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My Family

A Family Shelter Makeover

If you only sometimes read the blog I beg you to read this post (and watch the video at the end). Please.

Think of the children. I’m not being flippant. To prove it – here are children:

That’s my family 34 years ago (I was the baby). That was before Ken and Katy were born, before we grew to be this family:


I think if you look closely, you can see one eyebrow between the 7 of us (way to go, mom!).

Here we all are – the whole family. Wait, no, that is still ‘BK’ – what we likes to call ‘Before Katy’ – when we had all the real fun. Like when we went on the 6 week tour around the US in that motor home in 1985:


Charlie Henderson was apparently there – in my dad’s arms. That’s my little brother, but isn’t that INSANE?

Here we all are now, minus 4 new grandkids (soon to be 5):

emily-henderson-starke-family 2

But let’s go back into the past:

Despite the fact that my parents were both teachers and they already had 6 kids, we grew up often having foster siblings. I don’t know if it was necessarily through the foster program or if it was through my church. It was never like 5 extra kids, normally just a pair of siblings: A brother/sister duo when I was really little, 2 sisters when I was a bit older and a couple teenage boys when I was 10. My parents are the kind of people who see a need and fills it. And when there were kids that needed a better environment, my parents would take them in. I always wondered if it were somehow easier once you have so many kids – like what is 2 more? And I’ve never really asked my parents about it – whether it was a hard decision or if it was just second nature or both. Regardless, now I realize how amazing it was of them to do that, and how much it affected both the kids and our lives. Seeing that kind of charity and service in such an everyday comfortable way was a total gift to us, really. It’s like every day we learned how to help others on a very base level. Sure, there were times when I was like ‘really? more people???’ but now, looking back I realize just how valuable it really was to everyone involved. It’s hard to know what values will stick with you, right? I certainly don’t live my life just constantly serving others like my parents always have, but I know that as I get more and more into my 30’s, there is a compulsion to do so. This is probably based on how I was raised.

Last year was the time when I could financially think about volunteering my time with foster kids, and right now, the best most realistic way for me to help is to design a home. But for whom?

I sought out working with foster kids in some way but I couldn’t really find the right situation. I was talking to my nanny about it because she does a lot of foster care volunteering and she mentioned this family shelter that was in trouble. The San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission,  a family homeless shelter, burned down to the ground and as you can probably suspect the rebuild didn’t have a huge budget for a design team.

the fire 1

the fire

No one got hurt, but a lot of personal items were lost. The neighboring palette company caught on fire in the middle of the night and it jumped over. They are rebuilding the shelter to be a bigger, better shelter

For those of us that were raised in a stable home, the idea of homelessness is sad and heartbreaking when we see it, but it’s an abstract concept – something that we can’t really relate to and are rarely really forced to confront. Furthermore, what we see even less are the thousands of families,  with children, who are living in their car or in tents on the street because they’ve lost their jobs, then their homes and had no real recourse. Life is expensive in LA, there is a serious lack of affordable housing, so often the street or car becomes the only option.

In case you aren’t really hearing the situation, it is this: Most of these kids (and their parents) sleep in cars in fast food parking lots, then go to school just to come back to their car at 3pm – at Jack in the Box. Not to totally emotionally manipulate you, but think about having to raise your newborn or your 3-year-old in your car and think about how confusing and uncomfortable (to say the least) it probably is for everyone involved.

The level of resilience and toughness of these kids and parents would shock you.


But there is a hope:

The San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission helps families by taking them in, giving them a dignified space to get back on their feet, and mentoring/training them to be successful on their own. Once your situation is that dire, it might feel impossible to get out of it. The right kind of educational and personal help is intensely valuable to get people out of homelessness and into their own homes. 

So, their new building is being built. It’s a former school that was foreclosed upon in the valley and they bought it with the intent to have a bigger, better, safer home with more facilities to help the families grow strength and dignity before they move into their own homes. In short: it’s going to be awesome.

mission shelter_emily wade brady ginny_construction site

The team at the mission is pretty amazing, led by Wade who is full of vision and generosity, with smart solutions to very nuanced and ugly problems. They dedicate their lives to making other lives better. That is some seriously good people, right there. In case there is any doubt about motives here – it’s a non-profit that is not government-funded and only funded by donations. I am not getting paid but I’m volunteering my teams time (meaning that they are getting paid). 

