DIY Dresser Kitchen Island Cart in Redbook

Some DIYs are crazy easy (like thess: crate shelf, slab table, table runner and ladder towel holder), and some are a little more complicated. This one is one is more on the latter side, but all the individual ideas are simple. Check it out:

Redbook DIY Dresser Kitchen Island


I’m actually only into Ikea hacks if they are really simple, cheap and fast because it doesn’t make sense to me to put hours (or days) of work into a piece of furniture that may not last too long. So when we started this project we thought that it was super simple and cheap, but full disclosure, it was kinda a lot of work and took more time, money (and troubleshooting) than we thought. I actually LOVE every idea here and I really like how it turned out but if I were to do it again I would use a vintage dresser, something more unique, or something that I already had because there are a lot of kitchen carts out there that cost less than this one ended up being. At the same time sometimes these DIY’s are more about the ideas that you get from them and less about actually following this exact recipe with these exact ingredients. I just don’t want you guys to think that ‘this is a fast, cheap dresser turned kitchen cart’ because it kinda wasn’t. But had it been an awesome vintage dresser that wasn’t being used, that was higher quality, I would totally do this. At the same time for readers sake (of the magazine as well as the blog) we wanted everything to be easily sourced and to choose something really simple to start with, so this Ikea dresser worked well for this purpose.

Here is what you will need:

2_DIY Kitchen Island Dresser Ikea Hack_Ingredients

-Organization Accessories: Towel Bar, Paper Towel Holder, Spice Racks (we ended up painting all of ours to look like brass with some gold spray paint). But just buy the simplest ones.

-Leather Belts: We used some large mens leather belts which can be purchased from your local goodwill or anywhere that sells cheap leather belts. I think we bought from H and M, go thrifting, folks.

-Brass Nuts and Bolts: You will use these to fasten the leather handles to the dressers

-Brass Casters – We bought like 10 options and of course went with these which were the most expensive castors at 11 a piece (we got them from Koontz Hardware in LA).

-Leather Hole Punch

-Drill and Drill Bit

-Screwdriver and Screws: to attach the accessories to the side of the unit


1. Prep a Dresser:

First of all you can either start with the Koppang 3 drawer dresser that we did from Ikea for $99.00 or source your own vintage dresser or reuse an old piece that you have. It is totally up to how large you want it to be, where you want to use it, and the style of dresser that you want to use. It’s just important that it is roughly waist-high so that you can use it as a work top if you want.

1_DIY Kitchen Island Dresser Ikea Hack_Dresser


2. Replace the Handles:

We reused the pre drilled holes that were already in the dresser and swapped the knobs out for a leather pull that we made out of common brass nuts and bolts that can be found at your hardware store and an old mens leather belt. Here is how we did it:

Measure the distance between the two holes and then add a few inches onto that length. That will determine how long your total handle is. Once you have that number you will then add a couple more inches to each end of that length so that you can fold the belt over itself to create the clean edge at each end of the handle. Then using a hole punch you will pierce the ends of those belts where the holes will go.

We then used brass nuts and bolts to fasten the leather belt to the drawer front. We threaded the bolt through the drawer first then through the belt and then used a ball nut rather than a traditional nut so that we would have a clean rounded edge on the outside of the drawer. Ball nuts are the tits.

3_DIY Kitchen Island Dresser Ikea Hack_Leather Handles

3. Add Casters

We wanted to add casters to this to make it completely mobile. Then you can pull it into your dining room when you need an extra bar, or you can roll it into your kitchen if you need some extra prep space.

We found our casters at our local hardware store for around $12.00 a piece, but the type that we used is made by Bassick and can be sourced online.

Do secure the caster to the dresser you will flip it over then drill a hole into each of the legs that is the same size as the T-nut (which is the hollow sleeve that the caster slides into) then you slide and snap each caster into place.

