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Makeover Takeover: How EHD Stylist Emily Bowser Tackled Her Awkward Master Bedroom

image credits: top left via apartment therapy | top right via studio ashby | bottom left via archilovers | bottom right via sarah sherman samuel

Emily Bowser, lead EHD stylist here with some Makeover Takeover (MOTO) realness! If you read my first post about buying my income property, you know that that whole ordeal left my husband and me pretty strapped financially from the process, so getting around to actually decorating and furnishing has been a LONG process. If you haven’t read it, I bared my soul (and personal financial information) in a dissertation-style post about the woes of home buying/ownership/renovation in Los Angeles. Candid is my middle name so I figured I would approach my master bedroom/bathroom Makeover Takeover just as frank and open.

Quick recap: 

  • Bought our tiny two-on-a-lot circa 1930 income property in late 2016 for $600,000 with $22,000 down (FHA).
  • Knew we had $100,000 of work that needed to be done to the property (which we cobbled together via a renovation loan, family personal loans, work bonuses, and some savings).
  • Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Classic “I bought a lemon with no real backup plan” situation. $230,000 later, the houses are livable (but we still have very pressing issues to tackle that we’re putting off.

Considering all of that, you may be surprised to know that I am in Switzerland with my husband to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. There was an all too brief period after our refinance (and before my husband lost his job) that we felt like we weren’t in financial ruin. During that time, we bought this trip, so here we are! Luckily the trip included a lot of meals and it’s a bike trip so no rental car needed! However, you’re likely not here to read about my trip, so let’s keep going. 

About a month before we bought the place, I started working for EHD on a freelance basis. I’ve been a part of pretty much every major shoot you’ve seen for the past 3 years. So, even though you may not know me well (I try as hard as I can to stay BEHIND camera), I’ve actually been around for a minute (do the cool kids still say this?). I’ve been working on this room for that entire 3 years; that’s a long time for a space that is maybe 120 square feet (in an 863-square-foot house). Granted, it’s been a crazy few years but also A. Despite what you may assume, MOTOs are expensive (things add up fast even with some gifted items). B. I am the busiest I’ve ever been in my life. MOTOs take TIME; C. I have a thing where I take something to 80% and then halt. Good enough? Fear of failure? Decision paralysis? In this issue of Bowser Is In Over Her Head and Can Only Blame Herself, we’ll hit the numbers, the hours and the real emotional toll that even a professional, at least THIS professional, goes through. Instagram and blog photos can make it look easy, but I want to pull back the curtain and show you that it’s okay if it takes a while to design and style a space because of any/all of the aforementioned reasons. I’ll have the reveal for you tomorrow, but today, I’m walking you through the “intro”: i.e. all the insane, unknown issues we had to fix to get to the “after.”

It’s hard to know where to start because a lot of the problems I had in this house that cost real $$ were throughout the whole house (electrical, foundation, plumbing, flooring, venting, roofing, drywall, paint…you get the point) and a lot was done at the same time so breaking it down to just this room is a little tough, but let’s just go with…


When we bought the house, there were three different types of flooring—original wood in the living room and spare bedroom, tile in the dining, kitchen, laundry area, hall and bathroom, carpet in the master bedroom. Worse yet, the tiled spaces were separated. You would walk into the living room with wood floors and to the right, dining, kitchen, laundry (all connected) were tiled. You would go through the living room to the hall where the hall and bathroom on the right were tiled, the spare bedroom on the left had wood floors, and the master at the end of the hall had carpet.

Img 0431
Cute pic of the hall headed towards that gorge carpet sitch.

Bedroom Carpet

Here’s the carpet in this room close up. You can see why this room wasn’t even on the Redfin listing for the house.

The finishes were in terrible shape, but beyond that, the fact that they were all DIFFERENT finishes was almost too much. It made the space feel disjointed, which is funny because I live in a circle. You can walk from living room to hall to master to laundry to kitchen to dining to living and round and round you can go, all circling my teeny tiny bathroom (you’ll see that in the coming days, too). In the beginning stages of demo, we realized there was original wood under the dining room tile and the severely termite-damaged wood floor was actually save-able. I would have preferred to have the same flooring throughout the whole space with maybe tile in the bathroom and laundry room. It would make the small space seem the most cohesive. However, with wood in the living, dining and spare bedroom, I would save money by giving them a little love and keeping them original. After we were able to pull up the carpet in the master, we found out that not only was there NOTHING under the carpet (no padding, only subfloor) but it was not original to the house and probably added at some point in the mid-century.

