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The Feel Good Flash Makeover Reveal (A.K.A. My Favorite Thing I Did All Year)

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Last week, we did our first ever surprise flash makeover and it was probably the most fun and fulfilling day in YEARS. It wasn’t about pillows and lamps. No, it was about creating a moment that, hopefully, will have a lasting positive effect on a family. I believe that the state of your home reflects and affects the state of your mental health. When mine is in not pulled together or in disarray, guess what—so is my brain. I cry more often. I’m more impatient with my kids, which makes me more ashamed and full of disappointment and guilt. Alternatively, when it looks beautiful, clean, cohesive and stylish, I live through life with more ease and joy, and that gets carried into your relationships and your career.

That was our wish for Liz, a single mom of 4: a moment, a week, a month or a year where she can breathe and feel proud. You can read the post for details or watch the video of the surprise and makeover which is VERY FUN, I promise.

It was like Extreme Makeover, “indie-styling” edition. It was half of my team (5 of us), with Brian shooting the video and only 7 hours of design time. It was run-n-gun with no experienced TV producer to make sure it actually worked or flowed, BUT IT DID. My experience with makeover shows came into play and between Brian, myself and my awesome team, we produced this pretty darn seamlessly.

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover 6

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover 7

The back story: Last month, we threw the flash makeover idea out there on social media, asking people to nominate anyone in the LA area that could really use a holiday spirit boost. Amanda wrote in and told us about her friend Liz who was “the hardest working person I know.” A single mom of 4, a hairdresser in Castaic who worked so so so so so hard to take care of her kids, give them what they needed and was insanely busy driving them around to a million activities.

There are no resources or time left for herself or her house at the end of the day. I can’t imagine the emotional, physical and financial responsibility it would be to take care of four kids—an 8-year-old, two 10-year-old twin boys and a 16-year-old girl. BY YOURSELF.

I seriously think that single mothers deserve their own holiday.

So two weeks ago, Velinda from the design team snuck into her house (with the help of Liz’s friend Amanda), took measurements and pictures and assessed the pieces in person. Here’s what the space looked like before:

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover Side By Side Before 2

When I first saw the photos, I remember thinking that Liz had done a decent job! Considering she had four kids to tend to, she had things going in the right direction with a great sofa, bookshelves, TV unit etc. But there is always room for extra love, styling and organization, and that’s really what we intended on doing.

So, we put forth a plan to tackle the living room and dining room, using a lot of what she already had, then bringing in some new pieces to zhuzh it up and take it to the next level. Put that finishing flair on the space we know Liz wanted (she’s a reader!), but just didn’t have the means to manage.

They had an elderly dog who had just passed away and he had badly soiled the carpet. We couldn’t do this makeover without replacing the carpet. Full stop. It’s a decent expense that wasn’t in Liz’s budget, and we knew it would be a transformation she needed.

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover Side By Side Before 3

The rest of the room could use updating and styling: the coffee table was fine, but could it be better? The TV console was fine, but could it be better?

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover Side By Side Before 1

For the dining area, there were some chairs that needed some love, a ceiling fan that was dating the space, curtains that made it feel smaller, but the table was totally fine.

So then we (Brady, Velinda, Emily B. and myself) came up with the design plan. We then “shopped” from my storage unit (like some pillows from The Citizenry project from last year), I shopped the flea market, we ordered a ton online and at the end, did a big shop at some affordable major retailers. No sponsors and nothing gifted. We wanted it to be fast and budget oriented, which meant we wanted to do this one on our own.

IT WAS THE JOB OF OUR FANTASIES.

We surprised Liz at 7:40 am, after ensuring that she would be dressed and ready. Hilariously, Amanda spied on her all morning and even followed her to school and watched her drop off her kids but she lost her on the way back and we didn’t know her status. Typically if this were a real show, there would be producers making sure people were in place, but we didn’t have that so there was DEFINITELY a 10-minute period where Liz was unaccounted for and we were like is she coming home? What if she went to work early? What if she had a Target run? What if today was the day she decided to drive to six flags and ride the roller coasters by herself?

But then we snuck into the neighborhood and saw her car…

YOU HAVE TO WATCH THE VIDEO.

She was shocked, overwhelmed and so sweet. It’s really, really weird to have a bunch of people (some with cameras) crashing your house with oddly huge smiles on their faces, staring at you. She was so lovely and excited and gave us carte blanche to do whatever we wanted with the space. The only thing she loved was the sailor painting (a family heirloom), which we loved, too. Other than that we knew we’d keep the sofa, but had freedom with the rest of the pieces.

