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7 “Guaranteed Timeless” Design Elements I’ll Never Stop Loving (& Using)

I asked Brian recently what he thought my style was, and he said “Hmm…’stuff’. You like stuff.” I laughed despite the slight offense because well, he’s not wrong even though that’s certainly not what I’d like my obituary to say.

“Emily Henderson. She loved STUFF.”

When people say “I know you designed that room the second I saw it on Pinterest,” I always internally ask How?? What was it about it that screamed Emily Henderson?? I’ve done every single style over the years, truly, and yes they all look like “me.” I know that “happy” “vintage” “approachable” and “eclectic” are all in there but go up to the ROOMS section and you’ll see a huge variety of work. Anyway, as I’m still trying to figure this out (and determine how we move forward with content), I’ve been looking at older work and finding so many consistencies, despite the time span.

Emily Henderson Living Room Decorating

The photo on the left is from 9 years ago; the right was last year. And strangely, they have SO much in common.  It’s a mix of styles: more traditional (Persian rug) and mid-century (wood armed chair). There is blue, brass and caramel leather involved, an architectural metal shaded lamp and what we will call a “statement foliage.” There is an effortless flow to the room and even a softness in the curtains.

Next up is my apparent love of toile + wood.

Emily Henderson Bold Wallpaper

The photo on the left was from the pilot of Secrets From a Stylist (9 years ago) and the right was a house we finished 2 years ago. They both were in traditional-style homes and my love of black and white toile lives on. I mixed both of them with gunmetal modern pieces (the dining table on left, the nightstand on right). They both have wood elements (chairs, lamps) and they both have a casual element to them.

Emily Henderson Design Elements 2

I think one of the biggest “OH RIGHT” moments is Ian’s house, in comparison to our house last year. They are both English Tudors with bookshelves. Turns out it’s not just the house, it’s the mixing of styles and the elements that help tell that story (Persian rug, trunks, mid-century style chairs, a lot of light, etc).

2x2 Grid 2500 Pixels 2

Same houses, different angles, same(ish) vibe. Oh, and the “over the coffee table” shot is always popular. It’s like a red carpet pose you’ve come to expect but sometimes it really looks the same as posts from the past, but we accept it anyway.

Emily Henderson Design Elements 1

Ten years ago, I designed the space on the left (for Secrets From a Stylist) and 2 years ago, myself (with the design team) designed the space on the right. Navy velvet sofa, wood accents, hits of green and all with a casual nature.

Emily Henderson Office Decorating

I suppose I’ll never not be in a “navy wall, metal architectural lamp, greenery and quirk” phase. On the left is 6 years ago, on the right is 2 years ago. I know that 4 years doesn’t seem like that much of a difference but these days, due to digital media, 4 years is like 94 years in cat years. It’s exponentially longer than it used to be and “trends” and vibes change so drastically from year to year (sometimes month to month, sadly).

Emily Henderson Bedroom Decorating

The bedroom on the left was in 2010, the one on the right last year. Goes to show I’m still into quiet bedrooms, layered with textures, in neutrals but with some flower.

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I like shelves. I like styling. I like putting my “stuff” all over shelves. I’ve been putting “stuff” all over shelves for years. You can see the similarities here with my layering, footed vessels, books, leaning art, some whimsy, etc…I have a subconscious formula. Either of these could be 2010 or 2019 but I love them both.

As I continue to self-reflect and analyze what I love and who I want to be stylistically, I’m loving seeing that some things haven’t changed. Or at least they change less than I thought they did. Maybe it means that I’m predictable. Or maybe it means I actually do have a style.

I suppose if my style is “stuff” then I’ll be okay with that. After all, I do like a lot of stuff.

What about you? Are you pro-or anti-“stuff”? What elements do you find yourself going to again and again, year after year, despite what’s “trendy”?


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45 thoughts on “7 “Guaranteed Timeless” Design Elements I’ll Never Stop Loving (& Using)

  1. I am a stuff minimalist as opposed to a stuff maximalist. I think that means that I like stuff — just not too much of it. I like the stuff to mean something to me. And I like to have a few types of things I collect rather than a lot of disparate pieces with no link between them. I like gallery walls because I like to see the art organized all in one place. I prefer well-organized stuff. So I think Stuff Minimalism is my style. 😉

    1. I’m a stuff minimalist too. I also have way too much art so all my walls are gallery walls. Sometimes I think it makes the place look too busy, but thats the problem with loving art.

