You guys want process? Here’s some process. Welcome into the mind of a madwoman – otherwise known as a designer. That photo is of said project – our mountain fixer. It’s generic and livable yet wonderful and spacious, but not my style and ready for a total rehaul that doesn’t embody the trends of the late 90’s. Read the whole intro post for more details and to see the full house and to see all the updates as they happen, including what style we are choosing for each room click through HERE.
The first part of any design process is knowing how you want it to look and even more importantly, feel. We use adjectives like ‘cozy, welcoming, exciting, serious, whimsical, relaxing, sexy … etc.’ (I’ve never used that last one personally but clients have). I design function after emotion as function can be adapted to any style, but if you choose function first, the emotion can be lost. For instance, if you say ‘I want this family room to have a lot of seating and storage’ then you might start pulling it together without really thinking about how you’ll feel when you are in the room.
So for me, with this house, my adjectives were ‘open, clean, simple, special, minimal, fresh, easy, cozy and warm’. No visual, mental, emotional or physical chaos. RIGHT??
I started pinning accordingly.
What you are going to read next is my progression on how I honed in on the style/s that we are ultimately doing. It’s my thought process in chronological order. Let’s begin.
In August, while in escrow when it was hot out I couldn’t stop thinking about making this house a simple, minimal, contemporary chalet. Yes, it’s in the mountains but also near a lake where the kids will swim so it kinda needs to function as both.
I loved the idea of doing something totally different than any house we’ve done before. Focusing more on the architecture than the decoration and using more contemporary furnishings (in a good way).
When you are in the house you want it to be warm and yes, woodsy, but it’s not a log cabin nor will it ever be.
Simple. Refined. Calm.
Perhaps some stark and clean moments like those black chairs (although mine would be upholstered) or intense window frames. Great. I want to be those people. Perhaps we will – or not. Keep reading.
Obviously, we want ‘cozy’ and ‘soft’ to balance out the hard finishes, so the upholstery and textiles will definitely play a huge part in making this feel like a home.
The windows, the light, the floor, the walls will all tell a story that says, ‘we don’t need things or options or stress’. And chaos or distraction can take a hike … literally out the back door. All that’s required is simplicity.
Maybe there are some accessories like above, but even those are quiet. Shh…Don’t disturb the lady of the house journaling in her Kinfolk.
GREAT. I LOVE THIS HOUSE IN MY MIND SO MUCH.
Sure. We can still have cabin-y wood on the walls or ceiling, but it would be clean, fresh and modern – in a cabin sort of way.
I presented all of the above to Brian and these are his exact words:
“THIS IS MY WORST NIGHTMARE.” After weeks or maybe even a month of really deciding on a style that was the reaction, from the man who is not designing it, but yes will be sharing it.
I wasn’t pissed. How could I be? We have a very honest relationship and whenever he has held back his opinions it has only prolonged the awkward agony. He needs to be happy, but I was BUMMED.
He couldn’t see the vision. OBVIOUSLY I, Emily Henderson, would make this home to be warm. That’s what I do!!! I’m incapable of true minimalism despite how much I love it. TRUST ME. I kept saying. I want cozy as much as the next guy.
But he pushed and pushed and finally I was like, “FINE. What You Got? Where is your mountain fixer upper pinboard? Where are your weeks of visual brainstorming?”
He didn’t have one (duh) and said he pictured it rustic and warm and basically dripping in oak knots and wool. He thinks he is this guy:
To put images to words (as we have to do with virtually every client) I created a board for him of really beautiful rustic cabins. Listen, as annoyed as I was for his critique I also really want him to love the house and want to be involved in the process so I was going to have to shove aside my weird all-of-a-sudden-strangely-minimal dreams to include my own family.
UGH. Here goes.
Brian’s cabin would have the more traditional river rock, rustic beams and ceiling and more coziness than anyone could handle.
