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

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.


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.

Joliet Dlf High 7459

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.


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:


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. 


Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

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

  1. 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.

    1. 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, but also favor practicality and authenticity. And I think pulled back styling, at least for me, seems better / more relaxing / more peaceful / more real.

      1. 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.

      2. 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!

      3. 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. “

      4. 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.

    2. Yes, this is true. And then you read this, it’s BAM / IN YO’ FACE….and somewhat intriguing:

      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!!!

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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!!

  4. 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 are all “in”), I think the same is true of the design world. There is great diversity in home design and styling and we’ve reached a point where places with loads of stuff can be just as beautiful and stylish and hip as places with none.

    1. 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 🙂

  5. 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 now). When you have kids, or your life is hectic for other reasons, things are always chaos, noise, and stimulation overload. Now, home and design are a place of rest and relaxation. Chaos all day with busy lives/kids makes you want to be in a home, or look at a home, where there is way less chaos. Maybe that’s what’s happened to your design/styling style. It has just evolved as your life has evolved.
    I also agree with what you said about showing more of the design/materials of the home. Less stuff in the pics makes it much easier to see and appreciate those things.

    Just my two cents. Love your work!

    1. 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.

    2. 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 🙂

    3. 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.

    4. 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!!

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. 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.!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

    1. “but for most of us … ”

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

      1. 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

    2. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.)

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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.

  21. 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!

  22. 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. 🙂

  23. 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 and disposable use: using disposable packaging for shipping, buying new items that are cheaply made, etc provide a lot of benefits of convenience (who has extra time?) and replication (easy to post a link to buy an item at a national big box store where everyone can shop. But I would love to see bloggers discuss the downsides too. And, it feels like you are uniquely positioned with your love of vintage and amount of time you have put into thinking about design to discuss these sorts of things.

    This post about styling is a great entry point in extrapolating bigger ideas about how we want to live. I look forward to your continued thoughtful conversations about our homes.

    1. 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.

    2. 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).

      1. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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 room is not too busy. I love those bookshelves and what they have going on and what they give to your room is balance. That living room is a great mix of the over and under stylized, it’s just stylized.

  26. 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.

  27. 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 explain how it is any way. We see you. We feel you. We love what you do.

    Style the heck out of those living room shelves in your home. I wanna see! (Still hoping to see at least a try with wooden shelves instead of white, to ground the objects).

    I don’t think I’ll have time for two posts a day, but I guess that I’ll have catch up reading for the weekend, when I get a little anxy and FOMO. ?

  28. 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 ❤️

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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!

  35. 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”.

    1. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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 . Liked this article. cya

  38. 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 . Liked this article. cya

  39. 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.

  40. 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 🙂

  41. 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”.

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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, a bouquet of flowers or a fruit bowl is all you need.

  46. 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???

  47. 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.

  48. We live in a time of too much information. Also having too much to look at is in the same vein. Instagram pictures are such a closed in thing and the quieter the more appealing to these fatigued, always looking at screens, eyeballs

    And the other side for at least myself is having kids. Who make messes. And who have so! much! stuff! I decorate much more neutral since starting my parent journey just to combat that mess

  49. I think you’re right about both…..the past houses were a bit over-styled, and the mountain house was a bit under styled. With this being said, I never felt like your past houses were over-styled at the time. They were absolute eye candy, but perhaps we are collectively changing. I do still love to stare at a good British overly layered home, but perhaps that’s a niche thing. I tried to pull it off in my own house recently but found I kept wanting to pare it back. As for the mountain house, I’ve admittedly felt uninspired by it, yet have perplexed myself as to why because all of the finishes are beautiful. This post has helped me to realize that it’s the styling that has felt lacking. It just needed a bit more, as you’ve pointed out. Thank you for sharing your vision and think-process….it’s always enlightening.

  50. I’ve also moved a tiny bit away from over styling … well, when you do it, it’s styling. When I do it, it’s just clutter. But I have a two bedroom condo with only a small storage locker in the basement for stashed stuff. So I have put it somewhere or get rid of it. Since I already got rid of a house full of stuff, there’s only so far down I can go.
    But I’m delighted with two posts a day. I don’t deserve this but I’ll happily come back twice day. You have so many wonderful writers on staff.

