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We enjoyed spending time with Emily Henderson, host of the show Secrets From a Stylist, at our design bloggers luncheon in Manhattan last week. (You can read about the 40 bloggers, including Design Happens contributors like Emily, who joined us at our New York offices here.) Before winning HGTV Design Star, Emily enjoyed a busy career as a photo-shoot stylist for top lifestyle and design publications. Now she’s even busier.

Read on to learn more about which designer has influenced Emily the most and what she finds impossible to pass up at flea markets.

1. Which designers influenced you?

Jonathan Adler was the first designer who I worked for. And while yes, I was just a shop girl, I was undoubtedly influenced by his sense of humor, whimsy and the happiness he infuses into his designs. But I think Cindy DiPrima, the stylist who I assisted for years, should get the most credit for shaping my taste and style. When I first started with her, I was doing some pretty crazy things style-wise. (Yes, my dining table was a stop sign adhered to a Saarinen Tulip Table base, thank you very much.) Her influence made me more refined and quality oriented. Now I’m back to doing crazy things, just with good quality and more intent and coherence. She taught me a lot of the skills I have now – about color combining, mixing styles, composition. And how to make life look effortless – which is my main objective.

Now, I look to Thomas O’Brien, Lilli Diallo, Dara Caponigro, Sara Ruffin Costello, Michael Smith and Emily Chalmers. (Diallo, Caponigro and Costello are ex-head Domino editors and stylists.) I’m constantly checking out what Robyn Glaser and Roland Bello are producing as well. Coming from the photo world, I’m influenced by beautiful commercial photography and the artists that create it. Even the Anthropologie and West Elm catalogues are looking inspirational and pretty amazing these days.

2. What’s your favorite style?

So hard.  I think I’m 30% Victorian, 30% late 70′s boho, and 30% 60′s Danish. That only adds up to 90%, I just realized. But that makes sense, because there’s 10% of me that loves every style and can get crazy with it. I never definitively discount a style or a trend. It’s all about shopping for the right pieces and creating coherence through color. So I guess in one word…it would be modern-eclectic. But I feel like everyone says that right now. So maybe I’ll say — ‘weird-boho-vintage-flea-market-mix-and-match-with-a-lot-of-blue-and-patterns’. Yep, that’s my style.

3. What’s the essential home accessory (or piece of furniture) you use in your designs?

Good question. My show is about combining styles, so I hope to never use the same pieces. But for accessories, I like to look for beautiful books that make sense for the client. And wooden or lacquer boxes and vases or vessels that have simple shapes that are easy to group together (but don’t match). At a flea market, it’s pretty impossible for me to pass up a beautiful white porcelain handmade vase. I feel like I can’t get enough of them, and I use them constantly in shoots and now in houses. And while I normally play it safe with furniture upholstery, I like to go a bit crazy with fabric on throw pillows and drapery, because they are easier to change out with the seasons and trends. I’m constantly scouring flea markets and thrift stores for vintage fabric pieces that no one else will have and can be completely unique to the client. I’m so excited to finally dive into my bins of vintage fabric that previously I just played with here and there, while my husband looked at me in utter confusion.

4. Tell us which room you most enjoy designing and why.

I love ‘em all. Wait, except kitchens…and bathrooms…and laundry rooms. Give me a living room or bedroom any day — spaces where people can’t wait to be in — and I will get excited every time.  I’m sure when I grow up and start cooking, I’ll get excited about designing the perfect kitchen. But for now, I don’t get excited going into those first three rooms, so I’m less inspired to design them. I’ve never done an outdoor space, (well, I just finished Ian’s actually) so I would love to design more of them. I do love me a patio party.

5. What’s your favorite place to vacation? (Gotta get that work/life balance in there, right?)

Brian and I aren’t vacation people. I know that sounds nuts, but we would rather buy a ticket to the most foreign place, put on our backpacks, land and see what happens. We’ve done this a few times, and it really wakes you up and makes you feel younger. Not knowing how to cross the street or eat the food of a particular country is crazy exciting. Our next destination is Central America – Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Anywhere you can just hop around in hostels and huts and feel like you are being thrown into a culture that you know so little about. Plus, I can shop at markets. You can’t find markets like that in Florida.

Emily Henderson shares her latest, favorite flea market finds on her blog The Brass Petal.



8 Responses

  1. brian patrick flynn says:

    LOVED IT! The interview wasn't just super entertaining to read, there's some seriously good points in there in reference to what's fun to decorate and design vs. what's more like work. Living rooms, bedrooms and dining rooms are definitely way more fun than kitchens and baths, especially since both are so task-oriented. Worst space ever to design? Utility rooms. No, thanks.

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