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Design Agonies BE GONE… 5 VERY Universal Problems, Solved Via The EHD Insider Design Agony Group Chat

Our design agony posts are extremely near and dear to us. We LOVE getting to have a more personal connection to you all, getting to answer your exact questions, and helping you tackle your most troubling design issues. I mean room layouts are tricky, knowing what to do with a blank wall can feel like a graduate-level algebra question, and sometimes a second opinion can put you at total ease. We know that last one to be VERY true because y’all you have been just as much as a support to us in helping make some very important design decisions as hopefully, we have been to you. SO it was a top priority for when we created the EHD Insider Community that a “Design Agony” section was included so any member could upload a photo and ask the community for help. And let’s just say it might be the best part. Everyone has such great and insightful advice and knowing there is a place to ask, “Hey, is this rug a good fit for my living room” or “Any suggestions for my fireplace reno mishap” or “What is missing from making this room look awesome??” is pretty freaking great. But to be fair we may be partial:)

So with their permission, we wanted to take a handful of the agonies our Insiders posted that are pretty darn universal. Let’s jump right in…

I want to start with my old friend, Martha. Ok, so sadly we don’t “formally” know each other and hang out with wine, chatting design into the wee hours of the morning. That’s what normal friends do, right? BUT if you head to our ShowEmYourDIY: Kitchen Edition you will see her wonderful kitchen remodel where a light facelift made a HUGE difference. This time though she was inspired by our headboard sconce trend post and DIY’ed one herself. It looks awesome!

But she is now stuck with the ever baffling question of “What do I put above my bed??” This is actually a question we get all. the. time. so if you need some examples here and here. But let’s talk about Martha specifically. Here is here bedroom and question:

How wonderful is this?! Now in terms of the art question, one Insider was curious about the depth of the ledge which Martha replied was only one inch…so not an ideal depth for an art ledge. Another reader thought that something like the MQuan beaded wall piece that Em has used in the past would look great (and it for sure could) BUT Martha wants something a little calmer in texture so here is what Julie (and then seconded by Bowser) recommend:

The point Julie made about balancing out the “grid” look of the headboard with a single large scale is a winning match. One reader recommended this awesome print that we love and could be a perfect pick. However, Martha wants something that’s unique to her… so vintage is on her mind. We think that’s a great idea since buying vintage is for most of us, our design love language. I also personally think a large scale horizontal textile (vintage or not) could look awesome and also cozy:)

Next up is a window treatment dissatisfaction…

Buying window treatments can be intimating and when you aren’t in love with what you bought is SUCH a letdown. But despite Emilie feeling blah about her relaxed roman shades, we think that they are totally great. The Insiders had a ton of great ideas. Some of which included trying normal curtains, faux panels, a patterned roman shade, rotating the bed to be in front of the windows, etc. But we think her lackluster feelings are coming from a lack of texture and decor in general. By adding in a furniture set up like the one below (one of my all-time favorite EHD rooms) between the middle and far-right window, Emilie would bring in a ton of visual interest which would take that pressure off of the shades to fill that visual hole.

photo by tessa neustadt | from: eclectic traditional bedroom reveal

Or simply hanging some large framed art pieces or a large wall hanging would also bring in that dimension without the need for more furniture. Lastly, we agree with another Insiders suggestion to try the bench at the foot of the bed🙂

Next is the search for “the right” coffee table.

We also know from experience that coffee tables are something people want advice about. Luckily we have a great post with a graphic explaining all the coffee table rules! But let’s look at this real-life agony.

Katie has a medium-sized living room where all of her furniture pieces are more or less rectangles (including her rug). Now adding another rectangle (the coffee table) is going to make her living room feel a little too one-note. One thought, a round coffee table! Wait, not so fast. A round coffee table could work but to give us our “2/3rds the width of the sofa” rule, the size of the round coffee table might be way too big for the size living room. Fine, I’ll stop holding out…

The winner is OVAL! And it wasn’t just Emily that thought so. Every Insider was in agreement. Oval coffee tables are just power players. They give you the width and surface area of a rectangle coffee table but the soft (and usually contrasting) shape of a round or sculptural coffee table. Heck, one of Emily’s all-time favorite and kid-friendly coffee table is an oval.

Side note: This agony has a happy ending! Katie took Emily’s/everyone’s advice and bought a glass top oval coffee table and loves it!

Shall we tackle a layout agony? I think now is the perfect time.

Oh, the sweet sweet frustration of designing for a modern life in an old beautiful home. Our wonderful Insider, Mallory is having a time with her dining room/WFH office that she shares with her husband. Honestly, we get it because this is NOT a straight forward, “try this and all of your design dreams will come true.” But the good news is her vintage home is awesome and where there’s a will there’s a design solution.

