There are times in the middle of the design process when I’ll show Brian, say, two different blue paint swatches, two different molding profiles, or even two different photos of dining tables and to him they are indecipherable. Brian has learned not to point out how similar they are (because they aren’t) but it’s at times hard for both of us not to laugh because they are virtually identical and I’m spending so much time obsessing over which is “right”. Many of you have commented similarly – that I’m clearly going a bit nuts during the design decision-making process and that I need to “calm down,” “take a step back,” etc. And it’s TRUE! I was/am losing it, but there are good reasons why, reasons I don’t apologize for. So let’s dive into it today: WHY is it so much harder for us to design our own homes?
But first, what got me thinking about this (again)… We started a new project recently – a transformative kitchen update that I’m excited to share with you. I hired Sarah (who was my assistant last year and left to go to design school) as the project manager to help me design/execute the partnership. Granted this is not a full kitchen remodel – it was meant to be fast, affordable, and not move any plumbing, electrical, or walls, but I kid you not – we made all the design decisions in 3-4 hours together (and then of course probably 40 hours in renderings/logistics/coordination/ordering, not including execution, project management, etc). And I’m legit so excited about the design. We didn’t phone it in, it feels fresh and beautiful. We chose the paint colors, the wallpaper, the hardware, the shelving style, etc all so quickly and it’s going to look pretty darn great. But it made me think, why, WHY does it take so much more time for me to design my own rooms? Why can I design someone else’s kitchen so quickly (and again, it’s going to be unique and special) and really belabor my own so much??? And I know I’m not alone.
We Have To Live Inside Of It – Including Our Mistakes/Regrets
Imagine a musician being told that they were only able to listen to their recent album, or a chef being told they can only cook from their latest cookbook. What if a filmmaker could only watch their own movie over and over in their home? It’s not just the outward appearance of it all as “your work” to show the world, it’s being surrounded by it daily. Design is an art form, a creative expression, etc, not unlike many others – but the difference is that as the designer/homeowner you have to live inside it, every day, every hour, for likely years. I honestly don’t stress too much about decorating it because those things are easier to move around, but with the hard finishes, you bet I obsess. Do I want to stare at my own regret for years and years? Do I want to get sick of looking at something that I spent a lot of money on? Does a musician want to listen to an off-key note in a song over and over? Does an athlete want to watch a losing free throw over and over? NO. Sure, we might get over it (and have) or change it (and have) but the best thing you can do is to avoid this feeling in the first place. However, to do that you HAVE TO OBSESS ABOUT EVERY DETAIL. And watching someone obsess about details from afar, can seem like they are going nuts and eyes get rolled by those who don’t understand. But, like all other creative careers, it’s their craft, their creativity, and their job.
We Get Sick Of Things/Trends Faster
As designers/stylists/content creators, we see so much design both in person and on the internet that it’s easy to get sick of things faster (at least I do). We’ll see a new trend and it immediately EXPLODES, it’s everywhere and then it feels like it’s done (even if it has 2-4 more years of mainstream-ness). Same with colors/patterns – it makes committing to something bold far more difficult and playing it safe far easier. It makes me way more careful to ensure that in two years I’m not going to be like, “Well, I can’t look at that any longer”. This is why I play it a bit safe with my own home with the permanent finishes, that I might not in others (especially if who I’m designing for wants something bolder). I don’t want to look at a room and say “It’s so 2022”. This is why I love trends for furniture/decor (nothing is wrong with a trend and no one is immune to them) but I’m so much more careful with tile/flooring and plumbing.
We Want To (And Are Expected To) Take Risks And Do Something New But It Also Really Needs To Function Well Because We Are Using It Every Day
This is why many designers get into hotels and restaurant design – these spaces are meant to be more “of the moment” and need to function as temporary spaces for a specific type of enjoyment. You don’t stay there long enough to be annoyed that the table is too high for the chair, or that there isn’t enough storage in the hotel room. You have more creative freedom because the expectation is a one-time experience, so doing something that feels “now” and not necessarily timeless is the fun part (and is often the expectation with a new hotel or restaurant). But since this is our home and we have kids/pets, it’s just harder because this has to work for our daily family needs. And yet this is our opportunity to push the boundaries, and do something fresh and original. I feel like I did this in some ways (our sunroom, the tile in the kid’s bathroom, our vanity wall) but for the most part, it’s just really pretty and timeless – not necessarily full of these big design swings. But the line between timeless and boring/generic is very thin and I found myself close to it many times during the design process. Obviously, I am very privileged with my budget and partnerships so I could invest in things like more laborious tile installs (sunroom and our bathroom floor) but many designers don’t actually have the budget that their clients do. I know I didn’t when I had clients – it’s a luxury service and the chances that an interior designer has a million dollars to remodel their own home is extremely low. So you have to find more creative ways to take risks, which is honestly a really fun challenge, but also if those risks don’t work for your family then what? For instance, I had collected all of these vintage plaids for like two years, and I had around 30 yards in total. I thought it would be so fun to do a sectional in them – all patchworked, but as I got closer to executing the idea I just knew that it wasn’t going to be as functional as I wanted (the fabric is old, worn, tears easily, and it wasn’t soft either). It would also be such an expensive risk to take (10k to customize a sectional with my plaid upholstery, not to mention using up all my vintage plaids which are irreplaceable). I wanted it for photos so badly, and I knew that I could style it to be so special – but it wasn’t going to function as well for our dogs/kids and I could see myself apologizing for it to guests as they sat down to ripped up upholstery… So the big swings that we want to take are harder to do in our own homes because striking out can be a really expensive bummer that again, you have to either live with or fix. All good stuff – excellent challenges, but it leads to a lot of time obsessing about the small stuff.
