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Get The ‘Effortless California Casual’ Look For Less


There is a lifestyle conspiracy happening right now on social media and it looks a lot like that photo (from the AMAZING book Surf Shack – they certainly aren’t all shacks but it’s such a pretty book with photography by Brittany Ambridge). Post after post show this look/vibe/style that feels so effortless and simple – just thrown together on a Saturday afternoon, and yet it’s not. No one is trying to deceive anyone and there aren’t any individuals at fault here – instead it’s been this big movement towards people with wealth veering away from garish 24-carat-gold-this and diamond-encrusted-that and instead opting towards artisanal pottery and hand dyed linen. It’s often a great thing as anything ‘fancy’ is deemed ‘ostentatious’ and smaller, (yet, still expensive brands) are  on the rise for everyone, especially millennials. The problem is, just like those ostentatious, fancy homes that used to be in fashion this style that looks and feels effortless and affordable is still generally really expensive to execute. It’s a just a bear with a different coat on.

What beautiful and stunning effortless look am I talking about? This:


This is the house by the owners of General Store in Silver Lake which I explore for inspiration and the occasional splurges. It’s insane and so beautiful.



This is from the book Surf Shack, but I believe it’s Vanessa Alexander’s Home of Alexander Design Build in Malibu.


Tessa Neustadt’s work – above and below (I believe below is also Vanessa’s work).


Beautiful photography full of stunning pieces. It looks easy and casual – and because of that vibe you really want to be there on any given Sunday morning. Which is why it’s so cruel.

I realize that I’m a part of this conspiracy, too. That I, too have become part of that lifestyle mafia that I’ve been enamored with/complaining about for a decade. Of course I try to be transparent about the work/time and amount of money that it takes to pull together even the most “effortless” of looks so it doesn’t feel deceptive. But I know that it still looks easy to pull together. Trust me, it ain’t. Ask my total emotional breakdown that I had on Friday, after months of working on the house, even with gifted stuff and many an assistants helping – I lost it due to exhaustion and fatigue. I’m fine. It’s the first time its happened in 5 years, but apparently the two toddler situation pushed me mentally farther than I could handle.

As a “content creator” you want people to see and feel the joy that you have for your job so that is what you feel proud enough to post. Honestly during the mess and stress of daily life you don’t even have the brain space to share, let alone the desire.  I know that unless you read all of the posts (design mistakes, marriage issues, toddler issues) and watch all my insta-stories it can certainly seem like I’m only showing you the beautiful, easy life of a California family with 2.5 kids.

But it’s not my style that this post is about – mine is far too colorful and full of whimsy and children – it’s this “Effortless-Minimal-Casual-California” look that is so popular right now, one that so many people want (me included) but can be really un-affordable.

I often call it being part of the “Effortless Expensive’ club, with our friend and founder Gwyneth as president and Goop as chief of marketing. This is not a criticism. Curating a high end, casual life-style full of wellness is actually their brand and nothing is wrong with that. They curate it beautifully, telling a story of a life in which many of us love to listen/watch.

But what has happened subsequently is that the ‘Goop’ look has caught on and taken FIRE on social media, provoking many a copy-cat and increasing the expectation of what a beautiful life means. What started for mostly the upper class is now being sold as mainstream, leaving many people burned because they feel sad about the mess that is their life, face, body and home. Every day there are more people talking about wellness, wearing $400 cotton dresses while barefoot, and drinking a smoothie worth $22 in organic vegetables. Not to mention what is in their beach “shack”.

All good things if you can afford it, but if you can’t, it can be a bummer to watch. I love looking at the photos of the life that is projected, too. It truly can be inspiring….but sometimes it’s depressing.


While I’m not Gwinnie, I still often feel like I’m a bigger part of the problem than the solution and recently many of you called me out on it. I do buy some expensive pieces both in fashion and home – pieces that I would not have 7 years ago. I love Rachel Comey shoes, Ulla Johnson shirts (the QUEEN of expensive effortless fashion) and last week I bought a beautiful $110 olive oil cruet for that perfect backsplash “moment” I was styling for the magazine shoot in our kitchen. As you know I also have a ton of Target, Urban outfitters, Ikea, Madewell, West Elm, thrift and flea market finds. etc. I’m not fancy, but yes my budget has increased which could make you think that I’ve changed. And in the 8 years that I’ve been writing this I suppose that I have. We all have. But I don’t feel bad or feel like I need to apologize for my success.

What I do know is the biggest a-hole move is to just silently throw ridiculous splurges in my home as if it’s nothing, as if anyone can have that olive oil cruet on their live edge + marble board with a $60 ceramic salt box peeking into the shot. So I try to be transparent about whether its gifted or not and give a budget roundup version whenever possible. I may still be an a-hole, but I’m trying to be an honest one.

This isn’t me saying that I will no longer buy what I love if/when I can afford it. But that I will try to help find budget sources to substitute any splurges, and give every day sources and ideas to help make sure that people feel like they can have the look and life they want, regardless of their budget. It’s kinda what I’ve always tried to do, I’m just recommitting myself to it.


So let’s break down what exactly goes into this “California Casual Minimalist’ look. What exactly are the key ingredients?

First – all white walls – maybe an off white, but don’t even think about painting any sort of ‘color’ anywhere. Every single piece is neutral in color and organic in nature, with maybe a light blue or sage green breaking up the white on white on wood on leather on white on cream on taupe on wood on leather on white.


More ingredients: live-edge wood, hand-thrown/studio pottery, wicker, rattan, fringe, tassels and linen that has been washed a million times with frayed edges. Mix with some more refined pieces, like the classics (Cherner, Saarinen, McCobb, Alto, Windsor, Thonet – they are all welcome and I’m guilty of obsessing over them all). Minimal modern art with hits of black is invited, and don’t forget a leaning blanket ladder (of which I have 2).