There are two doors into and out of the master—one to the hall, one to the laundry (that we assume used to be a small patio). You would think if the living and spare (and I guess ONLY original) bedroom had original wood, the hall that connected them would be wood. Nope. Nothing but subfloor under that tile. For obvious reasons, it made sense for the kitchen, laundry and bathroom to be tile. To save money, we thought briefly about just replacing the carpet in the master and continuing it through the hall, which made more sense than trying to either match the original wood of the living and spare bedroom or making it the same floor as the bathroom. We still had the problem of three different flooring finishes though which I was not excited about (particularly in a home this size) so we came to the decision to make the master and hall tile, as well. This way there were only two different types of floors.


My master bedroom isn’t large, but before we took two closets out, you couldn’t fit a full bed with nightstands in this space. Where the headboard now sits were two, rather large, closets. One was for the spare bedroom, the other for this room. There was a weird but large (for the room) closet that was added on even later than the bedroom (’70s?). It’s about 5’x6′ and around the same size as the one in our former apartment (a space I knew we could make work). Two closets for the master seemed like overkill, but because each closet on that wall was a square, only taking out one closet wouldn’t give me meaningful space. Like most things in this house, it didn’t feel like we really had options, either live in a bedroom the size of a small nursery or lose two of the four closets in the house? I trusted my organizational know-how and got rid of the closets.

Old Closet

Here’s the former closet on the left. Yes, I’m very aware of how creepy this room looks even though it’s in the middle of the day, and white. Note how the closet door had to be shaved down.

Accordian Door Closet

This was the other closet with a weird ’70s accordion sliding door. 

Open Walls

This is facing the former closets after demo (the two squares on the ground covered up huge holes so no one fell through), because, turns out, the floor under the closets was very compromised and by compromised I mean falling into the abyss. I would like to say this was the first set back we had but we had already found out that the roof that was only a few years old was severely damaged (installed incorrectly) and rainwater was pouring into our already termite-infested walls and that the kitchen we were going to “live with for a few years” had water damage and we would have to do an entire kitchen renovation we weren’t planning on. No, this was maybe the fifth or sixth big thing in the (maybe) week of owning this house. At this point, we were laugh-crying at the new revelations that awaited us with every passing day. The damage? I believe it was $6,000. EVERYTHING that went wrong was $6,000. Down two closets and $6,000 invisible dollars.

Walls & Windows

There’s a waterfall effect whenever you open up walls. BEWARE. Opening up one corner near some termite damage that we found after the former tenant moved out and moved their furniture turned into the photo above and basically having to replace everything in the house. At this point, every wall was opened up. One positive to having to replace all the original electrical and every window in the house? New drywall. Most of the house was the original stucco and it made it feel like the walls were caving in on you. It would be gorgeous in a bigger house with more character but in this little bungalow, it was aggressive.

All the windows, sans the laundry room window, were replaced. They were put in some time in the ’50s and not put in well. Almost all of them had water damage and then the termites had come in and destroyed the wood framing. We kept the windows in the same places and I think all the same size in this room (that’s almost always the cheapest route). Something kind of funny about this house is how low the windows are. In this room, they are only 26 inches from the floor. They are also on three of the walls and awkwardly in the middle of them, this made finding furniture, specifically storage furniture that we desperately needed after removing two closets, very hard.

First Window Photo
Former closet, small window with old AC window unit (fun fact: used men’s tighty-whiteys used as insulation for that unit); bigger window to right.
Here’s the low and largest window next to the closet we kept.
Two Doors
This room has two “entrance” doors. One, to the right of the window, goes to the laundry (which I presume used to be a patio). The open door goes to the hall.

Storage Problem-Solving

Removing the closets fixed our first problem: where to put a bed. Initially, we had an IKEA storage bed in there because we could not, for the life of us, find a low enough dresser to fit anywhere in the room without blocking a window. We also bought an IKEA storage bench to hold all of our extra sheets and blankets to free up space in our hall closet.

Progress Bedroom

The bed was a little too high and clunky for our tastes, so we eventually replaced it with a very cheap and simple Overstock bed that I knew would eventually work with the headboard I had ideated but didn’t have the money to execute at the moment (inspiration below). The nightstands above are vintage and I’ve had them since 2011(?). They were too shabby chic for my tastes now but again, they fit in the space, had a lot of storage, and didn’t require $$. I painted them that dark charcoal when we lived in our last space, which made them feel less cottage-y. The marble light on the right used to be in our living room a few years ago and it was our only light other than the ceiling one until literally last week. I know everyone is going to ask about the wall hanging. I’m sorry to say that it is vintage. I found it in Seattle and it is part of a buoy line? I think that’s what they’re called. Like lane dividers in pools but cooler and not plastic. When I saw them, I had a physical reaction. My friend Lauren lent me an old bag so that I could check them and get them home. They are the muse for what the space is now (tomorrow!) but you should know I had them for a year and a half before the room actually came into fruition. I like to muse a lot, what can I say?

