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Our First Home: A Look Back and Full House Tour

Every family home deserves its own bio-pic, its own biography, its own dramatic memoir, or lifetime achievement award, so this post IS IT. As you all know we sold our first house a couple of months ago, and while I had posted about it 147 times over the last 3 years I wanted to have one big post that documented every single room (or at least linked to everything).

As a mini recap – this house was built in 1964 and when we bought it (3 years ago) it was in pretty darn terrible condition – gross “original” carpet, outdated everything and a lot of painted brown ceilings. It had potential and we fell in love. We knew it wasn’t going to be our forever home, but I loved it so much.

So, let’s go room by room and show you how we transformed the whole house over the 3 years that we lived there.

First up – the living room:

Despite how ugly it is here, when we walked in we only saw potential – the light, space and openness were inarguable.

Eight months later we shot it for Domino Magazine (3 years ago) See the full renovation post HERE:

That was a great deadline to get things done (Domino post here).

Then after Charlie started crawling we wanted to make it more inviting and kid-friendly, so we restyled it, as you can see here with LOTS of soft surfaces:

Emily Henderson_Living Room_Mid Century_Bright Poppy_Happy_Pink_Living Room_1

Then a year later we brought down the bright color and shot it in a more tonal way for Good Housekeeping magazine (I was also pregnant with Elliot at the time):

GH-Emily Living Room

See that full tour here.

Then over the next year or so we rearranged things differently and shot it every time (as you do):

neustadt-1

That photo makes my eyes go glassy every time. It wasn’t set up, we were shooting another room when Tessa caught it with her camera. Charlie is holding his ‘Ah ah’ (blanky with monkey ears) still in diapers, kissing his baby sister in my tummy. Simpler times, full of such happiness.

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Then as we went to sell it, we styled it like this (which might have been my favorite, despite it being the least nutty – or maybe precisely because of that).

Emily Henderson_Living Room_Staged To Sell_Boho_Mid Century_Eclectic_Blue_White_Styled_Couch_Sectional_Staged12

Onto the dining room. The before was fairly depressing but honestly this room has always been tricky. Despite it being open to the rest of the house it is narrow and proved very hard to shoot.

For Domino we styled it like this:

WAY too much going on. For Styled (The Book) we styled it like so:

Still totally kookie.

And a year later I finally found how it really should look – like this (which was for the Good Housekeeping Shoot):

GH-Emily Dining Room

We even did a pretty darn beautiful easter brunch shoot there (when Elliot was 6 weeks old!):

See that full brunch here.

To stage it to sell, we simplified everything and brought in a plant to add some life to that corner of the house:

Emily Henderson_Dining Room_Staged House To Sell_Dining Room

Onto the kitchen:

When we bought it we really couldn’t afford a full gut so we painted, replaced the countertops/sink/faucet/appliances and added a backsplash. At first we tried to just refinish the cabinets:

Emily Henderson_Kitchen_Before Renovation_Emily Henderson

I wish that had worked because I love real wood cabinets (and how ironic is it that now I really wish I had those stools for our new place???)

The bottoms looked ok for a while, but the tops were thrashed because they weren’t real wood and the veneer didn’t fair well with the refinishing. LOOK AT LITTLE 6 MONTH OLD CHARLIE I’M GOING TO CRY SO HARD RIGHT NOW.

We shot it for STYLED next:

And then for Good Housekeeping we painted the bottoms Hague Blue by Farrow and Ball (a year after the first shoot).

Tessa shot it differently which I love and it shows how bright and happy that space was:

Emily Henderson_Kitchen_Blue_White_Kitchen_Emily Henderson

The memories. The insanely good, happy, first-home-starting-a-family-memories.

Lastly here is how we styled it to sell:

Simple and clean. I miss that kitchen despite how much I love our new one.

On to the family room:

This room was the most challenging for sure. It took 3 years to really feel good about it, but we shot it a few different ways before that. The first was not meant to be any sort of portfolio piece or reveal – just a ‘how we are living in this room while I’m nursing’ update (thus the white sofa C table – which proved so functional although not the most beautiful).

Emily Henderson_Family Room_Gray_Blue_Emily Henderson

We shot it for Domino like this (although I didn’t really love the way it was styled out in this pic):

For the book it was styled like this:

Better but still not awesome.