4_DIY Kitchen Dresser Island Ikea Hack_Brass Castors

4. Add Accessories

You can go as mild or as wild as you want with the accessories for the side of your unit. We decided to get a few accessories for each side that made the piece a lot more useful. We got a couple small spice racks, a towel bar, and a paper towel holder. We grabbed all of these at our local hardware store as well. We didn’t really pay attention to color as we ended up spray painting everything with gold spray paint so that it looked uniform (and I mean you already know my love of all things brass)

5_DIY Kitchen Island Dresser Ikea Hack Brass Accessories

DIY Kitchen Island Dresser Ikea Hack Accessories


We love this guy so much we actually use it in our studio kitchen and everyone comments on it.

And then you have to style it out for a shoot which takes 2 stylist, 2 assistants, a photographer and 2 photo assistant. Please enjoy my gif about it.

DIY Redbook Dresser Island GIF

Meanwhile this is what the room around it looked like:

We were shooting both the crate shelf and this one at the same time and it was crazy.

redbook DIY

Also yes, we laid down a roll of linoleum so it would look like a kitchen. Fakey-fakey.

So, here’s a finished shot.

DIY Kitchen Dresser Ikea Hack Emily Henderson

Photos by David Tsay, styling by Scott Horne. Thanks, Brady for putting this bad boy together.

Meanwhile check out all the other Redbook DIYS here: Side Table Ikea HackDIY Towel Ladder Embossed Velvet Heart PillowOffice Wall PocketsDIY Tree Slab Table, DIY Basket Pendant, Table Runner.

How to Make the Hanging Wallpaper Panels

As you might have read for the new studio we decided to not paint the walls or do anything permanent to anything, partly because of my commitment issues, partly because we had 2 weeks to finish and there was NO way I was going to be able to decide the perfect wallpaper in that short of time, but mainly because we wanted the flexibility of white walls for shoots. So for the party I wanted it to be really exciting and colorful – with lots of wild patterns – for real life I think we are going to pair back to just a few of the colors/patterns to keep it a bit quieter.

Anyway, so we hung a ton of wallpaper panels on gator boards and hung them on different levels from the ceiling. Now this isn’t normally something that you’d do at your home, but enough of you asked how we did it that we figured a post about it couldn’t hurt.



Panels_wallpaper-wall emily henderson studio

Here is a breakdown of how to make those wallpaper panels. To see them in action you can check them out in the studio tour that Domaine did, or at our Tiny Prints party!

DIY Wallaper Panels_header

The ingredients:

DIY Wallpaper Panels Ingredients

1. Hammer

2. Grommet Kit: We picked ours up from JoAnn’s Fabric but they can be picked up at any craft store or online. Ours were brass (obviously) and 7/16″ in size.

3. Hooks: These are just standard ceiling hooks that we picked up from Home Depot, again we went with brass color.

4. S-Hooks: We looked for these in brass as well but could not find them, but as they hang behind the panel you don’t see much of the silver color.

5. Drill Bit: You will need a drill bit that is slightly smaller than your grommet kit so we used a 3/8″ drill bit.

6.  Chain: We picked up our brass chain from a local hardware store, but it is also sold at larger home improvement stores and even some craft stores.

7. Drill

8. Wallpaper: This is the most important and funnest part of it all. We used a bunch of different patterns and colors and then mixed them around to see what we loved best next to each other. You can also use fabric, contact paper, veneer, or whatever else you come up with!

9. Gatorboard: (this is what everything is sitting on in the above picture) Basically it is the same as foam core but much more rigid and more strong (and more expensive). We decided to go with Gatorboard because it does not warp as much as foam core would and it is still very light. We sourced ours online but it can be picked up in large sheets from your local craft or arts store.

Now that you know what you need, here is how its done. Once you have adhered your wallpaper, contact paper, fabric, or veneer to your panels here is how you will attach grommets, chain and hang them to the ceiling.

DIY Wallpaper Panel Template

Make Template: Trust me when I say that making this cheap little template will save you tons of time measuring. You can use any scrap piece of paper or cardboard and then measure in 1″ from both the top corner and the side corner, then cut out a hole approximately the size of your drill bit. Once you have made the template you can use it for each corner and just flip it over when you use it for the opposite corner. It saves you time from measuring out each hole and makes things much quicker if you are doing lots of panels like we did.

