An Update on My Family Room

Emily_Family Room Update_header

The family room is kinda a disaster and not exactly moving forward very well and yet we spend SOOO much time in here eating strawberries and getting them on our shirt, obviously. I’m not sure what my problem is and why I can’t pull it together, but lets recap and I can give you the meager update you deserve.

Emily_Family Room_Before 1


Bookcase update

Remember that time I spent a lot of money and time designing and building the built-in bookcase? (See this post for that whole process.) Well, we’ve shot it now what feels like 19 times, although I think it’s just been four – Domino, the book, my living room tour, for the holidays, and again last week (for this post). I was never totally happy with it. Why? Because styling a huge open bookcase in the middle of your house is hard. You want it to be full of fun stuff, but not so busy that it just looks messy (because it makes the whole house feel messy if its messy).

But first, enter memory lane … Here is the wall where we decided to put the bookcase:


And here is a little video of the building of it:


I wish it were only that simple. So many wonky angles in the house that made their EXTREMELY precise measurements kinda a disaster.  So there was a lot of troubleshooting, but Gabriel, our dude is seriously meticulous and did an amazing job. Click through to see how its styled now.


California Winter Wonderland Glam

Lately I’ve been asked the same question over and over: “Since you have a blog, do you feel pressure to decorate differently every holiday, year after year?” and my answer is ‘maybe’. But I’d say its more like ‘desire’ and also ‘the serious need to shake it up because I have style A.D.D’. It would be like someone wearing the same dress for the Oscars and the Golden Globes. It’s not illegal, but when a lot of people are watching and expecting you to change it up, you kinda want to. Plus IT’S JUST SO FUN. 

Two years ago it was ‘CRAZY hot pink and navy’. Last year I kept it really simple with blues and woods, all Scandinavian style on a real tree (we didn’t shoot it because I had just had a baby).  Meanwhile remember when I did this ‘only teal and blues‘ for SFAS and then this crazy hot pink and white christmas I did for Holiday Celebrity Homes?  I love color, apparently.

So, this year wanted to do something totally different and more neutral. I pulled it back and practically eliminated all saturated colors except for the blue that’s in my house and the green from natural greenery. Head on over to Domaine Home for more pics and tips, but meanwhile get ready for a lot of information, friends.

Emily Henderson Home-114

I really wanted it to feel more sophisticated and soft. The holidays can be super chaotic and it really is here, even with just one kid, so instead of throwing more color in our living room, I removed a lot of it. The whole theme of the house is ‘California Winter Wonderland Glam’. It’s soft and textural with a lot of snow, animals, trees and whimsy – but in a more neutral way.

First off, I love a real tree, I do. More than a fake white tree, actually, … BUT, since we had that huge year-round Nek Buddha tree in our living room, I thought that the two trees would compete, like Angelina and Jen, or maybe more Gwyneth and Martha. They would both be beautiful in their own way, but competing for attention and somebody would lose. Either way, visually the room would look a little nuts and probably really heavy.

So instead I brought in Cate Blanchett (in the form of a tree). Angelic, white, soft and muted; peppered with soft copper, rose golds, champagne, rust, gold, silver and even some sparkly burgundy tones. Cate looks wonderful in burgundy. Besides, I already had one of them (the smaller one).

Emily Henderson Home-138

Here’s how I look at it: I have 2-3 more years (if that) before I’m going to care less about how ‘curated’ and ‘pretty’ our christmas tree is and more about it representing memories through handmade (and often not-so-chic) ornaments from my kids. Obviously I value aesthetics, but I was raised mormon, from a family of 6 kids and I LOVED unearthing the disgusting raw macaroni ornament that I made in first grade every year when we trimmed the tree. If Charlie took a brown clay mold and formed it in the shape of a turd and gave it to me with those glowing, proud, blue eyes I would weep with joy and probably place it on top as the star.

I’m digressing, but the point is for the next few years you might get some curated christmas decor because after that my challenge will be how to bring in real sentimental family ornaments and traditions in the prettiest way possible.


