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New Project Alert! Em And Key Are Designing The Main Bedroom Suite in The 2021 Real Simple Home

Hi guys! I know it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me, but guess what? I’m still here! The EHD team asked me to stay around a bit longer (yay!) and even hired me as the EHD Insider Community Design Consultant/Liaison (whoop whoop!). I’ve only been in my new role for a couple of weeks, but it’s been so fun consulting, connecting, and chatting all things design with you guys! 

P.S. if you’re not a part of the EHD Insider Community, you should be! (you can sign-up here)

But I’m not here to talk about my new role, but rather a TOP SECRET project I’ve been working on behind the scenes with Emily. 

Ready to hear what it is? Drumroll please… 

illustration via real simple

Em & I are co-designing a room in the 2021 Real Simple Home! For those who don’t know, the Real Simple Home is a showhouse created by Real Simple magazine. They collaborate with a team of pro interior designers and organizers to decorate each room and feature the home in an upcoming issue of their magazine. Each room is filled with clever ideas and products that their readers can shop and implement in their own homes. This is the magazine’s fourth showhouse, but this year’s house is a little different. Instead of just decorating a move-in ready penthouse in NYC as they did in previous years, they are doing a full-gut renovation on a 1910, 3-story dutch-colonial, located in Westfield, N.J. 

original graphic via real simple (edited by ehd)

Top Row (Left to Right): Em! | Me! | Ryia Jose | Second Row (Left to Right): Delia Kenza | Katie Holdefehr | Eduardo Rodriguez | Third Row (Left to Right): Raili Clasen | Natalie Papier | Nikki Boyd | Leslie Corona

With the help of New Jersey build team Gialluisi Custom Homes, Emily and I, along with extremely talented designers like Raili Clasen, Natalie Papier, and Ryia Jose just to name a few, are each designing a room in the house. Can you imagine how swoon-worthy this home is going to be once complete? At the end, the home will be put on the market for sale! I’m currently trying to convince my husband that we should move to NJ (although I doubt we could afford it). Maybe I should try to convince one of you guys to buy it and then let me move in… any EHD readers currently looking to buy in New Jersey? 😉 

photo by jennifer lomeli | via real simple

Emily and I have been keeping this secret from you all since January (sorry), so before I get into the design details, let me backtrack and tell you how all of this came to be. Back in January, Real Simple approached Emily to be one of the showhouse designers, and of course, she said, yes! But, designing a room (across the country) in the midst of moving to Portland, renovating the farmhouse, and building a river house… oh and let’s not forget WRITING A BOOK…plus pandemic…is A LOT. Sheesh! Just reading that makes me exhausted. So she asked if I would help, and also of course, I said, yes!

via real simple
via real simple

It was such an honor to be brought on board for this project, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous about the whole thing. This would be my first time working/collaborating with another designer, and as we learned in Max’s post, every designer’s process is different. So co-designing (as fun as it is), often means compromise. 

Thankfully, Emily and I actually have very similar design processes (ie. it starts on Pinterest), and are drawn to similar aesthetics (ie. cottage-y, old-world meets new). But, I think the main difference between us is that Em is way faster at making decisions than me. I’m the type that wants to scour through ALLLLL the options before I pull the trigger on something, while Em is more of the “I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it”  type. ::Alexa, play Ariana Grande::

I’m sure having hundreds of design projects under her belt and being in the thick of two major renovations has contributed to her ability to make quick selections (which was so necessary because we didn’t have much time to pull the design together to begin with), but from a mentee POV, it’s been such a great learning experience seeing how quickly and confidently she operates…with the exception of those two times she accidentally purchased miniature furniture. 😉

design by cameron ruppert | photo by stacy zarin goldberg

Although this is technically an EHD project (that I’m assisting on), Emily expressed that she truly wanted this to be a collaborative experience and for us to work hand in hand to come up with a design direction (which I thought was so considerate of her). So before we discussed our individual wants/desires/design ideas for the space, we decided to start a shared Pinterest board and pin, pin, pin to our hearts content to come up with a design avatar. 

design by sean anderson | photo by alyssa rosenheck 

It wasn’t long before we realized we were both pinning similar inspo pics: rooms that had statement wallpaper, or moody color paneling, mixed multiple patterned furniture pieces, and florals. Lots of florals. All of which are key identifiers of Emily’s infamous love for the “Eccentric English Grandma” (EEG) aesthetic.

design by anna haines | photo by andrew steel

Now, that’s what I call Synergy! …or maybe I’ve just been severely influenced by EHD? In either case, we were both on the same page. And then, Emily found this wallpaper from House of Hackney and all the stars aligned– the universe, or perhaps a little divine intervention from Aunt Flossy (Emily’s late aunt who EEG is inspired by) had given us the perfect jumping-off point for the design.

