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.

  1. Sarah

    Orlando dodged a bullet….anyone so stupid to miss out on that gorgeous, talented, kind, funny hunk of a man, shouldn’t be waisting Orlando’s time anyway.
    Thanks for the tips here Emily. They are lovely. Thank you too for bring such a good friend. You make the world a better place!

  2. Dawn

    I agree with Sarah- Orlando is hilarious, talented, and easy on the eyes. Any guy would be extremely lucky to have him. He’s also lucky to have friends like you to be there for him! You and Orlando bring happiness and beauty into my life through your blogs, and I want nothing but happiness for both of you.

  3. Brittany

    This is a great post! Orlando, I second/third all the sentiments that you’re awesome and have great things ahead.

    B-T-Dubs, Emily, where do you find all the great glass domes I often see you put your great miniatures in? Like the one on Bri’s coffee table above?

  4. Sarah, I totally agree with you.

    Orlando, this situation sucks. I am glad Emily is helping you deal with it, and I am sure your other friends and your family will help you in their own ways.

    Personally, I always find it helps to totally wallow in my own misery, stay in bed, read romance novels and drink lots of tea (to keep hydrated, otherwise the crying makes me shrivel into a rattling husk). Once I have to pee (because of the tea!) and take a shower because I gross myself out, I feel like I can deal with stuff.
    Also: Take Emily up on her offer of cat cuddling!

  5. Kathleen R

    Orlando – what Sarah said! After a breakup I have to change out all my bedding. It just brings back too many memories of cuddling on a Sunday morning or such. And with a particularly bad breakup in my past I actually bought a totally new bed! Frame and headboard, mattress, sheets, duvet, pillows – everything. I needed something that was mine to escape to instead of ours. Also as that idiot leaves your life and probably takes some of your furniture and art that you picked out together, use it as an excuse to redecorate. Thus taking advantage of the fact that you don’t have to please anyone but yourself.

  6. Sorry Orlando, that sucks. I hope you feel better soon because I can second or third or more of what everyone else says. And you are hilarious (and nice looking obviously) so for purely selfish reasons I hope that you heal soon and write lots more funny hommemaker posts because I always go there when I need a laugh too!

  7. Molly

    Ugh I love this post! Will you be my best friend? All of that is such great advise! Especially the plants, Plants just make people happy. And maybe plant some seeds and watch them grow. Feel better Orlando!

    Molly from Mint Atelier

    • Emily

      Its west elm, but discontinued :(
      Thanks for commenting, though.

  8. Oh no! Poor boo! I’m really sorry to hear about your breakup. Great post about “moving on” and how great change is, the truth is breakups suck ass. I tell my newly single friends the key to moving on is working a lot on things you are passionate about, exercising insane amounts, and going out/socializing a LOT. I wish I took that advice because I would usually just stuff my face and publicly humiliate myself with excessive intoxication. That was fan though…. Anyway, I think being single in LA would be terribly depressing, if you want a hot, friendly, “normal” cornfed midwestern gay come visit me in St. Louis and you will get laid stat. STL that is where Andy Cohen is from after all! Good luck and don’t forget that this too shall pass. XO

  9. “Surround yourself with your happy self.” That’s great advice. I’m going to do that today. I hope Orlando is doing okay. He is obviously a bright light in this world & doesn’t need anyone in his life to dim him. xo

  10. Danielle

    This post is fantastic! Thank you…

  11. THIS IS THE BEST, and the opening made me laugh so hard i had to put down my coffee for fear of death. orlando is one of the most movie star beautiful men on this earth and neighboring planets…. it sucks his ex is an idiot- but here’s to exciting new adventures and love! :D all of this is such good advice. i did it ALL after my major break up (INCLUDING CHOPPING MY FELICITY LOCKS OFF TO A FAUX HAWK! personally- my ratings went up… ahem….) i loved this blog :D love to you both <3 -s

  12. Elise

    Orlando is made of awesome!! Sucks to go through a breakup but he will emerge better, stronger, faster! (Or slower if that’s more to your preference…)

  13. Rosie

    Great post, Emily. I wish I had this advice when it happened to me.

    Orlando, your former boyfriend is a dumb ass. Or dumasse, if you prefer the classy route. Your heart will heal. Surround yourself with people who don’t mind random bursts of tears in inappropriate places. Rearrange like crazy and reclaim your space. It’s good medicine.

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  15. anne

    I think Orlando took down his post about his breakup so maybe he’s not in the mood for the public love-fest anymore? I offer this idea out of love and sympathy.

    • anne

      wait, it’s back. carry on. :)

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  17. Lori

    Heck, Orlando doesn’t even need to buy art; he can just create some of his own because he is hella talented. Chin up, love. If he wasn’t smart enough to hold on to you, he doesn’t deserve you.

  18. What a funny post and some great advice to boot!


  19. Colleen

    I say, indulge in all those decorating whims that you had to curtail in order to compromise with their style. When I went through a break up, I got wildly into some serious pink situations. It was happy as all get-out and made my room feel totally ME again.

