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Design

Has “Styling” Changed, or Just Me? (+ Quick Announcement at the End)

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Every now and again, I find an older photo of my work and I’m like WOW. WOW. WOW. I REALLY DID IT. THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS, especially in pulled back shots. Recently while writing my second book that is not about styling, I’ve realized how much I’ve changed (I think). While my current living room still has too much stuff (it’s the shelves’ fault!! I can’t leave them blank!) I generally have moved away from visual clutter. Now, what I’m wondering today is, is this me getting older and my styling “style” changing? Or is this where we as a design collective are moving? Or maybe it’s just based on the space? I know that I was on the more-is-more end of styling, for sure, but there were two magazine editors and a very experienced photographer in that kitchen above, and we all said “yes, yes we need the pears and tomatoes, and bread and lemons, cutting boards, other fruit in the bottom right corner (what are those?), roses and a fern. And cookbook. And a blue bowl. And water/tea towel. I used to overstyle, but now do I understyle? Let’s discuss.

“Styling” stuff was such a big thing 10 years ago. It’s why I won Design Star, and why my book Styled was a New York Times bestseller. That wasn’t meant to brag, it was just really good timing. It was the middle of the recession and we (all of America) couldn’t afford to buy or renovate homes, but we could buy small things that we loved and wanted to know how to place them. We wanted to know how to add personality to our homes without spending a lot of money. That is styling.

I love styling and I love stuff, so I’m extra prone to overdoing it. This one, from the book, is also a lot.

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There are two terrariums. TWO. And remember that it wasn’t just me approving these—Scott Horne (a world-famous stylist) and David Tsay (incredible interiors photographer) both were like, yep, two terrariums and definitely display those crackers.

Remember this project (Bri Emery’s home)? I think I even remember Bri saying “whoa that’s a lot of plants” and I was like, “yes! It is!” but in a very positive way.

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Sure, some of the pieces are now dated (that colorful pillow mostly, I actually still really like everything else, just less of it) but I didn’t need to put the branches on the table in front of the plants. Maybe we didn’t need that bull pinata next to the giant face planter. But maybe we did? There is a fearlessness about it that I still love.

Remember my old shelves from my “Commonwealth” years (the street we lived on)?:

Commonwealth Tv Shot

I LOVE objects and collected so many things: body parts, brass animals, heads, anything footed. I do miss that head sculpture, and actually still have most of that art. But it’s a lot. It’s not only a lot of stuff but a lot of colors. But where else was I to display my 14-carat gold Monopoly figures? This was the room, remember, that someone said looked like “Spongebob Squarepants threw up” on, which will forever crack me up. There is an irreverence about it that I miss.

Commonwealth Bookcase Closeup

There are two dollhouse chairs up there: one in a glass cloche and one next to the head…the big one, not the creepy baby one. (I still have all that art, yay!)

Hot Pink Chandeliers

The bedroom was exciting, it just was, and my issue isn’t with the crazy lamps (so fun) and the nutty vintage headboard that was reupholstered in shiny blue velvet (still so fun…I miss old me!!!) but the amount of stuff on both nightstands. Like a big brass A. Why? And boy did I like roses. (Sorry for the grainy photo…it’s from back in 2013 and we don’t have a higher-res version.)

It’s crazy that that girl also designed this bedroom:

Mh Master Bedroom 01

And this living room, which I actually think is UNDERSTYLED.

Emily Henderson Moutain House Living Room Lores23

I was so obsessed with not adding “stuff” just to add stuff. It had to make sense and really work in the space, but I actually think that could have just used more books on the bottom coffee table, another pillow (but I was trying to show off the curve of the sectional, my favorite part) and maybe some quiet art in the background.

Emily Henderson Mountain House Kitchen Lores92

I think this is understyled and now I know why. The last couple of years, I’ve been renovating so I’m looking for content that highlights the design more, not the stuff in it. So I intentionally wanted to keep it clean so that you could really see what the kitchen materials and function were all about. I also really like how clean and minimal it is, that’s for sure. But the magazine asked us to reshoot it with more life, more fruit/flowers, etc. (the dining room was also different so we needed to).

Screen Shot 2019 08 20 At 2.53.31 Pm

They were right…it needed more life. It needed a squash (the only shootable produce we had at the time)?

Anyway, point is that I’m so sensitive to my overstyling that now I’m almost understyling.

Take this powder room, for instance.

Powderbath01

I wanted to stack towels on the bottom but it’s a powder room so that didn’t make sense. We tried baskets but didn’t have the right ones and so they either looked too small and messy or two big and bulky. The design of that room is so great that I wanted people to see the vanity, the sconces, the simplicity of the plumbing, that tile…but I think I could have added just a bit more life.

Magazines still feel really styled. In fact, House Beautiful asked us to really amp it up and add more than we were going to. But that’s because magazines are meant to be editorial, to tell a story, rather than just show a house.

