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Emily Henderson

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by Emily Henderson
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I have an equal love of nostalgia and “holiday,” thus the birth of this post. Over the last 8 years, I’ve decorated and shot my house for the holidays for your and my pleasure, and boy is it fun to see what weird, special insanity I’ve shoved onto my family and you, my readers. I’ve gone from a hipster Dr. Seuss to a fairly safe and tame mom. So what did I do this year? Come back tomorrow and find out, but first let’s revisit Christmases past. Let’s get into it:

2011: Holiday Special Behinds the Scenes

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In 2010, for the Secrets from a Stylist Christmas special, Orlando and I went above AND BEYOND for a family, using a mix of DIY and vintage. Orlando made his world-famous Joy to the World art, which is just white stickers on a vintage map (maybe it was white tape, I don’t remember, but stickers would work).

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No terrarium was left undecorated. I found this vintage brass ship at the flea market and yes, it needed some snow/clouds to float on.

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Above, on the left you’ll see some books that we turned into ‘decor’ by basically ripping them open and gluing the edges to the inside, forming a floral shape. I don’t know why we did that, but that’s creativity, folks!

On the right, you’ll see what might be the funniest and most expensive holiday DIY we’ve ever done—a SNOWMAN GLOBE FAMILY. Listen, we like to take a holiday motif and give it a twist, but what you probably didn’t predict was that each globe cost anywhere between $20 and $100, so that family trio was likely around $500 to make PLUS we had to assemble it with a DIY stand and rod. I don’t think it was ever that stable. It makes me laugh every time I accidentally find it online. EVERY TIME.

You’ll also see (above) that we made bows out of newspaper on top of some of the presents which I think is actually super cute. I’m not sure how we did it but I’m pretty impressed with us.

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Lastly, we put birdhouses on our tree (I think they were just unfinished houses from a craft store) and what you might not notice is all the yarn ornaments we made and the vintage map decoupage ornaments (the images are old and not the best quality, sorry). I believe that the whole theme here for this family was “Staycation Modern” because they had two small kids and didn’t want to travel in the next couple years so we wanted their house to feel like a vacation with a nod to wanderlust (thus all the map/atlas decorations). We used eucalyptus EVERYWHERE and brought in a ton of vintage brass deer and, of course, made a huge peace sign wreath for above the fireplace.

2012: Behind the Scene of Celebrity Holiday Homes

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In 2012, I did another holiday house with HGTV for Cheryl Burke—one of the Dancing with the Stars celebrities (fun fact, I had low expectations on her personality because I suppose I generalize celebrities and was judgemental, but she was awesome, hilarious and very down to earth). Hot pink was having A MOMENT and I wasn’t about to let that pass this holiday house by. So we brought in three trees, all in our hot pink theme and it looked insane. She had a thing for nutcrackers, so I didn’t just get any nutcracker to add to her collection. NO, I found this vintage nutcracker lamp in Palm Springs and had it painted white. I’m saying this completely seriously, I WISH I HAD THAT NOW. It was at least 4-feet tall and just dripping with whimsy.

Because I was apparently unable to make a basic wreath, my “wreath moment” that year was made from paper flowers. I actually still love this.

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How pretty would that paper flower wreath be it if were just white with some green? Also, this was the year where I put everything under a cloche and what’s hard to see is that I painted a small village different tones of hot pink. I’m nothing if not thorough.

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We painted ceramic dancers and candlesticks pink (this was when the colorblock trend was JUST beginning.

That same year, we decked our own home…

2012: I Decked My Halls The Hendersons Go Holiday

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I went so far as to decorate MYSELF with a huge bow around my neck. I look like some sort of Wes Anderson flight attendant. I’m secretly very into it and I think I actually still have that skirt and vest.

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Have you bought your wreath collar for your 100-pound cement dog yet? Well, there is some inspiration for you! Also, ORNAMENTS EVERYWHERE!!!! There were a lot of dollar store ornaments up there (and stockings, I believe).

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I bought a ton of trees from a hobby store (I think these were for train hobbyist) because they weren’t really a thing that retailers were selling yet and created a vignette of a forest on a cloud. I still think it’s cute.

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Lastly, my “wreath moment” this year was real flowers and ferns. I did it on an oasis wreath form that held water, but I still think it only lasted like 3 days and because it was full of peonies (in the winter), it probably cost like $300. It’s SO PRETTY, but if I had to do that again, I would likely just do the wild ferns because it looked a bit too “spring” or “Easter.”

We also created a Christmas tree-shaped present stack.

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It’s a lot, folks. What you may not have noticed is that we made that pink art that says, “HO HO HO, HO.”

2013: My Super Easy Holiday Cocktail Party

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In 2013, we created some fun holiday content at The Fig House which I still love to this day. I think that it was the beginning of a less saturated color palette for me and thus entered the blush/copper tones phase, replacing hot pink and bright gold.

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That same year…

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I had Charlie a couple weeks before Christmas, so we didn’t style or shoot, we just put up a HUGE real tree and put lights on it. This is the only photo I had, but of course, I LOVE how it looks. This is actually what we are doing at the mountain house—just a tree with lights and maybe some wood and white ornaments.

