Our Studio Progress

When we first saw the house there was this bonus room underneath that was full of what seemed to be my nightmares, really; old exercise equipment, tax returns from 1988 … a weird S and M room, etc. The room itself was never actually finished – no proper flooring was ever laid and the walls had huge gaps between the drywall. It was 450 square feet that had only been used for storage and some other weird secret acts.

Before Office I know. Terrifying. But I was psyched. It meant that I would potentially have a studio that could be attached to the house, but separate. A space where I could have clients come and meet me without having them come into my house.

But it’s really just a box with a window which does not scare me at all.  So after they moved out it looked like this and it was way easier to see the potential. I was nearly excited.

Office Before Instead of ever doing the flooring the last 50 years the previous homeowners decided to just keep piling and piling carpets on top of each other. As a lover of most things vintage I will tell you that I really didn’t appreciate these vintage carpets. They were full of mould and loads of bugs and mystery liquids. It was disgusting. But besides that, it was all a simple fix.

Office Before This is to be our studio so I can work at home the next few years while raising little man. I wanted it to be a big white simple box that I can trick out, which it was, but the ceiling was too heavy so it needed to get painted out.

Office Before There was a very mysterious room that had padding on the inside that I’m sure they claimed was for music, but it was VERY tiny so it seemed to me that other naughty things had gone on in there. Especially since we found vintage Polaroids of hookers in the walls. So there’s that …

Office Before I mean, what a creepy room. I love a house with ‘a story’ although I don’t really want to know what this story was.

Office Before Sure, it could be for ‘music recording’, and maybe its all very innocent. Either way its gotta go.

Office Before Outside that soon to be white door is the mountain that the house is built into, basically. But there is a decent amount of space that we can eventually utilize – either as storage or most likely a bathroom. That way when we have meetings down here with clients they’ll never need to go upstairs into the house – look at me trying to set boundaries.

Office Before It’s hard to tell, but it’s probably 80 square feet to play with. Also there is a mountain right there and you can see all the innards of the house. So weird. If we stay here long enough for Charlie to turn 8 or 9, he is going to have so much fun down here caving and building forts.

So, Brian and our muscular friend, Mike, decided to do the demo-ing themselves and take out the S and M room. You, too, can hire them to demo if you enjoy unnecessary grunting and general displays of machismo.

Progress Office I tasked brian with making a video of the demo so he and Mike put together this really informative video of the proper steps you need to demo out these walls. Also, Brian you are fired from ever  making videos.  (And if I get more views on this video than any of my videos that I spend days and hundreds (or  thousands) of dollars producing then I will cut myself)


Brian is the ‘narrator’ in that video. I hope you learned a lot!

After the demo was complete I had two painters quote to paint the walls and ceiling. My good painter quoted $1200 for including patching, but no skim coating this time – they hadn’t sprayed it with that gross orange peel. My ‘this guy might be good so lets test him out’ painter quoted $600, I believe. It seemed to be quite a difference and since we had just spent SOOOO much money upstairs painting and this wasn’t a super important part of the house I figured saving $600 was in order. Besides how hard could it be to paint it out white?

Office Progress Well, the $600 dude did an ok job but I’m so glad I didn’t hire him to do my entire house. He clearly didn’t use the right primer to cover over the ceiling so it’s still kinda yellow-ish. I had him do one more coat than he wanted to do and even after that its kinda yellow. He said it was because of the color of the stain, yadda yadda, but ultimately if you use oil based primer and enough coats then it can be super white. My ceilings upstairs are SUPER white, so I was just so glad that this guy didn’t get that bid.

We put down new flooring, (acacia from BuildDirect) and it was done. We moved in a week before Charlie was born which was around the holidays so this was basically the last room to be dealt with. Here’s how it looked 2 weeks ago:

Office Progress Office Progress Now we’ve unpacked (kinda) and we are working out of there (sometimes) but it’s certainly not ready to go. Having everything be white immediately helps us figure out what to do. We have a blank canvas that needs to be filled with 100% function, but obviously in a very stylish way.  And I’d like to not spend a fortune down here, but at the same time I want to add value to the house.

