The Fort – Fig House’s VIP/man cave

A quick little makeover, y’all. The Fig House was finished, dunzo, opening party and all when Steve (the owner) told me that he had built a small groomsmen room on the property – a space that would be more masculine and really private where the dudes or just any VIP people could chill. Technically I wasn’t responsible for designing it but people would think that I did therefore if someone else designed it and I didn’t like it I would be bummed. I’m kinda annoying and controlling like that. So I was like, OK, lets do this real run and gun style – within two weeks and just a few thousand dollars. So we did.

Here was the empty space – it looked like a caboose – just long skinny and dark. It needed to house 10 dudes, give them a place to chill, drink, listen to music, drink, tie each others bowties and lounge. But it was a tricky space, y’all. It was just a long dark windowless box.

The Fort

So we came up with a quick rough plan:


We would do a built in bench the shape of an L, and do two small scale chairs opposite it, with some floating side tables. Then at the far end there would be a bar that comes out from the side, and a back bar behind it for glassware and booze. The built-in bench was the best way to maximize the seating because having  10 chairs in there seemed like obviously a terrible idea.

(Click through to see the after)  (more…)

Vintage furniture makeovers

Furniture ‘before and afters’ is what we like to call design porn, folks.  A lot of people do it, and somehow its still satisfying when done right – not porn, mind you, furniture makeovers. I was combing through old photos looking for Lake House ‘before’ and ‘progress’ photos (which I can’t find … sucks) when I found the ‘before’ version of two pieces of furniture that I redid. Exhibit A, this ugly gray waterfall 80′s desk. I think it was $60 or so at the thrift store and it was banged up. I bought this when I was doing those One Kings Lane sales where I needed to sell just a TON of furniture so I was buying and redoing furniture like crazy. The lines were simple but the finish was ugly. Remember – you can always change the finish, but you can’t change the shape. And this shape was hot.

lacquer table before

So I had him lacquered this beautiful blue (Galapagos Blue from Benjamin Moore). It cost $300 to lacquer (plus pickup/drop off). Rarely does anything cost less than $300 by the way. It seems crazy but lacquering is expensive because the materials are expensive and it is just really laborious and time consuming – needing lots of coats and sanding to do it properly.  So even if its something small its often $200 – $300. Anyway that ugly disgusting piece of garbage then became this beautiful statement desk:


Oh hey pretty. It was finally time to debut it. Its been in our guest room as Brian’s home office, but its too big for  in there so we are going to sell it, but before we did I wanted to at least shoot it. So we used it for the 3m Home Collection shoot.


Here’s the thing about lacquer – it looks pretty amazing when its in perfect condition, but its fragile. Its pretty easy to scratch and since its whole thing is that is EXTREMELY shiny you can see the scratches. I am selling this bad boy now, for $250 in LA (unless you want to coordinate shipping) so if anyone is interested let me know and you can come pick it up. Like I said, it has some scratches and some chipping on the bottom, but nothing crazy and ABSOLUTELY worth $250. Up next? Exhibit B: the retro vintage sofa that was once hideous.


This guy I splurged on because the shape was awesome and the scale is so good – its a small sofa, but bigger than a loveseat and packs a lot of punch with style. It was $400 from the flea market. The reason that is expensive is because the labor of recovering it was $600, the fabric was $12 a yard and we needed $10 yards.  Yes, this is cheap for fabric – i’m pretty sure its just thick pink canvas but it was so hard to find that color and that is what we wanted.


We used it for two magazine shoots (Redbook and Matchbook Mag) and so it was time to retire it from our portfolio. Around that time we started designing the creative offices and figured it was just perfect for them so we sold it to them for $700 (which yes, means that I lost money but I already got it in two shots so it kinda pays for itself in a way).

shopbandopink sofa

Here is Jen paying me for the sofa in pineapple pinatas – its the new on trend form of currency. Anyway, those are my two recent before and afters.

If you can’t get enough then check out this vinyl chairoh joy’s office chairs, and these now hot pink velvet chairs.  Happy monday, folks! xx office project – the beginning …

There’s a new project in the hizouse, y’all. It involves some risky colors, shimmery wallpaper, and general ‘over the top-ery’ … with restraint. You all may have heard of, the design house in LA that makes these kinda addictive (and often hilarious) gifts and accessories:


Well, they moved into a much larger office and Jen approached me about working with her to design it. When Jen says jump, you say ‘how high and also may we drink champagne while jumping?’.


