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Former Design Star winner and Secrets From a Stylist host Emily Henderson partnered with Sunrise Senior Living for the second year in a row to make over the room of deserving residents of the Sunrise community. If you know (and love) Emily like we do here, you’ll know that her room designs are full of life, color and style – just what a blank space needs to truly feel like home. Helen and Dominic — this year’s winners — were treated to a makeover of their home which just didn’t suit the personalities of this upbeat couple who’ve been together 67 years.

emily henderson sunrise living

Emily shared with us a bit about this stunning room refresh. She says, “The whole redesign was just so satisfying. Sunrise is a really awesome community – it kinda feels like college dorms but for seniors. Helen and Dominic were so happy and I think re-invigorated [by the makeover]. I truly believe that your happiness can be strongly effected by how much you like your home, so I’m hoping that this makeover makes every day a little bit happier for them.”

Here’s more of what Emily had to say about this project that is close to her heart:

LILI: Can you tell our readers about this heartwarming makeover? 

EMILY: I have a serious soft spot for seniors. I think they can get easily dismissed in our culture which is just insane because, A. they’ve lived a long and often challenging life and that should be respected and B. if we are lucky we’ll all be there someday. So I was very excited when Sunrise approached me to do this makeover again. It took place at a Sunrise community outside of Columbus Ohio, where Helen and Dominic live. Their son nominated them for the makeover and they were picked because they are just incredible people. Dominic was a prisoner of war for 19 months in WWII and he and Helen have been together for 67 years and have such an incredible marriage with 4 lovely children.

LZ: What was the first step in redesigning Dominic and Helen’s space?

EH: The first step is finding out what their wants and needs are. They both love gardening, the colors blue and green, Frank Sinatra, and their style was more traditional with some modern updates. So we created a mood board with elements from these and started playing around with what looks good together.

sunrise living moodboard

LZ: What was the inspiration for the color palette and design scheme?

EH: Helen really loves blues and greens (me too, obviously) so we started there. And since they both love gardening we wanted to bring a garden inspired pattern for the wallpaper so we found this floral that we loved because it wasn’t too busy and felt really fresh. So that was our ‘jumping off point’ as we say in the biz. Once we had the wallpaper then we tried to make it more masculine by bringing in some darker tones (charcoal grays and dark blues). We brought in wood tones to warm it up and to help it feel a bit more traditional.

LZ: How hard was it to incorporate the easy chairs? Was that your biggest challenge?

EH: Yeah, the “easy” chairs weren’t so easy. They are big and bulky, its true. BUT they also are extremely comfortable and practical for them so it seemed insane to replace them with anything less comfortable. We shopped around (trust me) but ultimately there was just nothing that could compare to the comfort of those chairs and that really was key in this redesign.

LZ: What was Dominic and Helen’s favorite aspect of the re-design?

EH: I think they just love how happy and fresh it feels now – and customized just for them. Oh wait, and the mini-bar. Dominic LOVES to entertain and have people over for drinks so we got him this mini-bar stocked full of fun drinks and on top of it is a music box that can play records, cd’s and hook up to iPhones.

sunrise makeover bed

If you want to check out the full makeover, before pictures, product sources, and tips on designing for seniors head over to Emily’s detailed blog post. She links to a video interview with the couple that had me tearing up and made me realize just how deserving this pair is.

sunrise makeover reveal

12 Responses

  1. Andrea says:

    Emily, you rock! Beautiful room for a beautiful couple. You are so right—older adults deserve so much more respect than they get.

  2. HMR says:

    One thing noticeably absent on all HGTV shows are those over the age of 40. Well done Emily.

    • Genie57 says:

      Another thing noticeably absent from HGTV shows is the individuality of the homeowner. It's either all about making a home neutral/upscale for re-sale or the latest design trend. This room style is both classic and modern.

  3. Sue says:

    Very nice Emily. There should be more shows on HGTV for 55+, that need help with decorating.

    • Sharon says:

      I agree with Sue that there should be more decorating shows for the aging population. They don't have the ability to do redecorating by themselves. Many don't have the income.

  4. Nancy says:

    Why isn't Emily's show on the air on HGTV channel anymore? I am tired of seeing Property Brothers and Love it or List It. BORING with these two shows constantly on the air. Bring back all the old favorites!!!!

    • judy h. says:

      I SO agree with you Nancy. HGTV had such great shows about designers, their work and their tips. I don't tune in as much as I used to. I'm bored by boring re-runs of the very shows you mention.

    • OldFan says:

      I agree Nancy — Where are the good shows disappearing to??

      I so miss all the decorating shows, Design on a Dime, Trading Spaces, Decorating Cents, Desperate Spaces. The shows for middle income working people.

      I am so tired of Property Virgins, Love It List It, and definitely house hunters because all they show are homes I can't afford or won't waste money on .
      They have new shows coming that are for celebrities – I do not give a crap about those people. they have tons of money, people that do the work for them and they don't care a bit about us REAL people.

  5. michelfedrick says:

    Good work Emily, you keep the concept of universal design that to make both living and work spaces equally comfortable and safe. Lighting is an important factor and I think your tremendous effort makes a good lighting whole home. I live in an independent community (http://www.prestigecare.com/independent.php) for past one year and there they always make sure to give a home safer for their residents. I feel great to be in this community.

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  7. Warnke says:

    My relatives all the time say that I am wasting my time here at net, but I know I am getting knowledge daily by reading such fastidious posts.

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Lili ZarghamiLili is Editorial Director of HGTV.com. Her personal obsessions include looking for just the right sofa, ogling real estate listings, and reading floor-plans. She has an admitted "chair problem," collecting...


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