      1. ‘Xactly. This is why I don’t understand “open concept.” When you remove all your walls where do you hang your art???

        Not to mention the art stacked in the closet….

        1. Yesss. So much art in the closet and I have as many gallery walls as my shotgun Camelback will allow. I don’t quite understand the people that can quickly closet their art to get big, meaningless (though pretty) pieces of art when a design blog says that big art is in and gallery walls are out. Collecting stuff is sometimes the best part of travel.

  2. I love these “breaking it down” posts. So helpful to understand/carefully dissect the elements of good design.

  3. Emily, your work stands out on social media because your “stuff” is styled so. damn. well. No one adds depth and age like you do. As an interior designer I get why no one comes close to you: when working for a client I hone the accessories down to what they can recreate and I certainly don’t bill time to vintage shop for brass miniatures. You think in instagram shots and do it for the love of beauty and we are all grateful.

  4. Loved this post! I agree- I can see a picture of a room you have styled and know right way there is a 96.4% chance that was done by EHD. I wish I could say I was a me I have tried to be one, but truth is it’s just not me. I really enjoy so many different styles and pieces from mid-century modern, industrial, clean minamilaist bohemian/plant lover etc. that I end up mixing a lot of different elements in my house and then worry it all just looks like a confused collection of pretty things that don’t go together. But you give me hope- you appreciate so many styles and incorporate different elements so seamlessly and beautifully that it proves that I don’t necessarily have to choose just one but it can be done in moderation and with class. I’ll never reach your level and that’s ok but thanks for the consistent inspiration to keep trying new things and and accept that my “style” doesn’t fit into a box with a neat bow around it!

  5. I love the idea of being a stuff minimalist, but… I don’t find minimilism to be that “cozy,” and “cozy” always, always wins in my book.

  6. I think your design has a lightness to it. You often use furniture with legs which feels lighter and more open. Even your dark rooms feel “ light” because of your use of metallic elements. And you like “stuff” but the stuff feels intentional & thought through. Not cluttered. I’d say my style is similar to yours though slightly more traditional & less quirky.

  7. Great post. I think we all have a style in what we do: writing, painting, being a friend, leading a meeting, designing a house. We can’t always see our own approaches but our signature stands out. As for “stuff” I’m drawn to spaces that are designed minimally with sculptural pieces, but my house is all about S T U F F. My style is relaxed cluttered (LOL) but I’m deeply attracted to minimalism. I’m pretty sure if you set me down in a beautiful minimal space, it would stay that way for approximately 5 mins. Then I’d be off to flea market for some stuff. Merry Christmas! Enjoy your time at the mountain house.

  8. This is so helpful in trying to figure out how to apply what I learn here. It can be hard to figure out what things can change in adapting a style, and what changes will ruin it/make it into something different.

  9. This is so helpful in trying to figure out how to apply what I learn here. It can be hard to figure out what things can change in adapting a style, and what changes will ruin it/make it into something different.

  10. I feel like you are a cross between mid century modern and bohemian/eclectic. You also like bright whites as apposed to more creamy whites or ivory. You also tend to like saturated colors as apposed to more muted colors. Maybe you already know this but I think that is how I can tell you did something. Its mostly by the colors used and the use of mid century modern anything in a room. I’m not a huge fan of mid century modern for my home because it doesn’t go with my 1910 farmhouse but I still love your style.

  11. Totally a pro-stuff person, but with a catch. My home has tons of stuff styling almost every surface: old cameras that were my dad’s, stacks of books, cigar boxes that hold Polaroids and colored pencils and concert tickets. But those items actually MEAN something to me. One of the biggest snoozes as a designer is when people just want their house to be styled nicely but won’t give you anything of true meaning to work with. Who wants to just buy “stuff”? It’s SO much better when there’s a story attached to the items in your home- and that story not just being “I saw this at Pottery Barn and I purchased it.”

