Answers to Your Questions!

I posed an open-ended “ask me anything!” questionnaire on Instagram last week and got oodles of questions. So, I’m here to answer them for you. Every. Single. One. I’m hoping this gives you more insight into who I am, more about the house, and my tricks of the trade. Enjoy!

Photo by Sara Tramp for    Emily Henderson

Photo by Sara Tramp for Emily Henderson

Personal & Life

Do you have any degrees in art or design or are you self taught?

I have a BFA in Studio Art. I don’t have any interior design training, but I definitely apply my formal education in art to my home design.

What is your professional background?

After getting my degree in Studio Art, I worked in contemporary visual art museums for the last decade. I’ve had varying roles but I’ve primarily managed art programs for kids (K-12), oversaw volunteers, and taught art classes.

Where do you live in San Diego?

I live in the best little neighborhood - South Park. I’m a few minutes from downtown, close to the popular Balboa Park, and surrounded by old houses and charming small businesses.

Will you do a San Diego guide for visitors?

Yes! This has been on my list for ages but I have such a hard time publishing because I’m always finding something new. Also, a couple of my favorite spots closed and I haven’t been able to get over the loss.

How did you learn to DIY? What are your favorite sources for learning DIY and design?

I’m totally self-taught. I learned a lot from watching DIY network and shows like Rehab Addict and from the resources I listed in this post. I’ve also learned a lot of DIY skills from blogs! I’ve been reading the blogs Yellow Brick Home, Manhattan Nest, Deuce Cities Henhouse, and Young House Love for ten years (a decade !) - all of them have great DIY tutorials. I also watch a TON of YouTube videos and do ooooooodles of research online before starting projects. I gain design inspiration for projects everywhere - travel, movies, designers, etc.

What prompted you to start designing?

I combined my love for art and being a homebody into home design. I dabbled in design in our old apartment - sort of. But fixing up a home we own and needed renovating really lit the fire in me to get more serious about design and think more strategically about improvements, since it’s our investment and the renovations are longer term and more costly.

How tall are you? Asking because you mentioned wearing size 13 shoes.

I’m 5’7” - my feet are way too big for my height, but I’m really good at balancing because of my sturdy base. I thought I got my big hands and feet from my dad who was 6’6” but really, my little 5’4” mom is the one I have to thank for these giant mitts and dogs.

Love your music! Where do you find new tunes?

I was a music nerd in college and would religiously follow the indie music magazines and went to concerts with relative frequency. But now I am too lazy and comfortable at home so I don’t bother with that. I make monthly playlists in Spotify where I share what I’m digging. Some tunes I discover out at a restaurant, some I hear in a movie, some I remember liking years ago, and some are recommended to me by Spotify based on the other music I listen to. Follow along and listen with me if you aren’t already!

What does your husband do for work?

Ross is an audio engineer for corporate events. They range from relatively bland events like the dairy farmer’s convention to A-list celebrity events and conferences. He loves it.

You’ve been traveling so much! Is it for work?

Ross travels for work over 50% of the year which is tough when he’s only home for a few days a month. We decided to have me tag along on his trips in 2018 thanks to the Southwest Companion Pass which is basically a flight BOGO. So whenever he booked a flight, I got to fly free! It’s been great because his flight and the hotel are paid for by the client so it’s a free trip for us both! If you want to get in on the free flights, you can open a Rapid Rewards credit card (and qualify) and automatically get the Companion Pass perk!

What lipstick are you wearing in this video?

I’m wearing this chapstick in the Rose tint. It’s the only lip thing I have worn for the past year. Srsly. UPDATE: this is my new fave - it’s plastic-free!

Where are your glasses from?

The rose gold frames you see me wear most often are these, but I also own these. My other pair of dark frames is discontinued but these are most similar and my sunnies are discontinued so I’d buy these when I need a replacement.

Which jeans were you recommending a few weeks back?

I’ve mentioned a couple, so I’ll direct you to the page where you can shop my whole closet!

Home Improvement & Design

How do you find your contractors? Do you have any nightmare contractor stories?

Luckily, no nightmares! The biggest recommendation is to get LOTS of bids (at minimum, get three - sometimes I get 10). Second, trust your gut and don’t settle. If the person doesn’t see your vision, doesn’t appreciate the things you do, isn’t into the details, gives you the heebie-jeebies, or anything else you don’t like, just walk away. There are plenty of detail-oriented, friendly, honest, and hard-working contractors out there.

How much does your husband help in the DIYs? Videos and pictures only show you.

I refer to Ross as my “Assistant.” He is really good at retrieving tools, holding up light fixtures, and helping me with my punch list. It isn’t that he isn’t handy or isn’t a helpful partner, it’s that he simply isn’t around much (he travels for work a lot). Also, home renovation and design is my thing - he isn’t as passionate about the process it as I am. Plus, both of us take a lot of pride in me doing these projects as a solo strong female! *insert arm flexing emoji*

What inspires your design? Is it your style or Ross’? The history of the house? Or a mix?

