Oprah Magazine Weekend Makeover

One time Oprah called and asked if I would do a budget weekend makeover for her magazine, and I was like, ‘Opes, for you … anything.’ The job/challenge was to show their readers what they can actually do in a weekend, with a limited budget. It’s not ‘just buy a new sofa’ or ‘wallpaper your ceiling’, its easy upgrades, simple solutions, etc, that you can really do to improve your space in 2-3 days. Having those parameters was VERY fun, indeed, and has inspired another big makeover post (and possible series) that I’m launching with Target soon.

The budget for decor was $1800, which isn’t nothing and certainly isn’t what a lot of people have just lying around but it still goes really fast. Trust me.

Oprah Makeover_Omagazine

It’s out now in the September issue, but let’s go back in time and check out what it looked like when we found it:


The apartment itself is beautiful – big, white, open with pretty, classic architecture. Her pieces were simple and easy to style on top of, which was good since we didn’t have the budget to buy a new sofa, etc. And OH YEAH, SHE ALREADY HAD TWO PLATNER STOOLS. She inherited them from her mom and I was VERY jealous.


Things were just kinda mismatched, without a specific point of view and it just didn’t reflect her personality.


There was something very classic and Victorian about the space so we felt like we could go for a more feminine, almost regal color. And since she lived by herself and didn’t necessarily need to take in her boyfriend’s opinion so much we wanted to go a little bit girly.


Reader Question: How to I make my dark Tudor feel modern?

Hi Emily,
We’re a bit stuck. My husband and I moved from a sun drenched apartment in Brooklyn to a dark Tudor in Queens the name of more space for our newborn. The house is charming but dated, and we don’t know how to freshen it up without making it feel like a boho home in a Tudor body.

Our main issue is with the living/dining room combo area (below). It’s dark and uninviting (that’s 1930′s wood paneling covering the dining room walls) and the corner fireplace has completely stumped us in terms of furniture placement.

I often wonder what you would do to the house if it were your own. 

Help! We want to love our new home but feel trapped by its darkness and awkward layout. It’s making us feel old and boring. Thanks so much for any help and design vibes you can send our way.

Susan, Bryce and Baby Jack

OK. So this  is a really good/bad predicament. They have an adorable house that doesn’t feel like them. It feels like a dark, sexy boarding school scene from Gossip Girl (the architecture, I mean). I do have issues with Tudors for their lack of light and their heavy feel, but then I love how charming they are. Its WONDERFUL during the winter, so cozy and warm, but in the spring and summer, it can be hard.


So here is what I would do … but wait. Ahem. Dear architectural purists, reach for your kleenex now, grab and grip that stress ball, put your mouth guard quickly into your mouth because guess what? I think that this lovely family should paint their beautiful paneling. Not white, but a medium gray or a color. That wood is DARK as hell and stylistically very heavy. It’s perfect for a lodge, a Mason council meeting room, a ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ kinda vibe. Great, if you are into that. But based on your furniture, you enjoy a more modern, light aesthetic that is fighting the dark wood on the walls. Sure, in a photo shoot we could make it look cool, but in an everyday situation, it’s going to feel like a battle every time you walk through that door.

If you wanted to still work with the architecture (which is a good idea) I would grab one of the colors in the stained glass. Maybe a muted blue or green or gray. Don’t get rid of the paneling, just paint it a pretty matte color (or eggshell which is more practical with kids). If you want to be a bit safe think about a medium gray. I think going too light will feel disjointed with the house, but a pretty heather gray will feel warm, inviting, masculine, old world but totally more modern and fresh. If you milk paint it or just wash it then you can still see the grain in the wood = a good thing. I can’t tell from the pics but you could also keep it chair rail height and then add a moulding and get rid of the what is above that. So it’s around 5′ high and then just paint, so it’s no so wood-paneling heavy.

Also if you are in the same boat as this reader with your paneling, my answer is this – if your room is small-ish (like a 300 square foot room or less) then paint it to make it feel so much bigger. You’ll be so happy you did. I know its hard. I know it feels dishonest in a way. But dark and heavy is hard to pull off these days (and by these days I mean the last 30 years.) This goes for Craftsmen houses as well (unless you love that dark and cozy feeling). So if you have a huge mansion, ski cabin or country cabin full of dark stained wood, moulding and paneling, then keep it because it’s actually awesome. It’s like a teeny tiny bikini on a woman – you either have that body type or you don’t, but not everyone needs to wear it just because you bought it, so don’t force it.


