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Emily Henderson

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by Orlando Soria
Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement

Photography by Zeke Ruelas

As I get ready to start shooting my upcoming HGTV series, it’s more than appropriate that I keep sharing my work with my OG clients, my parents, Ormomdo and Orlandad. I’ve been helping them decorate their house since I was about seven years old. And the home they moved into in 2012 (after moving out of my childhood home) is no exception. As with every other room in their home, this room brought with it significant challenges: odd architecture, weird angles, pre-existing furniture my parents weren’t willing to part ways with, and its inherent multifunctionality (it’s now fully open to the kitchen, which we recently renovated).

Today, the topic of conversation is combining furniture styles and how that can aid in decorating a house like my parents’, a house that has multiple architectural styles and lacks a cohesive look. But before we get too far into TIPZ N TRICKZ, let’s take a walk down memory lane and see what was happening in here before we got started.

Before 1

This is pretty much what it looked like when my parents moved in. The floor was carpeted, the fireplace was ugly, and literally everything in the whole house was 1999 Beige (not cool, chic 2019 Beige which I’m actually into). The only remnants of beige left in the house are the bathrooms (which are next on my to-do list and we’ll get to once my parents get over the trauma of their extremely expensive, year-long kitchen renovation project we did last year).

The fireplace caused a considerable amount of questions for my parents when they moved in. Their initial idea was to just rip the whole thing out and not have a fireplace, which I advised against because I thought it would decrease the value of the house. I wanted to square it off and put it on the wall (where that console table is in the before pic) but that was going to be super costly. I’m not a fan of the caddy corner fireplace so leaving it as is wasn’t ideal, but turned out to be the best decision when we thought about all the options/costs/etc.

Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement

The simple solution to covering up that dated brick was to paint it white. I know this is a controversial move, but I have to say I love the look of painted brick, especially in a chic matte white or black. I also removed the brass/glass fireplace door (which is shockingly easy to remove FYI – I did it myself and was only moderately filthy when I was done!) and styled the fireplace with some logs I got which will literally never get burned because my parents never ever want a messy fire again after living in a fire stove-heated house in Yosemite for 30 years. This is why I’m such a baby about being cold now, I was literally raised in a freezing house heated by a fireplace and I think being freezing cold for 18 years is enough, k? Normal parents will be like “PUT ON A SWEATER” to their kids if they whine about being cold. In our house, it was like “WHY AREN’T YOU WEARING A PUFFY JACKET???” Anyone who has ever tried to keep their house warm with a fire knows it makes the biggest mess ever so I totally don’t blame my parents at all for never wanting to have a fire ever again, even though sometimes during the holidays we beg for a fire and feel like The Little Match Girl when they say no. In related news, their house is still freezing. I think they’re just not used to being comfortable inside so the idea that they could just turn up the thermostat and not see their breath is too much for them to handle.

Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement

One of the first improvements my parents made to their house was replacing the gross carpet (which was literally everywhere throughout the house) with solid hardwood maple flooring. This immediately brightened up their house and made it feel a lot cleaner. Initially, I wasn’t fully on board with this flooring selection because my dad wanted a really traditional vibe and this color looks inherently Scandinavian/modern to me. But once it was installed, I loved how pretty and luminous it was and it added to the home’s beautiful style ambiguity.

Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement

This vase weighs like 4,000 pounds and Ormomdo’s friend made it. Her name is Susanne and she doesn’t have an online shop but I feel like I need to make her make one because most of the pottery in my parents’ house comes from her and I’m always getting questions about it. Another artist I’m obsessed with named Jonathan Cross makes similar pieces which are more readily available, but cost like forty thousand million dollars (and are worth every penny).

Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement

And now, A TRULY SHOCKING PROCLAMATION. One of my biggest pet peeves is a TV above a fireplace. I know this is controversial because above the fireplace is maybe the most common place to put a TV. HOWEVER, I hate it for many reasons. Firstly, the TV is too high. You’re not meant to crane your neck looking up at a TV like that. Second, since most rooms are oriented around the fireplace, it makes the TV the focal point of the whole room. While I want you to never turn your TV off ever again once my HGTV show comes out, I don’t want you to be watching my show in a badly designed room. So please do your best to avoid putting TVs over a fireplace whenever possible (I realize that sometimes there is truly no other option). One of the blessings of my parents’ fireplace being an annoying corner fireplace is that there’s a logical place to put the TV.

Before 2 Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement

This room is HIGHLY trafficked and very multifunctional. One of the must-have items my parents listed was toy storage for their three grandkids who live nearby. The solution was this INCREDIBLY beautiful custom piece from Hedge House. The four bottom drawers are all full of toys while the upper portion is reserved for cookbooks and pretty objects. The upper shelves are no longer styled like they are here, because my nephew Camilo is now a year old and his favorite thing is ripping things off shelves and throwing them on the floor (my other niece and nephew are 4 and 7 and old enough not to rip things off shelves anymore). Usually, the first thing the kids do when they come over to this cabinet and open all the drawers and throw everything all over the floor (and the entire room) immediately. It’s really cute to watch and also I feel sorry for my parents that they’ll eventually have to clean it all up (though it’s amazing to have a place to put it all so it looks neat again).

Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement

A lot of the small objects scattered around the room come from my Orgrando (my mom’s mom. She’s dead now THANKS FOR BRINGING IT UP). My mom spent part of her childhood in Japan which is why there’s so much Japanese stuff in my parents’ house. The Native American objects are a nod to our family’s Yosemite past, though only some of them come from the local Miwok tribe.

Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement

To maximize seating, I added a mid-century inspired loveseat from Article. This section of the room demonstrates how we mixed furniture styles in here to create an eclectic look. The loveseat is mid-century, the side tables are contemporary/beachy, and the hutch is craftsman. The reason I wanted to combine furniture styles in here was that A) the style of the home is ambiguous perhaps nonexistent (sorry Casa Soria), B) my parents have conflicting styles, and C) I wanted the room to feel cozy and casual. The reason that it worked is that I selected items in contrasting finishes that complement each other. For example, I knew I wanted light/bright side tables to pop off the dark color of the sofa. But I knew I didn’t want to do a light wood because I also had the wood coffee table and the china hutch to contend with, so I selected a lacquered white.

Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement

There wasn’t much room for side tables, so these 12″ wide beauties from Serena & Lily were perfect. They’re pretty much still styled like this but Ormomdo has to hide everything on them when Camilo comes over. Luckily, he’s the cutest baby in the world so it’s all worth it (see evidence here).

Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement

The rustic coffee table provided a great opportunity to add warmth to the room (sadly, it’s from a company that no longer exists and I could not find the vendor online). The beautiful Richard Carter ceramic tray is one of my favorite things in their house (it used to be mine but there’s no room for it in my apartment, also it was a gift from my ex so I was like GET OUT OF MY HOUSE speaking of my ex HAVE YOU HEARD I HAVE A NEW HGTV SHOW CALLED “UNSPOUSE MY HOUSE”???). The accessories are all things I found in Ormomdo’s studio (those woven boxes contain tons of buttons which my niece and nephews love to dump all over the floor while yelling). And, of course, no coffee table is complete without a copy of my book, Get It Together! (available at finer bookstores everywhere, don’t even bother going to the garbage ones). Sorry, this whole paragraph has been self-promotion.

Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement

My mom has quite an extensive dish collection, which I restyled a bit for this shoot. One of my favorite pieces is that hand-painted Japanese cook pot (also from Orgrando, who is still dead, WHY DO YOU KEEP BRINGING THIS UP???). JK Orgrando passed away when I was 12 so now I just like to use her death as a way of making people uncomfortable and guilting them about bringing it up when I was totally the one to bring it up in the first place. I totally loved both my grandmas but they’ve both been dead forever so it’s ok for me to joke about it now, okay? OH MY GOD STOP JUDGING ME WHY AM I STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS.

Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement

The very pretty window coverings from The Shade Store are one of my favorite additions to the room and one of the only places I brought in pattern. My mom and I picked out this fabric together on a sunny day in Marin County (where the nearest Shade Store location is) and it was the best day of my whole entire life. We immediately fell in love with it that gorgeous pattern and the simplicity of the shades’ design. It was also a great way of bringing the pretty aqua color from the kitchen tile into the family room space.

Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement

This large hutch, a relic from our Yosemite house, was previously tasked with holding the overflow from the previously-tiny kitchens my parents had in both houses. Now that we’ve added so much storage to the room, more space was freed up to display pretty dishes.

Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement

These poufs from Article are definitely a favorite with the grandkids, who love rolling all over them (or sitting on top of them to watch TV with PapaGramma). Good thing these poufs are sturdy. They definitely get the grandkid beat down regularly.

Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement Before 3 Emily Henderson Orlando Soria Awkward Living Room Arrangement

Opening up the room and creating one great entertaining space has completely changed the way the room functions and made it a cozy place for everyone to hang out. The added storage makes it much easier to keep everything neatly stored away when not in use (which is important in a space that already has so much going on visually).

The room taught me quite a bit about mixing furniture styles. I’ve always been a fan of that eclectic, naturally-collected-over-time, California casual look. But I never really thought about what actually makes it work. And what I learned from this project is that if you keep a consistent color/material palette, you can really get away with pretty much anything. The furniture styles here include contemporary, mid-century, Craftsman, country, coastal, and more. But I tried to keep the color palette in the ivory, gray, blue, green, woven, and wood world. Combining all these different styles gives the space a very cozy feel that doesn’t feel too fussy.

My goal with clients is always to give them a look that their guests won’t question they did themselves. I want it to just look like they knew what they were doing. And my parents’ house looks like something they might have done themselves. And that makes me happy because A) I think they are cool people and would wanna hang out in a house they designed and B) that means I did a good job interpreting their style into their house.

DID I MENTION I HAVE A NEW TV SHOW COMING OUT SOON???

OKAY BYE.

Emily Henderson Orlandos Parents House Family Room Reveal Get The Look

Black Side Table | 2. Beige Sectional | 3. Floor Lamp | 4. Rug (similar) | 5. Coffee Table (similar) | 6. Seagrass Ottoman | 7. Throw Blanket | 8. Custom Roman Shade | 9. Table Lamp | 10. Face Candle | 11. Round Tray | 12. White Vase | 13. Sconce | 14. Custom Bookcase (similar) 15. Embroidered Tassel Throw Pillow (similar) | 16. Moroccan Wedding-Style Throw Pillow (similar) | 17. White Tiered Side Table | 18. Teal Loveseat | 19. Printed Ottoman | 20. Media Cabinet | 21. Round Shelf (similar)  | 22. Small Rattan Lidded Basket (similar) | 23. Leather-wrapped Rock

  1. I hate tvs above fireplaces too! let’s start the revolution!

    1. I’ll join!

  2. Nothing like giggling your way thru a post. Thanks! You are too funny. House looks fab!

  3. I love reading anything Orlando writes : ) it always cracks me up.
    about the room. I love this. it’s styled, yes, but it’s sooooo relatable with all its different styles. this is how real people live. many styles. lots of stuff from the person’s life. it’s storied. love love love. the room is so beautiful. I want to live here. : )

    1. Exactly this! Real styling for real people with real things. Love it.

  4. Orlando is my favorite writer. Every time I see his byline, I make a beeline for the article to go read it! I am excited for his HGTV show too!