SEVEN HOURS LATER…

We finished around 3, feeling pretty darn good. She had picked up her kids and they were all waiting for us at Amanda’s for us to text. They came back, nervous but were so cute and excited and frankly VERY well-mannered. I made them pinky swear that they wouldn’t look through the window. They closed their eyes until we had them inside the room and we dramatically counted ONE, TWO, THREE before they opened their eyes and saw their new space.

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover 15 2

As you can imagine, it’s really weird to see your home done differently, with a couple people with small but still weird cameras on your face. It’s more than shock—it’s kind of an out-of-body experience, I’m sure.

But strangely I was used to that from Secrets From A Stylist where people would mostly just stare and look around for a while (editing showed immediate screams, but that rarely happened).

I’m not sure what was more moving: a mom tearing up because her life just got a bit easier as her pride for her home ballooned, or her 10-year-old son trying to wipe his happy tears away before we could see them.

We were moved, and I cry just thinking about it.

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover 5

The carpet made the biggest difference, obviously. We had it coordinated earlier in the week and chose a pretty and fresh neutral. After realizing the amount of wear and tear it will likely get, we actually left her a huge navy blue rug to go under her sofa. It looked SO much better without it so we didn’t shoot it, but I was like “I can’t leave this mom of four with a light carpet” and we had the rug as an option anyway.

We kept the color palette pretty muted and calm—a lot of cool tones and added some vintage wood pieces to give it some soul.

We printed out photos of her family and framed them in our favorite IKEA frames, which made her cry. I wish the wood versions had been in stock (or do they not make them anymore?) to help warm them up, but maybe having it all white keeps it really simple, and with less contrast, the room will feel less busy.

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover 9

The curtains were switched out for affordable readymade Roman shades. If these had been a natural texture or a light gray that probably would have looked even better but the white versions fit our needs of fast, affordable and simple.

We restyled the bookshelves with less stuff and put a lot of the more colorful books in the bins to help it feel cleaner. We used a lot of the pieces she already had, just edited them down and then we framed a lot more of her family photos.

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover 10

The desk area was streamlined with a white desk, two storage drawer units and a tall cabinet for their printer and more storage. Some of the kids; art was sprinkled in which made it feel personal and homey. We had that piece of art leftover from The Citizenry in my storage unit so we nabbed it and it found a pretty home on that wall.

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover 11

We added floating shelves to add more storage and display more family photos and art.

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover 3

In the dining room, we kept the table but switched out the chairs. Now we didn’t want to spend too much on new chairs that were upholstered, so we bought four IKEA chairs and then I had two of my dining chairs left over (they were plastic wrapped in my garage) that we thought could be the head chairs. I wanted to give her the option of comfort or the older kids who do homework there. I think the six matching black chairs might have looked better, but speaking from someone who likes to be comfortable, I think that the two king chairs look good.

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover 2

We replaced her big rectangular mirror for a round one, knowing that the space really needed a mirror for light over there.

We hung her sailor art, but took off the frame which felt both too big for that space, but also a little dark and dated. It brightened it up a lot. The rug made a huge difference and hopefully, the fact that it’s dark in a flat weave will be enough to stay clean under the dining table. I’m on the fence about rugs under dining tables, but it just really made this space feel so much happier and more inviting.

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover 16

My team did SUCH an amazing job. We were done early and even able to take all the after photos before Liz and her family came home.

Let’s look at some side-by-sides so you can see the full impact of our small changes:

Living Room:

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover Reveal Side By Side 5

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover Reveal Side By Side 31

TV & Storage:

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover Reveal Side By Side 41

Desk Area:

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover Reveal Side By Side 21

Dining Room:

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover Reveal Side By Side 11

A huge thanks to Amanda, Liz and her family for letting us raid their house for the day. While, of course, they are so grateful for everything we did, it’s actually such a gift that we get to use our platform, resources and experience to help someone who needs it. I’m not saying that facetiously; imagine if what you did could easily change someone else’s lives? The kids were so happy and proud, swearing to NEVER wear shoes in their house. Liz said that she had never had people over because she was embarrassed and now she was going to throw a holiday party. House-pride is intrinsically tied in with your self-confidence and really hope that we helped give Liz and her kids the big boost in both that they deserved.