Thoughts? Does the understyled look make you sad? Is the overstyled look over or was it never truly in and I was just an overstyler? 🙂

Now, for a quick announcement:

WE ARE DOING TWO POSTS A DAY

That’s right, we are going to write/publish a second post every weekday, sort of an afternoon snack for us all that will be shorter, maybe a little controversial at times, a little lifestyle sprinkled throughout…and just FUN. This was the original goal when I expanded my editorial team, but the mountain house and Portland projects (and writing/publishing) really dominated our ability to do more, so now that we are done with those, I/we have the bandwidth to write more and frankly, I want to. So to start, a lot of these will be from me but you’ll hear from more of the voices on our team, as well, because we all have a lot to say (in a shorter format that’s easier to get through for you readers). This is a bit of an experiment since digital media let’s you take lots of risks…and we’ll see if you guys are into it. I actually have a feeling that you’ll almost prefer these posts, so come back later today at 11 am PT and see… 🙂

***UPDATE! Our second post of the day is up. Head HERE to read it and chime in with your thoughts on the possibly controversial trend we’re chatting about today. 

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Jared

I think the trend has moved away from over-styling. The new ads for many of the home brands (who, admittedly, seem to use the same stylists) feature a handful of objects and a few sculptural tree branches in a vase. It’s become very minimal. But the pendulum will swing back when people become bored with seeing the same thing over and over again. I think your styling technique is just evolving with the trend.

Jessvii

I tend to prefer a medium amount of styling in photos. So, yes to flowers and the squash and some plants. About magazines, although I still buy HGTV magazine, I find that all the others I used to get now seem out of touch to me: Southern Living, House Beautiful, Better Homes and Gardens, and more. I used to read at least four a month. Maybe it’s just me, since I became a parent and survived the recession? I don’t think it’s the styling alone – I think it’s that the lifestyle portrayed in them seems increasingly out of reach for a lot of people. Given the amount of time I spend working, parenting, commuting… I just don’t have time for intimate dinner parties and relaxing on a non-existent porch… Even if I did, none of my friends or neighbors would have the time to join me (work, commuting, kids’ soccer meets, etc.). Even the “budget” articles in those publications have the homeowner driving all around town to score a deal and then refinishing a piece (read as: spending a lot of time). I guess I’m just in a season of life where I still appreciate and strive for joy,… Read more »

Jess

I agree with your thoughts on lifestyle. I’m a mom to 5 kids that I homeschool, and while I would love to have the perfect house, it’s a constant mess. Relaxing? I pretty much don’t know what that is! I don’t love the idea that magazines portray a story as opposed to real life, because what I would love to see is some more real life in those magazine pictures. I think there’s a similarity between magazines and social media in that in can, not always, but can contribute to us striving for things that are unrealistic, or even things we don’t really want but get swept up in it all. Sure those perfectly styled shots are beautiful, but my house won’t look like that ever.

Sarah

Yes! Yes to this! “I still appreciate and strive for joy, but also favor practicality and authenticity. And I think pulled back styling, at least for me, seems better / more relaxing / more peaceful / more real.”

There’s aspirational and then there’s completely un-relatable. I too used to ready many home magazines and have stopped reading because they seem so out of touch.

Emily, I think the variety of projects on your site hit the sweet spot of just the right mix of aspirational, high design / push the envelope and completely relatable. Keep up the great work!

KatieJ

Yes^ this^

“I don’t think it’s the styling alone – I think it’s that the lifestyle portrayed in them seems increasingly out of reach for a lot of people. “

Josh

Agreed. Those magazines feel out of touch and new ones, like “House and Home” better resonate with me. Neutrals, earthtones, and minimalism feel much more soothing than crazy colors, designs, and overstyling.

Roberta Davis

totally with you on that!!!!

Erin

Cannot agree more with this.

Karen

Yes, this is true. And then you read this, it’s BAM / IN YO’ FACE….and somewhat intriguing:
https://www2.hm.com/en_us/life/culture/inside-h-m/hm-home-jonathan-adler-designer-collaboration.html

Also, for Emily, I think a lot of this has to do with the caliber of her projects (which means the B word – budget). Pillows and vases are a world away from tile work and cabinetry. In general, if your style and design mojo isn’t changing, then you’re……stuck………….but you can always circle back, or bend sideways, even after a lengthy spit off the side……..

PS: LOVE the idea of two posts/day, what a treat!!!

Sam

Haha, I think I’m in the Spongebob Vomit phase of my design journey at the moment, including a blue velvet sofa and a giant colourful gallery wall with shelves specifically for “objects.”

The shots of the Mountain House are pretty stark, but they are also very very pretty. I do think the amount of styling should depend on the purpose of either the room or the photograph, so it could vary a lot even in the same room.

Colin

I’m excited to see the extra content and have a chance to get to know the team better!

