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Mel’s Living Room Makeover Takeover Introduction

Hello dear readers! It’s Melanie here (aka ‘Mel’ if you’ve been keeping up with the blog or saw the post from a few days ago). Em is in NYC on business for a few days so Brady has given me full permission to take over the blog and introduce you to the makeover takeover of my living room (don’t worry, Em approved it as well)! You may remember when we started the MOTO series last year and then earlier this year when we started revealing everyones projects – if you need a reminder here are Ginny and Brady’s Living Rooms and Sara’s Bedroom.

But first let me get back to introducinng myself to those of you that don’t know me yet. I am an interior designer over here at Emily Henderson Design and I work closely with Ginny and Em on our full design clients. I also work on some E-Designs here and there and Brady’s been schoolin’ me on how get thrifty and scrappy for the Budget series you all seem to be loving. As for my time outside of the studio, I’m an East Coaster living in LA on the Silverlake Reservoir with my boyfriend Blake (a budding and amazing ceramicist) and two very fat cats. We’ve lived in our apartment for under one year and although there was a period where it really looked great, our needs have changed and it’s now a big ol’ half designed mess – enter Makeover Takeover

Stylistically, I’ve always loved Mid-Century design and Japanese/Scandinavian minimalism. I die for the “Emily Henderson Aesthetic” but my home definitely has less color. As you’ll see in my inspiration images up top, there’s lots of wood tones, plants and a nice combination of vintage Mid-Century pieces. I think I can make that happen in my space!

Now for the moment I’ve been most nervous about: I am humbly embarrassed of the before photos you are about to see. I also have a serious need to further preface by saying that as a designer our homes are sometimes neglected as we spend so much time beautifying the homes of our clients we rarely have the time to pull together our own spaces.  As anxious as I feel about showing you design lovers a far from perfect set of photos, Makeover Takeover has inspired me to complete the space and I’m getting excited to show you the progress we’re making!  (I’m holding my breath while you look at these, and I’m sorry my hutch isn’t styled and just has junk crammed on the shelves. How non-EHD of me!):


When we first visited the apartment we knew we loved it and tried to move in immediately. The location is a dream and we have great light and a beautiful view of the reservoir. We wish the floors were lighter as they show so much cat hair but the empty space had a lot of potential.  A few days after seeing the apartment we signed the lease, got the keys and walked into the new apartment. What we saw was horrifying… they had installed massive vertical blinds over the windows! I was devastated and we immediately took them down. We we’re nervous about our security deposit and kept the long piece up as it was too big to hide in the closet (and maybe we could pretend it was a valance? even though it definitely didn’t look like a valance?). This my friends was the first thing to go as our Makeover Takeover began. Our window/sliding door is so big that it was pretty difficult to find a curtain rod long enough without having to go custom but after some searching Wayfair had the perfect solution. We’ve since purchased these drapes from Zara and had my dry cleaner hem them to the right length. The living room is looking much better than the photo above, and getting so much cozier.

Next up you’ll see the furniture on the back wall doesn’t fill in the space well enough. Blake recently started working from home a few days a week and needed a new desk so we got rid of the one that hid all his wires because it wasn’t comfortable and now the whole backdrop of the living room is unbalanced and cordy (new term, pretty into it?). Hedge house Furniture is currently making us a custom bookcase to fill the space! Not only will the blank corner be filled in, but we’ll now have more space to show off the one million pieces of pottery we have on every surface. (This is not an exaggeration folks, there are cups and bowls everywhere!) Hedge house is customizing this piece for us. It will have the same frame and legs, but with open shelving instead of drawers. They are so nice, easy to work with and sent us wood samples in just a few days so we could see finishes in person. I’m so excited to finally have that wall filled in and to have more space to style and store things! I think it’s a secret rule that to work at EHD you have to be obsessed with constantly restyling your own shelving (which I am, I promise, even though I let my hutch go).