Caramel/black leathers, a ‘minimal sculptural chair’ in the corner, pottery bells, leaning rustic cutting boards and SO MANY WONKY BASKETS are essential to this look. Lastly please collect any and all wooden/organic/string three dimensional pieces and hang them on hooks next to your sun hats and fringed blankets. And don’t forget to put crystals, rocks or shells in a handmade or wood bowl on your coffee table.

Sure, I sound like I’m making fun of this look but seriously, I can write this so easily because I’m both a perpetrator and victim of this trend. I’m VERY into it.


But despite its ease and affordability getting this look can certainly add up.

As I’ve said before – AND THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT – if you can afford for everything in your life to be made locally, artisanally and sustainably then please support those designers and businesses. I will. Or if you can source these at thrift stores and flea markets, then please do so to eliminate as much waste in the world as possible. I will. But if you want that look, but have a budget that doesn’t support that desire – then TODAY IS YOUR DAY (and mine).

We went on the hunt to find these ingredients, as cheaply as possible and I think we did a pretty darn great job of it. Here you go, folks.


1. Cream Pom Throw Pillow | 2. Washed Linen Beige Pillow | 3. Faux Leather Throw Pillow | 4. Horizontal Striped Lumbar Pillow | 5. Linen Throw Blanket | 6. Ceramic Table Lamp | 7. Matro Dome Stool | 8. Woven Pendant | 9. Sofa | 10. Rug | 11. Coffee Table | 12. Accent Chair | 13. Tree Stump Side Table | 14. Magazine Holder | 15. Ink Wash Painting | 16. ‘Read Between the Lines’ Print | 17. ‘Stones’ Print | 18. ‘Uncertain Place 15’ Piece | 19. Leather Stool | 20. Wood Ladder | 21. Woven Wall Covering | 22. White Planter | 23. Leather Butterfly Chair | 24. Woven Floor Stool | 25. White and Black Short Bell | 26. Tall Black Bell | 27. Rose Gold Flatware | 28. Terracotta Dinnerware Set | 29. White Linen Napkins | 30. Short Cutting Board | 31. Long Cutting Board | 32. Ceramic Pitcher | 33. Drinking Glass | 34. Mustard and Tan Woven Vase | 35. Handmade Ceramic Vase | 36. Stone Dipped Vase | 37. Ceramic Tabletop Planter | 38. Brass Tray | 39. Wooden Rack | 40. Leather Jumprope | 41. Straw Hat (similar) | 42. Woven Basket | 43. Rattan Basket | 44. Black and Wood Chair | 45. Small Wood Stump Stool | 46. Large Wood Stump Stool | 47. Cream Fringe Pillow | 48. Macrame Lumbar Pillow | 49. Black Ladder | 50. Fern Plant | 51. Cane Chair (not available until Fall) | 52. Black Planter | 53. Tall Lidded White Vase | 54. Tan and Cream Throw | 55. Pompom Throw | 56. Cream Crinkle Throw

As I was writing this I found even MORE pieces that fit this particular look, that I love, so if you are into this post let us know and we’ll be sure to break it down even further (aka a whole roundup of those amazing sculptural corner chars that are affordable).

This post wasn’t meant to be a statement, but I think I’d been wanting to write about it for a while. How are you feeling about it all? Are you a part of the lifestyle mafia? Do you feel bad when you are on social media ever? Or do you think I’m just being sensitive and cloying?

The lifestyle mafia just got a whole lot bigger. Welcome, folks. 🙂

****Photography by Brittany Ambridge for Surf Shack 

Fin Mark


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This post is GOLD, thank you for writing it! I know I’m way too prone to getting sucked into these well curated lifestyle moments all over pinterest and instagram and end up wondering why I’m not barefoot in fields more often (oh yeah, fire ants). But I love this style and this round up captures it so perfectly. I would (and actually could) buy anything on here!


Agree. GOLD. Thanks.



Tracey (From KY)

I’m really tired of the mid century look so it’s nice to see home decor trends changing. 🙂

Thank you for sharing!

Nice content. Thank you


Great post! I have been reading your blog from the start and it was / is fun being part of your journey towards success. You have worked so hard for it! Naturally, you can afford more now than you could have in the early days of your blog. But your character hasn’t changed and since you have always been very transparent – you don’t need to worry. Being in the public eye and and living a pretty fortunate life will always attract jealousy. But remember that there are many more of us that appreciate the hard work you put into creating awesome (and daily!) content – please don’t change!


I’m with Sina: you are a success story, Emily, you worked to a place where you can spend more, get more, all of that. I remember watching you on Design Star, hoping you’d have A Big Career since I liked you so much. And you did! And it’s SO COOL to watch the people you like succeed. I really appreciate you giving us different price points and the transparency of what things cost, but…hey, those of us who have been watching your rise…it makes so much sense that you can buy more than you could. I just want you to help me better arrange furniture and find furniture and accessories with personality since I don’t have the time to find cool stuff. For example, aqua/sky blue/Caribbean turquoise is my favorite color, feel free to feature lots of pieces in those shades, so I know where to buy 🙂 xx

Laura Bullock

Ditto!! It’s been fun to watch you succeed. Plus I love your taste and you always provide for a variety of budgets.


Amen Sina! I couldn’t agree more.

You, my dear Emily are very far from an a-hole.

And, guess what? A good part of your audience (aka me!) is growing up with you… and able to make the occasional big splurge. So I love to see yours! Not to mention, when you’re like me, who can splurge (but also can’t always splurge), figuring out where to splurge is a skill all of its own.