DIY Wallpaper Panel_Template Mark

Trace Template Hole: Just make sure that you line up the corner of your template with the corner of your panel and then trace the hole. When you go to trace the other corner of the panel just flip over the template and repeat the same process. Its not rocket science but you’ll be glad you did it.

DIY Wallpaper Panel_Drill

Drill Hole: Using the right size drill bit, drill right through the gatorboard. It will drill through very easy so don’t apply too much pressure and then end up drilling right through your floor, or finger, or leg. (PS. don’t every use your leg to prop up the gatorboard – it won’t be a pretty picture)

DIY Wallpaper Panel_Grommet Ingredients

Assemble Grommet Kit: When you buy your grommets you have two options: 1. A grommet kit, or 2. grommets. You will only need to purchase one grommet kit which includes the tools you see above for attaching the grommets together. You can then purchase the rest of the amount of grommets you need and use the grommet kit to attach them together.

DIY Wallpaper Panel_Hammer Grommet

Hammer Pieces Together: There are very easy instructions on the back of your kit but basically you will sandwich your gatorboard between the anvil, eyelet, washer, setter, and hammer. (and yes I did have to look on the back of the box to give you all those fancy names in the correct order. Once they are all lined up you have to give it a few good strikes and then your grommet will attach itself to the gatorboard and you are good to go.

DIY Wallpaper Panel_Attach Chain Combined

Attach Chain:

Once you have your pretty brass grommets in all of the corners of your panels, you will attach an S-hook to each of the corners and then whatever length of chain you need to each of those S-hooks.

The last and final step is attaching your panels to the ceiling. You will do this by screwing in your ceiling hooks and then attaching each of the panels up in whatever order you want. We decided to overlap our panels, and hang them at different heights and depths from the wall and ceiling.


Oh, and while I rarely recommend wallpapering things yourself in this case it’s actually pretty easy because its such a simple surface and a lot of these wallpapers came wide enough that we only had to lay them flat and not even worry about matching the pattern. You lay them flat, paint the paste on the gator board, get a friend to help (it’s easier with two people), and then roll out/lay the paper or fabric on top and then smooth it out. You can even use decopauge.

Other options – maybe you want to paint chalkboard paint or magnetic paint onto a panel and hang it on the wall in your family room – less commitment than painting on the wall. And this works with fabric as well – not wood, I don’t think but fabric, cardboard, foam core and gator board.

Any questions, folks?

‘After’ photos by Chris Patey C/O Domaine, all instructional photos by Jayme Burrows.

Stain-resistant white upholstery fabric

Here was my challenge: I wanted a kid-friendly WHITE sofa. IMPOSSIBLE!!!!. I know. But that’s really what I wanted to make the living room feel as bright and big as possible. I just had to prove to myself, Brian and the rest of America that I could find a white fabric that could withstand some grubby little mitts all over them.

First, the sofa: I found this vintage sofa at Amsterdam Modern in LA and immediately fell in love with it. Hard. It retailed for $2500, which wasn’t cheap but it was exactly what I wanted and is around the price of most good quality home retail stores. Plus it was WAYYY more unique, obviously.

leather sofa in warehouse

The fabric it had on it was actually kinda awesome and I kept the slip covers just in case I wanted them later, but as you can imagine it just wasn’t going to work in this house, so it needed to change.

What happened to my old sofa you ask? Ugh. I had that vintage blue sofa for 5 years (below). Not that long in normal people time but it had been in like 4 magazines and all over the interwebs and I was just ready for a change so when I was offered $3k for it, I took the deal. It was probably worth more as we think its Adrian Persall, but the timing was right and I couldn’t say no to that check because I felt like I was just purging money, buying everything for the house. Plus it was going to be shot for Domino and I just wanted to have something that looked different.

