Today is the first reveal day of my house and I’m excited, nervous, a little nauseous, but VERY happy. But I’ve been spending the majority of the week inside this house, staring at it, but not allowed to show any of it on social media. I’m SO relieved to finally be posting about it, and hopefully you’re all ready for at least 5 minutes of pure escapism.
Here’s the quick recap – Back in November of 2018 my partner (sure, boyfriend), and I bought this 1921 Craftsman bungalow in north Pasadena for $550k. My dad and brother did SO MUCH work on this house, and we could not have afforded to do it without all their free/cheap labor (stay tuned for the post where we reveal how much we’ve actually spent). In stepped Velinda Hellen, who, at the time, was part of our in-house EHD design team.
Velinda here, ready to show off this house that isn’t mine 🙂 Emily brought me in on this project to save Sara and Macauley from the crushing design-paralysis they were pinned under during the major renovation of their very first home. I can’t tell you how excited I am to FINALLY be walking you through the reveal of the design you’ve been following since day one (now five months ago). Next, we mapped out what this long, awkward box could be, decided on some furniture, picked tile for the fireplace, and dove into the dirty details of how many coins this “working with a designer thing” would have cost them. They wanted something “fresh, traditional, curated, inviting, and sharp.” But they had no idea how to unite the open floor plan living and dining room. After knocking down an existing wall that separated the two spaces, Sara found herself completely stumped on how to handle the resulting shape of the rooms. Now that we’re looking at these stunning photos instead of my sketched out ideas, let’s take notice of a few things that really helped to define the spaces.
Front Door | Sofa | White Fur Pillow | Grey Pillow | Black & White Throw | Black & White Pillow | Gray Lumbar | Magazine Rack | Brass Wall Sconce | Window Treatment | Rug (Vintage) | Coffee Table | Large Wood Chain |Marble Tray | Ceramic Vase Now the rug isn’t centered to the room, due to the front door and walkway.
In all other ways, the rug still abides by adequate rules of scale and positioning to the furniture, but it keeps the front door space clear. So, let’s talk about this “entry.” The front door Sara & Mac used to have wasn’t right for the space, and felt a bit 90s. Hot Tip Keep your permanent features more traditional and timeless, but then go crazy with trends in your accessories. A front door isn't easy to replace and you'll want it to last for a long time without looking dated.
Like many smaller, craftsman bungalows, a formal entry was nowhere in the original design. But to reduce the inevitable clutter that comes from not having a place to “land” upon entering, I wanted to create an entry area for Mac & Sara. Sara had gut-reaction purchased that “knife-pleat” lampshade from an Etsy seller in Denmark (no doubt after a day of granmillenial brainwashing in the office), but had no ideas for what to use it on. We threw it on this long-legged lamp, and voila, the chicest Frakenstine’s Monster you’ve ever seen.
Obviously, having a design plan and vision in place before buying random stuff for you house will help you stay in budget and make it easier to create a cohesive look, but having a collected feel comes from sometimes buying that set of vintage french puppets on impulse, even if they don’t have a place in your home yet (they’re going in our Bedroom, Mac). Fireplace Hearth Tile | Mirror | Mantle Art |Wicker Vase | Stone Book End | Floor Lamp
Following the flow of the space, we’ve landed in the main part of the living room, which now feels so much bigger and brighter thanks to that sexy mirror (from Rejuvenation). Lounge Chairs| Female Form Table | Slouching Vase | Accent Lumbar Pillows
Hot Tip Here's the trick for shared spaces: You can functionally divide the rooms and even visually separate them (i.e. with rugs), but balancing color, finishes (in this design: brass, wood, and black elements), and visual weight is the best way to create a seamless flow. Speaking of flow… You may recall we debated between using chairs or a daybed to provide seating between the living and dining rooms.
But these low lounge chairs from BluDot became the perfect solution (and definitely check-off Mac’s desire for “sharp”). Chairs being the more comfortable solution in general (given they have a back, and a daybed would not have), these are low enough that they don’t visually block off the room.
