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Meet Our New Mountain Fixer Upper




Emily Henderson Lake House Before 1723

Today is the day. You may have read the hints, seen the clues or even caught the 24 hour insta-story, but today is the official announcement of the new blog project – our mountain fixer upper. (Update: the design process has begun – click through HERE to see and vote on the style of each room) Like many an office romance, what started out purely professional has become quite personal. I started looking for a new design project around the time that I realized that our LA house was almost finished and fully revealed. I panicked, realizing that as you might suspect the most popular posts (both in traffic and engagement) are about our house. Unlike client work I can be the most honest and transparent on process, mistakes, resources and prices – and I can execute much faster. It only made sense professionally for us to invest in another fixer – but since we found one out in the country it became very personal.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before 1832

Being raised in the woods of Oregon did something to my soul from which I can’t escape. Long time readers know that writing that kind of sap is hard for me. I loved living in New York in my 20’s, and after being in LA for 10 years I sure do love my friends, the weather and the opportunities that this city brings (while finding the culture/industry of “Hollywood” challenging). But, deep inside my guts, there is a pretty intense need for nature, for trees, for calmness. Many might say I’m suffering from the ‘too many small kids’ syndrome, and looking for an “escape” and perhaps they aren’t wrong, but I think it’s more than that. As someone addicted to social media, blogs, computers, TV and parties – I REALLY NEED TO ESCAPE.

Thus our decision to not buy a fixer in LA (not that we could afford one) and instead head outside of the city. The new fixer is about 2 hours from LA, in a small mountain-town, near a small lake and lovely people (but not many of them – and NO TRAFFIC!!). It has less of everything (in a good way). I want less, hell, folks, I need less.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before 1892

Listen, the house has a stream. A babbling, adorable man-made stream that ends in a dirty, alge-ridden pond. I grew up being covered in mud from the creek in the woods behind our house and I’m happy to pass the dirt on to my kids.

I hope that this ‘I-used-to-be-a-normal-humble-dirty-poor-little-mormon-child-of-six’ story isn’t cloying or feels try-hard, especially when I just bought a second home. In a lot of ways I’m not as down to earth as I used to be, nay. Which is the entire point. Despite trying to remain “normal” in LA I’m not succeeding on a daily basis.

You wouldn’t necessarily think that buying a second home would bring the “normalcy” I’m craving, but removing myself, even for two days a week and focusing on my kids and nature makes me feel “normal”. It forces it upon me and pulls me down to said ‘earth’. No child-care. No meal-delivery services. Just us, our kids and a lot of woods.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before 1902

So what is this house that we bought?

It’s not like our current house where I knew from the photos that it was “our” house. In fact thank God we didn’t even look at the photos of this one or we may not have bothered to see it in person. I am usually drawn to spaces that have interesting architecture or some innate charm (duh). Most of the houses in this town were built in the last 20-30 years. Ours happens to be from 1964, but was added-on awkwardly and renovated in what I can only tell is the mount-everest-of-peaks of the 90’s.

Let’s start with the living room.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Living Room 1 1 New 2

This room has magical light. It faces Northeast and for whatever reason that sun never barrels in nor is it dark. I want to sit in here all day. But it needs some updating. Now a normal person buying this as their weekend house wouldn’t need to do much to this house – everything functions, it’s not gross at all, it is just not our style. And since we are doing this for content, even the smaller stuff that we would usually live with will be changed.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Living Room 4 NewEmily Henderson Lake House Before Living Room 2 New 1 2Emily Henderson Lake House Before Living Room 3 New 11

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Upstairs Playroom 1 1 New 2

Above, which opens up onto the living room, is this super lovely loft with amazing light and view of trees. I call it the “yoga loft” because I did 4 minutes of pretty fantastic yoga one day before Charlie woke up. It feels like this peaceful place to either meditate or write. If we stay up here in the summer during the week (I mean when) I will probably work up here.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Upstairs Playroom 2 1 New 2

I’ve outlined all the things we are going to do to the space – but it’s safe to say ‘everything’ will get a facelift.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Upstairs Playroom 3 1 New 2

The facts are here:

It’s 3,400 square feet which we consider pretty darn massive and boy does it feel spacious. We wanted a house that could easily fit more than one family, so we could have friends up over the weekend comfortably.

It has 3 bedrooms, 4 communal areas and 4 1/2 baths. They REALLY liked their bathrooms. Additionally, it has an almost finished attic that is pretty darn cute. We will change all of that.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Kitchen 2 1 New 2

As you can imagine the kitchen could use “a stylist’ touch”. And I’m going to touch this lady, all over, with both hands.

It is a total gut job. We’ll open it to the living room, add a window and reconfigure the whole thing. It’s big and once it’s done it will be so pretty that I’ll surely start cooking (besides there are very few restaurants around and you bet there aren’t any meal delivery programs). GASP.

I will say that demo-ing and renovating something that is just “dated” as opposed to a disgusting-falling-apart-fixer is somehow a bit depressing and does feel wasteful. Your style and taste are costing you a lot of money when you do something like this. But it’s my job, and since most of the houses in this market were similar (dated, but not old) I came to terms with it. Plus I know that a lot of you might have these issues, too – a dated house with some McMansion finishes that need help. We all aren’t alone.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Kitchen 3 1 New 2

If you can’t tell everything is very builder-grade and neither the cabinets, appliances or finishes are high quality. Did I think about just refacing them? Yes, for a brief minute because Brian gets into my head sometimes. But then I realized that this is an opportunity to be AMAZING and not just “better”.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Kitchen 5 1 New 2

