FDR Chic – a dude’s mix of antique, mid-century and bohemian style

Ian Brennan wears polyester wranglers and white v-neck tee-shirts everyday – but in a good way. He’s like a Hollywood cowboy.  He is a co-creator of Glee and has a black belt, but is obsessed with history.  So doing his style diagnostic took a few days to figure out. What i came up with was a mix of masculine antiques, global pieces, and 60’s mid-century.  He loves FDR, Mexico, and the Beatles. But he’s still a dude and at the time he was a single dude so i needed it to be layered and styled and full (because hes NOT a minimalist and didn’t want it to be cold and modern) but still masculine.

I purchased the coffee table at HD Buttercup and it was  a splurge at $1200, but i’m still so glad we paid it because it’s the most functional table ever – it’s huge but indestructable so when people come over everyone throws all their food and drink on it and not a mark is left. It also grounds the living room, plus it’s edgy so it brings an immediate ‘cool dude’ vibe. Remind me to never say cool dude again.

The sofa is from HD Buttercup as well and it wasn’t expensive ($1100) but as you’ll see 2 years later it has faded a lot. That’s a good lesson, folks, – if you have a really bright room, don’t get a really dark sofa.  The fabric didn’t seem cheap to me so it wasn’t that – i think ultimately dark fabrics will fade unless they are leather, full of poly or sunbrella (outdoor) fabric.  I brought in that silver dome lamp recently that i got at the flea market (and strangely it didn’t sell on One kings Lane).  The Beatles pillow is an addition that he made and i think it works – as long as there is just one (there are 3 and i always hide the other two when i go over – i’m VERY annoying like that).  The black and white pillow i made myself during the show.

The shelves are propped with what i call ‘dude accessories.’  These tend to be globes, encyclopedias, leather objects, boxes, weird books, antlers and vintage fans.  Some of them up top are kinda ‘proppy’ but you can’t get to them because they are up so high so i needed objects that were graphic, not too busy and popped out of the shelves.   The pendant is from MIX on La Brea but it was in black so i spray painted it white.  There are two of them in the space and they are awesome, and were each $300 which is not bad considering how much impact they have.

Here’s a question i get all the time, ‘How do i style my Golden Globes in my home decor?’  Ugh, i totally understand. Golden Globes are the worst.  Actually to be honest these are beautiful. I work with a lot of writers and very often the trophy awards are purple triangle things and actually hard to make look cool, but these golden globes are 1. GOLD and 2. simple and classic looking.  (He won for creating and writing Glee – he’s the shit).

The side table is from TINI, i believe. The Rug is from Stark Carpets and was $1800, which isn’t pennies but i love it. It’s the perfect golden, ochre-y contrast to all the grays.  Plus it really pulls in the Golden Globes.

How can you entertain Steven Spielberg without a proper bar? You can’t. It’s social suicide in Hollywood. I got the table at the flea market, the vintage tea towel is from Etsy, the glasses are from an antique mall upstate New York (those are mine, though, i brought them in for the shoot, i’m obsessed with them and their little gold crests on them).  And the ‘Scotch’ Vase and leather decanter are also mine.  Above the bar is a page from the Chicago Sun Newspaper from 1887 or something and it’s TERRIBLY fun to read.  I mean, people talked about their horses, hangings and yes, guns.  Also people were very racist, its totally fascinating to read how we have changed in the last 150 years.  There used to be vintage photographs of The Who, but we moved those downstairs and replaced them with these newspapers which we got at the flea market for $80 each.

You might remember that during the show i put edison bulbs in the sconces and left them bare – all hipster like. Well that didn’t last too long.  A. i got over that trend really fast and B. they give off terrible light that pierces your eyeballs even when you aren’t looking at them. So i replaced them with these glass shades about a year ago.


That’s how it was when i finished the show.  In general it hasn’t changed too much, but per usual after living in a space (he moved in the day that we finished) you realize your actual needs and things get shifted. Also when you are doing things for TV you kinda have to commit to something that has been approved even if you know you’d change it.

AGAIN THAT IS A SET PHOTO.  For instance those chairs in the background, i had to leave them there because i was supposed to be mixing more ‘global’ pieces in, when ultimately the bench looks wildly better there.

If you turn around in the room, you see the dining area with this black and white toile wallpaper going up the wall in the stairway, creating an accent wall.  It’s awesome.  The chairs are thrifted and the dining/console table is from HD Buttercup.  The pharmacy trend was still pretty big when i decorated this place so there are a bunch of bottles styled up here, and i still really like them. I’m not into the fake repro’s but these guys are real and have a lot of age to them so i’m cool with it.  No, that is not Ian’s purse.  He prefers vintage airline bags.

And there he is. The worst president of all time. How very topical since the debates were last night. This is a portrait of William Henry Harrison, otherwise known as the worst president of all time because he caught a cold at inauguration and died 30 days later.  That is a very short term.  I found this at TINI. It was probably from a film.

The chair is from the flea market but i had it upholstered in new belgium linen. The pouf is from Mosaic on Beverly, but you can get them HERE online. The lamp is from West Elm and i think it looks super expensive so i wish they still sold it.  When i first designed his house i had a lot of awesome task lighting, meaning lighting with metal shades (like the chrome dome lamp) but ultimatley these give off terrible ambient light since they have harsh light that only spotlights down. Lesson learned.  So a couple months later after i was at a party at his house i changed it up and made a big West Elm order.

  1. Jessi

    That vignette with the kudu-ish horns and the frame KILLS me…I love it so much. Amazing architecture in that room too…those bookshelves are to die for. Love love love your work in this room, and I'm excited to see it resurface because I'm painting my living room grey owl this weekend! Inspired by you and this room of course.