House of Hackney Artemis Wallpaper

design and photo by paige cartledge

If you’re a faithful EHD reader then you’re no stranger to the “Eccentric English Grandma” aesthetic (perhaps you may even be sick of us referencing it). This style concept was first mentioned on this blog circa 2020 (here). 

::Sidebar: I like prefacing 2020 with the word “circa” because it makes it sound like it was a long time ago, and boy do I want that year to be a distant memory.::

As Emily describes it (EEG), “it’s full of moody rich colors, dark wood tones, granny-inspired patterns, wicker accents, and a heavy dose of “weird”. Think of the coolest old English grandma you’ve ever met, whose home tells a story you want to know all about.” 

But since then, EEG has been more of an EHD buzzword than a proven design concept. You see, although in theory it seems like it would translate into a really cool space, EHD has never actually implemented that aesthetic IRL. 

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: living room update – again – our new sofa, my dream floral chaise and the pop of red I always wanted in my life

The closest we got was Em’s latest (and final…I can’t believe she’s moving) living room iteration which she described as “Almost Off her Rocker But Like Not Really Eclectic Grandma”. And although Julie did design an “Eclectic English” bedroom for Apartment Therapy’s small/cool event last year circa 2020, it was a virtual room. If only we could have all enjoyed it in person! So again, up to this point, we’ve had no real-life examples of this aesthetic that EHD wholeheartedly endorses. 

design and rendering by julie rose | from: the design we’ll never get to see in person 

Not to sound dramatic, but this is a PARAMOUNT moment for EHD, because for the first time EVER we will actually get to see if Eccentric English Grandma is as cool of a space in real life as it seems on paper, or if EHD has been misguiding readers this whole time. DUN DUN DUNNN….

Drama and expectations aside, we had the most gorgeous House of Hackery wallpaper and Aunt Flossy’s blessing, so it was time to start designing. 3000 miles away. With only a floor plan to refer to. FUN!

Being that Emily’s in LA/Portland, I live in Maryland, and the showhouse is in New Jersey, we’ve had to design everything virtually, without ever stepping foot in the space. Definitely not ideal, but common given the times we’re living in.

The Real Simple Home has 5 bedrooms, and we are tackling the primary suite. From an architectural standpoint, there were two main concerns for us. First, this renovation would be a complete gut, so although the home was built in 1910 it would essentially look/feel like a new construction once complete. This may sound like a plus for some, but not when you are trying to design a space that looks/feels like an awesome grandma’s house. We knew we would need to find ways to add the charm and character (that was probably demo’d out) back in. 

our personal floorplan

Second, after reviewing the floorplan, Emily noticed that because of the placement of the windows we wouldn’t be able to center the bed on the wall without it covering one of the windows. And positioning the bed off-center would just look/feel weird. 

So we began to brainstorm ideas on how we could add some architectural interest to the space as well as solve the off-centered bed dilemma. Adding wall paneling and intricate mouldings, vaulting the ceiling, exposing the beams, adding a fireplace, and relocating the windows (so the bed could be centered) were some of the ideas Emily presented to the builder. All of which were denied, with the exception of the wall paneling. Hey, that’s better than nothing! 

So we decided to do T&G paneling on the bottom half of the wall, and then the HOH wallpaper on top. The bed will still have to be off-centered, but hopefully people will be so captivated by the wall treatment they won’t notice. Ha! 

design by jason reeves| photo by maggie braucher | via remodelista

Unfortunately, we can’t share the design plans with you quite yet, but I will say there were a few caveats when it came to furniture selections. You guys know that Em (and myself) love all things vintage, and a BIG part of the EEG aesthetic is for it to look/feel like it’s been curated over a long period of time, which typically means incorporating vintage pieces. However, the main goal of the RS home is for readers to be able shop what they see, so all the major furnishings had to be sourced from online retailers. Although this somewhat limited us in our selections, it was actually a really exciting challenge to find “new” pieces that felt unique and timeless and could invoke a vintage feel.

