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Interview with Emily Henderson

January 23, 2012
by thenestinggame

Design Star. Stylist with Secrets. All-around swell gal. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Emily Henderson at Alt Summit and man…she’s just delightful. Seriously charming. Clearly talented. Wears giant tissue flowers in her hair. Drops the f-bomb now and then. Maybe she kicks puppies when no one’s looking, but I can’t find a single flaw.

She offered herself up to bloggers for one-on-one interviews via Twitter and I jumped at the chance.

Due to some time limitations, Erin from House of Earnest (with a completely enviable wardrobe and smile) and I chatted with the Divine Miss Em together over glasses of Prosecco and the obligatory state-of-Utah-mandated mixed nuts.

Molly: Design Star. It has to be hard, right? Because there can be some really horrible work coming out of those challenges.

Emily: Absolutely! It’s a lack of resources, time and shopping on top of lots of limitations. I always said I wouldn’t do anything on the show that I wouldn’t do in the real world. Which is why in the first episode (the white box challenge), I just didn’t do anything and almost went home. The reason I didn’t go home is because we had to do mini-hosting videos and mine was like, “This sucks. Whoops! Sorry about that. But here’s what I would have done if I’d had more time and more resources…” So the judges were like, “Well there’s some personality there so we have to keep her one more week.”


Molly: What made you sign up in the first place?

Emily: I wanted a show, but I got there and was like, “Whoa. These people are competing against ME.” I mean, what do I have to do with whether they’re good or not? People would tell me they were a really competitive person and I thought, “Why? Just be a really hard-working person.”

As the winner of the fifth season of Design Star, Emily got her own show: Secrets From a Stylist. In the first season, she decorated a room in style layers, merging the tastes of the two homeowners with a first, then a second, look. The second season features only one look, giving Emily a little more time to share her secrets for decorating and styling a room.

Molly: What is your favorite room from the show?

Emily: I think it has to be Joy’s. She’s a friend of mine and we used this great wallpaper. Viewers thought it was kind of crazy, but the blog world loved it and I got three clients as a result of that episode.

Emily: There are also two episodes that never aired! One is online, but the other one had a 4-poster vintage bamboo bed I had lacquered… I’ll take pictures and put it up on my blog.

Molly: One thing I think you are especially awesome at is layering a room with art and accessories. What’s the fine line between making it feel collected versus cluttered?

Emily: A consistent color palette will keep things from looking cluttered. But truly, I like a lot of things…little things. It’s hard to be objective about your own stuff because it’s yours—you’ve collected it, you have your own attachment to it. But if you can, walk into your house and pretend it’s somebody else’s. Then, edit.

Emily: Sometimes I’ll buy something and it won’t be until I look at it through the camera that I realize it wasn’t that cool—it was just cheap. My new rule is if it were $200, would I still like it? If I would spend $200 on it, it’s worth paying 10 bucks. Otherwise, it’s just junk.

Molly: You have an awesome eye for vintage pieces

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. What’s worth splurging on?

Emily: If it’s a showstopper, if it’s really unique, if you’re never gonna see it again, if it’s a crazy conversation piece, then that’s what you should splurge on. It doesn’t have to be your sofa or your coffee table. It could be art or a really weird sculpture. That’s what’s gonna give your home personality. It could be a sofa…but I find it more often in art.

Erin: Do you go out looking for specific pieces, or do you see something you can’t live without and take it home?

Emily: If it’s an awesome piece, I’ll buy it and find a place for it. So much stuff from the show has come from my apartment. I call it “Fostering.” I find something amazing and foster it until the right client comes up.

Emily: I get upset if I don’t find the good stuff. Orlando was at the flea market and bought these two “lady chairs.” They’re AMAZING and I was literally kind of pissed. I get really anxious if a great piece pops up and I didn’t find it.

Orlando's Lady Chairs

Molly: Is it tough to stay true to your style with an HGTV show that has to appeal to a lot of people?

Emily: On TV, the camera moves fast, so you can’t study it like a still photo. So for the second season they asked me to make my color palettes very small, 3-4 colors. My first inclination was, “If it’s awesome, it doesn’t matter if it’s a new color.” But really on TV the broader palette was looking kinda messy. That was one thing they asked me to do, and I totally agreed.

