Emily Henderson

Mistakes have been made …

Oh, yeah. Mistakes get made. I wish I could talk about the mistakes that I made while shooting SFAS. Half the time we didn’t have time to exactly fix them so then the homeowner, who was normally so excited about the design and didn’t notice any mistakes, would read the post and get sad because they would find out that there was something that I wasn’t terribly happy with. And that just seemed unnecessary and mean.

But trust me, when you are designing super fast, you make mistakes. Being a good designer doesn’t mean that you don’t make mistakes, it just means that you know it when you do and you do what you can to change them. Yes, this has cost me money with my real clients, for sure. And it SUCKS. But every house is different, every sofa is different, and you learn something new each time — often the hard way.

For the ‘House of the Year’ that I’ve been documenting this past last week there was one major design decision that was a total mistake. You might remember that the living room looked like this:


As I was pulling together the art direction and general design concept I found pictures of this house:


And I was all …  YES YES YES!!! Let’s paint the molding the dark color but leave the walls white. It will be unexpected and exciting. People would sing ‘For She’s A Jolly Good Fellow,’ maybe there would be a parade, or at least some sort of standing ovation. I pictured that scene from ‘A Christmas Story’ where Ralphie turned in his paper to the teacher and fantasized her writing A+ A+ A+ while the students cheered:

ralphie A+

And then this guy would probably give me a slow clap …


… with a couple ‘Brava, Brava,’ which is the super pretentious way of saying ‘Bravo.’

While I knew it wasn’t that genius, — I mean I was clearly copying someone else’s idea — I did think it was going to be awesome. So they painted the molding the dark teal color (Benjamin Moore ‘Oasis Blue’). And then they sent me the picture. (REMEMBER: I’m in LA and the house is in New York.) At this point I’ve only seen it once, and while I had photos, not actually being in the space and really feeling it makes a huge difference. And for the record the editors from CL were totally down. They loved the idea and gave it a big ‘go for it.’

So Isabella sent me the photo of the molding after it was painted:

painted moulding

It’s a great photo, I know. And I have no idea who the naked man is (holding his caulk none the less). Needless to say there were no crowds cheering and all I really I wanted to do was this:

baby crying

Before I said too much I asked Isabella (the project manager and a GREAT designer) if it was too late to change it. She said ‘I don’t think so’ and then I called up the editors. I told them that I think I made a mistake and that the painted moldings made the room look CRAZY busy instead of awesome, and that they have to be painted back white. They agreed, thank God.

country modern house

I MEAN … WILDY better, right? Whoops.

Here is what I didn’t think about in my excitement:

1. The actual window casing is vinyl and white, whereas in the inspiration shots it’s wood and glass only. Therefore there is even more busy-ness and really draws attention to the vinyl casings.

2. We don’t have shutters. Never did, never will. One of the reasons that it works in that space is because the windows have shutters and therefore have larger chunks of the color — not just these dinky stripes. Lesson: Be inspired by something, but also use your own eyes in your head and see what your actual options are in your house.

3. We had A TON of windows and they are all really close together. Normally this is like winning the lottery, but by painting the window casing a dark color it made the room crazy busy. You couldn’t even see the sunlight or the pretty views anymore; ALL you saw was those dark squares all over the walls.

4. Sometimes inspiration pictures are just such pretty pictures that once you look at the facts, actually take in what they did and why, you find that the idea behind them isn’t necessarily that awesome. It’s just a striking photo by an amazing photographer and a great stylist. I’m not necessarily saying it’s the case with this one, but I’ve noticed this a lot.

So, my friends, lesson learned. If/when you are blessed with a lot of windows in a room, DON’T paint them a dark color. If you have one major focal window, and say, some beautiful antique wood shutters then yes, go for it. But learn from my mistakes.

Was this an expensive mistake? Probably around $800, but the contractor/painter fixed it immediately. If this had been a paying client I don’t know what I would have done. Technically when the client approves something (which you actually have them sign off on in writing) you aren’t liable anymore, but in this case I would really feel like it was my fault and that I should have known better so therefore I probably would have paid out of pocket to get it repainted.

Either way, mistakes are made … and then fixed in the design world every day. Now you tell me yours … please ???

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