Are there days when I regret not having it? Absolutely. I loved everything about it. It was extremely deep and comfortable and actually had a ton of sentimental value to me because it was one of my first big purchases ($700, I believe) after DesignStar. I kinda wish that I had just hoarded it but honestly that $3k was needed to help pay for the new sofa and the string art, etc. And at some point you have to let go of things.


photo by Zeke Ruelas

There she is. I just got so sad again. It also just photographed sooooo well. The only thing that gives me peace of mind is that I know that the new family LOVES it very much. I’m just glad it has a good home.

On to the new sofa!

leather sofa mid century_before


What I love about this new vintage sofa is practically everything, but especially the leather arms and the strapping on the back. Its low, simple and modern and pretty much goes with any style, but it definitely has a point of view. I bought it from Amsterdam Modern (and no, there are no others that I know of).

At this point in the living room design I knew that the rug was going to be that beautiful blue rug from Loloi so my options for the sofa fabric were as follows: white/cream, navy, gray or a pattern. I didn’t want a warm color because I wanted to contrast with the caramel leather. I was obviously very tempted by the idea of navy, but I was really trying to stick to my original mantra of ‘bright, airy, light’ so I decided against it. Don’t be shocked if someday I go back to having a navy sofa – I do kinda miss that big block of color in there. There really wasn’t any pattern that I could commit to because then it limits the patterns on the pillows, etc, and well, I just didn’t want a pattern. I thought about a simple pin-stripe, but didn’t find one fast enough so I gave up. Gray is always a good option but white is really what I wanted, I just needed to figure out how to make it kid friendly.

The three best options for stain resistant white fabric are leather (too expensive and could be kinda cheesy), ultrasuede (a good option but I kinda hate the butt marks) and outdoor fabric, in this case Sunbrella, which was a big contender for sure. There are some performance velvets out there that work, too, but we didn’t test them because I didn’t want a velvet on this sofa. And they are hard to find in yardage, although I think that West Elm sells some. So it was down to high quality linen (which I knew wouldn’t really work but I wanted to see how it withstood the stains), ultrasuede and outdoor fabric.

To make sure that I wasn’t making a massive mistake we decided to do a stain test with the three fabrics and many stain culprits.

Sunbrella Fabric Stain Test

We used some of the most commonly spilled items and those that are consistently difficult to remove from fabric: chocolate, baby food, red wine, mustard, tomato pasta sauce, permanent marker. Then we went to town on the fabric.

Sunbrella Fabric Stain Test_Pouring Wine


Sunbrella Fabric Stain Test_with food

There you have it – three fabrics with the same 6 stains on them. Can you even wait to see what happened? I was so excited.

Click through to see the winner.  (more…)

Happy November

Charlie had a very good first Halloween last weekend.

We believe in giving our child the autonomy, joy and responsibility of deciding on what he wants to be for Halloween. So we gave him two choices: former Toronto mayor Rob Ford or Mario Batali. Brian was opting for Rob Ford, because its, well, hilarious and the resemblance is uncanny, but It was a bit dark for me (what with the ‘crack’ thing and all), so we settled on Mario Batali – an equally fleshy, pale skinned, happy guy who can somehow wear a scrunchie without being publicly shamed on the daily.


He loved it!!!

At first he wasn’t terribly excited. Probably because I was pinning a recently painted wig on his big little head. But then he realized that its hilarious and he played along. Also I know that every mom thinks that their kid is the cutest person ever, but it doesn’t matter if he is dressed as Mario or not, I’m obsessed with that kid.


Meanwhile I was a ‘prairie girl’ which meant that I went into my closet and put on an outfit made of my own wardrobe. My friends said it perfectly, ‘Once again, you dressed as a female person‘. Last year I was a 1970’s female reporter (reporting live from T.W.A.T. TV), the year before I was Judith Light (obviously), the year before that I was Dolly Parton – you get it. I just go in my closet and put on clothes and then make my hair big. My lack of planning and creativity is extremely disappointing and yet consistent.

