Things My Father Taught Me: Grace Bonney

With her blog and bookDesign*Sponge’s Grace Bonney sets the standard for sharing well-explained, well-thought-out ways to live in the hodgepodge of these modern times. From the site’s city guides to the DIY projects shared in the book, I’ve found so much of her hard work has inspired me and my life.

Here she shares a great tale of a man who lead by example, both as a business owner and as a parent, Chris Bonney.


 Chris, Grace, DuffI am an only child. My parents hate that term, but I’ve always been quite fond of it. I was incredibly fortunate to be the sole daughter of Chris and Elaine Bonney. Throughout my life I’ve had moments where I wished I had a sibling to blame for broken objects in the house (my feeble attempts to blame our Scottish Terrier were unsuccessful), but for the most part, I’ve always been very aware of the benefits of having my parents all to myself. While the pressure of having all of two people’s hopes and dreams placed on one person can be heavy at times, it was that (loving) pressure that made me who I am today.

Chris - 13 months old @ Cavalier Beach ClubIt’s always been easy for me to see the ways I am like my mother. We have so many similar interests and ways of being, but it wasn’t until I graduated from college that I started to see the deep connections I had with my father. I’ve always loved my Dad and lived in fear of disappointing him (like most daughters), but it wasn’t until I started my own business in 2004 that I truly understood- and deeply appreciated- him and all that he did for me and my family.

Chris 6 mos GraceMy father worked for an ad agency in Virginia that downsized dramatically in the 90s. Rather than hanging around hoping to find work at a similar agency, my father made the incredibly brave decision to go it on his own. Bonney & Company (we used to joke that the “company” was my Mom proof reading in the kitchen) was formed and I remember seeing how worried and tense my parents were for the first year or two while the business found its footing. But then I remember when things started to go well. I always knew my Dad was smart, strong and hard-working but seeing him take that fledgling business from a hope and idea to a thriving company that supported my Mom and I was truly inspiring.

My dadWhen I started my business after college, I understood first hand what it meant to be terrified to support yourself and the people working for you. While I’ve had my ups and downs with Design*Sponge, I’ve always looked to my Dad as an example of what can be done if you truly love what you do and work hard. He has been not only an inspiration to me in work, but in life as well. My dad has always been a photography lover, but when Flickr and Fotolog launched by in the early 2000s, he rediscovered a deep passion for the field and used his spare time to pursue photography as a career as well.

Chris and Grace in WalesWatching him build such a strong community of friends (and fans) through his photography work has been an incredible way to re-meet my Dad. My blogging friends know him and have friendships with him outside of our relationship and seeing his photos appear on book covers, in magazines and on the winner’s table at competitions has made me feel endless amounts of pride and happiness for him. If I can turn out to be half the hard-worker and passionate lover of the arts that he is, I will be a very lucky woman. It’s not everyone that gets to have a role model in their own family, but I feel forever grateful that I have not just a loving father at home, but one that reminds me that passion and hard-work can lead to true happiness and meaningful success in life.Grace Chris 2-13-06Grace Bonney