  12. I know they don’t make great photos but I am remodeling my kitchen and new switch plates and heating vents. Any direct you could give would be greatly appreciated. I love your rooms both the old and the new.

  13. For years I struggled to keep a home that looked “styled,” but the reality is that with young school-age kids around, I couldn’t keep up with the piles of clutter and their stuff that would accumulate. It would stress me out that my home might look photo ready for about two nano-seconds per year. Now I’ve accepted that I really do like the lived-in look of imperfectly styled shelves–because cookbooks and kids books are pulled out of the shelves daily–and my kids shift around the “stuff” on surface tops every hour as they play and live. So, I’ve evolved to a mindset that I only want to purchase/live with adult stuff out that is genuine and reflects values that I want to surround my kids with. I no longer want to see any knick-knacks made by a low-wage factory worker in a developing country that is derivative of something made with great care and thought. I try to avoid purchasing what one might find on a first-world country, clearance store shelf (because I’m surrounded by enough kid stuff that will soon end up in a landfill that it makes my stomach churn). I try to purchase textiles that were made “responsibly,” i.e., not of materials or dyes that have negative health implications to people or places. Or, I will buy good quality vintage ones, to keep them out of landfills a bit longer. I wait to replace furniture until I can find something in my budget that reflects these values. I don’t want to wear fast fashion, and I don’t want my home to be filled with it either. This forces a “minimalist” mentality, although my home style is hardly “Minimalist.” I love seeing the “eclectic” mix of styles here, because it demonstrates that mixing styles and periods (old + new) can be oh-so-stylish. But, I do wish there was a little less Target content. Don’t get me wrong, I do decorate for Christmas and major holidays, but I try to only buy new decorations if I believe they can be re-used for years or if they can be recycled/composted. I so love how Orlando managed his parent’s home updates by trying to incorporate as much as possible of what they already had.

  14. Emily, I’ve been following your work since Design Star and it has been interesting reading your reflection on your design. I often wonder why I am so easily persuaded to ditch something I once loved? And I ponder, is it actually possible to pick a “classic look” or will that too be tossed out in a few years as a relic of the past. My family and I are building a lake house (an hour north of Portland OR) and I am frozen when it comes to picking the big purchases for the fear of hating it in a few years.

    1. I’m no expert, but perhaps hiring a professional interior designer can help? They will sort through all of the options for you and reassure you that the pieces you pick will last and look good together. I know it’s not in the budget for everyone, but there are many websites out there that will set you up with a designer for a fraction of the cost. Some sites worth looking into are Homepolish, Havenly, and Decorist, which are some of the big ones I’m familiar with. If that doesn’t work for you, try going shopping with a trusted friend whose style you appreciate, that second opinion might give you the confidence you need to make those big purchases. What works best for me though, is shopping vintage. Since I know that there is only one of that item available for me to purchase it forces me to be more decisive in the moment. Hope those suggestions help!

  15. I LOVE stuff too! I’m with you, Emily!

    AND…seeing your living room in a shot right next to Ian’s made me wonder about putting in ceiling-to-floor bookshelves flanking your fireplace. I know your smaller built-in shelves have created some debate, ha! But I’m PRO shelves! I adore the statement you make with huge shelves, like your shelves with the angled piece in your former home. (Wipe away happy tears…) Ian’s shelves look so pretty and custom tucked into the angled ceiling, and I think it might be lovely in your living room too! Thoughts? Would that work?

    1. I was coming here to say the SAME thing!! I’ve always been ok with Emily’s small shelves but people in the comments LOVE to hate on them so much. I feel like this photo comparison has removed the veil from my eyes to show me the potential that shelf wall has. Ian’s big impact shelves look amazing and Emily’s look squatty and puny. They need to be bigger! I want a big shelf moment in that living room!!!