So I wrote up our story to create a brief/deck to show potential press and partners (Jen’s team designed it):


ban-do pitch

Yup.  When I first moved here from New York I had no styling clients. I had followed Jen’s blog and reached out to her to get some insight on the styling world in LA. We hit it off immediately and she pretty much gave me a lot of clients and connections. I was VERY, VERY, VERY grateful, but not sure how to repay her … until now. Our resources are tight around here, but I REALLY wanted to do this project and I don’t say no to things that I really want.

So Ginny, Brady ad I are redesigning their new space and having a very good time at it, indeed. Here’s a moodboard that she sent me for inspiration:
ban-do moodboard

How does this translate into a functioning office?

Exactly … Therein lies my challenge. Luckily Jen is a total visionary and I speak visionary … well I understand when visionaries speak to me, anyway. Moving from stylist to designer (like I have) has its pros and cons – as a designer you get a tiny bit stuck on function/livability and your ‘process’ that you’ve honed really well. As a stylist your job is really just to make a space look really $%&*ing inspiring and then maybe also ‘well designed’ if you can fit it in the shot. Creating inspiration is what I used to care about and my first few home design clients kinda suffered because of it. I, Emily Henderson, do care a lot about comfort and function as much as style these days. So we are marrying our skills – she tells me to do something weird and I figure out how to turn that idea into something that makes sense for an office. I need a little bit of Jen in my life these days – someone to push me into worlds that I’m uncomfortable. And right now I’m comfortably uncomfortable.

Bando Partyhouse Yeah, of course – put that in a functioning office where 5 girls and one male CEO create 4 lines of fashion and accessories a year. Its like I get it, but I’m also befuddled.

So, here is what the space looked like before they moved in:


ban-do before

It’s a wonderful blank canvas. The walls are white, the floors are wood, the light is strong and the layout is open. Wonderful. Check , check, check, check and check.

So, we met, measured, brainstormed, shopped, pinned and began the redesign. Our goal was to make it feel like the mood boards up there, but more functional for the creative team that works in there 50 hours a week.

Bando Partyhouse

Naturally I started hoarding sets of vintage chairs from vintage stores and Craigslist. We have lucite and brass happening. Shocking, I know.

And then I brought their sofa over (yes, from the Matchbook shoot) and we went to sample fabrics for the different sets of chairs after we saw them all together. We’ve got pale and candy colored velvets and linens galore. Decisions were made, excitement is felt.  These chairs don’t even KNOW whats about to happen to them.

Bando Partyhouse

Not all of those fabrics made the cut, and you might be shocked at what is deemed as successful. How very cryptic, I know.

So that’s the new creative office project. We are trying to get done by mid-July and things are moving along. Wallpaper is chosen, fabric is chosen, desks/chairs are purchased, and the big concepts have been pounded out … with the help of some champagne brunches and flea market shopping.

It’s incredibly fun doing a creative studio space because you can take more risks, grab onto trends more, worry less about it livability and more about it being inspirational. There are no kids involved; there is not a comfy tv room that needs an overstuffed sectional. This project is all about 5 girls needing to be in a space that inspires them to create pieces and a brand that are going to bring them to the next level in the fashion/design world.

No pressure, right?

Cat Rescue Makeover; Animal Haven

Welcome to my big Cattery makeover post. Get a cup of coffee, sit down on a comfortable but not too comfortable chair, tell your boss you are busy for the next hour because we are about to get into it.

I said yes to this project IMMEDIATELY. Charlie was only 3 months old, I was in the throws of the Airbnb SXSW project and I only had the wonderful Ginny to help and even she was spread way too thin. But when the opportunity of doing a free makeover for a cattery in New York came upon my desk I was nodding my head vigorously before the words ‘yes, please!!!’ could come out of my mouth. You know how little kids nod their heads kinda violently and unrhymthically when they really want something? Well, that’s how this was. As a massive cat (and general animal lover) it just seemed like A. such a good cause, and B. such a good challenge.

emily Henderson bearcat

Sidenote: this post is extremely timely as our beloved cat Bearcat (yes, the black one that has graced hundreds of instagrams) got out and ran away saturday night. We searched all over for her on Sunday and every time I thought about finishing the draft of this post I started bawling and knew that I wasn’t going to be able to. But good news!!!!! The Pasadena Humane Society had picked her up based on an anonymous neighbors call. It’s amazing how one phone call can change it from being one of the worst days of your life to one of the best. As we picked her up  I was extra happy that I got to write about this project this week. Animal shelters do a lot considering their resources. So thank you, Pasadena Humane Society and thank you Animal Haven

The details:

1. The cattery is Animal Haven in New York (Soho). It is a no-kill dog and cat rescue that is run by some pretty amazing people. Like all animal rescues its resources are limited and it supports itself mainly on donation and fundraisers. Sure, it costs to adopt a kitten but not that much considering how much they already have done to that kitten (shots, caring, raising it til its old enough to leave, etc). These are good people and while I support any pet no matter how it was procured, I think adopting from a rescue is undeniably a very good thing.