Did I think about making this a budget/DIY project? You bet your bottom/top dollar. But then I remembered that Brian and I are not John and Sherry of Young House Love. There is not a CHANCE that we could actually do much of this with our own two hands, so we’d be hiring out someone to renovate and like I’ve said before – the labor of a renovation is the most expensive part, so spending the same amount on labor just to install inexpensive finishes didn’t make as much sense. It’s going to be a combination of splurges, saves and sponsors – you know, the modern day (totally weird) makeover.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Kitchen 6 1 NewEmily Henderson Lake House Before Kitchen 1 1 New 2

The house had one huge addition and one smaller one later, which creates some awkwardness as the finishes and styles don’t match. For instance how that lower ceiling doesn’t match the beamed ceiling in the kitchen and we are going to do our best to fix that. 🙂

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Kitchen 4 1 New 2

The dining room is big and once those windows are larger it’s going to get more light. I really want to put a huge cozy built-in dining nook and have many a day-after-Christmas feasts there.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Family Room 2 1 New 2

Like a lot of mountain towns that get cold in the winter we have 3 fireplaces and all 3 need to be redone. This one is specifically strange. We plan on making this room our rec room.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Family Room 1 New 2

As of right now this room is the one that we kinda want to be in the least which makes it a good challenge. I think it’s because of the low ceilings and lack of light. It opens up to the backyard, but we are going to OPEN it to the backyard if you know what I mean. Like real open. This room will have heavy flow as it’s such an access point to the backyard, so it’s hard to figure out what furniture should be in here. I think it’s going to be a playroom for both kids and adults. Brian is dying for a pin ball machine and darts and this might be where the kids play while they are younger (then the loft when they are older – so they have somewhere more separate from the grownups). Currently we have a tent, play table and loads of books and games in there and the kids play so much more by themselves.

In fact the weekends we spend up here, where they just play by themselves has inspired us to turn our TV room in our current house into a playroom dedicated to them.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Family Room 3 1 New 2

The flow of the first floor is SOOO good already. It barely needs to be opened up (just the fridge wall). But a bummer about it is that when they renovated they put a SUPER thick coat of orange peel on all walls, In case you don’t know what that is, it’s when contractors don’t want to spend the time and money to drywall, tape, mud, and paint. To be fair that process is laborious. So instead they spray this ‘texture’ that covers up all lines or potential imperfections. They then paint on top of what we dub as “orange peel”. It’s hard to see in the photos.

Then they doubled down by making every corner and window rounded and curvy, and not in a sexy way. Neither of these things are that big of a deal in a newer build as they do fit the era, but this is a 1960’s mountain house and it just feels wrong. It’s inescapable and the options are not cheap or easy to change it. I was recently in a good friend’s newer house and I didn’t even notice the rounded corners because it worked. But imagine that finish in a craftsman or a victorian style house – it feels displaced.

Above that rec room is another living area that we are going to turn into a master suite, thus adding a bedroom to make it a total of four bedrooms in the house.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Upstairs Living Room 1 1 New 2

If you were thinking you’d leave this post without a maroon wall, you were wrong. But don’t worry – there are only 2 of them. The former homeowners stopped halfway, obviously questioning themselves. 🙂

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Upstairs Living Room 1 2 New 2

The windows again are rather short and this feels like a great opportunity to open it up to the upper deck – either french doors or something bigger and better. The trick is that if we were to close off the pony wall (where the stairs come up) we would lose so much light so I need to come up with a creative solution that adds privacy without blocking light. You know, like ice blocks. 🙂

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Upstairs Living Room 3 New 2 2

**UPDATE: Due to all your suggestions (and i’m shocked I didn’t think about it) we will likely get rid of those stairs to make both the master and the playroom below bigger and less awkward. THANK YOU. Emily Henderson Lake House Before Upstairs Living Room 2 New 2

We’ll open up the small powder room and the old master bathroom to become a larger bathroom attached to this room, but there are some challenges for sure on where everything should go (I’m working with an architect now).

The triangle window will be changed into a rectangle, and I’m scared to say that virtually all the windows in the whole house will need to be switched out if we want them to match (except the large living room windows). I just feel like they could all be bigger and more special. Same with the doors. And mouldings. See what I mean? It doesn’t seem like a gut-job, but I think since I want this house to be stunning we will be spending on some larger architectural moments to give it that character and charm that it needs.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Master Bedroom 1 1 New1

The current “master” doesn’t have a window and it may be impossible to add one (long story I’ll explain later) so we might turn this into a cozy bunk room for the kids, stay tuned. I kinda like the idea of a dark clad room with built-in bunks, but my architect is trying to find out how to bring in some windows. I just don’t want small awkward windows just for the sake of some light, at the same time natural light is the #1 most important thing to me so why would I not try to go for more. Maybe a skylight?

**UPDATE; Many of you commented that there needs to be a window for egres and you are right. So we will add one for sure. Emily Henderson Lake House Before Master Bedroom 2 1 New 2 Emily Henderson Lake House Before Master Bedroom 3 1 New 2 Emily Henderson Lake House Before Master Bedroom 4 1 New 2

That closet is HUGE so we will reduce it to add square footage to the room since we are stealing from it to create a master suite.

But we certainly won’t touch the in home spa 🙂

Emily Henderson Lake House Intro Before Plans Grid Master Bathroom New 2

This bathroom was attached to the “master” but we’ll redo it and attach it to the new master – the maroon room. And then we’ll demo out this tiny powder room to make the bathroom even bigger. And you know how in LA our master bathroom couldn’t fit a tub? Well this one will and it’s going to be LUXURIOUS. I want a steam shower, huge soaking tub and anything else that says ‘spa’.

This powder room below will be removed and turned into a larger master bathroom. Once you see the floorplan at the bottom you’ll understand better.

Emily Henderson Lake House Intro Before Plans Grid Powder Room New 2

The other two bedrooms are virtually identical and they’ll be totally redone. They are both rather long and only have light on one end because they share interior walls.

