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Emily Henderson

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by Emily Henderson
Opener Vacay Giveaway

It’s been a LONG road for everyone to get to today’s post. When I first announced my idea for the I Design, You Decide campaign, I didn’t know what I was in for. Of course, I KNEW I would have to come up with double the designs for every room we were putting up for vote, but the reality of that was, well, more stressful than initially thought. BUT IT’S OKAY BECAUSE THE HOUSE IS DONE AND YOU GUYS GOT US HERE. 24 designs, 12 votes, 18(ish) months, one finished home and…


As a reminder, part of the I Design, You Design incentive for you readers to engage and vote, besides a whole lot of blog fun, was the chance to win a FREE 4-day stay in the finished product you all would have helped to design, essentially. Oh, and $1,000 toward travel expenses (or to spend however you wanted if you were within driving distance).

Here’s something that was solidified for me (I already knew this) throughout this whole process: You guys are insanely helpful and knowledgeable. There were many times where we’d come up with two designs, put them out to vote, and after going through all your very insightful comments, decided to change things up for the EVEN better (or combine both designs, using the best parts of each option).

Now that I know what the finished product is (and have spent the last two weeks enjoying it with my family), I thought it could be fun to walk down IDYD memory lane and remind you (and me) of all the decisions that were toiled over.

Of course, I’m sure most of you are going to scroll all the way down to see if you’re the winner and maybe click away from there, but if you’ve been in this with us all this time, won’t you come along on the reminiscing?

Overall Style

The first IDYD was the overall style…all of which admittedly were hilariously similar to each other. Basically, it was the difference between rustic and refined but most people were like “uh, what’s the difference?” You guys got it, though…

Overall Style

This is the one where I realized that Brian was going to have real opinions in this whole process (when we bought the house, he said he wouldn’t care how I designed it then all of a sudden a day before we posted about it he gave so many cares). He was terrified that I was going to make this house feel cold every time I used the word Scandinavian or even minimal. Last week, while up here, he admitted that it is anything but cold and that I was right all along. I KNOW DUDE. I KNOW.

The next one was where I realized that the voting might not have been the best idea for all of my ideas…

Pebble Stone Bathroom Floor

Pebble Floor

While you guys voted for pebble stones, Brian eventually nixed it because he actually spent some time in a bathroom that had it on the floor and he didn’t like the “underfoot sensation” (direct quote). I kept saying “but they voted for me to use it!” and felt like I was betraying you. I started being way more careful about what I put up for a vote because I can’t actually be locked into things as the creative process does change. This was also when my team started joking that the whole campaign should really be called “I Design, You Decide, Then I Actually Decide.”

Up next: One of the better decisions we ever made (and super budget-friendly).

Living Room Fireplace

Stone Fireplace

We “worked with it” and I know you guys have seen the schmear, but it honestly looks GREAT and cost $1,000 in labor (of which we might have been able to do ourselves if we watched a few YouTube videos. The guy literally just took white plaster and schmeared it between and over the rocks.

Wood-Inspired Tile

Wood Inspired Tile

WHOOPS. The wood tile thing was another that I didn’t run past Brian before putting up for a vote (HE HAS HISTORICALLY SAID THAT HE DOESN’T CARE ABOUT TILE!!!) and then after the post, he was like “I think faux wood tile will date the house and is cheesy.” I knew it would be dated at some point (even doing it in a very light gray or white) but figured there are four bathrooms so ONE of them could have faux wood tile somewhere and it would be a great editorial moment. He nixed it. Maybe the campaign should have been called “I Design, You Decide, Then Brian Decides.” That’s more accurate, actually.

The thing is, Brian is typically right and when he feels strongly about something, I listen.

On to the first full design plan:

Master Bathroom Design

Master Bathroom Design

First of all, I love this bathroom so much and spend a LOT of time in that tub. But this IDYD taught us that actually creating two full design plans before posting was slowing down the process too much because we couldn’t order materials until you decided, but I didn’t want to put up two votes that we didn’t love equally. So we decided going forward to just do material choices and not worry as much about where they go or even if they were all necessarily included, like in the…

Downstairs Guest Bath

Downstairs Guest Bath

Some of those materials did change, but man that black bathroom is a show stopper (and was far and away the winner from the initial vote).