2. The makeover was sponsored by Arm & Hammer’s new Clump & Seal Cat Litter. Was I in the market for a litter sponsor? Nope. But they were basically helping me give Animal Haven a free makeover and that is a good cause, just plain and simple. Which I think is very smart marketing and PR. Not to mention that Arm & Hammer also made a large in-kind donation of cat litter to the shelter which as us cat people know is something that we are all constantly in need of when housing a lot of cats. It was a win-win-win situation!

3. Why I did it: I love cats, sure, but this isn’t really for the cats – well, kinda. The cats don’t necessarily care if they are in a white cage versus a black cage, but the experience of the potential adopter might change their outcome and the fate of these cats. I think that someone looking to adopt, who knows for sure that they want one will probably adopt no matter what. But a potential pet owner on the fence might be turned off if they don’t like their experience. Now the downstairs of animal haven is awesome and the whole space is clean, certainly, but I figured that if this cattery space was a bit happier and brighter that potential adopters might stay longer, get to know a cat more and then take that kitty home. Besides, the people who work there need to have a happy/bright space to hang out in so this would double as their hang out space.

OK, here is the before:



It’s hard to tell what it looked like. But basically it was pretty crowded with cages (that were too large, they were dog cages) and built-ins that were full of things they didn’t need, a kitchen that was from the 70′s in a bad way, and just no real decor or design to it. They weren’t spending their time on Hunters Alley or Chairish, looking for beautiful things they could bring into the space. Nay, they were busy tending to the needs of cats and making adopters feel comfortable adopting.

What they needed:

1. New cages for cats. 15 of them – 12 near each other and 3 separate for any cats that might have ring worm (which sounds disgusting but it’s just athletes foot).

2. A “Kitty Cabana”, this was a large human-sized cage (they already had this) where a potential adopter could get inside with the cat and engage, play, cuddle and generally convince each other that they were made for each other.

3. A new kitchen. They don’t do any cooking here but they need storage and a sink to wash the bowls.


4. A sliding door separating the cattery from the doggery. They had this screen before but, if a cat got out of someones arms (they actually don’t run around in the space, only the cabana) and ran into the hallway where a dog was, then that could be devastating.  You can kinda see the separation here, after some demo.

cattery progress 5

Which brings me to the brick walls and flooring. Well, lets back up.

When I first started the project I was slammed like Bill Murray’s character in “What About Bob” where on the surface I was crazy happy and loony because I had a baby and was brimming with weird hormones, but underneath I was going insane because I was so busy. So I called up Isabella Patrick, a New York based designer that project managed the house of the year a couple of years ago, to project manage this one. She had JUST had a baby too, but she wanted to do the project and we started having weird 7am phone calls while feeding our kids.

She went to the space, took photos and then we had call after call staring at these photos trying to decide what to do. At first I wanted to do something really bright and clean by white washing the brick and replacing the flooring – like this:

modern cat

It’s probably because I was designing my house which was really white/bright and full of pops of color so that was on my brain.

modern cat mood board

I knew I wanted to bring in animal themed (cat or bird) wallpaper on those blank walls because, well, why not add some whimsy to that cattery.

At first I pitched the idea of painting all the brick white because nothing freshens up a space more than white, right? But then a couple of weeks into the project I was in New York on a different project and got to stop by the space to see for myself and saw that painting that brick white would be a HUGE mistake. You can see below that it shared the wall and floor with the rest of the second floor so if we had changed it would have been a jarring difference. And I’m all about a big transformation but not if it compromises the overall space and flow. It would be like having one room in your super traditional tudor house styled like 80′s minimalist – it just looks weird and kinda try-hard. Besides that brick was super pretty and old and downstairs they had a lot of rustic elements so it worked as an overall theme.

cattery progress 5

So then I decided to edit that board, which was cute, but it needed to be more inline with what they had downstairs and I needed to take into consideration the age and character of the building. I also wanted to bring in orange since its Arm & Hammer’s color and I wanted to give them a shout out for funding this whole project.


So things changed a bit and It looked WAY more appropriate for the space. So then we started playing with layouts to figure out the cage situation:



That drawing may not mean a lot to a lot of people but I, myself, love to look at these renderings these days – especially when designing from a far It was so good to have a sense of where everything was going to go. Of course things changed, as they always do but having this guideline was really helpful.