Sure. That is STUNNING. But is it even possible in this house? How many 500,000 dollar bills do you have to drop to get that beautiful wood on the walls? Do you have to pay the sun to create that kind of shadow?
Yes, sure, I want to be in the above room but it also feels so winter cabin in the north, not a California mountain/lake cabin. Plus it didn’t feel fresh to me (I used this photo 8 years ago as inspiration on SFAS – kudos for timelessness, for sure).
Oh YAH. We’ll have deer and antler and we’ll fly in 400-year-old beams from France, to create unbelievable architecture in our generic 1964 fixer in an incredibly hard to get to remote town. EASY.
I want to be there, too, but our house is not that house.
I love that above photo and it will always be on my inspiration page, but hunters we are not.
I know. I get it. I want a super rustic old cabin, too. But after pinning for months and living in it on the weekends we BOTH agree, that our house cannot be any of the above houses.
So I kept moving … design-wise.
Ok. So maybe the full-on rustic thing wasn’t possible but being from the woods in Oregon maybe I could merge what Brian wants with my past – thus Eclectic Oregon Cabin, like they did in the Anvil Hotel.
More tree murals because ‘Emily-The-Tree-Mural-Henderson’ finds an inordinate amount of peace amongst the trees.
Maybe we would add in some more cozy traditional cottage/cabin elements like that extremely wonderful wainscot wall and cozy wool bedding (p.s. remember it’s still 85 in the summer).
We can freshen things up in some of the rooms with more of a whimsical tree wallpaper – because even ‘Emily-The-Tree-Mural-Henderson’ knows that you can’t put tree murals in every room. (#can’tyou???)
We could give it more of a haphazard vintage/eclectic vibe that is super warm and cozy and inviting but still feels fresh.
Everyone loves an eclectic cabin, right????
Yes. Obviously. But I feel like that’s not much of a challenge for me, nor does it feel very forward. You see, ‘Eclectic’ has become easy for me. I want to push myself and do something totally different than what I’ve done and than what is expected of me (this part scares Brian). If this house were our main residence then it’s a style I’d seriously consider but as a showpiece for the world… I want to stretch my creativity. Also, there is something about being eclectic that is starting to feel messy to me …. are we moving away from it???
So…the next obvious style would be…
This is where my brain said ‘ok you want quiet and neutral, but still that cozy cabin vibe’. I could get behind that/in that. At this time in my life, I was working on the Greenhouse with Niki of My Scandinavian Home where she talked about summer garden houses (remember that greenhouse we designed?). Being in that space was so lovely and perfectly merged the rustic with the modern.
That wallpaper makes me happy for sure.
Obviously, I want to be the person that has a summer cottage like the one above, but do I actually want a skirted sink???? Would I actually renovate a kitchen to then put in a ripped piece of linen as the cabinet front? No. That is a great and sweet solution to a space like the above (or like the one we did in the greenhouse makeover) but not for a freshly renovated house like ours will be.
It’s eclectic and vintage and doesn’t look too intentional. But I fear that the ‘unintentional’ look is starting to feel dated. I love it in photos like the above, but that gallery wall over that bed would drive me nuts in person if it were my house.
Of course, I want tile on my countertop, but wait, do I? Is that annoying with grout? Do things get caught in the cracks and does it feel dirty all the time? Maybe this Scandinavian summer garden house thing isn’t exactly what I want…
But I could just bring it in the furniture…
Then after spending even more time there both of us agreed on one thing – we really don’t want a lot of stuff and we both really, really want it to be comfortable. So I went sort of back to where I started…but a cozier version.
It’s clean lines but has more softness. Now that I’m staring at it I realize how close to the first one it is, but that goes to show that my initial thought wasn’t wrong, it just needed more tweaking (it’s still NOT what we are doing, by the way, keep reading).
Brian liked this more than the first round of minimal, but he still said – it doesn’t feel like us, it still feels kinda cold and it doesn’t feel like this house.
