Emily Henderson

Reader Question: How do I redecorate after being dumped?

Here’s a question from a reader, named Orlando:

Dear Emily, I just got dumped by my boyfriend. How do I redesign my space to help me move on?

Before getting into the real advice I have two things to say: First off, Orlando, you sound VERY muscular and quite attractive so I highly doubt that you’ll be single for long. If I were a gay man i’d be 100% into you, in fact your boyfriend is probably making a HUGE mistake and, going out on a limb here, (pun intended) i’d say your johnson is probably bigger than his. I’ve got a sense about these things.

Secondly, the need for catharsis after a breakup is HUGE. Just ask this chick:

felicity haircut

Felicity dramatically cut her hair after finally feeling empowered enough to let Ben go; otherwise known as the single fastest TV ratings drop in all of TV history. In fact, did you know that the writer of that stunt tried to blame Keri Russell and then got fired? I actually thought it was a super genius move on the producers part because thats kinda what everyone wants to do after a breakup – totally shed our identity and get rid of the things that made that person love us the most.

But, Orlando, if you have long, wild locks full of intrigue and sexuality and you are on a hit late 90’s TV show, i’d suggest a trim, not a chop.

Make no mistake, the need to renew oneself is not only natural, but necessary.

(In case you aren’t a follower of my blog, Orlando is my assistant and one of my best friends. Yes, he is going through a hard breakup {which he writes about on his extremely hilarious blog} and YES this is a real question from him, but no, he is no stranger to me).


1. Switch out your textiles – purge then splurge. Get rid of anything that feels worn, used and stomped on, like your heart, or dirty and gross, like his face. After living with someone for a while you don’t really look at a lot of your things – you don’t see how saggy your throw pillows are, how scratched up the lampshade is, how dirty the rug is, how faded your sheets are. Try to look at your place with an objective eye.  In fact, take a photo of anything in question, look at the picture in your camera and ask yourself, ‘If this were at a friend’s house would I tell them to throw this out or not?’.  Moreover, textiles hold scents and smells which trigger memories – good or bad.  Splurge on some soft inviting sheets that make you excited to get into bed alone. You don’t have to buy expensive throw pillows to refresh your sofa – West Elm, Target and Homegoods all have good textiles for cheap.

throw pillows

2. Paint your walls; oh the catharsis and meditative powers of a good paint job.  They say that there are some careers that have more daily job satisfaction that others – haircutters and painters. Both see the fruits of their labor every day, they end their day with a wildly different product than when they started and clients that say thank you upon seeing said product. Not only is it satisfying to do,but obviously there is a lot of symbolism in painting over your walls, your memories, your dried up tears. Its the easiest and fastest way to change the look of a space.  You can do it yourself and it feels sooo good, listen to music, drink some wine.  Or hire somebody for a few hundred dollars and then come home from work and just have it be done.
paint meditative

3. Change the context of the piece, which gives the piece new life.  You don’t have to get rid of everything you love because it was near him, just move it. The piece of art that was above the sofa, can now be incorporated into a gallery wall. The side table by the sofa can now become a nightstand.  Yes, this is otherwise known as ‘rearranging’, but sometimes what reminds us of our life is just the item in context of the room that is full of memories. Move the pieces around and displace those memories.


4. Create a better party space.  Focus on making your house a better place to entertain so you’ll feel encouraged to invite people over, have fun, get your crunk on and create new memories.  Get a bar cart, good speakers,  some nice glassware, good candles and a Costco membership.  Try to forget all the adorableness that inevitably occured around the dining table  at the beginning of your relationship, and instead replace those memories with new ones of friends and family playing taboo around drinking sparkling rose.


5. Fill your walls with happiness.  Art is the accessory that generally has the most emotional impact in your home.  I highly suggest, Orlando, that you go on a search for art that is feels optimistic and hopeful and obviously works with the colors of the room. If you are still in the ‘eat sh*t and die’ phase of your breakup and are gravitating towards pieces like these:


… the maybe just hold off for a while; you aren’t ready. But then when you are, think about what makes you happy – do love old Spielburg movies? Then go for a vintage Jaws poster. Do landscape paintings remind you of growing up in Yosemite? Then search Ebay for that. Or if you need a constant reminder of the fact that you weren’t raised in a cellar by pscyopaths, then maybe just a print like this:


6. Embrace happy colors. Certain colors make us happy, they just do. I’m not saying you should paint your walls yellow or pink, but think about bringing in some really bright colors even just in the accents. Stay away from browns, blacks and general colors of bleakness and dispair. Of course you can still have gray, but just make sure to accent it with a color that is happy in addition to a lot of whites to keep it feeling fresh and less prison-like. And just because blue traditionally can make you feel blue, I personally find it to be very happy as it is the color of the ocean and the sky, and EVERYONE likes a blue sky, except for Grumpy Cat:


And he/she HATES some blue sky.  If you aren’t into art or don’t have the budget right now, then check my affordable art roundup posts, and also think about framing happy photos of your family and friends.  Costco has crazy affordable options for blowing up large scale photos, so take the pic of summer camp of you rafting down the Rogue river, laughing due to pure saratonin and blow that shit up. Surround yourself with your happy self.


7. Get yourself some plants. One life just left, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t kidnap and hold hostage another life or 5 in your house in the form of plants. They add oxygen, a sculptural shape and color to your lonely home.


8. Add more light. Natural light is a cure-all and I know so many peoples homes that aren’t utilizing said light nearly enough. If your curtains feel heavy, switch them out for white sheers. If you own your home and you have small windows, consider replacing them with a large picture window or a skylight. If adding more light isn’t an option, then add mirrors, reflective surfaces, lacquer, metallics, task lighting, and lighter colors to your space to help it feel lighter and reflect what light you do have around the room. The last thing you need is your home to feel dark and cave-like, like your soul, because that is where you can easily emotionally go after a breakup. Instead, fill it with as much natural or reflected light as humanly possible.


Well, Orlando, I hope this helps. We actually have had a lot of clients that have hired us after a breakup, mostly dudes who just don’t know where to start and need an emotional and interior re-start. They want a home that reflects their new single, confidant self; something they can show off to friends and family and prove that they are moving on, as well as a space they can feel ownership over and proud of when they come home every day. Its not just pillows and expensive coffee table books – your home is deeply connected to your happiness.

So, Orlando, after you are done excercising your pain (making yourself cry every morning so you can function throughout the day – it TOTALLY WORKS, I promise) call me and i’ll bring over some cans of paint, plants, a playlist and some booze (for you… single tear). And since I love you so much i’ll add 3 hours of Bearcat cuddling for free, she makes EVERYONE happy.

If you or someone you know has been in the situation, let me know what else you have done to your home that helped you move on … Also make sure to check out Orlando’s blog – he took a break from it but he’s BACK. And while you are at it, let him know he’s amazing if you think he is.

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