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6 Things I Would Save From A Fire


For someone who has such an intimate relationship with “things” I can be strangely cold about parting with them. I shop, collect, style, love, hug and then after a while (and after a couple shoots) I’m typically ready for something new – so I sell either to a client or now on The Flea. But there are many things that I simply can’t/won’t get rid of.

I have a rule the when you are a collector (AKA if you are someone who has too much stuff) everything you own should be either A.) Functional, B.) Beautiful, or C.) Sentimental – and if a piece can be all three of those things then that’s a magical piece that you should keep forever.

Here are my top 5 things that I would save from a fire – these are things that I don’t think I will EVER part with, mostly for sentimental reasons (which is truly the best reason to keep anything). Obviously anything alive (like children or pets), or truly sentimental like photo albums would be first, which is a given, but these are the decorative things that I’m obsessed with.

1. That Vintage Floral Pillow

Emily_Henderson_Vintage_Floral_Pillow copy

Left Photo – David Tsay | Right Photo – Mike Carriero

I found that scrap of fabric at a thrift store 9 years ago and sewed the pillow out of it. It has been with me through 5 different homes and countless different styles. I’ve always had a thing for florals (because flowers are pretty much the prettiest things on the planet), but this floral fabric is special. Maybe it’s the colorway, maybe it’s the scale. I don’t know, but I love it. Sidenote: I love it WAY more when it’s styled like the photo on the left, not the photo on the right.

2. Vintage Irish Setter Portrait


Left Photo – Zeke Ruelas | Right Photo – Tessa Neudstad

I bought this guy at the flea market for $20 five years ago, then had it framed. It’s special. I have had so may readers ask where I got this painting, or if they could buy it from me if I ever choose to sell it. It’s something that I just can’t part with, and that I have continued to hoard through every move. It is vintage, it is blue, it is quirky, and it makes me happy.

3. Vintage Leather Safari Chairs

Emily_Henderson_Vintage_Safari_Chair copy

Left Photo – Zeke Ruelas | Right Photo – Mike Carriero

I picked these puppies up from a vintage mid-century store in Salt Lake City years ago when I had just started the blog. They were $900 for the pair and it was THE most I had ever spent on any single piece of furniture in my life. Granted $900 is a steal for the pair of these now a days, but back then it felt like I was really dishing out so much for these chairs. I have used other chairs in my living room, but for some reason I always come back to these.

4. Blimp Drawing


Photo – Tessa Neustadt

It’s large, no, in fact it’s huge, but as my leg hairs burn off you will know for certainty that I will be trying to rip this piece off the wall to bring it with me to safety. I had eyed it for months at a flea market back when I was living in NYC and although it was not much in price, it was my first “real” piece of art and it felt like a big purchase for a young girl at the time. I wasn’t sure what I would do with it but it always attracted me. Flash forward to 10 years later and now I finally made the decision to frame it and it is now prominently displayed in my living room.

5. Ceramic Collection


Photo – Mike Carriero

My ceramic collection continues to grow more and more each and every year, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I have no particular theme, or specifics that I like to collect, just whatever appeals to me, and I think that is why I love it so much. I have been able to part with a few that you may have seen go up on the flea from time to time, but the majority of my collection I have had for years and it holds a very special place in my heart. Fire or no fire, these puppies will be with me for the long haul.

6. My Book


OBVIOUSLY. I have like 40 copies and I can order more, but you know, just in case the internet shuts down . . . Also just in case you didn’t know about it, I wanted to do a January book plug. Now don’t get me wrong, I would grab my children far before any other loot in my house ESPECIALLY my book, but so much time, energy, creativity, and work went into this little collection of pages that it is definitely one of my biggest accomplishments thus far in my life. Besides, when everything else burns down around me at least I will have the pretty objects on the page to reminisce about all those pretty things that now sit in the rubble.

Photo – Tessa Neustadt


Photo – Tessa Neustadt


Photo – Jenna Kutcher

So what, pray-tell, would you save from a fire? What have you had for long enough that you KNOW you must love it, or what would you actually cry if broken?

Fin Mark


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Did you mean B. Functional? Or is beautiful just VERY important 🙂 (I kind of agree of so…)


for everything else, do you plan on adding to the flea anytime soon?!


