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Our Next Feel Good Makeover With Designer/Blogger Shavonda Gardner And Her 4 Awesome Nieces and Nephews

Oh I’m VERY EXCITED. Four kids. Three bedrooms. A full makeover for a military family with a huge dose of holiday cheer. We need this right now, the country needs to celebrate military right now (and always) and Andrea, a single mom who is an Air Force ICU nurse – an essential worker who has been deployed in hospitals since Covid hit – DESERVES to not to have to stress about decorating her kid’s bedrooms right now. Let’s celebrate Veterans Day properly. And perhaps even, (less importantly so) IN STYLE.

First off, I’ve always wanted to do a home for an active vet as their job is HARD, the lifestyle is challenging and their sacrifice to our country and for our safety runs deep. I’m not saying that pedantically, I’ve been known to start the applause at airport terminals for active military when they are invited to board the plane early. That should be a standing ovation every single time. I’ll clap for them forever. A simple THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE is never enough, so a makeover is in order.

Here’s how it went down. In June, Shavonda and I zoomed to talk about the ‘share the mic: home edition‘ initiative (coordinated by the amazing Albie) that we did on Instagram. We are mutual fans of each other so a brainstorm began about how we could collaborate consistently, and a feel good makeover was our goal (because it’s always my goal). If you follow Shavonda (please do, she’s authentic and brave) you’d know that her sister Andrea and her 4 kids just bought a house down the street from her. They were starting over and didn’t have a lot to furnish the space (and she is so busy with working on the front lines + 4 kids, so decorating her house can’t be her priority right now). The timing was pretty perfect and Shavonda and I know how to decorate rooms.

Target has told me to come to them with any Feel Good Makeovers as they would love to support, so I pitched it to them and they said YES immediately because they are wonderful people who also want the world (and families) to feel good. Off we went to design the bedrooms of these beautiful kids together. Thank you, Target – I’m so grateful for this company, always. Now, let’s meet everyone.

Shavonda Gardener is a FORCE. After 6 years in the Air Force, actually. she is now a designer/blogger/content creator with a very engaged Instagram following and a bold, awesome, maximalist aesthetic. Lord knows I love seeing design courage and a fresh approach on the internet and she has it (check out her living room and bathroom) – we need more of this and the world needs more of her.

Her sister, Andrea is, active in the Airforce as an ICU nurse that has had to be deployed nationally for Covid (away from her kids) because hospitals were struggling to help patients and needed more professionals. She is literally on the front lines of this pandemic, keeping people alive and keeping us safe while we quarantine – which is the least we can do. So I want to again say a collective ‘THANK YOU SO SO SO SO SO MUCH FOR YOUR SERVICE’. These are the people who deserve our love, attention, and service right now. This is how we should be spending our energy. And it felt like a pretty darn great way to spend some of my time. Plus these kids…

Andrea’s family (Shavonda’s niece and nephews) includes 12-year-old Ariyah, 7-year-old Devin, and two twin 3-year-old boys – Isaiah and Jayden. That’s a lot. I have two kids, a live-in partner and I don’t work 12-hour shifts an hour away so I can’t imagine how busy Andrea is (spoiler, her “new neighbor”/sister Shavonda helps a lot). It takes a village. Andrea’s girlfriend, Symphone, is also in the military (Army, stationed in Washington State) and is holding a very cute puppy in that photo. Here they are not holding puppies 🙂

The house has been recently flipped and they just moved in so we have a really simple and bright blank canvas to work with.

First, there are twin 3-year-old boys, Jayden and Isaiah, who are transitioning out of toddler beds into big boy twin beds. Obviously, our goal is to make it fun, playful, young (and functional).

I had ONE 3-year-old boy and the three year age was A LOT, so the thought at 2 at that age is, HOT DOG. But I’m sure they are super easy and didn’t have the epic tantrums that one of my kids did – I mean, see how sweet do they look? 🙂

Since they just moved in and they basically just have two toddler beds and that’s it. This actually makes our job a lot easier because we don’t have to try to work in much stuff that might not work and design-wise can start from scratch and get pieces (all from Target) that will last a long time and grow with them.