It’s a little bit of everything. It’s mostly my style, but Ross lives here too, so he always has input in how I shape our home. The house dictates a lot as I want to preserve and emphasize the craftsmanship. I get inspiration from other designers as well as travel, books, movies, etc. So it’s a bit of us, a bit of the house, and a bit of everything I take in.

As a fellow museum professional, I’d love to hear more about how your job informs your approach to design.

I’m sure my love and exposure to contemporary art informs my design just how conceptual art influences the way we see the world. I can’t really pinpoint exactly how it has informed specific design elements, but I certainly gravitate towards rooms that are unique and filled with objects of beauty. I’m not one for cookie cutter.

Best way to decorate a classroom

I like the Montessori classroom design rules.

What’s your home decor pet peeve?

Bad art. I hate when people fill their home with nothingness just for the sake of having decor. It makes me sad to see junk hung on the walls just to fill the space and I especially hate text-based wall decor with bland phrases that have no personality (*cough* Live Laugh Love). Lastly, when artwork is too small for the wall or hung way too high/low I get shivers.

Do you have any good organization tips?

Yep! Here is a collection of posts on organizing, and there’s LOTS more coming your way, too.

Do you do home consultations?

Sure! Email me at to chat about e-design!

Things to be careful of/aware of when renovating an older house (lead, asbestos, etc.)

Yep, both of those things! Lots of folks are afraid of old knob-and-tube wiring but I’m actually more afraid of shoddy DIY electrical that was done in more recent years. Old houses are subject to foundation issues and years of water damage - but so are new houses. I say keep an eye on everything no matter the age of the house!

What are the most important tools to have at home when you are a DIYer?

Here are my favorite tools! As you take on more DIY projects, you’ll discover you need new tools and you can add to your collection as you go.

What’s a DIY project you would NOT recommend for beginners?

Electrical, plumbing, roofing, foundation, framing, drywall, and any kind of serious restoration that can’t be undone if you mess up. I say to start with painting!

Do you think someone who’s never DIY’d could install a board and batten treatment like you did in your master bedroom?

It’s definitely a project that a non-pro DIYer could do, but if you’ve never used even a screwdriver, you’ll have some experimenting to do. I have a full tutorial in text and video form, so take a look and you be the judge to see if you’re up for it!

How do you decide what you’ll DIY and what you’ll hire out?

I basically hire out anything I can’t do or don’t want to do. Roofing myself would have been nearly impossible as one person. And I paid someone to dig holes in the front yard for plants because I have little tolerance for backbreaking exterior work.

I have a house full of DIY and professional renovation needs. How do I know where to start?

It really depends on your house and what the needs are! I chose to do stages based on physical layers of the house, so we did all new electrical, then plaster, then paint, then floors - all because I didn’t want to drill holes in the walls for electrical after painting. I did DIY projects while the pros worked on those things.

Ideas to update 80s walnut wood panel wall without making it look “fixer upper/hgtv”

The popular thing to do is to paint it. I think this look can be really cool if the wood is in good shape and has clean lines, but if it’s textured it could be kinda ugly. If the wood is in bad shape, removing it and hoping there’s drywall behind it might be your best bet. Or, embrace it! I think wood paneling can look cool if you make it look intentional and let it inspire the room. Maybe go for a mid-mod look and put some graphic art on the walls. WAIT. Did you say walnut!?! Yeah, keep that, don’t paint over it - that’s gorgeous.

Tips for thrifting without getting a “flea market” vibe

It’s super easy to get carried away thrifting and picking up all the things you like and then making your house look like a consignment shop. To avoid the “flea market” vibe, I’d recommend maintaining a consistent style, color palette, and/or era to your pieces. You can certainly mix and match a bit, but be careful. Additionally, keep an eye on your scale and don’t get only the little tchotchkes - get some medium and big sized pieces, too.


Recommended sources and websites for more ideas on sustainable living

I plan on being a resource for you soon, so stay tuned! Take a look at the posts I’ve already published on going green and sustainability. I listed some resources and basic supplies to get you started. UPDATE: I previously recommended low-waste blogs but I’ve since unfollowed them. The one I strongly recommend is Green Indy Blog.

Do you compost?

I do! I work with a neighbor that I met through the Buy Nothing Group to give my food scraps to his chickens and worm compost. I plan on doing more composting of non-food stuffs soon!

Tell me about low waste living! Tips for beginners?

I have SO much planned to share with you soon, but my biggest tip for beginners is to start small, and ease into it. Look in your trash and find something that you dispose of a lot, then focus on reducing it. Then try another item, then another. One of the easiest is to swap paper towels for reusable cloths. Also, going low-waste is all about rejecting things - say “no” to the plastic sample cup at the grocery store, decline the plastic cutlery in your to-go bag, and shift habits so you never have to decline your favorite beverage, just have them pour it into a reusable container instead of the disposable one.