Thank you, so much, you guys. I woke up with anxiety but I feel very supported. THANK YOU. xx


wow, you guys did a GREAT and thorough job of rounding up this style on a budget…thanks for your efforts! i like this style but typically want a little *more* color and slightly more traditional elements mixed in. this is a good idea for a post series…for the next one, my vote would be the modern traditional look (somewhere between rolled-arm furniture and super sleek white furniture)…similar to studio mcgee’s style. also, i just wanted to let you know that i think you’re still doing great…i feel like you felt the need to explain everything in great detail due to a few readers’ recent comments, but, just know the majority of your audience doesn’t feel the need for you to justify/explain every little thing. in other words, i appreciate the discussion/explanation above, and i do think it’s welcomed and necessary to an extent, but i don’t think you had to justify your higher-end purchases to that degree (i know you can afford higher-end things than i can and i don’t mind at all…how bored would i be if i read a blog of someone who had exactly my budget? very. some aspirational content is absolutely welcomed and even wanted!). overall,… Read more »


THIS. Don’t get sucked into justifying anything because of critical comments. It’s going down the rabbit hole!


DITTO. You’ve said you’re not going to change your blogging style (shut down, withdraw) based on negative comments. Don’t let them make you defensive, or second guess, or mom-guilt yourself either. Your blog and Instastories get me (design obsessed mom of twins turning 3 next week – gah!) through each day. We love you and thank you–keep doin’ you!


Totally agree! Some people need to lighten up. I do appreciate the work you all do and loved this post. I also like a bit more color overall in my house but loved everything in this roundup!! Thank you!!


“how bored would i be if i read a blog of someone who had exactly my budget?”

Potential post: Day 972496139791836178* of living with an inherited sofa in a slipcover because now the siding needs fixed.

Somehow, I don’t see that getting a lot of clicks.

(*That number might be a SLIGHT exaggeration, but it doesn’t always feel like one.)




These are nice rooms, I guess, but I find this look boring and generic. It is not my style at all (which is fine; it would be super boring if we all had the same style!).

I appreciate that you take the time to show us what goes into designing and styling a room in terms of both time and money in addition to design skills. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by Instagram and Pinterest and wonder why your house doesn’t look as good as everything you see online. 🙂

Also, I encourage people to NOT read GOOP or anything Gwyneth Paltrow puts out. Your life will be better, healthier, and safer if you don’t pay attention to her nonsense.


Agreed on all points (especially the last one). I’m a born-and-bred California girl, and I love California casual, but this look is a bit boring. I need *some* color.

Also, I’m afraid I’d get a disease from touching some of the pieces in these pictures–they’re not just worn in, they’re worn out. And don’t even get me started about all the dead animals.


One thing to keep in mind with the artisanal look is that when you buy the admittedly expensive items you are buying from artisans, people who are trying to make a living from creating unique objects. Cheap goods are cheap because they use cheap materials or labor. Investing in beautiful things, caring for them and passing them on is not a bad thing.

Agreed. I tried to address that above – that if you can afford the buy locally, and from small designers and artisans you/we should whenever possible. xx


Thanks for doing that, and thanks for your blog, which I enjoy tremendously. There is never anything wrong with creativity and beauty, high or low, and whether or I not I can buy everything you show, I sure admire it, and the fun, interesting way you present it. But you know, I do think about what can take the place of jobs lost to automation, and it seems to me that the marketplace being created on line is a powerful option. Blogs like yours are an important part of that, pointing us to purchase from places we may not have thought of.


Well said? I agree.


*Well said!


Yes, this. Even more than seeing specific pieces, I love to look at where you’ve found things so I know where to look when I’m shopping.

Susie Q.

Norine, I agree. As cheap as I am, I agree that artists deserve to be paid for their hard work.


I love this post. (And am posting for the first time ever–even though I’m a long-time, dedicated reader–because I wanted to say that so much.) I was a magazine editor and then PR rep for lifestyle & home brands for a long time, so have an idea of how much work & money goes into these home and pics. Your blog is the only one I still read because the detail & honesty about the time & expense involved in the projects is what makes it interesting for me. (Pretty pictures are fun, but they get boring for me without the practical info.) I too wrestle with the consumerism and superficiality of it all–but I LOVE design and can’t stop. 🙂 So thank you for being honest.

Thank you 🙂 I woke up with anxiety and feeling much better. xx


You’re the best, Emily! Never change. And yes, would love more round-ups inspired by this post! I’m regularly drooling over Amber Interiors rooms too, and I feel like she nails this look really well.


Yes. Agree!


Yes, I agree! But she rarely if ever shares sources (aside from her own shoppe), and I’d love to see more! Very much my style. Thanks, Emily!

Emily R

Please don’t apologize for buying expensive things! I’ve never understood a reader criticizing a blogger for buying things that they themselves may not be able to afford. It’s your money, and your budget. Carry on!


I know you weren’t trying to be funny, but I laughed out loud! (Same feeling I get when I read GOOP). Kinda of cool look, but it’s a fine line before it becomes a parody of itself. Your round-up of items is nicely curated, thanks! IMO, that hanging owl in the top photo is creepy!

Susie Q.

It IS made out of paper, isn’t it? I hope so.


love the look, enjoyed the post and tips, but omg. the owl. its terrible!

We all have egos, and social media provides us a new realm in which to have our egos stroked or bruised. I think the main and only guideline to coveting, capturing, and posting beautiful or Gwyneth-like things should be – Do I truly like this (vs. am I just trying to fit into a certain current trend/clique), and am I buying it or blogging about it because this genuinely makes me happy and thus might make someone else happy? – – Then the ego is removed from the equation and the endeavor isn’t tainted by desperately or hollowly trying to be adored, liked, shared, reblogged, and ego-stroked. The designers and artists I follow on Instagram, when I peek into their beautiful life and products, it doesn’t make me feel bad or poor, it makes me feel happy and inspired – which is exactly what the artists and designers of these surf shack white-painted rooms filled with funky ceramics probably want us to feel, really – happy and inspired!