  51. I have a question about your mountain house kitchen. I have read your cabinets should not be the same wood as the floor. Do you think your kitchen works because the grain of the cabinets is vertical and your floor grain runs horizontal to the cabinets? Thanks

  52. Well, considering that we all change over time, I’d say your style evolution is natural. But you have some great insights as to other reasons why. I remember watching an episode of “Secrets From a Stylist” (so jazzed you can watch those on the HGTV app!) In which you redid the living room in a Spanish style for a couple. I wasn’t crazy about the initial green paint on the walls but I loved the furniture and big painting. You did a beautiful job! I just thought you had too much of it in there. What makes me chuckle is where you said that while they thought there was too much in the room, you didn’t. And I remember thinking (not in a bad way), “How can she think that? That room is so full.”

    I often wonder if magazine’s desire for more stuff isn’t a product of a) a need for more partnerships with other companies (maybe that’s not how it works, though) and b) a simple reflection of our society’s focus on having ‘stuff.’ I assume it’s also to make a place look lived in, too.

    Then again, as you said, aplace can look *too* bare. It’s a fine balance, I suppose. But if pressed to choose, of all the rooms and houses I’ve seen on blogs and shows and in magazines, I think I’d have a place be on the bare-r side than one that’s packed with so much stuff, even if well-placed, that it looks as though if anything else went in there it’d need Pepto-Bismol for indigestion.

    I think you’re great. Keep doing you. I love your blog (and show! Why, why, why did it go away?) as much for its info as for the personality infused. 🙂

  53. I love the understyled look! I’ve definitely changed over the years. Moving from a 600 sq ft apartment to a 1,600 sq ft house without buying new stuff meant that everything I had just got a little more spread out. I liked the extra breathing room and left things with more space and room to breathe, instead of filling the space up to the same “density” as my old apartment. I also think the current political climate, the actual climate, and all the other things there are to worry about these days make me crave calmness. When I was in my 20s I wanted lots to see/do/taste/smell/feel and to be in the center of the action. I still love to go seek out maximalism (of the styling and other varieties), but I’d rather that my home be a calm respite, not more of the same.

  54. It’s interesting to me that it’s true that the EHD styling pendulum has moved away from stuff stuff stuff in interiors, yet added the link ups and fashion and stuff round ups to attract click through revenue. Not against necessary contradictory positioning, just pointing it out.

  55. I think a lot of us are seeking more calm in our homes as the world around us is getting more chaotic. I know it’s impacted my own style quite a bit. I’m more minimalist now than I ever was before – I was not minimalist at all – because open, more visually quiet spaces feel calming.

  56. The under-styling makes me sad. A few months ago you were like, ‘I’m going to get weird again!’ and I was SO excited. The minimalist look is beautiful, but I like to look at homes where it seems like individuals with personality inhabit the space, and they tell a story of places they’ve travels, things they love, etc.

  57. Couple of thoughts on the two posts a day –

    1. I welcome this! It would be great to have something to read with breakfast and then something to read at lunch. I love your blog! But, on that last note –
    2. 11am PT is too late for many of us in the midwest and east coast to read with lunch. Which I fear means I’ll miss those second posts each day. Any way we could move those earlier? (and yes, I acknowledge that this doesn’t work for the rest of the world, but my guess is most of your readers are US based).

    Last thought – um, where is the second post??? It’s 1:15 CT / 11:15 PT. And now my lunch is over, second postless.

  58. I have noticed the less in styling too. Especially since a lot of designers are not just decorating a space but creating/designing a space/house. I still like the ‘stuff’ … not over styled but I did notice that when I was doing my home a lot of the pictures I was looking at, the homes didn’t look lived in… and then I through all the feels of feeling bad and wrong for having ‘stuff.’ I went on a hunt for designers who still used a lot of stuff that made the space personal and like a family lives there and uses it.. I still like to see the space in both ways, the first layer of design and then where the family photos go or the toys or the cozy blankets. As much as I would love to attain minimalism .. it’s just not going to happen with the busy schedules and activities and projects etc. so I guess I want to see beautiful spaces and also lived in spaces. It seems like Instagram has brought in more opportunities to see a space in all its forms… And I still have a true appreciation for the editorial stories and homes of people (especially those of collectors) once they’ve lived there a while, not just right off the bat. I still need inspirational tips of where to put the things that are unique to me and my family.

  59. I appreciate both styles but I know that “under styling” is in style right now. It’s a minimal chic vibe that’s taken over but it’s also cookie cutter. I like personality and seeing quirkiness. I like a good over style and then a keen edit.

  60. I’m definitely someone who likes “stuff”, but only if it’s meaningful…no stuff for the sake of having stuff. If you saw my living room, you’d notice more stuff than the trendy California-casual magazine shoots, but I could also tell you exactly why a piece is special to me, where I got it, when, or who made it. I think that’s the difference. In a lot of over-styled magazine shoots, the “stuff” is just there to fill space. And that can come off as phony and staged, which…sometimes it is.