  5. I love this room!

  6. Orlando! I’ll never get tired of you sharing this room. Perfect blending of styles, purchases and already-owned.

  7. I love this room and the thoughtfulness behind it. It’s usually so much more practical, affordable and realistic to combine new stuff with the stuff you already have for a fresh look. Thanks for sharing! So excited about your new show. <3

  8. Orlando’s voice is so fun to read! The house is so lovely, you’ve done a wonderful job!

  9. Orlando is the best! Mission accomplished.

  10. First of all- Orlando, I LOVE YOU.
    If for any reason Emily cannot perform her duties as your bff, I offer myself as a temporary stand in until she can. (ok, done fan-girling)

    Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I have to say this room is seriously amazing.
    I never know what to call my own style of decorating, but THIS IS IT.

    Eclectic is the best-ic (it worked in my head)

    This room just looks so cozy, and wonderful and I want to be invited for dinner parties and laugh at all your jokes. I’ve been seeing the rise of the minimalist decorating style , and it’s beautiful but I’m always like “it’s missing something” and then I see this.. with multiple gallery walls (which is what i always seem to do) and books, and livable things and I’m just like “ALL THE YES” it’s busy, but doesn’t look busy – it looks like home.

    This room gives me all the warm feels and all the inspiration and it’s made me so happy on this FREEZING NY morning. Thank you for this!!

  11. Orlando, as endearing and charming and inspirational as always. What finesse in the design choices, what a great look.

  12. This room is beautiful AND feels like HOME!! The eclectic style is the best and it doesn’t hurt that Ormomdo has an amazing collection of stuff!

    I’m also another one here to say I LOVE ORLANDO!!!

  13. I wish I had the money to fly Orlando to the East Coast to redo my entire house. Sigh. This is dreamy.

  14. Orlando, it’s so lovely to see you integrate your parent’s beloved things rather than sacrificing them for the sake of a ‘unifying style’. The living and dining rooms reflect your family, its history and your parents’ taste within beautiful, livable spaces. It is wonderful and vibrant.

    Thanks for not defaulting to a *style* as a way of redecorating, it is so refreshing and inspiring!

  15. This is just the sweetest, prettiest reno ever. I love that it still looks like your parents live there and not like a shoe house. You did an amazing job styling all of the Knick knacks that boomers hold so dear and the room is very child friendly too. Maybe after “unspouse my house” you can do a show called “unboom(Er)” my room ;). Great job on all of it, and I can’t wait to see your new show!

    1. Unboom(ER) my room! YESSSS!

  16. I’ve never understood why anyone would want a TV above the mantle. Why would you want a big black screen to be the focal point of your room? Unless it’s a media/game room and the main purpose of the space is to gather and watch TV. What I don’t get is people who put TVs above the mantle in beautiful living rooms and family rooms.

    I’m fighting another popular TV display trend: this idea that the TV should NEVER be hidden away but should be openly displayed. Who decided this? In my small house, I’ve got a TV in the living room but it’s inside a beautiful wood cabinet. The TV disappears behind closed cabinet doors. It’s a beautiful wood cabinet and that is what draws the eye in the room, not a large piece of black plastic. All I have to do to watch TV is open the doors. It’s not exactly a hardship.

  17. Love it! What is the wall color?

  18. This post is hilarious—love Orlando and love this room! Looking forward to his new show 🙂

    1. I was literally laughing out loud as I edited it. Seriously love for Orlando’s posts, always.

  19. Can we talk about the kitchen, too? Swoon.

  20. Wow! What is the new paint color? Did I miss that?

  21. Hello and thank you for sharing this beautiful update. Could you please share which wall paint you used in the living room. I love the color – almost white, but not quite. Thank you.

  22. This is amazing! I literally sent this to my parents, as they’re in the process of decorating a new house.

    I’m wondering what the specific fabric color is for the sectional? It’s such a pretty neutral.

  23. Staring at this room makes me feel like I understand the people that live here. It feels authentic and personal. I love that you worked with existing furniture and art and thoughtfully added in new pieces.

    On a photography note, the shot peering out over the sofa into the windows is just gorgeous – the light and flowers frame it well and the light is so wonderful.