Great point. A lot of it does have to do with the intent. xx


Keep doing what you’re doing, you are doing it right. About this style: I love it, but I feel it only works when fully styled for a shoot. Doesn’t it look empty and unfinished on the day to day basis?


This might be my favorite post ever, for both your style commentary and personal honesty. Well written!

I think this post is SO relevant … many times I find myself inspired by the design online but just as many times I sigh out loud because I know I can never have that .. but ‘that’ is just an image someone created … I quickly snap myself out of it and think of the millions of people that are trying to just survive out there, let alone have the luxury to peruse the internet or sit in a home with a full belly of eggs, toast and coffee…. on a lighter note… I appreciate you realizing that style and taste have nothing to do with budget and to give us affordable options when you can…

Thank you. thank you. xx

Sophia F.

Emily, you are fantastic. I’m one of the ones who has felt like things have been getting a little less approachable. We just bought our first home and I’m dying to put statement wallpaper on one gigantic living room wall, but it’s not in the budget, and seeing you redo your kids rooms a few times over was especially hard (because I totally get it – of COURSE if you have the cash you should make your house into whatever makes you happy!). For me, too, and I think a lot of others, it’s not just about money but also time. My kids are the same ages as yours and without some serious help that I don’t have, I’m not going to be able to ‘curate’ a look of eclectically sourced furniture and vintage decorative objects from SoCal flea markets, though I’d love to. So every time you post a roundup like this and reemphasize that your job is a JOB and not a lifestyle, I love it. And if you want to post a roundup of, say, an affordable deep sea bedroom for a 3.5 year old aspiring marine biologist, I’d love that too 😉

HA. So glad you commented and we’ll get on the marine biologist thing 🙂 And a Charlie room update tomorrow (if I can finish writing it in time). I know that in my case my job + my lifestyle are blurred for sure but thank you so much for your comment and good luck with those two kids. xx

I think this is a great point! The difference between lifestyle and job. I recently read an article on Goop (maybe Architecture Digest / Elle Decor? Can’t remember?) And there are these shots of the working kitchen in the Goop office. It is truly beautiful. But the rational behind the space was something like, we want this space to feel like home, b/c we spend so much time in it. And I thought, but, it’s your job. Not your home. It’s almost like the space is meant to trick the employees into forgetting that they are still working! Feels like almost too big of a sacrifice to the work / life balance.

This was a beautiful and beautifully honest note, Sophia. I admire you for putting it out there. I am in a different place (older, different resources), but I was once there and can remember those pangs of envy (and sometimes jealously, if I’m totally honest). I was in a Mommy + Me group when my eldest was a newborn and I was the only in our group of six who not only didn’t have live-in help, we didn’t have any help of any kind at all, and we (my husband and I) thought “wait, you mean we’re not normal?” And no, we weren’t (for that area). At all. A couple of the mamas had (have) private jets, I mean it was a remarkable disparity! I know it’s not specific to American culture this keeping up with mentality, or noticing what we don’t have in comparison to our peers, but it feels bad. It left me feeling bad.

Anyway, Sophia, I just wanted to thank you for your lovely note.


Yes Emily. Thank you for this post. I have grown wearing of gazing at interiors where I can’t afford one piece of decor in it. This post. Your thoughts. The subsequent budget finds……mad me sigh in relief. Someone gets it. Thanks!!!


Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am consistently amazed by your commitment to authenticity and your empathy towards those of us with shallower (read: empty) pockets. It is such a breath of fresh air to have your style expertise alongside your rational voice telling us what’s worth it, what isn’t, and why.


I really appreciate your honestly and this post in general. Of course you’ve changed. You’ve achieved a great deal of success in the past 8 years. Don’t be ashamed of that. Being a woman in this world and “making it” is an accomplishment unto itself. So good for you!! As for the expensive pieces, I may not be able to afford some of the things you post but that doesn’t mean I don’t draw inspiration for my own spaces. And I love that you mix Target pieces in with the more expensive things. I have a feeling you’d do that even if you didn’t work with Target.

I for one don’t LOVE the California casual look. I appreciate a little more color. Having said that, I do still draw inspiration from it. Some of the pieces would still fit into my more colorful home. So thank you for that list. Some of the “inexpensive” pieces are gorgeous! 🙂

Patty Cunningham

Thank you for staying this. I’ve painted my entire house white and I’m feeling my inspiration and budget run dry. I feel afraid of color now … sad situation. Thanks for shining a spotlight on how expensive this trend is and some pieces to match. I think I’ll take a design chill pill now and start buying accessories that make me happy without worrying so much about the final (unattainable) design.


Emily! You’re so damn likable that even as I type this from my builder basic subdivision home in TX and I’m basically foaming at the mouth with jealousy at any and every effortless CA lifestyle/home blogger I catch on social media, I still love you and would never consider you an a-hole, even an honest one! Obviously with this style comes the idea and overarching theme of authenticity, which is where many of others lose me, but I do believe you nail it and that’s why you have such a loyal following despite your growing budget/new digs etc. I recently bought the Surf Shack book as well and I WANT IT ALL, but I have trouble translating it to my life/home for a few reasons… the main one being EDITING. Omg how do they do it?! I have more side tables and occasional chairs than any one person should, meanwhile they’re using a wobbly milkmaid stool from the 1800s as a bedside table and it’s one of 4 total items in the whole room yet somehow it’s perfection. I personally (even unwillingly) lean towards ‘more is more’ and for that reason I may never obtain the elusive effortless look, but… Read more »


How you spend your money is your business. Sure, I’m guilty of (enviously) reading yours and many other blogs who post $100 natural oil skincare/$300 shoes/monthly exotic vacations/etc and wonder how the hell they afford that lifestyle, but then I smack myself and realize that this is not the norm nor the standard to which I should be holding myself to. You’re probably one of the most transparent bloggers out there so please keep it up. Haters gonna hate.