Sangam

same here

Suzanne

I fall somewhere between. I love color with minimal stuff. I love the aqua sofa and chair in Bri’s living room, along with that “out of date” colorful pillow (I’ll take it) and yellow fur pillow. Likewise, I love your blue tufted headboard. In both cases, I’d let that boldness stand out and minimize everything else, but I don’t find many people who do that blend. Of course, I love the Mountain House, and thinks it’s perfect. I love how it showcases the materials, the existing wood, the enhanced fireplace, the reclaimed wood you brought in, and those windows! I also think you have kids at an age where less is more. There is this idea of helping them to focus on less at the same time as their stuff is taking over the house. Now that I have a teen, I think more about styling. But my favorite things are mostly family photos and books, so I’m trying to figure out how to showcase years of my child’s life while still having a somewhat minimal aesthetic.

Emily

I love the older “overstyled” shots. I think we’re in this minimalist era that feels dry to me and you’re not immune to it. Look at the English rooms full of decades of stuff (that’s TOO much) – I think your lovely bright colors and personality was the right version of that.

Lisa

Oh yes I agree! I remember First seeing Bri Emery’s room and squealing with glee!! I still love all those rooms and have them all still on Pinterest boards. Definitely not a fan of stark and under styled. Yes the structural components are lovely, but it’s all a bit yawn-worthy and bland without signs of people actually living there. Boring as bats**t!!

LouAnn

I am Team Stuff — but not too much stuff. To be honest, while I like those serene minimalist pictures of the Mountain House, the older photos of homes you styled look more like rooms people might actually live in. I do think there’s too much fruit and too many plants in those pictures yet that’s often how real homes look. And all that stuff means my eye bounces around looking for ideas in the image, like an I-spy game. The stuff doesn’t put me off. Stuff is on a spectrum. At one extreme are those fabulous English country houses where every space of wall has a picture on it, and books and ceramics are displayed everywhere. At the other extreme are those ultra-minimalist black & white homes that have a pristine cold beauty. We’re all at a different place on the stuff spectrum. I think what’s changed in recent years is less judgment about which place you’re at on the stuff spectrum and “what’s in” at the moment. Just like like in the fashion world lately where we are in a “everything goes” moment (skinny jeans, wide-leg jeans, straight jeans are all “in” — plaids and florals and stripes… Read more »

lola

I agree with everything written above and with some of the other responses as well.
Just wanted to add that to my opinion, even though not everything in the rooms presented in the old photos were to my taste, they appear more authentic.
Those were actually stuff you bought/collected because you liked them and wanted to see them at your home. The recent photos (your home and the mountain house) come across to me as less intimate. Maybe it’s because i also love to “overstyle”. it’s not about the styling to me, just about finding a place for things that i like to see.
Also, i dont think that the shelves in your home are overstyled or cluttered. i do think the layout of the room, at least as it appears in the photos, is lacking. It appears long and large and maybe needs more “zoning” to different areas will do some good. dont know. maybe not.
Happy to hear about the 2 post a day 🙂

Loveley of honeymoonvintage.com

I’ve actually thought about this a lot with myself lately. I’m turning 40 this month and so I’ve been looking back at literally everything in my life and how things have changed/evolved. I think/I’m guessing your reason may be the same as mine. I am naturally drawn and have always been more drawn to your older style of lots of color and lots of styling. The Bri Emery room was one of my favorites. In the past, I’d always loved over the top maximalism in design/styling. Think Moulin Rouge and the 90s Romeo and Juliet (ahhhh, Leo). Like, I wanted to live in those movie sets. Anyway, this has changed in the last few years. That kind of maximalism overwhelms me now and almost gives me anxiety. And, so I actually love your newer style. It has evolved with my style in my head. I mean, my house totally looks like your old style and is like a color explosion and happy and bright, but, i find myself liking to look at the more minimally styled home when looking at homes (but lots of colors still, just less stuff). I think it’s because now i have kids (as you do… Read more »

Heather

I feel the same! In my 20’s, I loved ALL THE THINGS. Oh my gosh – I had so many books, but after moving several times, I got rid of almost all of them – could not handle the thoughT of lugging those heavy boxes full of books if we should move again. It was so freeing.

Now I’m in my early 40’s with four children, and too much stuff gives me anxiety. The kids’ rooms alone – with all the little trinkets (I’m raising hoarders) drives me batty. Love love love the more minimal look of the mountain house – it’s so calming, and I feel like I could really breathe in those rooms.

That being said, that’s my style, and we’re all different. Just because I don’t have any gold Monopoly pieces to display doesn’t mean I don’t like seeing yours, and also, it’s okay to change over the years. We will always be evolving, and having children can especially cause some major shifts in lifestyle.

If you walk into a room and you love it, then go with it. If you don’t, then change it until you do. Keep doing you Emily, and we’ll keep coming back.

Suzy

This is my exact thought!

