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Who is the real client of the mountain house…

The ‘I Design, You Decide’ series is about to head into high-speed mode as the major decisions need to get made in order to get all the materials here in time. So as we go forward I know that a lot of you are wondering  Who is the real client of this house? Who am I designing this for? Is it just for ‘content’ or is it for our family? How much of Brian’s needs and wants are being met? And most importantly Was this a good idea?

Here’s how it originally went down;  we were finishing up our current house and running out of content. We sold our first house so desperate for a non-client project that I could fully document here, I started looking for houses in “up and coming neighborhoods in LA”. As many of you know, LA’s market is insane so $400 – $500k basically gets you a 900 square foot run-down apartment. As I was showing Brian these properties and suggesting that this was our next big project, he understandably was bummed. I think he was like ‘Wait, you are going to drain our savings and give a year if not more of your life into a property that our family will never actually enjoy?’ He agreed that I needed a new project for content, but he suggested looking outside of LA for a weekend house so our family can escape.

Little did he know that I just suckered him into letting us look for a mountain house (which he has always wanted, but typically I have to convince Brian for years of things before he lets his fear take a back seat to the excitement.)

But there was a caveat – In order for me to really dedicate the time/energy/effort and money into this project, I HAD to have the freedom to design and create something totally different, and yes for “content” (and to feed my creativity). Financially the only way we could justify it was to make it part of my “job”.  He agreed. ‘Of course. That makes sense. yea, yea, yea, I get it – whatever is best for the blog and your business will be great for us, I’m sure.’

And then we found his dream mountain house and for the first few months he said, ‘do we even need to renovate?’ and I immediately countered LISTEN, MISTER, WE HAD A DEAL! I’ts not that I was dying to renovate, either – its so much work and money, plus it meant that we wouldn’t be able to escape up there for at least 6-8 months. But that was the whole point, and I was so excited to get started.

You know the rest of the story (see here), I showed him the new style that I wanted to try – ‘Contemporary, Minimalist Scandinavian Chalet – and he told me that it was his ‘worst nightmare’. All of a sudden he wanted in on the design process. And yet, as all of you know who have tried designing with a male person, he didn’t have any ideas himself. Just ‘not that’.

I know so many of you can relate, and how I got him to actually communicate what he wanted brought me back to my style diagnostic days in SFAS and it was actually really fun, but that’s another conversation.

Around the same time, I realized that this was our opportunity to engage you guys and bring you into this process and frankly to do something in digital marketing that has never been done before. Essentially I felt that the success of the blog bought this house, and therefore I wanted to give YOU some power in the design and if I was going to use my time, sweat, money and energy designing our dream cabin for our family, I better also be marketing it and growing the business. It wasn’t going to be a quiet job. I was planning on DOCUMENTING THE HECK out of this project and taking all of you along for the ride.

He couldn’t help but agree that ‘I Design, You Decide’ would be great for business and incredibly fun for me. So he agreed to it… but was nervous.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Cabin Demo Update Emily And Brian 31

In case you are feeling sorry for Brian Henderson right now, I’d like to tell you that if there is one person in the world who you should NOT feel sorry for, it’s him. And he knows it. We laugh about it all the time. When we read your comments where you side with him, or you feel sorry for him because you think I’m steam-rolling him, he laughs OUT LOUD and yes, rubs it in my face a bit when he ‘wins’ (fireplace, pebble tile), but then he’s like, ‘OK I should probably write about the process, and defend you so they know how much say I am being given and how much you are considering my opinion.’


So he wrote something to you:

“Dear readers, My beautiful, stunning wife, Emily, could not be more considerate of my needs (in general) and has taken my style prerogative and functional requests without an argument. Despite you having ultimate control she is only giving you design plans that she has done basically for me. Her generosity astounds me. Her grace is beyond measure. Her intellect impresses me daily… she can charm a room, is amazing at karaoke, has beautiful feet and bakes a mean meat stew. I especially love how the shape and shade of her eyebrows changes on the daily. I am the luckiest man on the planet.”

*Unfortunately Brian was actually unavailable for comment. And the above statement was written for him in his absence.  

I don’t agree with all that he “wrote” (the feet, eyebrow and ‘baked stew’ thing are questionable) but the struth is that he is the real client.  At this point, I am showing him 15 versions of each design plan before I show you the final 2. He has already vetted them and my goal is that he is just as happy with both design plans (and he loves both master bathroom designs). I’m not just saying that – I promise you that Brian Henderson is being considered first and foremost here. It is more work, but I think it’s going to produce a better house and sure, a happier family 🙂

If you are wondering about ME – and what I want for this house? First off, thanks for caring. But I’ll say this – there is no one more able to adapt, stylistically than I can. I’m truly style polyamorous and I let the architecture of the house kinda tell me what direction it should go, then I consider the functional needs and then I put my usual ‘happy’ spin on it. I just love designing and am happy to do ANY style. Truly.

I was SO excited to do a ‘contemporary minimal chalet’, but honestly am just as happy designing a rustic cabin – and ultimately we fell in the middle. Brian is happy and I’m totally happy. I have my dream job, Brian gets his dream cabin – we are all good here 🙂 And I would never put anything in this house that I didn’t really want. Ultimately, not that we need to talk about our marriage here, we communicate really well and are pretty great at compromise. Does that mean we haven’t had heated “debates” about putting wall-to-wall carpet in the living room? We have… more on that later 🙂

I know some of you wanted me to go full ‘Scandinavian Chalet’ and you might feel bummed that you technically ‘Won’, and yet kinda lost because I shifted to make my husband happier. But you didn’t lose, I promise. Yes, it’s slightly more ‘cabin’y than originally planned and no, not as ‘Contemporary or Scandy’ as I had predicted, but ultimately he was right.