After we had the general design plan we started demo, like so:

cattery progress 9

Out came all the cages (stored in another space with the kitties in them) and out came the kitchen (definitely NOT stored) and the gross builtins.

cattery progress 10

cattery progress 8

cattery progress 5

Then our painter painted the ceiling and all the duct/electrical work. You can’t tell how messed up it is in the before photos but it was dingy and needed a serious refresh (we used Benjamin Moore super white in semi-gloss). Having the built-in demo’d out and the ceiling painted already made it wildly better. We replaced the industrial lights with these globe lights which were just more graphic/fun and provided less harsh lights for everyone. (I know that we all love a bare bulb but that stuff is not nice to look at).

cattery progress

In came the cages, and they were FAAAAAAANNNCCCY. Like put them on the cover of fancy cat kinda fancy. Having white cages made such a difference because black cages just feel more prison-y, they do, and white feel more like an angels holding zone …

cattery progess

The kitchen got demo’d out and we started building the ikea kitchen – we chose to do ikea because its simply the cheapest option and we were on a budget. The only part of the walls we painted were the weird brick/stone wall – it was different from the rest of the space and we felt could use a refresher.

cattery progress paint

The sliding doors got installed. They were on a rail and slots on the ground. This way even if a cat got out of the cabana (again, they don’t let them loose in the room) there would be no risk of running into the hallway.

cattery progress door

All that was left was wallpapering and generally making it look awesome … and I didn’t really think it was there yet. Designing from a far is hard, especially for someone like me because I’m not a computer designer. So while everything was coming along, it just didn’t feel awesome or really that noteworthy … yet. So I remembered an email I got from someone about potentially collaborating on the blog and I found her (Kathryn Godwin) email and reached out. Basically she is one of these visual artists that can kinda just make anything. She worked for Anthropologie in their displays section for a long time and just knows how to do amazing visual installations – and that is what this cattery needed. If the cats were allowed to cruise around the space I would have done a crazy installation on the wall of cat scratching ledges or trees or something just really dope. But they don’t. Regardless there were too many boxes and hard lines and there needed to be something really sculptural and organic in there. At first I thought about a big tree, but that would look amazing for the shoot but potentially could cause them more stress as they would actually need to care for it. Plus that would need to be craned in most likely which sounded like a logistical nightmare. Oh and plus I couldn’t find any in NYC a week out. So I pitched the tree idea to Kathryn and said, ‘could you do something that feels like a tree but is maybe a bit rustic?’ and BOOM. She killed it.

Here’s the team on day one of the installation (we had 3 days to style and add all the finishing touches).

animal haven crew

Thats me, Isabella, Will and Katheryn. Isabella is the incredible designer that project managed this project. Will worked with me on the Cup of Jo makeover and he was awesome so when I was thinking about who was in New York that would be good at all things installation, Will came to mind immediately. (He’s also a designer for HomePolish and I highly recommend him). And Kathryn is the visual artist who drove up from North Carolina. I didn’t have anyone from LA come because of budgets and the fact that I needed people familiar with New York. Although I think next time I’ll bring them too because it was such a fun project that I’d want them involved.

Anyway, here, my friends is the finished space:



aimee-wilder-wallpaper3 The layout changes, as it always does, and we were able to make SOOOO much more room. In fact on the last day of the install I realized there was this HUGE space in the middle that just seemed so wasted. I asked them again if they needed furniture or a place to sit and they said no, again, but the I said ‘where do you eat your lunch?’ and they said ‘eh, sometimes on the stairs leading up to the exit’ and I said, if there was somewhere to sit, chill and eat would you use it? and they were like, well yeah …

Plus it gives potential adopters even more areas to hang out while they are shopping and getting to know the cats.

animal shelter

Katheryn’s tree installation totally killed it. It brought in the rustic wood from downstairs and added a lot of warmth to a room full of cages. It’s just so sculptural and organic and softened all the cages. And she put it up in two days. TWO. So fast. So good. Here’s what the wall looked like when we started:


So first she built the frame out of plywood and adhered it to the wall with brackets and fancy screws. Then she went crazy with the pallett wood and just slowly (well, not slowly) created the tree shape with all the branches.


And then we felt like we needed more color so she just quickly washed some of the remaining pallets and layered on the brighter teal. I really, really love how it turned out.


animal shelter


wood tree sculpture2

Then on the opposite side of the room we wanted to bring in the same idea so it looked cohesive and intentional and not just a random wooden tree in the space. So we decided to add a piece above the kitchen.