Office Progress Office Progress The wall where the printer is will most likely be turned into an exit (glass door?) because the area right on the other side has a landing which could be a little outdoor deck/terrace which just sounds lovely. Please note how I styled the pacifier on the desk.  I should be embarrassed by these photos, but luckily I really have no shame. Just know that we are plugging along on the design and things are changing rapidly.

Office Progress Here are the needs:

1. A MASSIVE rug because these vintage chairs, which are on castors, are not good for our beautiful flooring – they are kinda denting it (which is why there is that clearly too small rug in the middle of the room).

2. A wall of built-in storage – maybe with sliding panels in front of them with mood board/white board on the panels.

3. The exterior door.

4. A huge conference table for us to spread out on, shoot on, have meetings at, etc.

5. A kitchen area for snacks and lunches.

6. A lounge area, which probably isn’t necessary but seems like an inviting thing to have.

7. A bathroom – with a shower in it so this could be guest quarters someday as well.

8. At least one big wall that can be shot on  (left reasonably empty).

Plus one million other things, I’m sure, but that’s where we are starting. I want it to feel clean, functional and comfortable first and foremost. This space will get destroyed, trust me, with bags of props, tools, flower stems, piles of hoarded furniture, etc, so I want to keep the foundation of the room clean and quiet (like our living room) because I’m just not those two things :)

Well, what do you think? Can you see the potential or are you terrified for us?

(P.S. here’s the first office I did in our last house that was for Brian, then our last office in the old house … man this is going to SUCH an upgrade).

  1. I love the painted fireplace and new floors! Such great vision.. ps (the old carpets look scary)

  2. Dorotheabrook

    You’ve already improved it so much. One thing I’ve really gotten from your blog is the personality and fun that can be imposed on a whit canvas.

  3. Alexandra Rose

    Nice job so far! It looks like your heading into the fun part of the project. Would you mind sharing the brand and color of paint you used? My living room has a similar layout in that there are only windows on one wall. I want it to be bright but not sterile and it looks like you’ve achieved that. Thanks!

    • Emily

      I keep forgetting to say that! ITs benjamin moore, ‘super white’. I wouldn’t be surprised if our painter color matched it to a cheaper brand, but basically its the whitest paint you can get.

  4. holly

    I really enjoyed reading your post and I think this space has great potential! LOVE the floors and all the white. The window seems to let in a lot of light too. It’s really looking good so far!

  5. I hope you kept that dinosaur mural!

    • Emily

      It was a painting! and no, they took it. So sad ..

      • Stacey

        Total bummer, I think the whole space should have revolved around that painting! Charlie would have totally dug it in a year or two (at least, my son would have)

  6. Joy

    Love what you have done. My dream is to buy a not so good house and make it my own too! Love the progress, can’t wait to see the rest of the house.

  7. Brooke

    Maybe creepy box was a dark room?
    Excited to see what’s next for this space!

  8. Haley F

    Love the updates!

  9. Chenell

    The demo video was AMAZING! You should definitely NOT fire Brian from ever making videos. Please don’t cut yourself, though…you just painted everything white and the mess would be terrible.

  10. Victoria

    Sorry Emily I had to watch the video twice just to make sure I heard Brian correctly, I didn’t mean to pad his views.
    The area looks a 100 times better already. I like additional light that can come through the door on the fireplace wall.

    • Emily

      :) I’ve watched it like 10 times because it cracks me up. Such boys.

  11. Yeah, I totally see the potential. Very gratifying to see the before and after paint! I can’t wait to see what kind of storage you implement for props.

  12. This room is what my nightmares are made of. I literally had to stop eating my breakfast bar. You are one brave woman!

  13. Joy

    Wow, looks good!
    I think I would have keep the brick unpainted as a feature.
    Love the floors!

