Here at heymama, we spend a lot of time fangirling over Emily Henderson. The celebrity home stylist first shot to stardom in 2010, when she handily won HGTV’s Design Star and the following year launched her hit home-makeover series Secrets from a Stylist. Since then, Emily has founded a namesake design studio, teamed with Target and charmed bazillions of social media followers with her funny, down-to-earth blog posts, Instagram stories and Facebook Live streams. No biggie. Here, the perpetual-motion mother of two dishes on her ambitious mountain house reno, her secrets for staying close with family and friends, and the thing she hates most about being a mogul.
Emily! We’ve been huge fans ever since your Secrets from a Stylist days and are so excited to be chatting with you today. What have you been up to lately?
Things change every day in the editorial and blog world. Right now my team is focusing on creating content for our readers that’s beautiful, inspirational and informative. The blog fuels all of the other projects that we do— it’s our main platform for connecting with and serving our audience. We’re also renovating two fixer-uppers: one in Portland and one about an hour-and-a-half outside of Los Angeles. There are a lot of moving parts. I’m very fortunate to be doing something I love and am creatively challenged by every single day.
From your early days in retail to starring in your own TV show and running a hugely successful design business, you are the master of the mama pivot. What advice do you have for women hoping to make their careers more rewarding?
Find something that gets you excited to push yourself every day. Daily life is a juggle, and if you throw something into the mix that you aren’t passionate about, you’ll end up hating every moment of it. Once you find that niche that works for you, produce, produce, produce. Leave your perfectionism at the door and put your work out there.
In what ways has motherhood shaped your own career strategy?
Before I had kids, I could do late evenings and early mornings and not think anything of it. Now, my family and kids are my number one priority, so I take on only the projects that are really important to me and feel like a great fit. I work harder on things I am excited about, anyway! I’ve also learned that it’s OK to delegate certain tasks and projects so I can focus on my kids and my family. At the end of the day, I’m the only one who can be a mother to my children.
You’ve always said you don’t subscribe to any set of design rules, and you’ve become known for a style that’s eclectic, chic and totally your own. How can other mamas channel your design confidence?
The biggest thing is having a consistent color palette. When shopping, most people don’t realize that buying a bunch of random pretty things doesn’t mean those items are going to look good together. My advice is to pick three to five colors for your interior and play within that palette. It’ll save you a lot of headache in pulling your space together.
We’ve been eagerly following along with the renovations on your family’s mountain house fixer-upper. What are your top priorities for the space?
Creating comfort is first and foremost. This is a mountain home—a retreat, a break from the usual day-to-day—so I want the space to feel calming and inviting. To that end, I’m also rethinking the flow. The house had some very … interesting architecture and room layouts when we first bought it. We’re breaking up some of the walls to allow the space to flow more freely. At the same time, I don’t want it to feel too new. I don’t think I could ever complete a project without at least a few vintage elements mixed in!
You’ve expanded your business and team over the years. What’s most important to you when hiring? What qualities are you looking for?
Skills and experience are important, but personality and trust are key. You have to vibe with the people who are going to be working with every day! If you don’t mesh with them and know they’ll value your company as much as you do, then they won’t be a good fit for you or your business.
Your Instagram is so real and relatable, and we love following your stories. What role does social media play in your day-to-day? How do you navigate letting fans into your personal life?
Although it does seem like there are no “filters”—no pun intended!—on what I put out there, I do try to maintain some healthy boundaries between my personal and professional lives. For instance, a few years ago I realized I didn’t want to feature my kids in photoshoots as much as I had been, and I’m so much happier because of it. Sometimes people get caught up in creating that “perfect” idyllic image, and trying to live up to that can be overwhelming. Life is imperfect and beautiful. I try to tell that story authentically in my stories and on the blog.
You’re involved in every aspect of your brand, from writing blog posts to managing huge collaborations with major retailers. What’s your favorite part of running your business? Least favorite?
I am very lucky to be doing what I love every single day and to have a passionate team working beside me. I will always love crafting blog posts—it’s the heart of the business, and I love writing, connecting with and learning from readers.
My least favorite part of the business is, well, the business aspect of it. The accounting, the spreadsheets. … Most of my biggest regrets over the last 12 years have been from not really knowing how to run things financially. My advice to creatives is to get your systems down early because the money part is so stressful, and I wasted years being stressed out about it. Now I just outsource everything! Find someone to take on those aspects you dislike—or don’t have the expertise in—and your daily life will be so much better.
What are your non-negotiables when it comes to family time?
After work, I have a window from about 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. where I try to disconnect completely from anything work-, social media-, or career-related to focus on my family. At the end of the day, my kids and husband make me so much happier than anything else ever could. That time with them is everything.
Your mama tribe is near and dear to you, as seen on your recent girls’ trip to Ojai. Tell us more about how you nurture those friendships when you’re balancing so much else.
I have some incredible girlfriends from high school who I am still close with. They’re all busy professionals and moms in their own right, but once a year we try to reunite for a girls’ weekend like the one you just mentioned. Having that tradition—a way to reconnect and catch up on life, work, being a mom and everything else—always leaves me feeling excited to go back and give more to my family and career.
What are you most looking forward to in the year ahead?
This year my resolution was to give back more, and I’m happy to say I’m sticking to it. We have a huge rummage sale coming up where we will be selling items we typically sell at our studio sale. All proceeds will benefit Pen and Napkin, an incredible nonprofit organization that furnishes homes for families who are transitioning out of homelessness.
3 pearls of wisdom
Just start. You have to begin somewhere! Find your passion, pursue it, and work hard to achieve what you want.
Let personal values guide you. Would YOU want to buy your product? Would you hire yourself?
It's OK to figure it out as you go. Creating and putting yourself out there is the most important thing. Get feedback, adjust accordingly and keep moving. Otherwise, no one will find you or hire you!