How to mix masculine and feminine styles together

Sometimes I’m convinced that the world would just function so much better every day if we all lived in same-sex houses. Besides the fact that Brian and I only agree on like, two TV shows to watch, design-wise he is not impressed with my “throw pillows that hurt my face,” or he might think my “collection of miniature gold shoes is weird.” It’s just hard to design for both sexes. In general, guys want things less decorative, more functional, less pretty, more tech-y, less awesome, more “boy.”

I apologize for how gender stereotypical this post is about to be. You might start to argue that these stereotypes don’t exist for everyone and you are definitely right … BUT after doing 26 houses on the show and then 12 since, there were almost always the same requests from males and females, so the stereotypes became kinda undeniable. It’s like saying people from the South are more friendly or gay men have better style then straight — of course, not EVERYONE agrees but generally this is a truth we all know.

So in this video I show you some tips to mixing his and her styles together. Once again I apologize to all you same-sex couples out there that read this blog and have to deal with heterosexual gender stereotypes. Maybe one of you might have more masculine or feminine taste than your partner so hopefully there is still some info for you.

Video by Modshift for me.

Meanwhile, check out this post on Design Compromise for Couples that I wrote a while ago, with an additional six more tips.

Happy Friday, folks. We have a special post on Monday so make sure to come back. Have an awesome weekend. xx

Custom made furniture … Bri’s Credenza

You all remember Bri and Arian’s apartment, right? Well I tried not to show you the credenza so I could do this post on it, and hopefully you’ve slept in the last three months while waiting for it because here it finally is.

When we started, Bri and Arian had their TV on this bad boy — a mid-century dresser retrofitted to be a media unit. It was so not bad, but it also just wasn’t awesome. It was dark, clunky, and too small for that giant TV. Bri hated it and it totally bummed her out.

small credenza

But the piece itself wasn’t the biggest challenge  — there are a lot of good credenzas out there — it was all the media components that didn’t fit inside the piece that were really hard to design around. Arian is super into high tech media, specifically audio, and NOT having really good sound wasn’t really an option; it was one of his only deal breakers. So he needed really good speakers, left, center, and right – not just one in the middle (which of course I proposed before I, too, became an audio person). More on that later …

So we picked out some new speakers, the JBL Studo 530, and I designed the credenza to do these three things:

1. Lighten the space while still working with the mid-century modern vibe.

2. Be larger and better proportioned to the TV and the room.

3. Hide the media components that could be hidden (with sliding doors as opposed to cupboards that stick out into the room) and yet leave out the audio that needed to be exposed, but make them look more attractive.

So I started drawing, which I don’t do well so thank God for the invention of the ruler.

credenza sketch

The TV is 60 inches wide so I knew that I wanted it to be at least one foot on either side, so the credenza was proportioned to the TV= 84 inches. If it were a massive room, it could’ve even been longer, but the space isn’t huge so 84 inches was about the longest I could go without the piece taking over the room. The depth is relatively standard, but we made sure to measure the components inside and make sure that they would all fit with the doors shut (including the chord things that stick out at the back). The height was more negotiable but I decided that 30 inches would work nicely based on how high they wanted to view their TV. I measured the speakers and left an inch of room just in case, and then I measured the components and made sure there was plenty of space inside the unit itself. There was a lot of measuring, and I, Emily Henderson, am NOT a terribly good measure taker but I got through it.

Next I took it to get some quotes. I know you are asking, “How do you find furniture builders?” and it’s really easy and difficult at the same time. I knew a guy who knew a guy and unfortunately I promised the guy I got the name from that I wouldn’t tell you, BUT you can also do these things:

1. Go on Craigslist and post an ad. Obviously make sure that once they respond that they show you pieces they have built so you know they aren’t just dudes desperate for a gig. These days there are quite a few of them online, at least in LA — good and bad.

2. Ask around. This is way more difficult unless you are in the habit of asking your refinisher to ask their brother who is a furniture delivery dude if he knows anyone that makes furniture. This is what I did, but at the same time I obviously have a bunch of dudes that work in the arena.