So now that you’ve read Mallory’s plea for help there were a lot of suggestions. One that a bunch of Insiders liked was the idea of a banquette to get the table off of the wall (just like Arlyn did in her dining room). BUT as I said before this space really needs to function as an office for the foreseeable future.

One reader had the idea to install two floor to ceiling shelving units (which she could DIY if she’s up for it). I also loved this idea because she mentioned that the constant disorganization and clutter is driving her nuts. I think this is a great option but to not overwhelm the space AND avoid covering the floor vent, they are going to need to be pretty shallow.

So after taking in all of the suggestions, she came back to the Design Agony Group Chat with this mockup below.

So pretty right?! Now I think these are the best two options (and suggestions from Insiders) if she installs the bookcases:

  1. Install bookcases with a banquette in between and arrange the dining table parallel to the banquette.
  2. Leave space for a banquette between the bookcases for the future and for the time being rotate dining table so that it’s perpendicular to the wall (and lives where the banquette eventually will. This gives the both of you space to work and have comfortable work chairs across from each other.

Mallory, you HAVE to post the finished photos on the Show & Tell section of the community site when you are all done!

Let’s go back to the classic “but what style lamp would work best” agony…

Rachel, we understand what it feels like to be uninspired so we are here to help! We agree that while that lamp is very cute, we think that something more modern and contrasting will give you what you want. Also, we sure do love that Rebecca Atwood fabric😉 I will love Em’s old bed for the rest of time. Ok back to the table lamp problem.

First, let’s see what the Insiders recommended…

1. Emilie Table Lamp with USB Base | 2. Modern Plated Brass Wall Sconces | 3. Thebes Table Lamp |4. Blossi |5. Emilie Table Lamp with USB Base

I like all of these! Actually number #1 is surprisingly pulling at my heartstrings. Plus it has a USB portal. WHAT?

But on the other hand, I do think that something modern, sculptural, and dark will give Rachel the fun playful mix and match style she is looking for.

1. Conical Metal Wireless Charging Desk Lamp | 2. Arum Table Lamp | 3. Flowerpot VP3 Table Lamp | 4. Streck Table Lamp | 5. Curvilinear Mid-Century Table Lamp

I wish I could pick a favorite but I can’t. Why I think any of them would look sick is because they will all provide a bold but neutral moment and their delicate frames will contrast the bulkier furniture and decor that are already in the room.

Now I hate to even dare let these words pass through my lips but fall isn’t that far away. And while a mudroom isn’t something my southern California upbringing required (no snow and light rain), clearly the rest of the country HIGHLY values a solid mudroom. Emily’s first mudroom was in Portland and she learned a lot. So when Lilly asked the community’s must-have mudroom essentials, Emily and the rest of the group jumped in to help.

Here is the list:

  • Good solid hooks
  • A sink! (nice-to-have)
  • Water hog mats
  • Cubbies for sure!
  • Shelves
  • Broom closet (nice-to-have)
  • Area for pet bowls (if you have pets:))

Do any of you have any other items you’d like to add to the list??

Ok, now this last one is more of a fun Ask The Audience for Emily’s friend because it’s fun and it was quite the split vote on the community…

So what is your vote: Keep the wallpaper or strip it ASAP! Cast your vote in the comments:)

Alright well that’s enough agonies for today. HA! Just kidding we never tire of helping solve the world’s design questions. I hope that some of these helped with your own agonies or at least you were comforted that there isn’t one person on the planet who is designing their home and isn’t stumped by AT LEAST something.

And was this all just a sneaky ploy to get you curious again about the wonders of the EHD Insider Community?? I’ll never tell! But seriously it’s SO awesome to have a huge group of design-loving people to dump your questions on. It’s basically design therapy. If you want to check it out and haven’t head HERE and if you want to read about why we chose to great it head HERE. Happy Wednesday!

Love you, mean it and wear a mask.

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Veronica Crawford | From: Our LA Playroom Update With Solutions That Work For Us + Another DIY Fail

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3 years ago

Keep the wallpaper!
Too much work to remove it in a rental and it is a conversation piece!

3 years ago
Reply to  Ellen

Keep the wallpaper! Find some way to make the pink emphasized more so the tile pops!

Cici Haus
3 years ago
Reply to  Lauren

What if you used some pale pink paint to “recolor” the wallpaper in some places? Like paint right on it to add the accents you want, tone it down a bit and make it more the vibe without losing it entirely?

3 years ago
Reply to  Cici Haus

Yes, this! Maybe choose a tiny circle or shape in the paper and randomly hand paint it a tint of the tile color, like the pops of color in the wallpaper in Charlie’s first bedroom.

3 years ago
Reply to  Cici Haus

On my screen it looks like the wallpaper already has pink accents that coordinate with the tile.

3 years ago
Reply to  Ellen

I agree, keep It’s kind of cool!

