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Kitchen Nook Refresh + 3 Shop the Looks


**Kitchen nook photo from our Studio City project. Inspiration only**

Sometimes in life you have to make some hard design related decisions, and nobody understands more than me how hard that is to do by yourself. Enter in “Design Agony”,  a simple service where you as the reader, homeowner, or viewer can ask us a simple question that you can’t seem to answer yourself. Maybe you can’t find the right lamp for your nightstands, or maybe you are looking for the perfect rug to go under your dining table. Whatever it may be, we can help answer these questions, which is exactly what we did for the below Design Agony request (if you have a question of your own, go here to see how it works before you submit your form).

This client came to us looking for a few simple pieces to make her kitchen nook feel a bit more updated, without a total overhaul. The process of Design Agony starts out with a simple questionnaire that we use to get a bit more info about what the issue is. Here is what we got from her after she had filled it out:

“Hi y’all! I am going for an updated and vaguely boho look in my home (see my living room, attached). But in my kitchen area, I think my breakfast nook might be veering into ’70s hippie b/c of the color scheme and the table and chairs (which I’m hoping to replace with a 48-inch round extendable table with simpler chairs). Any furniture suggestions?

My floors are reddish oak and tough to coordinate with (I was thinking of either a very light beech wood table or more of an espresso brown). I’d like to recover the little yellow granny chair in the kitchen (suggestions? maybe mid-tone blue?) and possibly replace the throw pillows with something a bit fresher (ideas?). But I don’t want to recover the olive-colored bench upholstery because it was expensive and coordinates nicely with the foliage and landscape painting in the kitchen.

Other elements that I can’t change: yellowy walls in kitchen have to stay, landscape painting in kitchen (shown in one of the photos), and the striped kilim rug. Both my husband and son are wary of pink and purple, but they love blue and most other colors.

Can you see any way to freshen up our breakfast area (which is also our lunch and supper area!) without a total overhaul? Thanks!”





“I would prefer a table that is round, not oval (I don’t want a square or rectangle because I want to avoid pointy corners in a tight space). The benches are each 60” long so I think a 48-inch round table with ideally two leaves would be best. Yes, it needs to be expandable and the table top needs to be solid wood, but the pedestal base could be metal. It’s hard to coordinate other woods with this reddish floor! I don’t want table legs because we would bump our knees against them while entering the bench area.

Budget for table is $2, 000-$4, 000 for the right table (though a custom job might be tricky since I live in Vancouver, Canada).

I prefer high quality pillows made of artisan fabrics with natural fibers (but they can’t be scratchy). So $150 or less per pillow would be good. And I wouldn’t want a whole whack of pillows because they would end up on the floor (I have a kid) so three or so pillows on the bench are about right (the appliqué one in the corner is 24-inches, maybe too big?).

The budget is somewhat flexible as you can see. But I’m not at liberty to change the green bench upholstery, landscape painting, or location of the granny chair, and we would rather not change the wall color unless that’s essential. Wall color right now is BM ylang-ylang and bench upholstery is this:

I’ve had trouble finding white paint chips that complement the flecks of cream and tan in the green fabric, which has a burlap like texture.”

All in all, she had a good foundation and a great space, but a few areas that she wanted to tackle. After exchanging a few emails to determine where she wanted us to focus our time, we decided that giving her suggestions for pillows would be most the helpful within the budget and timeframe. So with that in mind, we pulled together a few different pillow options and color schemes to show her what direction the space could potentially head.  Throughout the duration, the client gave us a couple of table options she’d been looking at, and although this one still has some red tones, we felt that it would work the best in her space. The the other options were either super modern with an angular pedestal, or a bit too rustic country which we knew wasn’t right for the space.



1. Navy Pillow | 2. Cotton Tassel Pillow | 3. Bird Pillow (no longer available) | 4. Navy Square Pillow | 5. Dot Pillow (no longer available) | 6. Orange Purlieu Pillow | Dining Table

Option 1 was a mix of both warm and cool colors, as well as the new proposed dining table we had decided on.  The orange tones in some of the pillows help to bring out the warmer tones in the table, and the blues and greens of the complimentary pillows would work well with existing art and fabric she had on the cushions.


