A pic of me with the Dream Team: Brady Tolbert, Ginny Macdonald and Emily Henderson.
“Perfection is boring. Let’s get weird.” That’s not a phrase you would expect to hear from an interior designer. But Emily Henderson came to interior design in a different way than most, and it definitely contributed to her unusual perspective.
Recently, while on the set of our Epson WorkForce video shoot, I caught up with Emily, and she answered some questions about her life in the design fast lane, her background and the design trends she sees on the horizon.
Q: Let’s start at the beginning. Where were you born and raised?
A: I was born in a coastal town in Oregon named Coos Bay. My parents lived way out in the country with six kids, a goat, dogs, cats, a sheep—not a farm, just a weird combo of very fun animals and trees. We also were highly into domestic 4-H. I can decorate a mean cake or sew an A-line skirt that your aunt would be very jealous of.
Q: Did your home life influence your forays into design and business ownership?
A: It must have, right? We started thrifting WAY before it was cool—two teachers raising six children meant that thrifting wasn’t a hipster thing, it was a total necessity. I loved it and brought home the craziest things/clothes/knick-knacks every single time. I think that encouraged my love of “the weird” and also my tolerance for dirt.
Q: How did you get into interior design, specifically?
A: It’s kind of a long story (as they tend to be). I moved to New York, started taking rendering classes, wasn’t good at said classes, so I sought out work at a good design store. At the time, Jonathan Adler had just started and I was one of his first shop girls. Then I met prop stylists, and they led me to styling, which became my calling at the time. Then we moved to L.A., I got bored with life and was just freelancing for weird celebrities, doing things like picking out what mug they should hold in their hand for the US Weekly shoot. So I started a style blog and auditioned for DesignStar. I won the show, got my own show, kept up the blog and now I design, style and consult for companies on both design and writing. It’s pretty much a very weird and unique path to success but certainly one that I would totally repeat.
Q: Did you have a business before hosting HGTV?
A: I worked freelance styling for magazines, advertising and catalogs. In your world, I would have been the person that found the perfect desk with the perfect desk accessories and most beautiful stack of white paper to show off your perfectly clean printer while 25 people stared at it and a photographer captured the moment. My job was to sell a product in the most chic, smart and enviable way possible. I guess in a lot of ways it still is! It’s amazing how much the context changes how a piece is perceived, and I love that challenge so much. You don’t look at me and think “She would be a great printer salesman!”. Instead, you trust that with the right context and story, our printer could go from super fast, high quality and functional, to really cool and necessary for your small business. At least that’s the goal.
Q: How do you balance and weight your time between your multiple platforms, i.e. business owner, working mom, omni-media content, etc.?
A: Whatever is highest priority at the time wins. I’m pretty sure there is supposed to be more of a system than that but, in reality, whoever is stressing us for results the fastest wins the deadline game. The blog is not negotiable because it is what drives the business but at the same time the blog is the only thing that often has no client looking at me with those “where are my side table options?” eyes. Now that I have help on all fronts, I focus on conceptualizing, art directing and writing the content and Ginny and Brady execute my ideas on both the design and the blog content. But it changes daily. It’s pretty much the wild, wild west every day and I would die without these two helping me navigate it.
Q: Do you enjoy being equal parts interior designer and in the “content business” with your blog, videos, etc. – or would you be just as comfortable being a designer all day if jobs booked themselves without promotion?
A: I think that once you have mass influence it’s hard to go back. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing that your hard work affects a lot of people. So, while I love designing for individuals and I probably won’t stop designing ever, I also would never stop writing about and shooting the projects. Here’s the thing—there are better designers out there. There just are. Kelly Wearstler, Nate Berkus, Thomas O’Brien, Miles Redd. But there are very few designers that can write, explain and show their process in a way that empowers people to do it themselves. I love when I get a client that says, “I love everything you did in my home and I’m a happier person because of it”, but more importantly I love it when 258 comments say that now they feel like they know what to do in their own homes because of that blog post. It just makes me feel so good, but I suppose that’s how power hungry people talk so I should probably monitor how much I love the response.
Q: I’ve got to ask the tech question—How does color and the printed piece influence your work?
A: When color isn’t represented accurately it’s a massive bummer. When color is represented correctly it makes our designs pop off the page and we look better to everyone around us. Color and quality printing is important not just for our clients’ presentations, but also for our own design morale.
Q: Does design start with you, then spawn out to architect, contractor, etc., or do you often do rehab / work on existing homes that need makeovers?
A: Typically my projects are more makeovers, upgrades, remodels, etc. Since my background is as a stylist I want to build my own home before I manage someone else’s new build. Too many mistakes can be made and, while I can manage those mistakes swiftly and honestly, I’d rather have them be made on me than a client.
Q: What is your job breakdown like between residential and commercial? Any cool houses, hotels or restaurants you are working on?
A: It’s funny because at this point it’s mainly residential or company-sponsored residential makeovers. I know that sounds super weird. But yes, a paint company (for instance) will sponsor a makeover of a room and hire me to do it for press, social media, photography, etc. We are launching a whole new set of services in a couple months that will be for all budgets—everything from a single question to total renovations. Out are the days of minimum budgets and in are the days of trying to figure out how we can consult on all projects while still running the business.
Q: Lastly, what trends are you seeing for the upcoming year in design?
A: I see lot of mixing traditional or country with mid-century. At least, that’s where I’m headed. And less bold colors, more soft pastels or neutrals. Gold/brass is still big, and copper is taking a close second. Also white electronics, appliances and remotes are coming onto the scene. Epson better get on that movement because a pretty white printer with gold accents is the way of the future. You’ll make a million bucks with what I just told you. You can send my cut to my home address.
Want to find out more about Emily? You can head straight to her website or watch the new “day-in-the-life” video starring Emily, Ginny, Brady and the Epson WorkForce.
Epson provided WorkForce printers to Emily Henderson for business use.