Speaking of the hutch, I started to feel like it was just too dark with the floors. You’ll also notice that the rug is a little too small. We’ve swapped out our rug for this larger rug from Wayfair and the room feels even bigger. This hutch was the first nice piece of furniture I ever bought for myself, and although I’m sad to see it go I think I’m ready. Are designers the only people who get so sentimental about furniture?  The sofa was custom made with Clad Home as Blake and I couldn’t agree on anything we were seeing in the big box stores. We decided on a wood frame because (we finally agreed on something design wise), but also because now the cats aren’t tempted to scratch the sides therefore destroying the investment we made. We’re also going to replace our vintage mid century chairs that the kitties have claimed with these gorgeous chairs from Fenton and Fenton in Australia. I’m obsessed with the frame of our current chairs, but the fabrics not doing it for me anymore. The new Fenton and Fenton chairs feel so sophisticated and yet inviting. And this is the feel we’re after for the entire space so they were a no brainer!


Our dining area is attached to our living space on an awkwardly angled wall and has always been the least pulled together area. I mean, we never even got around to having more than two chairs and although I love both the vintage table and the string shelf, I really don’t like them together. We’ll be replacing these Eames shells I found on craigslist with these chairs from Finnish Design Shop. I’m pretty obsessed with this site, and constantly have to restrain myself from buying dozens of other things! We also have some new planters from Modernica to add pops of color with more plants and we’re going to rearrange our art to bring some verticality to the room. The vintage cabinet you see in the corner is actually the litter-box. I hate everything about a litter-box so I figured I might as well not have to look at one! We cut a circular hole in the side and try to pretend it’s not a mini bathroom in our living room. (I love the cats, but I’m definitely a dog person!)

Over the few days I’ve been jumping in and out of writing this post, new items are starting to trickle in. It’s both terrifying and so, so fun! I keep having this fear that nothing will look right together, but whenever something new arrives it looks so good that I relax and get excited again! I was rereading Ginny’s makeover takeover intro and it sounds like she was a bit nervous too. It’s so funny how much harder it is to share our own homes even though we’re constantly buying things for our clients and feeling very confident in our decisions. I guess this is another insecurity to get over! Anyway, I’m so excited Emily has given me the chance to makeover my living room, and I’m even more excited for you to see the final shots soon! In the meantime, here is a little sneak peek moodboard of what we have planned for the space – all the stuff I have planned for the room is linked below. Even seeing it all here in a rendering is getting me very excited for the final reveal.


Art Print One | Art Print Two | Speaker | Pendant | Floor LampBookcase | Sofa (existing made by Clad Home) | Pillows | Planter | Magazine Rack | Side Table (vintage) | Coffee Table (custom) | Leather Chairs | Desk (craigslist find) | White Chair | Curtains | Curtain Rod | Rug | Dining Table (vintage) | Dining Chairs | White Planter (vintage)

So, what do you think? Could you live with as little color as I can to get that zen vibe, or do you prefer a lot of color around you to really keep your space bright and punchy?

For more of Mel’s Makeover Takeover: Mel’s New Home TourLiving Room Reveal


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70 thoughts on “Mel’s Living Room Makeover Takeover Introduction

  1. I am not one for color either. I have a very tight color palette in my home. I do love pattern and texture though. I think your living room will look great! You sound insecure about our approval of your space. Please don’t be. It’s your home and deeply personal. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    1. I agree – no reason to be insecure! Your “before” space is already way more put together than the majority of the living rooms out there. I get that since you’re a designer you feel pressure for it to look perfect from the start, but the process is what makes it fun and gives us readers such valuable insight and information! Embrace it all!
      And I love the aesthetic you’re going with. I think living in this crazy, busy country should incorporate more “zen” into their homes! So peaceful and welcoming. Can’t wait to see the final result!

  2. I’m never sure that any of my comments on the rooms people make over are valid because it’s not my room. But since you asked, and I have some design experience, I might venture the opinion that since there is so much wood, and it’s almost all the same color, and all the color is neutral, it’s not a particularly interesting space to look at. It doesn’t even seem comfortable to me because the only soft piece is the sofa. Yes, the leather sling chairs are kind of soft, but not really. I don’t even know what “zen” means. But, if it works for you, okay. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. This is going to be so cute! It’s not super colorful but it definitely all goes together gorgeously. Love it!

  4. I’m really more of a color person, but this is beautiful. When doing a room like this the quality of each piece needs to be even more perfect, and those pieces you have chosen are impeccable. Kudos for doing what you love (just realize the EHD audience may not be as receptive as some others would be).