When ‘Modern’ won, and he was bummed I was like ‘WAIT. WHAT? YOU SAID YOU LIKED BOTH!!!’ And he said, ‘I do. I like the house you are designing… I just don’t think it’s THIS house. I don’t think it’s OUR house.’ 

UGH. He was absolutely right. I was forcing a style into a location, with a young family that just wasn’t right for it or us.

So yes I shifted more towards the middle (and since the vote was so close I didn’t feel bad) but it’s still going to be more modern, I promise. There won’t be oars over the bed or plaques above the sink.

So that covers how I’m making my first client (Brian) happy before I make my other client (you) happy, too. And I’m happy just having this ridiculous opportunity at all.

Lastly, I also have to make my partners happy – those brands whose product I love and will be featured in this house. Our first major partner for this house is Kohler. More to come (I’m so excited) but essentially we are creating content for them in a variety of ways in our now 5 bathrooms, so I have to make sure that their beautiful product looks amazing in the design (and photogenic, to boot). While designing I also have to think – will that faucet pop off the tile enough? Where should we put the shower head to get the best angle/shot of it? Will a super modern toilet look good on a pebble floor? I’m also trying to showcase a variety of their product while making the house cohesive. It does bring more pressure on me to make it look amazing, but that is a creative push that I absolutely invite.

I can safely say that in the last few years (since we’ve been successful enough to turn down opportunities that weren’t the right fit) we love all the brands we work with and they really let us do our thing. They are smart enough to say ‘Here’s our product, we trust you, go have fun and make it amazing’.

Lastly, I do have to think about press and social media. Meaning that I have to do something with more of a story or an editorial bent – which again pushes me in a really great way.  It’s like prepping for a huge party at your house – it forces you to look at it and make some improvements that you put off or jooge up some areas that are kinda boring. And then afterward you are like ‘This looks so much better, I’m so glad I had a reason to do that”.

When millions of people are going to stare at your work, yes, you want to be proud of it. You don’t want it to be boring. You want it to be interesting and not part of the ‘inspiration circle’ that dominates design in the digital world. You think outside the box (pebble tile, wood-inspired tile, tumbled stone, wall to wall carpet …. you scared yet???) and you really try to do things you haven’t done before (while of course sticking in the EHD color palette and I’m sorry if you are sick of blue – but it makes our family happy:)).

That’s all to say that perhaps designing without a normal residential client may not be ‘easier’ as I originally had predicted, but it sure is more fun because “my clients” – Brian, my kids, you, and my partners are pushing me to be more creative and hopefully make this house really beautiful, functional, different, comfortable, stunning, editorial, photogenic, press-worthy and yet timeless….

Is it a lot of pressure, work, and stress? Sure. But it’s not running a country or open heart surgery. It’s still just a house. It’s this is just a blog. My mistakes won’t put us into war, and no wrong choice will kill anyone. I know how lucky I am to have my dream job, with an amazing team to help and the most supportive (and at times opinionated) husband championing for me.

So hopefully that answers your question as to who is the ultimate client… It’s kinda all of us (but mostly Brian :))

And boy is it fun. This summer can’t come fast enough. So stay tuned and keep coming back because we have so much good content in the works……. (check the pin board to see what we are working on right now). xx

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


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108 thoughts on “Who is the real client of the mountain house…

  1. Emily! all i can say is… you’re so honest, so real, and I love that you’re a poly amorous designer because that just shows that you don’t have to like only 1 or 2 styles. You can love it all and be happy no matter what! I love that you’re being honest and are working to ensure that this house is perfect for you and your family, especially for Brian! Keep doing what you’re doing.. and i’m just happy that you’re having us be a part of it!

  2. Emily, I love all your work and all your posts and appreciate that you are always clarifying dimensions of design projects like who the client is, etc. I am a forever fan : ).

    One thing in the above post I was surprised to see you say was the “…as all of you know who have tried designing with a male person, he didn’t have any ideas himself. Just ‘not that’” comment because I know you are a fan yourself of some great male designers and even collaborate with some wonderful ones (Brady, Orlando). It seemed a little reductive, but I understand you meant it with humor.

    1. Not to mention the garbage comment / bad neigborhoods. Tone deaf again and needlessly so.

  3. You are so talented and I LOVE reading your voice through your posts! Thank you for keeping this little corner of the internet so real and raw and for creating absolutely beautiful living spaces that give us all inspiration for our own spaces! Keep up the great work, Emily!! 🙂

  4. That top photo makes deciding between design choices with a partner look so fun and happy. When I try and show design options to my husband, without even looking, or cracking a smile, his response is always “whatever is cheapest”. Haha. I’m ridiculously excited to see this project unfold!

    1. He should try to consider how expensive it is to change something after only a few years because it isn’t working for some reason (causes unhappiness every time someone looks at it, doesn’t function well in real life, etc.). The one everyone is happy with is the actual cheapest option in the long run. Smallest up front cost is not the best indicator of final cost. I hope you can make him understand that one day. 🙂

  5. Very interesting post, and I’m looking forward to seeing it all. But so far it doesn’t seem very different to your comfort zone. My heart particularly sank when you said you’d be sticking to “the EHD colour palette”. Couldn’t you make that part of your challenge to yourself, to make a different colour palette work? After all, you have your main house in your safety palette, surely the colour scheme you escape to should be different!

    1. Yeah, I have to agree with the previous comment about the color palette. Like Emily, I am polyamorous as to style, and like a lot of people, tend to be drawn to certain colors. But I see every new home as a chance to try something new and push myself with color and style. Also, the rural location seems to call out for a different palette. Even if the shell is “EHD colors” can’t the soft furnishings bring in something different?