1. Navy, Oatmeal & Teal Pillow | 2. Navy Linen Pillow | 3. Leaf Print Pillow (no longer available) | 4. Teal Velvet Pillow (no longer available) | 5. Cotton Tassel Pillow | 6. Embroidered Pillow | Dining Table

Option 2 went a touch cooler, when we eliminated the orange from the pillows. It was a bit more calm, serene, and we brought in some life through a few graphic pillows.


1. Navy & Chambray Pillow 2. Mustard Velvet Pillow 3. Pushkar Pillow 4. Vivianna Pillow 5. Navy Square Pillow | 6. Anelia Pillow | Dining Table

For Option 3 we took away the greens and introduced a much warmer color palette of yellows, and oranges, with a few hits of blue to help tie in with the existing green bench fabric.

Ultimately, the client went with Option 1, and we made a few small tweaks, which you can see below in the final board.



1. Navy Pillow | 2. Cotton Tassel Pillow | 3. Bird Pillow (no longer available) | 4. Navy & Chambray Pillow | 5. Dot Pillow (no longer available) | 6. Orange Purlieu Pillow | Dining Table

What do you think? Which combo would have been your favorite in the space, and why would you have picked that combo? Are there any common problems that you constantly find yourself running into that we could help solve? If you have a question that you think might be a good fit for our Design Agony Service,  or are in need of any other services head on over to the services section of the site to see if we might be able to help you!

***feature image photography by Bethany Nauert, to read more about that project click HERE

Fin Mark


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Your tasks are not always easy! I like the result!
xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena

I’d have probably chosen the second palette because I love greens and blue so much, but the first one is so right for the space and natural light !

The third one is growing on me though. So unusual. It’s awesome ! And all of this seems out of your comfort zone, yet so great. Navy, yellow and orange. Who would have thought ??


I love all of them! Option 3 has colors that I would pick for my house but either way, gorgeous choices for a low maintenance update!


I guess I’m confused about why you included the picture at the top- which is totally unrelated to this project. I’m more confused, however, about how the clients’ main concern seemed to be a table that was either light or dark, so that it wouldnt conflict with her reddish floors, and you picked another reddish table?

I was wondering the same thing. I just assumed part of the answer would be some different table options.


i love the concept behind this post (and #2 is my personal pick!), but i would have been interested in a couple different table options. i agree, it seems odd the table chosen is reddish. i’m guessing the client must have liked it though since it didn’t change on the final board?


Hey Alex, yes the client proposed this and an option to us. We just felt it was right despite the red tones.


There are a lot of commercially available tables at lower price points in colors that would make more sense for the client


Hey Marg, sorry for the confusion, we added the top photo for inspiration only. The client also sent through a few table options ranging from super modern to granny. Out of the ones she sent we thought this table was the best. The main focus of her questions were the pillows, so we didn’t end up presenting a page of tables to her. Thanks for pointing out, we added some additional copy to help other readers understand x


I really don’t get this, either, frankly. She asked for table ideas, replacement chair ideas, help in recovering the existing upholstered chair, and said she didn’t want a slew of pillows. So you gave her a table that she had already picked out herself, and a slew of pillows.
33% of which are no longer available.


Hey Marie, this project was completed a while back which is why they aren’t available anymore, apologies for that. As I mentioned to commenters further down, we had a few back and forth emails with the Client and we narrowed down the services to her needing help with the pillows. Thanks for reading. x


Thanks for clarifying, Ginny! I appreciate it.

#1. I love the orange and blue together.

I have that table and 4 matching chairs, I got it at a garage sale for $50!!


WOW! That’s amazing!

Cris S.

Funny – I instantly focused on the same issues with the table that everyone else did. That is, to me, a large budget for a table and I was excited to see different options in that area. Sad that didn’t happen, especially with the awesome table in the first picture as a tease. Um…where can I get THAT one?


Hey Cris, sorry for the table confusion. The clients main focus was on the pillow suggestions so we didn’t present table options. The first photo was from the Studio City house, see added link above 🙂 x

Cris S.

Thank you Ginny for the info! I also appreciate the daily posts and variety of subjects. I know it’s not easy. I do a weekly newsletter for our students for work and that is a big enough pain in the butt. Almost daily posts for a demanding bunch of readers spoiled by the EH team’s high level of content is, I imagine, exhausting. Thank you!