As far as the beams go … if they are painted brown then you have my permission to paint them white or gray. If those beams are stained wood then I would paint the paneling in your living room and then see how you feel. about the darkness on the ceiling. Your flooring is wood so if you have wood beams it would still look cohesive.

Also I would quickly embrace some old world feeling pieces. Get some crystal or iron chandeliers. Think about some more traditional rugs. Maybe your sofa is modern but you have two leather spanish sling chairs. Maybe your dining table is modern, but you have a crystal chandelier above it. The more you can mix modern with old world, the faster your architecture will embrace your modern pieces and they will stop fighting. Just bringing modern pieces into a beautiful historic house like this is tricky. But with some mixing of styles it will look like a super hip Tudor, full of young interesting people. Don’t reject the architecture, embrace it and create a style totally unique to the space. That sounded like an afterschool special for designers anonymous. You know what I mean. :)

To submit your reader questions, email them to brady@emilyhendersondesign.com

Materials Girl #6; young, girly and likes to party

Welcome to another ‘Material Girls’ post where I play with pretty materials to create fake girls mood boards. As you do. It’s like I’m acting out my styling fantasies on clients that we don’t have. It’s terribly fun, indeed.

This chick, Morgan, is 24 and lives in San Diego. Her parents bought her a condo and gave her a hefty budget to decorate. We all hated her in our twenties, I’m sure. She loves color, pattern and is clearly very feminine but grounds it with wood and leathers. She loves a modern floral (like that Japanese paper), mixed with simple stripes. Not too bold, not too fussy but not exactly a dudes house.

Materials board

1. Vintage metal dish | 2 Teal fabric | 3. Stone | 4. Wood flooring | 5. Chevron wallpaper | 6. White leather | 7. Pink leather | 8. Lush wallpaper | 9. Grey tile | 10. Paint chips | 11. Coral stripe wallpaper | 12. Pink ribbon | 13. Grey leather

Check out other material girls #1, #2, #3, #4,

DIY Basket Pendant in Redbook

One time, 3 months ago, we turned a basket into a pendant lamp, and now its in Redbook magazine. As you know I have a column with Redbook where every issue we experiment with a DIY. We brainstorm a bunch of ideas, do a lot of pinning and pitch them to the editors. They pick the ones they like and we tweak them to make sure that they are as unique as possible.


This DIY is as simple as drilling a hole through the bottom of your basket using a circular drill bit, feeding your light kit through the newly drilled hole, and wrapping it with fabric, rope, or yarn in our case. A pendant-loving monkey could pull this off – otherwise known as me.

Here are the detailed instructions and sources:

Basket: We sourced ours from all over but this one was the winner because we loved the shape and scale of it. Although we found a lot that we loved from Target as well as World Market. You can see some of the other options we had to decide from in the behind the scenes images below. I guess the trick is making sure that the scale, shape and size is right for your space. Also no handles or it gives away the fact that it was meant to be a basket, and nobody wants a laundry basket hanging over their dining table. If you wanted to do two pendants over night stands then they would be smaller, but since this was over a small dining table we wanted something a little larger. Could you do one over a huge dining table? Sure, but it might start to actually get really heavy and look like a huge laundry basket over your dining table. Not necessarily the chicest thing that you’ve ever done. But you could do a collection of smaller baskets that would look awesome.

Light Kit: Ours came from World Market, however these can be sourced from any local hardware store or online. Just make sure you get one with enough cord length so that you can hang your new light from the ceiling without having to use an extension cord to get it to reach to the wall outlet. You can also get one like THIS which you can install to an existing junction box to replace what you currently have.

Yarn: We decided to use yarn instead of fabric or rope because the large-scale yarn was easy to wrap and we loved the color. Fabric could have gotten messy and rope could have gotten bulky. I also love the idea of parachute rope, which is thinner than rope but comes in fun colors. Ours was sourced from our local fabric store and the color changed as the yarn went (it was a gradient of color) which added more texture. Duh.

