I Fell in Love with Emily Henderson. Here’s Why.

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There’s a little bit of designer diva in all of us. It’s true – even those who claim to have no eye for style.

How do I know?

Ask yourself how many people watch HGTV shows. Or, just let me do the work for you.

Top Ten: Home Shows on HGTV

HGTV flower pot. Photo by ajgarrison3, CC License 2.0

In 2018, HGTV was one of the top ten U.S. TV cable and broadcast networks with about 1.4 million viewers. That is cable and broadcast networks! So far in 2019, it ranks 6th in average daily viewers.

Its top shows have been focused on redesigning homes: Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines, Property Brothers, Flip or Flop, you’ve no doubt heard of these shows. If you live with a teenager, you’ve probably lived the binge-watching experience. Maybe, you’ve been the binge watcher yourself!

We don’t just watch these shows to enjoy other peoples’ design ideas, successes, and failures. We watch them to plan our own vision of home.

I Am Me

Have you noticed your style preferences change over the years? I have, and it has been an eye-opener.

I remember our childhood home decor vividly.

We had a 1960’s sleek charcoal-colored living room sofa with threads of silver running through it; and an orange swivel bucket chair (in which my brother and I took turns “spinning”).

Looking back, I can see that my parents stayed with contemporary style in their homes.

I wish I could get my hands on those pieces today!

Rebel Decorating

As you’d expect, my style began as the antithesis of modern decor. Was it a need to rebel?

I loved dark wood finishes like cherry and mahogany, antiques, and busy floral patterns on fabrics and china. This English cottage style felt to me like the warmth and security of a hug.

English cottage style decor. Photo by Design Folly. CC License 2.0

So, my first apartment include toile fabrics, wicker, antique side tables, and the like.

Mixing It Up

Our current home is a two-story brick Georgian. When we started buying furniture for it, my tendency was to stick with the style of that period, with Colonial-era reproductions.

The traditional look

Too much of any decorating period yields a museum-looking interior, though. That’s definitely not a homey feeling.

Then, my husband and I began collecting art for our walls. We liked bright, post-impressionist contemporary paintings.

We remodeled the kitchen with clean-lined, natural wood cabinets and stainless steel appliances.

Natural wood warms the marble counter tops and back splash.

The interior of our home became more cozy and inviting simply by bringing a mix of styles into the scheme.

That’s how I learned that the key to good design lay in the mix of old and new.

A white kitchen incorporating natural stone and wood

Unfortunately, bringing together a mix of styles is one of the hardest decorating techniques to learn and execute.

Introducing Emily

Somewhere in my magazine reading and Pinterest surfing, I came across a reference to the book, Styled, by Emily Henderson.

I started reading it, executed a few vignettes for holiday displays, and then life got busy and I forgot about it.

Easter vignette

About a year later, we unexpectedly found a small house on the lake that was within our price-range, and we jumped at the chance.

I’ll say it again: it was unexpected. It probably happened a little sooner than we were ready for it.

Such is life, so you learn to adapt.

Now, the thing about this house is that it’s style is completely foreign to me.

It was built in 1966, and its decor has stood firm against changes in fashion (or taste). I call it the “Brady Bunch” house.

Green, orange, beige, gold – that’s what we’ve got going on here. Plus, flocked wallpaper that was painted over rather than removed, baseboard radiator heating, and slab doors.

There are good points to the house, though. Its modern style yields open space and clean lines. The back of the house includes a wall of windows looking out on the lake.

This house screams modern decor: Mid-century Modern.

I immediately began searching for my Emily Henderson book, because one thing I definitely picked up on was her use of modern pieces in her interior decorating.

Henderson has a way of making living spaces look warm and inviting, even while incorporating Mid-century Modern furniture and lighting.

She can take a white-walled interior and make it burst with color and life.

Styled gives you “decorate-by-number (letter)” advice.

Or, she can style a serene bedroom that includes three metallic finishes and a Noguchi floor lamp.

That’s how I wanted our lake house to look. That’s how Styled became my bible.

Going Against the Grain

One of Emily’s best tips is this: If you love color, paint your walls white.


If you love color, paint your walls white.

That’s because white walls are akin to a blank canvas waiting for you to paint.

-Photo credit Homestilo,
victoria pearson image via emily henderson styling2 , CC license 2.0

Colorful paintings, patterned upholstery, rugs, fabrics, ceramics, book jackets – you name it, it all can come together in a white room.

White walls are also great for reflecting light and making a room feel clean and airy. Add some live plants, and you’ll feel refreshed immediately.

It Isn’t As Easy As It Looks

We started our redecorating by painting the bedrooms white – pure, bright white. We took Emily’s advice and painted the rooms “Super White,” by Benjamin Moore.

The bedroom then…

It took three coats to cover the glowing green that the rooms previously sported. I think they probably could have taken four coats, but we were done.

Now, the rooms look clean and bright.

and now!

We added beds, small bachelors’ chests, and colorful lamps to each bedroom.

I found a pretty, off-white, room-sized rug to cover the marred parquet floor in one of the bedrooms.

from green to light!

Yet, I wasn’t getting that warm, cozy feel that Henderson seems to effortlessly create. What was missing?

Beyond Bedspreads

When you flip through the photos in Styled, You’ll notice a few consistencies that I think may be keys to getting Henderson’s look.

First, you need some sparkle. That is, metallic finishes, and/or crystal. It’s funny to think that these hard surfaces can bring warmth to a room, but they do.

Glass and metallic finishes add glow. Photo credit: https://toptenalternatives.co/ CC License 2.0

Second, the walls must talk. Whether it’s bookshelves, mirrors, paintings, wall-mounted lighting, deer antlers, or all of those things, you’ve got to bring life to the walls. An expanse of white with no breaks isn’t inviting.

Boring white? Not in here. Photo credit: Vincent Rivaud

Third, you must incorporate a variety of textures and different heights. Fabrics on drapes and bedding are usual, but also think about creating dimensions within the space.

How about a rustic ladder leaning against the wall, or a macrame wall hanging? Those ideas are becoming cliche, but you can expand those ideas into something unique.

For example, you can set a rattan screen or table along a wall to break up the room and add texture.

Try a garland of beautiful fabric ties across a window, wall, or door.

Add silk tassels to dress up pieces.

Emily’s rule of three is great for displays like buffet tops and mantles: Something horizontal, something vertical, and something sculptural.

Finally, you’ll notice this in every cozy room design: something organic. Almost always, this means green plants.

Stay Tuned

I’m slowly learning to decorate a white room. It’s been fun, and I’m learning a lot.

Mistakes? I’ve made a few. But, that’s another reason I love Emily Henderson. She encourages us to try anything and everything. Her mantra is that everything can be fixed.

Everything can be fixed!

That bit of wisdom has given me the courage to keep trying new design ideas, and I’m having a blast.

You can, too!

What is your favorite decorating style? Do you love white walls, or are rich paint colors your styling go-to?

Whatever your vision is, go for it. Remember, everything can be fixed.

Photo by mattwalker69, CC license 2.0

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