Emily, I think your team should start moderating/approving comments before they are posted! People are being real a-holes lately and it’s annoying they get to use this public platform to be mean and rude! Loved this post as usual. 🙂


Yeah, WTF has gotten into the commenters lately? We’re not entitled to a full makeover post by Emily every day, folks. (Though I did find the inspiration image confusing).


Agreed! It seems like rude commenters beget rude commenters. And this includes grammar sticklers.

Thanks, as ever, Emily’s team! I vote green. I’m waaaaaay into green lately. Maybe its because everyone is loving indoor plants so hard?


I prefer the grammar police to the politeness police.


I just think the post itself set them up for failure by listing a ton of design problems and parameters that the client wanted…and then only presented a table and some pillows. It made it seem like they had completely phoned it in for the client. Sounds like in reality the client ultimately decided she just wanted help with the pillows and agreed to this table as the basis at the time. The post made it seem like the client had gotten the shaft, but I doubt that is what happened at all…but Emily’s great team really shot themselves in the foot with the presentation of the post. I still liked the post, but at first was unimpressed with the service they provided. People are being very critical, but I can understand why in this case. Yesterday’s comments were a love fest. If the post had been “design agony – help me pick some great pillows” or had simply explained, that in the end that is all the client wanted to pay for based on the hourly rate, I think the comments would have been very positive. I see a ton of backseat design driving here, (which might be annoying)… Read more »


I agree with Anna. It’s important to tell the story from point A to Z instead of starting someplace in the middle and not explaining the goals of the project.


Agreed, let’s ban all the @-holes!!


Krystal and Holey, If they ban everyone who doesn’t agree then you’ll have groupthink here. You all will be stuck in your own narrowminded perspectives. The point of the conversation is to learn from everyone, evolve and adapt.


Oh, sorry, I was being ironic, to point out how contradictory the original comment was. I guess that didn’t come across very well.


She could start by banning the commenters who call other commenters names.

Kate Lim

Why is someone commenting that others are being A-holes by commenting their own opinions (be it rude or not). Can we not resort to name callings? I have said things I didn’t like about this blog but I still care about Emily and have said multiple times she is still my design goddess. So what’s if the others who are calling people A-holes?? We’re all adults so act like one please.


I’m confused by the first photo….perhaps it is because I like that space and the others seems so different.


Hey Victoria, sorry for the confusion, this image was just for inspiration only 🙂 thanks for reading x

I love the freshness of option 2! Selecting coordinating pillows in a room where you have to work with the existing items is tough!


Cool post! I love the inspiration picture! Is there any way we can see the final result on this project? This seems to me like a great service and I have been considering using it for advice on what to do with my very tricky, dark kitchen. As is always the case, though, we have a very small budget for the kitchen overhaul itself and plan to do most of the work ourselves so it’ll be more like one of Emily’s weekend makeovers rather than a full kitchen gut….(although it’ll probably be more like 2 or 3 weekends for us!) Can you speak to how much this service typically cost clients? Is it based on an hourly rate?

Cheryl Johnson

Love “real life” posts–from readers like me with “givens” that determine what can be done and I love that this client listens to those she loves and tries to work out a compromise that is pleasing everyone. Not easy. For Emily and her team and for any of us home-lovers sitting here reading her column. I have the colors in Option Two in my home; I feel most comfortable around serene palettes. But I found that I also need pops of color to jazz it up or the serene isn’t so happy. Thus, Option One makes abundant sense. I’ve recently added a little color to my navy blue, teal, gray great room–a tribal pillow from PB to befriend my shibori pillows (Option Three has that going on) and a orangey/coral occasional chair that loves being here. These colors are also reflected in the art I have around. Still serene, still happy.


Nice post. I was wondering about the chairs – it would seem like they could make a huge design difference. The current ones stear the look towards country, but something more modern would have a big impact and instantly update the look. And look great with the new pillows! Do you know if that was considered?


Love the post and the idea of a “have a question” generator behind it. Its the worst when you come to the ” is a or b the better choice” part of a project and you feel on your own. Hoping that when “nook client” goes ahead with the choice that we get follow up on their decisions.

I love all the bright colors in your refresh! It will be perfect for spring!