  2. jen

    I still love this space! This specific show was the first time I'd ever seen you…(sorry i did not watch design star. :)) But i am still hooked! You are a great stylist and i love your blog and your ideas and your style!

  3. LOVED thiis room then- love it still! The big portrait is brilliant

  4. Andrea U

    Wow $348 for a pouf? Even Jonathan Alter is way cheaper…………

  5. gwen

    I just re-watched this episode last week. It is actually one of my favorites. so awesome.

  6. I watched this episode last night (thanks for providing the link!) and.I.loved.it. Definitely love the mix of the three styles, they are effortless together…what a gift you have!!! And it's so rewarding to come back years later and it all is still relatively the same! And I agree, the bench is waaay better for the window than the chairs =)

  7. Really love this space! And I kind of like the way the sofa looks even faded.

  8. heather

    Is that your bag on the chair, Emily??? I love it..

    Is "pharmacy" out now?? I ask because sometimes design blogs kill me, in that the very sites that make a trend "popular" or known to people is the first place you'll see people bashing those same trends. I don't really mean this site, more like the Apt. Therapy's of the world. It's hard to keep up. You come to these kind of sources for inspiration, then a month later you feel like you're already "out" (ala Heidi Klum). Anway, just something that was on my mind and I wanted to share.

    LOVE this room though! The coffee table is aaaaaaamaaaaazing!!!

  9. Anon

    I love that fireplace! It looks very 1930s. Is that when the house was built? The room looks wonderful!

  10. Jamie

    This was also the first episode my wife and I watched and I was hooked :)

    In regard to trends being "in" or "out," maybe Emily can weigh in but I have found that to some extent you have to take opinions with a grain of salt. I read lots of house/design/architecture/DIY etc. blogs regularly (including design*sponge and Apt. Therapy) and I definitely enjoy them. I read them because I like to be inspired by what others have done. The key is to not go out and decorate your entire room (or even worse) your entire house based on the latest trends you saw today on a popular blog. That is a surefire way to have your place feel "dated" in too short a period of time.

    Instead, I like to incorporate individual elements mentally gathered over time from all these inspiring spaces. IE: Preformed, white, fake animal heads hanging on the wall? It was HUGE for awhile. Is it as popular now as it was a year ago? Definitely not. Will someone soon say they are out of style? Probably. But we only have 2, in ONE room of our house and It still feels very natural and fits the room well over a year later. I'm not going to remove them just because some bIog or show says they are "out." If we had done this in several rooms, it might start to feel tired tho. As long as you don't use something too many times or in too many spaces or don't redo entire rooms with a narrow focus on one specific style that is popular at the moment I think you will be fine.

    That's one reason why I have enjoyed redoing our entire house over a long period of time – you tend to incorporate different elements or be inspired by different things at different points in time and in the end you have something that tends to go together well without feeling forced into one specific style.

  11. I loved this room and still do — it looks so amazing in these photos. I get so tired of seeing masculine spaces mean minimalist and like you could cut yourself on all the sharp lines.

  12. Emily Henderson

    hey @heather and @jamie
    I'm also not totally into saying that things are 'in' or 'out' but sometimes trends overwhelm and then EVERYTHING becomes knocked off and i think the original is ALWAYS in, but once things start gettting knocked off and super mainstream you know not to get super into the trend and to still collect the original pieces or now and again the cheap knock offs.

    The pharmacy trend is overwhelming right now so i definitely wouldn't start your project with that theme in mind – incorporate it sparingly into your design. Same with industrial. I get annoyed looking at all the knock off iron and reclaimed wood tables – i like the old ones, but can't look at another fake industrial cart table. :)

  13. I really love this room. I think I would feel at home here even though it's so masculine and I'm a girl. Oh Emily, I wish you could fix my apartment and make it look like this!

  14. Brad...

    To me this is one of your best designs… but then while watching this inaugural episode of your show I was finally able to put a moniker to my own personal style which actually has been developing for the past 30 to 40 years… so I identify… and that makes me partial to FDR-Chic. I have always been drawn to things vintage… but not a slave to any one style and I have been collecting since the day I got my first apartment. That's why I love your eclectic design ethic so much. And that's one of the reasons I think that the only trend any of us should follow… is using good taste in whatever style or mix of styles that appeals to us! But isn't that a gray area… because I see so many things today that people seem to love and I just don't… like trophies… I hate trophies… whether they are the kind you or somebody else shot and mounted… or the kind that people drag home from an award ceremony… but then I have never won a golden globe. If I had… I might feel differently! Bottom line… I think we should surround ourselves with things that help to make us feel good. And then if at some point they stop doing that… get rid of them… not when somebody else thinks they aren't the here and now! The older I get the more my realty is a blend of many times… and my home reflects that… and I love it. If on the inside we are the sum of our experiences… why can't our surrounds be the same way!

  15. kat

    this just reminds me of why you are my favorite design star winner and your show is one of my favorite hgtv shows of all time! great, livable, personal design.

  16. Jamie

    @Emily Henderson

    Very good points about original vs knock-offs. I do think originals are always when when coordinated properly. Thanks for responding!


    I definitely agree: design based around things gathered over a period of time or inspiration over a long period of time is something I am personally a fan of. Especially if you have a knack for being able to blend styles to have an eclectic yet natural feel.

  17. decorbuddy

    You are correct. This is one of your BEST designs, Emily! Love it!

  18. sarah

    this room (and whole house you did…) are great. totally functional, sophisticated space. i think you did such a great job of balancing the fdr and the british mod!

  19. I wrote a post about how amazing and talented you are, I would love you to check it out!


  20. Pratima

    Can you tell me where you got the bench in the window alove?

  21. samantha

    WHAT KIND OF TREE IS THAT?? I want one!

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