Kids Bathroom Materials

Kids Bath Design

Brian was TERRIFIED of the kids bathroom emerald Quartize, and I don’t blame him at all. I was, too. I can’t wait to show you because it looks SO GOOD. Thank you for voting for it. 🙂

The Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen Design

In the kitchen, you guys wanted the black island and you GOT IT. But then we switched things up again once we found our amazing reclaimed wood vendor Ross Alan Reclaimed Lumber, and clad all the cabinets in the prettiest beech wood.

The Exterior Color

Exterior Color

Wow, this feels like ages ago and I can’t imagine the house in anything but the dark green we went with because we love it. It blends with the trees and looks so modern and appropriate. This really is the year of the dark house.

Master Fireplace Design

Master Fireplace

I LOVE LOVE LOVE how the fireplace turned out but there are nights where I wish we had put in a TV above the fireplace. The flue is just for show so we could take it down eventually but the design really needs it to look awesome. We’ll see.

Powder Bath Design

Powder Bath

For the powder bath, you guys were pretty neck and neck so we actually combined the designs per MANY of our request—see full reveal here.

Kids Attic Play Space

Kids Play Attic

It had been a while (a few months) between IDYD, but we wanted to squeeze out one more for a room that had remained untouched: the kids attic play space. This one was very close, so we might combine some of the elements of each into one design (your suggestion from the comments).

It was a crazy year/campaign and I couldn’t have done it without YOU, but even more importantly my amazing design team (Julie, Velinda, Grace, Emily B.) and social and editorial support. We learned A LOT.

Okay, whether you scrolled down here to begin with, or went through that process with me of reviewing all the design options we came up with for this mountain house, the time has come to announce the one lucky vacation winner.



























Julie has been reading and commenting for YEARS and was so invested in this process with us. How did we choose her? We had a bot go through all comments, entries and shares to randomly select three top finalists. From there, we vetted those top three (because I didn’t want a random unstable person who stumbled across this giveaway to stay in my home) to find out more about them and chose the winner based on their email and story. Here is what Julie sent us:

“How fun to be a finalist—my level of surprise feels like I won an internet contest…even if there is no further winning involved! I’m delighted to write more about my love and admiration of the mountain house and how stoked our whole family would be to win a vacation there.

Tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been a reader.
I’ve been following Emily since I came across Secrets From A Stylist and probably found her blog shortly thereafter. I’ve been a daily reader for YEARS. She has seriously influenced my eye for design and even though our decorating/reno budget is tight, I’ve been able to bring our homes a long way with mostly paint, fabric, Craigslist, and (mine and hubby’s) sweat equity. I’m a stay at home mother of two young girls, and despite having a strong solitary/creative bent, I just finished our first year of homeschooling with my older daughter and we both pretty much survived!

What would this trip mean to you and who you would bring with you?
It would be HEAVEN. I think it would just be the four of us though we might discuss bringing close friends. Personally, I feel healed in quiet places with trees, green, water, lakes, and I think everyone in our family prefers mountains to the beach. My husband has talked about how much he loved their vacation home in Big Bear when he was a little boy—it was sold in an ugly divorce that left him with no mom and a difficult, no-frills childhood, so I know it would be redemptive for him if we won.  We’ve managed a couple vacations/road trips to family in the past, nothing fancy since we’re on one income in SoCal, but I’ve learned from previous vacation attempts with young kids. It is most relaxing to make a home base in one spot, with space for the girls to run around, and I have a kitchen to cook in because we have food restrictions. Also, not to do staycations because then my husband and I just feel like we need to accomplish the 1,000 house projects that catch our eye. So, check, check, check, and check—BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. Emily and the team designed and decorated this house and being in those surroundings, that simple luxury, the classy amazing inviting place that is the mountain house, that heck, I even had a tiny voice in via the votes, is something that could never be duplicated.”


I’m so excited to host you and your family soon, show you the ropes and give you the keys to our family’s home for your stay.


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We LOVED having the Portland open house, meeting all 1,500 of you (HA) and I know that so many of you said how great it was to actually be able to experience a space that you watched being designed. Since this is my family’s house, and it’s a few hours away from LA, I can’t really do an open house, but we are going to do the next best thing.