MEOW wall art

And then we needed to put a pop of color up there, obviously, so we made these huge yarn balls because cats love to bat around yarn balls. We made these from huge christmas balls from the flower market and just wrapped and wrapped and wrapped them with yarn and glue. It was kinda painstaking actually. But they do help flank the ‘Meow’.


Lets talk wallpaper – we looked and looked and looked for the right wallpaper. I wanted it to be ‘cat’ without being ‘kid’ or ‘granny’ which is kinda hard. At the same time the brick on the other side of the room is really heavy so it couldn’t be anything too twee or delicate or it would be off-balance. So when I found this Aimee Wilder paper I was psyched. The blue looked good with the brick (not a lot of colors look awesome with brick) and it was graphic and felt modern, while still being playful. I love it.  (Check out all of her papers – they are SERIOUSLY amazing and strike the perfect balance of playful and sophistication).

For the backsplash we decided to continue the wallpaper and just do clear acrylic over it, secured with screws and caulk.

Cattery makeover

Alright, on to the cages: you know I had to design the inside as if it was a room … naturally. Previously they had towels on the bottom that would get super messy and mismatching beds, so I brought in these bath mats (the rug) that stayed in place but were also washable. Boom. And you might notice a wallpapered shelf … ok, now this was OBVIOUSLY not necessary but it’s just so cute. We had extra wallpaper so we had it laminated the same size as that shelf and lined the shelf. We stuck it down but I’m pretty sure it’s probably already gone. It probably wasn’t the most practical thing ever, but sometimes you just need to satisfy your inner designer by doing something impractical but totally cute.

Cattery makover

I also made those cat ‘chandelier’s, too, which lasted about an hour because the cats did in fact love them and then destroyed them – as one does with anyone one loves too hard. Apparently they didn’t understand that I had made them all by hand:



Look. It made me happy to see/make and it made them happy for the hour that they spent destroying it. Its the little things, folks.


Inside the larger cages I bought some cat trees that were white or natural fiber – to tie in with the rustic wood and to warm up the space. The chair is from CB2 and it was good because we needed a round shape to offset all the squares happening, it needed to be graphic because the cages are so busy, but we didn’t want any upholstery so this white round wipeable chair was perfect.


Lets talk sliding door:

The door was just wood and when we got there it was already painted white per my request. But it just looked so clinical (sorry, I don’t have any pics). So we decided we desperately needed a pattern behind there.  We needed something straight and simple because a. it was going to compete with the wallpaper pattern which has a lot of curves and movement, and b. it was going to be behind cages that were really busy and c. it needed to be something that we could do in a day – we didn’t have the luxury of time on our side to do some sort of mural of cats chasing butterflies. So we chose a diagonal stripe instead of a simple horizontal or vertical one because it just seemed more interesting. I actually didn’t know it was going to end up looking like a chevron until afterwards, which is hilarious. Its like, of course its going to be a chevron but in my mind it was just alternating diagonal stripes in different directions. HA!!

chevron door

And here’s the finished product:


If you notice that the handle is on the wrong side of the door then good eye, and I had them change it afterwards – it’s just strange where the contractor decided to put it and we didn’t have time to change before the shoot. I like how the doors turned out – graphic, fun and yet fairly simple.


Now the people who work there and potential buyers can hang out in the space – eat lunch, debate kitty names and just generally feel more comfortable while making that decision.


It was such an interesting project to work on. The client was so happy and grateful and spending the week amongst these kitties certainly was not miserable. They have a really fast turnover rate so it’s not like they’ve been there for months or years, and they have tons of volunteers that come in to pet/play with them all day so these cats are happy kitties (ready for an even happier home).

Lots of thanks are needed:

First off, thank you Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal Cat Litter for funding the project and making it happen. They deserve more than a schpeal on their litter, but let me give you a quick one – The Clump & Seal litter has a 7 day odor free home guarantee. We used it in the cattery and while we were only there three days, I did not smell a thing. We even did a smell test with a sardine in a small Tupperware container of the litter and you couldn’t smell the sardine which previously WREAKED. So I think it must work :)

Thank you to Animal Haven for really just giving free reign. They were so great to work with and just generally wonderful people.

Thank you Isabella Patrick for helping me design and for keeping the project going. If you guys are looking for a designer in New York, she is a good one.

Thank you Kathryn Godwin for your beautiful installation. You were clutch and you killed it.

Thank you Will Saks for helping me install and helping me obsess on all the details whilst shopping.

