Sunrise Senior Living Redesign giveaway

Hey folks, remember last year when I partnered up with Sunrise Senior Living to share style tips on how to decorate with the needs of seniors?  Well, this year we are upping the partnership and I’m actually going to redecorate one lucky member’s space, all expenses paid. Keep reading.

Emily Henderson Suite Style Contest 2103

When Sunrise first approached me, my gut reaction was that I generally get sad when I go into nursing homes, so was hesitant to forge a partnerhship with one. BUT I figured I’d visit one to see what it’s like. I loved it. It truly didn’t feel like a nursing home – all the residents were just so happy. I spent the day visiting with them, touring the space, eating the food, playing with their pets, and generally getting a feel for the community.

I honestly don’t know much about any other retirement communities, but I was totally impressed with Sunrise Senior Living. The rooms can be personalized any way the residents want, to really help them feel like home. It feels NOTHING like a hospital or any other nursing home I’ve ever been in. They’re encouraged to bring their pets and whatever else they wanted to make sure it feels like home and there are like one million activities a day for the residents to do together. The food was good, the classes were fun … everyone just hangs out with all their friends all day.


So here’s what’s happening: One lucky resident is going to win a $3,000 makeover from me for their Sunrise Senior Living space. Sunrise will fly me to where the senior is and we’ll do a design consultation. After I plan everything, I’ll come back and makeover the space. The idea is that just because you share your home with many other people doesn’t mean that you lose your individuality and personal style.

I’m not sure how many seniors read this blog, so this is for you guys who know seniors — your parents or grandparents, etc., that live in a Sunrise Community. You can nominate them and they don’t have to do any work.   

Fill out the nomination form here and review the contest rules here.
All you have to do is write a short essay about what living in a Sunrise community means to you (or your senior) and why you/they would love a home makeover. This is really what is going to get you to win. The more personal the better and I don’t think it would hurt to tell your story (or the story of the senior you are nominating).
If you want to nominate a family member or friend, you can write the essay on his or her behalf.
Just think about how much fun it would be for them. It’s not too intrusive and it won’t take long, and after just a few days they’ll have a space that they love even more and reflects their style. Plus the whole process will make them feel so special. I’ll keep anything that they love or have sentimental attachment toward and incorporate those pieces into the design.
I feel pretty strongly that after a long life of working hard and raising families that seniors should get to live somewhere that makes them really, really happy. I know Sunrise isn’t cheap and probably costs more than nursing homes, but it’s 100 percent worth it to know that they are having fun, all their needs are met in a really warm, inviting, activity-filled home. As a massive fan of communal living, I’d totally be into it.


Click here for all the design tips on designing for seniors, and check out the mood board and list of resources that I used and recommended.

Who out there has a family member at a Sunrise community? You have until March 1st to enter and then the winner will be announced. Think about how surprised and happy they would be. I’d fuss over them, take lots of photos with them, and generally make them feel so special. Enter away!


  1. meg

    I think this partnership is awesome. Thanks for sharing about it!

  2. What a sweet thing to do Emily! I was just wondering the other day how/when I could get involved with our senior citizens again (when I was a kid my Grandma, who was a volunteer and not a resident, used to take me to Senior Bingo at a nursing home to serve the refreshments). I miss helping out.

  3. Oh Emily! I work in the senior care industry (my day job) and was so touched to see you taking on this project! Sunrise is a great community option out there and it is so wonderful of you to say such kind things about them, and about the assisted living world. So many people out there assume they're no different than nursing homes but assisted living is so much more than that! There is such spirit and community among the people who call assisted living communities home, and I just love the fact that you are doing your part to help re-shape the public's view of them, while also making one resident feel exceptionally special. You don't know how great this is – you may very well change the perspective of a daughter out there with ailing parents, who will make the decision to look into assisted living and ultimately move her parents into a community and extend the quantity and quality of their lives. You honestly could be saving lives! Thank you so much!

  4. Olga

    Emily, you are great and very talented! And this is such a great thing to do for seniors! My applause!

  5. Rachel

    This is just so wonderful. I will admit to feeling the same way about assisted living communities, and it's always difficult for me to really feel at ease when I visit my grandmother in the community where she's been living for several years now. One of the biggest challenges is thinking back to how perfect and cozy her home my grandparents' house used to be, and that this new apartment really just can't compare, especially now that she really can't do any of the decorating that she used to love. Unfortunately hers is not a Sunrise community, but I have no doubt that the lucky recipient of your makeover will truly appreciate all of your effort! Cheers to you.

  6. leslie

    what a lovely gesture, emily.
    i am an rn, and i'd like to suggest that you consult with an occupatinal therapist before you design a senior's living space.
    you don't want them having any 'design hazards' in their home…
    rugs are the first thing that come to mind, as they are easy to trip over.
    and many seniors do use assistive devices when ambulating/walking (cane, walker).

    can't wait to see the outcome, as you are an incredibly talented woman.
    God bless, honey.

  7. Heidi

    What a wonderful idea! I went to a facility like this for the first time this Christmas and I couldn't help myself from exclaiming over and over "This is not like other rest homes, it's like mini aprtments.." It was so wonderful and renewed my hope for the care of the older generation.

