Article Line Long1
My House

Styled … The Real Book Cover

I don’t know how it is for everyone when shooting their book, but for me it was a regular ‘snow show’ (a phrase that is part of my new G-rated vocabulary since having a child). I’ll get into how insane it was later, but just trust me when I say that things like the cover somehow become a non-priority amid the havoc. As we were shooting I wasn’t thinking what would make a good cover, my goal was to get the most beautiful photographs possible for each shot and then we’d choose one later because we’d have soooo many to choose between. This was not the case – I mean we had hundreds of beautiful, even perfect, photographs but having them be perfect for the cover was another issue. In retrospect I absolutely should have gone for “cover options” as often as possible, but we didn’t know what the title or subtitles were, therefore we didn’t know how much negative space they should have, nor did we even know the book size to do the perfect crop. The front cover went on the back burner, so to speak.

After we finished shooting, our wonderful publishing company (Random House, Clarkson Potter) worked on finding the cover from our photos and they sent through these three options:


The first one didn’t feel young enough (even though I designed that room). I loved the pops of that perfect peacock blue but it felt like a different designer’s book (ironic, eh?).


Now, this shot I LOVE, but it too didn’t feel very ‘me’. It felt too rustic and masculine. Although in retrospect I do think that it was pretty strong as a cover. I did like that font, though and tried to convince them to go back to that later. (This photo is from the home of the SchoolHouse Electric owners/founders, which is stunning).


When I first saw this one I was like man, this just isn’t me. Its so dark and heavy, even with the pop of color. But of course now I’m like eh, that’s a strong cover, too…(this is from the home of stylist and artist Emily Katz).

After I gave them that feedback they found this photo and mocked up some covers:


Let me tell you about that photo – it was part of a much larger, more pulled back photo that they just cropped in on. It’s not that well styled and has very little context or environment around it. I’m not the biggest fan of those flowers, even though in the big pulled back shot that it was cropped from they looked good. Had I known it was going to be a cover option I would have absolutely styled it differently. Also that white piece is a janky ikea piece that we put awesome vintage brass legs on that couldn’t really hold the weight. I pretty much said it was totally off the table and that instead I would reshoot this vignette in my house, styled as I liked it. Also I didn’t like either font option. So I pretty much just tore these options apart. I was starting to feel VERY high maintenance, which really isn’t my best look. There were so many people involved and weighing in, way before I even saw these options so to take all their hard work and just nix it sucked for everyone involved. But they were absolutely open to other options because everyone wanted the same thing: to have the best cover possible (that would sell the most amount of copies). They know what people buy and I really needed their expertise in that realm.

They told me that what they liked about it was that it felt light, bright and happy – and I totally agreed. So when we reshot the cover, that was our goal – well that and to find a shot that represented MANY different styles. I wanted something more “on brand” and just more me, but also a photo that was styled in a way where many different kinds of people saw themselves in it. Not just someone who liked Mid-century or “California”.

We styled two major furniture pieces with 1 million styling options on top (only 8 shown here because so many of them were just slightly different that I couldn’t even tell them apart when I was prepping this post).


It’s like one of those annoying games on the last page of a tabloid magazine where you are supposed to “spot the difference” in the two photos of Ben Affleck holding a big gulp and talking to his questionable nanny. They are hard to tell apart but they are all different and I just really wanted to give them enough options so that we wouldn’t have to reshoot.

I really loved that series of options. I felt that the blue was really strong and caught your eye but the string art provided enough quiet space for the title (this is before the title was set in a big block of gold). I think #7 might be my favorite, but that has changed pretty often. I would have been happy with any of them for the cover.

Obviously this had to be giffed out so you can properly see those props dance around.


But my publishing team really liked the lightness of the white piece, so I reshot that as well that day, with a ton of styling options on top. Now, REMEMBER, THESE PHOTOS ARE NOT PHOTOSHOPPED. That janky, BOWING, piece was hard to look at in person and even harder to look at in the photos, but had it been straightened and the air conditioner vent taken out it in post, it would be WILDLY easier to consider as an actual option.