  5. Even though your before photos aren’t styled, the room looks great as it was. Though the after is obviously going to be better. I would probably paint the walls a very pale blue to jazz it up a little, but you do you!

    1. Or maybe instead of painting the walls, just add some green in the throw pillows and art, to carry the color theme of the plants around the room. All the wood tones have sort of a fun jungle vibe.

  6. Can we get a couple shots of your custom sofa? I LOVE the wood frame—seeing it from the front could help me get a better idea of the construction. My dad is a woodworker, and I’m already mentally adding this to my list. Thanks!

    1. I would also love to know more about working with Clad – I’m in the midwest, obsessed with one of their designs, but not likely to make it to LA to look at. Shipping is $500, so no joke… Curious how your couch has held up, etc.

      1. I custom ordered a couch from Clad a year ago and I still love it! Email me if you have specific questions or want to see pictures! jordanmarisasilverman at gmail 🙂

  7. Love the mid century vibe, but it’s a lot of the same color throughout (the rug, wood tones, and leather are all almost the exact same color!), so nothing is really popping out to me. I think having a different color rug or darker tobacco or black leather chairs would help. That said, it will all be going on a dark floor, so maybe that’s the reason it’s looking a little flat to me, since the board is on a white background. It will probably “pop” more in person. 🙂

    Can’t wait to see it come together!

  8. I’m loving this! it weren’t for my two girls under 4 this would definitely be my dream living room. Great job Mel!

  9. Not my style, but you’ve picked beautiful pieces and I think it will come together well. The inspiration pics you chose seem to have a little more variation in colors – some black, white or gray accents. Maybe bring in some other non-bleached-wood shades too? Or perhaps your “colors” will come from the ceramics and plants? I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out!

  10. I like all of the pieces individually but I find them very bland together. If the leather on the chairs was a darker colour would help a little. I think “zen” neutral is nice but there still needs to be some contrast between the pieces or it’s just a sea of beige.

    In my opinion the teak Domino Mobler chairs you already have are nice and it would be cheaper to have them reupholstered than to buy those new chairs ($840 each!). You could still go with a leather or a pleather and be able to pick a better colour.

    BUT it’s your space and if you love it then go for it 🙂

  11. I think the room is very soothing. I look forward to seeing it completed! Sometimes too much color, etc makes a room too busy. I prefer your esthetic!

  12. Mel, your work on the blog and with EHD always impresses me, and this is no different! Love the mock-up; can’t wait to see it brought to life!

  13. I love the Zen/Japanese mid-century aesthetic. I loved it in Em’s book and I love that you’re showcasing it here. It might even be my style if I weren’t also into old quirky knickknacks, broken antiques, and color. So thanks for being into it so we can see it in practice!

    Also I know you’re in good hands with Hedge House! I am so excited to see the piece in the reveal.

  14. I’m afraid you’ll regret getting rid of the hutch. Especially since the only reason is that it doesn’t go well with these floors. I’m sure the excitement of doing the makeover is overwhelming, but don’t make a long-term decision like selling the hutch, that was your first furniture purchase (and is a great piece), for the short-term reward of a “makeover takeover” blog post. (I’m speaking from experience as I sold a piece that I infinitely regret because it didn’t “work in the room”. I’m now in a new home and really wish I had the piece back.)

    1. The ability to let the hutch go is a sign of growth and acceptance of change! Otherwise, we hoard, have unhealthy attachments, and worry about things we cannot control. Objects aren’t important in the grand scheme of our lives so why let them, or the absence of them, weigh us down?

      1. But we are reading a home décor/design blog, so we must care at least a little about objects, right? I was simply cautioning against making a rash decision because it temporarily isn’t working. Also, mid-century pieces tend to be built much better quality-wise than new furniture.

  15. I don’t like zingy color per se, but for your space I’d want more lightness if that makes sense? More white to balance all the tan? And a little more weave and texture. But, I get that sense just from the mockup, and with your white walls and all the light you may have a different perspective than I do! Also, your house your rules!

  16. Japanese/Scandinavian minimalism is my dream style, although challenging to pull off because each piece is so important in minimalism. I’m so excited to see this style featured here. While I learn many good tips, and appreciate Emily’s style, it is definitely not my personal preference for my own home. Love love love where this room is headed!