Yes Lola! I’ve been wondering the same. What’s up with The Flea? I hope it’s not one of the “too many side dishes” that now doesn’t have a place at the table. Long live The Flea!


Flea please!
Flea please!
Flea please!

Lovely pieces and even better stories behind them! When I first got an apartment after college my goal was just to fill it. It’s years (and years) later, and now that I have some basics I can take my time and only buy what really speaks to me. Often it’s one of a kind little oddball pieces from thrift stores and you can believe I’ll be running back into a flaming house to save them!

I loved this post, such a lovely idea. they’re great choices as well (aesthetically rather than practically)

I would save my dog, and an vintage toffee tin that’s full of my memories!


This was fun to think about.
1. An abstract sketch I got at thrift store in Santa Barbara. It’s actually a mother nursing a baby, but it takes much time contemplating it to see it. I had it for months before I noticed it. I had it framed with frame bridge (thanks to Emily’s suggestion). And they didn’t see it either I guess, because the hardware is upside down. Now that I’m realizing it’s in my fave list, I should really get that fixed.
2. Moroccan wedding blanket
3. Saarinen table (took years of craiglisting!)
4. My grandma’s sofa that is the exact same as the one in the Lorey guest room
5. Wow! I guess that’s it.
I don’t really feel much value in things these days.


Hey Emily – I ordered your book when I didn’t get it for Christmas and it arrived yesterday. Love it! But I just wanted to let you know that not all Canadians wear denim and chambray together!!


Great post, Emily! Although I am extremely bummed that you will never part with vintage Irish Setter painting. I know I would never part with it! I have been dreaming about it for a few years now…checking the Flea to see if it is for sale. 🙁 If you have it, at least I will know that I can see it on your blog.

Great post! I really treasure an old Hoosier cabinet that my great grandparents owned (and actually used for cooking!) and a wooden breakfast nook set that was built by Amish craftsmen which my three daughters adore. I also love some old photographs we have framed on the walls that were taken by my great-grandfather which hung in the Smithsonian back in the 1920s. I guess it’s the memories I associate with them that make them special.

We don’t really have any prized things that we would save from a fire. We’re still in the semi-poor newlywed phase so we don’t have any real things yet that are super meaningful to us. I would probably just grab family pictures and run out the door.



Where is the old living room rug from in the first picture (scalloped and cream) from? I remember reading about it a while ago and thought maybe it was leather.


It’s cow hide, and from Serena & Lily I believe 🙂


Hi Alex, (it’s Sara, I work for Em here on the blog!). Tara is totally right, it’s from Serena and Lily and you can find it here! –


Emily – adore/love/relish this blog.

You and your awesome team are obviously inundated but just putting a random blog post idea out there. My parents just downsized from their 30 year home into a great townhouse type of thing. For the first time in ages they have $$ to spend on new pieces and a place to make just right for them in their late sixites/early seventies… kind of an oasis. Like they still have a good while before hitting up Sunrise Senior Living. They aren’t necessarily super into interior design and don’t have a ton of confidence though do know what they like (I think).

Anyway not sure if there is some sort of “principles of downsizing” blog post or “Emily Henderson Styled… for the recent retiree who doesn’t want to accumulate a lot of new pieces and needs to get the hang of zoning/hybrid spaces in a house that is 1/3 the size of the past house, but is also gorgeous and fresh and exciting”….

ok hmmm… maybe not your target audience per se but for the back of your mind!!


I like this idea. Your readership probably sits squarely in the “children of downsizers” world. As a designer myself, I will be helping my mom when she decides she is ready and I’d love to be able to guide her so that her new place feels like her.


I also love this idea. As the designer-child of a hoarder-mother, i can personally attest to how difficult it is to whittle down what to keep, what to store, and what to let go of. Especially when its your whole life manifest as stuff. Like Elizabeth says – Probably lots of your readers can relate to this struggle!

So interesting… I am in the exact same position. My mom is downsizing from 4,000 sq feet to a small condo, and I have been helping her as much as I can. My mom is having a terrible time letting go of her stuff! I would be so interesting in hearing Emily’s perspectives.


I love downsizing. The older I get (I’m 41), the less “stuff” I want to hold on to.