I remember losing pretty much all objectivity and perspective somewhere between option 12 and 42. Had #15 been photoshopped I probably would have really liked it. I think we actually gave them over 30 options that day, and my brain just hurt trying to figure out what looked the best. I think that white piece did look more light and airy, but It just bugged me that it was on the cover because I knew how janky it was.


I sent all those options off, feeling pretty darn good about them. There cover was CERTAINLY in there, right? Wrong.

Around that same time the Domino Magazine story came out and they saw this picture. First off it’s taller than the book proportion, secondly its more pulled back. They liked the breath and air that this one had that our options didn’t.


Of course I just wanted to kick myself for not having us pull back to see some of the shelving but I thought that it would be too busy and that it was better to keep it simpler. So, we had to reshoot again. That’s a double reshoot, which no, isn’t free for anyone involved.

At this point we had literally thrown away the white piece (we kept the legs, don’t worry) because I had decided to keep the teal dresser in there (which is now for sale at the Studio Sale, sept 19th – or you can contact us now to see it). But the thing is that the publishers had a really strong reaction to that blue dresser. They thought that it looked like a Bellman, yes like a hotel Bellman, and it was absolutely off the table. In retrospect I should have just asked the to change it to white (but keep the gold trim).

So we reshot (again) and gave them these two furniture options that they had approved beforehand.


The one on the left is a Paul McCobb piece and while it was technically ‘lighter’ they knew something that I didn’t – that they wanted to put a big gold box on the cover, so a big box above a big box is not ideal. I love that piece a lot (but maybe just because I’m a total sucker for Paul McCobb anything). The piece on the right was a good option because it had the same shape and style of the white piece but had more integrity as it wasn’t, you know, falling apart. 

By this point you know which one was chosen, #18. When David shot this there was a lot of sun coming in so he had to basically block as much sun as he could with a big scrim and then move that card around (taking a picture each time) and then he basically composited them all together. Plus we got rid of the air conditioner vent (obviously).

Styled_bookcover 2

Phew. By the time the publishing team came back with the cover with the graphics/title on it we were WAY behind our deadline (because generally I was behind on the whole process). So while I wanted to tweak and futz and change things, the threat of not being out by October was terrifying, with real consequences. Basically if your book isn’t out by October then it doesn’t get the same marketing support (read: ad dollars) as other books that are out before the holidays. They don’t really release books in November or December mostly because PR for holiday is wrapping up at that point and it just isn’t as effective. Another reshoot wasn’t an option, nor did I even know what I would do.

I love the cover – I feel like it looks like me and has enough universal elements to hopefully draw many different crowds to pick it up. Are there things I would change about it? Yep. Is it the one that I would have chosen out of all of those above? I actually don’t know. The thing is that I trust my publishing company – from years of focus groups, book marketing, analyzing sales and general 8-ball style research they know what covers pop on screen and in stores, and they they know why people then buy that book. I can tell them that peonies are more beautiful than roses, but they know what font treatment or gold foil will catch your eye. Ultimately we all wanted the same thing – for the book to be as successful as possible.

A few of you have asked why I’m not on the cover and this was a debate for sure. I didn’t want to be all posy on the cover or anything but I thought maybe I could be mid-styling or maybe in a little box or something. But there is a pretty good reason for it – many “special markets” don’t want to sell covers with “people” on the cover. These are the West Elms, Anthropologies, Urban Outfitters of the world who have a really strong brand identity on their own and simply don’t want other people all over their store. These stores are extremely important to me (in many ways) so even the chance that they wouldn’t carry it, or that they wouldn’t promote it as much was a threat that I heeded strongly to. I’m on the back, by the way – don’t worry.

Styled on Coffee Table

So what are your thoughts? This whole debate is a bit tricky because so many people worked so hard on it so I don’t really want to open up the debate for 30K opinions (many which would surely be less than positive) that can’t actually change anything. It’s like your husband telling you that he doesn’t like your outfit AFTER you left the house. There is really no point and it just hurts and ruins your time – and I’m not talking about me – I’m used to negative feedback, I’m talking about all my friends at the publishing company who worked so hard on the book and obsessed about the cover. The cover is printed, the books are shipping from the warehouse any day now. There is no going back. But I still love an open dialogue here on the blog, so if you want to weigh in, in the most positive way possible, go for it.

Also not sure if you know, but the book is on pre-sale now (it comes out October 13th).

