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Projects In My Own Home



Brian and I recently talked about selling our house. It’s upsetting, I know. We always knew this house wasn’t our forever home – there isn’t a yard (just a dope deck) and we are backyard people (I prefer the yard to be backed up to 100 acres of Pacific Northwest forest, actually). Every time we talk about selling it I say, “well, we can’t sell it ’til I finish the . . .” and then I list off all the things that need to be done. But we, even more recently, reversed this decision, and realized that we LOVE this house, and we aren’t quite ready to think about leaving it.

Then I realized how stupid it was that we weren’t doing those things anyway. If we are eventually going to move, then why not fix all those problems NOW, so we can actually enjoy them for the few years we stay here? Why not be super proud of every room, and not have those “apology” areas. At first the reason was money, obviously. We did a lot to the house at the beginning, so we put off the exterior, and all the below projects until we were ready financially to get back into the improvements. But, it’s time to jump back into these projects, and turn this house into a real portfolio piece. No more apology rooms. No more “please don’t open your eyes while you are in the guest bathroom” requests. It’s getting done this year. Here are the major projects:

The Laundry Room:


Just some minor tweaking, eh? This is in the middle of the house, and it’s absolutely shameful. But I just pulled the trigger on a washer and dryer from LG (I’m even getting the sidekick, which is a mini-washer underneath the major washer, for very small loads). My contractor has already measured to replace the custom doors (so annoying), and fix the wall behind it. I may even wallpaper in there. I’m thinking this paper because it is classic and happy, and has a “washing your clothes is fun” vibe. Power of positive thinking right?!



I’ve never been 100% happy with the fireplace. If it went all the way to the ceiling then I’d probably keep it as is, because I do like that it’s warm, authentic and original. But it stops at such a weird point. More importantly, this fireplace could be a serious FEATURE. It could be something that makes this room sing. I don’t know if that means we give it a facade in wood, stone, tile, slab or maybe some sort of combination. I’ve been stumped since day1, but I’m ready to tackle it. What would you do?

Guest Bathroom:


To be fair, it’s all white now, but it’s still hideous. We’ve already purchased 80% of the finishes for this room, I’ve just been putting it off because renovating with a baby (and toddler) is just extremely disruptive to nap-time, which directly effects our sanity. But, our family is headed out of town for two weeks, in a couple months, so it’s all going to be done then (and yes, I’m lucky enough to have a couple of people who are going to manage the project while I am away). I have dreams of coming back from Australia to a brand new bathroom, and while maybe it won’t be finished completely, hopefully the noisy part will be.

Playroom Area:


This is a super easy fix, but one that will bring us much pleasure. Our playroom area is a disaster everyday because Charlie’s interest/toys/books have exploded and we just don’t have enough storage. But finding the right piece here was a huge challenge. We don’t really have room for cabinet doors to open, but something open like a bookshelf or even bins could look so messy – especially since this is shared space with the family room. The baskets worked for a while, but we need something more major. I finally found this piece from West Elm and it’s the right size, style and function for the space. And then I ordered this bookshelf from Container Store which I previously didn’t love, but functionally it’s what needs to happen in that room. We’ll have to rearrange a bit, but its going to be a much better room to stare at every day.

The Exterior (otherwise known as “the area of the home that Brian and I have debated for two years”):


That’s what it looked like when we bought the house. It’s cheap vinyl siding, and the closer you get to it, the worse it looks. Due to trying to keep some semblance of privacy around here on the blog, we didn’t want to show the front of the house, but trust me that it looks cheap. The architecture of the house is cool and could be amazing, but it was band-aided over with this cheap stuff 20 years ago, and just hasn’t held up. Over the last two years I’ve had contractors come to give estimates, but somehow no one has followed up. No one wants the job! The reason is that a.) the economy is back in LA and contractors are hard to nail down (yes, that pun was intended), and b.) it’s an extremely vertical house, so refacing it is a BEAST. It’s three stories on the front, and one on the back – all on a sloping hill in two directions. The contractor (an amazing man whose name I’m happy to give out) that finally agreed to do it had THREE different scaffolding companies come over to bid on the job, and two of them said “no, thanks.” Is this the most boring story you’ve ever read in your life?????

ANYWAY. It started YESTERDAY! The scaffolding is up, we can barely get into our house, but it’s ok. I can’t tell you how excited I am. It’s expensive, laborious, stressful and time consuming, but in 2 months I will park my car in front of my house with PRIDE. I am just so excited.