My goal is to design the large 16, 000 square feet home so it feels like one big, giant, warm hug. Plus it will be a really pretty, stylish, and cohesive hug full of comfortable furniture and tasteful finishes. It will feel like a home that will inspire them to rebuild their life, full of the tools and people who dedicate their lives to supporting that.

tour of the the mission shelter



Here are the hard and fast facts about the project:

– It is a 16, 000 square foot home which is basically the size of 8 average houses. It includes 11 family rooms, 2 common living areas, a communal dining room, a computer lab (for kids homework and parents jobs search), a community garden, outdoor play area for the kids and a new mom room – for the new single mom. Plus some offices for the management, laundry areas, and 6 bathrooms.  We need 40 twin bunk beds, sofas, dining tables and chairs, rugs, lamps, side tables, and of course bedding.

– We need help through donations from you – or ANYONE. If you are a large company that can afford to donate furniture, textiles, accessories, WONDERFUL. We would be soooo grateful and obviously you’ll get lots of love on the blog and social media.

– If you have any services (assistant, painting, landscaping, unpacking boxes, messengering, just general helping out, etc) and you would like to donate those services, awesome. Again, I’ll give you love. The construction is underway and the building is being fully built thanks to KB Home,  The Pacific Companies,  The Perlman Family,  Westfield Shopping Centers,  Walt Disney Co., and TempurSealy.

– Families move in in July – that is right around the corner, folks.

Watch this video to see the space and learn more about the project:

– If you don’t live in LA (or if you do) and want to help, then you are in luck because we’ve created an Indiegogo campaign to help raise funds for the shelter. We set the IndieGOGO for $35k, but we need like $200K. I haven’t done this before and didn’t want to be the chump that put up a $200K campaign up and only got $20K. Instead we want to be that campaign that goes for 35K and gets $350K. YEA. Let’s do that.

To thank you:

– If you spend more than $20, then we will write your name on the wall in the space – and a personal thank you on the blog. In my mind we will create an awesome wallpaper with everybody’s names that donated and we’d paper the corridor or the stairway (if we can get a wallpaper manufacture to donate – we aren’t using the funds for that). And PS, only 1500 of you need to spend that for us to reach our goal)

– If you spend more than $500 then I will give you a free 1/2 hour phone consultation where we go over any rooms in your house that you want, based on your photos with any recommendations I have for you. Ask me anything – I’m yours for 1/2 hour.

I know that you are all bombarded by crowdfunding often, and most of you probably give back already in many ways. But if you have anything extra you can spare, we would so gratefully appreciate it. If you read this blog you are someone who probably who knows how important your ‘home’ is to you. We are all emotionally connected to the space directly surrounding us and it affects the rest of our day. The design of your home is not the key to your success, but when you feel comfortable and safe it frees up emotional and mental space to accomplish other, more important things – like searching for jobs, raising kids and finding a permanent home of your own for your family.

Because no child should ever have to sleep on the street or in a car. Ever.

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Please head over to the Indiegogo campaign. Check it out, think about it and donate if you can. Thank you so much in advance, from me, Wade Trimmer and his wonderful team, and most importantly all the families and children who are about to have a safe bed to sleep in.

All donation info HERE and obviously the more you spread the word the closer we get to our goal. Thank you so much.



See the first update post here, a last little nudge to our indiegogo campaign here, an art roundup of our favorite work from the artists that have donated here, and a big thank you to those who donated here.

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9 years ago

Such an awesome project! Wish I lived nearby so I could help out in person. <3

9 years ago

I really commend you for being involved with this, what a wonderful way to give back in an area that you are obviously so talented and passionate about.

I know many like myself read these blogs and see all the wonderful spaces you guys create and lament over our own inability to buy that wonderful painting or afford a house with that size kitchen, etc. Things like this really put it in perspective, most of us on this site are incredibly fortunate in the grand scheme of things. I could not give much, but I am happy to contribute what I can. Good luck with the project! I am excited to see it unfold.

