Interior Designer and Art Director Emily Henson on Writing her Fifth Book, Color Aesthetics, and Introspection through Design

Images courtesy of PR Rep

Emily Henson, Interior Designer, Art Director, and Stylist, tells Fashion Reverie “there is always room for change and exploration.” Henson started designing fashion in Los Angeles and Seoul and has since moved into styling and set design for photography and film as well as writing interior design books and directing shoots in her Margate abode. For her, life is almost like a set where the pieces can be arranged to create new gorgeous combinations and feelings. The young girl bouncing around her mom’s London-based antique shop wearing oversized shoes on her feet and a 1940s fox fur stole around her neck is now writing her fifth book amongst the raw walls and exposed ceilings of her newly bought home, and still sees the world as a brightly lit house with an endlessly stretching ceiling.

Even though she has certainly grown into those antique shop oversized shoes, she’s always looking for something new to grow into. After creating her interiors blog in 2009, Life Unstyled, speaking on panels in Taiwan, and debuting four interiors books—Modern Rustic (2013), Bohemian Modern (2015), Life Unstyled (2016), Be Bold (2018) —Henson is writing her fifth book to be published in 2022 and creating a debut collection of home products.

The same eye that saw the beauty of lace-trimmed peach silks in her mother’s antique shop, now sees the beauty in pinks popping against bright whites and greens, florals arranged in a perfectly unruly fashion, and light seeping in the windows. Henson tells Fashion Reverie about her upcoming book, details her own unique aesthetic, and recounts special childhood memories. Read below for the full interview with Emily Henson!

Image courtesy of Instagram

Fashion Reverie: So first, we know you just started working on your fifth interiors book, congratulations! Is there anything you learned from the first four books that you are implementing this time around?

Emily Henson: Thank you! Since my first book, social media has blown up and I think this has affected some readers’ attention span. Now we consume content quicker and we want information faster. With this book I’ve tried to cater a little to this by writing in smaller chunks rather than lengthy chapters. However, I love the writing part of my books and I have some amazing loyal followers who do read the words rather than just flipping through the pictures. So, for them—and for me—I won’t dilute things too much just to be easily digestible. I’ve also focused more on offering precise details about what we feature—readers want to know paint colors and where a lamp is from. I still get emails with queries about a peach wall color three books ago!

FR: You started from fashion design to display design for Anthropologie which then brought you into interior design and art direction. Throughout history, fashion and interiors have always been closely related. For you, how do you view this relationship in 2022?

Emily Henson: I think they are more closely linked than ever before. Now, we have fashion designers creating homeware collections and interior designers collaborating with fashion brands. Perhaps it’s to do with the emergence of the lifestyle brand—one company to provide you with everything from socks to bed sheets and candles to lip gloss. The thinking goes, if I like a lamp you design, then I’ll probably like a dress, as well.

FR: You’ve lived in Los Angeles and London and I’m sure you have also traveled to other interesting places. Is there a certain interior aesthetic specific to one culture that is your favorite?

Emily Henson: When I lived in Los Angeles, I missed that eccentric, almost tongue-in-cheek British style that you don’t see as much there. I’m always drawn to interiors that are a bit imperfect whether that means a clash in colors or an unexpected mix of furniture and in Los Angeles, at least when I lived there, things seemed a bit more polished and perfect. Now that I’ve been back in the UK for over ten years, I miss that gorgeous Los Angeles light where you can have white walls and simple furniture and somehow it still glows. In general, I’m inspired by many places I’ve visited, from Texas to Tulum, but somehow, they all get blended with my own style to create an eclectic mélange.

Image courtesy of Instagram

FR: I really love your art as well as your styling, what art print of your own makes you the happiest? My personal favorite is the “Peonies in Bloom!”

Emily Henson: Thank you! My favorites of the current collection are Pinks & Stripes and Wild Bouquet which are different colorations of the same illustration. I loved drawing them and then experimenting with variations in color and seeing how it changes the way I feel about the piece.

FR: If you could create a floral arrangement that represents you best, what would it look like?

Emily Henson: My friend Yolly (@yolandachiaramello) is an incredible florist and her work is me in floral form! Mostly locally grown, the bouquets are a bit wild and unruly in a good way, with intoxicating colors, and versions of ordinary flowers you’ve never seen before (frilled and striped tulips!). They are tied with luxurious ribbons or displayed in vintage vases. If I were a bouquet, that would be it.

Image courtesy of Instargram

FR: Do you tend to gravitate toward a particular color palette in your interior design, art direction, and artwork?

Emily Henson: I’ve always been drawn to color in general, although for art direction for clients it’s all about their brief rather than my personal preference. In my own design and artwork, I’ve always loved to use a pop of red, rarely a popular color in interiors until recently! But mixed with pinks and greens and a backdrop of white—it’s my favorite.

FR: I love the passage in Be Bold when you compare a mosaic of tattoos to interior design in a home. You write that homes should reflect who we are. So, how does your home reflect who you are?

Emily Henson: My homes are always evolving, never done, experimental, a bit rough around the edges and that sums me up pretty well! I’m currently writing from what is essentially a building site—the new house I just bought—and I find it weirdly liberating sitting amidst raw walls and exposed ceilings. When a place is unfinished there is still so much possibility. I guess I feel that way about my life, too. There is always room for change and exploration.

FR: I saw on your Instagram that your mom had an antique shop in London when you were young, and you have fond memories of costume designers and actors coming in to find vintage pieces. Are there a few pieces you can remember seeing in the antique shop when you were young that you loved?

Emily Henson: Of course, this is very un-PC, and I’m also a vegetarian now, but I remember parading around with a fox fur from the 1940s around my neck, over my school uniform. The classic scene of a little girl with too big shoes on, parading around the shop with my fur. She also had this huge antique cabinet with drawers with glass handles—inside was the lingerie. Picture peach silk negligees and short sets with the daintiest lace edging. So beautiful.

Image courtesy of Instagram

FR: Whether you’re styling interiors, photoshoots, or writing your books, you spend a lot of your time creating mood boards. What type of mood/aesthetic do you often feel most inspired by?

Emily Henson: It changes as my life changes, but I am always drawn back to a backdrop of clean whites and neutrals with pops of color and soft pattern layered over. Fresh, light, a bit imperfect, color, but not too much. Nowadays, there also has to be a modern element, whereas 20 years ago I loved a similar look but a lot more retro/vintage.

—Tessa Swantek


Stay in touch with Emily Henson!

@emilyhensonstylist on Instagram

@lifeunstyled on Instagram

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