Redbook Basket Lamp_Final


1. Drill Hole: We drilled our hole in the bottom of the basket using a circular drill bit which can be picked up at your local hardware store. Make sure you get one that is the same size or just slightly larger than the size of the light socket on the light kit. If you get anything too big then the light kit will just slide through and if you get anything too small it won’t fit.

Redbook Basket Lamp_ Drill

2. Attach Light Kit to Basket: This is as easy as feeding it through the hole in the basket that you just drilled and then affixing it with the attached plastic washer.

Redbook Basket Lamp_ Wire

3. Wrap light kit: Start at the end nearest to your basket and tie the yarn in a knot on the light kit. Wrap around and around and around moving down the wire until you reach the end where you will tie another knot in the yarn.

Redbook Basket Lamp_ Wrap

So those are the pretty, styled’ after’ shots. Unfortunately (or fortunately) it’s a lot messier when we actually do it, test it, prototype it, etc, so naturally I wanted to give you a glance into that fun but at times hectic process.

After the idea was approved and shoot was set up, Brady went out and bought approximately 95 baskets from Pier 1, HomeGoods, Target, Costplus, etc.

Redbook Basket Lamp_4

We narrowed it down to the ones we liked the most, seemed the most functional and would work with the my style as well as the magazine. Then they prototyped the pendant with one that we didn’t like – strangely it was hard to find a ton of stock in the ones we liked and we needed two in order to show the whole DIY.

Redbook Basket Lamp_3

So, I made them sit on a small rug in the basement and play with baskets without food and water for MINUTES!

Meanwhile upstairs we shot three different options of basket pendants for the magazine – styled in one shot. We had our favorite (the middle one, obviously) but I liked the other two and it’s always nice to show options. That photo never ran in the magazine, but isn’t it fun to see the whole set up? Also isn’t it fun to see how much photo shoots destroy your house? And this is nothing …..

Redbook Basket Lamp_1

It was basically David Tsay photographing the whole scenario, while his assistants and Brady strung them all up on C-stands against my white wall and then lit it all professional like. Scott is helping obsess about the details and David is looking at the image on the screen. I was helping but also on my computer probably writing a blog post. Also I had been up since 1:45 that morning doing a media event for a bunch of morning talk shows. But since I had my hair and makeup done they asked me to pop into a shot and I did. They would never allow me to be seen without hair and makeup on camera for fear that my albino skin would potentially blind all assistants, and then who would be there to hang the pendants on C stands? No one. We would have to call in back up assistants, and make sure they bring goggles or some sort of safety glasses.

Redbook Basket Lamp_5

Anyway, it was time to shoot the final pendant. For a while I did have that table and chairs there, which i loved functionally (I could sit and work, drink coffee in the best light of the day while Charlie rolled around on the floor on a blanket with toys). But I got rid of it because visually it just looked so cluttered. And no, there normally isn’t a random pendant hanging over that table. Ah, the magic of a photo shoot.

Redbook Basket Lamp_2

This was for the September issue and it needed to feel like fall so we (Scott) brought in these warmer tones of amber with pretty autumn pears. But Redbook wanted it to be even a bit warmer even, so they amped up the fall.


Spot the difference? The warmer toned one is what they ran, but the whiter one was what we shot. I love seeing the difference

The after shots are photographed by always amazing David Tsay, and styling was done by none other than Scott Horne.

You can check out our other DIY projects we did for Redbook by clicking through these links: Side Table Ikea HackDIY Towel Ladder Embossed Velvet Heart PillowOffice Wall Pockets, DIY Tree Slab Table.

Trolling Craigslist… Raleigh/Durham!


Trolling Craigslist Raleigh Durham We are back from a long weekend camping and while it is my 35th birthday (monday) I’ve put off celebrating it because we just spent 4 days with 16 of our best friends in the woods, so we are a little partied out, if you know what I mean. So I’m eating General Tsao’s chicken take out and about to watch the finale of The Killing. But first, I must Craigslist …

Raleigh/Durham (its sister cities, right?), you did not disappoint. Lets get into it.

raleigh bamboo bed and sectional

1. $150 Eames Style Side Chair Ok, this guy in not a steal, and probably should be 1/2 that price, but at the perfect home office desk it would be so cute. The shock of red off a simple white desk would be VERY adorable.