Speaking of musing, this was the bed I was originally influenced by on Pinterest:

image via apartment therapy

I liked the built-in feel of it with the wrap-around. I thought it would make the space seem more expansive and custom. Originally, I was going to do it with raw plywood and go all the way to the ceiling which I still think would be really cool but ultimately wanted something that felt softer. From there, the idea became: “what can I actually easily do?” Shorter, not ceiling height, and in panels (which would make for easier install). Turns out Sarah Sherman Samuel had a similar and obviously more professionally done idea for Mandy Moore’s bedroom:

Bedroom Decor Ideas 9
image and design via sarah sherman samuel

When I saw this, I did think I should scrap it all (in the name of “originality”) but ultimately it was the idea I liked the most for myself SO HERE WE ARE. I guess Mandy Moore and I have one more thing in common: two cats. We both have two cats.

Before I wrap this up, I wanted to share something I’ve found interesting about myself that might help anyone who feels “stuck” with a room design. Coming into styling, it was very very important for me to learn from Emily that you just need to start, to put the pen to paper and create. I procrastinate, possibly because my natural state is more of a muse-r and less of a do-er. Styling is DOing. Sometimes you come into a completely empty space in the morning and that space better be ready to be photographed by EOD. You cannot wait for inspiration to strike. Don’t have that completely perfect vase? Make the less than perfect options work. Or maybe put a lamp there instead. Or a decorative object. Or a glass of water. Funny thing is, when you start, inspiration generally comes. “Finished is better than perfect” is something Emily says a lot and something that was freeing for me with work but when it came to my own space, I had stopped dead in my tracks. Knowing it was going to be on the blog, that I couldn’t hide behind the brand or the camera and that this space would be just ME, that was a lot for my blend in and disappear (enneagram type 9) personality. You could say I over-mused this bedroom. Sure, I was broke, sure, I didn’t have a lot of free time but I was waiting for perfect and perfection wasn’t going to come. Perfect is boring anyway, right?

On that note, I’ll leave you with a little (black and white) sneak peek, Emily Henderson style because that lady loves a “sneak peek”. Come back tomorrow to see how this all played out in the master bedroom.

Bowser Sneak Peek

Don’t miss other posts in this series:

MOTO Reveal: Emily Bowser’s Bedroom “After” is Unrecognizable from the “Before” | DIY How-To: A Step-by-Step for Making Emily B.’s Wrap-Around Velvet Headboard


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Catarina Leal
4 years ago
Loveley of
4 years ago

i can’t WAIT to see it tomorrow! looks good from the sneak peek though! also, i cannot believe LA prices…..

4 years ago

Love the realness of this post. Renovations are a BEAST, especially on a tight budget. I know from experience, and totally relate to everything you’ve said. It sounds like you’ve handled it like a champion. I’m so excited to see your bedroom tomorrow! My bedroom has also been stuck in the “musing, not doing” phase… maybe this post will be the kick in the pants I need to FINISH THE DANG THING. (Inexpensively and imperfectly, of course! Haha!)

4 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Thanks and YES! Just do it!

4 years ago

Love the buoy wall hanging and wraparound headboard. Looking forward to the full reveal tomorrow!

4 years ago

all of these soul-baring posts on the blog are giving me LIFE. I feel (as a new condo-owner drowning in student loans with a wedding next year) so SEEN. (You mean my entire 960 sq ft condo + patio doesn’t have to be hypothetical-blog ready within 3 months?!?!)

4 years ago

Thanks for injecting a whopping dose of reality to renovation dreams. Just trying to prep and paint wood trim to frame my builder grade bathroom mirror took three trips to the hardware store (warped boards)!

Can’t wait for the reveal…

4 years ago

After looking through all those pictures, all I can say is bless you, child, for taking on this project with your husband. I think I would have cried and generally felt defeated the entire time. Have you read Daniel Kanter’s saga about the Olivebridge Cottage? It was intense and full of surprises at every turn (like no joists in the floors and half joists in the ceiling!). It was a doozy. Anyway, congratulations to you for seeing it through! Can’t wait to see the finished product.

4 years ago
Reply to  Meredith

Thanks and no, I’ll check it out now!