Anyway, I found my dude and he’s awesome. The quote was $1,200, which I thought was totally fair for a HUGE piece of furniture that is totally customized, with beautiful joints and beautiful wood veneer on the inside. So after a week, I went to go visit the piece:

custom credenza

It was coming together, indeed. I decided on doing the outside a clean paintable wood because I was going to have it lacquered white. BUT Bri and Arian really still wanted some wood so we decided to do two of the three panels (yes, he suggested adding a panel in between the two sliders) made of pretty stained wood. And then we figured since the components were black, then the inside should be dark so I went for the same stain inside the piece.

  custom credenza

One week later it was even closer to being done. We had to change out the legs from the ones in the drawing because with all the measurements we realized that the legs could be no more than 6 inches tall in order for the piece to not to be too gigantic, so instead we opted for the mid-century style peg legs, and six of them to keep it all sturdy. The piece is right side up in this pic, with the legs on top, but that was just to show me how the feet were going to fit, and how spaced apart they should be, etc.  The piece was coming along …

And then one week later:

mid-century credenza

BOOM. Dunzo. (Photo by the lovely Laure Joliet) We were all VERY happy with the final result, thank god, because with custom you don’t get to return anything obviously so you are taking a bit of a risk. The size was wildly better because it was way more proportioned to the TV, and in fact made the TV less noticeable and smaller. Before when it was on the wood dresser, it dwarfed the media unit, and therefore made the TV look extra giant. Now it just looks like a dope TV, ready for me to watch all my stories. With the whole top dedicated to the JBL speakers in a clean, proportioned way, it drew way less attention to them and made the whole thing look more intentional. Arian got his sound, and Bri got all the rest of the media hidden inside.

midcentury credenza

Customizing that bad boy was VERY satisfying. I know that it’s not really a very accessible tip: “Hey if you have an extra $1,200, know a REALLY good furniture maker, can draw, and have lots of extra time on your hands and/or an interior designer on staff, go ahead and customize your furniture …” but I will say it was WAY easier than I thought it would be and turned out far better than I expected. We got something that would cost at least $3,500 at most stores, that fit the needs of my clients EXACTLY, was one of a kind, AND was designed and delivered within three weeks — all for $1,200.

custom credenza

And just because it’s so satisfying, here we are again, BEFORE:

small credenza

And now, AFTER:

mid-century credenza

Check this post for all other shopping resources in Bri’s house. Meanwhile, what do you think? Are you slightly LESS intimidated to customize something? The design of this was inspired by some Paul McCobb pieces (that I love) from the ’60s and has also inspired the credenzas from Organic Modernism, so if you want something similar but don’t want to customize it yourself, check out their site. 

Come back tomorrow for a video staring me and my/the new credenza. We’ll talk about how to mix masculine and feminine styles in the same space … and then we make out.

**This post was in partnership with JBL, but all ideas, designs, words, and opinions are totally mine. 


Sunrise Video, The makeover in action

I can’t believe all the amazing comments from yesterday. Thank you so so so much for reading, engaging, caring, commenting, and overall just being so supportive. Orlando and I loved every minute of it and it just gets more rewarding every second.

So in case you didn’t get enough and want to see it in action, here’s the video of the makeover for your viewing pleasure. Share it around if you are so inclined.

And remember, if you have a family member in need of assisted living check out the “Tour of Homes” event at Sunrise throughout June 2 – 8. Check out their site to find the community nearest you.

Thanks again, you guys.  I’m on cloud nine right now.

Fran’s Sunrise Senior Living Makeover

My very first job, besides babysitting (please, I was raised Mormon therefore I had my first babysitting job at nine), was waitressing at an assisted living community in Lake Oswego when I was 15. It was every day from 5pm – 8pm for dinner service and I loved it. The community itself was really happy and the seniors had fun. They were always in good spirits and seemed to genuinely like being there.

At the same time our 98 year old great step-aunt was living with us who had suffered from severe Alzheimer’s and had lost a lot of her sight and hearing. Despite the fact that she donned a less fashionable yet slightly hipster beard, she was an every day presence in our house for over 10 years. I remember on July 4th, we always had to keep her very monitored because the fireworks (that she could hear) reminded her of bombs from when she was a nurse in the war (I think WWII) and she would try to run and go for cover — outside, often in the neighbors shrubs. And these situations made me realize, Oh right … she was once 16 too, except she was a nurse in WWII instead of in high school …

LONG STORY SHORT, I have a thing for seniors and have known from a very early age that I would be one someday (hopefully) so they deserve SERIOUS respect.