Emily Henderson Lake House Intro Before Plans Grid Downstairs Guestroom New 2

The more I dig into this house the more that I’m excited to talk about how to add charm and interest to basic homes – and you bet this is going to be a full series. I don’t think this house will have a lot of wallpaper or art walls so I’m looking into a million different things we can do to the walls to add texture, depth and interest.

Emily Henderson Lake House Intro Before Plans Grid Downstairs Guestroom Bathroom New 2

They stole from the closet for this and the result is 2 back to back bathrooms – one connected to the bedroom and the other right outside the room to the first floor hallway. While I can’t say that anything is definitive we think we may just turn that back bathroom into a closet to save some money. While the idea of another suite downstairs sounds lovely and our friends/guests would of course be psyched, it will cost so much money and we simply don’t need two full baths on the first floor.

***UPDATE Many of you have suggested that we take the two long bathrooms and make a powder room for the hallway, and keep a suite for that bedroom. I think you are RIGHT.

The other two bathrooms look identical. This is a good lesson to builders – stick to the same style that works with the architecture of the house, but maybe shake it up a bit so it doesn’t look so mass designed.

Emily Henderson Lake House Intro Before Plans Grid Downstairs Bathroom New3

I literally don’t know which bathroom is which. But they they are both going to be redone to be full baths – one downstairs and one up – so 3 full baths, total.

Emily Henderson Lake House Intro Before Plans Grid Upstairs Bathroom New 2

Lastly, we have an attic that is adorable. The pull-down stairs are rather dangerous so we might put in a spiral staircase instead or just say it’s off limits until the kids are a bit older. But once you get up there it’s pretty cute and big enough for an extra bedroom or a secret playroom. Since it’s above the kid’s room maybe it’s actually their upper suite/fort and we move the entrance….

Emily Henderson Lake House Intro Before Plans Grid Loft 2

You know this has to be a fort someday. I just don’t want them to fall down the stairs…

That’s the inside, folks. A big 1960’s boned lady, sporting a 1990’s wig. We love her so very, very much and I can’t wait to totally reimagine what she could be – it’s all I think about.

You might be thinking that the exterior could help inform the design direction of the interior, so let’s see.

Emily Henderson Lake House Intro Before Plans Grid Frontyard New 2

It’s totally cute, but has some funky little elements happening. It’s a rather typical 1960’s mountain house that is similar to so many in the area. Now I don’t know too much about architecture but I’ll go ahead and say that this architecture isn’t necessarily one direction. It doesn’t need to be totally redone, just a paint job, better doors and some modern colors.

You can see that where it says ‘replace kitchen door’ that the roofline above is what blocks the ability to have light in the kid’s bedroom above.

The front yard is small, but we sure do love the backyard.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Back Yard 4 1 New 2Emily Henderson Lake House Before Back Yard 3 1 New 2

Now the backyard isn’t necessarily HUGE or what maybe you’d assume when someone says ‘country house’. But it backs up to acres of unused wooded property that we can access with respect. Our lot is 10k square feet which is about 1/4 of an acre but the house eats up a lot of it. It’s wide but short – the opposite of our current yard and in a way it feels smaller because it’s so shallow. But it has room for a lot and we just need to maximize it better by creating zones that draw you into the currently totally unused (or unseen) corners.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Back Yard 2 1 New 2

There is a man-made stream/pond that fools everyone. Sure, you can’t find the source of the flow, but once it’s landscaped I hope it will be more seamless. WE LOVE IT SO MUCH.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before 1882

Emily Henderson Lake House Before 1892

Both sides of the house have a decent amount of property that we want to utilize or pimp out with maybe a Bocce Ball court and say a Jacuzzi. Brian spends most waking hours looking for a hot tub that I’ll approve of, aesthetically, so if you know of any please let us know…

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Back Yard 1 1 New 2

The side of the house had a fenced off dog run that could be where the bocce ball court or the hot tub end up. I hate removing any foliage but the shrubs really make the backyard feel smaller, but I know that kids love zones and feeling private so we’ll have to rework that. Regarding what we are putting on the ground … I have no idea. It freezes in the winter and I don’t want too much upkeep but I also don’t want just decomposed granite. We are considering artificial turf, but we also know we’ll get a dog at some point so there are considerations there. Plus there is just something that feels so weird about putting fake grass in the country.

I know that was a lot of information and understanding how the house flows can be confusing. So we drew up a floor plan of both how it is now, and one with our initial plans.

Emily Henderson Lake House Floor Plan First Floor Entire Floor Wall Dimensions 01

The blue shaded areas indicate where the major changes are going to happen.

Emily Henderson Lake House Floor Plan First Floor Entire Floor Changes 01

I forgot to talk about this above, but the entry is tiny and the living room is huge with a lot of unused space near the front door so our architect has mentioned possibly creating a larger entry somehow. I was confused by the idea, but I’m hopeful. We are desperate for somewhere near the entrance to put beach bags/flip flops in the summer and snow boots/coats in the winter.

Emily Henderson Lake House Floor Plan Second Floor Entire Floor Wall Dimensions 022 Emily Henderson Lake House Floor Plan Second Floor Entire Floor Changes 022

Everything will change and then even the changes will change. Seeing it overhead sure does help us make some decisions and see how we can move things to maximize the space, function and light. You can see that creating a new master bathroom could be challenging but we have the space – but the exterior wall is definitely awkward.

We’ve been living in it on the weekends and LOVING it. We brought in some pieces that may or may not stay, but it’s making it livable and easy.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before 245

It’s a total rehaul – a gut job, both in style and finish. The space is big. The property is WONDERFUL, the neighborhood is silent yet safe, the light is great and the flow is easy. But everything else is going to change. I’m so excited.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before 1661

Emily Henderson Lake House Before 1762

So what’s the plan, lady? What’s this house going to look like and when will you start?