What don’t I know about no joists?? We had to open up the floor for some reason in the back house second bedroom and I think there was literally 2 joists in the whole room with just a piece of plywood nailed to them as a subfloor. I’m no contractor, but as a layman, every wall/floor/ceiling that was opened up I’ve been like, “Well, that can’t be right”.

4 years ago
Reply to  Meredith

OMG DANIEL. I still have random pangs of empathy for him with that cottage! What. A. Nightmare.

4 years ago

I live with a procrastinator and a living room with one wall, so on this single room, I have become a procrastinator too. By one wall, I mean that the other three comprise a fireplace, one one, and original 1920 swing doors on the other two. Furnishing thus room is HARD! I had an original 1920s sofa and chairs that I had reupholstered in fabulous retro-vibe fabric, so…chair each side of the fireplace and sofa just out from the one wall, but I soooo would live a sectional or a sofa with chaise…..or somethin’ more modern. I. Am. Paralysed. I just can’t work it out! I’ve had tape on the floor noting other sofa sizes, etc. This has been going on for yearrrrs.
Yournpost has triggered me to get with the DOING!
Thank you! 🙂
Hanging out for tomorrow’s post now……

4 years ago
Reply to  Rusty

That does sound hard! You should send in a pic for Emily to give her opinion on!

4 years ago

Hi guys. For whatever reason this morning I can’t help chiming in with some copy edits to a great post.

“left my husband and I pretty strapped” —> “left my husband and me pretty strapped” (because you would say “left me,” not “left I.”

“I basically bore my soul” —> “I basically bared my soul” (because you “bare” your soul and past tense is “bared.” “Bore” is the tense of “bear,” meaning “to carry.” Although I imagine you did have to carry your soul pretty often:))

4 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Here I am in France trying to speak broken French and it turns out I can barely speak my own language. Thanks! FIxed!

4 years ago
Reply to  Emily Bowser

Emily B i’d love to remind you that I wrote ‘segway’ instead of ‘segue’ and NO EDITORS CAUGHT IT. I think we all know how i’ll be spelling that word from now on (A: segway). I told brian this morning and he laughed out loud. Also I used to think ‘chest of drawers’ was ‘chester drawers’ so theres that.

4 years ago
Reply to  Emily

In the spirit of “just doing,” I’m so glad you all keep writing things down without being paralyzed by the fear of grammatical mistakes. I refrain sometimes for this fear; I think it’s a symptom of having taken the wrong message away from my English degree.

The black and white photo is beautiful! Can’t wait. Thank you for sharing with us.

4 years ago
Reply to  Emily Bowser

You are such a good sport and I am notoriously picky about language, so, big hand to you!

Mary Ann
4 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Yes! Thank you. 🙂

4 years ago

Great decision going big with the bed! The sneak-peak looks like you maximized the space! Hope you are able to forget everything and enjoy your needed vacation!

Rachelle Biondolillo
4 years ago

Thank you thank you thank you for putting words to my condition… I thought it was just me who got stymied in the mire of (great) information and inspiration that is available to us nowadays. Thus, I sit every weekend at my computer on Pinterest and this blog, but never put much to action. As a youngish first-time home owner and newlywed in 2005, my house flooded in Katrina due to the New Orleans levee failures. I had a few magazines and an architect to start over. No Pinterest at that time. Everything at our fingertips nowadays was non-existent or fledgeling. I didn’t even know my own tastes well. I am very pleased with the living spaces, but my bedrooms are pretty hodge-podge style-wise. I couldn’t accumulate things over time, I had to buy everything, right away. So now I have furniture and curtains, etc, that would cost a lot of money to replace, because I’ve already spent a lot of money. I wouldn’t know where to begin selling things for a good price. Anyway, I’m trying to find ideas to make what I have work better, but nothing is HAPPENING yet, so I really appreciate your understanding, candor, and… Read more »

4 years ago

Thanks Rachelle! I’m sorry about your house!

I agree, the amount of information/inspiration we can get our hands on these days is a blessing, it really is, but it can also be an overload that stunts us. Something I have a hard time with, is I like a LOT of styles. I pin allllll kinds of things but the reality of either how much it would cost (champagne taste, beer budget) or I love it but I don’t necessarily want to live with it OR it’s just not right for my house. My good friends bought a cottage a few years ago and I did a lot of shopping with them and then I started buying all this stuff from flea markets that didn’t really make sense with my style even though I DO love it. It’s confusing. I think I’ve figured out this house/this time in my life though so hopefully things start to speed up!