    2. Totally agree! I can also totally understand that you paid for this house and it needs to be right for your family, but you have to ask yourself “How many times am I going to be in the en suite bathroom of the second master bedroom?” I mean you likely wont even be cleaning it yourself! If everyone doesn’t LOVE it, is it really gonna impact you?

      I remember a couple of weeks ago Emily was talking about how her living room hasn’t really “taken off” and maybe that has something to do with the giant BLUE rug. At this point maybe its too predictable (aka boring).

      I know I go to blogs to see things I’d never do, or maybe can’t do for financial reasons but that I can translate to my own home. Lately my color inspo has been coming from all over the internet, whether super neutral or super saturated, but it certainly hasn’t been coming from EHD, which is a shame.

  6. EH Writers – if you’re going to edit reader comments that point out thoughtless parts of these posts, I strongly suggest editing the post too.

    1. This is true. It was my comment they delered. Funny thing is that I am at every day reader of this blog and really like Emily’s work. I was quite put off by her comment regarding that 900 square-foot house in a not so good neighborhood. What if I happened to be a blog supporter plus one of those people that might live in a 900 ft.² house and the not so nice neighborhood. Way to alienate your readers and supporters.

    2. On the flip side. I understood it as a piece(s) of garbage that happened to be 900 sq ft. If they looked at literal pieces of garbage that were 900 sq feet and in not so great neighborhoods, I don’t really see a reason to be bugged by their actual reality of what properties they saw. We all know that there are garbage properties everywhere in all sizes. It’s not the size but the condition that I think she was referencing?… I didn’t read it as EVERY 900 sq ft property in a not so good neighborhood IS a peice of garbage. Just my two cents/my perspective.

    3. Perhaps as they convert to a website, they could include an option to post comments privately. That way, readers can express specific concerns with a post without it detracting from the overall tone of the site. I know Emily strives to welcome all voices, and she clearly cares about her readers. However, this is still a business, and the positive, design-focused atmosphere is a major selling point. From a business standpoint, she has a right to maintain it.

      1. Perhaps so. But it’s just not a good investment and I understand. I understand how someone might choose or not choose to buy a small house in not so great neighborhood. 1. We might not know better. 2. We might not aspire or need better. 3. We might not afford better. It’s all okay. But it might not be a wise idea to invest in such property by using top quality materials and fixtures. Cheap (relatively) fixer upper: yes. But a designer project will not bring a return on the investment. Why would anyone return 15000 on fixtures if all other neighbors have fixtures totaling 5000. Yes someone who pays cash and wants to live there might want that. But no bank will appraise that house at 800k if other houses of that size in excellent condition appraise/sell at 600k tops. That’s real estate and lending 101. Ladies empathy goes both ways.

      2. You can post privately by sending Emily and her team an email. They read them 🙂

        1. True, but it’s much more convenient to post here, and a full email for a comment on a sentence or two might seem frivolous to some. I just wanted to make a suggestion in case it’s something EHD would like to implement while they overhaul the platform.

          1. Convenience can be put aside if you are calling someone out. It really needs to be done the best way, not the most convenient. Also, I can guarantee that an email will not seem frivolous to the people at EHD who work on this site. I’ve emailed them before, and they really cared. They didn’t think I was some internet crazy lady getting het up over nothing.

  7. Yes! I love this! I love hearing your voice, and I love hearing the thought process and all the nitty-gritty debates and decisions. Posts like this are so relatable and engaging….it’s like “Brian said”, you can charm a room and that’s what a post like this shows 🙂

  8. I’m disappointed by inclusion of this line: “And yet, as all of you know who have tried designing with a male person, he didn’t have any ideas himself. Just ‘not that’.”

    I think you all know that this is not restricted to ‘male person’ or inclusive of all ‘male persons’.

    That said, I appreciate your transparency on the process and ‘clients’. I also think the analogy of prepping your house for a party is so true – you suddenly look at your space with a fresh eye and find things you totally want to change. More info on this process and ‘review’ would be insightful!

    1. Emily, of all people, definitely knows that design talent knows no gender. I think it was just meant to be a funny reflection on designing with a design-indifferent significant other, and the wordiness of the phrase I just used kind of kills the joke. As such, shouldn’t it just be taken at face value, no comment necessary?

      1. I get your point, but I dont think its that hard to avoid using a stereotype that alienates some of your readers.

        1. Why can’t we use imagination and see this type of person? I think it’s a funny comment that doesn’t mean to generalize to every husband. Not everyone is like that, but at least half the population doesn’t care as much about aesthetics as Emily. And half the people that do might not be as refined as Emily. Why do people get offended by everything?

          1. Not everyone has a husband. Try looking at it from someone else’s point of view – “its just a joke” and “its not that big of a deal” adds up until people dont feel welcome. Stereotyping is dangerous, and its not that hard to be inclusive. I think that is one of the things Emily and her team strive for, so I think its worthy to bring up here.

          2. Replying to Jill’s last–Emily didn’t specify husband. “Male person” was in that way inclusive, while still being a humorous reflection on the stereotype of disinterested husbands. If you have never dealt with someone like that, then the joke probably wouldn’t be funny to you, but “not funny” isn’t the same as offensive.

  9. Thanks for walking us through this! I’ve wondered a few things you explained and I love peeking behind the scenes. The compromise aspect my husband and I still need to work on when it comes to designing house projects……haha. 🙂

  10. Please take this as a sincere suggestion from a long-time reader 🙂 I appreciate all the work that goes in to these posts, but lately I have found myself skimming or skipping over the copy completely. Please stick to quality over quantity. I feel like this post could have been condensed considerably and still have had the same effect. I enjoy your content, but sadly have been coming to your blog less and less because I don’t have time to read a post this long everyday. Let the beautiful content and design speak for itself sometimes and throw in a long post every now and again! That said, I still really do enjoy your posts about family, motherhood, etc. There is just a time and a place for it.