The Expectations Of A Designers Home Are Extremely High
I remember in 2011 when I had a literal design TV show but very little money, I invited some new friends over to our apartment (they were in a higher economic bracket in Hollywood). I had just won DesignStar and they knew about the show, so when they came over I could see the palpable disappointment and confusion on their face when they looked around. We lived in a small one-bedroom in LA (on Los Feliz Blvd) and most of my stuff was vintage or IKEA. I wasn’t embarrassed before that moment – I liked my stuff (and it shot well), and then one of them said, “Oh I see, you are like the thrift store girl”. They weren’t being snarky, but instead more like they understood. They didn’t have the eye to know good vintage over just “used stuff,” so to them, that was what it looked like – fun and thrifty. I obviously remember this well and it didn’t make me feel good (they weren’t dicks, just surprised). The disappointment around the expectation that I would have an incredibly dialed-in designer home was just so palpable. I wondered if I would ever meet any future guest’s expectations. People will say they don’t care if our house is messy. People will of course say they won’t judge, but y’all – everyone does. Not because they are assholes, but because it’s human nature! It’s similar to going to a dinner party at a famous chef’s home – your expectations of getting a delicious meal are higher than other friends’ cooking, even if it’s just a BBQ. It’s just part of moving through this world while having this job, and that’s ok, honestly! But yes, it increases the pressure (and I think makes us all a bit agoraphobic). We are considering having some fundraisers for our school next year once the property is done (outdoor movie night!) and already I have anxiety about it – and let me be clear – this house is objectively very pretty, I know this intellectually. I have a nice house with pretty things in it, but still opening up my home (and work) to so many people feels incredibly vulnerable to their judgments and the gossip that will absolutely ensue. Somehow doing it on the internet is so much easier, but I know that when I mess up it’s a gossip storm – which is absolutely OK, but to pretend it doesn’t add pressure is false.
It’s A Representation Of Our Creativity And Skills -AKA It’s A Living Resume For Future Work
Besides the emotional fear component, it’s literally our livelihood and how we support our families. There is this feeling that when it comes to our home there is no excuse for a bad design. You can easily excuse away a bad client choice and say, “Well they really wanted this weird color, but I tried to persuade them against it” or “They already had that sofa and I was forced to work it into the design”. But when the designer is the client, you theoretically have free reign creatively. Of course, you do NOT always have free reign with budgets (which again, is another expectation that is wrong). But creatively, your home is your laboratory and each room is a song on your debut studio album (I just finished reading and watching Daisy Jones & The Six, FYI, thus the band analogies). For me, since we don’t currently do client work outside of partnerships, this home HAS to perform well for our partners in order to get the next round of partnerships to keep the company going. The skylights have to be highlighted well, which means I’ll panel the ceilings. The furniture has to be showcased inside an architecturally interesting space with excellent natural light so I’ll add a window that we might not have otherwise. You simply can’t put a partner’s product in a mediocre environment (at least not at this level) or else you will disappoint them, the world will see the mediocrity, and future clients/partners won’t come after you. So you have to spend a lot more to create the environments to ensure that your home, your portfolio, sings on so many levels.
It’s all good stuff, and frankly, I’ve gotten pretty used to the stress of it (it’s “challenge stress,” not the bad stress). But that doesn’t mean I don’t get super frustrated with myself when I know I’m taking too long to make a decision, or very disappointed with myself when I make even a minor infraction. And that’s ok! I give myself more breaks by framing it like other artists – i.e. a band putting out their debut album, a writer and editor obsessing over every word in a first book, or a chef producing a follow-up book to their #1 selling cookbook. Caring about our jobs is a great thing and obsessing over the details is a by-product of the creative careers we are fortunate to be able to do all day. While the word passion gets wildly overused, that is what it is – obsessing has a negative connotation, but passionately tuning into every detail is exactly what it is.