  16. I’ve had beige sofas with Asian stuff ever since I first moved to Seattle (1978). And I still do; back then I wired industrial size soy sauce cans and turned them into lamps. Now I have blue and white ginger jars I wired into lamps. I had a haori kimono hung on the wall (still have that kimono) now I have an embroidered Shinto wedding kimono hanging on my wall. I’ve also added a massive collection of blue and white pillows (mostly I’ve made them) I rotate in and out … along with my fave leopard print velvet pillows. I will always have lots of books and black lampshades … because every living room I’ll live in needs a touch of black and a pile of books.

  17. Such a trip down memory lane! I adored “Secrets from a Stylist” (and I was rooting hard for you during the Design Star show), and I’m so depressed that HGTV decided that they wanted to go in the (boooooooooooring) real estate direction. I’m starved for shows that depict the design process…not just camera pans of pretty rooms. I’m getting a real kick out of Thom Filicia and Carson Kressley’s new show on Bravo. AND I’m happy to see Bravo is adding more design shows into their line-up. Hurrah!

  18. Another stuff minimalist here living in a ~700sqft railroad apartment in NYC. I’ve been on a years-long decluttering/konmari journey trying to figure out how to manage stuff and I feel like I’ve ALMOST hit the sweet spot.

    Honestly, I have very few surfaces where I can display my stuff. What little room I have looks cluttered real quick if I don’t edit, edit, edit. I learned the hard way (?) that I don’t need meaningless trinkets from Target. My favorite little vignette includes a small stack of coffee table books I actually enjoy flipping through, a handmade ceramic bowl, and a box made of a silver metal and porcelain in the shape of a cat, which I received as a gift from my parents when they visited Morocco when I was a child.

    My style has been more scandi/california casual/minimal but I am recently on a more traditional kick, thinking about how I can incorporate little elements into my home—mainly with decor pieces like vases, candlesticks. I would love to see a feature on blending in traditional style on your blog!

  19. If I see blue, pale patterns, some layering and random Scandi toned wood I think this is probably Emily Henderson.

  20. Stuff means work, upkeep, sorting. Stuff is a time thief. If I had a design team, storage, and resources I may be more into it. But for my sanity I’m shunning most of the stuff, keeping only that which I need and love.

  21. I like my stuff too, but I’m trying to reign it in. I come by it honestly, as my mom was always quoting George Carlin and his stuff! Whatever it is Emily, I love your style. You are a breath of fresh air!

  22. My husband probably thought stuff was my style too! I have been on a stuff downsizing kick for a few years now. You wouldn’t believe how much stuff I had – on shelves, in closets, in attics, in basements. Even more in closets and attics and basements of a mountain house…we sold both houses and drove a Uhaul to Goodwill and gave them all the stuff. I kept only the items most dear to me, and I probably need to cull it again. It’s exhausting to have too much stuff.

  23. This was fascinating to me and I totally see what you see. One commenter nailed a description of your look with the white + bright colors + mid mod mixed woods furniture + overall light feeling. I’ll comment on their comment if your website lets me… speaking of which…

    Someone recently mentioned how slow and frustrating your website has become and I have to agree. I mostly read blogs through an RSS feed but often click through to comment on original posts. I often avoid doing that on your site now which is sad for me, because the page freezes my browser multiple times as I try to scroll- slow to load, then freezes whenever it hits a video or the sidebar tries to rearrange. SO frustrating. I don’t experience this with any other sites besides recipe pages which are a hit and run sort of experience for me, not how I want to use your website! If you guys could address this it would be tremendous. Thank you 🙂

    1. Ditto. It’s really frustrating. Often all the autoplay videos, gifs, etc crash my computer or the popups make it impossible to see content on my phone screen, so I wait until I’ve just restarted my computer to catch up, which isn’t as often as I would like.

  24. Emily, One of my favorite round-up posts of all that you’ve done. Fun to read and look at.

  25. Emily – you can call “stuff” your style if you want to, but I think you are one of THE BEST designers whose spaces consistently feel layered, timeless, interesting and personal. IMO, no one wants their home to feel like someone else designed it for them. It should look and feel like an extension of their personality. And you do that SO WELL, with the design principles you follow, but also the “stuff” you include that is meaningful and part of their story.