Adriana Barton

Update from “the client” (that’s me!). We are going to replace the chairs with something more modern. We are talking to a woodworker about a custom table, probably in maple or white oak, (The teak reminded husband of sailboat furniture.) We will paint the walls white so they don’t clash with the lighter wood.
I tried the Anthropologie bird pillow but the navy pom-poms bled into the white background when I washed it (not Ginny’s fault). The navy pillows made the seating area look a bit “chopped up” and high contrast with the lighter pillows. Not a restful feel. We are still trying out different pillows to get the right mix 🙂


So do you mind giving a ballpark of how much you paid for the service?…the post made this out to be a very tall order, but then it sounds like in the end you really just needed pillow recommendations? And then they didn’t work! I like this service idea a lot, but it seems like the post itself confused the heck out the readers, presenting all these problems, questions, parameters, and then ultimately all you got was a table you didn’t even go with and pillows that didn’t work out. Are you happy with the service and price based on what you eventually agreed upon?


This post reads like Perd Hapley interviewing himself.

Thanks for giving EHD permission to post your photos and thanks for the update!

Kate Lim

Thanks for the update. Seems like EHD didn’t solve your pillow problems and also you’re now sourcing your own non reddish table (they one they included for you is reddish). And yeah, I think painting the walls a different color is major game changer. Did EHD suggested that you paint them? Or was it your own decision?


oh man, I am definitely liking this kind of post! but keeping the yellow walls drives me crazy. yellow walls seems like it should be a crime.


You might like The Yellow Wallpaper, then. It’s a short feminist novel from the Victorian period. It’s safe to say that the author didn’t care for yellow walls, either. 🙂


The color pallets and options are all visually appealing, but the final presentation seems incomplete. To me, the source of the “design agony” seemed to be a lack of cohesion with the rest of the home. Why not share the living room photo with the readers? Also, I would think that the style of the chairs was the most divergent part of this room, yet they are never mentioned. Also missing from the final recommendation is a coordinating upholstery suggestion for the accent chair. Upholstery fabric is a less pedestrian item to shop for than throw pillows, yet designers with the experience to make an intelligent recommendation are silent. All the accent pillows are lovely, but they are a garnish on a well designed room. Every major retailer want consumers to drink the “just change your throw pillow” cool-aid. I am surprised to find that mentality here as well, especially from such clearly talented interior designers (not decorators).


Hey Kimberly, thanks for your thoughts. I think we should have made it more clear in the post, that following several emails with the client we decided that the most important and helpful thing for her was pillow suggestions. Because we work on an hourly rate for the agony Q’s, it often boils down to what the client would rather us spend our time and their money on. x


This is very helpful to know. I think that is why the recommendations seemed really sparse in light of all the question and problems the post presented.


Thanks for the clarification, Ginny. Of course the client drives, but as a designer it is often difficult to get to the heart of the problem and I think that perennial issue is what many readers are reacting to today. Without the “she asked us to focus on pillows” comment, I believe many of us are stuck at the problem solving point, instead of appreciating the already rectified design. And I realize as Edan points out below, this is a free blog so thank you for your daily content and inspiration…It’s great to watch other designers work.


I agree with the other commenters who have remarked on how entitled and rude some readers have seemed lately. We read this blog for free, guys, and the tone of some of your comments are pretty petulant! If this were my blog it would get me down. So I just wanted to say, Thanks for helping me waste some time, EH and team! I enjoy reading the blog every day!

Kate Lim

From EDAN “Thanks for helping me waste some time”

Geez, this is probably the last time I have in my mind when I’m reading Emily. You seriously think reading her blog is wasting your time??

Kate Lim

time = thing*


I REALLY REALLY love this post and hope to see a billion more design agony posts. It is great to see design advice in a real world context (want to refresh without an overhaul).

I prefer option 3, and may snag some of those pillows for my couch.

One thing though… I’m dying to see a picture of the final result!

Just wanted to say I found this post so good and interesting! I agree with some of the comments that it was a little confusing, but I can’t even complain because the design posts that solve real problems are my absolute favorite. Thank you!


#2… I love orange more than most, but I wouldn’t play it up with that green adjacent.


I love seeing these options and think the pillows are awesome. I would love to see what fabrics you recommended for the “granny” chair and what other dining chairs you recommended. Also, I love the table, but thought she didn’t want oval and wanted leaves (although I personally don’t think a round table makes sense in that very rectangular set-up. Thanks!

