Subscription Box Insanity: Design*Sponge (Dec. ’14)

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Quarterly box packaging

A Quarterly Co. box is here! As the name implies, these subscriptions only come in every three months, prolonging the anticipation with the promise of the “cream of the crop” for sub boxes. (And starting at $50 a box and up, the expectation is that they will be!) One of the other foundations of Quarterly Co.’s model is that the items in the box are hand-selected by a celebrity curator. There are football players and chefs, bloggers, actresses, and fashionistas.

I currently have Quarterly subscriptions for curator My Subscription Addiction (Liz Cadman), a new curator– Naomi Kyle of the Daily Fix- and today’s curator Design*Sponge.  (I’ve also subscribed to Nina Garcia, Arianna Huffington, and Eva Scrivo’s boxes so check out my reviews of some of those here.) According to Quarterly’s bio for her:

“Grace Bonney is the founder of Design*Sponge and author of the best-selling book, Design*Sponge at Home. Grace is passionate about supporting all aspects of the design community, from up and coming designers to seasoned business owners. In 2007 she founded a scholarship for young designers and in 2008 she started the Biz Ladies series to help support and grow creative businesses. Grace also hosts a weekly radio show, After the Jump, where she interview artists and designers and discusses larger business issues within the creative community.”

I actually hadn’t discovered Ms. Bonney’s site until I came upon the Quarterly Co. collaboration but now that I have, I really enjoy her postings on Facebook. I’ve gotten excited about the purchase of a new home and decorating it so my new best friends are home/lifestyle sites like Design*Sponge and of course, Pinterest.

THE DETAILS: This subscription is priced at $100 a quarter, including shipping. Quarterly Co. delivers worldwide and typically doesn’t charge for the box until it is ready to ship/being shipped. They have a 100% money back guarantee and will send you a prepaid return label if you contact customer service and request to return your box and its contents. One other thing to note is that when a new curator comes out, the company often provides a code for $10 or so off the first box – but only for a very limited time. Quarterly Co. has 100% money back guarantee so you can contact them to get a prepaid return label.

Design Sponge Founder's Note

Design Sponge Founder’s Note

As you can see, Quarterly Co. boxes always include a curator note in a classic blue envelope. I usually skip over these until the end but it is definitely worth looking through because it is typically a note with personal thoughts and sentiments about each of the items selected by the curator.

First Look

First Look

Here’s a picture of the first look upon opening the box. I already see some things that I feel excited about and can’t wait to dig in!

Five Stripes: Ana Candles

Five Stripes: Ana Candles

The first item I pull out are a set of Ana Pageant Tapers by Five Stripes. I don’t normally go for such stark pairings of black and ivory, but these candles are really elegant and striking…and I really like them! They have a retail value of $24.

Kusmi Tea: Christmas Tea

Kusmi Tea: Christmas Tea

Tea is definitely one way to a this girl’s heart! I can never have enough, or enough varieties! This is Kusmi Tea’s Christmas Tea and the recipe has been around since 1917. It includes orange, almond, vanilla, and spices and I can’t wait to try it out. You may have to though…it’s sold out everywhere right now. Retail value for this size is $18.50.

Wary Meyers: Cedarwood & Vanilla

Wary Meyers: Cedarwood & Vanilla

Up next is this full-size of Wary Meyers’ Cedarwood & Vanilla soap. It is striking, mimics the pattern/coloring of the candles, and has an equally striking scent. I’m not a huge fan of cedarwood or vanilla personally, but it’s not an unpleasant scent and will make a very posh gift! Retail value is $14.

Cotton & Flax Felt Coasters

Cotton & Flax Felt Coasters

I think these gray and white Cotton & Flax Felt Coasters are darling! My only wish is that they would have included their normal pack of four, instead of just the two. Still, will definitely plan on keeping these on my glass-topped desk so I don’t have to keep wiping rings off the top from my tea cups.  (Woops!) Two of these have a retail value of $13.

Rifle Paper Co. Mini Composition Notebook

Rifle Paper Co. Mini Composition Notebook

Next up is this index-sized Rifle Paper Co. Composition Book. I can never have enough notepads for my desk so this is a keeper. I like the pattern too and it obviously fits with the ivory/black color theme of other items. Retail value for this is $7.

Furbish Studio Matches (Illume)

Furbish Studio Matches (Illume)

I have lots of candles around my home so these posh Illume Matches from Furbish Studio will be put to use! I couldn’t find an exact match online but Illume has other oversized-matches on clearance for $2.50.

A Heirloom Cutting Board

A Heirloom Cutting Board

The last item in the box was the teaser item from early advertising of this box. It’s this medium-sized, AHeirloom Maple Hardwood Cutting Board with burnt-wood etchings that match those of the felt coasters. It’s a nice design touch and the board is beautiful! AHeirloom also makes state-shaped cutting boards for those who are interested. Neat! Retail value of this is $45.

There was also a coupon code from Furbish Studio for 10% off at their site: MIXITUP

So a quick tally of this box results in a total retail value of $124. That’s 25% value above the actual price paid for the box. Now time for some real talk. I know when I was reading other folks’ comments about this box online, some felt that this total value was way below what they had hoped for from this box. There were also a lot of people who didn’t feel the box was “design-y” enough. I actually think that’s rubbish!

Based on  my research, many of these items came from small business owners, in which case there tends to be a huge amount of creative braintrust (as well as elbow grease!) embedded in the product. Further, in my experience, those boxes that tend to source from these types of entrepreneurs tend to not exhibit huge gaps between the price paid for the box versus total retail value tallies. This is likely because these vendors use high-quality materials and aren’t producing at pennies and then selling at huge mark-ups that inflate the values of the products included in the box. And yet what you get from these small business owners tends to be unique, delight the senses, and make you feel you got something someone actually felt invested in producing. Isn’t that worth something?

The other products that are not from small companies came from more well-known and/or high-end “design lifestyle” brands for which you are paying for the “on trend” design or artisanal look of that item to begin with.

In any case, I’m personally looking forward to Design*Sponge’s next box. Hoping that they can keep up the great curation and value. See you next time, dear readers!

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