Michaela N.

THIS ☝? I never thought about it, but you’re right: part of the reason I love EHD is because it HASN’T turned into another pricey, pretty lifestyle blog. This is good shit, right here. ?


Love this post and am looking forward to more roundups of this style. Olive tree growing out of a rock? Yes please! I’ve got a black thumb but I dream of having big, healthy plants.


“I may still be an a-hole, but I’m trying to be an honest one.”

Oh Emily, thank you for being you! The truth is we’re all guilty of this at some point or another. I love your blog and, honestly, I see nothing wrong with buying finer things. You work hard, you’re successful and should enjoy it. All of the naysayers & people who wag their fingers at others should invest in a mirror and really take a look at themselves.

That last sentence made me laugh out loud. Maybe I could do a budget mirror roundup 🙂 thank you. xx


Agreed. This post reiterates why I’ve been fan-girling Emily since she won DesignStar, and have been in love with her since. Not only can she design her balls off, she cares about the bigger picture of her place in the world. She’s the full package, y’all.

Haters gonna hate. Let’s spread the love and help them get past whatever their issue is, if we can… because 99/100 it’s a problem they’re facing personally. Which goes back to Emily’s post about empathy. When we can lift up our neighbors, we all benefit as a society.


Please please please do a round up of affordable sculptural corner chairs!

Love your transparency, as always.


One of the reasons I read your blog (as opposed to just following on pinterest or instagram) is how upfront you are about the process, about your feelings in the moment and about the cost. The way you approach design and the way you balance where you were and where you are gives us all access to good design whether we are wealthy or not and that makes me want to keep reading. I love that it isn’t all budget because sometimes we want to splurge, and also I think it can increase our design sensibility so that when we can identify fantastic pieces at estate sales or vintage shops or flea markets or local makers. I also love that you mix in pieces from accessible shops and stores like Target and Ikea because I can snap up something with beautiful lines without having to scroll through 30 pages of lamps or rugs to find something great. Please do expand on this post. I’d love to see more of your finds. (Also, you aren’t an a-hole and I am sort of flummoxed that anyone would say so. )


First, THANK YOU. I love elements of this look and actually pinned a few items that work perfectly with my plan for my living room. But I’ve been thinking about your blog lately and have really been uncomfortable with how judgmental woman have become in the comments. It’s been really disheartening to me. Mostly because I’m really afraid you are going to tell us all to go to hell and just stop blogging. Hopefully there are enough benefits to this job for you as a trade off for putting up with all of the vitriol from a few people. But it’s also sad to me why people would continually visit a site that they feel so comfortable with attacking for just the stupidest reasons (bunions, really? I have them too, as do a lot of women, and my God! what a terrible thing to point out to a person). I’m guessing the traffic is mostly women and I’m just disappointed that we can’t all be a bit more gracious and kind to one another and find beauty in our different perspectives. I’m not an idiot, of course I have noticed that you can now afford more expensive items but is… Read more »

Thank you. Besides a few truly mean comments most of the commenters are just doing that – commenting and I definitely invite it. I think when multiple people are saying the same thing it is something to be listened to – even if I didn’t initially agree with them. I know that those commenters aren’t just upset with me, they are upset with what I’m talking about above – how everything looks easy and beautiful on social. I actually feel like I do a great job of being transparent about it generally, but I get it and don’t mind addressing it. Its interesting that people think i’m apologizing for buying expensive things …. i’m going to reread the post now and edit because I didn’t mean to sound apologetic. Heck … maybe I will forever apologize for buying some things that I KNOW are ridiculous to buy and regardless of how much I feel like I ‘own’ the purchase, subconciously i AM embarrassed…. who knows 🙂


i didn’t read it as you apologizing…but you did include a little more “explanation” or “justification” than you usually do. i think the majority of people commenting here just want you to know you can feel free to write the post however you normally would, without feeling the need to justify and explain in such detail (as it seems you might be inclined to do in light of recent comments). or, if you prefer to explain in such detail, have at it 🙂


Oprah says she never feels guilty about her wealth. And why should she?!

Also I haven’t read the comments in the closet post from friday because of anxiety so you might be talking about them. 161 comments on a closet post means something is up … and I was very fragile on friday so I didn’t read them. I probably will in a few days … xx


Do not read them!! It’s a bunch of women fighting about how many children they have and what constitutes an actual busy mom. It made me sad to read them. I have one and I lost it this morning because he threw my iced coffee on my California cool ivory shag rug. It’s all relative! I think you’re probably busier than any of us could imagine. in the time wasted reading those comments you could have time to put on a face mask and just BE for 10 minutes.


Do not read them!! It’s a bunch of women fighting about how many children they have and what constitutes an actual busy mom. It made me sad to read them. I have one and I lost it this morning because he threw my iced coffee on my California cool ivory shag rug. It’s all relative! I think you’re probably busier than any of us could imagine. in the time wasted reading those comments you could have time to put on a face mask and just BE for 10 minutes.


Natasha, Brava!!

Natasha: best comment. I feel the same about these nasty and useless comments and am afraid that Emily will stop blogging some day because of some jealous women that seem to be raised by wolves.
Keep doing what you do, Emily. Greetings from Germany


More of this. I am bookmarking this post it is great.


LOVE! please share more pieces you’ve found!


Thank you so much Emily. I love hearing your feelings on this type of trend. It’s hard when certain looks take over the internet not to be pulled into them. I admit that I get a little envious people with these homes, even though they would not necessarily fit the context of a New England home/winter.

I second the other commenters feelings. I think you are doing an amazing job. People should be allowed to grow and change, you included. Don’t stop doing you!