Well, typically I like to underplay things but I’m too excited: This house will look absolutely different than anything I’ve ever even done. More importantly HOW I’ll design this will be wildly different than any other project. It’s an experiment in process, and its never been done before.

YOU (the collective YOU) will be heavily involved. No, this will not be a series of ‘Ask the Audiences’. It’s much more than that, both in tech and design and I’m trembling with excitement to start.

More to come, obviously. Much more. We are solidifying sponsors now with the hopes of demo-ing in January, done by June so we can spend next summer up there. Obviously we’ll be documenting the entire thing.

Meanwhile you’ll know where to find me on the weekends – covered in mud (not from a spa) and playing with two small children and some sticks. Now head over to the landing page for this house to see all the updates and vote on the design.

***UPDATE: While we are dubbing this a ‘mountain’ house because indeed it is in the moutains, it is also a lake house as its walking distance to a lake. Its in the 80’s in the summer/fall which is likely when we’d be spending the most time. So we want to harness both the mountain/winter and the lake/summer feel. Just wanted to clarify as there seems to be a big push towards a cozy cabin with plaids and dark woods, of which I’m not opposed but fear that in the summer it might feel heavy.

My question to you is, as we are formulating all this content – what do you want to see? More videos? How-To’s? Gifs? Long form series or more weekly updates on facebook live? Do you want me to go super aspirational or more budget-y (or both)? Do you want more process? More behind the scenes? Is there a style you are dying to see or something you feel like was missing from the reveal of this last house? Like I said, we have a major plan in the works to involve the audience in a HUGE way but since this is kinda a blog-experimental house I’d love any initial input both on the how you want to see the design happen and how we put out the content. Eh??

*I also want to mention that if you know where this town is (or also have a place up there) please keep that private, mostly because it’s a small quiet non-tourist community, so we’d be sad to see that change just because some blogger came in and bought a house. We want to respect not only the town but the people that enjoy it and live there.

Fin Mark


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You really need a dog! The dog run is a sign. ????. Still turn that into something wonderful and let the pup run with the kids in the stream! Congrats! I can’t wait to see your work!


Have you ever seen Insane Pools? Maybe you could have Lucas design a hot tub for you. 🙂


For a hot tub, have you considered a redwood one?

I think they’re so much more gorgeous (and mountain/lake house-y) than the “modern” molded plastic Jacuzzis.

Though I may be biased because I grew up with one in the San Francisco Bay Area (complete with live backyard redwoods). It was even featured in Sunset Magazine in the late 80s (my parents’ claim to design fame!).

I can’t find the article online, but this is the sort of thing I’m thinking of:×225.jpg (just ignore the ugly stone work around it)

Lucie A

What a wonderful project and what a lovely space it will be for you and your family – good luck!
Behind the scenes footage along with documentary regarding what was successful and what surprises you have encountered along the way are always interesting to me and useful for understanding the design process. I would also love an explanation as to why you make the decorative design choices you do – is it to be functional / based on a design you have seen elsewhere / has it simply come together on its own? Thanks so much.


“I will say that demo-ing and renovating something that is just “dated” as opposed to a disgusting-falling-apart-fixer is somehow a bit depressing and does feel wasteful.”

Why don’t you guys donate some of the fixtures etc. to habitat restore or something similar? I’m sure someone would put some of the bits and bobs to good use!


Seconding this!


Thirding this! I would love to see a post done about it too. It would be great if we could research, employ, educate, and empower people on how to renovate with respect to the environment and others who may be in need of what is considered “dated” with sources like ReStore. And if y’all cut any trees down (Emily I know you would never do that willingly, but in the event you find it needs to happen at some point), please consider urban foresting. We have a company here in Birmingham that does it, but the owner moved here from… Read more »


Congratulations Emily on this wonderful house. I am so very excited to watch what you do with it. Following along with your decisions and the design process in your own homes has been my favourite thing about your blog. Cannot wait to see more! Have fun!

Michelle Taylor

How exciting!!! Can’t wait to see the blog posts! Happy for you!


I loved the FB Live you did at your last house where you went around and picked colors for all the rooms…. It was so fun to hear what you picked and why. And the sneak peaks on Instagram/behind the scenes stuff was awesome. I like seeing the process I guess.


i’d like to see personal significance in this house — a quilt from your grandma on one of the beds, mixing bowls your aunt always used, a trophy your brother won 25 year ago, etc. i know you love vintage; i’d love to see personal vintage. it will add a deeper, cozier feel to this house which it seems you are craving.


How exciting!! But please please don’t paint the ceiling unless it is in bad shape! It’s such perfect mountain house pine ceiling.


I agree! I hope the finished product will actually look like a mountain house with lots of wood, plaid, flannel, etc.


Third for not painting the ceiling. I think in your old house you used to always say you would have left the living room ceiling wood but it wasn’t wood, it was painted brown? A mountain house NEEDS wood. Also, I like the stone fireplace. It’s mountain-house appropriate.

All that being said, what I would like to see more of is “you doing you”. Don’t do budget or aspirational or anything because it’s what the blog readers ask for. Do what you want to do. Push us outside of our comfort zones. Just make it look good. We’ll keep reading.


Agree so much with the second paragraph. I want to see what she would do. That’s why we all follow interior designers, because we want to see what they would do, not what they think everybody else wants to see. Good point!


Agreed! My parents live in a similar aged mountain home here in Northern CA and the wood ceilings is part of what gives you that cozy mountain feel. I know painting them white is your thing but we’ve seen that already from you. It would be much more interesting to see them used as a feature and jumping off point for the design instead of something that needs to just disappear.