    1. I have to politely agree. I have been feeling like content is getting stretched out so much lately. But still a huge fan!

    2. Emily, I love you and I have been coming to your blog DAILY for at least the past five years. But lately…
      I am really sorry to say this, but lately I started to feel like it’s no longer Emily’s design voice. I find myself scrolling through some posts or skipping them altogehter. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind an occasional fashion or motherhood entry, but come on! Honestly, is a post titled “Who is the real client of the mountain house…” something you personally would like to read? Not to mention that the entire content of this article is just repeating things from previous ones! We know all of that! I also understand that the whole “I design, you decide” concept turned out to be harder than expected, but all you are giving us here is a debate on pebble tile or vessel sinks with wall-mount faucets. Those feel more like a Facebook post or Instastory material. You say you want to concentrate on the blog (i.e. not taking design clients anymore), but it feels likethe quality of the content has not been a priority at all lately 🙁 Please take it as a sincere comment from a devoted reader, because I love you and want the best for you!

      1. I totally and unfortunately agree. I’d love some more quality content. My favorite posts, particularly, when Emily designed her current house, were the nitty gritty detail ones about what was going on with each space. Everything discussed about the mountain fixer and Portland house seem so superficial. I feel like I don’t understand the houses very well. I’m pretty meh on the I Design/You Decide idea altogether – I don’t want to decide; I want YOU to! And all the rooms multiple ways… those also seem like they could be relegated to Instagram or Facebook.

      2. Right?! When she comments that she designs things simply to be pinnable its a turn off. I prefer something unique and not designed to appease the masses.

      3. Hiya. so many people asked this exact question in the comments, and thus this post. Sorry its not everyone’s cup of tea 🙂 Not every post can satisfy everyone, although we try… 🙂

      4. I’ve been reading the blog for many years, and I 100% enjoyed this post! I don’t usually have time to read each day’s post, so I check in every few days and give myself the treat of selecting the post calling to me loudest. Of this one and the few days after, this one (by title and intro) called to me loudest! So… different people, different topics, different appeal.

        Love Emily’s tone (and humor) (and believe me, if anyone is inclusive, it’s Emily).

        I appreciated hearing the background behind Emily’s design decisions on this cabin.

        When speaking with humor, I think there might not be a humor in existence that someone would not find offensive.

        1. I completely agree with you. I love the length of the posts and reading the blog is a special treat. I also don’t have time to read every day, so I wait until I get a bit of time to myself to devour the best from the last week. Then I curl up with the blog, in the living room that EHD inspired me to decorate (in my 980 square foot house) and read away. Keep being awesome!

  11. That sounds exactly like conversations I’ve had with Herr Gumbel..

    Me: “I want to do this designy thing.”
    HG: “That is literally my worst nightmare.”

  12. I just wanted to say, thank you so much for your transparency and honesty with all of this! I feel like it’s going to be a great reflection of open communication with what Brian wants, and what works best your family, all while creating great content. Kudos to you!

  13. I’m pretty sure you put more thought and consideration into this than some *AHEM* people put into running a country…….

  14. I live in one of those up-and-coming neighborhoods you reference and have a gorgeous Spanish-style bungalow. Yes, it’s worth more like $600k than $400k – $500k, but there are definitely flip availabilities here in your range, in a lovely, undervalued-compared-to-the-rest-of-LA neighborhood. Please don’t stereotype.

    1. CAROL! TELL ME WHICH NEIGHBORHOOD! I’m looking for a house in LA right now and haven’t been able to find ANYTHING. So far what it looks like is we need to up our budget to AT LEAST $600k for something move-in ready anywhere above the 10 freeway, and our budget is really capped at $500k. Everyone keeps telling me “location, location, location” and “buy the worst house on the best street” and I just want to scream back “BUT NOT EVEN THE WORST HOUSE ON THE BEST STREET IS IN MY BUDGET.” So, if you love your neighborhood I’d be very interested to keep it on my radar…

      Sincerely, a desprate home seeker

      1. Seriously, you so wouldn’t even think of getting a dump of a flat (apartment) in Sydney for $500k!!!

    2. I think she could find it, but it wouldn’t have the square footage that she was hoping for. Also, they are available, but what kind of traffic would she have to sit in to get to the property? It’s probably faster for her to get to the mountain house than to get to the west side.

      1. Maybe the real issue here is that real, everyday people (AKA: Readers) will never have the financial capacity to have a mountain house and content would inevitably be more tuned into current readers and bring NEW READERS, if the project was in a fixer-upper, run-downish neighborhood??! = more sponsorship, business, etc.

  15. This was exactly the post I was looking for! Thanks for documenting the new focus. Also, I love that you show us the competing interests that you have to juggle — spouse, readership, partners, your own metrics. I feel like I’m a small business owner with you. Thanks for bringing something fresh to blogging and design.

    1. I completely agree. I think reading about the competing forces is fascinating! And I’d much rather spend some time reading about that from an interesting voice than be denied it altogether and just left wondering about the sponsorship vs. Brian vs. poll decisions etc. without any resolution.
      I think with a blog like yours, whilst style is the main focus, your own personality is another large part of the enjoyment I get from it, and hearing your take on things beyond “just” style really adds an appreciated extra dimension.

  16. Ha, the ‘not that’ comment! That’s my husband in design but also when we were looking for baby names, it got to the point where I told my husband he couldn’t say no without offering an alternative!

  17. It’s so interesting to hear what it’s like to have your husband as a client. I’m currently designing a new website for the (very small) company my boyfriend works for and having him as my “client” has been a challenge. I enjoy working with him, but he also is pretty particular and doesn’t always understand the technical limitations of website building. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who both loves and struggles with having their partner as a client.