It hit me hard this weekend as my kids dog sat for a neighbor. She’s single and stylish and has no (human) children and has an amazing house full of velvet and color and fun art and decorative books, tchotchkes, etc that always stay where she perfectly placed them. I looked around and knew that for my house to look like that it would be a lot of work for me.
Perhaps one day I’ll circle back around, but less stuff and clutter calms me at this point in life. I still like looking at the uber- styled pictures though, just for fun 🙂

Ginger

Yes to this! I turn 40 as well this year. Looking back, my house in my 20’s was lots of fun and crazy bright colors and lots and lots of throw pillows. But now, 4 kids later, I want a neutral calming house with no pillows(they just end up all over the floor) because now my kids bring all the crazy?. I think it most definitely has to do with what season of life you are in.

Katie h.

Agree 100%! I have a toddler and a baby now- and coincidentally (or by the sheer amount of stuff all over my floor) I feel like I want to take down my 10 different mirrors at my entry way that are vintagey and collected cool looking but good grief it is too much for me to look at now. One big mirror seems much nicer… plus then I could actually get a better look at myself before I leave ?. But I still think it’s a toss up between your style changing and just everyone digging this soft clean minimalistic style. Ps excited for the additional posts!!

Debbie

I love most of your posts, so a second one a day will be fun. I tend to avoid Instagram and prefer reading a blog. I appreciate the time and effort involved and it’s much more interesting to me to have some something with more content to relax with. Also, much more inspiring. Thanks

The Mountain House is absolutely beautiful and quiet, which maybe is the point. But at least in photos, I prefer the style of your LA Home. Seems more “you” …….. and me.

Liz

Aw, me, too! I for some reason avoid Instagram (and I’m not on Facebook), and I just love the blog format. Blogs are where it’s at for me. It’s a huge treat to read Emily’s blog every day I can.

Rose

As with any design, I feel it is a personal preference. Some people will always like a lot of “stuff” and others won’t. I do think many people with busy lives appreciate coming home to less visual clutter, which is more calming. You are the queen of styling, whether it be full-on or minimal! So just keep doing what you do!

Megan

There are a couple of things that I see at play here. 1) Yes, Emily, you are moving more towards the architectural. As you increase as a commodity yourself, you are more able to put your “stamp” on things by way of high priced staples of the home versus having to improve upon builder-grade-plus settings with kitsch.
Also, we are all in the online world of visual clutter All. The. Time. Having a space of serenity or quiet sanctuary makes sense.
Lastly, the pendulum swings. I’ve been watching the old “Twilight Zone” episodes on Hulu, lately. You either see over-the-top brocade couches with Victorian detailing or austere bedrooms (with amazing bedside mounted lighting). This trend will find its center, then swing again.

Lori

I completely agree with you!

Jessie

I love images from all phases of your designing. But I also think life stages influence our decorating. When my kids were smaller and their things were more likely to be cluttering the spaces, I pulled back on what I added visually, craving places for my eye to rest. But now that the kids are teens with less clutter, I find myself adding more again.

Either way, I enjoy watching the styling of you and your team. Thanks for sharing so much of your lives with readers.

Clarissa

How fun to compare! I think this speaks to a change in life as much as it does to a change in trends. If you’re renting/living in an underwhelming place, it can be tempting to ACQUIRE ALL THE PRETTY THINGS to distract from that. I think in the instagram pinterest world, we’re all realizing that less stuff makes for prettier pictures. But I still like the story the earlier photos tell – even though nothing can top Mountain House.

Kelly

I love design content, but occasionally would love to see a more realistically styled kitchen! I definitely don’t have baguettes and copious amounts of produce out. But I wouldn’t mind seeing a kitchen that actually has a toaster on the counter, kids lunch boxes stowed away on top of the fridge, etc. Not messy, but more like “here’s how to have this functional space with stuff you use everyday – but pretty.” For example, when I finally accepted that I use my toaster every day and there’s no sense in putting it away, I just upgraded to a better looking toaster.

A designer I follow posted an Instagram story yesterday where she panned around her beautiful living space and there was stuff on the kitchen counter, kids toys on the floor, etc. It was still a beautiful space but seeing it actually lived-in took it to another level of coziness. I really appreciated that.

I think stuff on shelves is what adds the personal touch to a home, but it’s really hard for the average person (me) to style shelves, so I like seeing how you do it.

Sarah

I definitely would love more functional kitchen-styling advice! We just renovated our kitchen and were able to do some cool things like an “appliance hutch” to conceal our food processor, mixer, etc. but we still have a tendency to leave things out that we use all the time–olive oil, whatever sourdough project I’m working on at the moment, etc. We are slowly transitioning to only buying “beautiful” things that match the vibe of our Inchyra blue and soapstone kitchen, but we aren’t rushing out to replace our tea kettle just because it’s the wrong color.

Actually now that I’m typing this out, I’d love to see more kitchen content in general–I love peeking in other people’s pantries, seeing what they think is worthy of display on open shelves, etc.!

mary

I am a 67 yr. old that devours all things design related. I have lived thru chinz, boho chic, mid-century modern etc. I think we feel better with less in our home.
The branch twig thing is in every notable designed space. This is something that brings nature to a space for those people that kill plants. It also takes center stage if the space is clean and free of too much stuff.
We spend a lot of time outdoors, our home is edited but enveloping in tonal shades. There is a plant in each space that will support it.
We kind of follow the Nate Berkus and Marie Kondo thinking and enjoy being indoors when nature won’t cooperate.
A retrospective of your design development shows incredible growth in my opinion.

