Emily Henderson

The good, the bad and the OH MY GOSH ...

Analyzing my past work . . .

green pink

Hindsight is rough sometimes, especially when you are a designer or artist. Every now and again I see these photos of past work pop up on various google searches, photos or rooms from years ago, and let’s just say that things have changed. So I thought it would be fun to talk about what I like about my past styling/design work, and what I would do again or change.

I like to call this the “Commonwealth Era.” It was a particular 2 year period (while we lived on Commonwealth street) where where I did a lot of very colorful, and at times, questionable things.


I like to use my house as a laboratory and experiment a bit, way more than I can with client work. This room was an unused guest room. I remember being really was inspired at the time by Miles Redd and all his lacquered colored walls and general boldness.

Lacquered Walls_Emily Henderson_Miles Reid_3

That was the general color/boldness inspiration. It’s intense, interesting, and risky in many ways. So let’s dissect what I did, and lay out what I would do again.

1. The wall color. I like that green, sure, and if I had stopped there and not done the pink and the mouldings, and instead did a super simple bed, then it would’ve all been fine. I think that generally I have found I need simple walls because I have too much color in my things, so this room immediately became way too arresting. If I had to do a green wall now I would do something more muted, and darker. I don’t hate that green, but I would be much more careful using it now.

2. Semi-gloss paint. Lacquering walls is a thing, but it’s a really expensive, professional thing. I think its best to pay someone to do it so that there isn’t any brush strokes, etc. I won’t semi-gloss a wall for a while, I think.

3. Painted moulding. You can do this for sure, but I think this looks best in an all white loft with the window moulding being an accent. Here with the green and pink, it’s just too much.

green and pink bedroom

3. The headboard. I still like this headboard a lot, but against the shiny green it was too gaudy. The shape of it is fun, although the stripes pulled here and there and got a bit warped.

4. The curtains. Four years ago that palm leaf pattern was huge, and I still really like it, but again, the room was too dark and there was too much happening already. Put these in an all white sunny room and they would be so happy.

4. The lighting. I still like that accordion lamp a lot, and the lucite/brass one is great. Win.

5. Brass Staghorn. Yah, I still love that although we had to take it down because it seems SUPER dangerous to have above a bed.

6. The chairs. I love those chairs, still. They just needed their own room to shine.

7. That painting – still own it and probably will forever. I love her.

Lesson learned: ALWAYS experiment and have fun, but for long-term happiness use restraint with bold colors and layer in more neutrals. Individually, everything here is still pretty great, but the level of saturation is too intense for such a small room, and the combination of colors is too bold to actually live with day in and day out. Now if this were a powder room in a nightclub, I’d be psyched. But my guests were like “wow . . .” and not in a good way.

Styles and trends go in and out so a HUGE challenge in our field is to have fun, do something interesting, and satisfy our need to play with trends, BUT make sure that in 4 years you don’t shudder when you see it come up on a Google search. There are so many rooms I have designed, even 7 years ago, that I still love, but this one . . . this one not so much. Thank God it was mine, and not a client’s, right???? (The truth is that I repainted over that green a couple months later – which also goes to show you that paint isn’t really a big deal . . . )

So what do you think? What do you still like about this room if anything and what do you think you would change?

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  1. i liked the room in the past and still love it now. sure, the molding being a different color does take it over the top but the green and pink combo totally worked and created a moody and fun space. I love it when you take these kind of risks and prefer it over the more granola and muted spaces that you sometimes design. (those are great too! but i love a bold space ala miles redd)

  2. Ok, so now I don’t feel so bad for HATING that room when you first posted it. it made my eyes bleed! Thank god that was an anomaly!

  3. I think you’re too hard on yourself! I love this room. It’s jammed full of personality and happy thoughts, and it’s everything I aspire to for my own home. It screams I AIN’T SCARED! It’s so much more fun than like, the boring trad/transitional stuff that every other blogger is doing (yawn). You do you! I’ll continue to love it.