3 years ago

Lose the wallpaper, or paint over it!

3 years ago

Keep the wallpaper! Love it

3 years ago

Keep it for sure, unless it’s dirty or falling apart.

3 years ago

Lose the wallpaper!

Lori Howard
3 years ago
Reply to  Renee

I understand this is a rental but for how long? If it were me, I’d plug in some ear buds with my best music and remove it. Just think of all the beautiful elements in that room that are completely missed due to the busy activity going on with that paper. Now, if not, I’d certainly still play some tunes and take some beautiful cotton/antique tapestry sheers (yes curtain sheers like for a breezy sunshine day:0) and swag them over that ceiling while allowing them to drape down the sides of the room a bit. Maybe some gold tension rods (short ones) and drape like a canopy. This would give a dainty element to soften the wallpaper. Just one solution, yes? Take the sheers when you move.

Melissa S
3 years ago

In my last rental ( with vintage pink tile I might add) the first thing I did was paint over the bad wallpaper and it was a game changer. You want to make sure all the seams are well glued, there are no bubbles, etc. If there are problem spots, they can be fixed- then paint away! There’s no way I would remove it in a rental, too much work.

Love this post! Keep them coming. Too be honest I’ve been quite bored with the content lately (maybe it’s the quarantine blues) but this had me excited again.

3 years ago
Reply to  Melissa S

In a bathroom, painting over it might entice dampness to get in and or take hold.
I wonder if it’s special wet area wallpaper??!??

3 years ago

Could you do a color wash on the wallpaper?? Or paint parts of it? I think the wallpaper is bothersome because of the lack of color.

Emily J
3 years ago

keep keep keep keep keep keep keeeeeeeeeep that wallpaper

LOVE the wallpaper

3 years ago

Strip that wallpaper! It screams so loudly that you can’t enjoy the adorable tile.

3 years ago

Keep it!
If someone was wanting to put wallpaper on the ceiling, that design works so well. It’s sweet as!!!

3 years ago


3 years ago

I love the wallpaper, and I think it looks great with the light fixture. But I don’t like the wallpaper and tile combo. My vote is remove or paint over the wallpaper!

3 years ago

Keep the wallpaper, paint the vanity. Definitely don’t paint the wallpaper, that will make it *even harder* to remove down the line!

3 years ago

Keep the wall paper. it looks good and gives a balance to the pink tile.
Id replace the sconce with something special. its too high to be pointed up and looks odd right up against the ceiling it should be going down. Possibly replace the faucet and cabinet hardware to give it a little edge and modern feel. then accessorize with plants, amazing shower curtain, towels and a bath mat.

Shannon M Conley
3 years ago

Keep the wallpaper. Maybe play up the pink in the styling choices, go with some bolder pink pieces and i think it will balance!

3 years ago

Keep wallpaper, paint vanity same color as tile!

3 years ago

I’m surprisingly in the keep it camp. Super funky and weird, which I love.

3 years ago

Keep the wallpaper.

Maybe try more black or dark brown in the room? Small black curtains/tiny roman shade, a dark rug to bring the eye down. A long white curtain mounted outside the tub, swept all to one side like a dramatic old hollywood ? It just doesn’t have enough colors yet, no contrast. There isn’t anything to see BUT the big ceiling.

The patterns & the shadows on the ceiling are my favorite part.

3 years ago

I love the pink expanse with pops of black and the patterns. I would run with that. Keep the wallpaper. Add in some black with a rug/bathmat. West Elm has a cotton, black and white chevron mat for example. Consider towels with a black border.

Add some plants for contrast.

3 years ago
Reply to  Hadilly

Was thinking the same – adding in black via accessories. Maybe a white towel with a modern black monogram?

3 years ago

Hello, it is a rental! As a landlord, I would rather pay to have someone remove the wallpaper and paint it properly than have a tenant do a DIY that could cause more work and $ for me down the road.
Besides the fact it is a rental, I say keep the wallpaper- it is interesting. Instead lean into the 20’s & 30’s vibe. Soft rug, something under the sink to hide the plumbing and soft window shades. Get landlord to re-grout behind sink.
EHD, I love this post. So fun to see pictures of issue, think about what I would do and then scroll down to see if the EHD community suggested the same thing or not.

3 years ago
Reply to  Mk

There is a special place in hell for peeps who paint over wallpaper.

3 years ago

Keep the wallpaper

3 years ago

Keep the wall paper swap the lighting (but definitely keep ’em to swap back when/if she moves)

Inês Seabra
3 years ago
Reply to  Meg

Yes, I would totally do this. Swipe the lightning for something more sleek and modern to contrast and let all the vintage shine.