We want to invite 30 readers (+1, bring a friend!) to come up for the day for a fun reader event in the house that my team and I will host. We’ll show you around, eat some food, have some drinks, maybe go on a hike and do another fun in-person style diagnostic. I highly suggest you make a weekend of it and rent an Airbnb or a room at the resort nearby!

Here’s how you get chosen: choose one of the photos from the rooms we have revealed already (below are some great options of the kitchen, kids room and powder bath) and share it on Instagram using the hashtags #PartyAtEms, #EHDMountainFixer and #emilyhenderson. Oh, and please write a little about why you would love to come with @em_henderson tagged in the copy.

Emily Henderson Mountain Pillowfort Kids Room7 Powderbath011 Emily Henderson Mountain House Kitchen Lores92

I know it’s a lot to ask but it’s the best way for us to follow along and see who really wants to/can come. We really want to meet and thank those of you who have been really invested in this project so please show and tell us how excited you are (feel free to Instagram or Story even more than one!).

If you are not on Instagram or Facebook but want to be selected, please comment below and we’ll consider your entry. Yes, this is a social media thing so we are primarily looking on Instagram.

The reader event is planned for Saturday, August 17, in Lake Arrowhead (you’ll be responsible for getting yourself up here, address to be provided later).

Thank you all again for going through this design journey with us all these months. If you missed last Monday’s post, we talked all about the roll out of the rest of the reveals, so be sure to head there if you’re wondering what’s next.

  1. Congrats Julie!!! Good luck to the next 30 party goers!

    I didn’t pay attention to the roll out schedule and came here for a Mountain House design reveal posts. This was a nice surprise though. Still can’t believe this journey started two years ago.

  2. I’m waiting for vacay surprise announcement and thank you for your great info – GHD SPORTS

    1. You picked a lovely family, very happy for this special treat for them. Nicely done!

  3. Who’s the winner ???? waiting for the announcement – OnMovies App

  4. Ahhh! Congrats to Julie. I think the way you did it with a few finalists and hearing their stories was a great idea! And I’ve been NEEDING a reason to fly to LA (from NY) to visit my best friend so I’m sure my husband will appreciate me letting him know about the #partyatEms haha!!

    Just out of curiosity – you mentioned IP addresses – does that mean if we commented on work computers and personal computers it didn’t count for as many comments?

    1. Hi Kayla! We actually just edited that portion as I was able to confirm with our tech team that it was based more on email and submission forms (and comments and shares attached to an email address)!

  5. I’m happier for Julie than if I had won it for myself! CONGRATS! 🍾

    1. Ditto

      1. I am so happy for Julie!!! She sounds like an amazing person who totally deserves this!!

  6. Congrats Julie!

    But I am more excited for the reader event!!! I just posted my entry 🙌🏼

  7. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!! AAAAAHHHH!!!! I’m so over the moon to see my name here!! AAAAHHHHH no words! Love you Emily and every design voice that helped, thank you so much for this glorious opportunity <3

    1. Yaaaaaay, Julie! Enjoy it for yourself, of course, but for all of us, too!

    2. Hi, Julie! I know we are complete strangers, but I find myself overwhelmingly excited for you!! Congratulations!! Eeeeeee!!!!

  8. Why doesn’t the voting results bar visually reflect the percentage correctly?

    1. Wow, congratulations on finishing the mountain house!! It’s just gorgeous. I love that you’re giving your readers a chance to see it. I own a cabin in nearby Green Valley Lake (@huckleberrycabin) and I basically lost steam designing it after we moved in and setup, lol. But I feel inspired again reading this post.

  9. Congrats, Julie! Well deserved, from what I read. 🙂 Great of you all to throw a reader party. Can’t make it, but I’m sure it’ll be fun! And I wouldn’t have felt betrayed regarding the overrides; as you said, changes should be expected. Moreover, this is your house. You and your family will be living there, not us. Kind of you to include us all, definitely, but overall, this is your blog, your company, your reputation and ***your home!*** Keep having a great time up in the mountains! 🙂 Hopefully you haven’t experienced any of the earthquakes there. Not bad in L.A. here, but poor Ridgecrest…

  10. What is color of green and black you used for the exterior? Love this combo and want it for my craftsman!

  11. I’m confused about how you picked a winner. Pretty sure it didn’t say the people who engaged the most would be picked as a finalist, it just said every vote and comment would be an entry right? Definitely not what you actually did.