    1. I agree. I love it and it’s not even necessarily my style. But it shows your quirky, fun, and adventurous style that I’ve always loved.

    2. I agree with Kristin when she says you’re too hard on yourself! This room shows that you’re not afraid to experiment and try new things when inspired. We’ll always be evolving and loving new, exciting styles as artists and decorators. I find that I sort of loathe some of my past work that may show specific trendy styles or missteps (LOL). Probably because I used to seek perfection and perfection is an unattainable illusion. Let’s all embrace imperfection and the spirit of free experimentation in all of its Wabi Sabi-ness! :)

    3. I’m definitely in this camp of folks who like this room. Sure it’s a little wild. But it’s also a lot of fun. I’m guessing that so many of us like it because it photographed fairly well, but that in real life it was just too much, which is why you dislike it so much – because you LIVED in it!!

  4. I love that painting! It’s so fun and educational to read through your past design choices. Thanks for being open and dissecting these spaces with us. I think if you had a wood bed frame in here with different sheets and changed up some of the details, it would have been a cool older boys room.

    1. Me too… I always hate it when a designer starts to head into the “design nirvana” its just too boring…makes me sad, Miles Redd, Dorthy Draper, Tony Douqette all day long

  5. Agree with the others, this room was and still is great. With the exception of the painted moulding, I wouldn’t change a thing. Practical is fine but not always as inspiring, my eyes eat up bold spaces!

      1. Ah, thanks guys. It must because It also didn’t flow with the rest of the house that was kinda light and airy then all of a sudden WHAM, welcome to the crazy room. I really wish I hadn’t painted those mouldings. So silly.

        1. I love the green walls with the blue trim. I think it adds a nice tension. It’s like a great abstract painting. I wish there were less trendy accessories. The cutesy-Ness is what’s throwing it off imho.

  6. I like a lot about this room. I painted the molding in my own home after seeing this and have used this faux wainscoting idea in multiple professional projects. Its soo good.
    But this room has visual clutter because it strays from the golden RULE OF 3. This is an annoying constant rule – it just always works. And this doesn’t just apply to color. It can also be material (this is big for architectural skins) or texture. But color is such a powerful part of visual impression that when color goes beyond groups of three, visual clutter ensues.
    In this room there is neutral (#1), blue (#2), green(#3), and pink (#4-ding ding ding). So it looks like too much. In the example photos the rule of 3 wins and these look pulled together & colorful.

    1. And you might count brass/gold as one color too. And a multicolor rug. And the two greens are sliiightly different, so that’s a bit jarring too.

      So if we had just the green wall & pink bed, and white trim plus brass (chairs, rug neutral), I think it’d be so much better.

      The blue trim makes me barf. But I love everything else in here – just not together :)

      1. I wouldn’t count brass or gold as a separate color. I think that if it’s in small quantities it’s like jewelry, it will work regardless of colors. The greens do have to differ. One shade for the entire room doesn’t work, but the greens have to complement each other. In that case I’d do more curtain or have pillowcases from the same material or in a similar shade of green. Whenever there’s an intensive or dark color in a room, the room will almost always work with neutrals and lighter colors.

    2. You’re right. For me blue is too much. Pink is fun, also it is a lighter color therefore, it doesn’t compete with the green. If not pink then cremes would look good in this room as well as other neutrals.

  7. Really all it needs is white walls (or maybe a really pretty pale pink) painted ALL the way up to the ceiling and white trim, and this actually would all work nicely today. Maybe have two curtains? Are there two already and they’re just pushed aside together?

    Not a fan of the brass stag but that painting of the woman is like one of my favorite pieces of art you have ever used.

  8. I think it’s a fun room too! Actually, I would layer it up a little more with the pattern and add to it’s quirkiness and personality that you are known for. Maybe an ottoman in a cool pattern at the foot of the bed. And I would go for the painted window trim with the gold or instead maybe something like a cool pattern on the ceiling.