Kathryn

Thank you, Mary, for your thoughtful comments. Agree re growth.

Liz

Yay team stuff! More fun. More real. Obviously anyone can over do it but I really enjoy those older photos. Minimalism is cool too but I don’t think you have to face palm about the older stuff.

Louise

I like both but have a fonder place in my heart for the overstyled pics. Some of us are still in that recession-mindset where styling is much more accessible. And I think I learned more from you on a knowledge gained per post basis, because I loved where we really studied the nitty gritty of the pics you posted and why certain things were placed where etc. However, the most noteworthy thing about this blog is its authenticity so you have to just be where you are stylistically and if that’s a more minimalist place where you’re doing your best work at this moment in time, that’s what I want to see ? The best content you ever produced IMO was that Sotheby’s Parisian-ish staged room, the perfect balance between over and understyled. But again, I love your versions of both over and understyled!

Amanda

Excited for two posts a day 🙂

Leah

Feel the freedom to change and not worry about it. I know that’s part of your job, but for most of us, our homes look mostly the same now as they did five or ten years ago. Homes and style SHOULD feel stable in real life. Homes are meant for living and for community, not for over analysis of whether we are getting it “right” or not. (I am preaching to myself here!). You have such great work, and who cares if it slowly changes?

As for the second post a day: whoo, I already think a daily post is too much. I will officially give up now trying to read the blog!

Susanna

“but for most of us … ”

Speak for yourself, not the rest of us please. My home changes regularly.

Suzy

Same. I switch things all the time or get antsy. Not always big changes, but there’s always something different. But I do know people’s who prefer to leave it as is and find it comforting. Different strokes

Allison

I think as you have larger budgets at your disposal, you have explored the (more expensive) creative world of interior design and architecture. Architecture can bring so much visual interest to a room, you don’t need as much styling. So, I think a lot of this is your personal journey, and that’s cool. Go with it. I think it’s smart you’ve let your other stylists carry on the conversation about budget-friendly, rental-friendly styling.

But we’ve been in a minimal swing for five years, right? Between Everlane and Marie Condo and popular environmentalism, I feel like we’ve been purging for some time now. But I think the pendulum is already starting to swing the other direction. Florals and frills in fashion, all the white-on-white IG influencers are painting their walls, nostalgia for the 90s (and 1890s, apparently). I agree with another commenter that said this moment feels more inclusive, like whatever goes.

Steven

I will always be on Team Less Stuff … but better stuff, better defined as more personally enriching or meaningful, higher quality of materials or design, more unique or special, specifically selected for the space, et al. I want the things that command my attention to provide a return on that investment.

Erika

I was just thinking the other day how much I miss “old Emily” with fun and surprising colors, etc.! But I get that you are in a remodeling phase of your career more than a decorating phase—and what you are doing now makes sense for that phase (highlighting the structure). And it’s all beautiful. :). But I do still miss the “pleasantly surprised/ intrigued” feeling of your old work. Your green mountain house bathroom has some of that vibe, though, and I loved it. Less “I’ve-got-small-children-and-I’m-just-trying-to-maintain-some-semblance-of-control-somewhere” and more ”wahooo!” (I have kids the exact same age as yours, and I also keep leaning further away from “wahoo!” because children make things bananas as it is, sigh.)

Jennette

One, big YEAH to two posts!!
Two, I like overstyled! I’m always decluttering my house because I tend to buy too many vases, plants, etc. but it’s still fun to see.

Kristin

I wanted to love the mountain house, but have to admit that it didn’t make me feel anything. It looks serious and somber. The older styled shots have that spark that makes you want to linger and look around the room. I like the visual excitement, any time you want to go back to over-styling I’ll be here for it!

Dena

I equally like both, more and less styled, aaaaaaah!! I think it’s fun to compare but also think it’s ok to still love the old (stuff and you), make a little fun of it here and there, a little “what was I thinking” but also not disparage it either!! I like the minimalist leaning you have now-change is good!!

I will always love your knack for picking out the coolest vintage stuff. In today’s world of consume so much, I think it’s important to always mix vintage in.

Amber

I love all the comments on this so far — so many good, thoughtful points have been made.

I have been thinking about Emily’s style lately because of comments on her living room — when people prefer the Glendale or mountain house styles. My first instinct was to assume that those people just haven’t been around that long. In the portfolio of Emily’s work, quiet spaces seem to be the outliers. I love them, and I love the earlier exuberance too.

But I agree that with so much “noise” in the world today, more of us may be looking for calm. At the same time, some of my collected “things” bring me joy. I’m not ready to send all of my stuff to the storage bin quite yet.