  18. Emily, I love your blog- both design and writing style. I hope you don’t feel stifled because some may be misconstruing your words. I know you strive to be sensitive and it is impossible to please everyone and not step on toes occasionally. When I know someone’s intent is good, then I I go with that. I couldn’t do what you do!

    1. Agree 100%, kristen!! There are those of us who come here because we like you, we like your stuff, we are taking in and enjoying what you take the time to give. I’ve learned SO MUCH just from daily reading. There’s always something to pick up on. (Even if it’s just a shared laugh bc my husband also has zero idea what he likes but sure knows what he hates!). So, keep your chin up and don’t let the people that fine-tooth comb every single sentence, or hate your blue stuff have any room in your head. Your good will and good style are very evident.

    2. THIS!!! ^^^

      I understand the $400-500k tiny houses in bad neighborhoods living in CA, and I had to send my husband the quote about “just not that” because this is exactly what we are dealing with in our kitchen remodel.

      Emily is a real person, honest, open and genuine and if you’re upset about things in the article above you are looking for a reason to be upset. These are the types of comments that make the ‘keeping it real’ posts a scarier type thing… and those are the ones people love.

      1. Another THIS! ^

        It must be hard enough already to put yourself out there the way you do. So, just want to add to the voices of those saying that you please try not to feel paralyzed by all of the nit-picking. (Even though I know I would be hugely affected if I were you!) What you are saying is honest and entertaining, and that’s way better than what’ll happen if you try to play to the finger-pointing crowd.

        And… what colour haven’t you done?! I think of your spaces as bold, bright and colourful. And even wonder if you didn’t comment on your love for blue, if others would even know which was your favourite. (Who *really* doesn’t have a lot of blue in their house/wardrobe… unless they go 100% neutral?!)


        1. PS. My favourite colour is purple, and blue is still the dominate colour in our house. My mom’s favourite colour is black… same thing. My sister’s favourite colour is green… same thing. My sister-in-law’s favourite colour is red… same thing. My other sister-in-law’s favourite colour is constantly changing… same thing. My daughter’s favourite colour is pink… her room is actually pink. 😉

          1. Yeah, what is is with blue? I’m not complaining, as blue itself is my favorite color. But when my husband vetoes something I want and gives me an alternative, it’s usually another shade of blue – even though his favorite color is green and he doesn’t believe that some colors are harder to work with than others. (he’s like Jon Snow, he knows nothing!)

      2. Exactly, Kelly. Exactly…. I want to ‘keep it real’ but man the backlash is harder and harder to deal with. Thanks for understanding. xx

    3. 100% this to every comment in this thread! Kristen, in particular, you did an excellent job articulating what do many of us are clearly thinking.

      There are so many sources for pure design content–it’s your voice, heart, honesty, and personal touch that make this blog special!

    4. Totally agree. I’m a huge progressive who wants everyone to feel included and seen, but sometimes I’m like, “c’mon, really?” with these comments. It’s not just the words but the intent behind them – and Emily’s intentions are clearly good. She’s not a f*&^ing robot and may not phrase things 100% perfectly 100% of the time. I hate how quickly we turn on our own because of perceived slights. It’s not helping anything.

  19. Jeez, so much negativity in the comments. You do you, Emily. I think it’s great you wrote this post to address the concerned comments that some of your readers have been leaving about Brian, reader votes, and the evolution of your process on this house. I’m sure it will be beautiful when you’re done with it and I love that you have been letting us in on your process.

    Something I’ve learned about people as a designer myself (graphic/ux, not interior) is that a lot of people are short sighted when it comes to design and can’t see past the inspiration pics or beginning stages to envision how the pieces can come together to create a beautiful, unique end product. I love seeing your process because in many ways it reflects my own process and it’s encouraging to experience you going through similar struggles as I do in solving design problems.

    Also I find when pitching an idea to my own design challenged “male person,” that photoshopping mockups of various options have helped tremendously. He cannot envision anything and assumes it will be terrible until I put it in context and then he’s like “oh, that looks pretty good actually.” I remember once taking a picture of a three tiered end table and sending it to him and he was like “that’s weird” so I styled with with some nearby accessories and sent him another pic and he was like “oh, that’s actually really neat.” Now its one of his favorite pieces of furniture in the house, haha. Boys are funny.

    1. yes. i realize we aren’t supposed to stereotype in life. and i try not to. but in my life there is a certain reality of which I can speak. Turns out even speaking to that personal reality can still offend. And thats ok. We are all learning and dealing with life in our own way and i’m certainly always sorry if I offend anyone. xx

  20. I love the EHD color palette (read blue), and am so excited to watch what you come up with.

  21. While I wasn’t personally offended by anything Emily wrote some of the commenters trying to shut other people down are just odd. Why are you trying to tell other grown ups how they should feel/think or what you “think” Emily meant. She’s a grown woman who shouldn’t need so much white knighting by strangers as she does her job! I’ve been a long time fan Em, but like some others have said, not sure if it’s the disclosure of how much of the decision making is driven by clicks, insta likes and engagement, or the odd “you decide” situation which to me seems less engaging and more like crowd sourcing what will get the most likes, but I find myself coming here and to your instagram page less often. As others have said, the reason I love your style and blog is because it was unique. I know it’s a business but pandering so aggressively to likes/pins, and designing with such speed, feels like it will turn out an anodyne product or one that will have to be redone endlessly (for more content). I really hope to be proved wrong.

    1. I’m one (maybe the only? I didn’t go back to check) who “told other grow-ups what I ‘think’ Emily meant” so just wanted to answer for myself and throw out there that I wouldn’t call it “white knighting,” or telling people how to think. I perceived the statement about 900 sqft differently and thought it might be helpful to share a different POV of how I interpreted it just for the sake of discussion/conversation/food for thought.