Meanwhile Good Housekeeping shot the other side like this:

Hilariously our kids were way to young to sit on those chairs so we just borrowed them for the shoot. I finally liked it when we styled it to sell. It looked SOOO good compared to before!

Emily Henderson_Kitchen_Family Room_Staged_Blue_White_Clean Fresh_Emily Henderson_4

See full post here.

Now the master bedroom:

It used to have disgusting carpet, painted beams, and just general grossness when we moved in. Six months later we shot it for Domino:

Then I reminded you that the whole ‘wallpaper in a hot room on one wall was a terrible idea‘ thing when it started to peel up on all the seams:

Then I actually tried to make it a pretty room when we made the custom bed, hung art, sconces and brought in the white shag rug:

Full post here.

Then we toned it down for staging:

The master bathroom was a real renovation story with everything original and “vintage” but such garbage:

Then we renovated it – see full makeover here (this was the renovation that got the most negative feedback by the way, which I understand but thought it was interesting to point out).

Charlie’s room was another bedroom that was less than lovely when we moved in:

First we shot it for Domino:

Then for Styled, the book:

Then Fit Pregnancy shot it:

Nine month old Charlie is so adorable!!! But, not my favorite photo of me (also please note the coffee stain on the floor that was meant to be photoshopped out!)

For staging we took away the ‘baby’ and made it feel a bit more like a big kid’s room:

See full post here.

Up next is Elliot’s room – probably my favorite transformation ever. Here is the before:

At first it was just a simple guest room, that we didn’t over style or do too much to.

Then we redesigned it for Dutch Boy:

Full tour here.

And then when my baby girl came I created my favorite room ever:

For the staging we decided to make it a guest room, but the wallpaper still totally worked:

Full post here.

The guest bathroom took FOREVER to redo. I just couldn’t pull the trigger because renovating is so disruptive to the kids napping schedule. But we finally did it- BECAUSE IT LOOKED LIKE THIS FOR WAY TOO LONG:

And after a 2 month renovation, this was the result:

See full tour HERE.

The guest suite might be the biggest transformation (I know I keep saying that with each room). It started even worse than this but this gives you a general ideal of the disgustingness.

We made it livable here:

Then we shot it for a sponsored post here with Leesa:

We changed things around a bit for this post with Parachute:

Then we shot it again for an update post:

Then we shot it for Framebridge here:

This is another room that wasn’t its best until we styled it to sell:

Such a great room (with a bathroom – which was the real reason we had so many offers on the house – everyone needs a separate bedroom/bath for either work or relatives these days).

On to the exterior deck area:

The before deck was fine, but needed a facelift like the rest of the house.

We shot/styled it for Domino like this:

It’s a bit cuckoo and boho but it gave off a fun vibe.

Then I redid it for a Target makeover:

The next year we refinished the deck for Wood Naturally:

Then of course threw a party for our sponsor, Black Box:

Lastly, the exterior redo – the biggest and most expensive of them all. Here was the before:

The process was long, expensive and brutal:

But worth it:

Read about the whole process HERE.

As you can imagine the whole ‘reliving your first home’ thing is hard but happy for me. We had 3 really amazing years in that house and while our family has changed, grown and moved on from it, I’m SO grateful that we have 1 trillion photos of us in these rooms to document these happy young years of our family.

Four days after moving in we took these (weird) photos:

Then we had Charlie (a day after those photos) – only two months old here, below. STOP THE GROWING AND HERE GO MY TEARS. 

You already saw a bunch of Charlie’s first year here, but then little Elliot joined in:

You may not be crying, understandably, but I am. I remember when adults told us in college that we should enjoy this time because it is the best four years of our lives. I remember distinctively thinking, ‘geez, I hope not’ not because it wasn’t awesome, because it was (I had a wonderful college experience) but because I didn’t want the best four years of my life to be over soon. Well good news. The 7 years after graduation were even better than college and the last 3 years since having a family have been even better. There are times when I look at these photos and I think ‘my God, those were the best years of my life’ but then I remember, that what I’m living right now is actually somehow better. It’s not perfect. We have a million problems – some of which I talk about and some of which I don’t, but regardless – as much as I think that those were the best years of our lives, I know that it’s even better in our new house.