Read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Maria Kondo. It was a total game changer for me. Being married for 14 years, having 2 kids, 3 cats and an elderly father living with us, we had “collected” a lot of stuff. I’m gradually doing away with a bunch of items. This book has really helped in this regard.


The first thing I’d save isn’t decorative, but maybe it should be. My tweezers. They’ve saved me over and over again and I have never found a better pair. Otherwise:
– My Dad’s vintage, brown velvet, wing-backed chair. It’s perfect. It’s a bit of a disaster, being 50 yrs old, but it’s loved.
– My Dad’s childhood Kodak Duaflex camera.
– The side table my hubby made me from a piece of a 1940’s bowling lane (we live in Portland, after all. Must have a quirky, handmade industrial piece or I think they make you move away).
– My vintage tablecloth collection.

“Where my hoarders at?” made my day. I pictured us all raising the roof.


That’s so funny you posted this. I play this game in my head all the time, lol.


I would save my journals. I have written consistently in journals since I was eight years old, and I would seriously weep if they got burned in a fire. Other than that, I would say blankets/quilts/afghans that family members have made me over the years. It really is the sentimental stuff that’s the most important, huh?


Speaking of “things”, are you still clinging to the creepy but awesome Hemingway head? Or did he meet his fate?

1. Grandma’s vintage Eames lounge
2. Vintage Duncan Phyfe side tables
3. My Bernina sewing machines
4. Spode horse plates
5. Henrietta Milan longhorn painting
6. No-name cowboy painting. And the horse one if I could grab it, too. 😉

Jane Barrett

Great post! My most prized possession is a life-sized Santa decoration which was made by my 90 year old neighbour, over 60 years ago (it was a kit: paint-by-number (on wood)). I had coveted it for years when he displayed it outside during Christmas. Well, it turned out his children did not want to inherit it (unbelievable!) so he and his wife gave it to me. (I think they were just going to bring it to the dump). The hardest thing is I have to wait 11 months to see it again.

Mary Jane

I had to evacuate my home last year due to a forest fire threat.
It is scary and really makes you prioritize, among the things you can’t replace like pets, photos, computers and important papers.
I found myself throwing in the vehicle my Zebra rug (I really do love it obviously) shoes ( due to having fussy feet) I have invested lots of time and money in good quality shoes. And jackets what can I say I have a fondness for jackets lol. I would have loved to take my white slipcovered double chaise but of course that would never fit in a vehicle. When you only have a couple hours to evacuate I think it is kind of a panic thing but looking back on the experience it does open your eyes.
At least it all ended well we were allowed home in a few days and home and family were all fine.

If I had those leather safari chairs, you’d better believe they’d be on my list!


I know what my mother saved – an oil portrait of her that she had given my dad only three weeks before their house burned to the ground. She always told me, “I’ll never sit 15 hours again for anything!” The portrait has pride of place in my living room and the mid-century vibe has always inspired me.

I’ll save the Christmas tree (the fairy lights on the board in the shape of a Christmas tree version) that husband made for me just this past Christmas! I still turn the lights on a almost a daily basis because it just makes me so happy!

I want to start collecting ceramic as well and was wondering whether there are any tips that I “should” observe?


The problem is that I would want to save all of the thiiiings! This is why I came to your blog today in the first place! We are relocating to SoCal from a large home in the PNW that we have been in for 12 years, and I have to rehome some stuff. I love my ‘things’ so muuuuch! How can I do this. Being a self pronounced stylist myself, I know how much new things cost, and how much better a vintage authentic piece thrifted (for almost no $$) is, that I feel like every piece is worth keeping/saving. I also love to rotate my collections, so having a stash of things not being used (at the moment) seems reasonable to me. What do I save? What do I keep? How did you do it when you relocated from PDX? Any advice?


