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Customer Review

214 of 237 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A time capsule of 2011, January 15, 2012
This review is from: Design*Sponge at Home (Hardcover)
If you still think that wallpaper that mimics bookshelves is clever and just need help deciding between the Bertoia wire chairs and the Danish Modern wood ones, this is your book. It'll even give you ideas for stenciling your accent wall and wrapping your gifts in reclaimed maps. But even though I bought this book shortly after it came out, I'm already starting to find it dated.

Credit where credit's due: the production is beautiful. The cover is striking, you'll definitely want to leave it out on your Noguchi coffee table. It's a thick, heavy volume, with full color throughout. The photos on some pages are a little small, but they're printed clearly and arranged well. Text is laid out well and easy to read - not always the case with interior decorating books. The first part of the book shows homes, the middle has projects and tutorials, and the last part has Before & Afters. There's also a useful list of resources and a glossary in the back. The design and organization of this book are impeccable.

The featured homes show off an eclectic style that will be familiar to you if you read the design blogs. You'll see every trend that was hot in 2011: chevron, vintage globes, lots of teal and grey, reclaimed wood floors, DIY woodblock prints, chandeliers, white-on-white, etc. What's great is that these are real lived-in homes displayed by people just like you and me.

That's also the problem. You start off feeling a pleasant kinship: "Hey, I too collect mercury glass and blanc de chine. This book is awesome." Flip through a bit more and you'll pause your Eames rocker, "Wait a minute, isn't that the same Polaroid camera I just bought at a yardsale? And wow, I have that same Hayden Harnett satchel. " Slog through 196 pages of this and message becomes clear: we're all shopping at the same places, vying for the same vintage finds, tackling the same DIY projects. Sure, each home is its own quirky self. But to the casual eye, one snowflake looks an awful lot like another.

So let's move on to the DIY section. Did you know you can make cake plates by gluing a saucer on a candlestick? Unless you've been living under a DIY rock this past year, I bet you did. You probably already have a fair understanding of what can be made from a reclaimed wood pallet, and more bunting and homemade wreaths than anyone has a right to possess. Even so, there are some neat projects, like a glass dome full of butterflies that only takes $300 in supplies - but it is beautiful. A disproportionate amount of the tutorial section is dedicated to floral arrangement, but it also includes slipcovers and... well, that's about it. Slipcovers and flower arrangement.

The Before & Afters are my favorite part. You can't go wrong with a B&A, they're fun if they're inspiring and funny if they're disastrous. This has a little of both and does not disappoint. I wouldn't have minded if this section were bigger. Make sure to give this part a flip-through if you see it in a bookstore.

"Now wait just a minute," I can hear you say. "We're not all like that. I don't have any chandeliers and I have never painted a single thing with chalkboard paint. I don't read this Sponge Therapy blog or whatever it's called. I just want decorating tips." In that case, you'll miss half the fun of this book. You may be better off looking at a decorating book that isn't written by bloggers or designers du jour. But don't ask me for recommendations, I can't think of any.

I'm not sad I bought this book. I fully intend to give it a careful read five or ten years from now and have a good laugh. By then I'll see which ideas stand the test of time, the things that may be overdone and ubiquitous now but still have longterm resonance. For now, this will just sit on my bookshelf - real, not wallpaper.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 30, 2012 4:55:17 PM PDT
jinjiber says:
So funny, and so true. Love your writing-I hope it gets a wider audience than this!

Sponge Therapy.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 1, 2012 1:17:05 PM PDT
Moi Surtout says:
There aren't many folks in real life who'll listen to me blather about design trends, so I'm happy if my reviews have any audience at all. I often hope I'll meet someone, say on a job interview or blind date, who'll break the ice with, 'so how do you REALLY feel about ikat?' or 'industrial castors on coffee tables, overdone or no?' For now it looks like Amazon will have to be my outlet. Thanks for the kind words!

Posted on Jun 12, 2012 1:17:36 AM PDT
Your review is both informative and hilarious! Many thanks for the detailed analysis and the laughs.

Posted on Sep 19, 2012 3:51:26 PM PDT
R. Mooney says:
Love your review. I could have done without the crafting, but, as whole, book not too bad. Just too big.

Posted on Jan 13, 2013 3:04:24 PM PST
Katie J. says:
I'm not quite sure which is worse: hipster reviews of DIY craft books or painfully self-important hipster reviews of DIY craft books.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2013 2:48:04 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 14, 2013 2:48:49 PM PST
Moi Surtout says:
You got me, Katherine. They say every critic is a failed artist, right? I'm just waiting for the day when I make my own DIY craft book, hand-printed on a letterpress with tipped-in photos printed off Instagram. All the text will be really tiny Helvetica Neue, except for chapter titles which will be in convoluted hand-drawn swash caps. The style will be an eclectic fusion of Versailles and Motel 6. All the projects will use a combination of reclaimed/upcycled materials and specialized craft supplies only available in Japan. Every copy will come with a vinyl record of some guy playing the ukulele whilst reciting a list of addresses for Anthropologie. It'll be a limited edition of 3, but go to any loft-warming party and you'll hear people saying, `yes I have a favorite DIY craft book, but you've probably never heard of it...'

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 17, 2013 6:32:45 PM PDT
Mom of Two says:
You seem so knowledgable about the current trends. I know you said in your initial review that you don't have any suggestions for an alternative do you stay up on what is current? Blogs? Just curious...I need help...It seems I'm about 2-3 years behind!!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 17, 2013 11:56:11 PM PDT
Moi Surtout says:
All you really need is Pinterest. Repin the rooms that inspire you, and then look through what you've picked and see what the similarities are. Discover what you love and what suits your lifestyle best. Look at where your favourite photos are repinned from, and that will probably lead you to blogs or other sites you might like.

Don't worry about being current, just follow your heart. Anything that looks especially trendy today will look especially dated tomorrow.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 19, 2013 6:59:20 PM PDT
Mom of Two says:
That's excellent advice, and thanks for taking the time to respond. Best wishes to you. And please keep writing reviews! You're an interesting and clever writer.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2014 7:20:35 PM PST
Lesterkitty says:
Thank you!
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