  9. I actually kind of like the room as seen from the second picture so I definitely wouldn’t call it a complete fail. It is not to my taste because I am a “neutral” lover with only pops of bright color as accents. I do think the pink is too bright against the green and the green is too bright and shiny for me for that large of an expanse. Without the painting, I would be thinking, “what in the world was she thinking? However, with the painting, I see where you were going with the blue and all in all, it kind of works. Just proves that our design taste and ideas change over time. If we still liked today what we liked 5 years ago, we would be boring! It is always fun to look back and see how much we have grown and improved.

  10. Phew. I am so glad that even professionals who seem to make every decision effortless sometimes get it a bit wrong too. I made the error in my very very small guestroom of painting a feature wall in mustard yellow. I LOVE the colour, it is stunning. It just doesn’t work in my tiny cottage bedroom, at all. I now have to face painting over it (a second time – the original pink didn’t work for me either! My fiance is despairing of me!). But this is my first time decorating a house, so I’m being gentle on myself. I just need to make sure it’s third time lucky…! :-)

  11. So many great pieces and ideas in there! I would do white walls, green moldings on the door and windows, lose the chairs and that’s it. I love that headboard, the curtains, the artwork and the lamps!

  12. One of those times when I like the parts but hate the whole. Happens to the best of us, right? Means you’re taking risks- it’s all good. I’m really enjoying this series!

      1. BTW- I’m embarrassed that I used the word “hate.” I don’t “hate” it, I just wouldn’t want it. I’d want half the things in the room though!

  13. I’d ditch the headboard and the rug, and maybe possibly the curtains but I love the wall treatment and would love to stay in a guest room like this. I think it’s a little risky and fun, and it’s a pretty great shake-up from gray-white-navy.

    1. i was googling ’emily henderson bedroom’ to find an old room I designed and this popped up a lot. Oh wait, you are asking how do YOU find the archives. Right, i think we took that off the side bar of the blog. Maybe we should put it back?

  14. Good post. I agree, it needs the wall OR the headboard, not both. The pink headboard would have been really pretty with the rug and curtains. And the wall would have been really nice without the headboard. Live and learn!

  15. I like it! I wouldn’t choose it for my own home, but it’s cool to look at in a San Francisco hipster sort of way. I would just take the chairs out.

  16. I love this post so much!! It is so fun to go look back at some of the crazy design choices we made and how we have learned from them. I honestly think if the walls were all white, the room would look really good because the colors are pretty together!

  17. I have a total designer crush on Miles – he is who I would hire if I could afford him!!! I think the room was ALMOST there! I think if you had committed to going green all the way, with green trim, too, it would have been really close to the kind of thing he does that I love so much. I think the other thing that makes his rooms so successful is that he has VERY high-end furnishings in it, which makes the juxtaposition so interesting. So maybe a gilt Italian bench at the end of the bed with some fun fabric on it, and a pair of matching lamps in a traditional style. I think you were on to something, sister. :)

  18. You are inspired by Miles Redd, but we are inspired by Emily Henderson! We can take a little of your over the top and incorporate it in a livable way, much how you toned down the Miles Redd look. Like the scene in Devil Wears Prada where Miranda talks about the cerulean blue sweater…it all trickles down until us normal folks get the polyester real life incarnation. :) I still think this room is cool. I loved the “Commonwealth Era” and all it’s pops of hot pink. Would I do that in my home, probably not, (and I can see how guests may have been a little thrown by this room) but I loved coming to your blog and drooling over the ballsy stuff you were doing! xoxo

  19. A while ago you had asked for fan photos of rooms inspired by your work. This was the room that inspired me to redo our bedroom! You’d be relieved to know I went for a plain ivory headboard and limited the blue on accents, but otherwise I followed your color palette. I took the green all the way to the ceiling, and used some old silk green/yellow curtains. I’m hanging some art this weekend and you’re getting a photo! So please continue to experiment!