    BUT–an argument for styling. Sometimes those props help us understand how we can truly live in a space. Without those reminders of “real life”–like magazines, blankets, and photos–homes always read cold and uninviting to me. I think there’s actually a real art to styling, and for better or worse, some of those older rooms (the pink lamps!!) gave me a strong sense of who you were.

  61. Yay for two blog posts per day.

    As far as over-styling – it’s a personal choice. I’ve always loved a clean, modern, minimalist look, so the mountain house is my favorite. It’s very calming, something we need in this crazy busy world.

    I’m retired now (so I do have plenty of time to read two blog posts per day!), but when my kids were little I kept the house minimal because all their toys and stuff took up a lot of space. Luckily they had a playroom to keep most of their toys tucked away. That’s not to say I didn’t trip over Legos and dolls in the kitchen!

  62. I miss all the color! It was fun, and not too serious. I agree with a lot of people above that having kids does make you want to pare back a bit to balance out the other life chaos. But I think I’ve been missing the fun and “weird” you were known for before.

  63. I love the “under-styled” photos! My true passion has always been in renovations so I want to see the finishes & not have them cluttered by stuff. Having said that, I loved those photos back then so I guess my tastes have evolved as well.

  64. I think the trend has definitely gone more minimal but I’m already getting a little tired of it. It just feels a little too sterile. Love your kitchen shots for the magazine shoot!

  65. I actually think the way we “see” has changed and see we actually need visual breathing room. White space or just SPACE in our everyday lives. We are being bombarded with images on our computers and in our hands via out phones and now we just need to LOOK UP at the only space we have left (our homes) that isn’t being “curated” by someone else and take a visual breather.

  66. I like now. I love older work but less of it, except for the plants. I like a jungle in a minimalist room. Shows bones of home but adds brightness and warmth. I’m in a new build- our dream home on a lake and it looks empty now, but I don’t want to “ clutter” it. It’s interesting when we bough our Florida house my sister said “keep it just like this”, as in minimal furnishings and wall hangings etc. said it was so pleasant without all the “stuff” we collect.

  67. I wonder if this is what happens when the economy has been in better shape for a while – people can afford all of the fun decor objects that they couldn’t a decade ago, but eventually the fun of that wears off when you don’t have to save up for each individual piece as much. Buying that new decor object that you are lusting over at Target doesn’t feel as special or as dearly loved when you can do it on every Target run. We eventually realize that we’re just buying a lot of STUFF – more than we once were, because “Why not? It’s only $20.”

    When people couldn’t afford as much, lots of stuff felt aspirational – but when more people can afford the stuff, the high-end look is more expensive materials and furniture, with fewer objects.

    Young House Love’s blog and podcast has also talked quite a bit over the last few years about simplifying, minimizing, and de-cluttering – and they’re not necessarily moving towards high end, minimal design, like Emily has in the Mountain House, just towards a less cluttered version of their existing aesthetic at their house and their beach houses. It does seem like a bit of a style movement towards simplifying, rather than just Emily’s personal style change – but maybe that’s just because they’re in a similar phase of life.

  68. I think kid-friendly and minimalism hit you (and me) like a one-two punch and BOOM, there goes the stuff. Looking back at those pictures I don’t think it looked overdone, I think it looked fun. I miss my twenties and my silly collections and your crazy color palettes that always made my heart beat faster. We had fun! Maybe when we get older we’ll loose our inhibitions and be kooky-cool again.

  69. Is it ‘evolving’? I used to be a maximalist. Dark paint colors, every wall covered in art. Too much furniture and stories going on. Same for my kids party. Decorated every inch I could find. As years are passing by, I find myself drawn to minimal stuff. White walls, decluttered home. Trying to keep stuff that I really love or has a purpose. Just beautiful, peaceful n serene.

  70. the under-styled photos do look sad, i think! i mean…i love seeing the details, to some extent, but when you put the photos of your kitchen one-after-the-other like that the LIFE in the more-styled photo is SO much happier!
    and, still, styling is often what lies within most of our budgets, so i appreciate seeing what you’re doing with that 🙂

  71. The contrast between your two kitchens is pretty stark. The first one would’ve benefited from subtracting a few items, but generally I like it. (Is that “fruit” in the right corner patty pan squash?) And the mountain house kitchen needed something so I prefer it with the veg, towel, etc. I like somewhere in between what you used to do and the room with the interesting sofa and nothing on the walls. I think others are right that when you want the high quality materials to shine, it is appropriate to do less styling — or have fewer “things.”

