Emily Henderson

Introducing our house and our newest client – ME.

Oooooh, its happening. I’ve been really busy as you know (the move, baby, christmas, THE BACHELOR – happy Juan-uary, by the way) so I don’t think I properly introduced you to my newest client: MYSELF (and Brian and Charlie). This year i’ll be blogging about the design of the house (room by room) telling you all the problems, how we are fixing them, with mood boards, how-to’s, process shots and sneak peek into the finals (which will hopefully be in a magazine – hey Domino or Elle Decor? Need a house to feature in a year?). You’ll get ample information, trust me. I mean, have you met me? This girl can talk/write ….

In short: this house has GREAT bones, architecture, light, flow, view and space, but all the finishes (carpet/flooring, orange peel on the walls, tile, paint, etc) need to be replaced or updated. We  replaced the carpet with beautiful flooring (post coming next week), skim coated the walls and did a couple of things that were structural, but really its more of a big old decoration job rather than a renovation this time.


The house was built-in 1964 up on the hills in Glendale and has great mid-century lines. It also has mid-century carpet, dust and age, so there is a lot of freshening up to do as well as finishing. It also had lots of vintage Polaroid pics of hookers giving lap dances hidden in the walls with, get this, CRACK PIPES. Actual crack pipes from what seems like the early 80’s, although we didn’t test their vintage quality. There was also a ‘bonus’ room in the basement that was clearly used for some S and M activity – although definitely NOT 50 shades of gray kinda of quality, which is now being transformed into my office. It has some history, for sure, but so does every house and Brian and I aren’t easily creeped out so we actually think its hilarious.

Before Before

So pretending i’m the client here, I have to do what I always do when meeting a client: ask the million dollar question: how do you want your home to feel? Not look – that can get too complicated with vocabulary confusing the real question. But how do you want it to FEEL? When you walk in the door what feeling do you want to come over you?

For me, it’s these three words/feelings: HAPPY, CALM and SURPRISING. I want it to be a place that feels joyful and whimsical, like happy people really live here and have a lot of fun here. But I also really need it to feel calm and quiet – a lot less busy than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. This is probably because of the baby and my ensuing hectic life, or maybe its the fact that the architecture of this house is so good that I don’t need to decorate the hell out of it to ‘help’ it so to speak. I realize that this is a common mistake (that I’ve absolutely guilty of) – when you don’t like the house you try to fill it with exciting things to distract you from the house itself. So now that I love this house (the light, the space, THE VIEWS!!!) I want way less ‘stuff’ because I don’t want to distract or detract from what I love about it.

So here is my inspiration for what ‘calm’ looks like:


See? Fairly tonal and quiet, full of whites, woods, natural materials like wicker and rattan, leathers and some pops of color. It says, ‘oh hey guys, come on in and relax, read a magazine, spread out and cuddle’. Remember the more contrast in your space the more ‘energetic it feels so the line between quiet and boring is fine and one that I’m going to have to dance carefully.

But then of course there is a side of me (and Brian) that wants unpredictability, the unexpected, the surprising and most importantly, the weird. We can’t live in a white world. NO! We are much too loud and boisterous (did I just call us ‘boisterous’?) to live totally minimally. Instead, every room needs something to throw it off – some color to shake it up, and some energy and life.


So that is another fine line to dance on – energetic without being busy. (Over the course of the redo i’ll show you how to do this, by the way).

So, that’s where i’m starting – mixing those two worlds: quiet and calm with unexpected and weird – but always ALWAYS happy. Brian and I are total extroverts and we have very rowdy friends (did i just call our friends ‘rowdy’? What are they frat boys?) that require an unbreakable house. I want Charlie (and child #2) to look around and without knowing why, feel like this is a place that they can have fun. So yes, it will be INCREDIBLY kid friendly – well as kid-friendly as a house on a cliff with cement stairs can be :). I’m way too much of a ‘yes’ person to have to tell my child ‘no’ all the time … plus I’m simply too lazy to discipline that much … and i hate rules in general. So I will be passing up any furniture that can either be damaged easily by a child, or easily damage a child – that’s the only rule I really want to keep for myself – er…. my “client”.

So far I’m liking my client – while a bit demanding, she and I have very similar styles and she has the cutest baby I’ve ever seen so that doesn’t hurt. And while what she wants is far beyond what she can really afford, I’ll remind  her constantly that a house with everything that is high-end and expensive is a. not really her and b. less interesting. It’s the hunt, the random Craigslist, the mixing of less expensive big box stores with more unique pieces that actually reflects her families personality more. I’ll let her splurge on some things as she works VERY hard and deserves some treasures, but I’ll constantly remind her that she of all people can do a lot with flea markets and some sweat.

God, I hope she listens to me.

So, friends, pretend like you just hired a designer and they asked you ‘how do you want your space to feel?’ What three words immediately pop into your head?  I’m curious if there are some universal consistencies … Let er rip …

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