  17. this has been my favorite makeover takeover so far, if only partially because I selfishly have the same style and love seeing how a professional design would design a space like this. I love color but I work from home – out of the living room also – and found that too much became distracting. Similarly, I did a overhaul and now my pops of color in the living room come through plants, a wall of books, art, and I keep it interesting with layers of texture – a seagrass rug, hans wegner woven chairs, a vintage bamboo elephant etc. It feels so much more soothing now and makes me happy. Thanks Mel for this makeover takeover – I can’t wait to see how it comes together so I can continue my bookmarking of all your great finds! ps. THAT SOFA. I am living vicariously through you – kudos to you for designing such an amazing piece.

  18. Your room already has so much style. Love your current coffee table, where is it from? Thanks!

  19. I love this design! I’ve actually been moving toward less and less color in my wardrobe and home and it’s so relaxing. I just focus on bringing texture, life, pattern, and contrast into the room instead. I feel like it’s much more liveable for me.

    This is going to be great!

  20. LOVE your post! Thank you for being so honest and open. Don’t worry about the “before”. You have great bones and I can see your taste shining through. You’re a designer so your eye naturally focuses on the things you want to fix. I love the template. I have no problem with the lack of color. Many designers out there (clothing, interior, artists) have almost no color at home or in their wardrobe because they work with so much color daily. It’s totally fair for your mind to have a break! Hope you love living here in Southern California and can’t wait to see more of your work and writing!

  21. Mel,
    I think you have a pretty great plan going forward. It’s your first place and do it how you want it to feel “for you.” But I would like a tad more color in this room, but that’s me, I love color. I think the artwork is too small for the large wall and you should have some larger artwork with a smidge more color…how about blues. I love your mid century modern furniture. How about a pop of color in the draperies, it could really add just the right touch to bring it all together…West Elm has great drapery panels!

  22. Neutrals and neutral rooms definitely appeal to me, but I gotta agree with some of the other comments that the mood board feels VERY BEIGE. I dig the abstract painting with the dark blue lines – perhaps a few pillows/other accents could pick up the dark blue? Or more/larger plants for a bigger punch of green?

    Maybe it’s just the mood board not picking up on the variety of textures very well and it will all look fab when it’s in real life. Excited to see everything come together.

  23. Loved the room but really want to hear more about your custom litter box holder! I also have two cats and struggle with how to hide their potty.

  24. Very interesting style inspirations. Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

    If your hutch is real wood and a good piece, why not keep it and find another way to make it work with the darker floors? A good piece can travel a life time with you.

    On the other hand, $369 seems an outrageous price for a veneered plywood chair. I wouldn’t pay $120 for shipping such a thing either.

    One request, in the final shoots please don’t do any photoshop cheating to “vanish” the cords, power outlets, utility boxes etc. like happened in Brady’s living room.

  25. I like what you’ve chosen, esp those leather chairs, wow, so beautiful…$840, whew. I wouldn’t worry about anything looking bland. You’ll have plants and pottery and art and most importantly, the view out your window. That’s the idea of traditional Japanese design, that the interior is merely a frame that directs our eyes to the world outside. I feel like that idea gets lost in this age of constantly photographing ourselves and our stuff.

  26. We have a very similar sofa (only main difference is leather cushions) that we had made and it’s seriously the only piece of furniture we have ever agreed on too. It’s been so great with our cats. I’m so excited to see your makeover and how you design with it!

    1. Maybe get a Roomba for the cat hair and prop for kitty internet photos… shark costume optional.

  27. The room is great now, and will be amazing when finished, but there is one big problem: where are the cats?? Is that not what the Internet is for? can’t believe nobody complained so far. 😀

    designwise: I wish my living room after looked like your living room before, really love the vibe, which is surprising, I’m usually not a neutrals person.

  28. Beautiful! Your neutral palette is the perfect base to bring in a touch of color with art and accessories…or not! It’s perfect as it is.

  29. Love it! I’m into neutrals too, keeps my space less hectic than life. It’s calming and beautiful! If you fill your space with things you love, it will come together and look great. Thanks for sharing.