All photos by the lovely Matt Harrington (a great interiors photographer in New York  - I highly suggest you hire him).

Resources: Aimee Wilder Wallpaper, CB2 dining table and chairs, Ikea kitchen, Pet Cages

Sunrise Senior living Suite makeover

Many of you might remember the makeover for Sunrise Senior Living I did last year where the lovely Fran won a suite redesign by us.  It was one of my favorite projects ever. It was just so rewarding because I truly think it made her life happier and thats all you can really want/expect out of your job, right?

At Sunrise Senior Living they invite anyone who lives there to turn their space into their home by really doing anything to it (yes, including wallpaper!). You can paint, bring in your own furniture (even pianos and pets) and really make it yours. If they insisted on generic design I wouldn’t have partnered with them, but they wanted to highlight the fact that you can make your room or suite totally you by doing whatever you want to it. In fact a couple of words about Sunrise in general: they are a nationwide community for seniors that is dedicated to providing personal care for each senior, while maintaining dignity and independence. Also they have a lot of happy hours, movies, even a beauty salon where they can get pampered. In fact if you wanted to you could pack your day full of activities that they provide – to help them stay and feel young. I’ve now been to five Sunrise locations and have been impressed with all of them. The one in LA that I visited felt like SUCH a party – everyone knew each other really well, and was having so much fun together.

OK, back to the makeover:

There is kinda nothing more satisfying than someone winning a free makeover they are just so grateful and happy which makes our job so much more satisfying – it’s a win/win for everyone involved.

So I’d like to introduce you to Dominic and Helen; two incredibly sweet and deserving seniors.


Their son nominated them to win the makeover (there were over a hundred entries) and they were chosen. Dominic was a POW in WWII for 19 months and he is one of the happiest, most jovial people i’ve ever met. Nineteen months, folks. That is a lot of time – he deserves 25 makeovers.

They call him ‘The Mayor ‘at Sunrise because he’s just so social and funny – not to mention a massive flirt. He’s a ladies man, but man, he loves Helen soooooo much. They’ve been together for 67 years and are clearly still in love. So sweet. Again, I will say (and I said it last year) that the Sunrise communities are awesome – its like fun college dorms for seniors – but with way more amenities. There are so many happy hours, activities, field trips to bars/museums, musical events, dances, etc … plus a lot of really personal care (everyone has their own care giver that knows them VERY WELL) and physical/medical help when they need. Oh and the food is strangely good and super healthy. Every time I’m in one I just think: I’ve got to start saving or getting insurance for this, because its such a lovely place to live.

Anyway, their suite, however, was lacking. Their lovely son purchased all the furniture the week before they moved in and he’s not exactly a decorator (which is why he entered them into the contest). It was functional but just not very pretty or personal. Here’s the before:

Bedroom Makeover

Fairly generic and just not a place you are PSYCHED to hang out. Luckily none of these pieces were sentimental to them so they said we could replace all of them …. EXCEPT the recliners. They said that if we found recliners that were as comfortable (and within our small budget) that they would be open to it, but ultimately comfort for them was more important than style and while obviously that is a design challenge, I totally agreed. I wasn’t going to be that jerk that was like ‘here are your new minimalist club chairs’ that were hard and uncomfy. Its like giving a family with three little kids a white silk rug. These guys were indeed the most comfortable chairs in the world so I couldn’t really compete with that.

Bedroom makeover

The headboard/side tables/lamps were all just fine but stylistically not really saying anything about who they are. Plus, frankly, they were kinda bumming me out.

Bedroom makeover

Before I got started on this redesign I came up with a bunch of tips  and product pics for designing for seniors. They have different needs and as they age we want to make sure that their physical weaknesses are addressed first and foremost so that they can live their life as comfortably as possible with as few frustrations as possible. So below is the general moodboard/design tips I came up for designing for any seniors (It’s not Helen and Dominic’s design plan – stay tuned for that).


1. Ivory sconce | 2. Side table | 3. Upholstered headboard | 4. Tufted ottoman | 5. Blue/green | 6. Bronzed beige | 7. Tufted sofa | 8. Drop leaf dining table | 9. Desk | 10. Table Lamp | 11. White sconce | 12. Storage boxes | 13. Ferns | 14. Floating wall shelf | 15. Quilt set | 16. Rounded nightstand | 17. Tufted ottoman

1. Ivory sconce A retractable sconce like this by your nightstand frees up surface area and the position of it is flexible so you can move it around to make sure that your reading needs are met. I love this one for reading, but if its the only lighting that you have near the bed then make sure you get a fabric shade as metal shades have only directional light – great for reading but not for ambience.