Much love from Boston. <3


Wonderful post. I’ve got brand envy so bad! Two brands I love to hate because I can’t afford are Pop & Scott and Pampa. Oh, and Emily, don’t forget about the whole Jassa line at IKEA for affordable chairs, chaises and settees!


Thanks for the ikea link. That’s spot on.


Soooo here’s my question…… Aren’t these all a little more #hygge than anything? I do see west coast vibes on a lot of these images, but it seems that the overall “feeling” is that cozy unpretentious vibe I associate with Hygge.

Then again none of these look particularly Danish… is that a requirement? Or is it just about the feeling?

Is Hygge just a buzz word used to lump all of this together?

Am I totally missing it? Should I get back to work? Probably to both.

Great content, thanks Em!

HA. I think its definitely a bit Hygge, too. Now get back to work!! 🙂


Elyse, as a Dane I’m always a little disappointed about how hygge has become a trend. For Danes its part of our culture. At some point most people will probably move on from it. But it’s something that transcends design style, it can be in every home whether it’s designed in a Scandinavian style or not.

I live in LA, which isn’t always an authentic and inviting place, so I see why hygge is attractive. Hygge has been a way for me to bring comfort, family, nostalgia, long drawn out dinners, fireside chats, and on and on into my home. You’re right on target, hygge is a feeling. But it’s also a way of creating your environment to inspire that feeling.


I always associate hygge with the Dutch concept of “gezelligheid”, which wiki defines as: “a Dutch word which, depending on context, can be translated as convivial, cozy, fun, or nice atmosphere, but can also show someone belonging, time spent with loved ones, the fact of seeing a friend after a long absence, or the general togetherness that gives people a warm feeling.”


Haha you crack me up Emily! You are not an A hole for buying expensive, good quality olive oil! You work so hard in all aspects of your life it seems so you can by a 9ct gold encrusted toilet brush if you want! No guilt necessary. Your content is forever humble, enjoyable and inspiring! Meg Australia

Great post, particularly because of your candor. I follow many Instagram accounts that showcase this look on a regular basis. Lately, I’ve felt a vague sense of discontent or depression as I scroll through my feed rather than inspiration. I think it’s because all of this looks so effortless, yet I still feel like it’s not even remotely attainable. As an interior designer, I am well aware of just how much work this look entails and how much it costs.

It’s not just the “Effortless California Casual” look that gets expensive. I’m actually not a huge fan of the look, mainly because white walls will always read dorm room or rental to me. I think what makes things expensive is having pieces that aren’t a matching set. I like my furniture to look like it was collected over time, but that’s an expensive proposition if you want the look without the “over time” part. I’ll buy an individual piece or two from the local furniture mart, but since I’m not content with a living room or bedroom set from my local bulk furniture store and I can’t afford custom or curated antiques, I have to take my time watching craigslist and other thrift stores for the perfect piece(s). It takes longer, but it’s really rewarding when it comes together, Love this post, Emily and I’ve always felt you were very upfront about costs. I have had my bug-eyed moments – the concrete outdoor tile! But it’s nice to know what it would cost to get the look, because it’s easier to decide BEFORE I’m completely in love with it and set on it that it’s not in the cards for… Read more »

That’s sort of why I started my blog. These looks are beautiful–and expensive. Not all of us can afford or desire to spend the amount of money it takes to achieve them. Similar (and less expensive) options ARE out there. You just have to know where to look. Sure, there’s a quality trade off, but for hundreds less I’m willing to make it in most cases. That’s why I love your budget/cheaper options posts. With that said, you should never ever apologize for having nicer items in your home. It’s your home. Everyone is allowed to grow up, change, and/or reinvent themselves. Don’t we all long to eventually “make it” and finally allow ourselves to buy nice things? I realize your blogging platform makes your position different, but I would hope all of us readers are all aware enough to realize this (I realize they are not). Thank you for always striving for transparency. It doesn’t go unnoticed even though (I assume) a lot of happy readers don’t comment. Anyway, great post. Idea for future post: Scandinavian home design. Or I’d love to see one about wallpaper. I’ve seen so many beautiful wallpapered rooms lately, but don’t know much (anything)… Read more »


I think it’s a challenge to be inspirational for people of all financial backgrounds while also excelling in your field, which tends to require a greater budget. I personally like blogs and Pinterest and IG for inspiration, not to carbon copy. That frees me from feeling the pressure of spending money I may not have on certain pieces but still have a lovely home I’m happy and proud of. We know the mental and emotional advantages to a well-designed space but it can’t carry so far that we tie our value and worth into material things. Tempting, for sure, with the more is more is never enough press of society. Emily, you do a good job of not just showing a higher-end finished product, but explaining the reason and methodology behind your decisions so others can take that advice and create their own space with budget-friendly or already-owned pieces if that’s where they’re at. I love all the finished projects you show, they are lovely! And knowing how much things cost and where you shop is great. But I also appreciate your candor about being able to afford more today than 8 years ago, or than some of your readers.… Read more »

Sarah, that first sentence really nailed it. THANK YOU.


Great post Emily! I have been following you from your HGTV days, your blog/instagram/insta-stories, etc. and I do think you do a really great job at being transparent and honest (in both timing, budget, etc). I also think you do a good mix of Target, Flea Market and expensive well. Obviously we all grow and change and there is nothing wrong with that. I, too, am guilty of getting sucked into the “perfect life” through images I see online whether it be the perfect room or perfect body or perfect lunch. 🙂 If I’m being honest, I found myself so sad and in such a “poor-me” state after watching your insta-story on all the things that were gifted to you for mother’s day (cashmere robe, goop products, etc). Although I get how marketing works… you have a lot of followers, companies want you to show off their products so more products are sold, etc, etc…. it just felt a little off-brand for you. And because I would have loved any and all of those products, and I am an exhausted mother of 3 small boys who works my butt off, I fell into the “why not me” trap. But I… Read more »

T, I was so worried about that and I actually felt a little gross when posting. But i didn’t know what to do! These companies were so nice to send and I want to make them happy, too and they deserve a thank you. I had my crew watch and tell me if it felt too braggy and they didn’t think so, but i’m so sorry. ugh. As a mother of three small boys you deserved all of that 🙂


A great way to combat that is to ask them to send one to give away to a reader, or offer a discount code you can share. Or simply endorse what you like and then give it away to a reader.