I agree as well and I’m the queen of painting things white. Seriously, with the right flooring and other updates, that warm ceiling would look incredible and add so much depth to the room.


Came here to comment the same thing. Don’t paint it all white!!! Leave the character and challenge your design aesthetic! Also please don’t paint the brick on the exterior, I think it’s lovely!


I agree! Please don’t paint the ceilings white! And please don’t demo that beautiful road fireplace! I would kill for those things in my house.


I”m team keep the ceiling wood too!


DON’T paint the ceiling… so predictable. I would love to see you invest in sanding and staining the wood; more so than cladding the walls (which I assume will be wood planks).
In our neighborhood all the homes (40 or so) have wood beamed ceilings; each home has a different stain on the wood. Ours is weathered/driftwood color, across the street the wood is closer to an olive stain, others are natural wood. It is very charming, gives each home character while creating visual interest. We have been in our home 6 years and I love finding quirks in the wood.

Ellen Dignazio

Amazing space! I always thought I would want a beach getaway but recently, a mountain retreat sounds perfect. I am an interior decorator and painter so I would like to see what some of the labor, as well as the materials cost. I also like when you offer less expensive and similar options (with design and materials)… I like shorter posts mixed with longer detailed ones… I think Jonathan Adler inspired design would look modern and unexpected in a mountain house… one more thing.. Can I suggest a different font when you blog? Something a little bigger and easier to… Read more »


Ooh, so exciting! Can’t wait to see what you guys do with the space! Really love the little stream outside.

Personally I’m more focused on budget-y spaces. Behind the scenes is always interesting to me!!



Very exciting! I completely resonate with your need to be near nature and have your children grow up with that as a part of their life. I, too, feel like wild places are in my soul. I”m looking forward to seeing the changes here. One thing to think about – in our own second homes over the years, we’ve noticed that storage needs are different than in a permanent home. Closets (though great for daily life and resale) are not as useful to guests. What weekend guests need is a place to put an open suitcase and to easily access… Read more »


AGREE! We have cottage in Wisconsin and I almost lose my mind with all the flip flops, goggles, towels, beach bags etc that get dropped by the door in the summer and the boots, mittens, coats that get dropped in Winter.

also if there is a lake nearby think about where you will put All The Wet Things that come home esp when there are guests. i did shaker peg racks everywhere i could…you can have a clothes line in back yard for towels and suits but when it rains you’ll be scrambling for space to hang things!


Totally agree! My parents cabin has a mudroom in the back but everyone enters in the front so loads and loads of coats/boots/shoes end up right inside the front door when all our family is visiting(this includes 25 grandkids- were talking mountains of shoes!! And don’t even get me started on the snow clothes) because noone comes in from the back! So if the front door is where everyone enters please consider lots of cubbies or closet space or something. I know my parents didn’t even think about it when they built it. Other than that, I think this space… Read more »


Oh and something else to consider…an outdoor shower for the summer time coming off the beach!


Totally agree! I scanned your plans looking for where you were going to put the mudroom because it is such a godsend for any mtn/lake home. I think it helps guests feel relaxed too when they have an obvious space to clean off and drop their things (and show their kids where too!). An outdoor shower and an obvious hose bib go a long way in keeping the sanity with a household of people coming and going. The kids will probably default to the outdoor shower in the warmer months anyway!! Ours do with our pool shower!


We debated adding on above our kids’ rooms and if we did it (we aren’t) we were going to have a hidden second access through a trap door in our sons closet, accessible via rock wall holds on his walls. It would have been amazing. Please consider for your attic since it’s above the kids room…!


We rented a big house in Santa Cruz a few years ago and the kids’ bunk room had an attic space above it that was accessed by a built-in ladder but there was also a legit fire pole for them to slide back to their room. The trap door was safely closed in the carpeted space so no one fell down the hole by accident. This seemed really fun and the rock wall access sounds awesome too!


Remember that your kids are growing and changing. It really won’t be that long before they’re climbing trees so don’t get too overly focused on making it a preschooler play space when it will be so much more awesome as a play space for them when they’re slightly older. Indoor rock walls, netting from the ceiling, firefighter pole … these are dreamy for the average 7yo. Also .. you NEED a mud room. In a couple of years they will be playing independently and will be going in and out a gazillion times with their friends and dropping muddy shoes… Read more »


What a fun project, I’m super envious! My husband and also looking for a fixer upper outside of a city, more farm than mountain though. I’m sure you’ve already considered this but could you take some of the closet space from the downstairs bedroom and add it to the bathroom? That way you could potentially have a separate water closet and add a door directly into the bedroom so guests had the feeling of a suite at night and don’t have to leave their room to go to the bathroom. I really look forward to seeing how you add architectural… Read more »


Why not get rid of the stairs between the master bedroom and the family room? That solves the light problem and then the family room could have a walk out to a covered porch, or … the bocce ball court or whatever.


I was thinking the same thing opening up the stairs on the first level is already in the plan (and budget) you’re doing the same structural work you’d do to just remove the awkward stairs altogether. It would solve the window problem, the layout problem downstairs, and it would enlarge the master!


Yes! Totally agree about getting rid of the stairs. 2 birds with one stone (bigger master/light, more functional downstairs space).

Alexandra Rose

Was thinking the same thing!


Agree! This adds space and addresses the window/light/privacy issues in the master, while also adding space to the family room where the door to the deck is located.


I was going to say the exact same thing!


Agreed on this. Get rid of those stairs – make both rooms bigger and solve your light issue.


Yes! That was my first thought too! Unless you need the 2nd set of stairs by code, why waste the space?
I LOVE the idea of this project and second what others have said about doing you and not worrying about high or low costs. You seem to balance all of that anyway, so why not show what you can do when you’re creative and have a bit of a budget.
Congrats and good luck!


