Behind the Scenes: The Airbnb SXSW Exterior

Alright folks, this is my 4th and final post about the SXSW Airbnb design project – and this one, about the exterior, was a BEAST which is why its taken me 5 weeks to write. It was one of the most challenging projects i’ve ever done, and I remember even saying once that I was more stressed out than i’ve been in years. Let me tell you why:

We had to turn this 20K square foot asphalt parking lot into a green, lush, backyard oasis full of trees, grass and furniture …. in TEXAS … without ever seeing it and in the winter when most trees didn’t have their leaves on them. 20K square feet is MASSIVE. Like Costco size. Also this area needed to function a very specific way for all the events that were going to happen there – live music events, magic shows, dinners, yoga …. so making the design for those needs was challenging, too. (Check out the first Airbnb event we did HERE and look at at the popups we designed with these celebrities: MobyLake BellMolly SimsAnjelica Huston, and James Franco, as well as Snoop Dogg’s and Capital Cities, and Allen Stone)

Here is what I had to work off of:

blueprint sxsw

To someone like me (untrained in architecture and no FORMAL design training) the above blueprint is about as understandable as a diagram of a car engine … its all just martian language, really.  So then I satellite viewed the parking lot on google maps:

satellite view

Ok, now that I am starting to understand better but its still so abstract. In retrospect I probably should  have flown down there for two days a few weeks before to see for myself, but I was busy it wasn’t in the budget, yadda yadda.

street view 2

And here’s how it looked from the street view – she was a dead, gray asphalt parking lot. So Ginny and I started to brainstorm how to turn this parking lot into a ‘neighborhood oasis’ – using these kit haus’ and 20k square feet.

We brainstormed for a couple of days and came up with this ‘Edward Scissorhands meets the Indie Southwest’. We figured it we were going to create a neighborhood why not create a super iconic suburb with acid colors, a picket fence and topiaries (which got nixed, sadly).

Airbnb SXSW

We loved the idea of taking a really traditional suburban house and neighborhood and plopping it in the middle of a total young, hipster party zone. It acted as both the respite from the craziness, and contrast to the grittiness of the East 6th neighborhood, while still being a total party space. (more…)

Stylish Houses Needed for my book

Stylish Houses Needed

Oh folks, its time. I’ve been pushing this book off for years. not because I don’t want to do it but because this book is a BEAST. Without giving too much away know that hopefully, if all goes right, it will be the book that anyone interested in home style feels compelled to pick up. It’s not full of images of castles in Scotland or Moroccan night markets, its more ‘me’ and frankly ‘you’ than that. But that’s all I’ll say for now.

Point is: over the next couple months I need to shoot 30 houses. THIRTY. I have one. My awesome friends have a couple. But I’m looking for 20 more houses either in LA, Portland or Austin (I live in LA, my family is in Portland and I LOVE Austin) that are 90 percent “there”. By that I mean, houses that are architecturally interesting OR houses full of great style. Ideally both :) If there are like 5 houses in New Orleans or Nashville, I’ll totally go there. I just have to cluster them so I’m not traveling around the country staying in hotels and eating up the budget. They can be lofts, apartments, bungalows, mansions .. whatever. Bigger and lots of light is easier, but we can make most spaces work with the magic of photography.

Whats in it for you?  Pictures of your space all styled up. We won’t be furnishing it or really leaving anything behind except for some flowers and a prop as a gift. But you will get pics in a published (and hopefully successful) book that could help your resale or if you are a designer add to your portfolio. Sadly, you won’t get paid nor will you get free design work by me – I just want to be clear on that. But you will get some really beautiful photos of your space and some press if you want it (if you don’t want anyone to know its you, that’s fine, too – this isn’t a book where we do a bio of the home-owners). Also know that you may have the coolest house on the planet but if its similar to another one that we are shooting then it might not work.

Spread the word. Think of your or your friends houses that are really cool. Maybe your uncle DJ has a weird beach bungalow in Montecito. Again, they don’t have to be castles, but they do have to be cool and have style. That is all we are really looking for.  We’ll be shooting in May – July. Let er rip.