*All photos by WONDERFUL David Tsay for our book. Oh, and see this post about all the other cover options.

0 0 votes
Article Rating


Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
8 years ago

Congratulations on the book. It looks great. So many options for the cover, I was going crazy just reading this. I am excited to purchase your book. I love your style and most importantly your sense of humor (well, at least online, since we’ve never met).

8 years ago

Preordered mine yesterday!! I was going to ask for it as a Christmas gift but then I decided I couldn’t wait until then. So excited to receive it in October!!!

8 years ago
Reply to  Jenn

Haha same exact thing for me! I talked to my husband like wellll I could ask for it for Hanukkah… but I don’t think I can wait that long!

8 years ago

I love the cover! I think it represents your style well and I am SO excited to get it and read through it!!

8 years ago

The book cover is great! My favorite of all the shots. I pre-ordered yesterday.

8 years ago

You guys picked the perfect shot! Looks amazing.

8 years ago

i think it turned out lovely! i adore the blue dresser, but after reading the entire post i love the lightness of the piece you guys chose. and it feels very on brand – happy and light.

congratulations emily! gosh, two huge things coming at once. you are gonna enjoy the “snow” out of that maternity leave. 🙂

8 years ago

Wow. I LOVE knowing other people obsess about this stuff like I do. It’s nice to not be alone in detail-driven insanity.

The cover that was chosen as The One is perfect. You guys made an excellent choice. Agreed on the lightness, LOVE the gold box, good call on no people. You don’t want buyers to not identify with the person in the picture, so that all makes sense to me. It’s beautiful. I cannot WAIT to get it and obsess over every detail in EVERY picture!

8 years ago

Definitely chose the right cover! Love the gold and it is super on brand. I like that you used your own home, and I like that is is a untraditional space, with the built in bench and the two levels.

8 years ago

Love the cover. Definitely the right choice! I love that you used your own home and such a unique corner. Makes it feel like your book will have some different and new ideas in it. The gold title box is a beautiful touch!

8 years ago

Wow, what a process! I think the cover looks beautiful and very “you.” It has that vintage, colorful feel I always think when I think emily henderson. AND it will look beautiful on my coffee table (per my amazon pre-order!).

8 years ago

i feel like that cover photo speaks for itself because it’s such a perfect shot and you’ve really done an amazing job with that corner of the room, so i kinda wish the subtitle was taken off the front cover and the title was a little more subtle so that it would work more like a taschen coffee table book that you could proudly have on display and use as a styling element in itself!

i still give it 10/10. good job to you and your publishers!

8 years ago

Love the cover. Funny, I had the same guy reactions as you did to the options, I guess I have been reading your blog so long that I “get” your style and knew the others weren’t “spot on” like the one you chose. Now I think I have to not read your blog so much and spend more time decorating my house! And I must buy your book of course!

Sandra Wiebe
8 years ago

I ordered your book through Amazon last week and I honestly can’t remember what the cover looked like. Mentioning it on your blog was enough for me. I’m going to go back and have another look.

8 years ago

Well done!!! And thank you for this wonderful post, it is so inspiring how you always show the process behind everything. It’s like reminding me that whatever I see, whether it’s a house or a situation somewhere out there or a book cover, it’s always the tip of the iceberg. The only visible part of a story which is always much more complex than you can imagine. A book cover is static. Your work as a designer is alive and kicking. It is impossible to find one image which sums up your work, for now and forever, but I think the light, the eclecticness (it’s not an English word, I think, and I hope you understand what I mean), the pops of color, the beautiful wood, the quirky plant, the elegant lines AND the golden box… those are all elements which keep on popping up in your work. So yes, I would pick up the book. Even without noticing your name. And yes, I would definitely love displaying it, next to my other favourite books with beautiful covers (like Pretty Honest, by Sali Hughes – or a special edition of Alice in Wonderland) . Knowing your work (what I see… Read more »

8 years ago

The cover looks great- looks like a combo of a bunch of styles that you love and all go together perfectly. Can’t wait to get my copy and just so excited for you!

8 years ago

The teams who work with you are absolutely awesome! I love the table, and I couldn’t imagine a cover photo for your book without wood! I also love that you are showing art and highlighting artists who have serious personality, without making it seem like it’s all about any one individual person (including yourself). Bravo, Team Emily!