YES get rid of the second set of stairs.

Pamela Munger

That’s quite a house and am looking forward to seeing the process. (dying to know which town you’re in).

Nature always draws us, eventually. Glad to see you’re getting back to her 🙂


LOVE this house. The potential is bursting out of the drywall! And I was just thinking a few weeks back how much I miss your personal design posts – now we’re in for a ton of them, YES! As for your questions on how to document this project: I check this blog daily, so this is how I get my fill o’ EH. I have always enjoyed the posts about your home reno updates and process and costs and everything – the good/the bad, the cheap/the crazy expensive, the should I choose this/should I choose that. Even posts where you… Read more »

Alana Carson

Karen, I totally shared the same thought about the wood exposed ceilings! I thought they could add a nice warmth above. I can see the challenge in matching the old with the new where Emily is looking to continue the existing wood beams. But I think this is definitely worth some consideration!

Alana Carson

EMILY! I am SO EXCITED for you and your family to make this house the perfect getaway! (Selfishly I am a bit jealous – but equally happy to follow along the journey!) I really appreciate this thorough intro post. I had a few initial thoughts – take them for what you will. 🙂 1) Is there any way to salvage any pieces from the house that are not your style, but still functional? I know some organizations (like Habitat for Humanity) may take donations of appliances, cabinetry, light fixtures, etc. that can be re-purposed for those in need. 2) The… Read more »


I love this and am excited for y’all. The only thing I’m sad to see change is the rock fireplaces (the 2 downstairs). I know its not the pretiest, but it is a 1960s mountain house and think you should try and keep a bit of that. I bet you could make it wonderful. Good luck!


Couldn’t agree more. I’m confident you can find a way to make one or both of them work.


I also agree on keeping the one super pretty rock fireplace! I think it’s fireplace 1? The first one in the photos. I gasped when you said you were demo it. I think it is fantastic!!!


So the previous “master bedroom” doesn’t have a window? I think for code purposes you might need to add one, it will not be considered a bedroom unless it has two methods of egress. It’s for safety purposes (fire) and I don’t think it counts if the adjoining bathroom has one. The window also has to be a minimum size per code. Welcome to the annoying parts of home renovation! 🙂


What an exciting project!! I’d love to see regular updates on progress, behind-the-scenes, and the thoughts behind your decisions, as well as long-form posts about the project whenever you are able. I can’t wait to see how you pull together the backyard. Your backyard reveal posts from your LA house are probably my favorite you’ve ever done. Facebook live videos and gifs aren’t really necessary for me, I prefer posts with photos. Thanks for sharing all of this with us!


This is so exciting!

You know what I’d really love to see- where you’d take all the things like kitchen cabinets that are good enough, but not stunning that you remove from here, and install them for a charity project or something. In a way it shows how you can reuse stuff, how to make do with weird second hand things and make them look really nice but also be attainable. And also gives a bit back.


This is such an exciting project, I can’t wait to see what direction you go in designing it! I always love your long form posts, it really helps to understand your thinking and reasoning behind your design decisions. Instagram updates are always fun too. I found it really helpful hearing about the process in your current house. For example choosing a dining table and chairs or figuring out what to do with the tv/play room den. I find myself making those same mistakes in my own home, trying to execute things too fast or buying something on impulse or on… Read more »


I love the before & afters here in your blog, like others have said, the “process” is fun to follow & we all have images to pin. Please post mood boards – yours are simply THE BEST! Also, I know how amazing all the wood ceilings would look painted white, BUT as another commenter suggested, natural wood seems so “right” in a mountain home. This home is really cool & I guess I’m hoping that you go a little more rustic/industrial with the design. Congratulations, Emily! I applaud you on setting an intention to decompress & get back to nature… Read more »


I agree with Caro: consider losing the back stairs from the play room to the new master and you get more windows and more space in both rooms. Unless there is some code issue that requires you to have a second staircase, it seems odd to have two staircases, especially one that leads to the master bedroom (no offense to John and Sherry’s beach house reno). Regarding the grass/no grass dilemma: I’m not sure exactly where this is located, but reach out to local landscapers about native plantings and ground cover. The benefits of these are that they are usually… Read more »


What if, you featured your craftsman and got them in on the discussion/ presentation? I’m thinking your millwork guy could do a video with you on how the kitchen cabinetry is constructed, the pros and cons of a design/detail versus another option? Go to the Fireclay Tile manufacturing plant and see how the tiles are hand made? Educate us beyond the pretty things? The pros and cons of cement tile but presented with a tile expert. Educate us beyond the pretty things. Not that I don’t love the pretty things, I just think there is an opportunity to help your… Read more »


Love this idea!




I love this idea too! It would be so great to know more about unseen decisions of a renovation.


Yes!! Love this idea!!


Yes, absolutely. I love all of the behind-the-scenes stuff too! Watching people work and hearing the full process is so cathartic – and of course inspirational and informative.


YASSSSS QUEEN! I miss the deep dive intel we used to get from home reno entertainment (hate that phrase). I know “This Old House” still does it, and HGTV used to, but it’s so helpful as a reader to understand why a designer chose one particular product over another, or what makes this particular product or carpenter more special than another. And how to weed through the good and the bad on our own when it’s time for us to make our decisions. So, like the barstool round up posts, but with services and trades as well.


I am so excited to watch this unfold! I would love to see weekly (i.e. frequent) updates. Also, I love when you focus in room by room.