Email if you have a house that you think think could be a good fit. xx

Designing With Allen Stone and Airbnb for SXSW

Oh Allen Stone – the most soulful hippie/hipster from Washington State that I know. I know exactly 1, but I like this dude – probably because we both have long, wavy, blonde hair. In case you don’t know who is he, he’s this dude:

allen stone airbnb

Once I saw that picture I knew that I’d probably like him although looks can be very deceiving and he could have been a huge try-hard poser. So once I met him I definitely LIKED him. Throughout the entire process he was so lovely, generous, thankful, gracious and considerate of our time and effort. How very refreshing, indeed. It’s because he’s from the PNW (Pacific NorthWest) and we PNW-ers are generally really nice.

In case you are just stopping by here’s a bit of background on the project: Airbnb wanted do an experiential marketing campaign where we designed these three Kithaus‘ with three musicians at SXSW. These musicians filled out a questionnaire that helped Ginny and I come up with an initial design plan. We presented it, they approved it and then we installed it where it remained live for 5 days in Austin last week during SXSW.  And the whole event turned out pretty awesome. (Check out the first one we did HERE and look at Moby’sLake Bell’sMolly Sims‘, Anjelica Huston’s and James Franco’s, as well as Snoop Dogg’s and Capital Cities).

So we read his questionnaire where it became clear that loves rustic, 70′s, hippie and weird. So here’s what we came up with:

Allen Stone SXSW

And here’s what we pitched to him: “He’s a hippie with soul, and an R and B singer from the PNW. His room will feel a little bit retro 70’s, a little bit rustic hippie and a lot of ‘weird’. We took our main inspiration from his cover photo set in front of this ‘ugly in a good way’ floral wallpaper, with his glasses and hat that show his unpredictable style. It’s masculine and casual, pulled together and beautiful, and yet totally weird. It will be a dudes den that a chick would love, too.”


Allen Stone SXSW

We wanted it to feel a little over the top in the 70′s and ‘weird’ styles, but with enough warmth in woods and casual finishes to make it feel grounded.

Allen Stone SXSW

So we presented him with said plan at The Echo before he had a show:

Allen Stone Emily Henderson


He was into it completely so we got the green light to proceed. He was also absolutely fun, normal, down to earth and totally unaffected. I’ve worked with a lot of celebrities and I promise you that they are normal affected. And there are many times where I know that even I have become affected and have to monitor myself. Fame (and Hollywood) does something to most people and maybe its just a matter of time, but as of now I can tell you that Allen Stone is just such a lovely, down to earth person.

allen stone-emily-henderson-airbnb

After the meeting we shook on it – and by ‘shook’ on it I mean we took a shot of tequila because that’s his drink and I don’t say no to my clients with reasonable requests for celebrating.

allen stone emily henderson

Then we started shopping. The above mood boards are mainly done on a computer, so once we got approval we hit the streets and sourced all the items below.

Allen Stone SXSW Allen Stone SXSW

Meawhile we had our friends at Tajima Creatives do these renderings so our clients could sign off on approval. For the exterior we chose these Pacific NorthWest inspired ferns and hippie plants.

Allen Stone SXSW

Then inside we had this plan – Awesome floral wallpaper on the walls, a custom plaid headboard, macrame everywhere, collection of vintage hats, a wooden stag head, and lots of vintage accessories.

Allen Stone SXSW

After a five-day install (of the entire space) Mr. Stone’s space looked like this:

vintage plaid headboard

photo by me

Airbnb Allen Stone

And I pretty much wanted to move in.  It’s totally cuckoo, but I also want every single thing in here. (and yes, some of these photos are styled by me and some aren’t – you’ll be able to tell the difference, I’m sure). That basket on there is for the winners of the campaign with a bunch of goodies from Allen.

Airbnb Allen Stone

Everything in here is either vintage or rented except for the headboard, denim pillow and green wool blanket which we had custom-made. (I believe it was $450 for all of them).

Airbnb Allen Stone

Oh and that pouf is mine (I bought it from Shopclass, which does have a few more, by the way).  And yes that is a vintage 70′s Jack Hanna calendar hanging under the air conditioner (which we disguised with a cork board and random ephemera).

plaid headboard

photo by me

That elf’s head planter (which may have been the base of a cookie jar that we repurposed) had a big old fern in it which looked weird and awesome, but somehow it went missing so that looks a bit unfinished in that pic. This planter, like many things that i pick up, was considered creepy by most – but not by me. I like me a head, elf or human.