  8. Jody

    Very nice and great info. Inspiring too! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Ginny Mitchell

    Emily—I have admired you from afar!

    When you were on the first episode trying out on HGTV….
    I told my family you are a winner!
    And you were!

    I am so darn proud of you!

    And I am lucky enough to say that Orlando was my
    neighbor and co-worker at The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite!

    He went to school right around the block from my home by the bottom of
    Yosemite Falls and then he would have to take a bus in the wee hours
    of the morning and then the night to get home from high school!

    He would be in a bus for over 3 hours a day!
    Dedication….wouldn't you say?

    Got to watch him grown up and I KNEW he was one of the most
    special peoplbe I HAVE ever met!

    Anyway….why not consider at one time or another a make over
    up here in Yosemite!??

    My deisgn room could use some help and so could my guest room!

    I am the only florist with in the boundaries of a National Park al
    l my work is featured on:

    We do destination weddings……only about 125+ a year:)

    Love ya' gal!
    Keep inspiring people!!!!

  10. Sarah M

    Emily, this sounds fantastic! My mom worked her entire career in a nursing home and I spent many hours volunteering there, playing the violin (gosh, they LOVED that even though I was not very good!) or just chatting. I am now an Occupational Therapist and although I do not work in senior care I do realize there are specific needs with seniors to maintain independence in their home. Your design guide lists some EXCELLENT recommendations and I commend you for this! I am sure your design will be spectacular and I am so looking forward to seeing the end result. Have fun!

  11. emily, i'm a big fan but sunrise is really a bad news company. contact me if you'd like to know how they mistreated my mother.

  12. Rosa

    Wow, I never ever leave comments, but it is SO interesting to me that you posted this today. Because just yesterday I took my 10-month old son and walked into Sunrise unannounced to try and volunteer our time and attention to the people living there. It's been my main New Year resolution for the past 3 or 4 years now…to volunteer somehow somewhere and give more of my time selflessly to others….and every year my good intentions have mostly been drowned out by the rest of my busy life and they fall by the wayside. But this year I am determined. And with a new baby my options have been trimmed down significantly, but I thought that my ultra-social and sunny baby would work wonders with the old folks, and I was right! We were a huge hit, and he crawled around trying to steal everyone's canes and walkers and they absolutely loved him. I even recognize the beautiful older lady sitting next to you on the couch…was it Marlene?? Anyhow, I thought the timing of your post was totally serendipitous, and I thought I'd say hi. We actually share a profession, and a photographer (Bethany), and a 'hood (Silverlake) and I'm kind of surprised we haven't yet met at the local junk shops. So hi! Do you need any help with Sunrise? We intend to keep going back there anyhow. (For a proper introduction you can check out my design studio tour featured on Apartment Therapy today :) Take care and all the best with the Sunrise project!

  13. LaTonya

    Emily, this is a really wonderful giveaway. My grandfather spent time in a nursing home before he passed away several years ago and it was one of those homes that looked and smelled hospitally (totally a word right?). I really appreciate you taking the time to show that environment is a very important part of a great quality of life for seniors in addition to proper care and attention. Thank you so much for sharing.

  14. Elisabeth

    Yay! I am so glad you are doing this. I've long thought there should be more attention paid to design/decor in this area. I'm an Occupational Therapist, too, and second the previous comments about paying attention to hazards and just accessibility in general (which no doubt you will). I work in a hospital but I work with so many patients who come from various assisted living/nursing care homes…I can't tell you how many of them tell me 'Oh, that's not home". It makes me think maybe if their space was more tailored to them it might ease that transition. Just one more reason to like you! : )

  15. Thank you so much for your guide on design for senior living! For the past 3.5 years I've been staging model apartments for the independent living part of a very impressive senior living residence here in Portland. I can never learn too much and your guide will be used to help ensure I consider every aspect of potential buyers' needs. You are fantastic!

  16. My grandparents don't live in a Sunrise Community but I think this is such a great idea and its awesome that you're interested in helping seniors and spotlighting this important stage in life. Really rare and cool– I look forward to reading about the winner:)

  17. Emily! My grandfather is a Sunrise resident, and I can tell you you're doing an incredibly good thing for some people who really deserve it. I wish there was a way I could be of help…if you need anything at all to make this come together, or to expand the project in any way, please don't hesitate to ask.

    The idea of him spending his last few months in a space that you've worked hard to make cozy and comforting just warms my heart to the core.

    You're good people, Ms. Henderson. :) xox

  18. After reading your blog i feel that our elder people need only our sometime & love. I touched with your blog and your creative design for them. Definitely I will try to visit some senior living home care.

    Thanks Emily to share.

  19. My mom works part-time in the office at a Sunrise facility, so I've passed the info along to her, in case there's a senior in her facility that she thinks deserves a makeover!

  20. How did I miss this post! Argh, my grandparents live there! Any chance the contest deadline has been postponed? xo, Reichel

  21. Simone Analetto

    Hi Emily –
    I know the decision was to be March 21st and I haven’t heard anything…I guess you/Sunrise did not choose my mother Estia Analetto of Sunrise of Arlington, MA.

    Oh well, I was one of the first to send a nomination. And my mom would have loved it! Whoever it is they are lucky to win your help.
    Best of Luck,


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