  72. I loved that bedroom and the red lamps even more so. That’s the reason I follow Emily’s blog. When I saw that bedroom, I followed the link and voilà here I am. I also adore these 2 leather chairs from the “Commonwealth” picture. The white kitchen with the pine (?) lower cabinets was a favorite of mine too.

    I think as life becomes more hectic – especially with small children, one wants to be surrounded by serenity. Plus having a lot of things displayed is not exactly childproof either.

    I can see the evolution from playful couple, trying out more edgy designs and colors, to a parent couple whose life has become very busy with 2 kids and is looking for a calm, quiet environment/home.

  73. I prefer the styling to look somewhere in between… like someone actually lives there yet there isn’t “clutter” in every corner. Like the powder room looks great; you probably wouldn’t and shouldn’t have much more in there. But I appreciate the re-do of the kitchen… who doesn’t have some appliance or took in plain sight?

  74. I think it’s natural that everyone’s style evolves over time, and there are so many factors that affect the evolution—going from single to couple, having kids, changes in finances, going from an apartment to a house, etc.
    Back in my apartment and strict budget days, I, too, used to overstyle with lots of smaller tchotchkes. Many were things I loved, many were just space fillers. (I shudder to think how much money I spent over the years changing out the pillows, art, and accessories in my place).
    Now I live in a large home with much more architectural interest and great views. So styling with lots of smaller stuff just looks ridiculous. Instead, I have fewer and larger pieces (a big wooden bowl, large plants, a spectacular rug) that visually take up more space, but also allow the eye to rest. I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist, but I am definitely no longer a maximalist. In fact, too much stuff actually gives me anxiety.
    We all change, and that’s a good thing. There is no wrong or right. It’s just what feels right to you and makes you happy. -I do like the idea that another commenter made about seeing options for how to style spaces on a minimalist/maximalist spectrum —sort of like some do with a high/low budget.

  75. I miss old Emily. With color. Partly because when there’s more color there’s more opportunity to work in existing stuff. Your renovations are beautiful but they’re not so attainable for me. The reality is most people will have a lot of the same stuff throughout life. For me my furniture might get better but I’ll still be working in a lot of the same stuff. My style continues to evolve but I can’t just change it all overnight. The minimalist look takes a lot of storage (to be able to keep the well loved stuff out of view) which is hard in apartments. Btw, I also miss the old apartment therapy which had more attainabilty as well. I’ve been enjoying your employees posts a lot for that reason. Some of the photoshoot stuff you might be over thinking. Extra towels stored in a powder room sounds logical to me! Otherwise what is that shelf for?

  76. Team stuff all the way! I love all the old photos in this post (except for the Bri Emery one as that is an overwhelming amount of stuff, even for me!). The vintage stuff and all the colour adds so much life and personality. I love it so much more than the mountain house which is nice but IMO lacks personality – it could be on an architects project gallery before the family moves in.

  77. I kind of miss the older shots with more styling. They felt like they had more personality to me. The newer stuff is really more about architecture or bones of the space, and I’m a renter (probably for a long time) so that’s not super appealing to me. I like to see you working with what you’ve got and making it look great with styling. I’d love to see more balance between the two moving forward!

  78. When I was younger I was into collecting “stuff” and wanted to display it proudly around my new home. But as I’ve gotten older, with a husband, three kids, and a dog, I’ve also gotten away from “stuff” and want my home to be a calm respite from the busy world. I’ve Marie Kondo’d my house and moved toward a zen/Scandinavian esthetic which has been well received by everyone who visits. Even my kids are on board!

  79. I prefer / relate to pics with “more styling” . The sparse designs are beautiful but seem colder and more like showrooms than actual homes. I enjoy the eclectic surroundings and crave color in the grayish-rose tones of design these days.

  80. I love your styling- it’s why I started reading your posts daily. But I like a clean look (and I hate dusting around lots of things!). Sometimes I look at my own stuff and think- why do I have that? Does it have any real meaning for me, or did I just buy something for the sake of having stuff on the shelf? That said, the more-styled shot of the mountain house kitchen is very nice- I guess it aims to depict how life is lived in a space. And I agree that the mountain house living room could use a piece of art and maybe a plant or a touch of color to warm it up. I think people are tending toward less “stuff” but more plants. As a boomer, I see people my age having to spend months sifting through all their parents’ stuff before they can even put their home on the market. I am trying to Marie Kondo my way into a lot less stuff so my kids won’t have so much to deal with later!