Oh, since that photo above, we did do the updates on the deck – we painted the woodwork and the brick, and it’s a pleasant place to be. But just wait ’til it’s done . . .


Master Bedroom:


As some of you so aptly put it when I posted my master bedroom UPDATE (Yes, it was just an update and not a “final”), “this isn’t your best work.” I agreed, and we were right. After another year of living unsatisfied I’ve decided to tackle it (do most people say the work “tackle” so much? Are these my Mormon roots with parents from Wyoming coming through???).

So what is changing?

1. I’m taking down the wallpaper (which is now literally GLUED to the wall, and is going to, I’m sure, rip up chunks of wall, which is going to take days to repair/paint/sand/fill/sand/prime/paint).

2. New bed. I know! I love that headboard, but I don’t like that it doesn’t match the base. I’ve designed a custom bed that is being made, which (CROSS YOUR MOTHER LOVING FINGERS) is exactly what this room needs. Don’t worry, I’ll blog about it as soon as we have some sort of update photo on it’s birth.

3. New lamps/art. Those lamps (which you can actually buy here) are too tall for the room, and I haven’t had them there for months. I may get sconces, who knows. The new headboard is lower and I have a couple pieces of art already to hang above there (by my lovely friend, Jane Denton).

Those window treatments and rug are staying. Sometimes I want a new rug, now that quilted hide rugs are everywhere. But ultimately this room gets a TON of traffic to the deck outside, so unless I chose a dark rug we need this rug in our life (and I ain’t getting a dark rug in here).


Downstairs Guest Suite Progress:


You may remember that this room used to be where we worked, when it was just me and Ginny. We then added Brady to the mix and quickly outgrew the space so we moved into a studio and the room was used as storage for months, and now it’s being turned into a full guest suite and home office for Brian’s business. These are just random photos that I took a couple months ago, and it has changed a lot since then. We decided to drywall the ceiling to help it feel less like a garage, and more like a room. This was a controversial decision and an argument that I “lost”, but ultimately, once it was done, I realized that Brian was right. I’ll talk more about that when we reveal it. We also have painted it and I have a new rug, new lamps, new cushions, and really pretty drapery from Loom. I was going to replace the bed with one that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, but lately I’ve been thinking that maybe this is good enough. Not sure. We are custom designing/making a big marble (green and black!!) desk, and we added some sconces over the desk area. Oh, and we already added a tiny cute bathroom. It’s all happening. We are shooting the update this Friday (it’s not done, but I want to give more of a sneak peek since we are all dying for some original design content).

So, those are the major things being done. It’s beastly but it is time, and I have help to execute properly due to the fact that I now have 4 talented designers that work for me. I’m EXCITED, FOLKS. I’m going to make this house exactly what it should be and then if/when we do want to sell it we are going to have the biggest open house ever. Wish us luck. xx

***First photo, and photo of the playroom from my Good Housekeeping Home Tour, shot by Mike Garten | Photo of the living room and the deck by Tessa Neustadt | Photos of my bedroom by Jessica Isaac

Fin Mark


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Super exciting! I can’t wait to see how everything turns out. And I can totally relate. There are too many projects left to do in our house and I JUST NEED TO DO THEM! We should spend more time living in and enjoying our homes then thinking about all the things we want to change, no?


Just a warning- not sure if the Sapien bookcase is the same as the one I had, but the shelves are not attached to the “spine”. I got rid of it since a resourceful toddler could pull them out and they are HEAVY, like potentially break a little toe heavy.

Although your home in my opinion is beautiful I understand what you mean with thinking about to sell your home. I think sometimes it is time for a change … and changes are the icing on the cake in life 🙂
xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena


I loved this post so very much!! So many fun things happening in your neck of the woods!! Can’t wait for the reveals in the future!


Totally with you on making the laundry closet more “happy.” We painted our sad, dark laundry room a sunny yellow a few years ago, and now it’s one of the happiest rooms in the house. Lots of luck on all of the projects!

OMG! I applaud you for being so real with the stuff you don’t like about your house!! I am not the only one!! A home is constant work and it is not easy with kids and work…You will get it done and I can’t wait to see your brand new home!!! new “home”= new memories.
Good luck!!!! xox


I love the posts about your home updates, they’re my favorites! My husband and I are about to close on our second home (we sold our first a month ago) and this new home is a fixer upper from the 70’s. We decided to renovate the inside first and renovate the outside next year. It needs new siding and windows (BLEH). Renovations are time consuming and annoying, but there’s no better feeling than living in a home that you designed yourself 🙂 Good luck on all your projects! I know they will all be beautiful!