I agreed. This house wants to reference mid-century a bit, with those windows and being built in 1964, and I think ‘cozy contemporary’ isn’t exactly it (although if it were a new build it would be a GREAT inspiration).
I still love the inspiration of these photos and love the warmth and modernity that they project.
A hanging fireplace? Yes. Probably. Although Brian is against that. WHAT??
Simplicity, but using warm materials.
WHAT STYLE ARE WE GOING WITH?
Come back Monday where I’ve FINALLY narrowed it down to two that both Brian and I love. And you, friends, will be the ones to make the decision. It’s the launch of a huge series for this house and boy are we excited. I’ll actually be up there meeting with my architect and contractors that day so I’ll show you more in the stories and I’ll be checking the poll all day long.
Let me be clear (in case you missed it) – none of those styles are what we are doing (although some are part of what we are doing) to see the full house and to see all the updates as they happen, including what style we are choosing for each room click through HERE. The two styles that we have narrowed it down to (that you’ll read about on Monday) are not wildly different from each other, either. But I figured seeing the process that we go through to really land on the right design direction, the right ‘look and feel’ could be fun for you (and it was fun to actually write).
Oh and as for Brian and I…as per usual he is right and his resistance often balances me out. I can get so excited about doing a style that I go too far away from ‘us’.
Happy Friday, and see you on Monday. We are finally, FINALLY doing this. xx
**But out of curiosity, of those above styles which are your favorite?
***For those of you curious the sectional is from Article, the coffee table is vintage and the chairs are from Fourhands but can be purchased HERE.
Update: Check out all of The Mountain House REVEALS here: The Kids’ Bedroom | The Kitchen | The Kitchen Organization | The Kitchen Appliances | The Powder Bath | The Living Room | The Downstairs Guest Suite | The Loft | The Hall Bath | The Upstairs Guest Bath | The Dining Room | The Family Room
Love the minimal contemporary, especially that kitchen. The cozy take is pretty good, too. The eclectic and whimsical Scandinavian or whatever…kinda played out…exciting overall!
I agree with everything you said.
What a fun post, yes we want your process just as much as the final reveals (ok, almost as much).
I am especially drawn to the first style, but I agree, it isn’t you! Can’t wait to see what you came up with and thank you for the interesting insights!
Cozy Contemporary is my favorite of the above, but it needs to incorporate some mid century pieces to make it truly impactful. The tension in slightly rustic contemporary with mid century strikes a great balance and allows all pieces to shine versus falling into a time era where everything just looks and feels the same. It’s something I’ve tried to capture in my home with some Southern Cali style in my Nashville Craftsman. Great job Emily and thanks for sharing on your process!
YES!!! Process is AWESOME! Thank you Soo much for sharing. Can’t wait for Monday!!!!!
I love the Eclectic Oregon cabin look. It has more color, definitely more coziness, and I love the interesting details. My colonial can’t stand for much of that (and our “interesting details” are Paw Patrol toys right now), but our mountains of books help point me in the right direction.
Thanks for this post. I really enjoyed the detailed unpacking of these styles, and why they work, or didn’t, for you all. I probably would have thought that the Scandinavian style was my jam, but it’s not. This is really helpful.
The very first photos! The one on the upper left! Surely you can make it look like that without the fantastic dollar price. Yes!
Oh wait! I was so wrong about which picture, it was the gorgeous one just under your comment of Ugh. The Rustic cabin photos. the one on the upper left. That one!
I’m with you in that none of these options feels exactly right to me either. My least favorite is probably the whimsical Scandinavian. As a lover of all things MCM, I’m selfishly hoping that the final options with have some MCM influence to pay homage to the home’s roots.
It would be super interesting to see your take on minimal contemporary, though. Pesky husbands ; )
Looking forward to Monday’s post!
