HGTV star Emily Henderson is known for creating spaces as bright and cheerful as her personality on shows like Design Star and Secrets from a Stylist as well as on her addictive, documentary-style blog. So it should come as no surprise that a drab, carpeted space with a brown-painted ceiling was not the master bedroom of her dreams. But as the “before” photo below shows, it’s exactly the situation she was faced with when decorating her Los Angeles home.
Like most homeowners, she decorated the public spaces of her new house first, and the master bedroom was given the unglamorous last place on the list of rooms to redo, right next to the green linoleum-clad guest bath. (More on that later.) In true HGTV fashion, this scary “before” comes with a shocking and gorgeous “after.” And unlike some of our favorite design shows, you can actually get this result in your real home.
Emily shared the designer tips and tricks she used to give this space a brand new life, and now we’re passing them on to you!
1. Start Fresh. “Once we painted it and put down hardwood flooring, it was really pretty,” Henderson says of the first step in her design process. “It was just a big white room.” After a failed experiment involving custom wallpaper — “During a heat wave the seams pulled up, and not just a little bit. It pulled up the paint. It pulled up the plaster. It was so bad.” — and a subsequent return to white painted walls, she started in on a slightly more durable design.
2. Ask Yourself How You Want It to Feel, Not Just Look. “In this case I wanted my room to feel bright and airy, but happy and with enough punch that it didn’t feel boring,” says Henderson. Take into consideration if your room is more of a family hang zone or a calming retreat for just grown-ups. “We’re big into laying around and cuddling with the kids,” she explains, so a big upholstered bed and a comfy bench by Katy Skelton fit the bill.
3. Pick a Statement Piece. Henderson suggests choosing a headboard, a rug or a piece of art as a focal point for a bedroom. “Then you can make everything around that be kind of a supporting cast,” she says. “In this case, it really was the Rebecca Atwood headboard fabric, and then everything else kind of helped round it out. But when you walk in that’s certainly what you notice first.”
4. Don’t Play It So Safe. The biggest bedroom decorating faux pas Henderson encounters? Failure to launch. “People are often afraid to add too much style to a bedroom because they don’t want it to get too busy and loud, so I often see rooms that are really boring and generic,” says the designer. The fix, she says, is making small changes with a big impact: “A colored lampshade can make such a difference in a room, and you can order them online.”
Another space that was in desperate need of an overhaul was the kids’ and guest bath. “The bathroom was original, but in a really bad way,” Henderson says. “It was like 1960s, cheap materials, cheap finishes, beige and sage and linoleum. There was nothing charming about it. Nothing that was like ‘Ooh, it’s quirky and vintage.’” But the designer kept putting off the project because, as she explains, “Having a big construction project in the middle of your house with two kids, it just sucks.” When she finally redid the space, she went with a completely modern vibe and kid-friendly details.
5. Prioritize Storage. In a kids’ bathroom, getting this contained and often out of sight is a major consideration. “Kids have a lot of products, so make sure you have storage that’s easily accessible,” says Henderson. The new tub has a shelf at one end and a niche at shower height for items that need to stay out of little hands.
6. Go for Dark Grout. Henderson says the bathroom flooring, by designer Erin Adams, “is totally me. It’s playful and energetic and has some midcentury vibes to go with the house.” The cement tile ages well with heavy traffic, but it’s the grout choice that will be kind to your cleaning schedule. “A dark tile with dark grout hides any sort of dirt,” she says. “White grout is never a good idea in a kids bath…really in any bathroom.”
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7. Don’t Settle for a Standard Vanity. “I found this dresser at the flea market and it was $85,” explains Henderson of the piece that now acts as a base for the bathroom sink. “I just hoarded it and kept it in the garage. I was so relieved that once we demo-ed the bathroom it fit.” A little retrofit assured the piece still served its purpose. “They created a box inside the drawer for all the plumbing so we can still use the drawer.”
For more design ideas and to see the rest of Emily Henderson’s inspiring L.A. home, visit her blog, Style by Emily Henderson.