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…
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.
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? 😉
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!
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. 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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”.
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!).
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?