  14. Sarah

    Whaaat? Could it be possible for an ordinary joe make an appointment?
    Here’s a probably totally crazy idea:
    People like me are dying to get Em Hebderson cache on their homes. I love learning from you on your blog…but having an opportunity to have an appointment where I could have your direct input would be Christmas morning!
    Perhaps it’d be a quick creative release for a new mom too?
    Clients (me!) could come with images of their space. We’d look through them and you could dole out some design wisdom (some new flat panel roman shades in white here from xxx, your rugs too small and there’s a good one at xxx, etc). Clients could leave will a little “things to do list” direct from the directing guru.
    I know I can’t really afford your full service design services at this point in my life, but I’d happily pay $500 per hour for this kind of consultation, if you would consider it.

    • Emily

      We are working on that, actually. Some sort of fast service fee or something … so stay tuned!

      • Gina

        I just ran across a service like this a couple of days ago. Offered by “decorist” or something like that.

        I hope you move forward with this idea. I have often wanted to ask your opinion about design choices for my house and would gladly pay for it.

      • Sarah

        Officially placing design decisions on hold intil then!
        Thank you Emily.

  15. It looks great so far, you can’t go wrong with an all white canvas & wood floors! On my blog post today I mentioned you, when showing off my new pillows – they remind me of you & your love of colour! Hollie ~ http://www.thepinkzipper.blogspot.ca ~

    • Emily

      I’ll check it out! Thanks so much .xx

  16. I was little scared but wow it looks so much better! You’ve convinced me. So nice to have your studio be a truly separate space in the home. Excited for what’s to come!

  17. I love this. It doesnt even look like a basement anymore. And I kind of want to see the hooker photos :p

  18. Tracy

    No seriously–we need a closeup on that dinosaur mural…

  19. Bee

    Ahhh home studio. That’s definitely a wish list item for my dream home!

  20. Joe

    I was really hoping to see that dinosaur mural end up in the final space.

    • Emily

      HA! Everyone and the mural!! It was a painting and they took it, plus it was H.I.D.E.O.U.S.

  21. Laurel

    So when you listed the aspects of the “before” room that make up your nightmares I noticed you didn’t include “AWESOME DINOSAUR MURAL.” seriously, that is so hilarious and random.
    great job on the room. can’t wait to see more!

    • Emily

      HA! Everybody noticed that and I forgot about it. But it was a painting that they took and it was awesome in the same way that Guy Fieri is awesome. As in because its so bad …

  22. Gina

    I love how you left the ceiling beams as is and just painted them! I have a full basement that I would love to do exactly what you’ve done. I’d throw up some dry wall, spray the whole thing super white and put down a floor.

    My biggest concern is that my ceilings are low. Less than 7ft. Curious if you and your readers would bother doing something like this in a basement that has low ceilings and needs a sump pump or if you’d just forget it and move?

    • Emily

      I would do it. I mean, unless you want to move anyway. But unless it has windows i wouldn’t paint it white. A white box without light looks really dead – especially with low ceilings. I’d do a warm mid-tone color (medium – not dark) so it has some life. But make that space usable. Low ceilings are always good for a tv room because you have to sit anyway.

      • Gina

        See! Maybe I should know this but I did not! (it has 3 tiny windows for the whole giant room)

        I probably would pay for this type of advice. I wish you had like a design club or something. I would pay something (not sure how much) every month to have exclusive access to simple decorating questions like this. Like if I was a member of this club and there was a message board and we post questions that you and your designers answer. Other people could weigh in, we could post pictures and have big fun!

        • Sarah

          Yes! Yes! Love this idea!

      • SLG

        This is so interesting, and I have so many questions. I have a small galley kitchen with no windows (but one end opens to a space that has natural light). And I LOVE white kitchens. I want to marry them. And I don’t want to use any colors in the big expensive parts of the kitchen (counters, cabinets, etc.), I just want to use white foundation pieces and then have colored accents that I can swap out when I decide I want something different. Am I doomed?