2. Side table.  This side table is both a stool for extra seating and a surface for setting drinks – we love how multifunctional pieces like this can be. Plus, its round so it doesn’t have any sharp corner so hips and shins are most likely free from harm.

3. Upholstered headboard.  I love how warm and simple a headboard like this is. Its much more inviting to get into and more comfortable for reading in bed.

4. Tufted ottoman  Comfortable, inviting, traditional and yet updated. And I love how this one again, has extra storage.

5. This soft blue/green provides a calming energy.

6. This bronzed beige color brings warmth into the space without being too muted.

7. Tufted sofaA small-scale sofa like this is perfect for a cozy home and it’s big back offers a lot of comfort and support.

8. Drop leaf dining table A drop leaf table can be against the wall like a console or buffet when guests aren’t over and then when you are ready to entertain you simply pull it out and viola – room for 4!

9. Desk This desk is small-scale and could act like a buffet, sofa table or desk – yet is so simple that it can work with many styles.

10. Touch Table Lamp A touch table lamp is so extremely convenient so there is no middle of the night searching for switches or fumbling around. You just reach out and its on.

11. White sconce The sconce is chic and modern and has an easy switch that can be reached while laying down.

12. Storage boxes hides all the unsightly items and is a good way to store photos and cards.  These are good because they have a handle on the front for easy access.

13. Ferns are an easy plant to maintain and provides a sculptural but soft energy to the room.

14. Floating wall shelf A shelf like this (especially in the longer 45 – 60” lengths) is great to place art or family photos on. Instead of hanging and rehanging them on the wall you just hang the shelf once and rotate pictures, add to them and create a collection of family memories so easily.

15. Quilt set Go for a pretty texture for your bedding. This can be mixed with a pattern or another solid and the texture provides warmth and easy differentiation between the bedding layers.

16. Rounded nightstand I love the warmth of the nightstand and of course how it provides storage that can be hidden away. Its traditional without feeling too rickety and antique.

17. Tufted ottoman Any time you can combine storage into a piece of furniture do it! This ottoman is great to keep blankets or magazines close and within reach.

So using those tips and ideas I came up with their mood board:



Lets talk about their particular needs and wants:

1. Dominic wanted a mini-bar – somewhere he could entertain his friends in his room because he’s such a social dude.

2 They wanted something fun to play music off of (that music box does records, cd’s as well as ipod or iphone). They both LOVE to dance which you’ll see down there later.

3. They wanted to keep their recliners as they are super comfortable and easy to get in and out of. A design challenge for sure, but I was up for it.

4. He loves to garden so we needed to bring that in somehow.

5. Helen wanted light blue/green as the dominant color.

6. They didn’t have any personal items – so we needed to bring in some family photos to help it feel more personal.

The above mood board was our first one, with teal/aqua being the dominant color, gray to ground it and help it feel more masculine, woods to warm it up and ochre/mustard as its accent color. I liked it but it wasn’t feeling very fresh.


This one I liked more, (we switched out ochre for coral) but it looked WAY too much like the color palette from last year, so we needed to mix it up a bit.

Instead of the coral we brought in some navy and it started feeling much better.

Moodboard 05 700

We had about two weeks to prep which sounds like a lot but when you are installing in Ohio and shopping online for furniture it becomes hard to find pieces that are available (to ship and be delivered in time), what you need and what you want. So it was a mad rush to get everything either made or ordered and shipped out in time. Ginny and Brady headed out there two days early to do a lot of the accessory shopping and project manage the wallpaper/paint situation, and I came out the day before to style it all up. I wasn’t able to meet Helen and Dominic in person before so it was so fun to be able to chat with them because they were just so grateful and excited.


We gave them sneak peeks here and there and they had approval over the wallpaper and the color palette, but otherwise it was all a surprise which makes the reveal that much more fun:

Bedroom Makeover

They LOVED IT. Gosh, I love a good reveal. They were so surprised, totally speechless and just full of joy. That’s not the best pic of Dominic right there, he looks terrified, but trust me that he reacted (which is why I’m laughing so hard). To see the whole thing in action (and hear more about them and their story) check out this video of the project.

Bedroom Design

Such a happier space, indeed. We chose this floral wallpaper because we wanted to speak to their love of gardening – plus it’s just so happy and traditional, but in an updated way. It was tricky finding the mix of what feels/looks fresh and fun, and what is their style – which  is more traditional and safe. This wallpaper felt like a good compromise – I loved how simple it was (with just two colors  and birds/flowers) but it still felt approachable to them.