2. $60 Bamboo Twin Bedframe Yes. Awesome. So cute. You could paint it virtually ANY color and it could be cute. Navy or forest green for a more masculine/sophisticated look (boy or girl) or bright yellow, hot pink, coral, blush, AHHH!!! In the right room it could really be any color (except anything that resembles wood/bamboo colors – don’t paint a natural tone on something natural or it looks like you are trying to fool someone). Obviously leaving it as is could work in a more vintage California, southwest-y look. Just as long as it’s not too shiny.

3. $100 Mid Century Sectional I hesitate to even include this because it can work in soooo few houses, but I love a curved sectional so much. They are so communal and conversational, but not good for lounging or cuddling (as there is no ‘cuddle corner’ as we call it). This bad boy probably needs at least 20 yards to cover and I think it would range $1500 – $2500 to reupholster. Again, i know that range is huge, but it really depends on your city, the market and how high-end you want to go. Read my ‘Everything you need to know about upholstering furniture’ and that might help.

raleigh vintage chairs

4. $250 Wingback Chair Your shape is good, your price is a bit high. I normally try to get my chairs around $500 – because that is around the price of a new club chair. But if they are really special (i think this chair is pretty special but not spectacular) then I don’t mind spending more. So this guy will be probably 4 yards of fabric and $300 to reupholster. If the fabric is cheap then it could be ok, but otherwise that could get kinda expensive. Also you have to figure in the cost of pickup/delivery unless you have a big car :)

5.  $25 Vintage Club Chair Now there is a cheap chair. And hideous. But in a pretty cream linen it could be lovely. You can make it more modern by taking off the skirt and putting on new legs (possibly mid-century style legs) OR leave the skirt for a more traditional look. Either way it wouldn’t be too expensive.

6. $150/e Pair of Vintage Tufted Chairs Yes. Cute. Recover them in a simple linen – any color would really be pretty – pink, mint, navy, emerald, coral, silvery-blue. Of course i’m not the biggest fan of muddy tones, but they could be pretty in a brown linen if that’s your thing.

raleigh durham cl ceramic lamp

7. $80 Ceramic Lamp Base Yes. That’s awesome. I would buy that 10 times over. It’s just so simple, but unique – my absolute favorite combo.

8. $80 Retro Side Chair ABSOLUTELY. It’s such a good corner chair – something that just perfectly engages a corner, has a really pretty simple shape, and yes can be sat in but lets face it, its more of a ‘looking at’ chair than a ‘sitting in’ chair.

9.  $45 Set of  Cane Back  Dining Chairs WONDERFUL. Put that set around a Saarinen table (or the CB2 or Ikea knock offs) and call it a day. These chairs want to be mixed with modern and not traditional (unless the traditional table you have is just simply GORGEOUS). So I’d go for cruising them around a simple modern table (all Scandy style) and BOOM, that is a cheap set of chairs.

raleigh kilim green chair and folding chairs

10. $50 Vintage Chair Whats up cutie? For the right vintage vibe you wouldn’t even need to recover it. That color is cute and that diamond tufting excites me.

11. $195 Kilim Rug Its good, but not amazing. I’m not going to have Brian take pictures of it while I’m not around so I can see it and stay updated on how its growing and whether or not it seemed happy. But its pretty good for $195.

12. $80 Vintage Folding Chairs Ok this might have been a bit of a mistake.  But once sprayed and recovered they could be pretty darn cute.

raleigh chrome rocking chair luite

13.  $150 Lucite Side Table See it in person. Make sure it’s not too scratched, etc. But I’m kinda into this little piece of glam.

14.  $100 Vintage Rocker I like how squared off this rocker is. It needs a paint job, so I’d suggest offering $60, but its cute.

15.  $150 Brass Sofa Frame This looks like chrome to me, but the frame is still pretty amazing. To get cushions made it could cost around $500 (fabric not included). That ain’t bad, folks.

Happy Tuesday, folks. And where should I troll next?

*Durham illustration found here