marks). Look, too, for tips on how to use, clean, store, display and, of course, collect favorite dishes. An appendix lists the 100 most popular patterns, where I was both abashed and pleased to find several of my own.
TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES
Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery explodes the notion of needlework as quaint craft and nostalgic pastime, and reveals the astonishing artistry, creativity and activism at stitchwork’s cutting edge. Leanne Prain, co-author of the best-selling Yarn Bombing, stuffs 400 pages with fascinating artist profiles, interviews, history, how-tos and a gazillion color photos of amazing work. Embroidery is now at home everywhere: blogs, YouTube, curated exhibitions, installations, Etsy shops and the street. And it is at home on nearly any ground, not just traditional fabrics and Aida cloth. Featured artists transform dolls, military drop cloth, plastic bags, playing cards, notebook paper, public transport upholstery, maps and all manner of found and thrifted objects. Twenty-eight step-by-step projects are included (beginners welcome), mostly freeform with a few counted cross-stitch and needlepoint patterns. Make a “ransom note” pillow, a NYC MetroCard pouch or “woodgrain” wall hangings. Stitch embellishments onto photographs or wolf spiders onto vintage linen. Or, go completely subversive with nipple doilies, a fabric gun or “knuckle tattoo church gloves.” The book’s take-home message is to experiment, explore, express. Anyone can enrich an old medium with the fresh ideas and techniques offered here.