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I still remember that day 4 years ago… where I sobbed in the shower and wished that I had ‘The Handbook to Renovation’. I pitched it to my publisher the next day. And just four years later it’s ready for pre-order here:) Today. UNBELIEVABLE. It’s like I’ve been pregnant for so long, working on it so consistently that I kinda forgot that there will be a baby at some point. At the time, in 2017, my level of renovation frustration was so high and I screamed silently about a hole in the information market that demanded to be filled. They say that you don’t choose to write a book, you have to be compelled to. But having an online daily site about design could scratch that itch, right? But it doesn’t because you want it all in ONE PLACE (which is also when we reorganized the website to be more by categories of rooms for inspiration/information and resources rather than just a blog scroll).

This new book, The New Design Rules is a renovation handbook – inspired by the 1950s ‘Better Homes and Garden’ tab binder that we all love, but with photos of beautiful rooms and inspirational rule-breaking creativity. You’ll learn the construction vocabulary, distilled renovation process (and my preferences) with the intent to communicate effectively with your contractors so you don’t get man-splained, make as many mistakes, fight with your partner, and feel like a total failure. Let’s be done with all of that. And yet it’s full of beautifully styled inspirational shots of homes – kitchens, bathrooms, living, mud and bedrooms, office, basements, AND MORE. You’ll learn the “rules” so you don’t feel dumb and then BOOM you’ll be inspired to break them – thus making a CHOICE, not a MISTAKE.

I grew 100 times in creativity while researching, shooting, and writing this book. I feel so brave and empowered now and I want you to feel the same way, too. So while the book isn’t out yet you can pre-order it here if you’d like (and no, you won’t get it before Christmas). In fact, if you are planning on buying it (thank you thank you thank yo) consider pre-ordering it as the publishing supply chain is nuts and they are gauging how much they should print based on pre-orders. So basically if we don’t pre-order enough then likely it will sell out fast. And fun fact, Target has an exclusive edition with an extra chapter on home hacks, but you can also get it from the usual suspects –, Amazon, Barnes & Noble (just sadly not at your local bookseller yet unless they are listing it online). OK WITHOUT FURTHER ADO – let’s get into “The Cover’ conversation.

ROUND ONE Cover Options

So here’s how it works. Sara, Velinda, and I gave them all of our photos (like over 1k new photos) and the publisher chooses what they think will be a dynamic cover image. They know what people gravitate towards when buying design books. This shot is from Ben Mendansky‘s artist studio in LA and it’s amazing. I LOVED it. His place is insane. I liked the font, but my biggest issue was that I felt that it should be my own work/home on the cover – not because I was jealous but more like I was fearful that people would assume it’s my work and it’s Ben’s. But the world has seen all the shots of my homes so how do you keep it fresh?

It’s still fun to see the differences in the font and how it changes everything. We worked with graphic designer La Tricia Watford who also designed Styled and she is WONDERFUL. And patient:)

What I told them early on is that I want the color of the cover to pop but not be loud. I want the spine to be easy to style/integrate into a shelf and no metallic/reflective foil in the spine. I loved seeing all these options.

So then they chose a few of my own designs to play and mocked them up as the cover, while I planned a reshoot.

New Cover Mockup, Round 2

I liked these a lot, but I had two issues with them:

A. My readers (you, THANK YOU) have seen this room a lot, and B. I wanted more color. Nothing too bright but just not so annoyingly neutral.

Then they tried these two because I LOVE them for the sake of color and style (and it’s our EHD work) and I almost went with the one when I realized there was a solution…

But first, she played with more mountain house living room shots which were fun to see but the style seemed very specific and modern/contemporary, and I didn’t want to turn off people with more traditional style homes.

I wanted more color, pop, and fun at the same time being approachable and telling the story of mild remodeling OR renovation. And I wanted to play with the fonts a bit more – make it a bit cleaner and more modern.

I loved how La Tricia stacked the text in that one, and I loved the shot, the angle, the negative space. But I wanted more color and frankly, I wanted something you guys haven’t seen before. So I called Sara and she came up to reshoot specifically for the cover – with more color.