This is the final post about our first home. I loved it so much – WE LOVED IT SO MUCH and wish the new family even more happiness than we felt there – which is A LOT. You have big hearts to fill, and I think you can do it. 🙂

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  1. So beautiful – your words, the feelings, the many iterations of your (former) home…I could go on. 🙂 Thank you for sharing all of this with us.

    PS: this is such a helpful recap of the many stages of each room!

  2. This has been my favorite post ever. What a beautiful chapter in your family’s story!!! Thank you for sharing all the memories–and all the design details.

  3. What a sweet post, and it’s shared with all your readers! I am diligent about creating annual family picture albums – I use Shutterfly (upload photos from my phone, edit the album on my computer), and jump on there every 2-3 months – it’s so easy when you stay on top of it. Then, usually come February, I finish up the previous year, have my sister look over the book (second set of eyes), and order it during one of their 50% off sales.

    The time with little ones is so precious, and it’s so easy to forget all those little moments.

  4. That was an amazing home ! Your little girl’s bedroom will stay engraved in my memory as one of the most beautiful room ever !

    I’m especially grateful for the guest suite pics. I replicated the way you displayed that beautiful antique armoire in my own bedroom. It looks awesome. Thank you so much for the inspiration !

  5. I loved everything about your post today, and I really like that you share how you really live in each of the rooms. Decorating with kids is a challenge in itself. You do it all well. Can’t wait to see what you the next house brings!

  6. I am so sad that this home is gone – I loved it very much! Congrats on good documentation and a good write-up. **sobs over house**

  7. A beautiful post about a beautiful family! Thank you so much for sharing! All. Those. Stairs! I can’t imagine walking up them hugely pregnant. TWICE! And carrying grocers up. Yikes! While keeping the toddlers occupied in the house and not on the stairs “helping!” With groceries!

    1. Seeing those stairs makes one totally understand why they did Instacart. And why they moved to a more kid-friendly house!

  8. Wow, what an informative, heartfelt Post. So happy for you and your family.
    Where can i find the marble top dining room table?

  9. Ok I wasn’t crying until you explained why you were! I thought the exact same thing about college years being the best: “gosh, I hope not!”

    Love the renovations! Especially the bathroom that got negative (how!?) reactions!

      1. OH, ha. I’ll edit. People really liked it but didn’t feel that it was super cohesive with the rest of the house. I loved it, but understood what they were saying.

  10. You did make me cry because although it is not my family your sentiment is just so, so sweet. Congrats on such beautiful transformations, not only with the rooms but in your family growth. Also, congrats on acknowledging and appreciating all the good in your life. I think the craziness that comes with having young children can consume us and hinder the gratitude. It’s refreshing to see someone so truly appreciative of it.

    1. Thank you. That actually made me tear up. But I am at an airport missing my babies so I generally tear up at airports while writing (about them). xx

  11. Okay, I loved that post. Tremendously. The house photos were stunning, and it was so fun to see the same rooms styled in different ways all in one place. And I loved your thoughts on life getting better. Such a good reminder.

    I have a burning question that you have not addressed and if you don’t want to answer then just ignore. I love love love the exterior transformation that you did and I know it was terribly expensive, but did it end up working out when you sold? Not asking for dollars and cents, just your thoughts on if you felt like you recouped sufficiently.

    1. YES. Totally paid off. We had a few people in a bit of a bidding war and there is no way they would have wanted the house bad enough if we hadn’t done the exterior. It was actually so satisfying because Brian was always a bit nervous that we weren’t going to recoup those costs (and stress!) but we absolutely did. xx

  12. Such a sweet post, thank you so much for sharing about this chapter.

    Also… I can’t believe that you had negative comments about your master bath – it is seriously one of my favorite transformations, ever!

  13. Thanks for this! First, it reminds me how much I’ve enjoyed following the blog the last few years (especially once I realized there would be no more Secrets from a Stylist episodes for me to devour). Two, as always, so much decor inspiration! Finally, my husband and I are currently preparing to sell our first home (while I am eight months pregnant), and this reassures me that’s just a thing real grown-ups do once in a while.

