Q & A with Emily Henderson
June 16, 2011
Greetings friends, I have the most special treat for you today! Michelle of Ten June is a monthly contributor here, and she’s back with an amazing interview she snagged with the latest sensation to hit the design world, Emily Henderson, winner of HGTV’s Design Star and now host of the design show, Secrets From A Stylist.
This talented stylist is refreshingly down to earth and lucky for us, she agreed to sit down with Michelle and chat about breaking design rules, Nate Berkus, and her forgotten love for DIY. Grab a snack and get comfortable, because we’re about to learn more secrets from this stylist!
All images from Emily’s portfolio.
Q & A between Emily and Michelle:
Q: When styling the accessories in a room, how much is too much? Do you have any advice as to how to accessorize a space well and add balance without creating chaos?
A: This is my biggest challenge because I like a LOT of accessories. Like, a LOT. But here’s what I do, because I’m crazy – I style vignettes using groups of threes or odd numbers. I keep it balanced by using a healthy combination of weighty/graphic objects (stacks of books or boxes) with more feminine sculptural objects (vases, sculptures, flowers). Then (and this is the crazy part) I take a picture with my phone and stare at the picture. If something isn’t “reading” right, then I might have too much stuff, so I edit. I look at the picture as if it’s a magazine page and think “if I had styled that, what would I change about it?” It’s hard to be objective, so I try and take myself out of it and stare at the picture instead.
Q: Who inspires you? Do you pull inspiration from any particular designers, online sites or shelter magazines?
A: I’m always psyched to get Elle Decor in the mail. Once a month, I go to the newsstand and buy Living Etc, Elle Decor Australia, Italy and England, Vogue Living Australia, Inside/Out… any and all of them. I also love Lonny, Rue and Anthology. As far as individual designers who I keep track of, my list would be: Emily Chalmers, Robyn Glaser, Nate Berkus, Jonathan Adler, Kelly Wearstler, Lilli Diallo and Sibella Court. And my list of favorite blogs is endless, so I won’t even start. But I read a ton of them, trust me.
Q: When working with a client’s budget, how do you prioritize your spending? How do you choose which pieces to splurge on and when to take the more affordable route?
A: Here’s what I do, for myself, as well as for the show: I splurge on what will make the biggest and most interesting impact. Normally, this is a vintage sofa whose shape I can’t get out of my head and I must have it, reupholster it and use it. (Check out my first episode sofa, a teal deco piece that I love so much). Often, it’s a huge found object that I turn into a piece of art. Splurge on something that is unique and one-of-a-kind, because as much as a comfortable sofa is a worthy investment, it doesn’t really say much about who you are. You want those pieces that say it big and fast (especially in TV).
Q: What is your best advice when clients come to you looking for sleek, stylish storage options?
A: It can be hard to hide the junk in a fashionable way! I’m not gonna lie, “storage” is a huge buzz kill. I’m a big fan of converting vintage buffets and credenzas into media units, or using storage trunks as ottoman (Urban Outfitters has some great ones).
Q: Speaking of, you have a knack for finding incredible design sources. Do you have a few favorite design related chain stores?
A: Yup, West Elm and CB2 have bailed me out more than a few times. Ikea is great, obviously, but I don’t use their furniture so much, more their accessories. I’m picky, but I’m not a snob… I’ll shop anywhere to find the best stuff.
Q: How often do you DIY projects for your home or the spaces that you create?
A: We do a lot of refinishing furniture, building frames for artwork, and recently, I chevroned some drapery, but Secrets From A Stylist is not a DIY show, necessarily. I used to do a TON in my own life, but I’m happily too busy now. I don’t remember the last time I sewed something or collaged something for me. I just realized this second that I miss it, shoot. After this season, I’m hoping to get back into it.
Q: One of the traits that you are most respected for as an interior designer is mixing different types of design styles in one room in a seamless fashion. What are your top three tips on how to layer more than one design style while keeping the space cohesive?
A: Ah, yes. Okay, first off, choose a consistent color palette. I truly believe you can mix any styles together as long as you keep color in mind. And, you don’t have to be super strict, just have a family of three or so colors that work together and reference them while shopping.
Second, make sure there is enough weighty furniture… if you are mixing, say, Victorian with Spanish, you have a lot of ornate details, scrolly stuff, small scale tables and chairs, etc., and it will get bitsy and busy really fast. Don’t forget to ground the space with something potentially more modern and visually weighty to make sure you don’t get lost in the styles. Finally, I’m a big fan of using more masculine furniture with feminine accessories – not always, don’t quote me on it- but I find it works.
Q: Do you ever break any specific "textbook design rules?" If so, which ones?
A: I’m sure I do. I know that sometimes, I put higher tables next to a sofa than you are supposed to (or lower). Same with nightstands. I’m a big fan of “anything can be a side table or a nightstand” so sometimes it’s a taller piece whose height is higher than the bed, which I think is the rule. Some design rules are important and for a reason, but some just aren’t.
Q: Balancing the use of color in a room can be tricky. In what ways do you use color in your designs without creating a room that looks like a circus or a children’s room?
A: I always mix cool and warm tones, first off… that keeps it balanced and warm. Always. And if I use a pastel, I use just one pastel color and balance it off with a masculine grey or navy. I choose one big saturated color, an accent saturated color, then a healthy dose of some neutrals.
Q: Which room that you have designed are you the most proud of and why?
A: Ooh, I don’t know, good question! “Proud” is hard, but where I would want to live is easier. I love the Bohemian Modern (the second episode) and Joy’s house (the third episode), as well as three rooms from the new season that haven’t aired yet. There are some that I LOVE but just aren’t my style and some that scream “Emily” – those are the ones that I’m happiest in.
So there you have it, folks! Incredible design insight from an HGTV star. Thank you for sitting down with us, Emily. And if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to check out Secrets From A Stylist on HGTV! If you’re not already a subscriber, be sure to read along with Emily herself on her blog where she gives us all her behind the scenes look at the show.
Thank YOU Michelle for this month’s contribution, what a fantastic interview! We’re all so inspired by Emily’s portfolio and the fact she’s so willing to share her secrets. We love her for being so approachable, and we will be watching her for years to come.
Be sure to follow Michelle over at her inspiring blog Ten June.