3 years ago

RE: The pink wallpapered bathroom: I vote keep it! Also-doesn’t 1960s wallpaper have asbestos? It looks like its in good shape and should stay- especially for the effort in a rental. I’d bet that painting the window trim and vanity a high gloss black (or maybe pink!?)+ bronze hardware & replacing the lights would really modernize the bathroom and let the pink and wallpaper shine. I’d also build a flat front to conceal the sink pipes below the skirted sink.

3 years ago


I like that our mudroom has cubbies with doors! Looks so much cleaner!! We also have a desk for mail, etc. You enter our mudroom from the garage, but as you exit the mudroom into the house, you are right by the front door. So we also have a bench and hooks where guests can put their things.

Dolores Talarico
3 years ago

Keep the wallpaper and the cool pendant light! Maybe get the tile sprayed white? Paint the vanity black and get a granite top, if that’s in your budget. It will look great!

patricia blaettler
3 years ago

Excellent post.

3 years ago

Keep wallpaper BUT just remove it from the ceiling.

3 years ago
Reply to  Carla

I was going to suggest leaving it on the ceiling and removing it on the walls.

3 years ago

I’ve never put up or taken down wallpaper so I may be dreaming, but I would actually replace the wallpaper with something. I was thinking thin stripes of a yellow or even a matching pink, with a white ceiling.

3 years ago

Having a little difficulty making out the pattern of the wallpaper, but, honestly, I thought it was new and it’s the one thing I LOOVE about the room. It has an almost art deco feel? My suggestion would be to replace the doors with something clean and modern and build-out some panels that would attach to the sides/front of the sink to hide/match/modernize the scalloping there if the vanity cannot be replaced with something modern.

3 years ago

Keep the wallpaper! But switch out the light fixtures for sure.

3 years ago

I say keep the wallpaper and change light fixtures and cabinet hardware 🙂

3 years ago

My first thought, “I really dig this wallpaper!” But, after I read the situation, I know demo is out of the question. SO, if this wallpaper is not peeling or bubbling, I would paint over it. I said I would PAINT OVER IT. Yes, ma’am. Lightly sand, oil base prime and PAINT OVER THE WALLPAPER.


3 years ago

Being a rental I would just remove it from the ceiling!

3 years ago

KEEEEEEPPPPP! For me, it makes the bathroom! Change the chandy, cover up the exposed plumbing, add a fuzzy rug, update the hardware & add window treatments 🙂

3 years ago

Hey Team Emily, I have a recommendation for the Linkup and don’t know how else to share. Are you guys following Room Rater in Twitter? Very funny design analyses of talking heads on cable news (lighting, books, accessories, etc). Check them out on Twitter @ratemyskyperoom. I am not at all connected to it! I just think it would be funny for an actual designer to assess it, because I don’t think this person is one!

3 years ago

Keeeeeep it

3 years ago

Keep the wallpaper, replace or modify the confusing “farmhouse” style door, replace the vanity knobs and light fixtures w/ something sleeker!

Kristal Simel
3 years ago

Keep the wallpaper

3 years ago

Keep the wallpaper. Paint the outer window frames and vanity black to stand up to it. Darling

3 years ago

Keep the wallpaper on the ceiling and paint over it (or remove it) on the walls with white. Then the pink tile can have its moment but the charm of the original paper isn’t lost!

Vanessa G Parscale
3 years ago

KEEP for the wallpaper! Also I love these posts!

3 years ago

Lose the wallpaper and you’ll gain so much in return!

Marci Lambert
3 years ago

keep that wallpaper, but paint the vanity black. and change the lighting. it will be gorgeous.

Michelle Tillett
3 years ago

Keep wallpaper, it is back in style and one less thing to worry about.

Stacey Clarimundo
3 years ago

Paint the vanity (black??)!! Add a skirt under the sink. New hardware. Leave the wallpaper! Style the countertops….add a simple area rug. Done!

3 years ago

Perfect solution!

3 years ago

Great suggestion to paint the cabinets black or maybe a charcoal grey. LOVE the wallpaper, tile, all of it. I would wrap the light fixture with simple white linen and change the hardware to something Very modern in gold or brass.

Lynn W
3 years ago

This was a fun read!! More please 👍
Keep the wallpaper….would be a huge waste of time and you might damage the walls when removing!

3 years ago

I’m seeing a lot of “paint the wallpaper” suggestions, but what about just cover it with a removable wallpaper that is more palatable? Maybe a muted pattern or more of a textural look? I’m 50/50 on whether or not I like the wallpaper as is, but I know from experience that wallpaper can be covered with more wallpaper (I’ve removed wallpaper before to discover several layers of wallpaper below it), and if you could use removable wallpaper instead of permanent, then your friend (or the landlord!) could always go back to the 60s wallpaper if they changed their mind!

3 years ago

Keep the wallpaper. I think painting the window trim and cabinets black would help balance it out and bring the tile back into focus.

3 years ago

I actually like the wallpaper.