My favorite styles out of the groups are the “rustic cabin” and “Oregon eclectic”. That first picture under “rustic cabin” with that amazing window stopped my heart for a second. I don’t think I would ever leave that room. And that rustic reading room nook picture with all the wood walls, oh my. My other favorite was the Oregon eclectic. Which if you can marry the two, would be perfection. I really dislike the Scandinavian ones(except the garden wallpaper one which I think could fit in with the Oregon eclectic, I’m all heart eyes for that) because they just seem messy and dirty? The other more simplistic modern pictures are nice and I guess more trendy but completely forgettable for me. Ha, in fact as I type this I can’t remember what most of them were. But of course this is just my opinion and I can’t wait to see what direction you go.
I really like the cozy contemporary and the eclectic Oregon cabin! It’s really interesting to see the process on how you narrowed down your design focus, and I can’t wait to see what 2 options you came to!
Minimal contemporary my favorite by far out of those for a renovation. Some of the others seem like you would need a lot of old elements already in place to achieve the style without it looking contrived.
My favorite room picture you shared is the one with the DEER over the fireplace – but that is the one element I don’t love. I love the clean lines but rustic beams, the glamorous luxurious velvet sofas juxtaposed against the perfectly circular stacked wood and the beautiful FIREPLACE!!
And i love looking at old design magazines and finding those pictures/designs that still work for today, which means they will still work for later. Timeless.
Personal preference, but I love the starker more modern style. It puts the focus on the trees/water you see out the windows as the true focal point. But, maybe I would just be craving a calming respite myself since I’m also a designer who looks at busy color/pattern all day for clients. Can’t wait to see what the compromise is! I have the same aesthetic dilemma with my husband who thinks that style is too cold overall. For me, it eliminates the clutter and helps me focus on my family rather than jumping up to clean.
I totally agree!! trees/water and yes about being a designer and wanting less stuff to look at, especially at what is your ‘getaway’.
Nordic cabins can also have a gloomy HYGGE side, not just light / bright: https://mustamokki.blogspot.com/
Take a look at the HGTV Dreamhome for another look at contempary cabin. I don’t really like the style of the DH at all, but it is worth a look.
Scandi farmhouses forever! But, realistically they just don’t work everywhere, huh? But that hanging fireplace in a 1964 California lake house- isn’t it against some sort of zoning laws NOT to have it? I hope you find a place for it!
I am crazy about your first original design ideas! I love reading about your process…this is what I’m interested in and wish “design” shows on HGTV would show more of! Can’t wait to see more on Monday!!!
Whaaawhaaa… Tell me now! 🙂 I can’t wait. We just bought a woodsy home and I’m dying to know how you style yours so that I can get some new inspiration.
best blog post ever! you have articulated so much of the process that I have been going through the last year. we are in construction now but this goes a long way to keep me on track towards my ultimate vision of cozy contemporary scandinavian beach cottage. :). can’t wait to see what you chose! thank you so much for communicating illustrating visually all of these styles!
Man I hope you guys choose something akin to that first minimal style… it’s just so CLEAN!
Whatever you do it will look great. I’m so excited that you’re taking on a new renovation. I think of all your beautiful spaces, this is going to be my favorite – and that’s saying a lot.
You are the funniest human Emily and I love you. you’re so sweet to consider Brian’s feelings. Can’t wait to see the final fixer upper!!
Since it’s a vacation house, I humbly suggest going for easy-to-clean, when possible, and also it-won’t-be-the-end-of-the-world-with-a-few-dings, if possible.
WILL DO. Definitely struggling with that one, always, but I want EASY EASY EASY, too. Wait til my ‘which wall-to-wall’ carpet post …. obviously I want white!!!!!!! (if we do it).
I’m a lake cottage mom and cringed when you said upholstery on the dining chairs. Wet bathing suits! Three meals a day in wet bathing suits. Is there a fabric for that?
YES! I remember being a lake cottage kid and always sitting on the upholstered dining chairs to eat lunch in my wet bathing suit and towel even though my mom always reminded me not to. I wasn’t trying to ignore her, but as a kid it’s literally one of the last things you think about!! It would still be soggy by dinner!