My living room, the last 5 years

I googled myself recently. And by ‘recently’ I mean that I do it every day like 25 times a day, looking for past work to reference, email or something. It’s a really fun narcissistic practice that I don’t necessarily recommend because initially I get excited (hey that’s me!)), but then a lot of ugly stuff comes up (bad head-shots, poorly shot spaces, designs I’m totally embarrassed of, etc).

But this particular search brought up every living room I’ve had in the last 5 years. It donned on me that a lot of you are new to the blog and maybe aren’t totally sick of seeing my past places. Then, I pondered how interesting it is to see yourself evolve. And by ‘evolve’ I don’t mean ‘get better’ necessarily, just how I’ve changed due to my lifestyle and environment.

Each house, relationship, and financial situation changes how you decorate your home. So while I’ve kinda had the same style for the last 20 years, it’s so interesting to see how it’s different; it changes and yet feels the same.

So, lets run down memory lane, shall we?


2010: This shot (by Teri Lyn Fisher) was taken right before Designstar. We moved into this mediocre apartment that we shot to look really pretty (because photography is magic). In a lot of ways this still really looks like me. I have that painting (framed in a more modern way). I still have fig trees, that rug, floral pillow, and that dog painting. And the general color palette is obviously on brand. Man, I’m predictable. But this shot still feels like ‘me’ and in a lot of ways still looks like my style now. So weird.

2011: I think I felt that I was too feminine in 2010 so I tweaked my style, I got my ‘dude’ on and made it a bit more rustic. Also after Designstar I decided that I could splurge on a sofa so I bought this sofa for $700 in Portland (in current/original upholstery) which was such a hard decision financially at the time and I look back on it as one of my best ever. I still love this living room and this shot. The cross flag was from a vintage store and I framed it myself with furring strips from Home Depot and carpet tacks. It’s the same living room as 2010 but more accurate because it’s actually where we put the sofa, whereas in 2010 the sofa was just propped in the dining room because the light was better. See? Photography is magic (and lies …. all lies).

Moving on to 2012:


2012. Here we shot the same living room for HGTV magazine. They wanted a more bold look, so we switched out the rug for a pattern rug. I had splurged on those safari chairs that I still have and that coffee table which I wish I still had (although it was so un-kidfriendly with the brass edging jutting out and begging to slice off small fingers). This may be at my “quirkiest”. Its fun. Looking back at the pictures it reminds me of that time period in my life (we moved out the next day, literally).

Also that was a cement dalmatian dog sculpture. It weighed 95 pounds. I thought it was ‘fun’ and Brian thought it was my way at ‘torturing him’. He’s very dramatic. I miss that bird lamp, the coffee table, the leather pouf (which I gave to my friend Scott as a thank you gift) and that side table that you can’t see which is coated linen and totally beautiful. This shot makes me think that I’ve gone too simple and modern.


2013: I got my funk on in 2013 (shot by Zeke Ruelas). We moved to this more regency/ornate house and because of that I went a bit wild, eclectic and back to my feminine roots (go here for resources). A lot of the same furniture that I have now, but the accessories have more color. I can’t tell how I feel about the fireplace painted navy nor can I tell about the amount of things on the mantel (is it too much?). But, when I see this room I still get happy. It’s a good room, just not sure how ‘me’ it is now. But maybe the ‘now me’ isn’t that ‘me’. Meta, much?


In 2014 we shot our new house (which we finally own) for Domino  (by Brittany Ambridge) and our living room was way more reserved and sophisticated. There are times when I think that it was tooooo pulled back. Not enough fun. Not enough crazy. But then I look at it from an objective point of view and I think ‘yeah, I would pin that so hard’.

But it wasn’t terribly kid friendly. The coffee table was easy to tip over and begging to bludgeon an eye and those chairs were lovely but just not as soft and cozy as I wanted.

So after that shoot we made some changes (as I’m sure you all know):


2015 (well, almost). We changed out the coffee table for the large leather pouf and we put back in our awesome leather safari chairs that are in-destructable and have no hard edges for Charlie. It’s not that I’m obsessed with Charlie (yes, I am) it’s that I’m obsessed with me not stressing about every single thing in my life, so these chairs reduce my stress. (shot by Tessa Neustadt)

This is where we are now (resources here) and I’m pretty happy on a daily basis. But the thing is, I think I was pretty happy with the others before, or maybe I wasn’t. Maybe I was as happy as I thought I could be. Regardless, I think it’s a pretty fun study in how your space evolves and how it often parallels your life.