8 years ago

GTFIMC – Get the fuck in my cart! Can’t wait for its delivery!

8 years ago

It seems so weird that anyone would even consider not using your own house for the cover!

8 years ago
Reply to  Heather

Completely agree! Flabbergasted that it wouldn’t be Emily’s STYLED house on the cover of her book! Brava!

8 years ago

Congratulations! One single photo can make such a big difference for the success of a book. I am one of those who buy books by their cover! I love yours and will buy it!

8 years ago

As a graphic designer, I’m very familiar with the millions of edits and tweaks to get something right—it’s worth it! I was definitely a fan of the blue dresser, but love the wood even more. It’s really beautiful!

8 years ago

Loved hearing about the selection process. It’s amazing how much effort was put into the cover! The one that you picked is the perfect representation of your style, beautiful, and eye-catching! Pre-ordered it yesterday 🙂

8 years ago

Love the cover and can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Just one question – because my eye keeps going to it – what is that brass bookend? It looks a little “questionable”, but I’m sure it’s not – so now I’m just curious : )

8 years ago
Reply to  Jeannine

I’m wondering the same! LOVE the cover.

8 years ago
Reply to  Brady

OMG, now I can’t unsee the dildo.

I love cover 2 and 3. But the final is completely you. Can’t wait to check it out!

8 years ago
Reply to  Brady

oh no!! that’s awesome.

8 years ago

I think I’m drawn more to the ‘Schoolhouse Electric’ cover–but I would pick up any of them. I really like the gold box with the cover that won out though. I think it was a good idea to not put your face on the cover, to me it makes it look more professional.

8 years ago

It’s great! I loved the Emily Katz, and School House options, but ultimately the one that was chosen is very YOU to me. Looks like something you would have designed; airy, vintage, modern, cozy, whimsical, etc etc. Ya done well, girl! I can’t wait to get my hands on a hard copy!

8 years ago

Congratulations on the baby and the book. The cover is beautiful and looks very “you” (the others didn’t). I’ve been following you since your show and I’m super excited to read the book (pre-ordered the day you announced it!)

8 years ago

Love this! I really appreciated that you took the time (and probably headache) to show us the process. I love the behind-the-scenes posts, and this one was so interesting to me. I can’t wait until it’s out and I get my hands on it! Adorable cover, and definitely you (at least, the “blog you” that us readers only know! 🙂 )

8 years ago

I love it when you share the behind-the-scenes scene!


8 years ago

OH my godess.. this is so perfect!! I’m dyinng to have your book! Congrats, Emily!! Felicidades!!
Your mexican biggest fan!

8 years ago

I haven’t been reading for too long but this shot has everything I associate with your brand; white walls, wood hand sculpture, multi-color art/accessories, brass elements and blue textiles. I especially like that it is your home and not just some pretty but random project you did in the past. Congrats, I’m looking forward to leafing through it with a giant cup of coffee…or wine depending on the fedex guy’s timing 😉

8 years ago

As someone who works in the editorial design industry, I can totally understand how SOMEHOW the cover becomes the last priority. It honestly makes zero sense but happens ALL. THE. TIME. You’re so wrapped up in the content of your book/magazine/newspaper, you sometimes forget what the real selling point is.

But after all that, I think you final choice is great! I’m imagining that gold will be actual gold foil, and I loveeee that. I also love that you got to use that very special string art piece. It ads just the right amount of color, but so subtly. Awesome.

If I were going to nit-pick, the designer in me is basically dying over the fact that the credenza isn’t centered under that big box, but I can also see how that might be intentional. At least it’s aligned on the left edge. Phew! I can breathe. 😉

8 years ago

I LOVE the final cover! When I saw the first three cover options, I loved them too, but had the exact same thoughts you had before even reading….none of them screamed Emily….plus how special to have your home on the cover. Congratulations! Can’t wait to immerse myself.

8 years ago
Reply to  Kate

oh, and yeah, we are on a first name basis 🙂

I think you hit the nail on the head with that book cover! It’s you.. and it looks great. If I had no idea who you were.. I’d definitely want to pick it up and look through it at a book store.