Devin, the 7-year-old boy is ready to get an upgrade to a big bed (a daybed to help open the space) and there might be some wonderful other things in store that rhyme with ‘mar bores’. He also wants RED in the room and you don’t have to ask me or Shavonda twice to bring red into a room.

All the rooms are relatively small, but they are without a lot of awkward problems or big challenges which makes designing from a distance easier.

Lastly is Ariyah, a 12-year-old girl who is ready for her tween bedroom. This was especially fun because she is old enough to weigh in on a lot of the design which obviously makes us happy to know that she is going to like it.

Designing together and from a distance was a new challenge but, well, 2020 Folks, so Shavonda and I had weekly calls to set up art direction, order everything and coordinate deliveries, etc.

The above photos were my attempt to show us looking at each other and “designing together”, which turned out rather romantically but point is – doing this together will be SO FUN. We have different styles but you know how I feel about combining styles (it’s my favorite thing) plus it’s all about Andrea and the kids, not us. HEY SHAVONDA, LETS HAVE FUN.

We start installing and shooting on Monday the 16th (next week). I want to be very clear that everyone is testing, getting negative results, and quarantining the entire time to work safely together (with of course have a strict mask and distancing protocol in place). We may not get the same big group shots that we have in the past, but it’s not really about that and that’s ok. The family is moving out for the week so we can safely do our thing. And ultimately the goal is more about the family than our content (but you know there will be fun masked up stuff on social).

This started out about the kids, but for me it’s turned much more into a gift for Andrea, even though I haven’t met her yet, as one mom (or two) to another mom. I’ve never been a single mother. I’ve never had four kids and I’ve never been in the military serving others on the frontline all day every day. But all of those things individually let alone combined into one person shows an incredible amount of hard work and sacrifice, and warrants a lot of admiration and thanks. So if we can reduce the stress of pulling together her kid’s rooms (and add a HUGE burst of holiday cheer thanks to Target) then that’s the least we can do. It’s a small token of our thanks to BOTH Shavonda and Andrea for their service to our country.

LET IT BEGIN. Head over to Shavonda’s to hear more about her and Andrea’s family. And start watching both of our social media today and especially on Monday (Nov 16th – 5 days from now) as the feel good makeover happens (go ahead and follow her here NOW:)), and expect it to be revealed here on this blog (and Shavonda’s) shortly thereafter. IT WILL BE A HAPPY HOLIDAY INDEED.

Happy Veterans day to Shavonda, Andrea, and ALL of you military personnel and families out there, past active, and future. If we could do a feel good makeover on all of your homes we would. I think it should be a show, actually. Service for those who serve. It writes itself.

Thank you all for your service. Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow and Forever. Happy Veterans Day. xx

Photo Credits: Opener Photo of Shavonda by Kachet Jackson-Henderson, Opener Photo of Emily by Veronica Crawford, From: The 3 Stylish, Comfortable Pants I Wear ALL the Time | Photo of Emily in Wallpapered Room by Sara Ligorria-Tramp, From: A Romantic Glam Bedroom Makeover With Opalhouse By Target

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Cassie Bustamante
3 years ago

GAH! I am so excited about this! Love you both, and the thing that I love most about you (aside from killer design skills) is that you both have HEART and are willing to stand for what you believe in. Andrea is such a deserving person, and can’t wait to see where this goes! All the feels this morning!

3 years ago

100 % agreed. I see other top design influencers like Chris Loves Julia and Studio McGee delete comments tied to the election on Instagram and I respect Emily even more for standing up for what she believes and walking the talk on the commitments she has made on inclusivity and diversity on the blog.

Kudos Emily! I came here for the design but will stay for the person you are and continuously evolve to be.