Emily Henderson Flash Makeover 13

Hopefully, we can keep doing these for obvious reasons: it’s what we want, what families want and hopefully you guys enjoyed it. I know that I am always inspired by people paying it forward and it reminds me to, so that was another goal. We have this platform and “influence,” we HAVE to use it for good. If you live in LA and know of a family that deserves a surprise makeover, then please nominate them by emailing info and photos of the space to [email protected] Because we like the idea of it being a surprise, if YOU personally feel like you deserve a styling boost, have a friend nominate you!

If you are into these surprise makeovers, please share it—the more viewers and readers who engage or like this will help us determine how many resources we can dedicate to these, because that’s all we really want. Feel Good Flash Makeover FOREVER. 🙂

Fin Mark

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[…] post The Feel Good Flash Makeover Reveal (A.K.A. My Favorite Thing I Did All Year) appeared first on Emily […]

Melanie

LOVE IT!!! Beautifully done! Please more of that!

Karen T.

This brought tears to my eyes and the smiles on those cute kids’ faces are priceless. I also loved seeing a design that fit this family’s needs in a more “typical” (vs. aspirational) home setting. Yay Team EHD!!

Catherine

Ditto!

Karen

This, exactly!!! Loved this!

Cecile

Same feeling! What a wonderful way to make this family’s holidays extra special!

Maggie

So wonderful! Great job EHD team! I understand exactly how you feel – when my house is in a good place, I am in a good place. What an incredible gift you were able to give.

thays

It looks beautiful! I’d love to see more of this!
Your houses for editorial content and readers’ houses for real life content, you know? 😉

Wendy S Munsell

Oh, my… this makes my heart happy! Such a lovely, thoughtful transformation. (This is one of my favorite posts ever!)

Allison

This is awesome! I can’t believe you pulled everything together so quickly. And selfishly I love seeing modest makeovers thrown in the mix, because that’s what I hope to achieve in my home.

Gina

I was thinking the same thing!

Jackie

Amen!

Lauren

Yes, its super helpful for me to see makeovers that combine items from many sources, especially heavy on the Ikea/affordable end. It’s also relatable in the sense that major walls/tiling/renovations weren’t used. I would love more of these quick makeovers.

Lori

This!

Kimberley

I agree! Love your content all the time, but sometimes it’s not always accessible. I loved seeing a makeover that was budget friendly and, quite frankly, not sponsored. I COMPLETELY understand you are running a business and need sponsored content, but it’s always very interesting to once in a while see what can happen with a modest budget. Thanks for sharing!

Theresa B

Yes, yes, YES!! This is what it’s all about!! Please keep these makeovers up-it’s so wonderful to see a single Mom and kids touched by the generosity and love of others. Speaking from experience, it gives hope in an often exhausting life. Well done Emily and team, well done!

Virginia

Fantastic! And heart warming. More more more of these please! I’m sure it will become one of your most popular series ever 🙂

Loveley of honeymoonvintage.com

i absolutely love this. please do many more of these. on top of the feel good aspect, it’s so nice to see changes that average not-rich people can make. great ideas here.
ALSO, i loved the sailor picture in the “befores”, but taking off the frame really did make it feel fresher, and i LOVE how well it coordinates with the dining room rug. so good! and that desk area update….amazing. ack! this was so good.

Tiffanie

Wowza! The space looks great. The bright white frames and shades look great as-is yet I appreciate the commentary about alternative good options. The dining room rug is awesome there and the desk area looks really useable.

Kristin

Hands down, this is one of my favorite posts ever. I love the affordable makeover element, but really it’s all about that family. I teared up thinking about how much that meant to them. More PLEASE!

Megan

One of my favorite posts to date…and I’ve been around since Design ⭐️!!!! I love everything about this!

Vanessa

This is beautiful and so touching. Yet another reason you guys are my fave. Keep doing these amazing things, guys! Love love love.

Sheila

What a fun makeover! I loved reading about this family and your willingness to lend a helping hand. I hope you are able to continue to do these.

Amanda

I love this. Such a great transformation and way to give back.

Cf Betcher

Source for the Roman shades? Always looking for ready made Roman shades!!!

Claudia

LOVE THIS! This is one of the most fun things I’ve seen on EHD in a while. <3

Heather

Beautiful! Most of us aren’t able to achieve the beautiful high cost makeovers you usually execute. Why they are inspiring and certainly aspirational, it’s so great to see a “real” makeover! Keep up the great work!

Angela

Love this! Thank you!