Whats up with the clown pillow you are wondering? Well, its weird, vintage and random and somehow just seemed appropriate. Behind him was a big custom denim pillow we had made because Mr. Stone loves denim so we wanted to bring that in somewhere (it was from a fashion fabric store for $7 a yard).

vintage bentwood chair

photo by me

It rained a bit there – how very appropriate to the PNW vibe, even though my vintage rug was not psyched. The rocker was from Craigslist and Allen actually loved it so much that we shipped it to him afterwards. The hanging macrame table back there has been mine for a couple of years and finally had its moment. The folding leather bench is from ShopClass. 

allen stone house

photo by me

Big Red Sun landscaping in Austin took care of the exterior plants and did such a great job. It felt lush and PNW but with a weird 70′s bent. And then I added a vintage foosball table, pendant light, and of course a whole row of beaded curtains across the back of the pop-up.

Allen stone home

photo by me

Then we added more hanging plants, because I’m addicted.

So, sadly I couldn’t be there when Allen saw the space (schedules got all messed up so we missed each other – physically and emotionally).

Airbnb Allen Stone

But he took this pic and texted it to me with the lots of words of gratefulness and satisfaction.

Airbnb Allen Stone

Here he is looking pensive, thinking about why he has to travel around and sing to sold out crowds and not sleep in this weird pop-up that some random chick designed for him.

Airbnb Allen Stone

And then this dude came – he’s the guy that won the week in the pop-up. (they didn’t stay there but they got to use it as their home base throughout SXSW which is actually awesome because it’s a madhouse down there so to have a space all to your own that you can lock the door to is pretty amazing).

Airbnb Allen Stone

So that’s Allen Stone’s pop-up house. It was groovy, happy and totally weird  - like my alter ego.

Airbnb Allen Stone

I loved Snoop’s, I did. But Allen’s was way more my style in a lot of ways. It was sooo much easier to design, full of so much personality and sourced almost exclusively from vintage stores or prop houses – which is why I didn’t really link anything.

Check out a quick little interview I did on about how to get the look.

So my question to you is: Which pop-up house is your favorite? Snoop Dogg? Capital Cities or Allen Stone?

(Meanwhile check out all the past Airbnb pop-up houses, HERE and look at Moby’sLake Bell’sMolly Sims‘, Anjelica Huston’s and James Franco’s)

Photo credits: Vivien Killilea | Rush Jagoe | airbnb

Renderings: Tajima Creative Partners | Louis Polidori

Landscape: Big Red Sun Austin, Pop-up Houses designed/built by KitHaus

Mini-Magazine Feature

kourtney kardashian

In case you haven’t heard of Mini Magazine its a pretty awesome digital magazine about modern parenting. As someone not used to (or inclined to) seek out and read parenting info I was shocked to find myself really into this magazine. Tons of good product recommendations of stuff that I actually like and want, plus great interviews. This issue includes Kourtney Kardashian (and you’d be shocked at how cute her house/playroom is), my friend Joy and Freshly Picked.



Check out Mini Magazine here if you are interested, expecting or are already a parent. When I filled out this interview I was so busy I could barely breathe, so I, myself, am excited to read it and see what I actually answered. Terrifying, I know. Happy Thursday.

See the rest of my maternity photos, and read my maternity fashion must haves, and then if you are still into it here is my birth plan and my birth story.

Designing with Capital Cities and Airbnb for SXSW

Alright folks, remember that man that we worked with a couple weeks called ‘Snoop Dogg‘? Yea, you do…. Well he was just one of three artists that we designed the airbnb pop-up houses with. The other two were Capital Cities and Allen Stone. So welcome to Capital Cities pop-up design. They are new on the scene but their song ‘Safe and Sound’ is crazy addictive and poppy.

Capital Cities

These guys are really busy (one just had a baby) so they weren’t able to collaborate as much as say, Mr. Snoop, so we took the inspiration for the pop-up from this video (as well as the questionaire that they filled out).

And here’s what we wrote about them:

‘These two former jingle musicians met online and now swing dance together whilst wearing neon, therefore they belong in a crazy party room. We took inspiration from their video, Safe and Sound, and their fashion which has clear themes: retro Hollywood deco meets futuristic 80’s, in LA in 2014. They love the 1930’s yet want to live in Back to the Future II. They are mostly attracted to black, gray and white, but then find themselves in neon more often than they planned. They are fun and lively, yet restrained when they need to be. They are a duo of dudes, with a serious talent for beats, a clear sense of humor and a masters in style.’