So my question is:

12 days of instagram with target

The other day my friend Target called. I answered, ‘Oh hey, Targe’, and after a few pleasantries and maybe even some internet gossip we came up with a good idea for a new collaboration.

We decided to shoot a bunch of sneak peeks of my house for the holidays and to leak it slowly all over the internet – not celebrity nude photo style, nay, but on my own Instagram. Totally legal, just way more beautiful than my usual Instagrams. Win, win for everyone.

emily henderson christmas

I’m writing this as I’m watching “Peter Pan” live on TV and I now realize how ahead of the trend we were two weeks ago coming up with this idea. Next year, Targe. I’m open to either The Little Mermaid or Sound of Music. No need to rehearse either, I know every word by heart, folks. EVERY. SINGLE. WORD.

christmas nutcracker

So welcome to a few instagram outtakes (and some repeats) of a shoot we had a couple of weeks ago at our house. We actually finished REALLY decorating (and shooting) for the holidays yesterday so I’ll have those for you soon, but this is more ‘little ideas’ and ‘visual fun’.

flannel pajamas | gold tinseljoy pillow | snowflake pillow | gold foil pillow | monogram mug letter E | gift wrap from target check local store for different patterns

polar bear ornament | nutcracker lumberjack | festive clochebottle brush trees

white christmas tree

I went for a bright, happy, young, modern, holiday c/o Los Angeles. Shocking, I know. For this shoot we brought in a lot of pink which makes me so happy – although you might be surprised to see next week that there is very little color in my holiday house – in fact there is brown … BROWN!!!! ON PURPOSE!!!

similar christmas tree | joy pillowgold foil pillow | gift wrap from target check local store for different patterns | vintage hot pink balls | glitter star ornaments | large gold ball ornaments | small gold ball ornaments | animal ornaments | zebra – gifted | pink pillow custom made with vintage velvet | large gold bow | pink bow

charlie henderson

Without flooding you with cliches, i’ll just say this: Children make everything way more work and yet WILDY more fun. He loves the tree, the ornaments, the glitter, the sequins, and the garland. He squeals every morning when he sees the sparkles and every night when he sees the lights.

He can’t wait to rip apart my hours of finger bleeding styling. In fact yesterday I thought we had gotten rid of all the glass balls so I gave him a ball to play with while he sat on my lap and he smashed it (and shattered it) on his head. We were both startled and then he started crying because he was scared, meanwhile Ginny, Brady, Shauna and I picked glass out of his neck and pajamas. Don’t worry no cuts, but a good lesson that A. that baby is THE HULK, and B. it’s just easier to childproof with a one year old then it is to protect them (and to protect my vintage glass ornaments). Charlie 1, Holiday decoration 0.

Also please note the large gap between Charlie’s top teeth – I don’t know if it will stay but it’s possibly the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

santa suit | copper ornaments

white christmas tree

deer ornament

christmas pillow

joy pillow | snowflake pillow | furry throw |

christmas presents

Because we weren’t ready to actually decorate for the holidays we set up little sweet scenarios like this that look like my style, yet with all Target product. Boom. We hadn’t yet figured out what style we wanted to do this year – and NO, you don’t have to change styles every year but its my duty as a stylist/blogger to do something different. At least that’s how I’m rationalizing it. It’s like a celebrity wearing the same dress at The Oscars and The Golden Globes – she wouldn’t get arrested, but its kinda part of the job to don something different.

faux fur stool 


Speaking of red carpet … that is my little elf looking 100% innocent  – although he’s not these days, folks. He looks me in the eye, smiles and then throws his spoon after I’ve asked him and scolded him 3 times in a row not to. But in this photo, he is the poster child of innocence.