My home and products

Is this your forever home?

I don’t think so. But, I don’t actually have a reason for it not being our forever home. I just think I’ll want another house project before we actually grow out of the house (which I don’t know that we will because I like the size).

Do you have plans to renovate the attic?

Probably not. You likely saw the footage of my attic in the “Roof” highlight on Instagram and it really feels like there’s potential, huh?? The attic is the full size of our house which is great, but there’s just not enough headroom to make a full renovation worth it. I’d love to make it work, though! Maybe I’ll get creative with storage and fix it up a bit, but it will never be comfortable living space. However, I’ve been thinking about converting my garage into living space!

Did you decide on a kitchen layout?

I’m SO close to finalizing a kitchen layout!!! I’m waiting for feedback from the Historic Review Board at the City at the moment. I’m also hoping my pal Daniel of Manhattan Nest has a genius revelation. He’s thinking about my floor plan now!

Have you done any work restoring or refinishing the wood trim in your house? If so, how?

So far, I’ve only cleaned the woodwork. I have some mild restoration to do, but it isn’t at the top of my list. We did refinish the hardwood floors.

How do you like your office chairs? Are they ergonomic enough to work at full time?

They are! They swivel and lean back and the arms are a good height (as in not too high). I like ‘em! Psst: they are 20% off right now!

Are all your roman shades the same color? What is it?

They are! The ones in the office and in my master are the Stone Textured fabric. Get all the details on my roman shades and solar shades, click here.

I’d love to know more about how you did the mural in your office.

And I’d love to tell you! Here is part one of mural preparation and then here is part two of the process. Here are all of the posts covering the whole office makeover.

How well does your vintage range work? What are the quirks of using a vintage appliance?

It’s great! I make some mean pies and baked goods in there. The biggest quirk is it gets quite hot on the exterior when the oven is on - sometimes I have to use an oven mitt just to adjust the dials.

I have two dogs that shed horribly, does yours shed? How do you deal with that?

The pup you’re seeing is my foster dog who has only lived with us for a couple of weeks. We’ve kept his hair at bay by using my favorite fur brush and my trusty vacuums. Before fostering this dog, we fostered a litter of kittens - you can learn about my experience and shot my favorite cat supplies in this post.

You have great taste in art and rugs! Any favorite places/keywords to use when searching?

I’ve listed all my favorite shops broken down by product type for you!

Are the sconces in your master bedroom hardwired? I love them.

I love them, too! It used to only be a plug-in, but now they are available hardwired! These lights come as a kit so you get the parts and get to assemble them for extra DIY fun.

Sources for getting a new door?

I’m VERY happy with the new door we added in the master bedroom. Take a look at my experience sourcing and installing the new custom door.

How do you balance finding things that are budget friendly but also last? Especially thinking of linens.

If you can afford/find a long-lasting and sustainable option, then do it. The balance can be tricky if you’re on a budget, and looking to get a handmade dresser for example, I get it. But, I think there are a lot of cases where buying the long-lasting thing is actually the most budget friendly. Why buy the shitty $5 mop over and over each time it breaks when you could have just bought the good $20 one that will last from the start? I also value quality a bit more when it comes to health, so I like sleeping in organic cotton sheets or natural linens because I spend the majority of my life with my face pressed up against them. Here are links to my bedroom linens.


How did you create your blog/website?

I use Squarespace to host my domain and run the backend of my website. I analyzed my favorite blogs to see what format/color/mood/navigation/function I wanted and then found a Squarespace theme that had the functionality I wanted. Then, I designed the color palette and fonts to fit the design I wanted.

Your content is always so well-thought out. How do you stay organized and driven to maintain pace?

That’s nice of you to say! I tend to not be very consistent in posting frequently, but I do like to publish meaty posts that are informative as possible and are free of fluff. I feel like it’s easy to publish something half-baked and poorly researched, and unfortunately, there is a ton of content like that on this world wide web. I want to be a trusted resource so I research like crazy, and then try to share as much as I can without boring you to tears.

Productivity tips! You’re always getting so much done so quickly!

What!? I don’t feel very productive sometimes. I’ve gone for weeks without publishing anything on the blog and I feel guilty not sharing more with you all! I’m working on being more consistent in 2019. As for projects, I’m often just fueled to finish because I love the end result. Plus, many of my big room transformations (like my bedroom, den, and office) are a part of the One Room Challenge, so I have to hustle because I’m on a timeline! To be productive and stay on task I make lists - lots and lots of lists with little check boxes.

That’s it!

If you’re interested in learning more, you can listen to my interview on the Style Matters Podcast. If you want to tour my house or shop my house, then click those links! You’re also welcome to ask some questions in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer you!