Dining room makeover

Run on over to Domaine Home (an excellent new online home website by the wonderful creators of Who What Wear) to check out this dining room makeover I did for a client. I’ll be writing about it too, but you’ll get a healthy dose of information and how to get the look over on their site today.

dining room makeover

I love how the before looks like a still from a horror movie, as if there is a creepy child staring into the corner sucking their thumb and holding a broken porcelain doll.

Click here to see the full story.

But for a sneak peek, it kinda looks like this:

graphic wallpaper

Beautiful photographs by Zeke Ruelas.

Have an excellent weekend, friends.

Vintage chair before and after

I think I could have a whole TV show just of before and afters of furniture. It’s so unbelievably satisfying and 100 percent design porn to me. It’s the closest I get to being so distracted and happy that I forget to eat. Ripping off the plastic of a newly recovered piece of furniture is like Christmas when you are nine. Every time.

Anyway …

Here’s the chair when my friend James bought it:


James, my friend and pseudo client in this case, found this chair on Craigslist after hours and hours of shopping. He had a vision about the perfect chair and he was going to find it. It needed to be big and substantial but not boxy. Comfortable but not over-sized. And of course, interesting and not just something you could pick up anywhere. Nice job, James. You done found it for $180. It was in bad shape though with some rips and some odor so it needed to be redone.

Upholstering a vintage vinyl chair (or vinyl anything) can be tricky. I used to think, Oh hey I can upholster anything in anything until I got 20 pieces done for my first OKL sale and two of them were screwed up because I chose the wrong fabric that simply didn’t work with the shape and style of the piece. When I say “didn’t work” I don’t mean that it was a weird choice, I mean that there were literally big gaps and puckering where there shouldn’t have been. I wanted to blame my upholsterer, but those two pieces had one thing in common: they started in vinyl and I put them in a softer, thinner, and less structured linen. Linen or any natural fiber has a lot of stretch, while vinyl or leather really doesn’t. I’m not saying it can’t be done, it’s just tricky so make sure to ask your dude. It just doesn’t always work.

In this case we really wanted vinyl or leather. It fit the retro style of the chair. We liked the texture of the vinyl in the living room, as opposed to a linen or velvet.  It felt more masculine and sleek, which is what we were kinda going for.

The first question was leather or vinyl? The labor was the same price ($320), but the price of the material was pretty different. The vinyls were about $18 a yard and we needed six yards … so around $115. But a large piece of leather big enough to do the chair and ottoman became very expensive, like around $400 – $500. The chair itself was $180, so all of a sudden that chair is around $1,000 which was NOT the intent. We chose vinyl.

vintage leather chair

The next question was what color? There weren’t a ton of vinyl colors that I was psyched about and of course we had only one day to shop and decide (because we had to shoot the place a few days later, which you’ll see on Monday). So while there might be a ton of really awesome vinyl choices out there, there were very few that I wanted to use. I mean, it’s vinyl. It’s like trying to find the best faux fur — it exists, but it’s hard to find. That’s why the trick is to find vinyl that isn’t trying to look like leather. Because you aren’t fooling ANYONE.


We narrowed it down to these four — a light gray, teal, black, or camel. The camel would have been awesome in leather, but it just looked like it was cheap vinyl trying to be leather, so it cheapened the chair. The black was going to be really dark with the rug. The light gray was a good choice but we just needed more color than that in the room.

So teal it was. You don’t have to twist my arm.

teal vintage chair

And there you go. That is a VERY good looking teal chair if you ask me. The color looks awesome and I love how it’s not trying to look like leather and obviously no animals were harmed here, friends. It’s retro and playful, but looks sophisticated and modern. Here’s a quick breakdown of the pricing: The chair was $180, vinyl was $120, and upholstering was $320 = $620. Not nothing, but it’s exactly what they wanted size wise, shape wise, and style-wise. Plus, it’s totally unique and 100 percent perfect for the room, therefore worth every penny. It required only with a one week lead time and since it’s vinyl it’s practically indestructible.

Quick resources: rug, from West Elm (and on sale right now), large incredible underwater painting by Francesca Quintano. All the rest of the resources on Monday’s big reveal post. 

After photos by Zeke Ruelas.

teal tufted

There you have it. Thanks to James for making this makeover happen by trolling Craigslist til he found his dream chair. It’s really a total stunner now. James better sit so hard in that chair.

blue vinyl chair

Sneak peek into a new house …

If you follow me on Instagram you have probably seen shots of this house that I’m designing. I’ve been working on it since March when it looked like this:

spanish house before

And now, four months later it’s about 80 percent done:

blue chesterfield

The rug is a stand-in until I find an antique Oushak that we love, though a 10′ x 14′ rug is hard to find and expensive — trust me. Obviously it’s not styled, etc., but it’s totally livable and so pretty. The clients are out of town for another month so I’m scrambling a bit to finish, but secretly loving the freedom of not having them there when we play around and style.

Those sofas are from Dekor in Los Angeles (an awesome vintage store run by a designer who can have anything custom made) and can be made any size, any fabric, etc. Tell Isabelle that you saw it here and she’ll know which sofa you are talking about. We love the sofas — so comfy, cozy, and totally indestructible since they are in performance velvet (great since they have two cats and two dogs — one who apparently likes to lick herself while getting photographed).

It’s really painful for me to show these unfinished, unstyled iPhone process shots, but I also know that I love seeing this kinda stuff on other people’s blogs, so here goes. If you judge me, I’ll sick The Bear on you. It’s all still a work in progress. It’s looking REALLY good, but no, I’m not satisfied yet.