    1. AGREED

    2. Well said! I totally agree and love to see spaces like this. My complaint about a lot of places (elsewhere, not on SEH) is that the whole room looks like it was purchased at Home Goods (not that Home Goods doesn’t have its place in the ecosystem).

  24. Oh My Goodness! I saw that stunning ceramic piece on the mantle and thought, ‘wow, that looks like one of Susanne’s pieces.’ Then I continued reading and it is! She is amazing and was my ceramics teacher! Thanks for shouting out to her; I am going to share the post with her.

    Also…always love love love the posts from Orlando.

  25. truly beautiful! what more is there to say?

  26. I love this so much! Also I am so sorry to hear that your grandmothers’ passing is so raw.

    Can you tell us more about that art? Are those your parents’ photographs and paintings? I really love the compositions you’ve created.

  27. Wow! What a challenging space! You did soooo good!

  28. Oh My Goodness! I know Susanne, she was my ceramics teacher! I was reading and saw that piece on the mantle and thought, ‘wow, that looks like one of susanne’s pieces.’ Then wouldn’t you know it right below there was confirmation. She is amazing as is her work. I have many pieces in my house as well. Thanks for giving her the shout out; I shared the post with her.

    Also. . it should go without saying that I love the room. Orlando’s posts are always super fun and joyful and beautiful.

    xo

    1. Thanks Alicia …Orlando for sharing my work.
      Susanne French, Ceramic Artist

      1. HI SUSANNE! I miss you! Will have to come to your next sale!

    2. Oh wow! How cool xx

  29. This is my living room right now. 😭

  30. Orlando, WHAT color did you put on the walls? It’s gorgeous! I have a room that I’d like to paint this color if you will share…please???

    1. It’s Alaskan Husky by Benjamin Moore and it’s the main color throughout the house. A very lovely faint grey.

  31. As always Orlando nails it with the design, styling and the writing!! Love the room and love him!!

  32. Omg – YES! What a gorgeous result…to bring all these styles together so seamlessly is a such magical thing!! And ps, you’re totally right about not putting the TV all the wayTF up there. NO, people, stop it. That’s not how TVs are designed to be viewed…look it up!

    Biggest inspo for me is that gallery wall with the TV incorporated. I have a big wall like this (with TV) and it climbs up into a loft area and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it. WINNER!

    Can’t wait for the show. xx

  33. As usual, I LOVE Orlando’s approachable, doable design!!!

  34. This all looks so good, Orlando! May I ask if your family has reported back on whether that Article loveseat is comfortable? Thanks!

    1. OMG it’s so comfy! There’s no longer any argument over where to sit because both sofas are so cozy.

  35. YES thank you Orlando! TV’s over fireplaces are a scourge and a great way to hurt your neck (especially when you already have neck issues). Too high and not ergonomically correct!

  36. I caught myself laughing out loud several times during this article – I love the way you write! And I love the useful info in this post too – THANK YOU!! Can’t wait to watch your show!! 🙂

  37. Ps. That hutch is AMAZING

  38. OMG, I think this is one if the most beautiful, inviting and ‘it’s always been’ spaces I’ve ever seen, which I believe is the most difficult thing of all to pull off. I’m mid reno and am actually going to amend the way I’ve structured my big living area after seeing this. Wow. Just wow.

  39. This is a beautiful space! I love the aqua and the warm wood tones together. Everything looks fresh and clean, but personal and comfortable at the same time. Amazing combination!

  40. A wonderful, real-life beautiful room! Not cookie-cutter or too swanky. And Orlando, you are SO FUNNY.

  41. The living room in my husband’s former house was set up like this, including the corner fireplace, but his was stone all the way to the ceiling. I always imagined configuring the room just like this, sectional sofa and all, so it’s nice to see a visual of how nice it would have looked (although I could never come close to Orlando’s decorating)! And for the record I cringe at tv’s over fireplaces! Especially if they drill into really nice stone or brick to hang it.