Oh how I do love it!!! I moved my Nordic Knots rug in here, put my favorite vintage blue painting above the fireplace, and added a couple of other pops of blue in the throw blankets – that’s it, but it felt more like ‘me’ and a bit happier, more approachable, and punchier. I have no idea what cover would have sold the best, but I hope and think it’s this one because even those that aren’t into color or busy patterns might be drawn to the blue with all the neutrals. Who knows 🙂 They also added ‘renovate’ to the description because it’s really both.

I really hope you guys like this book. I’m CRAZY proud of the work that my amazing team did – Sara and Velinda were integral to the photography and production, as well as Erik, Shade, Hina, Veronica, Julie, Grace, and writer Jessica Cumberbatch, designer La Tricia Watford and of course Angelin Borsics, my incredible book editor. And maybe even most importantly are all the amazing incredible designers and homeowners whose creativity fills the pages. I will go off on these people MUCH MORE in the coming months and we’ll be featuring all of them here on the blog.

We feature rooms designed by real risk-takers, rule-breakers, and incredible DIY-ers. I feel so lucky to have learned from these talents. Looking through this book I feel comforted by the vocabulary that I now know (and you will too) and absolutely delighted by the beautiful photography and design inspiration in each room. I really, really hope you like it 🙂 Sneak peeks coming right after the holidays. xx

Image Credits: Cover Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | Ben Medansky’s Home: Styled by Velinda Hellen and Erik Kenneth Stalberg | Em’s Portland Project: Styled by Em, Brady Tolbert, and Emily Bowser | Em’s Mountain House: Styled by Em

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1 year ago

Ah, huge congratulations. I hope it’s a best seller and if the cover is anything to go by, I’m sure it’ll top the charts! I’m supposed to be starting work right now but shh…I’m off to figure out how to pre-order for shipping to Ireland!

1 year ago

Nailed it! This last cover could not be any more YOU. I cannot wait to get my hands on it!

1 year ago

this cover is amazing! i also love that you went with something more cozy versus the stark minimalist / mid-century vibe of some of the other photos. I feel like that’s a very specific style that doesn’t speak to everyone (and is on the verge of being so overdone it’s out again).
CONGRATS on the book!!!

1 year ago

Congrats! I pre-ordered it and can’t wait to dig into the book.

congratulations! perfect cover! i like that its your room, your work, a room that we already are familiar with, but totally new!

1 year ago

Just pre-ordered here in Canada!

Megan Lec
1 year ago

Congratulations, Emily! I love to see how these decisions are made. I love that you chose your own home and design but with a twist. Blue is prominently featured which also just feels right 🙂

1 year ago

Question: I will never be renovating a house. I don’t have that kind of money or that inclination. I am, however, very interested in design. So is this book more about renovation or design? Is it more about where to position electrical outlets and ceiling lights and the best floor plans — all things I will never control. Or is there a lot of content about design, too?

In short, is there much in this book for people who aren’t renovating?

1 year ago

Hooray! Love the cover & all the teasers about content! Will preorder now.

1 year ago

Very exciting and beautiful cover. My only complaint is that this will come out approximately six weeks after we finish our renovation ; ) Lucky everyone who will be able to take advantage of this resource.

1 year ago

Well, Patrick Swayze would be an interesting choice… I think you picked the right one. People DO judge a book by its cover.

1 year ago
Reply to  Patricia

For people who don’t follow on Facebook, Emily teased a cover of her from Dirty Dancing (Dirty Decorating). We get all the good stuff on Facebook. I just wanted to add, make the spine eye-catching since the spine is all that shows in bookstores.

🥰 Rusty
1 year ago


You wrote: “making a CHOICE, not a MISTAKE.” Yessss!!!
Renovating is hard (but so worthwhile if you’re able to do it).
Decorating is hard (but fun, exciting, creative and fabulous!).
Living in a place you love (no matter whether you own or rent), is priceless!

Sooo wonderful, sooo exciting and BIG congratulations to you (and your fantabulous team)!
Rusty 🥰xx

🥰 Rusty
1 year ago

Ha!  Ben Mendansky‘s house has KANGAROO PAWS (flowers) in the background!
They’re the state floral emblem of my state, Western Australia! This is where they originate!