Meanwhile Brian Henderson was the villain from Kindergarten cop – you know, this guy:


It was hilarious. In fact the comedien Aziz Ansari came up to him and called him out on how good his costume was and then he tweeted about it:

aziz ansari


I know its pretty douchey to write about that but its not everyday that a huge comedian gives your husband props for being funny – which he is. Very funny.

mr crisp

We went trick or treating in a beautiful suburban LA neighborhood (not ours) and then went out while a sitter took care of Charlie and our best friends kids. He stayed up til 10pm – (and then woke up at 5! yeah!!) but it was so fun and made me even more excited for the holidays. I now get it – you get to relive everything again and all of a sudden creating traditions means creating memories which means creating a bond through extra-ordinary (and ordinary) experiences and traditions.

As a kid I don’t remember the mundane, more every day stuff. It takes either consistency or something special to really pierce the brain and make a dent in the memory forever. Not that I want to go all out every day or every holiday, but it’s motivating to make things feeling special, and create traditions that are unique to our family. Mario Batali would agree.

Anyway, hopefully next year he’ll ‘choose’ something equally as entertaining to look at – because staring at his scrunchie all night made us extremely happy:


Back later with a proper post. Meanwhile happy November, folks.

Nike Schroeder String Art Piece

We moved into this house 10 months ago, which was probably one of the happiest days of my life, truly. I hate moving out  – the packing, the cleaning out of the fridge (do we take this 2/3rds jar of Soy Vey?), the admitting you are taking all your really skinny clothes to yet another house where they’ll just sit in your drawers, etc.


But, I love moving in. Everything feels so fresh and your possibilities seem endless.  You think to yourself – this is the house that I’m not going to do bad things to. This is the house where I’m finally going to make really deliberate design decisions. Let go of the crazy, embrace the sophisticated. This is that house, right?

The house felt quiet and simple and I was DESPERATE to keep it like that. But I knew me and I was terrified of me. You see, I like stuff. Too much stuff. My worst enemy was/is myself and at all times I had to say ‘pull it back, use restraint, put that collection of miniature shoes down and walk away‘.

living room-movein

But lets talk walls and art today. The wall space in this house was endless – there was just so much of it. Having a lot of wall space is like having big boobs – everybody thinks its such an awesome thing, but it comes with its own sets of problems. I had 1 million pieces of small to medium pieces of art, that all of a sudden felt bitsy (Don’t worry, I’m making good use of them in other rooms). And sure, I could have done gallery walls, but it could have/would have looked so busy on such big walls and I was desperate for a quiet house.

One of the many huge walls in question was this one, which faces the door as you walk in.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: really good, original, large-scale art is VERY expensive as it should be (read my post about how I finally framed my blimp painting).  You can buy awesome prints for cheaper, you can do some really good DIY pieces, for sure. But if you want someone else’s talent, experience, expertise and hard work on your walls, you are going to pay for it. As you should, frankly. But making sure you are buying the best piece can be very intimidating.

And I needed pieces of art.

One of my biggest regrets in life is not going to art school, not because I think I could have been an artist, but because I’m desperate to have met hundreds of artist friends that would have constantly been giving me beautiful large-scale pieces of original art. It would have been worth the tuition alone, for sure.


The space above is what is in question today (pics are from 6 months ago).

We needed bookshelves in the house (because where else am I going to display my crazy hoarding collection of things that I couldn’t part with?) and we thought about the space to the right, but figured it would compete too much with the fireplace and that wall would be too heavy. But that landing (the left) there seemed like it could be the perfect focal point so we decided to build it there (read this post about the complete bookcase design and installation). That meant that the space to the right needed to have really just one big piece that was somewhat quiet or else there would crazy  in front of crazy which equals total insanity.

Meanwhile Danielle, The Jealous Curator, introduced me to a wonderful artist named Nike Schroeder. I had used her work at The Fig House and loved it so much. It’s so intricate and compelling but at the same time quiet because the string pieces are just a beautiful texture.