Once again going through this process gives me so much compassion for literally everyone else trying to pull together their home. People might think that I would judge others’ homes if I came over, y’all, I know how much it takes to pull together a home and it’s just so much. I have a team of people, and I get to spend a lot of time on my own home, I have partnerships and resources and even then I still have so much to do and so many excuses for what’s not done yet. If you have a job, kids, and a tight budget that task is so close to impossible to do quickly. So no, I honestly don’t judge and at times am very relieved just to be around friends in a home where the design isn’t the focus and we can all just hang.
So if you are a designer (or want to be) or a content creator (or want to be) or both, I hope that you can relate to this and it can make you feel a bit better about your indecision or the times when you feel like you might be losing it. It’s ok to almost lose it in the pursuit of creativity. It’s part of the job. I also think that since this is a female-dominated world that this “obsessing” has more of a negative connotation. Does an accountant obsess about the numbers on the spreadsheet being accurate? Of course! Does a lawyer obsess over the transcripts of a deposition? Yes. But if it’s a creative career, specifically in the domestic space, there is this outside perception that I’m just being nutty and need to get pulled down to earth, that it’s not “that big of a deal”. So from here on out I’m going to frame my “obsession” more as “passion” (while it’s hard for me to use that word) and yes, we as designers/content creators are very, very, passionate about every design decision in our home. I, personally, love seeing other designers think over and over and over their own home details, and pivot or change when things just don’t hit the mark. It’s all good stuff and part of the fortunate creative career that we are lucky enough to be pursuing every day.
Ok. That is all. I’m off to hang a seascape gallery wall and passionately obsess over it 🙂 Thanks for reading my journal entry – it’s something I’m going to be doing more and more here. Our new comment policy (of moderating and not auto-publishing the hate/mean stuff) has given me and my team more freedom to write what I/we want to write knowing that there won’t be a firestorm of toxicity if we look away for one second – which is usually just 2-3 people, BTW. Kind criticism is always welcome – I love a good dissent and dialogue – I learn so much from you, honestly, but if you find yourself constantly wanting to write something negative here in hopes of derailing our day, simply don’t read this blog as it might not be the right fit for you. I have missed just being able to write in a safe space and have so many personal drafts unpublished (the internet seven years ago was totally different), so I’m excited to do it more for those who are interested. Thanks, per usual, for reading. xx
Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Styling To Sell: How We Staged Our Dining Room And Kitchen (With The Changes I Should Have Done Years Ago!)
Here’s to the new comment policy and the new posts that go with it! Great step forward!
Here for it!❤️
So happy about the new comment policy. For this being the sweetest blog with the loveliest writers, you have (hopefully had now) the most entitled and mean commenting commenters! I hated reading the comments, but sometimes got some good nuggets! Here’s to a happy comment section 🙂
Thank you for this post- for your openness and vulnerability! I think the whole EHD team is INCREDIBLE for how you all communicate with humor and insight. I am not a “blog person” and yet I read this blog every day, because of your great content and your voices. I look forward to reading more reflection pieces like this. Thank you, Emily!
thank you thank you 🙂 that means so. much.
What a great Saturday brunch read! Sadly, it’s still all too easy to diminish women as ‘nutty’ and ‘obsessive’ and all those other negative connotations. What’s not so easy to acknowledge is that it’s not simply ‘obsessing’ – anyone who is expert in interior design has spent days, months and years honing their skillset (innately creative, yes but handed their skill, no). So that
obsessionis an expression of their craft – their skill, their knowledge and their understanding of the nuance of design all put into action. All that is to say, I think someone like you Emily – who painstakingly considers the details – isn’t just obsessing, you are passionately practicing your craft.
I love how you said this! My Dad is a fine woodworker and it can feel very overwhelming and “nutty” to watch him set up his work. However, he has 50+ years of experience of knowing all the ways things can go wrong. What feels like “obsession” really is just seeing 50 years of knowledge in practice where a less experienced person may come off as being very “cool and laid back” may be walking into a lot of unforeseen missteps. All that to say, I love this concept of skill and craftsmanship. Very well put!
I have a hard enough time making choices for my home when it’s just my family and friends who will see it, I can’t imagine the decision paralysis that comes when you’re putting it out there on the internet for people to dissect. I’m so glad that you’re changing the commenting policy!
thank you 🙂 same!
I find it really helpful to see how you work through the design process in your own homes. It’s such a huge investment of money and time when remodeling, and you have an extra public/ work layer expectation on top of it all. Thank you for sharing the journey!
Love the new policy. Great post.
I’m a home owner, not a designer, renovating 3rd home while living in it. Same challenges, and boy do the choices stay with you forever. It’s hard to justify replacing that perfect table and chairs, barstools, when you realize they don’t work like you hoped and 12 years later they’re still in same spot, and used sparingly.
Emily, when you get stumped on a room, have you ever thought about hiring a designer to help you? I had so much respect for Chris and Julia when they hired Jean Stoffer to design their North Carolina kitchen. There should be no shame in hiring someone to help you – sometimes it takes another person’s perspective for everything to click, and it might take a lot of the pressure off of you.