Which brings me to Fran at the Sunrise Senior Living Community in D.C.

sunrise living makeover

Sunrise Living had a national contest for a makeover for one of their residents, and Fran, who nominated herself and was dying for a makeover of her space, won. As much as I’d like to say that Fran deserved it more than anyone, it’s simply not true — because they ALL deserve it. If there is one thing I’ve learned with my limited time with seniors is that every one has a pretty incredible story. And I feel like this generation might have even more; Fran’s husband was the first African American fighter pilot in Korea and went on to be a general in Vietnam. She was born in the ’30s, lived through segregation, the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam, etc. and happily lived long enough to see Obama get elected. Her whole story is incredible and kinda makes me feel like I need to be more inspired to do bigger things, but give me 40 more years and we’ll all be there.

Anyway, back to the makeover. Fran, like most of us at this age, has too much. The apartments in Sunrise are spacious, but you still have to most likely downsize when you move in. Here’s what it looked like when we started:


The major needs were:

1. Storage. Fran, like myself, had tons of papers and crafts, which is fine, but not the proper attractive storage to house said paper, which is not so fine. So we needed cohesive, inexpensive, attractive storage pieces that were accessible to Fran, who’s in a wheelchair. Nothing too tall or cabinets that were awkward when opening outward.

2. Color. Fran loves color, specifically teal, aqua, turquoise, and salmon/coral. Asking me to use teal and aqua is like asking Kim Kardashian to show cleavage — it’s really what I want to do anyway, but when someone asks me to do it? I’m gonna really DO it.

3. Style. Fran is a fan of mid-century modern and definitely veers away from traditional design. She likes clean lines and high quality. The loopy valances for instance drove her crazy. She had a ton of really awesome Danish pieces that she bought from a dealer in Scandinavia in the ’50s while they were living in Tripoli. So they’ve owned it for 65 years. It feels like home to her, and it feels like awesome to me. Plus, Fran is happy and funny and it needs to feel happy and alive. So stylistically it was off.

4. Seating. While Fran is in a wheelchair and doesn’t need any seating (certainly not a sofa that was going to take up a lot of precious storage space) she did need somewhere for guests to sit. She has four daughters that needed a more inviting place to hang out and hopefully entice them to visit even more. PLUS, Fran is very popular at the community so she has a lot of friends that pop by all the time.

We had three days and $3,000. It’s a challenge, folks, but also like Kim K., totally doable. The good news is that A. all the apartments have a ton of light, which helps out design wise, and B. we could do whatever we wanted besides change the carpet or knock down walls.

Here’s how the space looked three days later:

After Shot 1

Ah, yeah. Now that is a happy room. We flipped a lot of the furniture, opening the layout and giving more access to the beautiful windows with so much pretty light. The walls went a very happy Benjamin Moore Ocean Spray, which instantly enlivened the space and just made it feel oh-so-inviting. The window mullions were already a dark teal so I knew that that would actually add to the color scheme. The window treatments look wildly different but all we did was get rid of the peach traditional valance, which instantly modernized the room.

The desk with computer monitor and the TV were both in front of the windows, so we moved them to walls that weren’t in front of the windows and replaced the TV with a flat screen, to take up less space.



A good trick is that if you don’t want to clutter a lot of counter space and you need more storage space, add some floating or bracketed shelving. It engages the vertical space, adds interest, and these showcased Fran’s more special accessories that she doesn’t need access to. Of course I added a brass animal from Target because like a vampire with human blood, I feel compelled, nay, emotionally forced to add a brass animal to every space. (I’m rewatching “Twilight” while writing this, forgive me).

Resources:  Desk, Fran’s own vintage; Shelf Bracket, $2; Shelf, $5; Work Lamp, $24.99; Frames/Accessories from Target.



We moved her bookcase between the windows to engage that vertical space and add some contrast to all the necessary horizontal and lower pieces of furniture. We brought in those club chairs to provide a comfy seating area for guests and to soften the room, which, let’s face it, has a lot of pieces of square hard furniture. I chose the coral as our accent color because Fran loves salmon but we were afraid that salmon and aqua could go ’80s really fast. We just saturated that color a bit to make it coral. Those chairs were the only things that we really planned in advance because with seniors you want to make sure to get seating that is easy to both get into and get out of, which is dependant on the seat height, arm height, and seat depth. These are not crazy low and the height of the arm allows for assistance getting out of the chair for all of Fran’s friends in the community who come to visit. These things I  don’t think about too often so I definitely learned a thing or two while doing this project. We added the round side table because A. round is safe on the hips, and B. it took up very little space, and took up even less “visual space” since it’s open wire and C. was $59.99. So good.