      Also, in general, I often feel the need to speak up when the tone of the comments gets negative. Over the past several months, there have been a lot of readers that are disgruntled about unmet needs or unmet expectations of what they think this blog should say and how it should say it. As a daily consumer of the free content here– which I thoroughly enjoy, its the only blog I read daily–I feel strongly about leaving positive feedback any time I can so the EHD team knows that I simply enjoy coming here, and I don’t bring a long list of what I expect to read and how I expect it to be written. I appreciate what they do, and I’m happy to say so when I can.

      1. Which is fine if thats your perception (didn’t mean to single you out). But clearly several other long term readers have a different perception. Life and work can’t always be only positive feedback. I guess to me and clearly others, there’s been a disappointing change in tone (more manic, more focus on stats) and quality. I still hope for a change because this really was one of the 2-3 blogs I read daily. And yes technically this blog is free content, as are a zillion other blogs, but you are still “paying” by clicking on affiliate links and engaging in dialog.

        1. Yes! This is a business, just like any other, that must cater to it’s loyal customers. If this blog’s readership stops engaging with the blog/brand, then page views go down and sponsorships diminish. Yes it’s free content, and yes they can post whatever they want. But they also make money off of us visiting their site each day, so it’s in their best interest to serve content that makes people continue to come back. That’s how successful blogs work – you serve good content (that you monetize somehow) and we in turn give you page views and click-throughs. Let’s be honest, they aren’t creating this content for the betterment of the world – they are making a profit. (No judgement, props to you guys for a successful business!)

          I think many of the comments about this were simply constructive criticism explaining that the trend in content lately has them feeling less compelled to visit the site and worry that may not be a good thing for the EHD team.

          1. Yep, I completely understand how successful blogs work. But, it IS free to me financially. My clicks provide revenue to EHD, but there is zero money out of my pocket, my clicks cost me nothing–that’s what I meant by free content. I’m a loyal reader and will continue to be. I look forward to what I find here, and I have no negative reactions when a post is too long, too short, too expensive, too cheap, too blue or too blush. I’m always inspired by something because I’m looking for cool things to take away! I like the voice, I like the information.

            I don’t have any problem with the constructive criticism, and whenever I’m compelled to leave positive feedback in the wake of negative, I do. I know there are regular humans behind the business, and I believe they do care about the betterment of the world and making a profit (the two things are not mutually exclusive). And I’m a human and know that the griping and complaining and nit-picking (NOT the actual constructive criticisms…but let’s be real here, the comments of late have moved far beyond the realm of being just constructive criticism.) would get me down…so I like to say, “Hey, humans behind the business… don’t let it get you down! Thanks for the inspirational content that costs me no money! I like what you do here. I have no expectations of what you say or how you say it. In my 4-5 yrs. of daily visits here, I have learned a lot and have seen so much beauty. I might not ever be able to afford a mountain house, but I’m not mad at you about it, and I can even relate to it, because that faucet is rad and it might work in my 1400 square foot (used to be piece of garbage but not anymore bc I have read design blogs for free) house and make it a little prettier.” Carry On, EDH! Make your profits with my clicks on this lovely blog. Lots of us like it! 🙂

          2. Agreed! I seriously roll my eyes at people that are all “it must be so hard for you to put yourself out there”. Um no….this is her job! And yes its very public, but that was a choice she made. Just as it is for every blogger/media personality where their very lives are part of the product/content. Virtually all the comments are constructively worded so enough w/ the whole “don’t mind the haters em”. That would be like if during my work review, I just held up my hand at my manager and said “sorry not interested in what the haters have to say!”. I can’t tell if its because she disclosed that she designs spaces to be more pinnable, and something about seeing how the sausage is made turned me off. Or if working w/ that in mind has just impacted the overall quality of work/content because everything has to be chosen/executed so fast. Or if I just didn’t like the idea of the audience deciding..I mean this isn’t American Idol, we come here because we want you (an expert w/ great taste) to tell us how to create beautiful spaces. Anyway fingers crossed, from a long term fan.

        2. Hey BV, there isn’t a change in focus or more care about stats, just a transparency about it. Everyone who runs a blog cares about traffic and stats. they just might not admit it. I do admit it. You’ve asked for transparency. Therefore I give it. Is it still my favorite thing to do and the one thing (besides my kids) that makes me happy? Yes. But I also get to as a blogger/businessperson is think about what I can do to engage more and have more fun with this platform while growing the business. xx

      2. Thank you, JB. I’m not perfect and would prefer to not think about ‘traffic’ certainly. Thank you for coming, regardless. And I think its hilarious that the vernacular ‘white knighting’ has reached the mainstream. 🙂

  22. Can I just say how much I love how upfront and honest you always are? Your candor and humor make your blog so great, along with all the hard work around design content. Thank you for keeping it real 🙂 as well as beautiful

  23. I didn’t like blue or navy at all before I started reading your blog. I wouldn’t wear it or put it in my house. But now I love it. I don’t care if you always do blue everything. I have been making blue and blush outfits and it’s fun.

  24. Nice! See, this is why I *eagerly* read your blog. You chat about stuff we want to know. I’m glad to have more of a handle on who and what this cabin is about as I vote in every poll 🙂 LOL at “And yet, as all of you know who have tried designing with a male person, he didn’t have any ideas himself. Just ‘not that’.” This is probably unfair and yet it does feel that way! My husband does have ideas actually, but they are usually incompatible with my sense of good taste…

  25. Ugh! So NOT here for the comments, which is why I never leave a comment… Until now. I just wanted to say that I love this project, the mountain fixer-upper posts, the “you decide” opportunities to weigh in, and the peek into your and Brian’s relationship. Thanks for including your readers! I can’t wait to see what’s next.