    Also, when painting a room, I maybe had a bottle or eight of wine and painted all kinds of juvenile/mean things/drawings about the ex before painting over it to finish up the wall :) Paint the bad feelings out, cover them up and say goodbye. Then say hello to your awesome new wall!

    Also, Orlando. Mega hot. There’s a serious dreamboat in his future.

    • Emily

      These two pieces of advice are AWESOME. yes, to the embracing your own style and YES YES YES to angry painting then repainting again. That sounds so cathartic and fun, if not violent in a really great way. xx

  20. Jane

    Thanks for sharing Orlando’s blog! Once again- your post referencing pop culture with the bit about Felicity has me laughing out loud.

    PS- what’s with the photo of the break-up card on Orlando’s site? Please tell me that ‘s not a real break up note!?!!?!

    • Emily

      I’m sure his friend is joking. Sardonic, but funny. :)

  21. SMID

    Omg, hilarious and I loved it. Going to check out Orlando’s blog too.

  22. Jenni


    You are hilarious and your blog is one of my all time favorites. I am so sorry for the hard time you are going through, but it will get better. These re-design ideas are great! If i had Emily available for some wine and painting, I would totally do that ;) Bearcat will be helpful too… Feel better, you will find someone who is perfect for you one day, then all of this will be worth it!

  23. I LOVE your posts:) and I always leave your blog with a big smile.

    Check out my new summer post and have a great day dear:)

    LOVE Maria from

  24. Wanda

    He SUCKS! You RULE! Hugs from NYC!

  25. Jihane

    I love every single post of your sweet, inspirational, fun and happy blog, but I can’t write it every time because, you know, I try to be stronger than the stalker in me.

    I’m sorry to hear about Orlando’s sadness, but I’m relieved to hear you’’ll add 3 hours of Bearcat cuddling for free. Of course Bearcat makes everyone happy. Bearcat has magical powers. Bearcat is the designer behind stylebyemilyhenderson.


    • Emily

      I just laughed out loud at the ‘Bearcat is the designer behind stylebyemilyhenderson’. Its like ratatoille (or however you spell it). she is secretly doing all the styling in the middle of the night and i’m just waking up to my shelving unit looking perfect.

      • Jihane

        hahahahaha I kneeeew it!

  26. That other guy is crazy! Orlando is Gorgeous, and talented, I almost wish I was a gay man, so I’d have a shot – although that’d be awkward for my hubby & kids :) I would decorate and buy all the things I love, and he didn’t. Move the furniture around – that’s always fun anyway, and definitely buy more plants. x

  27. Pearl

    Awwe you’re such a good friend, we need more people like you in the world! Your post was hilarious as always. I kinda feel bad for his ex-boyfriend though, he lost someone too and let’s face it, he’ll never find someone as amazing as Orlando!

  28. Jen

    Hi! long-time reader, first-time commenter! :)

    Aw, Orlando seems like a really quality guy! Glad he’s been getting all this love and support.

    Also dying to know where that blue quilt on the bed and blue throw behind the couch are from. Maybe it’s the current season we’re in, but it seems hard to find great quilts and throws!

    Thanks in advance!

  29. Julia @cuckoo4design

    Awww…all the best to Orlando! Your tips are awesome and I love grumpy cat ;)

  30. Steph

    Such great tips!! Whenever I went through break-ups in the past, my go to was always to cut my hair, or dye it a different colour. The personal version of redecorating lol I think these are great tips for anyone to make their space feel happier. Even though I’m in a happy relationship, sometimes other life stuff gets me down so adding happy art and bright colours always helps me feel better.

  31. jeannette

    the bedding advice cuts straight to the chase. it really works. thanks, em.

  32. Meryl Judith

    Don’t throw away your early 2000′s collection of Martha Stewart Livings because, “everything means nothing” (ala Elliott Smith). Regret that one. Do snuggle with all available cats.

  33. Christi

    Emily! Great post. I think Orlando will be just fine with a friend like you around.

    I am in love with the larger throw pillow on your awesome blue couch. Is it available anywhere?


  34. Psh, that other guy made the biggest mistake of his life! Orlando is totally a keeper, and now some other fabulous guy will just have to lock him down. I bet he won’t be single for long, that studmuffin. :-)

    Great advice here, too. I especially like Grumpy Cat.

  35. Monica

    Ha! Awesome post!

    My advice is that you sell anything that reminds you of him, if he bought it, even better! Throw an awesome garage sale. Then, go on Holiday and enjoy yourself.

  36. Vica

    Loved the advice in this post. Orlando, I read your blog and love you! I can’t believe any one would break up with you.

    I am just catching up on your blog and can’t wait for your pregnancy show and your new season!

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  38. Lisa

    Another tip: Swap out the scents you keep around the house, if any! Scent and memory are so closely linked and can make us very nostalgic, even subconsciously.

  39. Katie

    Where is this moroccan pouffe from?

  40. Wenke

    Awesome post and awesome pictures!

    Where is the table (diamond) from. We are moving soon and I am looking for something effortless like this.

  41. I would marry Orlando any time… so he should just give me a shout!
    Love your blogs guys!

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