I would love more content on styling, since those kinds of changes aren’t permanent — ripe for experimentation — but I also love the deep designer stuff too. I think you’re balance of the big projects with the team spaces is great in this regard. Keep it up!

Christina

I don’t think I’ll ever be a minimalist- -I love collecting things too much, but I have tried to start making every thing that I own more meaningful to me. Like my decorative items being things that remind me of special times or vacations. Or that just really, really speak to me. Not juts something to take up space. I have found myself more envious of more sparsely decorated spaces lately, but I think it’s because I have three kids and my house is always so chaotic. The serenity of a space without 50 pairs of shoes and stuffed animals strewn over it seems very appealing. 🙂

Brooke

These are clearly my priorities of course, but I think we are on a crash course with the amount of stuff we consume, particularly disposable and non-durable goods. I like to think that the trend toward understyling reflects an understanding of this environmental reality. I also think we are on the brink of a cultural moment in shifting or understanding about how much stuff we truly need and how our need to buy all the time or present “perfectly” really leaves no room in our lives for what truly matters: our relationships, our health and our planet. It feels like designers are thinking through the implications of “how we live” more on par with solely “how something looks” than in previous years. Speaking of which, would love to see you post about alternative choices/conversations about stuff and designing for a meaningful life. I think these are complicated and hard issues and you are always great at thinking about things thoughtfully, being careful not to shame folks and try to present both sides of an issue. Consumerism is difficult to discuss because it can be polarizing. And, I understand there are a lot of reasons why we are driven toward overconsumption… Read more »

Megan

Ironically, the most overstyled rooms (from commonwealth) are the eco friendly ones. They were filled to the brim but with vintage items made to work in an existing space. If you’re going to be I the more is more category and care about the environment, vintage is the way to go.

The mountain house (which is stunning), is not at all environmentally friendly. It has less stuff but was a total remodel of a perfectly functioning house purely for aesthetic reasons when construction debris is one of the biggest landfill contributors.

I’m not trying to throw shade on the mountain house, just point out that appearing minimal is not necessarily the same as being eco friendly.

Geraldine

I agree completely! Oftentimes design blogs and Instagram leave me feeling empty because there’s a disconnect between certain important values and how we as a society really are. I love pretty and trendy, but at what price to the environment?

Another driving force in our consumption is how technology has enabled us to pare back on at least a portion of the material goods we need (for example, less consumption of print media, and more consumption of digital media).

Lee

And yet in terms of environmental impact, digital media has a far, far higher cost because it requires massive amounts of ENERGY to power. Print media can be recycled but the energy we use to power our phones, computers, homes, cars, cannot be recycled.

So you may think you’re protecting the environment by using digital media but you’re really NOT.

Angie

I want to hug you. Yes to all that you’ve written.

MollyS

As I became a parent, the amount of “stuff“ shot through the roof! I’m on team less-styled because … let’s be real … the lunch boxes, water bottles, etc. are always on the kitchen counter! If all of the kid stuff is actually put away, then the scandi vibe feels so calming. Look forward to reading more posts.

Mel

This is really interesting as my husband I had a conversation last night about the over-styling that went on about 2008-2014ish. Pinterest had just hit and it felt like over-styling was the thing for everything. It started with us looking at my ring he bought me: halo’s were really big around the time he proposed (7 years ago) and all the rings had a LOT going on and it drove him nuts. But so did fashion and design. I look at my old pins on pinterest and every out fit had a shirt, a collared shirt, a sweater, a blazer, a scarf, pants tucked into tall boots with tall socks showing, big earrings and a bold lip. Now what do we see in fashion? monochromatic outfits, jumpsuits, simple sweaters over simple pants with a simple shoe. Design is the same! I think those shots near the top are over-stylized and have too much color and busy-ness. Just like everything else around that time. Are the new ones stark? Yes. Does anyone actually live like that? No. But they’re beautiful. We’ll come around once more, and then again. It’s all a beautiful process. And for crying out loud your current living… Read more »

Katie Kerr

I think the trend has moved away from over-styling, but I also think some people are maximalist and will always love to add more and more. I also think when you have a stunning space like the mountain house it is a lot easier to have less things because the house speaks for itself.

Rusty

It’s apparent that since you’ve been working on the skeleton or bones of houses in Portland and the Mountains, your focus has been, somewhat naturally, on those bones; to show the bones and the skin wrapped around them; how the building ‘works’ more than what’s in it. The older photos definitely are more relatable. They lean more towards real life, where we have stuff around that we use every day and food we eat and…stuff. Pretty stuff, hopefully. (BTW, those yellow ‘fruit’ are squash.) The Mountain House is so, astonishingly beautiful, but never really looks like it’s a home. Dare say, it doesn’t look like what we see when you guys are actually ‘in’ there. Your shelves in LA are not, I repeat, not over-stuffed. I think it’s more a reflection of the shots of your home you live in every day, versus the more sterile, builder-style “Look at my bones and arteries (plumbing, etc.).” So, relaaaaax. You’re reflecting and for that, you’re unique in this social media pirhana frenzy. We keep coming back, because you keep it real. You have melt downs, panic attacks, teary angst and OTT happies that are hard to explain, but you share you and… Read more »

Shannon

I think a huge part of the minimalism trend is due to the Marie Kondo/declutter lifestyle. I like it! However, when I see an overstyled room, I see it as a pick and choose kind of opportunity for ideas, kinda like when you see editorial fashion spreads in magazines. You know you’d never wear ALL the things together, but man, that one piece would be killer with jeans!