Alright, here’s the hallway which is going to become the library area:

hallway before

And now:

hague blue hallway

Again, not finished, but coming along, and yes, that is my favorite navy blue paint, “Hague Blue” by Farrow and Ball. I’m LOVING where where this room is going. We have the rug ordered and I’m not sure about that green dresser there, but it’s coming right along.


The kitchen was a pretty big challenge. When I came into the picture it looked like this:

kitchen beforeWAIT!!! Actually it had upper cabinets that had all just been installed by a house flipper. Without going into the whole story (which you will get at some point when I go room by room with the total before and afters) we decided that it was just so heavy, dark, and small in there, so we took them out.

But she is looking MUCH more appropriate to her 1920 Spanish roots:

kitchen after

I love that cement floor tile so much. We are having to figure out how to reseal it because it loves dirt, but it also is aging already really beautifully …

When I first arrived the bathroom was already gutted and looked like this. The tile and fixtures the flippers had picked out were unspeakable so I jumped in and frankly saved this house from “Real Housewives of New Jersey” land.

master bathroom before

It’s quickly becoming one of the happiest rooms in the nation:

master bathroom after

OH that floor tile, how I love thee so much.

dining room

The dining room is coming along … well, we need a table and new rug.

dining nook

The dining nook is coming along (sorry, we just installed that chandelier and didn’t sweep before taking these photos).

Overall the house is something that I’m super proud of. It’s 1920’s old world/Spanish revival meets 2013 young Hollywood couple. I apologize for the lack of resources on this post, but when I post about each room I PROMISE you’ll get them. If you have any specific questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll try to get to them. Meanwhile I’m scrambling to finish this bad boy up …

Adios. :)

Office turned guestroom makeover …

… starring the best sofa bed ever.

Oh, it’s a teeny tiny little budget makeover for a tiny little office turned guest room. They didn’t need a total transformation, and we wanted to spend very little as we already had redone a girls room, boys room, master bedroom, and family room. So this room wasn’t a huge priority budget-wise, but they did need a place for guests to stay. They used the office as an office one day a week but ultimately it needed to be way more functional.


And after …

cozy den

Why yes, I did gift them a puppy for their makeover. We always try to include some sort of newborn animal to really conjure up the “grateful tears.” (Kidding.)

But, first thing first: we brought in this vintage sofa bed. Let’s talk about sofa beds for a second, shall we?

Finding an attractive and comfortable sofa bed is like finding meaning in a Pauly Shore movie … WAIT, more like finding meaning in a Carrot Top prop comedy act. It’s basically magic when you do. So let me tell you a secret about sofa beds: Many sofas can be turned into sofa beds for around $1,000 IF they are boxy enough to hold the mechanism inside. I know that’s not cheap and I don’t know the rules of sizing, but when you are desperate for an attractive pullout sofa, you’ll do anything. So here’s what we did:

Orlando and I bought this sofa at goodwill for $100 when it was HIDEOUS (read Orlando’s blog post about it). We loved the simple modern shape, with the slim arms PLUS the fact that there were sofa bed innards inside. But obviously you don’t want to sleep on a nasty 1954 mattress, so we had the mechanism and mattress totally replaced for $700. In fact, if you buy a boxy enough sofa, you can have it retrofitted and turned INTO a sofa bed, but I don’t know the rule about it or anything (and I asked my upholsterer and due to a language barrier I didn’t really get the answer). Orlando wrote about this sofa bed on his blog, HERE. I will say this, the foam that was put on top was really firm, so make sure you ask for the foam to be wrapped in feather or down (same thing? not sure) so it’s not crazy hard and you can properly cuddle with your cat.

Resources: Sconce from OneFortyThree, rug from RugsUSA, pouf is vintage, gold stool from Target, Roman shades from Country Curtains, painting from the flea market and then framed.

office redo

Meanwhile on the other side of the room we put a smaller scale desk against the wall and added a classic Bertoia desk chair.  They stored the filing cabinets in the basement and added one on the other side of the sofa.

Sorry, we didn’t take more photos, Zeke and I were chasing the light (oh, such photo terms abound) and so I only had time to get in these two pics, but I think they capture how happy, fun, cozy, open, and wildly more functional it became.

Thoughts? Feelings? Inner desires?

Resources: Desk from West Elm, chair from H.D. Buttercup, lamp from H.D. Buttercup, art print from Etsy, blue tray from Crate and Barrel, yellow and white stripe from CB2.  

Shoot produced/styled/art directed by me, shot by the wonderful Zeke Reulas.

Weekend in instagrams …

In case you were suffering from anxiety over whether Pre-Brian Jr. (name pending) doesn’t have any leather moccasins yet, you can stop taking your Xanax. I done bought some for him this weekend at the flea market. I, too, was upset, but now we can all go back to being worried about whether or not they make bow-ties small enough for 2 day old infants — because America’s infant boys have been suffering too long from the bow-tie famine. It must be stopped.


Also, I bought this hat, mainly to put in a shelf, and also to really to solidify the existence of the crazy lady inside of me. $15 from the flea market and worth every penny.


Perhaps I’m trying to be more like this chick — my new painting for $20. Brian just really loves this one. He practically wept with joy when I showed it to him. In fact, he said, “Emily, I want you to know that you don’t need to buy me a 35th birthday present or even a 40th birthday present. This painting is a gift that will keep on giving. I just love it so very, very much.”

You’re welcome.

And then before any weekend is complete one must buy a strangely shaped sectional for $80. You better believe some fringe is going on the bottom of that peach mother. Fig House, here it comes.

Must run. Please enjoy the thought of the leather moccasins all day … and baby suspenders. I hope he likes the musical “Newsies” because I’m pretty sure that’s going to be his “everyday look,” a modern version OF COURSE. Please.