The sofa maybe have been the hardest piece to find because it needed to be narrow, but we didn’t want it to feel like a love seat. When we finally found this sofa (from Clad Home), we knew we couldn’t go back. Combined with the coffee table’s subtle, linear legs (and a rounded shape that helps the room’s flow even more), we can pretty much check off all the design boxes Sara & Mac had: Fresh, traditional, curated, inviting, and sharp. Sofa’s are one of those things that can be worth going to try out in person, due to their cost and the longevity you want them to have. We had this one custom made (meaning it was already designed, but we selected a size from three options, and picked filling, fabric, and leg wood). Clad Home just happens to have their brick and mortar down the street from our office, so I popped in to test out the different fillings and see the fabric colors in person.
It basically makes the world outside looks like an oil painting, while also providing privacy. Sara and Mac have collected so many pieces of art from friends, family, and flea markets. I was the one getting to spend more time shopping and styling, and in a way this house is a part of my portfolio.
There are a few pieces of his that I made sure to include, like the graphic throw on the couch from one of his favorite design stores. But, this is just a reminder to anyone feeling like they’re struggling to co-design with a partner – it’s a journey, not a one day install. While styling, we wanted to hang this on every wall and lay it on every surface, but we figured you guys might notice.
That sconce behind the sofa (from Target) is a plug-in, so to make the visible cord more custom & attractive, my very-clever client wrapped it with twine using an old friendship bracelet skill! It’s exceptionally hard to go wrong with a hit of brass in a room, and it’s the bright pop of warmth that this corner needed.
And on the topic of art, long-time readers may recognize the two pieces on the left from Mac and Sara’s former apartment. These pieces survived the fire, coming through with only slightly-charred streaks (which they decided not to cut out, so it would serve as a reminder of how lucky they are). That lovely portrait is a piece Sara stole after we used it while shooting for the book last year. Bar Cabinet | Terracota Pot | Female Portrait | Marble Art Stand
The two pieces that Sara came into the design with were the pendant and a desire for that specific bar cabinet. I was on board for both – the pendant brought a hit of modern that I knew Mac would appreciate, and a bar cabinet is a brilliant piece of furniture that I wish more people would utilize. The cane details were ultra-cool and warm, the brass handles against the black wood were modern, and the storage was unbeatable – I really don’t like our kitchen right now, so having someplace pretty to store our dishware has made me a much happier person. Because it was so modern, but neutral, Velinda picked other pieces that were warmer, more traditional, and vintage to help the space feel balanced.
The dining table we ended up choosing is 72″ long – which gives them enough space for gaming whether it’s just the two of them, or them plus 6 of their best friends, all while feeling perfectly scaled to the room. I can personally attest after rousing rounds of “Secret Hitler” at out last EHD game night that this table fits eight!
Their dining room is actually quite large by “small home standards,” so we had the clearance to center the table. Which is totally fine to do, despite blocking the door to the TV room (reveal coming tomorrow). Hot Tip As long as you have a few feet (36” to get technical for you nerds) between the table and nearby wall, object, entry, etc., you are good to go.
They even have vintage plaques marking the original makers from decades ago.
Texture, tone and “curated” pops of black make for a non-bland, and still mostly colorless room. Never have I vibed with a client’s desires the way I have with this moody, “grandpa’s-smoker-jacket-meets-man-cave-meets-stop-gender-stereotyping” TV room.
The linen window treatments, from Decorview, throughout the living and dining space let in soft filtered light, even when they’re pulled down for privacy reasons. They also choose to paint the rooms a warm, soft white (Greek Villa by Sherwin Williams), which really just lets the light bounce around over and over in the prettiest way. First and foremost, a HUGE thank you to Emily Henderson herself for supporting this project and making it a reality. It’s turned out beautiful, and we’re so happy (Velinda is a freelance designer now, and always excited to work on something new.
And for those of you ready to tackle a design project, but not human contact, she offers e-designs!). Thirdly to all the vendors who partnered with us, and who helped us fill our home with so many beautiful pieces that we will take such good care of forever (can’t make any promises about the cats though).
And finally, to my family, who did all the hard work, put their sweat and blood into this house, and really helped us turn it into a home. Like Velinda said, come back tomorrow to get cozy in our dark and moody TV room.