Josh | The Kentucky Gent

Seeing all of the options (even the fake ones) has been so fun! I LOVED the final cover. It reminds me of your work because it is clean, light, bright, airy but still has beautiful color. I think it’s great that it features your beautiful, iconic (yes!) livingroom and that amazing string art is such an important piece and looks sooo cool hanging behind the text. NAILED IT!

8 years ago

The cover looks great! I really do think it was the best of all the options. Congrats 🙂

8 years ago

100% would pick this beauty up at Anthropologie and then immediately add it to my Amazon Wishlist for Christmas.

So happy you went with the wood credenza and I will absolutely never tire of seeing that massive Nike Schroeder piece, which I will covet until the day I die.

Great work, EH team! Can’t wait to get the book!

8 years ago

I am personally in love with the Schoolhouse Electric cover (there is just something so timeless and chic about it), but I absolutely agree it doesn’t read as yours. The final option is totally on-brand, it vibes very happy-go-whimsical, but that chair and going with a wood piece over white (at least in my mind) keeps it grounded and classic.

All in all, awesome job by both you and your team! Book pre-order, check 🙂

8 years ago

Wow, that is a lot of cover looks to choose from! I’m dizzy now! But the final cover looks awesome! It’s bright, chic and breezy-definitely something I’d want to pick up.

8 years ago

Amazing all the work that goes into just the cover! I can only imagine how much blood sweat and tears you put into the contents. Love the cover photo. It was my favorite!??

8 years ago

Like everything you do, it is amazing!
I pre-ordered mine on Amazon in April…’s been a long wait….but totally worth it, I’m sure!

8 years ago

It’s beautiful, Emily! All of the photos are beautiful. Your whole team is amazing. Congratulations!

8 years ago

You and your team nailed the book cover. Out of all the options, THE ONE looks the best! Congrats!

8 years ago

It’s a great cover – it’s you – light, bright, happy, modern & vintage. Thank you for showing us the process. It’s really (like really) great to know that it takes time and effort (and sometimes reshoots) to get it right. Can’t wait to get my copy!

8 years ago

Do you still love the string art? The more I see it, the more I want it.

8 years ago

You definitely had some great options to choose from but I think it’s perfect that the cover is your home. I also love the pulled back picture you ended up with where you can see partial glimpses of other parts of the room. In my opinion, it does a couple of things, one, it looks like an actual space not some white wall in a studio that you just styled to look like a room. And second, it creates a feeling of curiosity about what the rest of the room looks like. Curiosity motivates people to pick up the book. It’s beautiful, it’s colorful, it’s well pulled together…it’s all the things I love about Emily Henderson. Well done!

8 years ago

Emily, the cover that was chosen is definitely the one! I love it. I agree with all your critiques of the first three and the “janky” pics. I could have loved the blue cabinet pics as well, but the one that was ultimately chosen is just perfect. I’m really glad you have your living room on the front!

8 years ago

Thank you for taking the time to show us the behind the scenes. The first three options were good, but for some reason I really like that your house is represented on the front of your book?! Its really pretty.

8 years ago

I enjoyed this post tremendously b/c I am a graphic designer who does publications and your cover pic story is the story of my work-life. Getting that one shot that sums up and perfectly represents the interior of your book is soooo very often an afterthought by most people working on a publication. There is always this idea that if you have a ton of great photos you can just pick one of those for the cover, no biggie. I think your designers totally steered you into the right place. I love love love the Schoolhouse Electric image cover, but it didn’t strike me as “you.” The image you chose, is classic “you” and it looks beautiful.

8 years ago

um, it’s beautiful and perfect. I can’t imagine anyone having anything negative to say. It’s VERY “you” and very compelling! Congrats!

Jennifer W.
8 years ago

Beautiful! I am not a giant mid-century fan, BUT I love this cover and it’s obviously not Mid-Century Styled by EH! It totally appeals to me and I’m sure will grab the attention of a lot of us non mid-century people. I’ve ordered it on pre-sale and can’t wait to get it in my grabby little hands.

LOVE it and can’t wait for it to come out! I really love the final cover, and I’m so glad you went with a wooden piece instead of the others. I think it gives a nice warmth and a more vintage touch. YAY!