Can’t wait to see all the changes as you “tackle” them! I think a wood façade going up to the ceiling and maybe even onto the ceiling a little bit above the fireplace would be cool with the vibe you already have going on in the room. I’m sure whatever you guys do is going to look awesome!


oh emily you could make any space gorgeous. what a fun read! please please share with me the paint color you used for the brick in the back play area. im thinking of painting the exterior brick of my house and im stumped on all the colors! i mean why are there 79 shades of white?!! shoot me. i remember you said you would do a post on paint but i think brick is a different beast? esp if its the front of your house? any suggestions would help. thanks emily!!!


This is a perfect post. I loved hearing about the quirks of your house and your thought process on fixing them. We gutted our basement in our old house and updated it just to sell it. It was lame to never enjoy it after all of that hard work (my husband did most of it, ripping down lath & plaster, redoing the electrical, plumbing, mudding and sanding the drywall ect.) So I totally agree with updating it for yourselves, and not just to sell it.

I’ve recently become fascinated with 3D tile on fireplaces, it makes them really bold and can accent verticality which would be awesome in your space.


I would not touch the fireplace! I seriously love it, even if it comes up short. I think its been such a bold reassuring move that you’ve kept it. When we are house hunting soon, if I see a house with that 70s stone fireplace I will be excited because I know a super awesome designer rocked it! Its original and it works with that great bench. Doing something new might feel a little static and contemporary. You’ve got so much going on, leave it for the next owner to love or hate.


I agree! Especially with all the other renovations I’d just leave it alone for now (and if you haven’t see if there’s any way to find matching material to extend it to the ceiling). On the other hand it’s not my house and I completely get being bothered by something that seems fine to everyone else.

Cris S.

It’s funny – the moment I saw the pictures of the guest room/office I thought “that would look better with a finished ceiling.” Sometimes we look at something a thousand times and don’t really see it, but looking at it in a photograph makes needed changes suddenly obvious.

I can’t wait to see all these changes. We have just as many issues in our home that are on the ‘list.’


Hi Emily,
I adore you! and your beautiful house/kids/family/life lol. You are so blessed and happy all the time, what i would give to be a fly on wall in your house. (that isnt creepy at all, right?) Sorry!! Just wanted to comment and ask where you purchased the rug in your master bedroom?
(not creepy, i promise)
-Lauren from Ohio


Hi Lauren. I think used to carry a patchwork cowhide but I don’t see it there now. ABC carries one.


Just saw the rug on Serena and lily website. The very pretty scalloped hide is there’s, too.


Thanks for the link but that rug is $5,000.00! Can we get a blog post “the look for less” on Emily’s beautiful rugs? There’s no way I could justify or afford that on a rug so I’ll dream about it in the meantime!


Soooo excited!
Please add more to the flea. 🙂
I don’t have a use for your beautiful teak lamps, but I love seeing the pieces used. Like after I received your book I went back to buy more pieces from the flea because I saw them in the book (but alas they were sold already)


Love seeing the elliptical in the guest suite pictures, and I’m really curious to know what you will do with it when you make over that room. We have the same issue in our basement–it’s a nice guest space and a comfy hang-out room, but there’s also a treadmill in there–how can that coexist in a stylish way? Can it?


Moveable decorative screen to block off that area when it’s not being used?


emily – i love updates on your house and can’t wait to see the follow-up posts. hopefully you can post the before/after of the exterior as i desperately need help in that area!

Sounds like a plan. Can’t wait to see the results!!!


Looking forward to the updates! These are my favorite posts. My suggestion for the fireplace is to keep the stone (compliments your warm colors and natural elements already in the living room) but add to the height. I think it would be difficult to replicate the stone (but maybe not?) so instead do something in a beautiful wood and either taper it all the way to the ceiling or go flush with the stone. Either way I’m really looking forward to the final result! Your living room is one of my favorite rooms on the internet these days!


Yes, please keep the stone. It’s beautiful and earthy and cool! 🙂


This is what I was going to suggest as a possibility, too! I kinda like the original, lodge-y, vintage, rustic feel of the stone, especially with how you style the rest of the room, and wonder if you could get an artisan to take the same look all the way to the ceiling. 🙂
P.S. I hate that people said “not your best work” about your bedroom. Sheesh!