Yay for 2 posts a day!!! I love this blog ❤️

Rae

First of all – yay for more posts!!

Second – you’re being way too hard on yourself, both for being an “overstyler” and “understyler” at times! I *love* your older work – it’s so vibrant and full of life and personality. But you are 10000% allowed to grow and change, and your more recent pared-back work has been focused on designing/building spaces from near-scratch. It makes sense that you’d want to focus on the materials and shape and lighting when you have full control like that. Personally I’d love to see more options for how to style spaces on a minimalist/maximalist spectrum. There’s no one right way for things to look and I’m sure you have great thoughts and guidance on how to make a space look amazing in either scenario.

Nicki

I actually appreciate all of the designs shown in this post and think they are all beautiful in different ways but I will assert that I feel the older stuff instantly gives me a mood boost. I’m sure it’s the bold pops of color but also it’s that fun, quirkinesses that gets my pulse racing (in a good way). It’s what attracted me to the blog. It’s like that’s the chick everyone wanted to be or know. Just so cool and fun. But I also think the designs have evolved and are commensurate with age. We get more serious with our designs as we mature and our wallet increases. It’s a natural evolution. Emily’s design aesthetic now is more in line with where I am at at this lifestage, however I don’t think I will ever tire of admiring, being inspired and lifted up by the bold, audacious quirkiness of youthful Emily’s design vibes.

Carrie

Your shelves from the Commonwealth home remind me of the “I Spy” books that my kids and I love. I spy…14 karat gold monopoly figures, body parts, and doll house furniture. So quirky and fun.

I also love your ability to look at your own work objectively and point out your style evolution by dated objects and trend changes, and even laugh about other people’s critiques (Sponge Bob threw up…). It’s a reminder to me to not take myself so seriously.

Catherine Lazure | Nordic Design

I don’t think the word “understyled” is accurate.

I find that most words with “over…” and “under…” have a negative connotation (I am a French native speaker, so maybe my understanding of language subtleties is wrong…?).

Also, the more recent interiors you featured in this article are still very stylish and considered. You put some thoughts into how to make them beautiful; not just the design, but the stuff in them too (even if it is less, and not more of it). And this is what styling is all about. You are simply moving to a more curated and minimal look.

And I think people are increasingly aware of the need to create a peaceful, calm and uncluttered space to return to at the end of a busy day. We also want to surround ourselves with more meaningful things, instead of just makeshift objects. Home should be a serene haven that makes us happy. This (trend?) is definitely reflected in how we decorate.

Mary

We downsized three years ago, and your before styling looks like the way we really lived and the most recent like the way we wish we could. We got rid of so much stuff and don’t miss any of it. Some we kept but got rid of after our move because it just didn’t fit the mood of our new house. When we looked at houses, we quickly realized we are not the bare bones, large windows, totally open concept buyers. Our home is open concept, but the kitchen is tucked into a corner. The cabinets are off white not white white and have some detailing. The island has heavy wooden detailing and doesn’t look like a thin slab of granite is being held up by spindly legs. That said, I seem to get more inspiration from the more minimal designs, because that is how I am living my life now.

Melkorka

I think we all collectively went wild with dollar stores and target tchotchkes from the 90’s onward – and then en masse we all got into Konmari method as a direct result of buying so many trendy disposable things.

I too find the large scale textural objects that celebrate light & architecture featuring open scale feels very modern and fresh. Is it a mom thing too? I now view decorated surfaces as ‘how fast can I kid proof this?’. for instance I love old english traditional layered rooms but I guess they seem like so much labor to upkeep – dusting & mending and telling kids “be careful” – its not where my life is now with two kids under 5.

I think it is a lot about using scale in new visual way – the emphasis is on balance, light, texture & material in a more restrained/architectural way and less on ‘pops’ of bight color and graphic patterns & whimsy (which is fun too – but different!). It is fun to see styles evolve and to see your design work evolve & change as well!

CA

I have been wondering for quite some time now if EHD, steadily increasing in number of employees, does any design work for actual, real, paying clients anymore? Are they all clients who prefer not to share their projects online? I used to love the before and after design projects , now all the shared projects seem to be only Emily owned homes, or staff homes redesigned projects which are good but I sincerely miss the real client projects and seeing the process and the process.
Thank you – I loved the exuberance of “old Emily” style, so genuinely you. Now the design work seems so forced, and every move a total struggle to get everything just perfectly “right” rather than “you”.