    • Alison

      My sister-in-law did something very similar to this and uses the space (especially for her teenagers) a ton, BUT the one issue she ran into is that because of the low ceilings the local codes wouldn’t qualify it as finished living space/square footage. I think it officially went on record as storage space. Just something to keep in mind and look into depending on how long you plan to live there and how much resale/return on investment is important.

      • Alison

        p.s. I meant to say that my last comment was in response to Gina’s question… Emily I love your office space!!!

      • Gina

        Alison – thanks! I did know that from talking to a real estate agent recently. Our only option there is to dig down or raise the ceiling, both terrify me.

  23. Jo

    Um that video is effing awesome. Sorry to be that reader who asks for shit but can you give us a birds eye view of layout? I’m having a hard time getting oriented.

    And also this looks so much better. Our first house was 100+ years old and we found a bong, a riot control grenade, a ton of needles, etc … so yeah. Not the charming newspaper clippings and carved wood toys I was hoping for. This place’ll look amazing when you’re through.

    oh, and who is Ginny? Or have you started to name your chairs?

    • Jo

      hey, searched Ginny. She’s your new totally awesome design assistant and general #2. Have we had a formal introduction to her? I must’ve missed it. Rock on Ginny. Rock on.

  24. vivian

    I apprteciate your inovative ideas in puttinhg dilpidated , houses to becoming a pparadise. . You are a star

  25. Debbie C

    Ooooh the old basement was scary…”mysterious liquids” and all. But it is truly amazing what bright white paint and gorgeous wood flooring can do. Can’t wait to see it all done and styled!

  26. rose

    I love the house; I just bought a house with the exact fireplace. Anyways I was wondering if you could recommend a good place online to buy cotton or proformance velvet; I’m looking for a navy blue and a peacock green color. Your upholstery pieces always look so nice.
    Thank you

    • Emily

      I buy them at ‘Home’ downtown LA. They have really good books that they pull from. I’m not sure if they would send you samples or if you could buy the books from them (thats what I did for $20 a piece). But otherwise, no, i haven’t bought velvet online. just linen from gray lines linen. Good luck!

      • Sarah

        I’ve had good luck with West Elm. I had chairs done with their fabric (not velvet) and am waiting for my sofa in Preformance velvet, Lagoon color, to
        Come back from the upholster…fingers crossed.

  27. THANK YOU for posting pics of the S&M room. I’ve been dying of curiosity since you mentioned it. In the end, it’s not AS creepy as I imagined (weird hooks and chains hanging from ceiling? forgotten gimp suit?) but now I can’t stop wondering who this person is that is both a yogi porn star AND an egg man.

  28. Carol

    What a huge difference already! I’d be scared walking into those first couple of pictures, not going to lie lol. Especially that “music room”…at night time. Eek! Your property value will definitely increase over this makeover! Looks great thus far, great work.

  29. Melissa

    Thank you for sharing the transformation of your new home! And I am super appreciative to see your “just moved in” photos. It’s a relief actually to see that you start from a place of total chaos just like us normal less-stylish folk:) We just bought our first house and are also going through the process of making it ours. Your posts are so inspiring – thank you for sharing! xx

  30. Hilary

    Emily, do most of your readers check your site obsessively for new posts? Thank you for being so hilarious and awesome – I’ve abandoned almost all other design blogs except for yours and all the ones you link to :).

    Question: why did you decide to leave the ceiling as is instead of drywalling? To create some visual interest? Keep it more open? To save money? Just curious – I kinda like the beams!

    Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that that demo video is going to get thousands of hits. Sometimes I’d rather read your posts than watch a video, so I’m not one to click on videos that often. But just because of how you prefaced it, I totally watched it and laughed. So don’t cut yourself when it gets a zillion hits :).