I also wondered this. Emily you seem to do best when you have another designer to collaborate with and throw ideas around and edit together. I work in a creative field and the same is true for me, it’s so helpful to discuss options with another creative. Maybe that’s why your home is harder than client work?
Yes and no. we hired ARCIFORM because I wanted to collaborate with them, but their work scope ended before decoration. now that I have a team i trust up here its so much better. so YES i need help/collaboration, but no, i don’t really want or need to hire another designer to actually decorate my home (i’m not above it, i just legit enjoy it so much). So to the big stuff? YES, the decor, no i just need more time and creative buddies to help me bounce ideas off of (as of right now – that can all change so hold me to NOTHING :))
Wouldn’t ArcForm also be an example? Or are you thinking a broader scope? And totally agree about the C+J hiring Jean Stoffer decision. Absolutely right for them.
I think Heather is being supportive and talking about a sounding board. Every design project has the space where you get lost. Outside listening and input from trusted colleagues or friends can help, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up control of the project if you don’t want to.
Emily – you do you and I will be here with you!
After years of dreaming, I finally kicked off my own career shift to interior design in the fall and now have my first design role for a local firm. It’s thrilling! And yet I’m finding it so hard to design my own home, now that I feel this expectation of people looking at it more closely since I’ve put myself out there as a designer. So I really appreciate this discussion and will refer back to it in moments of doubt.
Congratulations on your career shift Tricia!
It actually relieves my stress when I have trouble making a design decision or make a mistake knowing that a professional like yourself has issues! So, thank you!
thank you 🙂 WE DO. If all decisions are easy to make (as a designer) then I think maybe we aren’t pushing it enough. 🙂
I am all in favor of a commenting policy that allows the site to calm down. It is just design – at the end of the day, there are much bigger problems in the world for us to collectively worry about! And it is clearly too much to deal with when such a huge audience – an active audience at that! – seem to constantly read X when you mean Y. But I genuinely do not understand how you choose what is mean and what is not. Yesterday, the post asked what we thought about the new series. I said that it felt too much like all the other blogs out there and that it was thus off brand for this corner of the internet. But I also said I would be happy to just not read those posts. That comment was not let through. What was mean about that no when you asked the question?
Hi Emma, I wanted to let you know that your comment being unapproved was not intentional. As the author of that post, I didn’t find your comment mean or offensive. I think what happened was more comments came in so yours got buried so no one saw it in order to manually selected “approve”. Still working out the kinks! I went ahead and fixed that error and approved your comment. Appreciate your feedback!
Thank you for clarifying! I was genuinely confused. And I am COMPLETELY behind fostering a healthier environment in the comments section by not letting through some hateful and intentionally harmful contents. After all, we become what we consume, so by preventing consumption of anger, we prevent others from becoming anger (at least in our own spaces).
I agree with a lot of your points! Re: your comment “it’s just design…there are much bigger problems in the world for us to collectively worry about” – I agree and disagree with this. There are definitely bigger problems in the world, true. However, I also think that the design of our homes truly impacts our well-being and overall mental health. Having a safe and comfortable space that feels like “you” at the end of the day can work wonders. Whether or not that’s with free/secondhand items – or big expensive installations, it does make a difference.
I agree with you, and could have put my point much better. What I mean is, that if people get up in arms because someone else repaints their door a fourth time and they feel the need to express that through aggression, they have their own priorities wrong (not the person repainting the door).
I do think people find it harder to differentiate between conspicuous consumption (which feels harmful for environmental reasons but also just does not feel “kind” when so many people are struggling financially) and consumption in general. Someone putting out a lot of design content is going to look like they are consuming more than regular people, but are they consuming for themselves, or is that consumption part of a multifaceted business? In general I think we would all benefit from slowing down, taking a breath, assessing our own priorities, and caring for ourselves before we target the decisions of others, but that’s well outside the scope of my “it is just design” point.
love the more personal posts and fully support the new comments policy!
I can advise clients about paint colors all day. Had to hire someone to come to my home and help me select colors. I can relate. Also love the new comment policy
I love you, Susan. 🙂 Same. same. same. same.
Emily, I am in awe of all the spaces you design, even when you are “passionately” considering the crucial details. I could list a thousand examples: how you’ve integrated your fridge into the new kitchen, the choice of cool electric switches with brass backplates: but I’m not here to gush, what I want to say is your debates over your own spaces just feel so real to me, it gives me more courage, and makes me feel less alone, when I’m making choices on my own forever home. If it takes me a year to really decide I want those brass curtain rods, it’s okay, none of us are immune to design struggles, not even my favourite designer of all time. Thanks for this Emily, it means a lot.