Amber

A while back, EHD decided to stop taking private clients. If memory serves, there was too much going on, and they also didn’t provide enough content for the blog (e.g., they take a long time, some clients wanted to keep things private, clients didn’t always take design recommendations). I bet you can find the announcement in the archives. It happened around the time Ginny left to start her own shop.

Erin

My theory: kids! The people who were consuming early Domino, early blogs/IG, and early Emily—your audience was younger and didn’t have kids. We’ve all grown up together… we are all collectively turning 40—my favorite designers/stylists I’ve been following since I was 28, and their audiences—and all of us have kids and the minimal styling is a necessity because we have constant stuff (kids art, sports equipment, legos and Pokémon cards) that are on the coffee table/island/breakfast nook—-there is no room/need for all the decor! We want it CLEAN, or no more screen time for the rest of the day.

Johanes

I always remember the famous quote from steve jobs while designing something – ” Simplicity is ultimate sophistication” . Design simple and use with ease. If any designer is looking for vintage store nearby consider visiting http://www.feruwa.com/antique-store/ . Liked this article. cya

Sarah

I always remember the famous quote from steve jobs while designing something – ” Simplicity is ultimate sophistication” . Design simple and use with ease. If any designer is looking for vintage store nearby consider visiting http://www.feruwa.com/antique-store/ . Liked this article. cya

Megan

I personally prefer understyled to overstyled. I am an aspiring minimalist, and have really put in a lot of effort the last couple of years to choose quality over quantity. I think the understyled look has probably become much more popular along with the rise of minimalism and “tidying up.” People are also becoming a lot more environmentally conscious. This shift is just another example of how much interior design and architecture reflect the culture and philosophies of the times.

JulieP

YAY! A MIDDAY MUNCH OF EHD!!! I am soooo excited!

Maria

I think you’re absolutely right the trend has changed! If you think about the wave of minimalism a la Mari Kondo / simplicity and meditation it only makes sense that it would show up in styling! Good will actually had an influx in donations in recent years. Personally I enjoy a balance between the extreme minimalism and the extremely styled because I do feel the human touches bring the rooms to life to make them feel personal, warm and like a life is lived there. But I think there’s room for everyone’s personal preference since I also understand wanting to show of architecture and have a calming and clean place 🙂

Kelcey Bower

Recently I’ve been applying Michael Pollen’s rules for eating (“Eat food, Not too much, mostly plants.”) to more and more areas of my life. For my home, I can sum up my design ethos as “Have stuff, not too much, mostly secondhand”.

Lea

I personally, prefer more lifestyle styling. I think it helps to relate to the person/people that actually LIVE there. I understand, however, when things are paired down for attention to form and function of the design. But since we’re talking styling I prefer a styled-up space. When I look at editorial styling, I want to peep through those windows of digital or paper media and feel like I can SEE who lives there and fantasize about what that would be like.

Lynnette

I think the Mountain House is stunning but to me, it’s never felt like “you.” It’s felt like you trying on a style that you think fits the house – which is ok too! Experimenting and trying different things is important too. But I would love to see what the house would look like with styling that was somewhere between old and new you.

I’ll also say that while I understand why so many home bloggers focus on construction now, there are still a lot of us who live in very expensive areas and can only dream about buying a house. So while I do love a before and after, I also miss when you had more of a styling focus because that was content that could be applied to any home, renting or not.

Teri

I just want to say that I consider the comments on your posts every bit as compelling as the content itself. Your readers are so “well-spoken”, intelligent, and witty. It is educational and entertaining to read their thoughts (when I have the time)! Keep up the good work.

Josh

I think the trend has moved to less is more. It’s like the spring cleaning after Christmas when you remove all of the clutter from the holidays and you just want to see less of it. Tying it to the domestic political environment, we have so much going on around us that makes us overwhelmed so the last thing we want to do is to have more at home. Minimalism can create a zen like space. It’s very similar to what gave birth to the MCM trend in the 1940s/50s. Also, the trends of Europe are usually ahead of the US and I think we are seeing some of it spill over with social media making it so much easier to be globally connected to other designers. I love the understyled looks myself. It feels clean, put away, and less messy. Although, things are much more noticeable when they are out of place which can be bad for those with OCD like myself…also why I prefer the minimal side because of the “put away” feel. The mountain house is perfect btw. I like the addition of the squash for the editorial because it looks like it’s in use, but normally,… Read more »

Holly Allen

remember ferris bueller’s bedroom?? i have a tween who wants a room like that. if you feel like trying your hand at over-styling again, maybe you can help come up with a fresh take. with sources. on a budget. please???

Samantha

I think the shift to more minimal design has a lot to do with how society has evolved. We are CONSTANTLY bombarded with information and ads and we’re always ‘on’ with texts and emails and social media and slack, then there is almost never anything good on the news, the political climate is so harsh, ect ect.
I think a lot of people have turned to their homes to bring them a sense of calm that is missing from life these days.

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