  20. Mistakes happen in decor. It’s very difficult to plan everything on paper. When you can see and feel everything, you get a better idea about proportions and fit. If mistakes happen, one has to fix them or compensate for them with other things. I’d call the series “Fun experimentation”, or “When things go wrong…” with the idea to pinpoint how to fix some issues as opposed to live in the past and ruminate. Notice that you showed a picture yet you still like most of the things you did. Wouldn’t it better to say “I like almost everything, but in this project I learned (a) (b) (c). If you have a similar problem in your room, here’s how you can improve it… ” You can add a photo from your design app/service on how to fix such a room with lowest number of steps/changes. You’re welcome.

    1. They are coming. We are just finishing up a bunch of projects and some are stuck in press limbo (a magazine has committed to shooting it but it will be months before its out … so we can’t even show sneak peeks). STAY TUNED. xx

  21. I too love the curtain, but a single curtain always looks so lonely and wrong to me.
    I’m attracted to bold prints generally, and am just now starting to accept that I usually don’t love them in my house. Sad face.

    This is a great series!

  22. It’s always so fun to look back at your work and appreciate how far you’ve come, but to also feel humiliatingly embarrassed at the same time. People that I talk to often mention how they like my pictures (but from a blogging standpoint I know I have a long way to go!), and i always respond, there are some really unappetizing food pictures on my blog that will make you laugh real hard if you dig a little bit!


  23. I adore this room and can’t believe you’d say anything bad about it! My own home is not this bold, so maybe it would be hard to live with. But over the internet I think it’s awesome.

    PS Can’t wait to see your new guest room.

  24. Emily!! My heart! This is one of my favorite rooms of yours! It’s so original and even still looks original 4 years later, which is crazy. ??

  25. Not a fan in general of your past work critiques — they are slightly uncomfortable. We learn as we go and grow along the way. Each of those rooms has helped you become who you are and contributed to what you do today. Leave them behind and remember them with kindness.

  26. I would love to see this with a low, modern bed with white and light neutral bedding and a small bright yellow throw pillow and bright yellow flowers instead of pink. Replace the rug with a white or light rug and remove the metal object from between the two chairs.

  27. Too funny, I literally just finished making a pair of drapes for my living room using the same fabric as the ones in this room. I am loving the way the turned out and can’t wait to finish the rest of my project.

  28. I like this room, But i’m a girl that likes color. I do think it might have worked better in a brighter room, but I love the green and pink. I don’t care for the blue molding but i’m not a huge fan of painted molding unless it’s white. I’m also obsessed with the headboard, not necessarily the color just the shape. Anyway don’t be too hard on yourself I still like it, it’s super fun.

  29. I remember seeing this room and not liking it as much as other rooms you’ve done. It was definitely different and I thought maybe I just didn’t “get it” yet. It’s funny because now that you’re picking it apart, I find myself liking it more. Maybe it just took me a few years to “get it”! I think sometimes when you get inspired you just have to go with it! You’ll never know until you do. ?

  30. I just agree with everything you do so much that right when this pic popped up I thought Ohhh awesome. And then I read your post and I agreed with you! It’s a little crazy. Point is I love everything you love. :)

  31. I honestly love the green and pink, but think like you said it could be overwhelming in a small room. Still, it’s funky and retro with strong Beverly Hills Hotel vibes. Don’t care for the painted moulding in this room, because I think it’s already got enough going on. All in all it’s fun, and if you can’t have fun with a guest room then where can you?

  32. I love this room! Love the green walls with blue molding. Could perhaps live without the pink headboard. Maybe add some brightness with something brighter at the foot of the bed. But, overall I am sick to death of all the white-on-white with pops of beige that seems to be every bedroom on the internet these days.

  33. You know what? I totally pinned that room when you did it and not necesaarily because I loved everything about it. I LOVED that it reminded me to take risks with my own design and to get out of my comfort zone. And that every once and a while it was ok to go crazy lady just for fun. I took any elements out of it that I liked and applied later, so definitely not a wasted room design or post!

  34. I LOVE that you went back and shared what you have learned and what you would change. Our tastes evolve as we mature but that is part of the fun and gives an excuse to redecorate. Plus, it helps us identify the pieces we truly treasure (in your example, the painting). Don’t be so hard on yourself – many people love this room or have drawn inspiration from the pieces in it. That is the better measure of success and by all the comments, it was a hit!