  26. For me, this was a very interesting post and comment section to read, because the blogging trend of “buying a second home with an eye toward producing content” is still quite new and in the process of “actualizing” (to use an academic term). Several blogs I follow are doing this: off the top of my head, Young House Love, Chris Loves Julia, Yellow Brick Home, Manhattan Nest. However, buying a second home with an eye toward content production, like anything else, is turning out to have its pros and cons. The “pro” is easy: content! sponsors! second home for a hard-working family! Its the “cons” that have been interesting to watch unfold:

    * Possibility of alienating readers. I wonder why this is happening? I hear commenters pushing back against what they perceive as less authenticity, too much of an eye toward marketability, etc. Are they right? It would be interesting to hash out what is behind this.

    * Murky ground: who is the client? How to balance multiple clients (self, husband, family, readers, sponsors) is always tricky, but it seems to be even trickier in the second-home scenario. I wonder why? Do reader expect you to take more risks in a home that you don’t inhabit every day? Is that a fair expectation?

    I wish I could fast-forward 5 years when this trend has fully come into itself and hear bloggers look back with the benefit of hindsight. I’m willing to bet things will be a lot clearer then.

    Good luck, Team Emily! You’re in new territory, always a challenge. I’m excited to come along for the ride.

    1. In the midst of the mess of side-taking, you have posted a comment that is actually interesting. Thanks! 🙂
      And, I’m off to check out some of those blogs I’d not heard of before….

    2. it’s all crazy, I agree. That’s why i’m trying to be transparent about who the client is. As bloggers turn into ‘content creators’ our job changes but our motives and decisions shouldn’t be totally different. I get it. its a weird awkward pill to swallow, but pretending that we aren’t swallowing a pill at all is even worse. Yes. We get paid. but thank god I’m at the point where my sponsors are companies that I sought (Kohler) or of which i’m absolutely aligned (Target). No one wants to think someone is ‘bought’. And no one wants to feel ‘bought’. But all we can ask for these days is honest and transparency. I’m trying to do that but still people are upset. Denying partnerships or just trying to slip them in feels gross and weird so i’m trying to be upfront about them. Its not a perfect system and I also would love to fast forward to 5 years from now … 🙂

      1. I find your insight into those decisions fascinating! I know so little about the business behind blogging, and love that you’re giving us a peek behind the scenes. It’s cool, educational and honest. Guess advertising is weirdly triggering for a lot of us, eh? But self-awareness and transparency are awesome antidotes. You’re doing great, Emily, keep going! Loved reading this post.

  27. Hi Emily! I think people are scared of things they don’t see in front of them all the time and things that in the past have been taboo (pebble tile and wood tile) so that’s why they immediately say no. But I’m in the boat that most anything used and designed in the right way can be awesome. Same with styles, I love all styles when well done! Go for it and do what you think is beautiful, there will always be people telling you not to use a certain product or not to try something different. If you love it or think it’ll be cool and different and it makes you happy, do it and we will love it too because we will see the joy in the space (and because you’re amazing). Anyway, just some encouragement to design without millions of naysayers in your head 😉

  28. “who is the ultimate client… It’s kinda all of us (but mostly Brian :))” I would think your ONLY client is the Henderson FAMILY. Yes, everything else enters the equation, but as a part of the process, not as a client. I feel you have lost your focus as a designer.

  29. “And yet, as all of you know who have tried designing with a male person, he didn’t have any ideas himself. Just ‘not that’.” YES! My husband and I (or should I just say I) are designing our first nursery, and he likes most everything I have considered. But there was one thing I showed him that made him say “definitely not.” I said, okay, well, I also want to make sure we are doing things you like, so if you want to show me some things that you pick out, I’d like that! I even offered to show him how to use Pinterest and Polyvore to put a room together. He said, nah, I trust your judgment, I just know what I don’t like. I said, I would actually LOVE to see what YOU put together on a Polyvore board, and he refused! I love designing, so it’s totally fine with me, but it’s funny how they don’t have ideas but just know what they DON’T like.

  30. Moving past the ‘designing for a male person’ comment for a moment, I’m really curious about HOW you got Brian (and any/every style client; the inability to articulate exactly what you like or dislike affects many of us) to express his/her true style. I think that’s something we could all learn from. You mentioned that is “another conversation”– and I, for one, would LOVE a blog post on that topic. As you’re designing for Brian, and for us, how do you help tease apart someone’s particular style? This is a process that I think a lot of designers need to go through for the clients, in many different fields, and one I’d love to hear your perspective on.

    1. Have you ever watched her old HGTV show, Secrets from a Stylist? Each episode takes the clients through a few activities to identify their likes and dislikes–kind of like a live design quiz! I always loved that part best. 🙂

      1. i’ll do a post! It was interesting trying to breakdown what he wanted and why… i learn a lot every day 🙂

  31. Gosh the comments on this post have gotten a bit testy…I understand both where the other commenters are coming from and where you, Emily, are coming from. I’m not sure what the right wording would have been, because it’s not just guys but also a lot of women, and not just spouses, but parents, clients, etc. too. Honestly, if you’d just said “husbands” or “guys”, though, it probably would have been less divisive, which is at least a little funny because it’s obvious to me that you used “male persons” because you were trying to be more inclusive by acknowledging that it’s not just husbands.

    My husband is exactly like Brian – he struggles to articulate what he wants, and typically tells me he “doesn’t care, as long as…” and then that “…” part leaves me feeling like “so you’re saying you do care, but you’re only willing to approve or deny, not make any helpful suggestions yourself?” I try really hard to make sure he actually loves how our house feels, not because he demands it but because I love him and want him to be as happy as I am with our living space. I probably won’t get him to love an individual light fixture the way I do even if I 100% got him to invest in the process and pick exactly the one he wants – he won’t turn it on just to look at the pretty way the light filters through the capiz like I will – but if I give him input I hope he at least feels like it’s his home too.