Congratulations on the purchase of your new sanctuary! We also bought a LA area mountain home 4 1/2 years ago in Lake Arrowhead and we LOVE it. Our commute is a bit further, though, as we are Houston residents (go Astros…sorry…had to slip that in). I feel SO blessed to have the best of both worlds…suburban city life with career, friends and great shopping/entertainment AND my little slice of mountain heaven (you will LOVE cooler temps, open windows, and hikes thru the forest with your littles). Your new home already is pretty fabulous….I’m envisioning your updates. Now if I could… Read more »


My family also has a second home that we are very grateful for. It is an amazing place to gather with big groups of friends or extended families. It is way larger than any of our single homes. Honestly, one of the things that makes it most comfortable is that every room has it’s own bathroom. I know it is ridiculous but it is true. If you’re spending 5 days up there with friends, your guests are going to need and want some…um…privacy. They aren’t going to want to use the communal bathroom right off the kitchen to sit down,… Read more »


Yes! Please think about when you are a guest in someone’s home; do you prefer your own bathroom or sharing one? No brainer, pair each room up with a bathroom.


totally agree and I love the idea of a downstairs master and the powder room.


I could not agree with this thread more! We have a downstairs guest suite and just one full bathroom on the first floor of our home. When we have guests, the bathroom situation is awkward for us as much as them because it feels like we’re intruding into their space when we need to use the bathroom. More often than not, I end up walking all the way upstairs just to use the restroom. Awkwardness magnified when you’re hosting a party or additional daytime guests. It’s the number one thing we wish we could change about our house.


I kind of disagree. As nice as it is to have our own bathroom, I wouldn’t mind sharing a bathroom to be able to have a nice vacation. We have a family cabin and it is smaller than my home (and I have the smallest house in our large family) and nobody minds “roughing it” with a tiny kitchen or sharing bathrooms because we all enjoy the nice escape of the cottage and the lake out back


Totally agree about keeping two bathrooms downstairs, especially if you want to have multiple families staying with you. Even if you don’t renovate the attached bath, I’m positive your guests would prefer that you keep it versus turning it into a closet. If I was staying in that room I would be bummed that my bathroom was so public- like if I take a shower do I have to walk around in a robe while people I don’t know very well are having breakfast?


In the downstairs, it might be nice if you kept the dedicated bedroom bath (master), but stole from the hall bath for a closet and converted that to a half bath downstairs. Seems like the 2 masters would serve you well and having one downstairs is always a bonus for grandparents or whatnot. And having a half bath on the main floor is certainly nice for everyone. Great potential in this house!


Emily, This house is fantastic. I’m so excited to see what you do with it! I do have two comments/suggestions if you are open to them: 1. For the bunkroom, I think it would be wise to add some type of window for egress should there be an emergency. (This is probably why your architect is trying to add one. I think for bedrooms it’s required by building code.) God forbid there be a fire or something, it would be good to have a way for the kids/guests to escape the room. (This is also a tip that will likely… Read more »


More process, more budget-y, more long form posts! LOVE this, so excited.


EXCITING TIMES!!!!!!! How pleased am I!!! Re feedback: I love the long form series, don’t watch videos really, and don’t care whether it’s budget or aspirational. I just like to follow along with the process and hear about the behind the scenes. As a lover of the woods and nature, I’m stoked you’re taking on a project like this. It’s like a breath of fresh air. Know that your Mormon, child-of-six, Oregon roots endear you to many of your readers who can relate to growing up and into a very different life than the one imagined for them. It’s part… Read more »


Whoa congratulations and I’m
Happy for you and your family Emily.

I’m sad for me.

I think your blog is no longer for me. I noticed myself reading less and less and this sealed the deal.

I miss “make it work. Emily” when i was inspired by the ingenuity and results. It doesn’t feel remarkable when money is thrown at a project and it looks good after.

I’m not trying to be mean or overly critical. Just wish this blog still had some Brass Petal weaved in it.


This doesn’t feel mean or critical, just a little entitled. Emily is a businesswoman who’s made a seriously incredible career for herself and she’s been working for YEARS. I would hope that at this stage in her life, she can use her resources the best way she sees fit without having to worry about readers feeling sorry or sad for themselves.


My reality is “make it work” but I love seeing things done on a bigger budget. We can pull things back in our own projects but need the inspiration of internet land!

And just throwing money at a house will not necessarily make it great.


How exciting! I’m sure your children will have wonderful memories there!

Like you said in the post, I can imagaine a lot of us have houses like this that could use some character. I love when you post content where I can learn something and actually apply it in my own home. How -tos and explaining process, scale, or design styles are always so fun and enlightening. Thanks for sharing your great work!


Oh and I almost forgot, I’m adding one vote for a bocce court! Best sport – one hand for throwing and the other for a wine glass! ????


also, bocce is one of the few family sports we can play with all our boys including our toddler. He feels so grown up. its a timeless game for all ages.


I love anything behind-the-scenes – in your current house, all the back-and-forth between you, your design team, and Brian was fascinating!


So excited for you! Looking forward to this new adventure. I like the mix of aspirational and budget, I also like the Facebook live videos and the updates on the blog. I think it’s fun to see the decision making whether that be between colors or handles or wood stains or window trim. My only comment on what you presented today is, I wonder if you should get rid of the stairway to the master bedroom. You will have three entrances to that space (hallway, stairs, and deck), and I wonder if that creates too much energy in a space.… Read more »


I’m so excited to see this house take shape. I think you have to do it your way. That’s what got you here. Although I did just read a really great tip about storage in weekend homes from a reader in this comment section. So I think mine your audience for their experience, but make sure we don’t influence your design in a way that makes not Emily. I love the long blog posts and rarely see things like FB live or instastastories, so I hope most will be on the blog. Congratulations and good luck!