Bird Wallpaper

I wanted to wallpaper the entire room but Dominic said that he thought that would be confusing and maybe he was right. So we decided to match the color of the wallpaper to get the right paint color for the other three walls.

Bedroom Makeover

We switched out the dresser with this vintage one that we found in Columbus that had way more character and worked with the tones of the nightstands. We added some photos of their family, a plant for life (the caretakers will take care of the plants) and a simple curvy lamp to balance out all the squares.

Products: WallpaperHeadboard | Sconces | Shams | Sweater blanket | Pillows | White bedding

Bedroom Design

That mini-bar was perfect for them because it had rounded edges (again, good for not bumping hips/shins) and then yeah, it was filled with scotch, gin, tequila and margarita mix (Helen loves margaritas). We added the two knobs to make it easier to open up (and did it in a contrast color to make it easy to see).

Products: Side tableEtched bowl (used as plant pot) | Lamp + Lamp shade | Striped jewellery box | Bar | Knobs | blue pot | White pot | Record/CD player | Mugs


The plug-in lights were great for freeing up surface space plus you don’t need to have junction boxes installed. We used a simple white conduit cover to cover the chord (super cheap, from any hardware store) and is a great solution for a rental or a space that might be more temporary.

We made three terrariums, filled with plants, because Dominic loves gardening so we wanted to bring in some miniature gardens.  He was so excited to take care of the terrariums himself and I assured him that they are probably going to need some help as I had no idea what I was doing when I planted them together.

Products: Blue frame | Blue vase | Lantern (used as terrarium)

Bedroom Makeover

Cute nightstand

The nightstands were from Crate and Barrel and  i liked them because the wood warmed up the space, they provided storage and they were approachably modern.

Products: Wood nightstand | Sheet set

Bedroom makeover

Products: Cream lamp + Drum lamp shade | Blue dot frame | Wood photo frame | Gold pot | Brass frame mirror | Books | Dresser- vintage


Products: Geo lantern (used as terrarium) | Marble box | Striped jewellery box | Plug-in light dimmer 

Bedroom Design

The plug-in dimmer thing is one of my favorite inventions. You plug your lamp (or sconce) into the end of it and then plug it into the wall and you can control your lamp/sconce from that – dim it down, turn off/on, etc. It seems like not that much further to reach, but if you have physical weaknesses it can be a stretch (literally) to reach up there, and just not necessary when an option like this exists. They are super cheap and so helpful.


Those recliners had to stay and I actually don’t totally mind them for Dominic and Helen. I searched and searched and searched to find some recliners that could replace them and every time I thought I nailed it, I asked myself ‘Are these going to be as comfortable for Dominic and Helen as what they already have’ and the answer was, ‘no way’. Sure, I found some that were $1500 each and they looked slightly better, but that was almost the entire budget so obviously that wouldn’t make sense, plus they weren’t that much better. So we happily left those bad boys in there.

Products: Trunk  1. Ivory sconce | 2. Side table | 3. Upholstered headboard | 4. Tufted ottoman | 5. Blue/green | 6. Bronzed beige | 7. Tufted sofa | 8. Drop leaf dining table | 9. Desk | 10. Table Lamp | 11. White sconce | 12. Storage boxes | 13. Ferns | 14. Floating wall shelf | 15. Quilt set | 16. Rounded nightstand | 17. Tufted ottoman

Meanwhile after the reveal we turned on Frank Sinatra and had a dance party, naturally.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema

He insisted on swinging me around white intensely and kept telling me that my hips were too stiff and that I needed to loosen up a bit, so he ditched me for Helen pretty quick.

good b-roll.Still005

I get pretty sentimental about this job because I think that the elderly are dismissed a lot in our society – way more here than in so many other countries. Ironically I never really knew my grandparents very well, (my  mom side had passed before I was born and my dad’s parents weren’t totally involved because he suffered from pretty severe PTSD from WWII his entire life) but to me, and especially now that I’m a mom, they deserve soooo much more respect than they are given. I just keep thinking that is going to be me one day, if I’m lucky, and needless to say, I hope that my life is as full of love and life as it is now, so any way that we can help make seniors lives a little more fun is a very good thing.

I now insist that you go and hug a senior.

Sunrise is having their “Tour of Homes,” starting June 1 – 7, which means when you stop by you can take a tour of the community and check out actual resident suites so you can see how they live and what they do with their space. 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.

*This post and project is in partnership with Sunrise Senior Living – a nationwide community dedicated to championing the quality of life for all seniors.