My parents used to joke that they’d save us and then, the pictures of the us, but all our pictures are saved to the Cloud. Even the old ones have been digitized. 1) a photograph of my grandfather and me – aged 18 months – in a Spring time apple orchard. On the back, in my grandfather’s handwriting it says “Bees, dandelions, balmy day, apple blossoms all about, and happy youngsters. Could anything make life more enjoyable?” I can hear his voice saying it when I read that. And it’s dated on my father’s 26th birthday. I have a copy saved to the cloud, but the handwritten text makes it so precious. 2) Some antique Japanese prints purchased when we were newlyweds. They remind me of a particularly happy time and place. Also a couple of oil paintings done by my grandmother and great-grandmother. 3) A 300 year old oak secretary that is a family heirloom. 4) a pocket watch from my husband’s childhood. It has a cowboy endlessly galloping over the plains with each tick tock. There are other things I’d grieve for if I lost them, but these are the things I would never get over and which… Read more »


I love the storybofvyiur grandfather writing on the back of the picture. Very special, indeed.


There is almost nothing decor-wise I’d save. Maybe my own mosaic art. The rest is easily replaced. I’m more Ikea and Target than the flea market. And my hands would be full of pets, cosmetics and small appliances like my $400 blender, anyway.

I’d save your string art. It’s kind of funny to me that your favorite pieces are ones I’m not even into. LOL

Super nice pictures. Gorgeous looks!

Sally B

That Irish setter portrait! Love that thing! Crazy how happy it makes me.

Susie Q.

I think Emily should poll her readers: love the Irish setter or hate it? I think you have to either love it or hate it. I don’t love it 😉

I haven’t thought too much about the whole save-from-a-fire scenario, but my husband said he would grab our photobooth photos that we’ve collected over the years on our fridge, awww.


My minature Norwegian log cabin. My grandpa gave it to me at age 12 when we moved out of state. He later gave me his roll top desk I then refinished. But that I passed along to my grandson and I pretty sure grandpa would be delighted about that


let’s see, the photo of my mom ,age 5, grandparents and aunt on camels in front of the pyrimids, photo of my old dog woody on a purple chair, the quen yin my grandmother gave me from my first communion, m my purple chinese art deco rug…
ps. I have a collection of dog portraits, needlepoint snauzer , oil, springer, Molly the maltese looking over her shoulder like a windblown diva..


This is an easy question to answer. My kitchen garbage can. It’s a 19th century kindling box from the Black Forest region. It is large enough to hold two of those tall office type garbage cans side by side with a slanted hinged top. It’s pine and covered with massive carved roses. Yep….glorious floral blooms! I bought it at an auction for a song.

I received my first digital camera just before giving birth to baby #3 and thus 90% of the photos of our children are in albums I filled with photos from 1996 to 2000 – I cherish those photos as each moment is replaced my new moments…things I thought I would NEVER forget fade…I have them all in a cabinet right by the front door and I have run the drill in my head, I would fling them out the door one by one until they were all saved…the rest….i have become less sentimental about as my kids have grown….think I would get the insurance money and travel!


This is such a tough exercise, because it makes you think about what you keep because you generally like it versus what you keep because you’re absolutely in love with it. Were my house burning down around me, you’d find me at my bookcase lobbing books out the front door. At this point, any book I own in hard copy, rather than digital, is either something from my childhood, a gift, or an absolute favorite that I loved enough not to donate to the local public library. If anything happened to my books, I’d be a big sobbing mess. The next step on my list would be all the things my Great Grandpa, a skilled woodworker, made for me. These fall into your magical category of beautiful, functional, and sentimental, and include things like a piggy bank he made from the front of an old P.O. Box when his local post office replaced all the gorgeous vintage boxes with the boring ones they use today. Christmas decorations would be next, since many of those are family heirlooms. After that, my living room coffee table, because I spent months searching for the perfect one, and I know you can’t buy it… Read more »

Ellie K.

This was a fun exercise. I am blessed to have a family that creates and gifts art and I want to keep that legacy alive. It is freeing to realize that aside from family photos there really aren’t many other things that I couldn’t replace.

1. My great-grandmother’s marker sketches of her solo trip around the world in the 1940s. Japan, Bali, India. She was such a fearless lady. I love them!
2. My great-grandmother’s pastel portrait of me as a 1 year old. I enjoy original portraits and the fact that this one is of me by someone I love is even more special.
3. My white pineapple, it reminds me of my younger self. I bought it in college when pretty things were a luxury and even though it was only $10.00 it felt like way too much to spend. “why bother to decorate your college dorm?” It makes me so happy every time I see it.
4. My Great-Grandmother’s watercolor seascape of the beachfront at our family cottage. Basically, anything created by my great-grandmother.
5. The huge original abstract ocean storm my mom painted and gifted me for Christmas this year. The abstract shell she painted in art school.