Do NOT apologize…. my point was that you shouldn’t feel bad. It’s your stuff and you should be proud of what you’re gifted or what you buy for yourself, your home, your children, etc. Social media is still in it’s infancy and hard to navigate. I adore what you do. The fact that you’re in the position you’re in while having this interesting conversation, and also not oblivious to all walks of life design-wise, is fantastic. All props, honestly.


I wasn’t upset on the mom day gifting, but I do love the idea of giveaways sometimes. My guess is you don’t always want all that stuff you get. Also, maybe you could do a version of Oprah’s favorite things…the favorite things you received you could rebuy and give away as well as links to find them.
Girl, this is the second reference to you/Oprah here….you’re doing gooooood!


T, I think your comment offers some important insight. I don’t think the negativity is *all* about jealously. I think some of it stems from a real frustration and wounding about inequities in our society, and how some people are rewarded more than others. I want to be very clear that I know how hard Emily has worked for her success, and I know she had many lean years before getting to where she is now (I’ve followed her since her Design Star days). But the reality is, her success is not just hard work, it’s a constellation of factors, including the fact that she’s a conventionally attractive white woman. Do you think GOOP would be sending her products to show off on social media if she was, say, fat? My guess is no. There are many women of color who work just as hard who do not enjoy the same level of mainstream success. And I think there’s also frustration with the fact that lifestyle bloggers/Influencers make so much money for essentially promoting consumerism, and in the process perpetuating this idea that we can buy our way to happiness, or that we’re not good enough as is but we… Read more »


Very well said Jen! I agree… I think that was the overall feeling I felt at the time of the mother’s day post… why do some people get rewarded while so many other well deserving folks don’t? And like you said, I guess I felt torn because although it brought up these feelings in me, I wouldn’t want Emily to not have those things and she’s also very well deserving and I’m truly happy for her success. It’s the same thing as celebrities, who already live excellent lives and can afford so much, are gifted with these extravagant gift bags at award shows worth thousands of dollars.


THIS 100%!

Thanks for so eloquently expressing how I’ve been feeling, that I haven’t really been able to put into words!


I love this post. It’s honest and offers your unique POV, and ultimately that’s why I read EHD 🙂 And while I’m not quite on your level of purchases yet, I really enjoy being introduced to new brands and styles, many of which aren’t all that far from reach, I.e Rejuvenation and Schoolhouse light fixtures are approximately 8000 times more beautiful then the Home Depot varieties and a justifiable kind of splurge in my book. And Doen clothes are so lovely and local and I will own one of their pieces. And if we’re all being honest, who hasn’t bought their own version of a $80 oil cruet or circus blouse splurge? we all make our own choices on the value of what we love. You do you!


where is that awesome owl from?


Very nicely done.
Decor content as well as the recognition of the fact that many of us out here cannot afford to spend $200 on a throw pillow!
Yes please, bring us more of this – love it!

S. Hoover

Great post! Love you and your blog, you are doing a great job! Please keep it up


Hi Emily,

First I want to applaud you & your team for your realness. I love how you change your mind again and again, can be candid with your clients and followers and have a breakdown just like the rest of us. I can relate and so I return religiously day-after-day.

Although social media and beautiful design books are a god send of inspiration they can also create a whirlpool of self doubt and personal indecision for followers and designers alike. Add to the mix the absolute perfection always displayed…it’s enough to drive a chick insane!
Personally, I struggle with the fact that so often we do not see the shit show that is just outside of the perfectly filtered frame. Or, the fact that the perfectly styled moment is just a speck of sanity amidst a home that looks like a clown exploded. On a personal level I find knowing this refreshing. It shows a vulnerability that I think few share but I also respect and accept it as that person’s reality.

Emily, I l loved you on Design Star, I watched your show, I’ve read your blog since the beginning. This post was so good on so many levels. Thank you for your transparency, for explaining the thoughts behind the process, and for sharing. I have learned heaps from you. That being said, I did have that vague feeling of discontent/despair when I think about how to execute the look and have a taken a tiny step back from social media. But I love design and what you do. Thank you for this post, for not being an a-hole at all 🙂 and addressing the elephant in the room. I wish women in general weren’t such mean girls, but we all are at one point or another. You go Glenn Coco!


Emily, I love this roundup. I am the queen of the desire to copy cat without the time or budget, so posts like this are appreciated. I am, like you, spending more the last few years than I ever did the first 15 years of marriage. I desire the better quality and yet still appreciate a “look for less.” It just isn’t a priority for me to spend more for the sake of spending more. More spent to support a local business – yes at times. I am sad you had a bit of a breakdown on Friday, and I really hope it was not motivated by comments, rather your own desire to face something/change it/whatever it is exactly. B/c of some of your posts, I can guarantee you that we two are on opposite ends of lots of issues, but I love that you love. I appreciate your desire for honesty, fairness, niceness, and I’m pretty sure we would have a great time and some great conversations over a glass of vino or three despite our differences. I am shocked that you are feeling like maybe you could be more transparent. You are practically see-through for crying out loud.… Read more »


All I can say is…..I LOVE you! Like seriously, love,love, love you! Perfect mix of style mafia and sweet open Girlfriendiness. Please never stop being and doing you!