Paula Carr
1 year ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

There are tons of Australian plants in SoCal. The climates are similar. Everytime I see Sydney I feel at home mostly because of all the eucalyptuses.

Roberta Davis
1 year ago

Can’t wait to get the book!

1 year ago

Congratulations, Emily and team. The cover is so beautiful, and so “you” with all the blues. Plus you love the mountain house so a perfect choice.

1 year ago

Gorgeous cover!!! Nailed it! Can’t wait to see the book, the few sneak peeks I’ve seen have been spectacular. And as a serial renovator, I look forward to learning more tricks of the trade.

1 year ago
Reply to  Christa

AAAANNNNDDDD I am delighted to see your tiny bird ladder on the cover. LOL it’s the best. I have coveted that ladder for a decade.

Lea Johnson
1 year ago

Gah! It’s beautiful!!! So excited and can’t wait to get my hands on it!

1 year ago

Congratulations to the EHD Team!! The last cover is definitely you with the blue pops of color, and I love the Mountain House so it’s perfect!!

Erin Dae
1 year ago

The first thing I noticed was the updated description, which seemed much more aligned with your stated concept for the book. The font is absolutely perfect, and the “refreshed” cover image is fantastic! Since it is a familiar location for your regular readers, it feels like a “new version of home” which seems aligned with the book concept also. To me, that is a nice nod to your “regulars” while not being exclusionary to those who will engage with you for the first time through this book. Congratulations, so excited for you and the team! Off to pre-order from Target since I can’t pass up exclusive content…

Amy Elizabeth Jones
1 year ago

Love it! Ordered.

1 year ago

I LOVE it! We are going to purchase a new house this Spring. My future-husband-to-be and I are BOTH artists and use a lot of color in our contemporary abstracts, so I am so thrilled you changed up the art and added the blue rug! Pre-ordering now!!

1 year ago

Love it! It will look perfect on my living room bookcase, right next to your first book 😉
Also, the vintage blue painting is exactly what I’m looking for for my dining room. If you ever want to sell it, hit me up.

1 year ago

Congratulations!! Cover is perfect, and I can’t wait to read the book!

1 year ago

The highlights in the leather of the chair, and the yellow/orange book that repeats the color the fireplace flames and is picked up again in “THE NEW” really makes it work!
(Retired Graphic Designer here….:-)

1 year ago
Reply to  Donna

And that chair looks flat without the shinier leather. Amazing what a difference a small change like that makes.

1 year ago

To get the version with the extra chapter on home hacks, do I need to order from Target only? Not clear on that. Thanks! Looking forward to this release!

1 year ago

Congratulations!! Great cover choice! I love how you it is. I will definitely be checking how I can pre order it to Denmark 🙂

Tara Lynch
1 year ago

LOVE THE COVER! Love even more that you thought about fonts – I’m a font nerd myself. The room looks so beautiful. Congratulations!!!

1 year ago

H U G E congratulations to you! What a massive accomplishment. I have already pre-ordered (from Target to get the extra content). While I hope my reno is well underway by April (that would be a whole year after the initial meeting with the architect), at least being able to read your book first will be a perk if it is not.

Jesse Doogan
1 year ago

Hooray! Independent bookseller here: you can 100% call your (American) independent bookstore and order it. The book is available at the major distributor that just about every indie bookstore uses. (I checked!) Go ahead and give your bookstore a call!

Heather Amsden
1 year ago

Gorgeous Emily! I can’t wait. The cover you landed on is perfect – so you! – gotta have some blue, amirite?

1 year ago

Love the cover! Pre-ordered the book. Looking forward to it! Congratulations!!

Paula Carr
1 year ago

I like the final cover design the best…good choices! Heh, and I already pre-ordered it on 11/8!

1 year ago

Just (weirdly) curious about this: if you didn’t want to use someone else’s work on the cover, why did you send them photos of other people’s work?

1 year ago

Preorders at Target are already sold out 🙁
How do you sell out of a preorder? Isn’t part of the reason for doing it to make sure they have an idea of how many to print?
I wouldn’t have waited to order if I had known this was possible. Bummed.

1 year ago
Reply to  RachieT

Same! So strange

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