design by tenley masson of zoe feldman design | photo by stacy zarin goldberg

I know some of these inspo photos will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Eclectic design is not for everyone. But as Emily says, “perfection is boring, let’s get weird”, and EEG is all about embracing all things eccentric and, well, kinda weird. But don’t worry we will be “taming” some of those (weirdo) vibes a bit for “commercial” reasons. Again, the whole point of the Real Simple house is for it to be filled with design ideas that can appeal to a wide range of readers. So going full-fledged EEG may be a bit much for some most people. For example, I originally wanted to do a custom headboard in the same floral print as the wallpaper and then have the wallpaper and headboard aligned in a way that it looks like one cohesive print. Gratefully, Em reeled me in a bit on that idea. Instead, we are just going to let the floral wallpaper be the statement (and a STATEMENT she will definitely be), but then incorporate more print and pattern with rugs and textiles, which should be much more palatable for the general public. The below inspo pic is that “balance” we are going for — unexpected and interesting, but not too “weird”.

design by rita konig | photo by eric piasecki

So technically, this room may not have alllll the EEG vibes (I think we’ll have to wait for the second (victorian) farmhouse reveal for that). BUT, it’s going to be a VERY pretty room, that stylistically feels unique and fresh while still being approachable and attainable for Real Simple and EHD readers, alike. 

This is the latest pics we have of the space. Big shout out to Ryia Jose for snapping these for us when she was there the other week (she’s designing the home office. Can’t wait to see her space!).

progress pic of walk-in closet

As of today, Emily & I still haven’t seen the space or any of the furnishings in person…please send up a prayer that everything actually looks good together and is the right size/scale for the room. As you can see, the house is still in the construction phase due to covid-delays, so we won’t physically be in the space until it’s time for install, which is currently scheduled for mid-July (pending covid delays). Again, please send up a prayer that everything actually looks good together and is the right size/scale for the room. And then, the home will be photographed and debuted in the October 2021 issue of Real Simple mag. So exciting!

Unfortunately, we won’t be able to share the final reveal with you guys until after it’s published. BUT, for my EHD Insider crew out there (hollaaa!!), I’ll try to share a few sneak peeks with you guys when I’m there for install. Again, if you’re not signed up, ya should be so we can chat all the time!

Needless to say, we are absolutely thrilled to be a part of this year’s show house! Huge thanks to Real Simple magazine! And Thank you Emily for bringing me on board! So let’s chat! Do you think this (modified) Eccentric English Grandma aesthetic will live up to its hype, IRL?



Opening Image Credits: Design by Tenley Masson of Zoe Feldman Design | Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg

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6 days ago

What a fun project! I am a big fan of “hero” wallpaper (same pattern on walls/headboard etc). I’m sure it’s going to be great! Glad your back, Key!

6 days ago
Reply to  Jenny

Glad i’m not alone! Thank you and Happy to be back 🙂

6 days ago

This is so fun! I like where you are headed with the space and can’t wait to see it. I enjoyed reading your writing this morning!
Currently scanning my walls to see where I can sneak in more granny

6 days ago
Reply to  Karen

Haha! Yes to more granny! and thanks so much for reading 🙂

6 days ago

YES! The wallpaper and pattern mixing is still very much speaking to me! Rita Konig is the perfect inspiration person for this and I love the room you pulled above. I love the idea of you and Em finding commercial pieces that fit in with the aesthetic, even if the full goal would be to find vintage. This definitely helps the rest of us achieve the final look, and may even be more cost effective than a one-of-a-kind antique gem.

6 days ago
Reply to  Liz

I’m obsessed with EVERYTHING Rita Konig does! And I agree, the end look will be much more achievable for all, which is great!

6 days ago

Just bought a 1920 Dutch Colonial in the southeast, so I am extra excited to see what each designer/team creates here! Ours is two stories but we’re already dreaming about the possibility of renovating the attic as a third floor some day. Our house has some sweet original details, some patched over things we’re hoping to restore, and some seriously uneven floors to also prove its age. 😂

6 days ago
Reply to  Rue

This sounds SO exciting! Enjoy!

6 days ago
Reply to  Rue

How exciting! It sounds lovely, uneven floors and all!

6 days ago

This is so exciting! I can’t wait to see what the two of you create, even though EEG is really not my cup of tea (heh heh).

6 days ago
Reply to  molly

Thank you! I’m defintiely not a full blown EEG girl either (when it comes to my own home), but its been fun to try to create something unique and different for this project!

6 days ago

I love eclectic/eccentric if the layering/colors are harmonious in their dissonance (hah!)
Sheila Bridges (@harlemtoilegirl) is the GOAT.

6 days ago
Reply to  Lisa

And added to say, I bet this will be gorgeous.

6 days ago
Reply to  Lisa

Sheila Bridges is sooo amazing and I miss her being on my tv and all over the internet so much! I did not know (how? how?!) that she was on instagram, thanks for the heads up!

6 days ago
Reply to  Lisa

YESSS! Sheila Bridges is definitely the GOAT!