elf suit | glasses

christmas pillows

The ‘Red and Green’ combo is always in fashion during the holidays. If you feel like doing something different, do it, but if you want to stay classic, then STAY CLASSIC. It’s a ‘never fail’. Especially with these extremely adorable and dare I say ‘hipster’ accessories. That van/tree in the dome is just so cute.

festive cloche | monogram mug letter B | knit pillow | holiday scooter pillow | fur throw

christmas dome

festive cloche | small gold ball ornaments | small red ball ornaments

charlie henderson

That belly is on sale starting never and there are approximately zero in stock. Keep walking, folks, that little ball of white belly is ours.

christmas stockings

Here’s the biggest holiday stylist secret  – wrapped presents are the best for creating different levels, adding color/texture/reflection/pattern and come in a million different sizes. Obviously wrapping fake/empty presents doesn’t make sense (although I have done it for YEARS and YEARS whilst styling for the holiday in August), but just think about buying a few presents really early that you can use to decorate because they really help with the decor.

Those stockings are beautiful, by the way. It’s hard to tell in the photos but they are metallic champagne color and so simple, classic-shaped and yes, on trend. Win, win, win. We are using them, with the champagne glitter stocking holders and we love them.

ball garland | stockings | stocking holder 

emily henderson christmas

Here’s where I gave Charlie my ‘We are all unique snowflake monologue’. He agreed and we both cried poignant tears.

gold nutcracker

This is one of my favorite vignettes in the house. I love the colors, the tones, the way a glass dome quickly elevates ANYTHING.

robin | nutcracker | white bottle brush tree | gold bottle brush tree | gold tinsel | (blush ornaments are all vintage glass and now in boxes :(

christmas garland

Our chandelier is really simple which lends itself perfectly to being adorned by a garland. And I LOVE this garland. Its organic (burlap and metallic) and modern (just balls) at the same time. It works so well on all my shelves, credenza and yes, chandeliers. If you have a more ornate chandelier then think about getting something even simpler or going balls out and dripping it with decor – just keep it in your color palette so the whole space works together.

ball garland | chandelier

noel sign

This drink container is ridiculous. Its glass and its beautiful (plus it as a no-drip faucet). I just realized that you have to put it on the edge of the table to pour. But between that and the simple ‘NOEL’ and some amazing vintage brass mugs this shot makes me want to get my figgy pudding on.

noel sign | drinks dispenser | wallpaper

christmas candles

Silver dollar eucalyptus, white pillar candle holders and some baubles = the easiest tablescape.

pillar candlestick | gold votive candle holder | white candle holder

christmas joy

Kitchens are people, too. Don’t neglect the potential merriment of your kitchen windowsill. Let it be full of, yes, joy.

joy sign | white bottle brush tree | tree garland

christmas garland

I worry that one stores holiday decor will never match my personality as much as this years does at Target. The animals, the gold/white trees, the geometric garland. Sure, I work with Target, but I didn’t design these pieces. It’s like I’m Patrick Swayze and the Threshold designers are Demi Moore and we are turning a pot together – only I’m not really there. I like to think I have something to do with it, but I don’t, its just a good fit. Thank god.

mini gold christmas tree | large white christmas tree | small white christmas tree | sitting deer figurine | standing deer figurine | rabbit figurine | geo garland from target – check store

festive sheets

So, thats the end of the sneak peek at the Henderson Holiday Compound. Charlie looks like a doll in that photo (literally) and I look like a woman who JUST discovered flannel pajama sets (because thats true). You guys, They are WONDERFUL. So comfortable and cozy. Plus you can answer the door in them without being embarrassed. Look, we have a lot of early morning callers so that is kinda important and jumping for my robe isn’t nearly as sexy as it is in the movies. Going to bed fully clothed is wonderful in all ways (except one).

And naturally we posted a video about it so you can see how much of a crazy snow show it is at our house when we shoot there. Warning – the first half of the video i’m makeup-less (makeup video soon, i’m so excited) but the second half of the video I look like a human being.


Happy Friday (and holidays) folks. May this month bring you an incredible amount of happiness and joy.

flannel pajamas | charlie’s pajamas | snowflake sheets | fur pillow

All photos by Tessa Neustadt. Video by Scrunch Media Hair/Makeup by Danielle Walch