4 years ago
Reply to  Emily Bowser

‘too many ways to skin a cat’ is a common saying at our company which i’m sure will offend somebody (although if it doesn’t offend ’emily–professional-cat-lady-bowser’ then I think we are safe). Point is – there are too many ways that a room can look good and it can be paralyzing. We are lucky, but when you have 24 different rug options for your living room and you like ALL of them, it can be so hard to make a decision. Good luck Rachelle 🙂

4 years ago

Those “before” pictures all make me cringe – bravo for seeing the possibilities and sticking with it! I’m excited to see the final design of your bedroom. My heart skipped a bit over the mustard/gold inspiration pic. Have fun in Switzerland!

4 years ago

This is off topic, but I was so interested in this article I went and clicked the first article about all the things that happened after you first bought the property. I read through the comments and saw someone suggest insurance in case of disability, and pregancy was also mentioned. As the comments on the first article are now closed, I wanted to mention to you that here in the US pregnancy is considered an unusual or atypical condition (that’s what the 2 insurance companies I’ve used called it) and you must get that added to a medical insurance policy as a kind of rider. Then, you have to have the pregnancy policy for a certain number of months before you can take full advantage of it (where I live it’s 6mos-1year depending on what medical procedure is being done). Some places I’ve heard it’s basically just 1 month, and CA seems a good candidate for being that place. So, if you haven’t checked, you should do that ASAP. This is not something to stress over or put off cause you’re scared of the answer. Just call the insurance company, ask them if pregnancy is covered in your policy. If… Read more »

4 years ago
Reply to  DeniseGK

Wow, that’s a lot of information. I was laughing to myself, as my MO tends to be think a lot about stuff without doing anything constructive, and then all of a sudden just jump in, if I’ll prepare myself any more for birthing children than I have for, I dunno, ANYTHING else in life?

Maybe I’ll surprise everyone and look into all this. Wanna be my life coach?

Also – do you know about the enneagram and are you a 6?

4 years ago

I’m also an Enneagram 9 and I totally feel ya! I don’t know if I’ve ever actually finished a room, but I have a lot of ideas. I guess I’m also a muse-r and not always a do-er. Can’t wait to see your room!

4 years ago

Looking good in B&W!

Does anyone know how far above a bedside table a pendant light should hang? Does it look like 12-18″?

It’s easy to find the height above a dinging room table but I can’t find what the height should be above a beside table and I’ve asked here 2-3 times already but I think I was too late in the comments for any of Emily’s team to see the question.

4 years ago
Reply to  Brooke

I can only answer from my own experience that it depends on (1) size of overall pendant and (2) function(s) of the light . If you need it for reading in particular, you have to test out placement to see where the light will cast over into the bed space. I’d try out different positions to find the ideal functional placement and then see how you feel about that in terms of design and scale.

4 years ago
Reply to  Steven

I agree with this. Also depends on the height of a headboard, the ceiling and height of any art over the bed (if there is any). I goggle rules to have an idea of where to start but ultimately will make a decision based on someone holding it (my husband) and saying “one inch up, half inch down, one inch up, two inches down. HOLD. *takes a picture, stares at it* Hold it up again…one inch upppp…theeeeeeere. STOP. HOLD IT STILL I”M TRYING TO MEASURE!!

If it’s a fixture where I have to order it exact I just hold something a similar shape and size up (a bowl? another llght?)

4 years ago
Reply to  Steven

@steven @Emily Bowser – Thanks for the replies! haha I was hoping it would be an easy dimension (a rule I could follow) but I suppose you’re both right!

The headboard is bed to ceiling (king sized bed) and the pendants are Panton Flowerpot lights on teak swing arms.

I need to get the lights rewired with a switch added on but I’ve been leery about doing it since I wasn’t sure how far down the switch needed to be to hide behind the beside tables with the pendants hanging. I’ll just have to do a mock up with the existing wire. Thanks!

Donna T.
4 years ago

Very cute and REAL post. Appreciate your explanations of your personality and why it can be hard to start or finish something, especially when you know it’s going on a blog with many design wannabes who will comment on everything! 🙂

Annie P
4 years ago

A VERY (I jest, it’s not important at all) note – Mandy Moore has three cats. Let’s be honest, I follow her on IG mostly for those cats.

4 years ago
Reply to  Annie P

oh SH*T I guess I need another CAT???

4 years ago
Reply to  Emily Bowser

JA JA JA JA Buena respuesta!!

Faizan Ahmed
4 years ago

Good and very interesting post

4 years ago

I was pretty impressed by the coherence and balance in your “in-between” bedroom!

Monique Wright
4 years ago

Can’t wait to see more! ? Our own houses are so much harder!