The stone is so great in your space. The natural shapes of the stones are a nice complement/contrast to the wall of glass, the clean-lined bench, and other straight lines and planes. Love Sara’s idea to frame upwards with an interesting wood.


LOVE this post so much!!!!!!!

I love this post. Looking at people’s perfect styled homes on the internet makes me feel so happy and then so inferior all in the same breath. It’s nice to see that even someone who has all the talent and means to (theoretically) have the perfect home still has unfinished and unsightly areas. It makes me feel empowered to keep making my own home beautiful, even if I can’t do it all at once!

Yes, this!


Thanks for sharing! It’s great to see that even the best of us (interior design professionals) have a to-do list and things they want to change in their homes.

This post reminded me of our last house before we relocated for a job. There were several rooms that never got done because I couldn’t afford to do what I wanted or couldn’t commit to a final design so we lived with subpar spaces until forced to do something when we sold the house. The lesson I learned was that no interior decorating is ever permanent anyway so why not go ahead with simple/inexpensive fixes that refresh a room and infuse it with a bit of personality until you can figure out what your dream design will be? Even a… Read more »


I love that you shared pictures of the ‘ugly’ parts of your house. My husband and I bought a fixer upper two years ago and have fixed a lot of things but there is still plenty of ugly – notice no air quotes were necessary this time. Sometimes it feels as if everyone’s house but mine is finished and polished so it is very refreshing to see that such a talented designer has areas of their house that also need work. Thank you!


Hi Emily! I love your posts and look forward to them everyday! Can you please tell me where you got the play kitchen-it is too cute!


It’s Kidcraft Kitchen. I spent a lot of time looking at play kitchens before we bought ours so I recognized it instantly.


Oh I CAN’T WAIT to see how you deal with the fireplace. I like it as well but the potential for a jaw dropping statement is huge in that room. It could change the whole feel. I’m in the process of redoing my own fireplace, and also have a chance to make a statement. I’ve done two bathrooms where I had no problem choosing materials and yet for the fireplace I’m completely stumped. Can’t choose between stone/tile and should it be a ceramic/cement field tile or a more basic tile? I’m loving Tabarka studio tile right now. ANYWAY the point… Read more »


I know this is uncool of me but I hate that stone and am thrilled you’re changing it! My sister’s 70s house had miles of it. It’s phony, dusty, cob-webby and it’s always got smoke stains above the fireplace. Blech.

You have the cutest outdoor space!



I love that you are showing the not-so-glamorous parts of your house! Of course most of us reading the blog have seen the beautiful parts and love them but I am extremely happy that you are a real person too. Most of us have those parts of our home we are not so proud of so this is very encouraging as someone who has projects that need to be done as well! I really don’t believe that anyone’s home is ever perfect and there are always ways to improve.

Well done! Cannot wait to see the updates!


Maybe terrazzo for the fireplace? That’s midcentury-looking but doesn’t seem as dated as some of the midcentury brick fireplaces. Perhaps you could even design some custom terrazo like you did with the stained glass a while back.


Oh! I know the perfect fireplace. Go To Nick Olsen’s website and check out his portfolio, I think the fifth home has the perfect mid-century fireplace, a big chunk of beautiful marble framed out and it also includes a bench. That would look dreamy in your pad.


Another note about the Sapien. I have so many (too many) books and a small home and love the number of books I can get in a very small space with a Sapien. BUT: toddlers and preschoolers look at the Sapien and see a ladder for climbing. We had to put ours away for a couple of years. We didn’t have any issues with shelves coming out, more with the whole thing toppling over. It’s heavy!


I am obsessed with the idea of you potentially doing a Barcelona Pavilion style warm colored marble on the fireplace (the interior wall of the pavilion where the pattern is mirrored). I think this would look so timeless and elegant, it wouldn’t be trendy like encaustic or 3D tile seems to be right now. You don’t talk about architecture much but I think your house would fit with a little Mies Van Der Rohe touch!