    • Emily

      HA, re the video. I know. Its why there has been less videos lately. I think i just need to task Brian with making them. About the ceiling: I liked that it gave us another foot of height. it just seems more interesting to have those beams instead of just drywall.

      • Andrea Davids

        Emily what did you do with all the pipes that were showing? Do you just paint those white too? I know it seems like a stupid question but didn’t notice them in your after pictures. What color would you suggest if you don’t have any windows or lighting in your basement? I love white, but I don’t want my box room to look dark.

  31. Jolene

    I LOVE this space! It’s absolutely perfect and I’m so excited for you. Already so many times better. Maybe the “lounge” corner could cross over with “kid corner” because he’s going to be out of the bassinet stage the next time you blink!

  32. Linzy

    But…. DINOSAUR MURAL!!!

  33. amy h

    What a difference already! And that little room was totally teenage boy land. Drums. Pot. Music lyrics on the walls. Hiding hooker polaroids in the walls? Teenage boy.

    Also, if you are looking for an indestructible, giant, cheap conference table, my husband came up with the cheapest solution ever. Two sheets of plywood glued together and finished on the edges, and spray-painted pipes for legs with rubber feet (with a leg in the middle, because gigantic). After ours served its life as a conference table, we put it in our dining room. It is way too big, but we get compliments all the time. And our three children have been unable to destroy it.

  34. Kim

    Can’t thank you enough for revealing that in spite of your brand and your talent and that magical sparkly pixie dust that trails in your wake… you don’t personally go from 0 to perfect in one weekend. I’m so hard on myself for being on a budget, having limited time, and wanting to have my own styled, tricked out, inspired, studio space —- but always feeling *just shy* of that sweet spot. It’s a work space, so it will look like work happens in there… but I want it to look like magic happens in there all by itself. You’re an inspiration in so many ways :-)

  35. Shannah

    What a fun space – I’m excited to see the end result! The wood floor looks amazing. Rugs are so colorful and fabulous, but does it ever pain you when you cover such lovely wood? Also wanted to say how amazing you are for getting so much done with a newborn! I have an (almost) 5 month old, and I’m reading this as my husband puts her to bed. I have definitely not been getting all kinds of stuff done, but you’re an inspiration for what’s possible. I do hope that you will give yourself a good amount of downtime in these fabulously new soothing digs you have though! I (selfishly) don’t want you to get burned out, and I know how hard it can be. You have such fabulous energy. :)

  36. Looks great, Emily. That is so nice you’ll be able to work from home but still have some privacy/quiet to get stuff done. Perfect scenario! Love seeing your new house!

  37. Kate

    love your work-so much talent and vision…
    gotta say I’m not loving the white ceiling though-please don’t string me up by the thumbs for saying it, but at least on screen it looks unfinished-I know it’s after the fact, but out of curiosity, did you consider a colour or black as an option???
    Congratulations on the bean…he’s gorgeous!!!!

  38. Deb

    Hey, Emily, do you still have that fabulous blue couch from your ‘old’ living room? And if so, maybe you could use it to anchor a ‘lounge’ area in your new studio, just a thought. Love the idea of a little terrace outside, and think the white space is bursting with potential. Have fun creating!!! (And sooooooo glad the guys got rid of that padded room!). By the way, I really like how the ceiling turned out…and the floors are beautiful. What’s next on the agenda?

  39. April

    I’m impressed that the IKEA storage cabinets from your previous office fit the exact height of your new space, they look intentional, even if their footprint is a little small within the larger scale of this room. The glossy finish reflecting light also kind of brightens up the back wall. You listed built-in storage on to-do list, makes sense, but those are more than decent looking in the interim.

  40. Love it! We just bought a giant rug on Overstock (wool!) for about $600, and it’s great.

  41. Mar

    Wow. The more I read about this house the more I am amazed at what a perfect find this was for you guys. Sooo much potential!! I’m pretty familiar with the real estate around here (well, since 2012) and this house is really amazing! Having an at-home office as a mother will be the best thing ever.

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