Those chairs deserve the best 🙂


Cynthia Waide

With a fire raging is there time to hire a moving van? No? Well, I may have to resign myself to dying in the fire. I come from a line of people who were not rich, but kept everything forever. So I have inherited not only the cool stuff, but the inability to get rid of it. Aside from loved ones, pets, old photos and jewelry, letters, and my tablet, here are some things I would save today: – My parents owned a turn of the century nut and bolt case with china knobs which they rescued from my great-grandfather’s hardware store and turned in to lamp tables. I inherited one when they downsized and I’m dragging it with me. – A few months ago I bought a Milo Baughman coffee table – rosewood with six large tiles set in a black & white checkerboard pattern. I’m in love. – I have a large piece of etched glass that, for many years, bore witness to terrifying goings on in the Texas Capitol building from its perch in the ceiling of the Senate Chamber. I plan on having a dining table built to hold it. – A restored wooden box that… Read more »


LOL (Unfortunately speaking from experience) When your house is actually on fire you don’t give a **** about physical things. You grab the things that are breathing and you RUN… I get your figure of speech though, and enjoy your picks!

Nina D

Unfortunately I also had “get out now!” fire experience. “Luckily” my fire happened to me when I had next to nothing. They let us back in the building for a couple of hours a few days later. It was February, in Boston, and had been snowing/sleeting for days. I salvaged what little I could but what really got to me was seeing the few pieces I owned of my grandmother’s (everyday) china, frozen in my kitchen sink. Let this be a lesson: always do your dishes! And don’t smoke in bed like the idiot that lived above me.


I would save those chairs and the blimp artwork too. Beautiful unique pieces! Of course, I’d save my hubby and two dogs first, but if there were time I’d be going back in first for family photo albums, and dragging behind them a much cherished plantation table that belonged to my mother and a Danish modern desk I bought for $15 at a thrift shop years ago. Hopefully none of us will ever have to deal with a fire, but you did make me do some thinking! Maybe I should move favor


I would save those chairs and the blimp artwork too. Beautiful unique pieces! Of course, I’d save my hubby and two dogs first, but if there were time I’d be going back in first for family photo albums, and dragging behind them a much cherished plantation table that belonged to my mother and a Danish modern desk I bought for $15 at a thrift shop years ago. I pray that none of us will ever suffer the tragedy of a fire, but you did get me thinking, Emily, that maybe I should move some of my heavier cherished items closer to the front door!


As I have written two historical books, I know the feeling of letting your book go to the world. It’s terrible, awful and amazing, all together. I bought your book for myself this Christmas and I love it. I think, that you are the only one, how doesn’t hesitate to share her skills or knowledges. Really helpful, thank you! (sorry my English language)

Helen Whaley

No question – I’d save my fabulous Italian acrylic and glass coffee table. As it’s pretty bulky, I’d probably sweep off the tablescape, toss aside the 48″ glass top (you get that super-human strength in an emergency, right?) and make a dash for it with the base. The signed, irreplaceable part.

I’ve been waiting for that Irish Setter painting to show up in the shop. Looks exactly like my childhood dog, Stiles. Every time I see you style it, I smile.


This week I moved back to DC after 4 years of living overseas in Rwanda and Haiti. I was so excited to move back in to my tiny little house and nest, but a few days before the movers were supposed to come, I got a call from them and the warehouse where my stuff had been stored had burned to the ground. Luckily it wasn’t a house fire, and my dogs and I are ok, but man does the loss of that stuff hurt. A lot of it is replaceable, but its the inexpensive stuff that hurts the most–photos, journals, a pair of small paintings of birds from my grandmother, a quilt I had made in Rwanda, a hand painted barbershop sign from Tanzania, and a painting my mother gave me for my 18th birthday (when the last thing I wanted was a painting).

As I start to replace the basics, I’m trying to channel Marie Kondo and the words of William Morris about things in your home being useful and beautiful.

I love how the striped tapestry is hung in the first picture. Can you share how you hung it? Did you just use nails?

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