    If you’re doing life right, now is always the best time of you life. 🙂

    1. Yep. Congrats!!!! And i personally found that moving out is the hard part, but moving in and settling in with a newborn wasn’t that much of a challenge. You are home all the time anyway, they are sleeping so you can unpack at your leisure (and do a TON of online shopping) 🙂 Good luck xx

    1. Ha. Well remember that its literally my job to create content and finish our house in a timely manner. I had SO MUCH HELP and could spend weekdays doing it. So don’t feel bad. Otherwise it would have taken 10 years, I promise 🙂

  14. All pictures I saw before but I have to say…best post ever! So nice to see from the first to the final stages. What a lucky family to have it now!

  15. You’re a wonderful writer Emily, as well as a talented designer and stylist. Thank you for the recap of your first home and sharing your story. I don’t get clouded up very often, but that did it for me.

  16. Your master with the custom bed and Eliot’s nursery are two of my favorite rooms ever. So inspirational.

    This was really satisfying to read and I say that as a regular reader who has seen each of these posts before. It told a whole story and I relate to the nostalgia about early baby years as well as feeling “now is the best time.” I love reading how appreciative you are of your life without sugar-coating it.

  17. What happened to that amazing custom bed in the master? Seemed like you had it only for a short time…It was amazing.

    1. I sold it 🙁 I LOVED it but our new master is much smaller and it took up too much width (with the custom headboard). Some lucky lady in Florida (I think … maybe texas :)) has it now. I did lose money on it, though. Whoops. xx

  18. This is the final post of your first home? Where your beautiful babies were born? WAAAHHHHH! Now I’m Crying!!

  19. Oh my gosh, this got me tearing up a little bit. I feel the same way about our first house. It’s where we brought our first little one home and was our first big purchase together as a family. I get sad when I look at it, even though I love our house now and it’s way more practical for our family as we’ve expanded.

    I think every time of your life is the best time, just in different ways. College was great–limited responsibility, freedom, everything is new and exciting. But now, we have money to do things, we have a home we love, our children are such a joy. There is no bad time in life if you keep on loving living it!

  20. Lovely, Emily! I’m 26 and am so excited and hopeful for what’s to come in my life. I see that I was pretty self conscious & nervous in college and have loved working and building a life since.

    This post is helpful in getting a sense of the house and flow (despite remembering reading every individual post).

  21. Oh Emily, this is so sweet! We’re about to move into our first house, and I can only hope it’s as lovely for us as it clearly has been for you.

    And thanks for compiling this large reference post! It’s fun to see it all together in one place.

  22. I LOVE reading your posts that both parts style and family. My husband and I are expecting our first in September, and it’s so easy to read FB/Instagram/blog/social media posts about parenting horror stories and think “WHAT IN THE HELL AM I GETTING MYSELF INTO?!” But your posts, while I know they are just (perfect) snippets of the crazy that is your life, remind me why I decided to start this family in the first place. Thank you for always being an advocate of the good, the bad, the ugly and the it’s-all-beautiful-when-it-comes-down-to-it. <3

    1. Wow. Thank you so much. I never know how exactly i’m perceived – my every day friends have seen me cry so much (about parenting toddlers/managing life) but I watch beautiful moms on instagram and I’M even like ‘why are their lives so perfect!!???’ So this ‘review’ of me is honestly the most validating thing I’ve read in a long time. Thank you. 🙂 xx And HUGE congrats on your little nugget. I just was looking at photos of Elliot as a baby earlier today and I kind want another one!!! Despite me saying that i’m literally unable to manage life with two!!!!??? I love newborns and babies WAYYY too much. Don’t be scared. One can be easier than you think – for us two was so much more of a challenge (but I know many people who say its the opposite :)) Regardless, congrats. xx

  23. Thanks so much for sharing. It actually makes me happy to see how much and often you changed your home. I always feel sort of stupid for always changing things. I don’t work in a creative field so I always use my decorating projects as a creative outlet. Thanks so much for sharing your lovely family (and home) with us.

