80,000 Readers Helped Decorate Emily Henderson's House

After 20 years in New York and Los Angeles, I was convinced I was a city person. Everything changed when I bought a house in the woods—and let my 80,000 daily blog readers decorate it.

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Sara Ligorria-Tramp
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Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Having been raised in rural Oregon, where I spent my childhood building forts in the woods, I should have known that the country is where I belong. After a decade in Los Angeles—running my blog, Style by Emily Henderson, working as Target’s Home Style Expert, raising two kids—and another decade in New York City before that, the city was draining me. I just didn’t know it yet.

A few years ago, I needed a project to document on the blog. The second my husband and I walked into this 1960s A-frame in Lake Arrowhead (about an hour-and-a-half outside of L.A), we loved it. The energy was peaceful, the light was dreamy. It had two awkward additions from the ’90s and 2000s, but we saw potential—and, honestly, we didn’t mind it as it was. All around, there was nothing but nature. It was a 10-minute walk through the woods to the beach and lake. And suddenly, I saw the ability to re-create those childhood memories: Forts would be made, bugs would be collected. I took the money that I would’ve put into some form of exhaustion rehab and renovated this house as a weekend getaway for my family. After much debate, my husband and I settled on the style: “modern rustic mountain” meets “refined Scandinavian chalet,” with a heavy dose of “California casual.” Easy-peasy, right?

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Just under the bow window, a custom banquette, covered in kid-proof Crypton leather by Cortina, hides built-in storage for stashing all of our winter gear. Table: custom beechwood. Armchairs: George, Industry West. Throw Pillows: Target. Pendant: Urban Smokebell, The Urban Electric Co.
Sara Ligorria-Tramp
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Sara Ligorria-Tramp

What started out as an estimated six-month job—updating the kitchen and bathrooms, replacing the wall-to-wall carpeting—quickly snowballed. The budget tripled. I decided to treat my readers as the client, designing each room twice and letting them pick which one we’d execute. It proved to be wildly fun but, no surprise, added a ton of work. Needless to say, lessons were learned. My next book, out in the fall of 2020, is going include all the things I wish I had known going into this project.

Stylistically, the house would be very different from my family’s 100-year-old English Tudor in L.A. We’d let the architecture be the star, focusing on the light (new Marvin white oak windows and Velux skylights throughout) and reclaimed beechwood on all floors, ceilings, and kitchen cabinets.

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Inspired by British kitchen brand DeVol, I really wanted wood-clad cabinets but worried the cost would be prohibitive. Then we found Ross Alan Reclaimed Lumber’s beechwood, and our rustic mountain kitchen dreams came true! Pendant: Ellis, Katy Skelton. Countertops: White Cliff in Matte, Cambria. Faucet and sink: Kohler.
Sara Ligorria-Tramp
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Sara Ligorria-Tramp

But it also had to be kid-friendly. I used Cambria quartz in the kitchen, performance (or dark-colored) rugs in most bedrooms, and stain-​resistant Crypton fabrics on all custom furniture. Natural knots and nail marks on the wood flooring will hide any future dents and dings.

Decorating was a challenge, because I love stuff. Not this house, I promised myself. It was to be an escape not only from L.A., but also from my buildup of things. Scandinavian style is inherently minimal. I didn’t want to just decorate this house. I wanted to live in it. We focused on mood and comfort and even kept the color palette neutral.

My design team, led by project manager Julie Rose, helped bring this vision to life over the course of 18 months. As my team shot the finished house, we liter­- ally cried while toasting with Champagne. It has nothing but calming, positive energy. My family and I walk in and instantly relax, despite our L.A. life being busy and chaotic. And that feeling doesn’t get old.


Master Bedroom

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Sara Ligorria-Tramp

We wanted this room to feel like a quiet retreat. Lulu and Georgia’s Zoro shag rug is the most plush, cloud-like thing you’ll ever walk on. Bed: Tessu in Clay Taupe and Walnut, Article. Leather pillow and coverlet: Project 62, Target. Throw: Wallace & Sweel Stolzl, Lost & Found. Art: Melinda Foster. Night-stand: 1920s Danish, Chairish. Sconce: Aperture, Allied Maker.


Upstairs Loft

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Sara Ligorria-Tramp

I’ll be writing my second book from here this summer, so I kept it very simple with warm neutrals and plenty of quiet texture. Desk: Seno in White Oak, Article. Desk chair: vintage Guido Faleschini, MidcenturyLA. Rug: Citra in Grey, Annie Selke. Art: Joelle Somero. Lounge Chair: Inca, Norell Furniture. Windows: Marvin.


Kids’ Bedroom

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Sara Ligorria-Tramp

We went with an adventure/camping theme in here because it’s a mountain house! The custom headboard can be removed to access plumbing in the neighboring bathroom. Canopy: custom, Julie Rose and Emily Bowser. Rug: Treemont Stria in Indigo, Stark. Bedding: Pillowfort, Target. Sheepskins: Lanna, Article. Trunk: vintage.


Living Room

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Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Finding the right modern-yet-rustic wood for the space was a challenge: It needed to have enough variation to make it stand out, but be quiet enough to let the architecture speak for itself. Ceiling beams, floors, and cabinets: reclaimed beechwood, Ross Alan Reclaimed Lumber. Rug: Ben Soleimani. Sofa: Trio by Team Form AG for Cor, Gallery 17. Coffee table: Thomas Bina Oliva, Lulu and Georgia. Pouf: Threshold, Target. Sconces: Stark Minimalist, Shades of Light. Barstools: Esse Canyon, Article.


Master Bathroom

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Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Kohler’s bubble-bath tub has already become a nightly favorite with my kids. Tub: Sunstruck BubbleMassage, Kohler. Slate tile: Clé. Towel stand: Port Ladder, Katy Skelton. Sheepskin: Lanna, Article.


Powder Room

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Sara Ligorria-Tramp

A custom vanity—in Bedrosians Tile & Stone’s Sky White matte marble—has a smart storage shelf underneath. Pendants: Well Mini, Allied Maker. Mirror: Round Framed, Rejuvenation. Fixtures: Components, Kohler. Tile: Architect's Palette in Blueprint, Clé.

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