9 years ago
Reply to  Kelsey

Kelsey nailed it. I Commend you, Team Emily Henderson! This is amazing, and a pretty huge project to take on! Will do what I can, I look so forward to see how this unfolds! PS that video gave me ALL the feels.

9 years ago
Reply to  Kelsey

Your parents sound awesome. As are you, and this campaign! What a thoughtful and generous way to use your talents.

9 years ago

Thank you for doing this – for talking about homelessness and the effects of an unstable home environment on kids and families. I work for a national nonprofit that supports local affordable housing developers and community development organizations and the stuff you talk about is why I love love love my job, no matter how much it wears me out. Best of luck with this project and your crowdfunding campaign. My dedication to working in a nonprofit plus my kid (and another on the way) makes it difficult to scrounge up lots to donate, but I’ll find something.

9 years ago

I volunteer to help all the shelter parents looking for a job write and design a resume. I am fluent in Spanish, and can help with any hispanic clients. I also (duh) have graphic design skills. How do I sign up to do this?

9 years ago

A terrific use of your talent. I’m getting ready to spend several hundred dollars on new lights (inspired by you), so how can I not give a little to let these families live in a place that is a tiny bit happier.

rachelle bell
9 years ago

This is incredible!
I will make a donation right now.
I just hired Homepolish LA last week to re-do my dining room and bedroom. Guess what color we are painting my big bright dining room…??? HAGUE BLUE. Duh!
Cant wait to see how this mission project comes along. You go, mama!

9 years ago

What a wonderful thing to do. I am making a donation today. If I lived in LA I would love to donate my time but since I don’t I can at least send money. You are a blessing for doing this Emily!

9 years ago

you have blown my mind. i often think/write, “you are making the world a better place” because you are creating spaces in the world in peoples homes and hearts and minds that are inspired and full of love… but this is on a whole other level.
Thank you for being you Emily!

9 years ago
Reply to  s

I’m with you, so inspiring!

9 years ago

This is awesome. Good luck with your Indiegogo campaign!

9 years ago

Thank you. Every child deserves to be loved, cherished and have a safe place to live.

9 years ago

Sigh. You’re so awesome. Thanks for helping people all over the place! Also, you MUST drink a lot of coffee, right? RIGHT?! Who has that much energy? 🙂 Going to donate now.

9 years ago

Congratulations to your parents for being such a great example! This project proves, once again, that you are genuinely worthy of all the goodness coming your way. Good luck with everything!!

9 years ago

This is such a creative and generous use of your time and talent! As the treatment director of a foster care program in Texas, I see a lot of facilities that could use some design TLC but don’t have the funds to do so. Creating an environment that feels like home is such an important element for the foster kids that have experienced abuse, neglect, and trauma in their own homes. These kids will have good memories of a safe place to stay in hard times thanks to your team!

I would love to help style, sort donations, donate, anything that I might be able to help with please let me know what I can do. Don’t hesitate to email me.

9 years ago

What a wonderful project! My work has had volunteer events at this shelter, and I have met some of the most amazing families. I was heartbroken when I hear about the fire, but I’m so excited for the great new facilities they will have. I will be donating.

9 years ago

Thank you for doing this!! It’s so good to see good work happening right here and now.

melissa lee
9 years ago

THIS IS SO GREAT!!! GOOD JOB, EMILY! (yes i did all caps lol)
it is so easy to take my comfortable life for granted. i am so thankful that my kids have a safe place to sleep. i want that for every kid.

9 years ago

Emily! This is so great, and I can’t wait to see the finished product that you and the team at Home Polish come up with. I’m sure it’s going to be a winning combo, on all fronts.

Josh – The Kentucky Gent

9 years ago

Sister, high fives all around. I only have one little viking child and I’m a hot mess most of the time. I also find now that I’m a mom, EVERYTHING involving kids gets to me. (Oh, I also live in constant fear that something will happen to my own but that’s a crazy for another day.) Reading your post had me in tears (seriously, what the hell has happened to me??) and I can’t express more how many props I’m sending you for tackling this project. We all have so much to be thankful for, and what a kick ass way to give back. And I’m all up on it.

