Emily Henderson: Design Lessons from a 1910 Farmhouse Renovation

On this episode of The Better Buy, stylist Emily Henderson shares pandemic renovation stories and dishes about when to break design rules.

Headshot of designer Emily Henderson on purple background for The Better Buy Podcast episode 7
Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

The Better Buy, a new podcast from Better Homes & Gardens, explores all things home—from decorating and DIY to renovating and budgeting. Each week, we'll talk with homeowners from around the country about the highs and lows of home ownership, and share stories, advice, and practical tips you can put to work in your own home. We're on a mission to inspire and empower you to create your dream home. New episodes every Wednesday!

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On This Episode

Host Mélanie Berliet talks with Emily Henderson, founder of StyleByEmilyHenderson.com and author of The New Design Rules, as she shares what she's learned from renovating a home during the pandemic, decorating with young children, and her favorite home decor rules to follow and to break.

Meet Emily Henderson

Emily Henderson is a stylist turned home renovator. After years of living in Los Angeles, the Oregon native, her husband, and two children moved back to her home state during the pandemic. They are currently renovating a 1910 farmhouse into their family home, and possibly "forever home," and documenting the process along the way.

Advice from the Episode

Emily shares her best renovation advice you can put to work on your own project.

Obviously, once you look at the house for your own personal needs, wants, preferences, styles, and you reimagine it based on that. So, it's everything from bringing in the things that you have, have had, and loved–whether it's your most comfortable sectional or an heirloom piano, that certainly will make a house feel more like you. But I think that infusing your personality takes a lot of time and the slower you do it–and this is coming from someone that designs fast because of my occupational hazard of my job [as a stylist]–the more connection you have to it in a lot of ways.
Emily Henderson

Why You Shouldn't Rush to Decorate a New Home

  • It takes time to infuse your personality into a home.
  • Take time to bring in your things, think about how you want the space, and plan for how you'll tackle projects.

I always recommend [living] in a house before you renovate it. You really have no idea how you're going to use the space. You don't know what corner is going to be the most beautiful to sit in, you know? You don't know where you're going to wanna stare when you're doing the dishes. Do you want to stare out the window? Do you want to watch your kids … We didn't get to live in [the farmhouse before starting the renovation] We have been renovating for a year and a half or more, and we're doing a lot of guesswork and a lot of asking ourselves questions with, like, 'Okay, are we sure this is where we want our bedroom? Are we sure that this is the direction of our bed?' That sounds esoteric and random, but I promise you it makes a difference.
Emily Henderson

The Importance of Spending Time in Your House Before Starting a Renovation

  • Take time to live in and understand your home.
  • Little things make a difference like where you want the direction of your bed.

They both really want a lot of bold colors, and I don't want to invest in real furniture that's hot pink because I don't know if that's gonna be something that we all want in five years. So instead I've been buying a lot of used, really cute vintage furniture. Like $80 dressers. And I'm like, 'Alright, if you want a hot pink dresser, we're doing it together.' We are going to paint it together, and then at least there's not such a financial investment in something that they potentially won't like. Or we can repaint it.
Emily Henderson

Why Emily Chooses Vintage Furniture for Kid's Rooms

  • Buying used furniture allows you to customize it. Go ahead and add bold colors!

One of the biggest ones is the too-small rug. It's because rugs when they hang vertically, look a lot bigger than they are on the ground, so you're like, 'Oh, that's, surely that's big enough.' And then you get it and it's too small, especially for living rooms. And then hanging curtains all wrong. That's a big one, too. People just hang them too short and too low.
Emily Henderson

What Are the Most Common Design Mistakes People Make?

Knowing the rules is really good intel for you to make the most informed, best decision on how you want to break them. For instance, vanity lighting–that's something where there's very specific rules about what height and what type of light fixture will give you the best lighting for putting on makeup. It's a real bummer when you choose something that's really directional and the whole counter is lit, but your face isn't. You want to know those rules, but then you're like, 'Well, what if I love these directional sconces? What do we do?' So you can either put in really good recess lighting or just use that in your powder room where you don't even really need to be able to see your face. If you know what you're doing and if you are willing to really push your creativity, you shouldn't be bound by rules. But I like having the information so I know I'm making a choice and not a mistake.
Emily Henderson

When to Break Home Design Rules

  • Push your creativity when tackling a renovation.
  • Know the basic design rules but don't be afraid to break them!

Links and Resources

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