Same! I only read a few blogs regularly in part because so many of them have this tone of effortlessness. I am empathetic to the pressure to be “an authority” as an influencer. But I have known a lot of professional creatives who show the work in real life, meaning they sweat and change their mind and struggle too. They just hit more home runs as a result of this work. But it’s in the sharing that the rest of us get to learn too.
thank you 🙂 its hard to put it all out there (was so much easier when the world or myself didn’t label anyone an ‘expert’). So I really appreciate this. thank you 🙂
It’s the PASSION that makes it work!
“Passion: a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept.”
When I’m in creation mode, I can literally lose time – hours – engrossed in the activity of creating.
flow state 🙂 I lose time all the time. its incredible. I feel so lucky to have one day of flow state a week 🙂
thank you so much Allison. that means SO MUCH to me. and why i’m still here. thank you so much from the bottom of my heart 🙂
Thank you for this thoughtful post! All of the comparisons you draw to other fields make me think about how music production or writing or even perfecting recipes are all processes for which we expect careful editing and revision before we can arrive at the best song or book or dish we can get. If, as a writer, I am allowed (and encouraged!) to painstakingly puzzle over synonyms for a word that’s not quite right until my sentence communicates exactly what it should, why should you feel bad about caring about which shade of blue expresses what you want? Nothing perfect (or even very very good) emerges into the world fully formed, and I hope we can all grow in appreciating that the artistic process is *necessary* for end product art.
My SIL is a decorator who runs a busy office with a large staff and I’ve never seen her agonize about decorating her own homes. I think it’s a big difference that her job is decorating other people’s homes and she views doing her own home as fun. A significant part of your job, on the other hand, is turning your home into content and putting it out for everyone to admire or critique. My own home can be a place where I get away from the stress of work, or at least limit its intrusion. I think it must be incredibly difficult to take off your work hat and relax in your home when the place itself is your job. That alone would drive me crazy, without even getting into all the other points you’ve detailed here!
You’ve hit the nail on the head, Sheila!! Since the pandemic my home is now also my workplace and it’s a loss of separation between home and work. Frankly I prefer working from home as the benefits outweigh the loss but it was an adjustment. Reading this blog & following along on social media I get the impression Emily does a great job balancing it all, too, but it’s definitely a thick added layer.
I really enjoy watching the process of all the decisions. I particularly love it when I don’t like the options UNTIL I see the results which, so far over the last 15 years, have been stunning (over here mourning the loss of the red door😂). It always inspires me to be open to options outside of my own comfort level in all areas of life.
Laura! stay tuned for a new door! you’ll love it I promise!!!!! xxx (and thank you so much for following for so long, that honestly makes me cry with gratitude). xx
YES. that is it. don’t get me wrong – i look around and feel an abundance of gratitude, truly, i’m not just saying that because I’m supposed to feel that way. But yes, its also a fraught relationship with my own home – when I disappoint it, it disappoints me and we both suffer publicly 🙂 the frustrating times feel at times extremely low, but the highs feel so high 🙂 and honestly i’m still learning how to manage it all, keep it in perspective, know what I should care about publicly and what i can still emotionally phone in. WHO KNOWS 🙂
Such a beautiful share, Emily. Thank you. And thank you again for your new comment policy and for making EHD feel safe and nourishing again. I’m not in favour of censorship, but I see a blog or other personal/brand platform as a person’s home: THEY get to decide what they wish to share and allow there.
P.S., Glennon Doyle has a great system for leaving junk mail outside, including asking (paraphrasing here): Does this (usually anonymous) person get EXCITED and GLEEFUL when offering criticism? Here’s the transcript, but it’s a fantastic listen as well: https://momastery.com/blog/we-can-do-hard-things-ep-178/
OH yes. I love Glennon’s policy. I’m on board with that. thank you for supporting and not seeing it as silencing (because its simply not) xx
Totally understandable. I have a degree in interior design and did corporate design, not residential. When we moved into a new house 3 years ago I drove myself crazy trying to find particular paint colors for the main floor. Spent $$$$ on paint samples. Fail. Went with a fresh coat of the color that was already there, which I feared would look horrible with my furniture. But I was wrong. It looks fabulous. Shows how much I know, right? And I’m glad you are reviewing comments. You don’t need to be abused especially when you’re out there baring your heart and soul every day! I appreciate what you do and I read this blog every day!
thanks, Roberta. I always appreciate your respectful comments 🙂 xx
Thanks for sharing, and another person in favor of the new comment rules! Look forward to more thoughts like this and interacting with the 95% of people who are nice in the comments.
Good morning: I have found it true that our own homes are harder to design, but for me what helps the most is a clear ‘mission statement’ that is agreed upon by all who have a hand in the decision-making. I know it’s really nerdy, but I have a background in business and have worked fixing up homes for many years (I’m old!). My also nerdy husband responds to that type of organization, and while I often fight it in the moment, it has really helped making our projects turn out to be a cohesive, beautiful and practical expressions of these shared goals. We try to have short keyword descriptors for the project–the one I’m sitting in now is ‘early ranch entertaining oasis for our whole family to gather in.’ It makes all the decisions easier for me because I try to make sure they are supporting that vision for the home–and to cringe less when I have to walk past the hardwood floor options to tile for this low-maintenance party home. I don’t know if that helps, but there are so many individual decisions to get lost in, it really helps me to hone in on what the house… Read more »
That sounds like my kind of nerdy. And I really want to see ‘early ranch entertaining oasis for our whole family to gather in.’!