  26. I love this! In this digital age where you are constantly seeing a steady stream of the latest styles, I’m finding myself wanting more classic, timeworn, pieces and looks. Clean lines layered with lovely textures that could be 200 years old from some lovely nook in Europe. Your work is a great mix of modern and classic styles and it ages well. Schoolhouse is another brand that does this well!

  27. Hi Emily, Love your style! After seeing the side-by-side of the two bookcases above, I’m wondering whether yours might not look even better if you remove one of the shelves and move the rest up to create more room for other things to breathe? This way every shelf could have the same/similar spacing to the top shelf. I think currently they are perfect size to load with books, but if you want to add more other things this might be the answer without needing to rebuild completely. Take it or leave it, but please never remove those built-ins completely (unless it is driving you crazy, then absolutely do that!)

  28. Hey Em. I think that I’m able to recognize your style immediately because of your consistent formula for putting a room together – a modern base with mostly white walls, navy accents, warm wood tones, oil paintings, neutral pottery, and some vintage for good measure. You also used navy and blush together quite often back in 2016. Then you shifted to a more traditional base with a fewer modern pieces a-la 2017 and current day. Regarding your signature photography, each photo looks like it was taken on the exact same day, at the exact same time, with the most perfect light! Quite frankly, I love every iteration of your style. My personal style would be juxtaposition of Scandinavian modern and boho – like the interiors from old style videos that you and Orlando used to do together. They are still so super relevant. Oh, and may I just say… instead of your tombstone saying, “Emily Henderson. She loved STUFF.” I think it should say, “Here lies Emily Henderson. She loved style.”

  29. I like cozy and I like my stuff (carefully chosen and mostly stuff I’ve had forever, with stories attached to each piece). But I also think Empty has a huge, unacknowledged spot in home decor. Empty gives stuff a chance to breathe. Empty gives people a frame around the things you want them to look at. And, practically speaking, Empty gives you less to clean, and more room to spread out when you need it. The older I get, the more of my stuff I box up. The stuff that’s left — and I — can breathe better after that.

  30. If I was to describe Emily’s style, I would say that it’s effortlessly layered. Effortless, not because it doesn’t take work, but because everything in your spaces look so natural, like they were meant to be there. And Layered because you are so great at mixing different styles and new and vintage together in a way that looks visually cohesive. Those are the attributes that I love and wish to emulate in your designs. More so than “Emily likes the color blue” or “Emily likes mid-century shapes”, I think the effortlessly layered look to your spaces is what keeps me coming back to this blog out of all others for inspiration.
    And PS Emily, don’t be ashamed of liking “stuff”. Stuff is the physical manifestation of culture! After all, for all the strength of the Spartan military, there is nothing that remains of this society but empty fields where their city once stood. Contrast that with the stuff loving and making Athenians! It’s a bustling capital over 2,000 years old filled with great works of art and architecture. (sorry for the long tangent, but I was an art history minor in college and this information doesn’t get used everyday, lol)

  31. Seeing comparison photos over time and things that you deem classics, Emily, is one of my favorite types of posts! I crave the knowledge of what to buy that would be classic (yet not stuffy, of course). Enjoyed it! Thanks!

  32. I love stuff.. metal trays, vases, teapots, vintage photos, deep colors, vintage elements. layered.

  33. Yeah. I’m into ‘stuff’. I just moved into my house last year and when my real-estate agent came to visit me she commented on the ‘stuff’… it was a bit much for her taste and if/when I want to sell we are gonna have to get a lot of that stuff outta there. LOL. She said this kindly, I promise! I like lots of special ‘sacred’ spaces, lots of plants everywhere and rugs, rugs, rugs! I don’t think it’s a maximalist vibe, but I want to feel cozy and tucked in by a loving feeling of home and the stuff I am drawn to facilitates that.

  34. I just have to say, I love your “stuff” styling. Your shelf styling, particularly in the Glendale house, is some of my favorite photos to look at. And the other funny thing, before I “found” you and your blog, I had already pinned a handful of your designs and only realized when I went back to look at some of my boards later on that those were Emily Henderson rooms. Ha! Figures. Sure do miss the Glendale house, but primarily because that house and my house could have been sisters and I loved seeing how you handled that style to better inform what I do in my 60’s split level with white railing. 🙂

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