  24. I can’t believe you got negative feedback on the master bathroom, its so beautiful! Each to their own I guess but I think it is seriously envy enducing 🙂

  25. Hi, avid follower from NZ here, I never comment on blogs! Loved that post, and all your others, you are an inspiring person, love what you do, and have used your book and posts to help style my house and have found them both incredibly useful, as have some of my friends. This post made tears run down my face, my two children now teenagers, but were almost as close in age as your two, and I agree with everything you say – all those years and memories so special, and it just keeps getting better and better. My teenagers are awesome ( thou sometimes challenging – just different to toddlers) need just as much time, from a busy working mum, and give just as more back. Being a parent is the most rewarding job in the world ( and I have a pretty amazing paid job as well). Posts like this help me remember just how blessed I am. But I do get how hard you work, so don’t forget so you time Emily, you are doing an amazing job on all fronts. Take care.

  26. Hi Emily,
    I am an architect and interior designer from India and have been following your posts from the past year and thoroughly love them. I love the way you style and also bring in your personal touches to the posts.
    It was amazing to see your journey and the transformations through this post. I am still struggling to put my house together after 3 years of moving in and believe its gonna be a never ending process.
    (the most difficult client for the designer is himself… i believe 🙂
    Lastly you are extremey luck to have those trillion pictures of your family in the house to look back on so many memories. Now i really wish i had clicked much more ( I have a five year old daughter) and also had someone to capture those moments between me and her.
    Heres wishing you luck and luv to ure lovely kids.

  27. Using your own words – “so pretty”, it really is. Lovely home. Lovely family. I am 46 years old and our daughters are 16 and 12. I think I have honestly said to myself, “now these are the best days ever” in every phase. I love seeing our teenager emerge into this lovely young woman, our awkward middle schooler finding her truly good self in the middle of all that angst. Home is where your family is.

  28. What a beautiful post! As a 33 year old mom of 3, I completely understand how you feel about it–ALL OF IT! Especially the kids growing, the moving and the reminiscing. I also love how you depicted the design changes because I gives me comfort to know that foundational pieces stay, but the styling can constantly change. I need to show this to my husband as he feels like I change our decor too often, but little does he know that it is normal. I think your previous house will definitely be something you reminisce about, but you did what you needed to do for your growing family. I can stare at these pictures all day! I love the dining room when you shot it for Domino–although I love the other shots as well–the gallery wall, the vintage pictures, simply the homey feel it gives. I love it! Although I know you mentioned it was too much, but it just feels lived in and so comfortable. The whole house is wonderful. Once again, that you for sharing this with us.

  29. Really enjoyed this post… one question I had and I wonder if you wondered it at all, is why do you think with some of the rooms you mentioned you liked them best of all when staged to sell? Do you think that thought might make / has made you style rooms in your new place?

  30. Guys, you look amazing. Congratulations on your new home! May it be filled with joy and love.
    I am an unmarried and a father of two boys aged 5 and 7. We currectly live in Canada but we plan moving to the US…to the town where I was born. I have recently started my e-business https://pawnbat.ca/jewelry/ . So, in case you need something for your home or your cute kids, check it out. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  31. Wonderful. And I cannot get over all those stairs, pregnant, babies, groceries, and the millions of pieces of furniture you dragged in and out.

  32. If I had the money and lived on the other side of the country, I would have snapped up your house in a heartbeat (even though it would be way more space than I need). It is gorgeous. Your kitchen backsplash is one of my favorite things ever.

  33. I am in shock that anyone didn’t like your master bath! It is (quite literally) one of the most beautiful rooms I have ever seen. I aspire to that master bath.

  34. So many memories and I feel so lucky to be able to see all of the wonderful things you created over the years 🙂

    BTW – your master bathroom reno was one of my favorites! I still wonder if you miss it, I can never stop thinking about those tiles!

    Thanks for taking us down memory lane!

  35. Such a beautiful home! + I have to tell you how much I really love these types of posts – home decor mixed with some family realness. Thank you for getting personal and sharing snippets of your private life as well. You provide me with so much inspiration in so many ways (decor, style, family, work, etc etc) and yet you stay so genuine and relatable. As always, thanks for sharing 🙂

  36. We just started work on our first home, and this post gave me ALL the feels! Thank you for the insanely comprehensive and beautiful post… even if you wrote it more for you than for us. 😉 Loved it!

  37. Your house is so lovely, through all its different iterations. Thank you for the tour and the seeet memories of your family! 😊