I’m not a professional designer, but I feel a lot of the same pressures. I just don’t want to get bored or tired with colors, furniture, and even pictures on the walls. There’s always some friction between wanting a timeless and calm surroundings and fresh, interesting, and modern at the same time. There are interesting and beautiful things out there but then I ask myself will that work with my home, lifestyle, will I like it tomorrow? There are so many options, too many. Do I want a bookshelf or a credenza with floating shelves above on that wall? Do I want a kids table in this room or that? Do I put w library bookshelves on that wall or the other wall in kids’ room? Some rooms are so obvious about what they want to be and what could make them really interesting and functional at the same time. Other times layouts and size, and architectural features make it tricky to decorate a particular room, or simply give too many equally good options.
I’m so happy for the comment policy for exactly the reason you allude to, I feel you and your team have become so apprehensive in expressing your ideas and opinions in recent years that it actually is to the detriment of your writing voice. As much as I do really enjoy the comment section, I read the blog for the posts themselves and I really want to hear a confident voice and for you all to enjoy writing.
I think your self-design challenge goes back to that concept that it’s always easier to give advice as an outsider to any situation verses taking that good advice yourself, and somehow decision making is always easier when you have a brief. I know I could never build a house from scratch because I wouldn’t know where to start, but whenever I move into a house I can instantly see potential.
When I look at your house I see a beautiful marriage of design and practicality, its beautiful to look at yes, but also, it’s a house I could imagine living in, which really should be the ultimate goal of interior design.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us all.
Dear Emily, I’m not a designer, just a design enthusiast, but I can easily imagine how paralyzing all this pressure can become! I often wonder how you cope with it day after day after day… As you say, 7 years ago, the internet was not yet a release zone for some rabid people. So that year, I took the risk to sent photos of my home to Apartment Therapy, who sent a great photographer/writer to my house before publishing a post. I was super nervous the day before publishing, but at the time, my worst worry was that it would be received with indifference and that readers wouldn’t comment, because the outpouring of nastiness wasn’t common yet. I was lucky, the readers reacted with enthusiasm and kindness, so the experience was great. But 7 years later, I would hesitate to send pictures again, even though all the rooms in the house have changed dramatically for several reasons. First, I learned so much from your blog. Reading you and your team it is the first thing I do on my phone every single morning, as soon as I open my eyes, and you have all helped me a lot. Also,… Read more »
As a mental health therapist, this post is a delicious grab bag of insight. My predominant impression is that you have largely found peace about both the challenges and benefits of your passion. Yes, like all of us to greater or lesser degrees, you still struggle with how you are perceived by others and walking that fine line between using a passion to manage an emotion/your mood (vs. accepting it as creative self expression). We, like our homes, are always a work in progress. Celebrate your growth mindset, the commitment to the opportunities that “failure” offer us. Thank you for your continued bravery in showing us your authenticity.
I love this post and I love the new comment policy. I’ve followed this blog for a LONG time. I usually don’t look at the comments but I did a couple of months ago and dang! I have always thought of this community as having a vibe similar to Emily’s – kind, upbeat, positive. But that was NOT the vibe in the comments that day and it was a real bummer to see. Anyways! Just wanted to voice my full support and appreciation!
Also – I think you’re dead-on, Emily, about the framing of your meticulousness (and the double standard involved). This is your art and whatever that process looks like is beautiful and YOURS. I’m just grateful that you choose to share it with us!
I have had a long career in global climate change science. I drive a car, flush when I pee, take the occasional trip on an airplane, and eat some meat. Doesn’t change the fact that I have dedicated a big chunk of my life to better understanding the problems and solutions that face us. The wisdom of advancing age and the understanding that we simply.cannot.win has given me so much peace.
I hope this change adds to your peace.
I am not a huge commenter here, but this hits on so many levels. I am an interior designer without a ton of money, lol. My clients ALWAYS have a bigger budget and that’s fine. I’ve been in my house 20 years, and still fine tuning things. In fact, just about starting a hopefully big renovation shortly, after saving for a long time. While I might be able to embrace trends for others, I know that I will do permanent finishes that will stand the test of time.
I cannot imagine–nor do I want–the pressure of putting my house out there for the internet world to see. THANK YOU to all of EHD for being so vulnerable and sharing your worlds.
Also, love that final shot of “the coffee table,” the Rejuvenation sectional, and SW painted (future) gallery wall. The colors of the wood, paint and fabric are great. Can’t wait for the grand reveal!