2014: California Winter Wonderland Glam

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In 2014, I went back to glam and really did it up with a lot of warmer tones (including brown and burgundy—I TOTALLY FORGOT I DID THAT!).

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It was a lot, admittedly.

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The individual vignettes look great, but altogether it was a bit much. 🙂

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This was my first year working with Target so I had the excuse to go all out and boy did I.

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We put eucalyptus garland EVERYWHERE and apparently didn’t stop there. We put garland on the bookshelf, too. It was too much, I’ll DEFINITELY admit that. The eucaluptus garland was custom and ended up being quite expensive, so while its pretty and smells great, I don’t recommend it. Just buy a readymade pine garland and supplement with eucalyptus. Also, that “wreath” on the bookcase was just cheap garland wrapped around a huge wreath form. I should have just stopped there…

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The chandelier was not left untouched, of course…and please note that EVERY SINGLE SURFACE has cotton on it. It was festive, but BOY was it a lot. This is fun for a party or a shoot and can give good ideas but obviously, don’t do ALL of these for your actual holiday decor (I mean, you can, but it might feel suffocating IRL).

2014: Target Styling Video Chapter 6

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That same year, we did our first major Target video on a big set and with the help of a huge team we styled it out to be a little glam but super festive.

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I want my hair back.

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Here’s a woman who takes her bows VERY seriously. We put them on our bottle brush trees and even a foil bow on the cake.

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2015: 12 Days of Instagram With Target

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The next year, I brought back the hot pink and styled it out for a Target collaboration. It was kid-friendly, happy and full of pretty pastels. The real reason that you saw a lot of white trees back then is because A. they are fun, but B. faux trees are only now getting to look really good and you can’t get real trees before Thanksgiving but more holiday content has to be shot before then. So instead of having an artificial evergreen that you could tell was plastic from 50 feet away, going the white or metallic tree route was playful and editorial without stressing about finding a live tree.

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Still putting domes on things and spreading ornaments around… 🙂

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Still stacking gifts as decor…

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2016: Decorating For the Holidays – Family Friendly Style

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2016 is the year we moved (I believe we moved four days before Christmas), so we decorated our Glendale house in a super classic and kid-friendly way.

I love love love how that turned out and BOY DO I REGRET SELLING THAT CHAIR. UGH. It’s so cute and would be perfect at the mountain house.

We still have the caravan, truck and a lot of the accessories that we put in Charlie’s room.

It’s bright and happy and even though it’s not “sophisticated,” I still LOVE it.

2017: Our Living Room Holiday Reveal

Last year, I went super tame and neutral and while I love everything that we did for this shoot, I actually took it up a notch later in the month for a party and wish that I had shot that.

As you can see, below, adding some pinks and more garland helped take it up a notch.

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2018: My First “Refined Traditional” Holiday Look…Target Style

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Lastly, the Portland house, decorated with almost 100% Target this year, is still one of my absolute favorites.

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I LOVED how that shoot turned out so much (thanks to my great team Brady and Emily for producing and styling it all out).

TOMORROW you’ll see our 2018 LA house holiday decor. I styled it out more for a party than for every day, learning from last year’s more tame reveal (you all called me out in the comments!) but it’s still A LOT. I apparently just love going all out. I suppose that’s because I’m a stylist.

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So come back tomorrow, folks.

BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY WHICH ONE WAS YOUR FAVORITE??????

I’m strangely going to say 2016, with the bright red and green on white, but it could be just that the photography popped so much that year…or Portland…

Please weigh in…(and be sure to pop back tomorrow morning to see what I did in my home this year).

  1. what a fun walk thru history. i guess i started reading your blog during your last house final christmas b/c the prior photos are all new to me! great inspiration.

    also, the bear above your current fireplace…that’s a good moment! sculpture & depth reeeeeally makes that fireplace/bookcase wall rock….food for thought! it stood out to me as a really good thing. 🙂

  2. I agree! 2016 with the Navy, green and red. Navy just adds always. And Portland with the buffallo print. I love it.

  3. I also liked 2016 best, but I have kids the same age as yours, and the joy they get from “less refined” decorations often trumps my desire for a stylish look – hence AWFUL faux Christmas animals, kitschy Santas, etc. The uglier the decor, the more into it they are! In the market for a giant wreath like the 2016 one…source?

  4. The mountain house is my favorite by FAR. It’s minimal yet beautiful and perfect in every way. It actually inspired me to get some target holiday decor for the first time ever so thank you!

    Also, I love this typo “Here’s a woman who takes her boys VERY seriously. ” – please don’t edit it! 🙂

    1. HA! had to edit, sorry, but it made us laugh, too. whoops!

  5. I love 2014 but I also love the white fake trees!

  6. My favorite was 2016. It’s classic, kid friendly without being juvenile, and really fun!

  7. 2016 is my absolute fav though I wish it was with a green tree!! I just loved the playful, kid-friendly, nostalgia style and traditional colors. But I love all the sneak peaks of this years and am looking forward to it.