Oh my god, I love that you used a-hole in this post. Seriously, haters gonna hate! It is your job, you are a designer, and if readers can’t figure out how to recreate looks to fit a budget -that is not on you! Life is a constant compromise. If you live within your means, you may have to work harder and longer to find sources that work for your home. You do great work and I’m inspired by your team. The work you all do to create round-ups and design posts are essential for home owners, such as myself, who do not have a budget to hire a designer! THANK YOU!


Hi Emily, Thank you so much for writing about this. This post feels like one of those evenings when you finally get to talk and reconnect with your husband after weeks of craziness with the kids. I’ve been a loyal reader, emily style student since 2008. I also live in LA and know how seductive this place can be. I love everything you create, but in recent years, as I’ve seen the prices on your blog rise or a lack of transparency over sponsorships (not lately, thank you so much) I worry sometimes if you’re changing too much. Deep down, the main reason your blog is such a place of inspiration and joy for me is because of the essence of you — that down-to-earth, humble, bubbly Oregon girl. I really hope LA, price tags, name brands, etc. never dims that in you. Please know that this city goes beyond far beyond the glitzy stereotypes and materialism. You have Sylvia in your home. Let her show you her LA one day. I’m Latina and my husband is Armenian. Go to the Eastside — not Silver Lake, Echo Park, but the REAL Eastside, east of the river in Boyle Heights and… Read more »

Thank you ES. So nice to relate to another Angeleno and advice as to how to stay grounded is much appreciated. Thanks so much for reading so long and being so loyal through the ups and downs. ANd yes, I need to go more to the real east side. Los Feliz is certainly a bubble … xx

Amy Lopez

I love your blog! I’ve been following you since your Design Star days and I’ve enjoyed watching you evolve through your blog. I respect your honesty with design aspects as well as the challenges of becoming a parent. I can relate in many ways as a mother who has been trying to create a beautiful and safe home for my family. I’m definitely mixing in the high and the low. I just wanted to thank you for your inspirational blog and for persevering even through the negative comments that must be hard to read. You and your team are doing a great job!


Thank you for this post Emily. We live in a country of consumption and many people have bought into the idea that if you have these beautiful expensive things it will make them happy. However, things will not bring you lasting happiness. I posed a question to you about this topic awhile back when you asked for feedback on the blog over a year or so ago. If there are beautiful less expensive alternatives out there, why not shop that way? If we spend less on ourselves and can still create a beautiful home environment, then we will have more to give to others in need. If we don’t spend $80 on a cruet, but instead spend $10, we now have $70 to buy another ticket to Ana Huna (Miry’s List) and we have the potential to improve the lives of others while still having a beautiful $10 cruet. I guarantee you will find more happiness in giving to others than giving to yourself. I’m not criticizing you for buying the $80 cruet or telling you or anyone else how to spend your money, I’m just giving another perspective. I see the flip side too when you buy these things… Read more »


The problem with the $10 cruet is that it is being made in sweatshops and maybe doing more damage that your donated $70 will counter. If we must buy things, why shouldn’t the people who make them be paid fair wages and live with fresh water and food and afford to keep their children and live a normal life span? Whether you buy imported or local, cheap rarely means fair. We budget-conscious people are in our own bubble…just because cheap is available doesn’t mean it’s a smart or humble or kind option….usually it’s the opposite.


Anon, I appreciate that perspective and do see your point of view. I am not an expert on sweatshops and won’t claim to be one. I would say probably the average person can not afford some of these higher priced items and therefore will almost indefinitely purchase them from big box stores (I know I do). Even if I chose to buy the $80 cruet, it doesn’t mean sweatshops will go away because other people will always buy the mass produced items because they are affordable. I think it is safe to say we are both in favor of helping people . If you can afford the $80 cruet and want to support local artists and therefore not support sweatshops, I think that’s great. I also think you are doing good if you buy a less expensive product and use the money you saved to help people in other ways. The point is both sides are trying to make a difference and you have to start somewhere. There are also other options too rather than just buying from big box stores (which I do). A good portion of the things in my home have come from thrift stores, estate sales,… Read more »


Alison, I appreciate what you’ve written, too, and apologize for sounding like I was lumping all big stores in together. I’m no expert either and haven’t researched how bad which vendors are…but if something is fair trade or similar…you can bet a company is going to label it as such. Having done a bit of searching for the “good” places to shop…it’s astonishing how slim the pickings are. Which def. makes me think twice when shopping, and feel guilty when I go ahead and ignore my own advice. I’m expecting that this will become more of a topic people are interesting in, and pressure will be put on the industry to give us kinder options. West Elm sure surprised me with their fair trade efforts! Although I have to temper that excitement because their sister/mother companies don’t have the same commitments. Still, it’s a big step in the right direction.

If anyone wants an insight into what cheap costs, here’s a good documentary on fast fashion:


I truly find joy in everyday, beautiful items…everything from can openers to pillowcases. I appreciate them and feel connected with the artists who put their heart and souls into them or the designers who perfected them. I am a stay at home mom, and have found it even more important to be surrounded by things that fill my soul on the very long days. I only buy what I need and I only have time for quality items that will last for many years to a lifetime.


Johanna, I’m the same way – SAHM, committed to the beauty and quality of well-made, long lasting items, but as our budget is stretched thinner with growing kids and changing needs, I’m finding myself looking at threadbare, ripping sheets and realizing that to buy the long lasting linen means going into debt (and mending is great, but some are getting beyond the mending point!). We’ve been living without furniture in half of our 1800sf home because we can’t afford any (downsizing would be great, but it costs money to move, and we want our parents to be able to stay with us when they visit instead of spending hundreds of dollars for a city hotel). So, though I used to turn up my nose at most big box purchases, I’ve started eyeing them and I’m understanding what people mean when they say that a lot of folks can’t afford ethically, well-made things that support artisans, no matter how much they might want to. There just aren’t quite enough pennies to pinch!

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