Thank you so much for articulating this! I feel so frustrated that our home doesn’t look anywhere close to finished yet. It’s because my partner and I are trying to make it reflect a vision that an accountant and programmer just don’t really have the skills to achieve. And it’s ok, we’re enjoying the process and somehow reading thing like this makes it ok that we’ll sit and think about the basement faucet for six months to a year before deciding to replace it.
I think reading these insights into the brain of someone who does have the skills and talent of a designer is just as helpful as a list of 12 faucets to go buy right now. Probably not as lucrative to the business, but immensely helpful and appreciated.
Thank you so much for taking the time and putting these thoughts down. Reading a great writer plus designer for free in the internet is always a treat.
I really enjoyed reading this and it was just so open, honest and unapologetic and insightful! Just beautiful. I can only imagine the pressure you must feel everyday blogging about your choices as not only is it your job, other people’s work lives also depend on you. I am not a designer, but friends know I like design and even before they come over to my house, I feel like apologizing for the mess of 3 children and semi-curious what they will think of my design choices! So yikes! about having people in “real life” over to your own home. I definitely understand the anxiety about that. I am a long time reader and I have also observed the shift in comments, so I appreciate the new policy! I vaguely recall you had it before (or something like it), and for a time, everything was just more constructive. Either way, THANK YOU for sharing the ups, the downs, the in betweens. We’re all excited to watch your beautiful home unfold for you guys and thanks for sharing!
I thought this was a really interesting and relatable post – especially because I think the same second-guessing and anxiety happens in a variety of fields (e.g., comedians expected to always be funny, writers expected to always express themselves beautifully, etc.). I, too, am very happy that you’re moderating comments. For the record, I had completely stopped reading the comments on the blog, because I found many so hyper-critical and/or self-righteous in tone. Today was the first time in a long time that I actually looked at them.
I have been reading this blog since 2014 and the difference in the commenters has been surprising me lately. I think the new comment policy is going to allow for a much more healthy conversation in the comments, and if it means hearing more from the brain of Emily, I think truly that’s what I’ve always been around for anyway. I’m very happy to hear this 🙂
“More from the brain Emily”.🤗
Some of the best posts over the years, have been those from the heart and open mind of Emily.
‘Without fear nor favour’ kind of connects, too.
Somehow, stainless steel underwear seems necessary for the workwear of a designer?
I’m sure it wasn’t always so?
These are all really valid reasons for feeling indecisive. In the end you always make good choices and a lot of times they are also inspired ones. I think everyone benefits from the advice from Handmaid’s Tale – Don’t let the bastards get you down!
Emily, I don’t know of any other interior designer who is as generous with their knowledge/information as you are. I read your blog everyday – and have for years – and it’s for posts like this. Thank you for sharing and kuddos to the new posting policy.
Making Your blog a safe space for YOU..? OhmygoshYESsssssssssssS!!!
I am So. Darn. HAPPY -for like, EVERYONE : )
per the passionate obsessing: sometimes I enjoy the process of weighing all the possibilities but in those moments when I am less comfortable feeling nutty with indecision, I remind myself the uncertainty will likely not be reflected in the finished design. In other words, I have learned I can still love a space, even if the process of designing it was painful…
I definitely feel this! For me it’s that I don’t want to choose something I’ll stare at every day – and then get sick of. So for the things that are hard/expensive to change, I go for classic. I feel like my personal style changes just a bit every year, and I don’t want to live with regrets! (Every time I say that word, I picture that ad with the person with the ‘NO REGERTS’ tattoo. 😂 That’s effective advertising right there!)
I’m so, so decisive with clients, and am able to be very objective. I can’t even imagine the pressure you feel with thousands of people watching, and at the same time delivering on your partnership deals.
Winning DesignStar and then feeling like you were being judged by your guests would make anyone feel cautious about future design choices! So many expectations all around. We are always the hardest on ourselves. I find as I get older, it’s getting worse! Not sure if you feel the same way.
I appreciate and am here for these “journal entry” type posts! 😊
sums it up perfectly. You often pull the curtain back and let us see the ‘wizard’ frantically pulling levers trying to make it all work. At this point, I’d just be phoning it in saying ‘whatever’ and then hating it forever afterwards.
Emily, I have never resonated so deeply with anything and couldn’t have said any of this better. You nailed it, as usual, and I’m SO happy to hear that you’re coming back to this writing space because it’s needed. You’re needed. This “whole thing” is why so many of us old-schoolers fell in love with you from the beginning. I remember when I first started in interior design and you started sharing SO much of the inside processes of your business and it helped me so much. No one was doing that! It was so taboo. Now that I’ve moved from inside to outside, I’m feeling the need to do the same thing with my experience, now expertise, but it’s scary. Thank you for pushing me to be brave and just write. Haters gonna hate, but when you’re an extremely detailed perfectionist (it’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me) it cuts even deeper because you “should’ve” thought of/done/prevented whatever it was people had a problem with. We are the hardest on ourselves, always. Love you SO much…thank you again for just being you.