  8. The 2016 tree gives me the happy feels. <3

  9. 2015 & 2016 were my favs!!!! But I must say the globe snowmen & then your giant bow really were what made me fall in love with Emily Henderson!

  10. There a streak of insanity running through some of these photos. 🙂

    I love decorating for Christmas. It’s the only time my house is filled with tchotchkes — like an invading army of Nutcrackers has taken over. And then I live with it all for 3 or 4 weeks until I absolutely can’t stand the clutter anymore and it all goes back in the attic. At that point the best part of decorating for Christmas is putting it all away. I’m convinced that that is the whole point — so you see your place in the New Year with fresh eyes and appreciate it free of Christmas clutter again. Like, huh, this house isn’t so bad.

    1. 100% YES!! SAME EXACT WAVELENGTH! Down to the imagined nutcracker invasion. 😁

    2. Oh my gosh, SAME. Except we have an army of tomtes instead of nutcrackers. I love it all, but I am so happy to put it away after Christmas and have a house that feels so fresh and clean.

    3. OMG meeeee tooooooo!!!!!!!

  11. I love seeing the EH evolution here! 2016 is my favorite as well. It somehow feels the least styled without losing its story.

  12. 2017 is actually my favorite year, especially after you jazzed it up a bit.

  13. 2016, definitely.

  14. I actually really like the pretty gold/pink/copper color palette of 2015 – it just reminds me of magic and sugar plum fairies and ballerinas in the Nutcracker. The little vignette with the nutcracker that year is one of my favorite Christmas vignettes of all time – so magical! I think I’m getting over the white tree trend, but I remember that at the time in 2015, when I first saw your white tree I LOVED it!

    I love what you did at the Fig House! And I really love 2017 with the extra garland and added pinks, but my favorite is probably this year-Portland. SO classy! It’s timeless yet modern, doesn’t feel over-done, but it is still fun and interesting. And I’m a sucker for graphic black and white prints, always!

    Such a fun post!

  15. Oh, absolutely 2016. I adored it then, too. So bright and cheerful and in a mid century setting! Sigh. It was perfect ☺️

  16. All your white trees are stunningly decorated and look so gorgeous in natural daylight. Do you have a problem with white trees turning yellow or brown when they are exposed to sunlight? I just bought one and then read that it will probably only last 3 years before it turns. My white wreath that hung behind a storm door for two months in the sun last year is dingy looking this year.

    Would you store white trees differently to preserve their color?

  17. LOVED this trip down memory lane!

  18. I’m a fan of OG Emily’s christmas design from 2011. It’s uses non-traditional elements, but it still feels like christmas. Great job all around, and can’t wait to see this year’s design tomorrow!

  19. Love 2017. That one feels so rich (full, cozy, etc) and soft and calm. Which is what feels best to me this time of year.

  20. There’s something to love from every year. But I can’t tell you what joy it brought me to spot the sweet little dog painting in your bookcase in the 2014 collection. It brings a smile to my face every time I see it.

  21. YES PLEASE to Wes Anderson flight attendant! And that WAS really good hair.

  22. That was SO fun! 2016 is definitely my fave.

  23. 2016 or 2017!

  24. Love the Portland house. Do you ever use decor items you DON’T like just because they are free (Target) or are trending?

  25. 2017…cozy, classy and clean!

  26. Loved 2016 the most! Even though my style is more boho eclectic, it felt so fun and so, well, Christmassy!

  27. Thank you for sharing and making light of your past designs. I love it! And I love your blog! I think I am going to incorporate more hot pink this year!

  28. I love 2016 the best – traditional yet fresh! Tomorrow looks like it will be good too 🙂 PS Your Wes Anderson airline hostess outfit was awesome.

  29. I have followed you since the dawn of time and have loved every one of these over the years. It was strangely nostalgic to see all of these again. My favorite to this day is the Secrets from a Stylist design.

  30. The Portland house is by far my favorite! Inloooooove with it! I’m a traditional red and green kind of person and for sure have been leaning more rustic the last few years. I’ve added the black and white buffalo check here and there this year and I love it even more which is why I like the Portland house so much.

  31. I remember the Secrets from a Stylist Christmas like it was yesterday!! I loved everything you did there, and I still do. I miss that show like crazy! It was my most favorite show of all time. I would watch the episodes on repeat!

  32. My favorite would also have to be 2016. I’ve been doing neutrals for a while now, but this year my daughter asked for greens, golds and reds and I love it.

  33. The simplicity of your real 2013 set up is just stunning. The natural beauty of the tree shines, and I don’t feel overwhelmed. I am looking forward to hopefully seeing your real take on this at the mountain house.

  34. My favorites are 2016 and the Portland house. To me, red just says Christmas and it always looks cheerful and festive. Now I’m looking around my living room and wishing there was another pop of red!

  35. I loved the comment about why people use white trees for content, those things are so interesting to me. And it feels very ‘real life’ that you went all out the year Charlie was 1, kids make the holidays so fun. Love everything you do do

  36. I miss that fabulous built in bookcase you had made and were forced to leave behind. Sigh. I wish I’d taken great photos of our Christmas decorations each year… Would be fun to look back.

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