Resources: Colin Club Chair, $355.99 from target; Basket from Home Goods; Side Table from Target Threshold, $59.99; Throw pillow, Nate Berkus for Target.


This area was probably the most challenging because all those binders needed to be easily accessible as they are Fran’s photo albums and she looks at them a lot. Nor did we want to switch them out to less, well, plastic albums because we didn’t want to even attempt to transfer them in case we ruined the organization of them. Plus, they were in our color palette. The armoire next to them had some clothing storage but was basically unused. It was one of the provided pieces of furniture so she had no sentimental attachments to it, likewise with the recliner.  We did a bit of reorganizing (and yes, her daughter helped her sort through some of the files and put in storage the less commonly accessed boxes).


Ah. So much better. Really all we did was color block the binders, and bought some white magazine holders for the looser items, and some pretty storage boxes for the loose items. (All from Ikea.)


Wait, maybe this was the most challenging spot. Fran had a plethora of plants and craft supplies. I wish I could criticize even a tiny bit, but that would be like Snookie making fun of Tanning Mom. So I channeled my inner clutter addict (no H-word today) and we organized the hell out of this craft station.


Why can’t I do this for myself? We transferred all her items drawer by drawer so she still knows where everything is, but by making all the storage pieces cohesive it looks so much cleaner. For the desk we chose these drawer bases to save a lot of space and add storage. For the smaller items, we bought the other drawer systems that were the same style as the others — simple, white, and streamlined. Of course we spraypainted the cheap silver handles on them gold, as we do, which elevated them a ton. That stone lamp was hers, but we updated the shade with a new one from HomeGoods. And there is no chair (and no area rugs) because she is in a wheelchair.


For the plant situation we decided to corral them together and create a vertical garden on the windows with brackets and shelves. We changed out the pots to be more in line with the color palette, bought a few more to fill out the collection, and stacked them up on the shelves. Don’t worry; Fran has someone that comes in and waters the plants.

Resources:  Ikea Alex Drawer Unit, $79.99; Ikea White Desk Top, $70; Ikea Helmer Drawer Unit, $39.99; Coral Vase Target, Threshold; white and gold bowl Nate Berkus for Target; Mail Organizer, $19.99


We just bought simple white brackets from Ikea and white glass, although we thought we were buying the clear glass shelves so it wouldn’t block the view/light but once we opened them we realized they were white glass, which was fine. For accessories, we put old and new photos of Fran and her family in cute frames. Again, the frames were consistent whereas before she had random frames that weren’t necessarily high quality or cohesive, so these new fresh frames helped a lot. (HomeGoods and Target).

Here’s the space with the mid-century chair for all your pinning needs. :)


That chair has been Fran’s for 65 years. I mean, they really don’t make them like they used to, at least not affordable these days. And the fabric is original and perfect for our color scheme. Nice job, Fran. You made my job so much easier by liking good stuff.


Let’s go into the bedroom now, shall we? Fran had a beautiful screen and a great mid-century nightstand and a standing lamp she loved, but otherwise we had free reign to do whatever we wanted. She needed color, a proper headboard, and some pretty lighting and styling.


So that’s what we did:


We loved that piece of art, so we used that as the jumping off point for the design of the room. We pulled this more medium tone teal from the colors in the trees and it instantly gave the bedroom some life, while at the same time making it cozy and warm. The headboard was a much needed (and inexpensive) way to create a focal wall in her bedroom. We chose an upholstered one because, well, I love them the best because they are just so soft, inviting, and more comfortable. We kept it white to contrast with the wall, and yet keep the room feeling fresh and happy. We added a touch sconce on the left so Fran can easily turn it on and off while in bed and she doesn’t have to reach over too far. And we made sure that the bedding had contrast between the top layer and the sheets so if/when her eyes are weak she can differentiate all the layers.

Headboard, $254.99; Comforter Nate Berkus for Target, $89.99; Sconce, Lamps Plus; Throw pillow, blanket, and lamp shade, HomeGoods.

before bedroom

teal and coral bedroom


This side of the room had just too much, but that mid-century piece was beautiful. Her daughter helped us organize these things and took some to storage and put others in the storage in the living room.