Jon Lagardere

Hi there

I’m a fan of your s and love your design! We just bought a 1925 bungalow in Portland and have a small budget to pull it together before we move in. We are in need of ready made Roman shades for some of the windows. Do you have a good source? We closed escrow yesterday, floors are being refinished this week but need window treatments for move in after Xmas. Thanks!!!!

patricia blaettler

PB Teen and Pottery Barn. I’ve used them many times. So good.

Hi Jon! Here is the link to the Romans we used: https://rstyle.me/n/ddnwwisdhw

Congratulations on your new home and good luck!!

Amanda

Love this post, Emily! Great job to you and your team. I also love the honest assessments (e.g., wish the frames were wood) throughout the post. It’s refreshing to see you work within a limited budget and make the imperfect work.

Kim

I love this so much. So many happy tears over here! I loved seeing the behind the scenes on Instagram as well! And agree with others that the more affordable, work with what you got tips are really helpful. More of this, please!

TRH

Looks wonderful! I love seeing makeovers that are obtainable for me. Did you paint the walls for this makeover?
The carpet and the shades are a game-changer.

Sadie

This is my favorite post so far this year!

Corrie

Wow! I love this!! This content feels so relatable! Sure, I love to view your beautifully done spaces using high-end design pieces that my wallet can only dream about. I also love to see what you and your team can do using a more budget-conscious mindset. I also love, love, love what you did for this well-deserving woman!

rebecca

Yes to everything!!! I 100% agree that I’m a better mom/person/wife when there is less clutter in my house and the dishes are put away. This was such an amazing gift to give this shero and her family.

Amy

Favorite post by I’ve read from you by FAR (in a long time)! Keep them coming!!!

Amy

Favorite post by FAR for me in a long time!! Please keep thingsbliek this coming! Loved it!

Megan Lec

Tearing up at work reading this. I can only imagine the joy this brought her and her kids. Love this makeover so much and the messaging behind it, it truly was a reminder for me to give back, especially this holiday season.

Dora

This is so great! I love that you kept many of the bigger pieces, but still completely transformed the room. And you can just tell from Liz and the kids’ face that you elevated their living space in the best way possible!

Please please please do more makeovers like this! Such an awesome way to give back and connect with your (wider) community! 🙂

Christine Schwalm Design

This was wonderful! No huge changes but you can tell by their smiles (all of them, what a beautiful family), that they are so happy.

Hannah

The more of these the merrier. Loved this.

Geri

Awesome job! What a precious gift for that family. Keep spreading joy!

Diane Macameau Plourde

I love all the content you create, but this is one of my favorite posts! Keep them coming!

Blair

I LOVE this post! What a fantastic idea. Seriously, I love looking at aspirational photos but this was just as exciting, I kept going back and forth between the photos before realizing you had comparison shots at the end. The fact that you replaced the carpet after the family lost their pet was such a thoughtful gift. I would love to see more posts like this.

Jenny

I have never commented before, but had to for this. It was awesome – I loved it and would love to see more!

Kelly

Best post of the year!! Love, love,love. Such a beautiful family.

Sarah

It’s so nice to see and read about this kind of makeover! There are no more shows like this anymore and I miss it!

Rachel

I loooooove this so much! Not only did you help a deserving family, it’s great content that focuses on re-using and styling what you have. So much design feels all about trashing everything and buying a bunch of new (or new vintage) stuff. I love seeing how older things can be displayed in new ways on a budget. Keep up the great work!

Sara

Can you do this every day? I love it!

Audrey

Love this! Wish i could figure out how to update my house in one day!! Where do you get the bench in the living room??

Emily

This is so great! I love the desk area the most. It looks so much more cohesive now. She really did have great ideas before, you guys just kicked it up a notch.

JT

All these onions I am cutting over here…

Jane

So pretty and I also would love more of this content.

For rugs under dining tables, especially with children, I strongly prefer a natural fiber rug with a ribbon around the edge. They are not comfortable under foot, but you aren’t really walking on it anyway. It warms up the space and spills are easily wiped up and they are inexpensive.

Christine

Amazing!! So inspiring! Where can I find the round mirror in the dining room?

Teresa

Beautiful! What a wonderful way to share. ?????❤️

Jacqui

I love it!! I know you shopped your storage space, but would you do a “Get the Look” and share sources for some of the items you did buy? Also, the new carpet looks great!!

Joanna

Love this.

More of these, please!

Sarah

I love this! Home design can feel frivolous sometimes, but you’re so right about the link to self-image and being in a good mental/emotional state. I hope this gives their family the boost they deserve.

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