    1. Agreed! I am disappointed to read that people who read the blog every day but don’t comment really were not even eligible to win. We certainly didn’t know that from the start.

      1. Same. If this had been described for what it ended up being—a contest on who could engage the most—I wouldn’t have entered because I know I don’t have time to maximize engagement. I suspect it wasn’t portrayed more transparently because many fewer people would’ve entered. Julie does sounds lovely and I hope she enjoys her trip! I definitely don’t begrudge her a fun vacation, just wish Emily and the team had told us how the contest would work from the outset.

        1. I agree

    2. At the risk of sounding like a party pooper, that might be illegal, there, EHD team. You did, in fact, claim that each vote and comment was a single entry, which implies a random drawing. There are all kinds of laws governing giveaways by corporations. But yay to the winner! And the house looks beautiful. Kudos!

    3. I recall clearly when the contest was announced she said the more you vote, comment, pin, and share the better your chances. She had no intentions of opening her home to a random person that participated one time and got lucky. This contest was always for invested readers that amplified the content.

    4. Hi Emily! Just to clarify (as I think the words kind of convoluted what really happened…though we edited it to reflect the actual process), we picked our finalists at random, and from there vetted them and found Julie. The more you entered/commented/engaged, the higher the probability of course of being chosen at random. Happy to continue to clarify should anyone have any more questions!

  12. I’m hoping to win!! 😘

  13. The party sounds very generous but I am concerned about people knowing the address of your house. That’s a lot of people who could share your address and start a line of people driving by to see where you live or even tour buses. Be careful.

  14. Congratulations on the win Julie!! It is probably a good thing that I didn’t win since we are moving to Florida in two weeks but I would have loved to experience the mountain house and see how it all came together up close and personal. Emily, you did such an amazing job with the house thank you for letting us be a part of the process it was a lot of fun. I will continue to follow you from afar and incorporate so much of the great design treasures that I have learned from you over the years into our new home . Wishing you and your family blessings and many years of love and memories in your beautiful mountain home!

  15. It sounds like a perfect winner was picked! I can’t wait for more reveals.

  16. I don’t want to discourage your sharing the Mountain House etc, but there are strict federal laws (and probably California too) regarding sweepstakes, contests, and even social media contests, and it doesn’t look like you are currently following them. Maybe someone could review?

    1. Yep, especially when there is cash involved!

    2. Agreed!

  17. I’m so happy for Julie! I’m a stay at home mom to two young girls who homeschools also! Thats a tough job and I’m glad she gets time away to rest and relax in this beautiful, inspiring space. Congrats!

  18. Maybe not on point, but I’m wondering if the bathroom pendants survived the SoCal July 4 earthquakes. The ceiling fans and pendants in my LA home swung wildly but not enough to be damaged. Also weren’t close enough to anything to hit. But those gorgeous bathroom pendants in the mountain house?? Yikes!

  19. Congrats, Julie!! Hope you all have the best time and make the sweetest memories!
    Thanks, Emily for allowing all of us to step into your design world! So.much.fun!!

  20. Love this! We were doing a reno at the same time but my home is not a mountain house but I loved the voting and comments. I respect you for asking for input from readers – so many people have so many preferences that I did not ask anyone for their input other than working with a designer (had to find a second one b/c he first, highly recommended), wanted it her way and didn’t respect our preferences or tastes. I even had Houzz boards of what I liked to start. Anyway, love what you do and what you create! So Fun to watch the process!

  21. This is so great, and so wonderful of you, Emily, and your family to share your journey and your home with people that truly love and appreciate your work.
    Honestly, this type of things is what gives me a peace of mind and fills me with joy – to know and see that there is people in this world that are just simple, giving, open hearted and open minded, people that still trust other people. So, although I don’t get to spend time in your beautiful home, reading about this just makes me so happy and I want to say thank you for your kindness and generosity.

    Congratulations to Julie and her family, I wish them a great time up there!

  22. Congrats to winner! Counter stool source – they look like Article?? Love them! Can’t wait to see everything!!!!!

  23. I was very late to the “party”- not becoming a reader until the mountain house design was almost done. But how fun of you to share it with some of your readers!

  24. Wow I would like to make these designs in my home. https://cinema-apk.net/

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