Ahh. So much happier, cleaner, fresher, and way more deserving of a very good night’s sleep. Truth be told, when we shot this her TV was in her temporary apartment down the hall where she stayed for the three days. It came back that night and now lives on that dresser where the books are.


But meanwhile, this is just so pretty and calming. This room got a ton of light so that teal was just so alive and created an instant feeling in the room, whereas a neutral color would have made it feel more, well, neutral. This color tied in with the living room, but provided enough contrast to make them feel like the two different spaces that they are.

So how did Fran react? Just as a reminder, we went from this:


To this:

After Shot 1

And in came Fran:

sunrise senior living

sunrise senior living

Sunrise Senior Living

Emily and Fran hugging

I mean, could my job be any better? Could design work be more satisfying? Orlando and I arrived on Monday and transformed her home completely in three days, and made the deserving Fran oh-so-happy. Sometimes I can’t believe how fulfilling decorating can be.

Thank you so much Sunrise for asking me to be apart of this project. Ultimately, the reason I wanted to do it was because I think that your home should reflect your personality at any age, and the reason I chose to work with Sunrise is that their communities are so happy, fun, safe, and they allow each resident to make their apartments feel like their home. Bring your pets, paint the walls, bring all of your furniture, accessories, pianos, lighting — anything. You get 24 hour monitored care in a really homey, happy environment. The food is GOOD (we ate there all three days), there are movies every night, a hair salon, day and night outings, game nights galore, and ultimate freedom to do whatever you want, but with guidance and monitoring to make sure you are always healthy. There are over 300 Sunrise communities spread around the U.S., so if assisted living is something that you’ve been considering for a family member, I highly recommend Sunrise. I’ve visited three now, and all of them have impressed me.  I spoke to an elderly man in the one at Westlake and he grabbed my hand and with tears in his eyes told me, “I just love it here so much.” I get chills just thinking about it. Sold.

Aunt Flossie would probably have loved it here.

Sunrise is having their “Tour of Homes,” starting June 2 – 8, which means when you stop by one the residents open their doors so you can see how they live. Plus, you get a design guide by yours truly that will help you design with seniors in mind. There’s a lot to learn, but I did the research for you.


Flea Market upgrades for “Good Housekeeping”

Last year “Good Housekeeping” asked if they could do a feature on me and my flea market shopping. Knowing that “Good Housekeeping” is the NUMBER TWO most popular magazine (think about it, every Dr.’s office in the world) with 4.5 million readers I said, “Does Lindsey Lohan love ankle monitors? YES, let’s do that.”  So we shot the “before’s” in January at the Rose Bowl, the “after’s” all styled up in March, and now the feature is in the June issue, which is only on the shelves for 10 more days.



Remind me next time to drink dandelion water or whatever celebs drink the day before a shoot to debloat them. My face could hold up a cruise ship in that photo. Must have been a really good Saturday night the night before.

These were the eight things that we bought below. The idea was that they all needed to be cheap and simple enough that they could be turned into something great. They also needed to be easily doable — not a crazy 14-step process DIY. The magazine wanted nothing mid-century or regency-style, all more traditional or country so I had to keep that in mind, too.

And the question that I kept asking myself (which I do about everything and I think every person in a creative job should) was, “Would I actually own this?” and “Would I actually do this for myself?” Now it doesn’t mean that it has to exist in my current small house right now, but would I keep these in one of my houses if i had 10 houses?  And the answer has to be and was consistently “yes.”

So here are the “before’s” (shot by the lovely David Tsay):


One of my favorite pieces was this bench, below. We reupholstered it in vintage/handmade Hmong fabric and stripped and waxed it to show the natural wood. It’s now sitting in my hallway and I LOVE it.


My job was to redo them (which, yes, I had so much help, namely from Orlando) but also to style them in environments that would show them off the best and give them the right context. It was tricky because I wanted them to look super “me,” but they also need to look right for “Good Housekeeping,” so it had to be kinda a modern version of traditional. Honestly, though, I love all those photos above. We shot at Scott’s house (which is beautiful) so it wasn’t hard to make it really pretty.



The herringbone top trunk was probably the most complicated so I’ll do a separate DIY post on that and hopefully more of them, but I’m not sure how many process photos we got. I’ll see what kinda posts we can scrape together.

So thank you very much, “Good Housekeeping,” for the feature.

And now, friends, which one is your favorite?