There ere a few mood boards for them – first from the 1920′s – patterned wallpaper, black and white color palette, with a lot of deco motifs.

Capital Cities

But obviously thats not the whole story, so we brought in the 80′s:  Capital Cities

Now you may ask ‘HOW can you combine deco with 80′s?  And the answer is – by pouring over these designs for hours and days and of course using a clear color palette with just the right amount of each so it feels balanced and intentional. Deco and 80′s are strangely similar due to the round, curvy nature of most of the furniture and patterns. This makes things easier and harder at the same time.

Capital Cities

It feels like a total party, right?

And then these were the actual pieces that we were going to bring in (many change from even this board to the final pod). We wanted to do bunk beds because in all of the pop-ups so far we didn’t, and since there are two of them it made sense to double it up. This black metal guy was super 80′s with its tubular metal, plus it was like $249 on Wayfair. 

These, below, were the pieces that we thought we were going to end up using:

Capital Cities

But things change a lot as you can imagine once you get inside the space. I’m not sure if other designers are like this, although I suspect they are, but its like you design it once on your computer and then you redesign it as soon as you get everything actually into the space. Sure, some things you can predict (a chandelier gets hung, the bedding goes on the bed) but so many other things change.  Capital Cities

So this was the plan: (rendering done by the lovely people at Tajima Creatives)

Capital Cities

And inside it would look more like this:
Capital Cities

And here it is in real life:
Capital Cities

That picture kinda kills me. From now on i’m going to walk around with a photographer attached to my body to make sure that I get every shot that I want and need, in the angle that I want and need them. No matter. The pop-up was awesome.

And here are these two dudes checking it out:

Capital Cities

Inside the pop-up, like inside my brain, was a party. It had disco balls, saarinen chairs, glow in the dark wallpaper, and DIY’d bleached out stone washed pillows (that i’m not sure were terribly successful but they sure were 80′s).

Capital Cities

Excuse the lack of styled photos. Lets talk about that wallpaper first, shall we? We didn’t design it but we customized the colors to make it pop. Its normally just black and white so we changed it to gray and white and then added a bunch of random hot pink in there. The wallpaper place can’t do neon or florescent (just really bright) so we decided to buy glow in the dark duct tape and then we cut it to fit inside the windows of the buildings so when its dark they light up.Was a wonderful plan that I’m not sure actually worked because I was never there that late at night, but I love the idea of it.

white mod shelving

The shelves are full of vintage 80′s tech which made me feel ancient and happy at the same time.  (These are not styled by me or anyone for that matter, fyi – they are messy and I realize that – sorry!). There were vintage polaroids, boom boxes, clocks and even what looks like an answering machine. We even bought a bunch of vintage tapes  - as in music tapes. I’m old.

vintage outdoor chair

I wish that chair and ottoman were for purchase because I absolutely would have bought them (we rented them from a prop house in LA). They were actually originally purchased for the outside but when we put the awesome Platner chairs inside it fell a bit flat. They got lost and we needed WAY more color in there.
pink pod

Capital Cities

I had the pillows made by my upholsterer from inexpensive black and white cotton I purchased downtown, and then piped with neon. Seemed like an awesome idea at the time, but it was super hard to find other neon yellow accessories – most of the yellow objects we found were more of a traditional bright yellow, so it kinda clashed, but you hardly noticed it.

bunk detail

We made the denim pillows by spraying bleach on readymade pillows from Ikea. It strangely wreaked of fish until we ran it through the wash twice. It was our first go around and could be super cute in the right fabric and environment.

Capital Cities

Woah, there big hair. Thats me in a Capital Cities sandwich. Wait! I didn’t tell you about the neon sign behind … you can barely see it but there was this massive white neon sign hanging on plexi on the back of the porch. At night it was crazy fun.

Its hard to tell in this photo but what I think really elevated this space was the landscaping. We hired Big Red Sun in Austin to consult on landscaping since its not my forte and for each of the pods we gave them the style direction and they came up with the design plan. So for Capital, since it was 80′s with some futuristic elements we chose really graphic and kinda moon-like succulents and cacti. I think it turned out totally beautifully and I want to hire them for  my house.

Capital Cities

Capital Cities

So there you have it, folks. Capital Cities pop-up house. What do you think?

Photo credits: Vivien Killilea | Rush Jagoe for airbnb

Renderings: Tajima Creative Partners | Louis Polidori