9 years ago

This is so amazing. Not only will I donate but I am checking out ways to help locally as well. You are an inspiration!

9 years ago

Hi Emily! This sounds like an amazing program. I’m an art consultant in Newport Beach and I’m wondering if I can help in some way with art for the home? Let me know!

Emily Klug
9 years ago

Donated. And if I were local I’d be there painting. I strangely love painting and helping people.

9 years ago

This is an awesome cause! I’m in San Diego but I would love to come up and help unpack boxes/paint/do whatever! How do i sign up?

9 years ago

I have learned in life that we are blessed in order that we can be a blessing to others and this is your way, it’s beautiful. I hope you exceed your goal on this one. I think if we all share this on our social media then we can spread the word and raise what you need to create beautiful spaces for these well deserving families.

9 years ago

Long time reader here, first time posting. I just wanted to say “thank you, Emily!” for doing this. You don’t just do beautiful homes, you make this world beautiful!

Alison G
9 years ago

Wow, as if you aren’t already busy enough. Very generous project. I am on disability and unable to help but you will get plenty I am sure. Cute family story.

9 years ago

Hi Emily! I would love to donate my services. I do home organization and decorating. Sounds like you and the peeps at Homepolish have the decorating covered, but I’m very familiar with moving, unpacking, etc. and generally would be willing to be an extra pair of hands. Is there a link/email I can send my info to? xx

9 years ago

What a wonderful tribute to your family and your LDS upbringing. Service/love for fellow man is a very integral part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
I applaud you–going to donate now.

9 years ago

“It ruined my life in a really good way.” -Wade
Oh, that more lives world be ruined in pursuit of justice and hope for our neighbors! Thanks for doing this good work!

9 years ago

I’m having trouble getting the perk. I want to pay for the donation but to have my son’s name written on the wall (instead of having my name written on the wall).

9 years ago

Thank you for not only volunteering your time and talent, but also for bringing attention to the plight of poor families. I read this article about Robert Putnam’s new book “Our Kid’s: The American Dream in Crisis,” just yesterday. Whether you agree with Putnam’s thesis or not, he brings attention to a problem that all of us who are thinking “what is the perfect grey for my bedroom?” can sometimes forget. Thanks for doing the same!

9 years ago

I’m a photographer with UGallery and i’d love to donate some of my prints. I just finished a beautiful petal study that you can view at the link below.

9 years ago
Reply to  Ali Lanenga

THANK YOU!!! We’l be in touch. xx

9 years ago

Thanks for sharing this story with us and enabling us to help in a small way. I live in the UK so can’t help in person, but if everyone who can gives a small amount, hopefully it will add up to a large amount to make a huge difference in people’s lives. Good luck to you and everyone involved.

9 years ago

This. Is. Amazing. Sending you money and luck!

Maureen D
9 years ago

Here’s my perspective take from it what you will. The amount of information, pleasure and entertainment I get from reading your blog all these years is absolutely positively worth a $100 donation. You are amazing and this is the absolute least l I can do to thank you for all you have provided me in laughs alone.
As my Mom would say “Emily Henderson you’re a good egg”.

9 years ago
Reply to  Maureen D

THANK YOU. It’s funny because I thought about saying something like ‘think about every post you’ve read and put a price tag on their worth to you’ but then I didn’t because that’s not why I write them. SO THANK YOU for your donation. Seriously.

9 years ago

Emily, We never met but I feel like I know you through your blog, you share so much of who you, your family, friends and co-workers are. If I didn’t love you enough, I love you more for this!!! What a huge difference you’re making. You’re creating memories that last a lifetime and pass on from generation to generation. I know! I was born in South America with nothing and lived in a converted garage turned into various little one rooms. I ! But my parents wanted more and by some grace of god we came to the US of A when I was 7. Although I was young, I remember those times vividly! My sister and I didn’t know what we didn’t have, we just had what we had. But I remember the ladies who were so generous with our family. They would buy us clothes and would invite us to their house to watch TV-that was huge!! 🙂 I never forgot them. Today, I’m blessed many times over. So I pass it on and I teach and show my daughter to pass it on and how to pass it on, because we are truly blessed. So you see,… Read more »

9 years ago
Reply to  Giuliana

That’s amazing. Such a good story and thank you so much for the support :+xx

9 years ago

What a great cause, Emily. Consider pillows yours! After everything you’ve done to get my name out there and support my business, it’s the least I can do.