  81. I’m so happy I’m not the only one experiencing this change. ? Yes, agreed to less styling and more simple displays of items. I have found myself doing that more and more. Editing areas for less. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my items and want to shown everything off but I battle with visual clutter way more than I used to. So….if it doesn’t make me feel calm with bringing me joy in seeing that one or two items sitting there…then they’re out. Take my coffee table for example, where I used to place books and other things…I now just have one big bowl. Less is more lately. Great blog Em.

  82. I think it is best to understyle rooms, as life has a way of adding to the mix (clutter), if you already have a lot of styling items, once “life” hits (as it inevitably does) it just looks like a mess! But, LOVE Emily’s bookshelves! Emily, you are the QUEEN of styling, you do it so, so well! It must be so hard not to style everything everywhere you go! 😉

  83. I loved this post of you sharing your Emily train of thought.

    Emily, you are so right — that the styling has changed over time from more items to fewer items! I was thinking I was just getting more mature and sharpening my design eye by liking the more reserved stylings, but now I’m wondering if it’s a fad/phase in our collective style to have things so sparse. Like – will stylings roll back to being less sparse a decade from now?

  84. Hmm what a great question. I think that the point of design is to make the best use of a space and styling is how to live it. Although over styling may at times feel “too much” (and it may very well be too much) I think it reflects real life. The tomatoes, squash, plants, Alexa or Google home, why not include them all so we can learn how to best incorporate all of those real life needs in a way that looks beautiful and it’s actually useful? To your point, maybe it’s not thinking that it’s over styled but asking, does it look like Sponge Bob threw up here? 😉

  85. I like new Emily, but I also miss old Emily, the one Sponge Bob threw up on! (still laughing at that)

  86. Ah Emily, the timing of this! I recently followed Jewel Marlowe’s One Room Challenge which she implemented over 5 weeks. And it made me think about your design style & how it has evolved. I personally prefer, your old “over styled” look- it was a lot more quirky, eclectic & unique. I feel a lot of design has gone in the direction you have over the last few years. It’s safe & familiar. That being said, I am still a follower, think you are hugely talented & will always admire you & your work.

  87. I’m very intrigued by all the responses. This is not the only design blog I’ve read lately whose readers have unabashedly admitted they liked the “older design style” more and “wish it would come back” or “they miss they old “designer name/brand” days. To me it’s liberating to read those types of responses. Like most commentators I’m a middle of the road ‘stuff’ lover. I appreciate touches that show personality and individuality while showcasing a house’s a design. But too much restraint feels cold and boring—lifeless and attempt and security. I do feel like design has moved away from risk and personality in an attempt to assert control over ‘stuff” because other aspects of life are out of control. But at the end of the day, there is a lifelessness in that and I think a lot of people are starting to recognize that emptiness—even if it is only subconscious.

  88. I originally fell in love with old you. But new you is so peaceful. I love new you. Sure, things could use a little life (especially plants! love plants!) so they don’t feel stark. And I do like to shop when you have enough styled accessories that I can grab something on a whim. But don’t go back to the Emily of the 2000’s. You’ve evolved in such a lovely way.

  89. I’m not a huge fan of visual clutter but I think it’s gone so far lately that many houses (not yours) are 95% furniture/rugs/light with barely any art or anything interesting around. This has carried over to staging – almost every house I see for sale around here (East Coast) has the same hotel look – clean yes but also devoid of any real personality. Maybe one obligatory plant /tree. I recently emptied out all our art and furniture when putting in new wood floors and at first moved back just furniture. It felt clean and Scandi and refreshing. Now with a snap of cold weather it’s time to start layering up my house with well placed art, plants, a pile or two of great books and a cozy blanket. Not tchotchkes , but the interesting parts of real lives that make a house yummy to actually live in.

  90. I can only speak for myself, but I think the lean toward minimalism is directly related to having children.

    I used to like stuff — cool, visually beautifully stuff — in my home. But then I had kids.

    The children come with so. much. stuff. And they’re constantly leaving it all over the floor, so you’re constantly faced with visual clutter that is unappealing to boot. And they break your good stuff.

    “This is why we can’t have nice things” comes to mind.

  91. I think the trend now is to go minimal and we all are influenced by it. I think I’d prefer more “stuff” in the photos you post, but it is your house so if minimal is what you feel like right now, go for it.

  92. I never comment- but as a stylist I found this really interesting so thanks for your candor. There is a shift and always think it’s getting that right balance of interesting and enough. I do have to say Re a 2nd post, my email is already inundated so I think less is more but I’m old school and prob very wrong about these things!

  93. Hi but you did not mention your beautiful hair in that photo with Charlie! a good hair day is also worth remembering xx

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