Please do what you do and please lessen the self-angst.
Truth be told we learn & enjoy so much from you and your columnists — but all of the self-doubt, negativity, side comments, etc. just adds to our own anxiety, given our own unique scenarios and limited incomes and specific needs.
You are the professional and we are not. You have proven your design style, yet there’s less of that and more personal angst.
We love positivity and style and design posts. Please push onward to strengthen those!
I respectfully disagree. For me, Emily’s authenticity and transparency, angst and all, is what makes this blog so relatable and unique. It’s that peek behind the curtain that is not only fascinating, but reassuring. My hope is that Emily continues to share exactly who she is, the gooD, the bad, but always the REAL.
i think it’s a completely different ballgame when a designer vs non-designer style a room. I decorate my room with items that I have an emotional connections with, often regardless of if they ‘match’. I’m of the mind that a room should look ‘well-travelled’, not ‘recently bought’. I’ve had one experience where my dining room was shared on social media by the paint company that I used; one person questioned ‘Traditional light fixture, mid-century dining room set, shabby chic rug, craftsman wall paneling?’. Obviously, pointing out that none of the pieces really ‘go together’, maybe implying that i’d made a really bad job designing the room. It felt like such a intentionally hurtful response. She had no idea that the MCM dining room set was gifted to me by my late mother-in-law, or that the light fixture was the one that we bought as young newly-weds with zero money, and I love it even though it would be so easy to replace (we bring it with every move). I can’t imagine the pressure of designing a room for online content and opening yourself up for such criticism on a daily basis.
Very much can relate to people judging when they walk in. I’m an Interior Designer and artist, but also have a chronic illness and twin toddlers. So no, my house isn’t “done” and I still have a huge blank wall in the living room, but I’m excited to eventually finish painting a triptych collection of working on. It’s fun, and I don’t usually apologize, but I always think about it
I think this illustrates to me some of the frustration with using a designer. They can rattle off the choices so quickly precisely because they don’t have to live with it. As a client I had to understand that I wasn’t going to hurt anyone’s feelings by saying I didn’t like some of their suggestions, I had to love it because I was going to be the one living with it. They were moving on to the new design job! The other big thing I learned in building my house was that not every design decision has to be a WOW. Some components are background and not worth obsessing over. This also helped the budget.
So many astute insights, Emily. I really appreciate and enjoy your openness. (I must admit I’m a tiny bit sad that you have to defend your process AT ALL, but I guess that’s the cost of a vibrant comment section.) As someone who’s been overseeing the renovation of their soon-to-be dream home, I relate BIG TIME, and I’m just a private citizen. Reading your post made me think of another reason why this kind of passionate attention to detail is a fact of life: for those of us who love design, deeply contemplating the details (reaching for “obsessing” euphemisms here) is FUN! Yes it can be frustrating and difficult at times to make the decision, but it’s the pleasant kind of pain that keeps us coming back for more. And reading about your decisions is almost as satisfying as making my own. Please keep sharing the process, bumps and all!!!
You just articulated something that I’ve been obsessing (see what I did there?) over for a while now. Thank you. I often get asked what my personal style is and as a designer I’m not sure I have one. It’s ever evolving and generally I feel I can design within most parameters and clients’ aesthetics, so, yeah.
Always love the entries about “behind the process”!
Yes! This is so spot on. I also feel that one of the big hang ups with designing my home is that I know alllllllll the options that exist. (Okay well not *all* the options, but many of them!) And I know my client doesn’t know (and doesn’t need to know) every option out there and will be perfectly happy with the 3-5 options I present them. For my own home though, it’s hard to click purchase because I’m convinced the perfect item is out there and I just haven’t found it yet. I don’t want to regret finding the perfect item right after committing!
Fellow designer here, working on my own home. All truths here! Found myself nodding with every point. Nice going on the new comment policy. Ain’t nobody got time for that meanness.
Wow! It’s sounding like Cup of Jo today! Love the new comment policy! I’m new to EHD but for some reason am fascinated and read almost every single word of every single post — sadly too often at 3:30 am since my brain insists on reading asap when the posts come online. Thank you for the heartfelt sentiment: the words sound as if they wrote themselves. It’s easy for those of us who “consume” your product to forget that there’s tons of effort and real people behind each day’s post. (Daily?! Killer schedule.) I know when Brian kinda mocked food bloggers recently, I thought, Hey, how come he doesn’t know that Google makes us do what he’s so dismissive of? What you do is VERY complicated and ever-changing and design is the subject but not the business.. I just hope it’s still FUN too.
So many great points and such a good read. Thank you so much for sharing!
This post makes me so happy. As a long time reader, it feels so much like the Emily of old. It is always refreshing to hear your honesty. This post feels like a warm hug in your childhood home. 🙂