Pinned every single minimal contemporary.
The house feels like it’s halfway in that style already!!
Aaaahh! Best post of the new year! Yes, yes. Love the process narrative because it feels like chatting with a real human being with a bunch of different decorating ideas that need to be settled on and a husband with his own opinions, not just someone who magically turns out amazing interiors month after month. I’m following this cabin overhaul like I’m glued to it – we just moved from the San Diego suburbs to a mountain town a bit farther out and our new house is not dissimilar to your cabin (though much smaller). Plus my design cravings seem to be pretty similar to what you’re sharing in your thought process. Simple, pure spaces, love the minimal cozy in my head, but does my family really live like that? Do I? What shall I do? *watching your space with an eagle eye*
I vote cozy, FUN, slightly funky 70’s (not 60’s) modern Cali-scandi-gonian! With an emphasis on textures, softness and trees (in a 70’s wall photo sort of way.) As someone wise once said, “perfection is boring, let’s get weird!”
Love this post! Yes, we want process. From these, cozy contemporary would be my choice.
Without a doubt, cozy contemporary. Maybe just add some paddles or cowboy gear on the wall;). This is in California, right? Mountain cabins in California, in my experience, are either dreadful Tahoe 70s A-frames with leather recliners and orange shag carpet, no need to resurrect, or wonderful family-owned dude ranch cabins white painted with Western themes. My family used to go to this place in the Eastern Sierras in the summertime. Classic. http://www.hunewillranch.com/img-galery.php
I’d be inclined to use the local, what do you call it in design, vernacular?
I like the eclectic cabin best! Sad to hear that you think “eclectic” is on its way out. 🙁
I don’t think it will ever be out, but I think its getting refined. a beautiful mix of styles is ALWAYS in, but I fear its gotten messier over the years. I’ll always mix styles therefore i’ll always be eclectic 🙂
I loved this post! Thank you for walking us through your thought process — that’s really helpful to see. That said, your first style was totally my favorite (*shakes fist at Brian Henderson*).
Cozy contemporary. We are remodeling our home in Bend, Oregon. It was built in 1936 and we are doing it in a Mission style which has been fun. We have a modern/ industrial look to our condo in Portland so it IS nice to have 2 different styles in 2 different places.
Love hearing about your process! Can’t wait to see more
“You guys want process? Here’s some process. ” Lol. Thank you, Emily for reading and caring about comments and requests made from us random folk out in the internet!
This post was so interesting and how you can easily transition from one style to another is very impressive to me. I first loved the Minimal Contemporary photos and was thinking WHY, BRIAN HENDERSON, WHY? WHY DO YOU HATE IT SO?!
But I do like the Cozy Contemporary version and Eclectic Oregon looks really fun too!
I would love to live in the Oregon cabin, but I can see why it wouldn’t be a great showpiece for your work at this point.
Fun post, thanks for sharing.
I like Brian’s cabin. And I think it’s because my husband is the same. He wants to be that guy sitting there too. And he IS a hunter so we already have the taxidermy–wanna long-term rent some? 😉
Very admirable of you to not just steamroll over Brian’s opinions.
I love the Eclectic Oregon Cabin look!
This is why I read your site every day. I just went on the entire design “journey” (gag sorry that’s the only word I can come up with) with you and was nodding my head the entire time. I get every single decision through this entire post… well done! Also CLIFFHANGER… not cool haha. I like a merging of Scandinavian and the Oregon Contemporary… Scandinavian without old grout and sink skirts and some wool plaid and trees thrown in for good measure.
I am laughing so hard at your thought process and Brian’s response. My husband and I are building a log cabin vacation home and we’re having a strikingly similar discussion. I can’t stand the wood overload of the Appalachia look cabin and refuse antlers/bear/moose decor as ridiculous. When I mention modern, clean lines or minimal decor, he goes straight to cold and impersonal. The frustrating part is that apparently 20 years of marriage doesn’t give me any credit in the home decorating category. What?!