Cris S.
6 days ago

Very excited to see you lean into this style – I love it and have similar rooms in my home. I registered for china in a William Morris pattern when I got married. In fact I have a similar curtain fabric in my kitchen ( So, I say this with love, but there is something about that particular wallpaper (the aggressive way the flowers are drawn and the combination of colors) that instantly said The Yellow Wallpaper to me. I just don’t think I could sleep under a wall that insists you dream of the Little Shop of Horrors.
Which lead me to the realization that while I have and have been adding pattern all over my house, I haven’t in the bedroom. Yes, the colors there are darker (mahogany wood and a deep blue on the walls) but it is a very calm and quiet room for sleeping. To each their own.

6 days ago
Reply to  Cris S.

Well great, you just ruined the wallpaper for me 😉 lol j/k. I’ll admit, the florals are a bit strange, which is actually why I like it. lol I think once the room is all pulled together you’ll have nothing but sweet dreams in this space 🙂

5 days ago
Reply to  Cris S.

I thought the same thing about the wallpaper. It’s interesting but not restful. The yellow and black in one of the flowers makes me think of bees… and then naturally, think of getting stung.

6 days ago

Um, a headboard that matches the pattern of the wallpaper sounds amazing and not at all “wierd” to me. One vote for adding that back in!

6 days ago
Reply to  alexa

Right!? ….or are we just weirdos? 😉

6 days ago

Key, great post! And congrats on your new role/s.
The post is really well, written (just fix “Hackery” wallpaper), engaging and fun!🤗

I’m so pleased to see “Primary” being used by you/EHD instead of master, yet crushed that the Real Simple Home has a “master” bath, “master” closet and “master” bedroom.
Is there a way to bring them up-to-speed with the non-racist lingo?? Hello…BLM ain’t over. 🧐
Especially if it’s going to be published widely.

I have full confidence that the two of you can bring this (modified) Eccentric English Grandma aesthetic to fruition IRL! Looking forward to seeing it all.

6 days ago
Reply to  Rusty

It says “personal floorplan”… Makes me think EHD chose that phrasing…

6 days ago
Reply to  nonny

That’s just a copy of the floorplan we received from the builder.

6 days ago
Reply to  Rusty

Thanks Rusty, the floor plans are from the builder, not RS.

6 days ago
Reply to  Keyanna

The builders need a ‘poke’ to change their language too.
We are the standard we accept/walk past. 👍

4 days ago
Reply to  Rusty

Rusty I find that you often bring important points to a discussion, but your tone appears so judgmental and you make so many demands of others.

Samantha Deitch
6 days ago

Ok, so I think the off-centered window will be a blessing in disguise – that’s exactly the kind of wabi-sabi detail that makes EEG work, IMO. With the fun wallpaper and all the other layers you guys have planned, I know it’s going to be just delightful.

6 days ago

Hm! Good point. Way to turn lemons into lemonade!

6 days ago

After seeing the inspo picture, I hope y’all are inspired by that lovely bedframe as much as you are the various patterns. Caning is about to have its time in the mainstream spotlight (I realize this trend has already landed for those in design) and it would look really good with that wallpaper – letting just enough peek through.

6 days ago
Reply to  DeniseGK

That bedframe is SO lovely and I’m OBSESSED with caning and it has definitely made it to the mainstream spotlight. Our bedframe won’t be cane, but definitely incorporating cane (and other textures) into the design.

6 days ago

So fun! Key – Love hearing more from you on the blog! 🙂

6 days ago
Reply to  Kelly

Thank you! Happy to be back!

6 days ago

FUN what kind of flooring will be in the house?

6 days ago
Reply to  MJ

Thanks! Wood flooring throughout.

6 days ago

Sooo, the Tenley Masson room up front. Where can I get that wallpaper for
my house? I don’t see it listed. Maybe Google images.

6 days ago
Reply to  Pearl

Isn’t that wallpaper fabulous! I’m not for sure, but I think it’s Morris &Co.

5 days ago
Reply to  Pearl
5 days ago
Reply to  Jennifer

Thank you both Keyanna and Jennifer!!!

6 days ago

Excited to see it. Though I had hoped it wouldn’t be a style that’s been around the past year or more. Bit over the moody, English look. I’m sure it will still be amazing.

5 days ago

Did you say Westfield, NJ?!? I’m so excited for my town—and a little star struck. I can’t wait to see how it all comes together.

5 days ago

Isn’t the official term for this “cottage core”? I love it, I had house of hackney wallpaper in my last house and it may have been the most beautiful wallpaper on the planet! Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Nicola O.
5 days ago

My bed is off-center against a window. I hung the curtain rod to extend the whole width of the bed and it looks great.

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