9 years ago

Oh, Emily, what a wonderful cause! Thank you for volunteering your time and talents, as well as that or your team. I plan to donate.

I love seeing people with so little having a space that will make them feel safe and loved.

There is a lot of good in this world!

Such an incredible cause that will make such a difference in so many lives!

You will probably have art covered with the general decor, but if you need help in that arena ( I specify artwork for hospitals and other healthcare facilities, so am familiar with large scale, small budget projects, more info and ), I would love to volunteer my services. My email is listed here, but if there is an address where I can direct my offer officially, please let me know!

This made my day to see the good that you are determined to do!

9 years ago

This is amazing and made me legit cry! It’s so humbling to have these reminders of how incredibly fortunate I am and to be reminded of the responsibility that comes along with that good fortune to help others more. What a great marriage of your skills with a real need. Thank you for taking this on and for giving us an opportunity to help through donations.

Also, I hope all your sponsors and donors know that seeing their engagement in causes like this does a million times more to get me to buy their products or use their services than any commercial ever could!

9 years ago

Love this project and am looking forward to cheering Team Emily along via blog posts. The San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, so all donations (big and small) are 100 percent tax-deductible. $500 tax-deductible donation + 30 minutes of design help from Emily? Best deal ever!

9 years ago

Emily, my respect for you as a designer and a human being just keeps growing. You are truly an inspiration for all the work you’ve done over the years for people that really need it. Some of your best work has come when you’ve donated your time – for the senior citizens home, to the animal shelter, and now this! You’re one of the few designers who donates her services with such an open heart and the world could definitely use more people like you. Lots of love to the families that are going to benefit from this project!

9 years ago

and then I found myself tearing up at work because it’s so nice to see people care about other people. love this. thanks for so being you.

lynnie Gill
9 years ago

Just made my donation! How could I not… go team Emily xxxx

9 years ago

Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking on this massive, wonderful, beautiful, special project. I could probably fit a few more adjectives in there but I’ll stop while I’m ahead. So many people refuse to empathize with those who are really struggling– blaming their misfortunes on poor decisions, laziness, etc instead of seeing them as people who are trying to do the best they can for their families.

My parents also took in people who needed a place to live when I was young, before we found ourselves stuck on the poverty line for many years. I always knew it could be so much worse and was grateful for everything we had. When I look back I’m also incredibly thankful for the perspective it gave me, and for that I wouldn’t change a thing. It warms my heart and makes me proud to know that my favorite “designer/blogger/tv person” is someone who understands, cares, and seeks out opportunities to help struggling families. So, THANK YOU! I will most certainly be donating.

9 years ago

Oh, Emily, it might be my little girl staring up at me as I read your post, it might be pregnancy, it might be Ed Sheeran playing in the background, I don’t know, but the tears are just streaming down my face. Thank you for reminding me of my blessings and that a life lived in service of others is a very meaningful one. I will be making a donation and will match it with one dedicated to something more local to me, as well.

9 years ago

Just sent an email around to get my company on board, Emily. Let’s see what magic we can whip up!

9 years ago

For never having done this crowdfunding thing, can I just say you have a backup career in fundraising.

Brilliantly, brilliantly written. As someone who works in the nonprofit funding space it is a shame to me when well-meaning individuals mistakenly diminish the end-users in their pleas for help. I left this post wanting to give myself, to honor these amazing people rather than to pity them. Thank you so much for your sensitivity and approach.

9 years ago

What a wonderful thing to do for others!

9 years ago

This is incredible Emily – just donated to the project. I really hope you meet your goal!!! What a mitzvah you are doing for this much deserving community.