I like the Cozy Contemporary option very much. A lot of the other options have elements that feel very similar to what you’ve already done (not including the Rustic Cabin). The only thing I beg of you not to do is just slap white paint everywhere. It indeed can be very very beautiful and light and bright and fresh, but it is one thing we have definitely seen from you and it sounds like you want to do something different, so… let’s see different! I am very excited to see this transformation and to follow along in the process!
“THIS IS MY WORST NIGHTMARE.” Hilarious! Your initial vision is my dream house. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!
I love the minimal contemporary aesthetics, but like you, I’m not sure I can live in it and keep it that way. Haha
My husband has done that to me before, too. I get so caught up in an idea that I act like there’s no other way to do it but that way because that’s how I picture in my head. But it’s his house, too, and honestly, our styles aren’t that different so if he’s telling me to hit the breaks, it’s usually not a bad idea. He puts so much trust in the other choices that I make, that I feel like it’s totally fair to put trust in what he’s telling me, too. As much as I hate to admit it, he’s usually right.
I cant wait to see what you do to work in the mid-century in a fresh new way! I love the 1964 elements in the bones of the home I want to see how you bring that into the interior!
OMG playdoh on carpet!!!!
I know!! but it would be only in the bedrooms upstairs …. we’ll see ….
That is what I thought too. So brave!! My kids would grind the play doh in every square inch of the carpet ????
That’s what I was coming to say too!
Ok, my favorite of the ones above is the cozy contemporary, but mixed with mid-century. A mountain cabin needs cozy, warmth, and the more contemporary/mid-century quietness to relax you when you step through the door. I do not like eclectic – too messy and not right for a cabin. I like elements of the rustic style…maybe use the ceiling beams and planks, fireplace, and a few decor items to mix it in.
I don’t care that eclectic Oregon cabin is a style that’s on its way out, I LOVE it!
Love what you did here with showing us the process! So so interesting! Thanks for listening to what readers are interested in and upping that a 100 notches to make it much more informative and exciting!
What a cliffhanger!!!!! This reminds me of how Grey’s Anatomy ended on the biggest cliffhanger ever and then didn’t air again for 2 months. Rude. (jk) Your banter with Brian cracked me up!!! No matter what you do I hope you put a gigantic sectional in that living room. The couch you have in there right now is so beautiful but you look like you have space for all the cozy seating!
Of this batch, my personal favorite is Cozy Contemporary. I love that it’s a change from your current home, has touches of mid century from your previous home, yet is still has a new and sleek twist. I think there is a timelessness and cleanness to the Cozy Contemporary will always be fresh, but still cozy! As a fellow designer, I find designing simple architecture/space/details are often the most challenging, but well worth it! Anxious to see what 2 you narrowed it down to, but absolutely LOVE learning about your process and working with your husband as a client. 🙂
I agree. ‘decorating’ feels easier than making this MASSIVE EXPENSIVE NEVER TO BE CHANGED DECISIONS. I am collaborating with a local architect who knows the permit situation and contractors in this particular town, but i might want to also consult with an architect that can help me source all these materials that I typically don’t do. stay tuned ….
Love the minimal and cozy contemporary (and that one cabin pic with the gorgeous lofted ceiling and gray wood walls!), but agree that they probably need to be punched up a bit to feel like a family space. None of the other styles felt like they would fit that house comfortably. I think pulling in some Pacifin NW Modern or Mountain Midcentury could be great! Looking forward to Monday’s reveal!
We have tile with grout countertops and it drives me crazy. It always looks dirty. Avoid for sure!
Haha. I can almost not read this. Like when you have to protect yourself from a friends problems bc it reminds you too much of yours. I for reals have pts about this kind of decision making. I just designed our whole house that will be done in a couple of months. This is EXACTLY how it is. And I’m waiting, just waiting to see if it all works out!
Ooh good luck. there are just so many variables … so many.