Using a more focused palette

Emily: They asked me to use fewer animal sculptures, so I started doing more busts and heads. They did eliminate one pair of pants—these high-waist chambray gauchos. I got a call one day, which never happens, and they said, “You know those jeans you had on in the last episode? NEVER WEAR THOSE AGAIN.” I don’t know if he thought they were ugly or just too weird.

Emily shared her approach to determining your personal style.

Emily: Style is across the board. Your room should look like you dress. Analyze your favorite outfit: Is it fitted and sexy, or more conservative? Do you loosen your tie and untuck your shirt? Do you wear a lot of accessories or not? Is your hair loose and messy, or back in a bun? All these things are style indicators. It isn’t just interior design—it’s your lifestyle. It makes sense if it’s consistent throughout everything you do. 

With the success of her show, Emily expanded her design business and has taken on clients. We asked Emily how her styling background evolved into becoming a full-fledged designer.

Emily: AFTER Design Star, I went to Barnes and Noble to buy some style books, basically the ABCs of Interior Design. And I thought PLEASE don’t anybody recognize me. I had a pretty good idea, but the details—like what specific carpet patterns called or the proper names of chair styles were good for me to know.  

The thing I got wrong at first was scale. Pieces I’d buy for the show would get in the room and wouldn’t work. I thought my instinct was good enough, but now I know I have to measure.

Big room, big furniture

Molly: So what’s next?

Emily: More show! We’re starting back up in March. And then I wanna buy a house. We’re saving and getting close. And I want to have a baby. My dream show would be following us through buying and renovating our first home and starting a family.

Wouldn’t that be great? I’d totally set my DVR for that one.

Thanks to Emily for her time. It was one of the highlights of my trip!

Come back later this week— I’ll be sharing some of what I learned from Emily and 3 other amazing design bloggers during their panel at Alt Summit.

Photos courtesy of Style By Emily Henderson and

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Elaine Smart permalink
    January 23, 2012 10:13 am

    Impressive! Watched Emily on Design Star from beginning to end. She was my favorite.
    Lucky you! Can’t wait to read more about Alt.

    • thenestinggame permalink*
      January 23, 2012 8:37 pm

      Elaine, I think the first time I saw her on Design Star was at your house!

  2. January 23, 2012 11:31 am

    great interview, pal.

  3. Kelly permalink
    January 23, 2012 11:43 am


    I would totally set my DVR for that one too!!

    Just gotta say though. . .are Emily’s eyes REALLY that blue in real life??? I smell a little Photoshop action. :o)

    • thenestinggame permalink*
      January 23, 2012 8:52 pm

      I can neither confirm nor deny the photoshoppiness of that photo, but I CAN say Emily has REALLY blue eyes in person. Thanks for reading!

  4. January 23, 2012 5:24 pm

    Glad to see your chat recap! I managed to snag a few minutes of her time later in the evening to talk about integrating commercial and residential design tips, I’ll try to remember to send you a link when I get around to posting about. She’s kind of the best, right?

    • thenestinggame permalink*
      January 23, 2012 8:39 pm

      Thanks, Brianne! I’m glad you guys connected, too! I would love to read your post when it’s up—great topic.

  5. January 23, 2012 7:18 pm

    Really, really fantastic interview and post! Way to be, Molly. xo

    • thenestinggame permalink*
      January 23, 2012 8:51 pm

      Capree, you’re just super.

  6. January 23, 2012 10:30 pm

    awesome, i love her! did you see my facebook posting about stalking? and how I’m a pro? next time you want to stalk anyone of any level of fame, i’m totally down, and quite good at it. just thought you should know.

    • thenestinggame permalink*
      January 24, 2012 10:04 am

      I did see your stalking post! It is so nice to know people with talent.

  7. January 24, 2012 7:55 am

    Great interview – i love anything emily h. I might have a little crush! And so refreshing to hear her admit her flaws and mistakes. Loved the part about buying design books!! Hilarious!

  8. January 24, 2012 12:55 pm

    Awesome interview, m’lady!

  9. February 6, 2012 12:52 am

    I’m not sure how I missed that twitter feed, but I did! What a fantastic interview. I met Emily at Alt as well, and couldn’t agree more. Charming and delightful is a perfect description. Love her! Thanks for sharing!


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