    The best option I’ve found is to do the excessive hunting and pinning and shopping myself, and then present my husband with a more limited selection of options, all of which I would be totally happy with. Kind of like an amateur version of “I design, you decide.” If I really have a favorite and he picks a different one, I may ask him to specifically give his opinion about it and why he picked a different one, but if he doesn’t like it and can articulate why, even in very general terms, I typically let it go. Sometimes, he’s even RIGHT and points out something I hadn’t considered…”there’s no way we’ll get that desk up the stairs unless it comes apart in pieces, and it doesn’t look like that one does.” Sometimes I have to resort to the “can I buy it and we give it a shot and if you still don’t like it in our house then I’ll return it?” But the important part is that at the end of the day if he doesn’t like it we find something else.

  32. FYI, “You know the rest of the story (see here)” does not include a link, it’s just text.

    Anyway, on topic, I bet that Brian having his own business helps you guys a lot. When you work for someone else, you don’t always get why they love their company and are so committed to it doing well as a brand. Your job is usually to make someone else’s dream/profits come true. But when you have your own business growing from your ideas that you are trying to make real in the world, it all suddenly makes sense. It’s good that Brian also has his own business and understands your commitment to growing your EHD brand and doing work just because “EHD needs it” with family being an “also” (but not lesser) consideration.

  33. This post nails why I find the mountain fixer-upper project so off-putting, although I myself am fantasizing about getting a lakeside cottage once our house mortgage is paid off. This project just vacillates between “what should I do to get maximum number of clicks” and “I am doing this for my family- and making my man happy is my number one goal”. Pick an approach and stick with it. And quit making zero content posts about it! You are trying to seat on two chairs at once. Although decorating for maximum number of clicks seems distasteful.The same was true of “I am going to put up a mural, so I can post it on instagram, bc I got it for free” moment here a few weeks ago.

    1. The world says they want transparency, and yet they/you don’t. If you think anybody is ‘creating content’ without thinking about their audience then you are mistaken. I’m not talking about traffic or ‘likes’. I’m talking about engagement, interest and most importantly thinking about the value that my audience gains from honesty both in design and transparency in digital media.
      But your reaction is a valuable lesson I gained from this post. xx

      1. Is it not allowable in human life to pick two approaches (appealing content/pleasing the family or spouse)? Maybe even three or four? It seems realistic to me to have multiple approaches. I juggle multiple approaches every day of my life. I’m working for my boss, but yet I’m trying to make my day interesting, and I’m thinking about my future career path – all at the same time.

        I don’t feel it’s distasteful to consider maximum clicks – both for multiple focuses AND for running a business. At my job, if we didn’t design our product to please the maximum number of clients, we’re not doing our best. I don’t think of that as a negative. I think of that as a way to run a business successfully.

        I say this to balance out the potential ‘lessons’ you are taking, Emily.

  34. Let’s be honest – no one really wants honesty from bloggers/content creators. You’re easily the most transparent content creator I’ve seen. You go out of your way to explain and consider from all angles (sometimes overly so), giving space for everyone to share. The EHD team stretches so thoroughly around every single blog expectation: excellence, original content, informative, inspiring, aspirational, relatable… on and on. Emily, you as a creator are really unique in your high level of on camera skill and also your willingness to let us behind the scenes.
    You are all things to all people.
    It makes you successful, but it makes you the biggest target.
    Most content creators have a very specific audience that they bond with. Because of your potential to relate to so many different markets, no one market will ever be satisfied.
    I laughed at myself today while reading these dicey comments. I admitted to myself that I have found it incredibly off-putting that you (along with a number of other bloggers I follow) now have second mortgages and renovations. It seems totally unrealistic and un-relatable. BUT then I remembered that I also have two mortgages. I sustain it. I make it happen. I definitely don’t make a million dollars. So why was I so put off? Because people (that’s me!) suck and they judge even when they shouldn’t.
    People will always hate. Just continue to do you.

  35. I’m a long-time reader and really love your honesty about all of this, and your style, too, of course. Thanks for the insights on the process and the brightness your site brings to my day. : ) Your blog has been a huge help to me during our current gut-job remodel. xo

  36. Hi Emily! I echo so many here who say that they are barely reading your blog anymore or skimming once a week, etc. For me, it just seems that you are so self-serving. It’s all about how much you can gain for yourself, your fame and your and your family. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with getting ahead and making a good future for yourself or your family. It’s just that when it flashes across the computer screen in the form of a blog, it seems showy and self-serving, and somewhat insensitive to other readers. Have you considered that there are so many out there who don’t have what you have? Has it ever dawned on you that so many of your readers would LOVE to re-do a bathroom or their kitchen, but simply don’t have $20-30K laying around to do so? And, here you are….renovating one kitchen after another for yourself in one home or another. You have the ability to re-wallpaper or re-paint time and time again, or refurnish time and time again just because…..And, the kicker is…you never even seem to pay for it with your own $$$. Everything seems to be a gift from a sponsor. Instead of buying a mountain house for your family (did a bank sponsor that???), maybe you should have considered renovating a property for a California family who lost everything last year in one of the fires or mudslides or other storms. Give something back to the community. And, I’m bored to tears with the “Ask the Audience” – you don’t really care what any of us this and truthfully, neither do we…we’ll never be in the house or benefit from it, so why should we waste our time with your choices. You’re certainly not looking at our choices or our pictures and helping us make decision for our own homes. So, enjoy the ride while you can because I predict the gravy train will come to an end soon as readers bore from these blog posts. The sponsorships will dry up and you might actually have to go back to working with real people again…..

    1. Wow! Lots of anger and judgement with this comment. And then to end it with spite. Many blessings to both you and Emily. “Love your neighbor”.

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