    1. Individually, everything is great. But I have to agree with your critique: too much going on. I prefer your lighter, airier rooms. But styles and taste change. Four years ago, I was rocking darker, more intense vibe, too.

  35. I personally love this! I know your aesthetic is more neutral now, but I’m drawn to color and think the green/pink combo is perfection. It’s bold, and that’s what makes it so great.

  36. Bold rooms have been on my mind a lot lately, and I’ve come to the conclusion this is what I aspire to and the content I seek. In contrast so many designers and bloggers are posting rooms with white walls. Inevitably these rooms showcase stuff. Beautiful stuff. But the focus is nothing but curation and not room design.

    It takes guts to make your room/home about design rather than stuff, but it’s so much more glorious and interesting to see. Sure it can be hard to live with. And not everyone is going to like it. But that’s when I think design gets really interesting; when it goes beyond the rules and norms.

    When viewed in totality, this room is bold and interesting, and it’s just so much fun to see. When you break a part the pieces, you’re going to find flaws, because it’s not following the rules. I do think you can have a bold/interesting room with white walls; it’s just often much harder to bring the focus on the design rather than the stuff within.

    Emily, whether you design for stuff or the room; it’s always beautiful; and it always keeps me coming back for more. Love your work.

  37. You’re too hard on yourself Em. Bold choices like this are what drew a herd of us in to your design spell. I love that you’re still evaluating and growing but don’t be too critical of your history. :-) xoRach

  38. Weird–this room doesn’t seem that long ago and validates that I’ve been reading your blog for a while now. I still like this room, but I see your points. The stag was my favorite part, but I can see how there’d be worry with it skewering your visitors should there be an earthquake or something. These posts are fun to read, Emily! Keep ’em coming!

  39. I actually really like this room! I love how the colours echo the painting, but with the added punch of pink. The only thing I would change would be plain curtains, even though I too love that palm print. For a guest room I think it’s perfectly fine to have a space that people don’t want to live in forever. In fact, I think it’s a really subtle way to make sure guests don’t stay too long! ha ha!

  40. These posts are so helpful! I learn more from these than ten articles with only positive critiques. Thank you for being so generous with your experience, Emily.

  41. You are being too hard on yourself. Yes, the green would probably look better in flat or eggshell given the imperfect wall (which I do love) and I bet it would actually look better if the entire wall were green. I am so tired of all white, and actually give you credit for the blue trim here. I like the pink, but yes, maybe in a vase of flowers or some other accent with a plainer bed. All in all, I would pin it. I think people are turning to Pinterest and stylists to inject personality and to drum up courage to be bolder. If I walk into another all-light bland house…ugh.

  42. I don’t really play with trends. I’ve always “done” a place and left it that way the entire time I lived there. Only recently did I wake up to the fact that that was all well and good when I moved once in a while, but after many years in the same house, things can get pretty tired! :D So I’m shaking things up a bit. Same furniture but new art and accessories. It’s quite refreshing! Such bold use of color as these examples isn’t really “me,” but I enjoy seeing it.

  43. I nedd to say that I simply love this rooms and it’s boldness. Since I first saw it in this blog it’s saved in my inspiration folder. Things are funny.

  44. i would look at the placement of the chairs. they create a big rectangular chunk with the bed. put the chairs at the end wall corners facing the bed and it will break up the big heavy shape and create a more open space and also create a sort of frame for the bed which is the focal point. this room reminds me of rooms in world of interiors from small european countries from past times especially the blue window frames.

  45. While I do agree that the painted moulding was a bit of a miss and overall there may be a bit much going on in this room, I actually LOVE the pink headboard with the green wall.

    It made me think of a picture you included in the 13 Living Room Design Trends for 2016 post from about a month ago–the channel tufting picture. I loved the color combo there, and I love it here! :)

    xx Hannah // http://www.HomemadeBanana.com