3 years ago

Amazing on many levels this one, cannot wait to see the final results ❤

3 years ago

Looking forward to this so much. I love following both of you and can’t wait to see what you come up with together. Heading over to read Shavonda’s post now.

3 years ago

Baaaahhhhh so excited for this!! Can Middle Management please make it into some photos too?

3 years ago
Reply to  Meredith

If you know, you know 😉

3 years ago

I cannot wait for this–two of my favorite interior designers coming together for such an amazing project!

And if you’re not already following Shavonda on Instagram, you really should check her out. Her stories are always the first ones I watch!

3 years ago
Reply to  Rachel

Yeah, if only to find out when Naomi is going to get her pool;).

3 years ago
Reply to  Rachel

This was my first thought too! How magical is this combination?!?

3 years ago

Oooh, this week just keeps getting better and better on my favourire blog!
Today is Rememberance Day jn Australia, so kn point topic here too.

Emily, thank you for recognising the people who deserve the recognition.
BTW: You’re doing some good community service yourself, lady!

Great idea for a TV show … feel like pitching it??

3 years ago

My two faves designing together? To do something kind for someone extremely deserving? I CANNOT WAIT. My body is ready for all the feels.

3 years ago

I love your feel good flash makeovers, and I love Shavonda. This is going to be so good! Even better that these sweet kiddos will have rooms that speak to who they are. I can’t wait!

3 years ago

I’ve been reading this blog for a million zillion years and have never been so EXCITED FOR A MAKEOVER!!! Shavonda, best ever ✔️✔️ military makeover ✔️✔️✔️ Military ICU nurse ?!?! ✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️ Kids ✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️ Holiday ✔️✔️✔️✔️. Cannot wait!!!

3 years ago

I feel good already:).

I love you and Shavonda both. Sure, you’ve got different aesthetics. But I feel like you both stay open to your readers in a way that matters. Can’t wait to read and support.

3 years ago

YAY! Love Shavonda, love Emily — what a dream team. Can’t wait to see more of Andrea’s home and beautiful family.

3 years ago

Such a great project, I can’t wait to see how it turns out!!

3 years ago

Yay!! I loooove Shavonda! What a great project, can’t wait to follow along!

3 years ago

Welp this made me unexpectedly tear up (happily) today so I should probably carve out some time for an at-home desk cry next week when it’s unveiled!!! LOVE this!!!

3 years ago


3 years ago

This is the content I am here for! 2 of my favs designing together?!?! Yes!!!

3 years ago

Excellent all around! Looking forward to reading more about the process & outcome.

3 years ago

Oh my gosh I am so excited to see you two collaborate!!!!!!!!!

Also those sweet little boys faces. My heart.

Lastly, stoked to see major Star Wars influences.

Oh okay, another thought, if they need anything, I would donate.

Thank you veterans!!!!!

3 years ago

Yessss!!! Super excited for this! What a wonderful thing to do. I really love your feel good makeovers and to do this for a someone in the military and first responder, I can’t applaud this more.

3 years ago

Love Shavonda, I’m so excitedddd!!!!!!!!

3 years ago

Soooo excited for this! Andrea, I hope you bask in this amazing, well deserved gift. It’s so uplifting to get to see good people being uplifted. Thank you for your service on all fronts and for sharing this story with us.

And as a military wife, Emily, thank you so much for your kind words to vets. It’s easy to feel unappreciated, but NOT HERE!

Go Andrea, go shavonda, go em!

Carrie P
3 years ago

I am so here for this. Love Shavonda and her beautiful family, her hero sister and her amazing family, and Target. Cannot wait for this and the inevitable Middle Management cameo. 🙂

3 years ago

I love this! Can’t wait to see what you do!

3 years ago

While I am really looking forward to seeing the ultimate design, I simply have to say that nothing can ever be cuter than the picture of the twin boys in the stroller. There is nothing sweeter or cuter than little boys and this is a matching set.

Mom deserves this and so much more! Thank you for giving it to her.