Emily K

With as many of those stone fireplaces that get ripped out of modern mid-century LA houses wouldn’t an experienced stonemason be able to find a match? Become best friends with one by bribing him or her with pie and a pile of cash. Get the word out that you are looking for more of that stone. Now obviously I don’t know what the chimney is doing on the outside of the house but is there an area outside where you can steal some stone, make it look intentional, and then patch in the stone build-out inside up to the ceiling?… Read more »


Hey Emily!
I loved reading about your home projects for the year. You have big plans, for sure! As far as the fireplace…I think it does feel heavy (ha, they are rocks afterall) cold, and large-and-in-charge. The tree you have in the room does offer some balance to the space, but I think if you created a smooth surface with clean lines using stone, the fireplace would come to life a bit more.
Can’t wait to see what you end up doing!


That fireplace is beyond ugly. My sister had the same stone and eventually got so sick of it, she just started chipping it off … got it all down and then called her contractor to come fix the hole.
Make it go away. Please.


Those are gorgeous!


I was going to go back and suggest heath tile. I think it’d be the only acceptable replacement (whether it’s their dimensional tile or just plain field tile). It at least fits with a MCM house unlike marble or some super slick tile. If either of those choices were picked it would ruin the feel of the space.

I’m loving everything you have planned and cannot wait to see what you do with the fireplace. I’m a little worried (that’s a strong word, as that would be weird to waste my worry time on YOUR house)…but…the wallpaper in the laundry. Not sure that will hold up in such a small space with moisture and heat…we wouldn’t want another master bedroom wallpaper debacle on your hands!


WHY don’t I have a space for those gorgeous teak lamps?! They’re amazing.


The fireplace is always photographed in ways that you cannot tell where it stops abruptly but I can imagine living with it daily would set you into an eye-twitch tailspin. That being said – I vote for something dark/warm for the fireplace treatment, all the way to the ceiling! I think, despite the awkward stoppage point, that the darkness of the fireplace really cozies up the room and otherwise provides a contrast to all the white and bright. The thickness of the current treatment also works well with the long, tall wall. Is it also just me or is it… Read more »

As someone contemplating a move from a rental, I love this post. We bought a house back in Scottsdale, move in ready and fixed up the rest, like put in double pane windows, and then moved out in a year. We rent out that house now and are renting a different house on the East coast. As a mom with two kids, I want to create a forever home, and knowing that our rental is not that, I sometimes feel like it’s just not worth loving as much because of it. I have to remember it’s in my kids’ memories… Read more »

The fireplace: probably no way to match what you have and extend it all the way up to the ceiling? if there were a way to add the same stuff and it not look like you did, that’s what I would do.

stephanie luo

can I get the contractor name, em??? where can I email you? my email is [email protected]


Since you asked. I wouldn’t do anything to the fireplace. It’s not as bad as you think it is, at least in pictures. It adds some charm because it’s original to the house. The fireplace is large, the room is large. I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s just what it is. If I built a new one, then I would built it in large stone tile, and in a more grayish or white marble color. But if you want to move someday it won’t be a good investement, at least in my eyes. When it comes to the 2nd bath,… Read more »


By the way, if you end up doing anything to the fireplace, change the insert as well. If you’re using the fireplace, the closed system will give you more efficiency, and more safety.


It might be cheaper but it would reduce the value of the house and the pool of potential buyers. People with little kids (or who might have little kids) want a tub in the second bath and will pass over houses that don’t have one. If there’s another bathroom with a tub that’s convenient to the bedrooms that’s one thing but otherwise getting rid of the tub is a huge mistake.


Hi hi! We were thinking of getting one of those tall bookshelves like the one you linked to for the playroom, but we were concerned about it being totally not baby/toddler-proof. We actually have friends who have a couple from their pre-baby days and said they never would have gotten one now. Do you have creative ideas for baby-proofing one of those? It would have fit perfectly in our space, but safety is obviously the number one concern.


I’m so glad to know that I’m not the only one with a long list of home projects that I just can’t seem to get done!!
Can’t wait to see your results!


I’d do something like this to the fireplace:


yessssss! this! i happen to really like the stone that’s there currently, but this one lilli found is so gorgeous!!


You have a lot going on, but can you please leave the fireplace as it. If you’re going to sell it further down the line, you want to leave as much of the original features so buyers of mid century get as much of the original architecture as possible. That fireplace is (in my opinion) the best feature in your lounge and really sets the tone for your mid century pieces. Sharon


Is it even mid-century, though? I think it’s 70s and not even real stone.

I can’t wait to see everything when it is done! It’s good you didn’t end up wallpapering your whole bedroom last year! It would have been horrendous to take it off all the walls.


You’re coming to Australia! Yay! For holiday or for work?

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