I have so many comments. First, congrats on such a lovely retreat home! I think it’s a fabulous idea to buy such a place (for those who can afford to), especially for anyone who grew up with access to similar spaces outdoors. Note: I am currently living in a primary home which is remarkably similar to the one I grew up in – it feels very odd (good, but odd). Anyway, here are my comments – 1. Whatever textiles you choose, maybe make them durable and water-resistant and mildew-resistant and stain-resistant (bonus points if you find options that readers can… Read more »

Emily K

Super aspirational gets my vote. That’s why I go to blogs. I want to be inspired! Though my bf and I are very handy so we can take an expensive design and do it ourselves for cheap.

I’ve told my bf that we are going to start looking for a cabin no further than 3 hrs away once we are done with our house. Hopefully that will motivate us to get done!

Oh and please no farmhouse design! What I’d LOVE to see is mid century cabin/resort/camp style aka Dirty Dancing in the Catskills! How much fun would that be!


Yes, Dirty Dancing! Perfect!


Just want to second the “super aspirational” comment. I would LOVE to see more of that from you, Emily!!


Yes! Dirty Dancing vibes!!!


You…could have…. the time of your liiiiiifeee….. !

Kayla AKA Kilo Bravo

We are currently talking crazy talk in our house about buying a place in upstate NY to turn into a B&B near where I grew up (currently living in suburban NJ). I have this whole vintage camp colors (in living areas) meets scandi neutral (bedroom areas) idea in my head – just trying to figure out how to make it seamless and not jarring. I’m so excited to see what you do with this place – I already assume it’s going to heavily influence any decision I make. I already pinned the Ikea rattan chest for the bedrooms from yesterday’s… Read more »


A sun tunnel or skylight in kids bunk room would bring in daylight but don’t you need egress? It’s code requirement where we live — any bedroom needs an accessible window out.

Very excited to see what you do with this space!


When reading this post I couldn’t stop thinking about a quote I heard recently by Albert Einstein, “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” It feels very fitting in this situation. As a long time reader, I suddenly feel overwhelmed by how much you have to do and how much you will spend on this project. And it feels… unnecessary. Don’t escape to the mountains under the guise of making more content, its a self feeding beast that will need to be fed, until you’re seeking out the next high… Read more »


….This is her profession, and content is how she supports her family. That sentiment would be appropriate for a lot of people and circumstances, but not so much here.


Supporting a family and supporting a 3400 sqft home are two very different things.


Oh but I agree with Sara though. Emily’s profession was interior design but that’s sadly gone by the wayside now and I’m uncomfortable with the creation of stuff just to blog about it, not because its a thoughtful, workable design that meets someone’s needs and improves their lives. An interior designer blogging about her work? Yes. A blogger blogging about stuff she made for the blog? Meh. I didn’t like the glasshouse/barge/dorm/whatever content for that reason. Those projects were done just for the sake of some nice photos, not for real people’s real lives, and that feels a bit meaningless.… Read more »


so excited to see your new house take shape! to answer your questions: what i would LOVE to see is a true mountain/cabin style incorporated into the house (with a designer’s/stylist’s touch, of course!). no mid-century, no trendy, no english county, no super-stylish and chic…a true make-me-want-to-go-to-a-cabin-in-the-mountains-right-now style (wood/wool/flannel/plaid/forest green–in a good way, not a 90s way–basically, rustic). i would not vote yes on “more videos” just because i always read at work and i can’t watch a video at work. the likelihood of me going home later and pulling up the page again to watch the video is slim… Read more »


I agree with comments about videos. I can’t always watch when I first pull up the post and I’m not likely to come back to watch a video. I do love your InstaStories thought. I don’t always catch all of the InstaStories, so some overlap between that and the blog is good. And the longer the form the better!


Really excited for you and to watch this project happen!! I loved in your latest reno that you kept us updated on what was happening through out the process and making decisions. I also enjoyed that you did a bit of a mix of ‘aspirational’ and just what really works for you and your family (and budget) but on this project I think I’d like to see even more of the what works for you and less of the over the top. Especially since this is supposed to be a comfortable, laid back retreat for you guys. Also have to… Read more »


I love it all – the good, the bad, the ugly lol! I like the behind the scenes, the process, videos, all of it. Another thing I like is when you explain why you chose what you did (as mentioned in other comments also).

I will say that I’m sure the FB live updates are good, but for those of us not on social media it’s harder to see the updates if that’s the only way/main way updates are done.


I’d love a post about what you do with the functional things you replace. Can the rock from the fireplace be salvaged? It feels important that if the purpose of a home is to get back to nature that the rehab process be kind to nature.




I have often thought that I would rather redesign an existing structure over building from the ground up. There’s just something that draws me in and gets all my attention when I focus on design/layout within boundaries. Building new or adding on somehow seems like the easy way, but rethinking a space brings out a creativity and talent that I believe not many people are capable of. I am not a designer and I have no formal training in architecture, but either way, I would rather see you reconfigure an existing home into what you love (and read about that… Read more »


Aspirational please!!! I need inspo in my life. Of course if you can ever give us budget alternatives that’s very helpful, but I’m looking forward to seeing a totally new style from you and getting my own creative juices flowing/inspired by the process! Especially hoping you’ll have lots of color here–so tired of the all-white trend dominating pinterest these last few years (not that you’ve ever done that, but it would be tempting for me at least to make my weekend oasis very zen/white.


Emily! I am so excited for your family…and FOR ME! I would love instastories, weekly updates of all the stages (maybe divided by spaces like kitchen, master, bathrooms, exterior, landscape etc, but honestly however it makes sense to you). Design wise I would love to see a mix but definitely high end design (obviously you will mix in Target). I am not on Facebook, so please post videos here as well because I dont want to miss a thing. The house is amazing and I love that it is going from builder grade to more of a custom look. We… Read more »

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