  42. Orlando posts are so fun and funny!!!
    Can’t wait to check out his HGTV show 💜

  43. Just beautiful. What a transformation. Hope your parents love it.

  44. Emily, I love you, but Orlando is my most favorite writer, probably ever. He is so so so funny!

  45. Good job! I like that you’ve mixed styles and incorporated so many of (mainly) Ormomdo’s fantastic possessions. I look forward to seeing your TV show.

  46. Orlando this is SO. GOOD.
    You are a genius and I’m so pumped for your new TV show x

  47. Agree with many others, I see Orlando wrote an article and I get extra excited to read knowing I will laugh and learn about design all at once!

  48. Orlando’s writing about his parents’ house is my favorite thing on the internet right now.

  49. Too bad you don’t have a tv show. I would watch. 😝

  50. Orlando is my favourite writer, I love his writing voice. And this whole renovation has been fantastic, it’s amazing that he’s probably super busy but still finds the time to help his parents out :). Can’t wait for the TV show, do we really have to wait until late 2019 (that’s what HGTV says)???

    1. You might not have to wait quite that long. WINK.

      1. OMG, thanks so much, Orlando, I can’t believe you replied!!! Lots of love. Lara xx

  51. My parents’ house is always freezing too!!!!

  52. Orlando – I love the room. It’s so peaceful and yet functional. Well done. True confession: I love Camilo more. What a beautiful boy. Does everyone in your family have first names ending in “o?”

  53. OrlanDID the best here. So relatable, so inviting, so GREAT. Can’t wait for your show!

  54. Omg Orlando I grew up in a wood heated very cold home too! My parents moved & still don’t turn the thermostat up!!! This room turned out beautifully!

  55. You are funny. Beautiful room.
    OK BYE

  56. I think I need some major fireplace mantel help from the EH community… We bought our first house about a year ago with 8-foot ceilings in the living room, and the fireplace including mantel is 5 ft tall! We don’t want a TV up there, but I don’t know how to properly style the fireplace when I feel like it is already too tall. Any ideas?

    1. Hi Joanna – I don’t know if this will work at all, but try putting a painting leaning against the mantel, not hung up. I have seen that trick before and it really seemed to help when there isn’t much room between the mantel and the ceiling. You can layer a couple of pieces of art, too.
      Good luck!

  57. This is 100% a room that I want in my house. Very inspirational; gorgeous, approachable, and probably looks so much easier than it actually is.

    And you’re so funny!

  58. Hilarious! And a great space. I look forward to seeing your show.

  59. I remember when our tiny granddaughter learned how to climb really high, like scary high. I figured we could babyproof by storing everything breakable on the roof (and hide all the ladders). Why? Who lets babies learn to walk and climb?

    Darn good thing they’re cute. Other thought, learn to decorate with felt. Felt flowers, felt animals, felt vases … felt all the things.

    But gorgeous room. Good thing Ormomdo and Orlandad love their new home since they’ve spent all their money and can no longer afford to leave home. That will teach them to have a son with so much talent and taste he’s got HIS VERY OWN TV SHOW.

  60. what a great articule ;)my opinion on http://www.goo.gl/m1vAk8

  61. Loved this post, of course! “She’s dead now THANKS FOR BRINGING IT UP” – LOL!!

    Also, as usual, I LOVE seeing a real space and knowing about the (relatable) clients.

  62. This room looks so comfortable and effortless. I would definitely watch non-fireplace-TV and eat snacks here.

  63. For some reason this is REALLY not working for me. Feels very Queer-eye-Bobby-had-to-stay-under-$5000-at-Target i.e. lazy and looking like a cheap staging home. This isn’t styled or decorated to me.

  64. I am always by the Marin Shade Store and it looks amazing. I haven’t been in because I know I will fall in love with everything and spend my children’s future college tuition/small business start up money–and our retirement. The store is THAT beautiful.

    I CAN’T wait for your show!!!! We had been chord cutters for five years. We just got cable back (for HGTV and you!!!!!)

    xxxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

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