  30. Looking forward to seeing the finished room. Reminds me of small space design issues I’ve faced in the past and will again in the near future. I tend to go with mostly neutrals with pops of color in the pillows and throws and art work, so I get your preferences. It’s easier to change color direction when it’s just on pillows and not on large upholstered furniture.
    Very clever using wood sides on your couch. I had one ripped to shreds by an inherited cat …from my mother in law … I was desperately hoping she would outlive her cat. Nope. Shredder the cat (you can guess why we renamed her) lived another eight years with us. Eight hairy cranky furniture shredding years. And yes, we’re both cat people.

  31. Our styles are very different, but I appreciate your aesthetic. I would like to see some more texture to add interest since have such a tight color palette. Do you think in the long run that the leather sling chairs and dining chairs will be comfortable seating? I wonder if you are choosing form over function with those pieces. My family was obsessed with MCM design, but man, are those Bertoia and Tulip chairs uncomfortable!

  32. I love nothing more than a makeover and I can’t wait to see the after shots.
    I’m curious: as a reader from Melbourne, Australia I’m a fan of Fenton and Fenton, love their shop and can totally understand why you would want to buy from them but is there nothing like these chairs available in the US? I’m always lamenting the fact that I often can’t buy things I see on this site here in Oz, so I’m quietly chuffed that you’re buying from Australia. Maybe the exchange rate makes it favourable?
    Best of luck with it all Mel, looks great.

  33. Thanks for sharing your space Mel!
    I like a bit more colour in my space personally 🙂 you have tons of beautiful pieces and good bones, very excited to see the progress in this space and how you make them pop.

  34. Beautiful! I also have very dark wood floors. I hate them because every speck of dust shows and because they make my house look so much darker. So I’m looking forward to see what magic you can do with your dark floors.

    Also, I’ve been looking for a natural fiber rug that doesn’t shed too much (again because of the dark floors). Please, please give us an update on your Wayfair rug!

  35. I’m looking forward to the outcome of this makeover takeover, but I have a question: how do you balance purchasing so many “big cost items” at once?

    I’n curious because I think we’re about the same age (upper 20s to lower 30s) and I’m married with no children, so nothing to worry about beyond typical “adulting” duties. 🙂

    Is it a priority thing? I have a hard time imagining spending upwards of $3,000 on stuff for a room when I think of all the other good things that money could go toward.

    1. Hi, so it’s definitely priority, I think I spend more on furniture than people not in the design world. I also have been trying to save for about 6 months so I tend to have a little extra to use. I also get a designer discount some places, and mostly I just try to sell things I’m replacing and roll that into a new item which helps subsidize the cost. I know a lot of this stuff is pretty expensive, but for me it’s also an investment in my career and portfolio so it balances out! You can achieve all of this for less, it just takes more time on craigslist etc. Thanks!

      1. This is helpful, thanks! I love Craigslist, I just never knew when to splurge versus wait it out for a good find through an estate sale or Craigslist.

  36. The sofa is beautiful! And I think if you’re ready to sell your hutch you’ll be able to fetch a nice price for it. Maybe sell it on the flea to someone local?

    I need more color than that. I love how restful the neutrals look, but I have a bit more color in living room (though the sofa is tan).

  37. Great! Yes, your “before” is many people’s desired “after” — but still, it’s inspiring to see how a space that seems great can become better!
    QUESTION about the rug… I’m looking for a few large natural rugs like the one you purchased. I’m nervous ordering them online, since I have two big dealbreakers: 1) smell. That weird smell that some natural rugs have. 2) scratchiness. We are on the floor a lot, and usually in shorts and while it doesn’t have to be plush, we can’t bear that poky, scratchy feeling. Can you report on the rug once you get it? Thanks!

    1. Hi, the rug is great! It totally smells horrible for a few days but then it’s over in under a week. As for scratchiness this is a pretty soft sisal. But, it is a natural rug so there is a little bit of poking. It’s not a silk rug but I sit on it! Thanks for the love!

  38. I completely understand your insecurities about showing your own home! I am a designer as well and feel the pressure to have a perfect home. You are so right when you said that we spend so much time making sure our client’s homes are perfect that our own homes are often neglected.

    I love your aesthetic and I am sure it will turn out great!

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