I have to agree that if this were my blog, some of these comments would get me down. What happened to “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all”. I love your work Emily, and appreciate every post you put out. I would say to the naysayers, no one is forcing you to read this blog. Positivity people!


I love Emily’s blog and enjoyed this post, even though it was a little confusing. The back and forth explanations did give me some idea of what’s involved in the Design Agony questions. It’s interesting to see even small real-life design dilemmas addressed.

The negative comments may seem harsh, but they serve a purpose. It would be much worse if the readers didn’t like the post or were confused by it, but gave no feedback and eventually stopped reading the blog. Emily’s crew was able to make some changes and, if they listened to the complaints, will probably explain things better in future blog entries.


That is certainly the intent any negative feedback I write here. Also, having one’s work critiqued is important to growth. I don’t find snark helpful, but feedback can be.


Love number 3 all day long, especially the bright textured pillows! But that is just me, warm tones like orange and yellow make me smile, especially next to navy. Of course I would ask the husband to relax, and just paint the walls a bright white already. This is probably why I am not married…

Thank you to your team and to the client for posting this! As a reader, I would love to see the wall color and other existing furniture included in the mood board and also an after shot of the space.

Like other readers, I don’t yet have a good understanding of what the “Design Agony” service offers, and I would be interested but hesitant to try it without a better idea of potential outcome and cost. It seems like the client asked for a lot of advice (table, chairs, artwork, fabric for the granny chair, pillows) and only got a table selection and pillows. But that might be because “Design Agony” only covers one or two things. Perhaps answering all of those different questions would fall under the “E-Design” service instead?


I like all 3 options. I think they feel fresh and new.
I don’t have a design agony situation here, but I’d love to see a post on bedside lamps. In many before and after posts on the internet, they often look very dinky to my eye.
A designer once told me “Bedside lamps should always be at least__ inches tall.” But I can’t remember what she said. haha..

I loved all 3 as well. I would have chosen 1 for myself. The pillows!! Swoon…


My biggest problem is interior painting when there is an open floor plan. It’s difficult to figure out where to stop one part and start another. And how to do the starts/stops neatly considering the orange peel walls. And how to make one part flow into another part while still having a bit of visual separation via different paint colors. If different colors are even possible or desirable. Any advice?


Oops! I didn’t read carefully enough and thought this was a “Design Agony” comment entry. Sorry about that!


I like all of the color schemes. Blues and greens are my favorites. My office is pale blue, green, orange like the first choice above. It’s a nice balance between soothing and energizing. I was a little confused by the post text as opposed to some of the photos (yesterday’s too).

To the client, I am so curious as to why you were not at liberty to change out the chair and the landscape painting. Can you say why? (Just wondering, not critiquing).


After reading some comments, just want to say good job with whatever additional copy you added. I didn’t have any of the confusion issues that other readers had.

It would’ve been fun to see an “after shot” of the nook. Same photo quality as “before” would’ve been fine.

Doing the quiz in “Styled” my husband and I both had high marks in bohemian, so this was really fun for me to see, personally drawn to #3.


Sometimes it’s good to step a little outside of comfort zone. In this case a new wall color, chairs, and a throw to cover up the upholstery would do more good than pillows.


Way to call it! 🙂


The table bums me out. The finish reminds me of Emily’s post on “what not to do wood finishes”. It doesn’t seem to be a color that you’d find naturally in wood, like the super dark espresso wood finishes that look painted. I’m afraid she’ll now find it even harder to find fabrics, pictures, paint, etc that complement it when she wants a change.
I like the option 2 color scheme.
Like others, the home owner was so articulate on the details that needed to stay, what could change, budgets, etc I felt underwhelmed when the jist of the makeover help came down to throw pillows. BTW from what I saw the homeowner has a lovely home.

Fantastic breakfast room table pedestal and lighting


I would looove to see the end result! Very interesting post 🙂


I love Option #2! What a difficult task. You are so good at what you do!!


The Design Agony posts are so fun and helpful, but it drives me crazy to not see the ‘after’ in the real space!

Excellent Post .


I have to say, I had no idea the ‘services’ existed! I mean, the ‘Services’ button exists but I guess I just never clicked on it. I’m thrilled to know that these options exists for those of us far away that want your advise. I cannot wait to begin. We are hoping to break ground in the next couple of years. I will be using your services.

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