One of the hanging string pieces seemed perfect for the space. It was 3 dimensional and kinda like a sculpture which is was perfect since the blimp is a flat piece of art. It has so much movement and makes a statement, and yet (again) it’s just so quiet and elegant.  I called Nike up and said, listen, I probably can’t afford you but are you interested in doing a collaboration with me? And she said ‘Come on down to the studio and lets chat’. Luckily she was in LA.


So I did. And chatting meant basically choosing my threads which was so exciting and daunting. She had hundreds of them and they all seemed so beautiful. Do I choose something safe and timeless? Do I choose the color palette of the house or do something different so it doesn’t look too curated/designed? Do I go with beautiful timeless colors or one that will frankly get more attention right now? Or do i just pick all my favorite colors together and see what she does with them? Yes. That sounds the most interesting, so that’s what I did.


Prettty blues/teals with a hit of acid yellow, hot pink/coral, some lighter pastels, golds and even a black in there to give it a bit of dimension. It was stressful but what I finally chose (she helped me, for sure) we were both so excited about. I felt 80% confident. Over the next couple weeks I would look at this picture and ask myself ‘Did you chose the right colors?’ and then reassure myself that I did. I let her completely choose the order of the colors. She’s the artist, I was just the buyer who commissioned it.

But there were times when I thought, maybe I should have done something more sophisticated like this (which was a backup):


I still love that SOOOOO much, but it doesn’t quite hit me in the ‘excitement gut’ like the other color palette. And I fear that it would have been so muted that it would have been hard to really mix with my other more saturated colors in the room. But its tempting, right?

Then came the day that it was delivered (3 days before the Domino shoot) and all my fears were dispelled. It was absolute perfection:

nike install

I was SOOOOOO excited. It made the room come alive, instantly. Also please note that I’m wearing a button up blouse on top and work out pants/shoes on bottom. That’s how we roll.

Oh and we measured the perfect size of piece for that wall, accounting for a credenza underneath, and therefore it was perfectly proportioned.


The house was still obviously a disaster at that point, but that piece? It was down right amazing. Its exciting and quiet, a statement without being busy, and it moves slightly while still having the structure of a rectangular shape.

We shot it for Domino, that you can see HERE, but since we reshot the house a couple of weeks ago (by Tessa Neustadt) with the updated furniture you get some new photos, here:

Emily Henderson Mid Century Modern Leather Blue String Art

There are other things to talk about (is that white piece of furniture bowing, you ask? Where did you get that massive white pouf) but I’ll get into that next week. This post is all about that piece of art.

Lets talk about splurging on things – I get this question all the time – Where do you splurge and where do you save? I say this: splurge on original, one of a kind, conversation pieces – whether it’s a sofa or a piece of art. Splurge on pieces that will make your house totally unique. You can piece everything else together from thrift stores, flea markets and retail chains, but you need a few statement pieces to make your space look like you.

Emily Henderson Mid Century Modern Nike Schroeder String Art Bench

There are a lot of people out there that poo poo expensive art (I couldn’t think of a better verb, sorry), but what they need to consider isn’t just the material or the labor costs (I could have done that, or, But that’s just string!). It’s the creative time it takes to conceptualize, prototype and practice that specific piece, let alone the years they spent training, learning and probably earning nothing from it. Its uncountable and unquantifiable. There are some pieces in the world that you wonder if it was just thrown together, sure, but this piece is sewn, thread by thread. And the best part is that you know intellectually the labor that went into it, but it’s so graceful that it just feels effortless.

Anyway. I reached out to Nike to ask if she was comfortable having me tell you how much it retails for and how much I purchased it for (because yes, she gave me a big press discount) but we things its best that you just contact her or her gallery (Walter Maciel Gallery). The retail price range for these (they are all custom) is $2500 – $8,000, depending on the size. Its a pretty penny, but its a pretty (nay beautiful) piece of art that I’ll treasure forever.

Domino Magazine - Emily Henderson House Tour

Some people like to splurge on expensive cars, fancy appliances or high-end sheets. Not me. I’ll take pretty, original art any day.

*After photos by Tessa Neustadt, except for this last one by Brittany Ambridge