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by Velinda Hellen
Flash Makeover 17

It’s time for another Feel Good Flash Makeover. Every one of these will be different, obviously, but this one was extra unique because the single mom of three is about to have a baby (next week), so we had to move very fast. We got this “call” (literally and spiritually) right after I listened to a podcast about how obsessed we are about having “enough.” “Scarcity” the hot button word is a larger fear that people will never have enough. An example of this extreme is the success of storage unit companies. Think about it: people have so much “stuff” that we pay for essentially a garage to put extra stuff, of which probably won’t be touched for years, meanwhile—you guessed it—so many people around us, often in our own communities, don’t have ANYTHING.

It was literally that same week that Catie of Pen + Napkin, with whom I’ve worked with in the past for the Rummage Sale, called and said, “We have a family transitioning out of homelessness that has nothing and is about to have a baby, can you help?” The timing was pretty incredible, emotionally as I looked at our garage, full of beautiful furniture just sitting there and realized that instead of consuming more, buying more “stuff,” we’d give this family a lot of what we already have (as well as a supplement–I didn’t have bunk beds). So that’s where we started and what we based the design off. Velinda was the lead designer and took over once we decided what we could repurpose. After shopping my garage, our prop unit (which we technically still need for the book) and shopping retail, we pulled together this two-bedroom comfortable and happy apartment for this family of soon to be family of 5.

Take it away, Velinda!

Flash Makeover 04 1

“We are installing more than furniture. We are installing hope.” — Pen + Napkin

With that slogan, how were we to say “no” when reached out to us asking if we would sponsor one of their families who had just transitioned out of homelessness. Let’s be honest, we had no desire to say “no.” Flash makeovers are 400% our favorite thing to do. It’s all we want to be doing! This one was a slightly bigger challenge than our Feel Good Makeover last December. Our family of (soon-to-be) five had NOTHING but basic beds and a TV in their 507 square foot, two-bed apartment…for FIVE people to sleep, study, lounge and eat together comfortably. (And hopefully, have better access to their limited storage? This won’t do.)

Before Girls Bedroom

Because this makeover was never meant to be a surprise, we met up with the head of the household and single parent, Mama Bear, to learn more about her family and their needs. Shockingly, “Mama Bear” isn’t her real name. But we were sworn to certain levels of secrecy because she and her three (almost four) children trying to remain anonymous after leaving an abusive home…house. An abusive environment isn’t home. After surviving a period of homelessness, it was time for them to have a home to feel safe and feel pride in.

When we arrived, the sleeping arrangements were as followed: Mama sharing a queen bed with her teenage son in bedroom one (which the new baby will also share), and her two younger “girly-girls” sharing a second room (above). We coaxed Mama Bear to describe her dream home, but she insisted we “do whatever we wanted” because she was just “happy to have furniture again,” though she did drop the hint she needed more color and “life” in her world right now. With her baby arriving mid-june we aimed to move fast (three weeks from beginning to end), so that she’d really be able to bring that new baby home.

Here’s what we learned about their needs for the space: School and homework take up most of this family’s time. Everyone living in the house is in school. But when there’s time, they enjoy doing crafts together and Mama insists they eat together as a family every night. But eat where? 

Before Kitchen

Our top functional priorities were to:

  1. Get Mama and sons into their own beds and liven up the girls’ room
  2. Create a shared space with color and “life” and find a way to squeeze some sort of dining surface/area for the family to eat together
  3. Storage (always)

And of course, make it pretty!

I’m going to walk you through the rooms and what we did and why, but for anyone itching for a little “behind the scenes” and a quick tour, here’s a quick video we pulled together (but keep reading!).

Priority #1: Let’s get everyone in their own bed.

Here’s what bedroom one (where Mama and son slept) looked like before:

Before Girls Mama & Son

And after:

Flash Makeover 03 1

Anyone recognize that dresser below?? It was time it found a new happy home.

Flash Makeover 11

Bunk beds were the obvious solution for maximizing the limited sleeping space (always try to design “up” when your floorplan is smaller), but it meant swapping out standard ceiling fans (which Mama said they used often) for a safer/compact caged fan since we hoped to, y’know, avoid top-bunk decapitations. 

Stacked beds are great, but can feel very kid-ish since bunks aren’t usually an adult’s first choice (and are typically twin-over-twin). We didn’t have the budget (or landlord permissions) to construct one of those grown-up-cool built-in bunks, so instead, I looked for a simple way to upgrade your standard bunk bed-in-a-box. And it was truly so easy (thanks to our volunteer seamstress, and my friend Maura who helped make the few needed cuts). The becomes more of a daybed lounge, but the “headboard” could also cushion a sleeping toddler in the future.

Flash Makeover 08

We put together this quick graphic in case any of you out there were interested in getting a closer look to make one yourself:

Flash Makeover Ashley Landry Bunk Design 1

“Leather” makes anything cooler and the modern design detail “adultifies” the bed a bit. But we still had the kids in the room to consider. And I FELT for that teenager with no privacy! Hence the curtain design (sewed by our own Julie), which we made from Rebecca Atwood’s two-sided, and a .

Flash Makeover Ashley Landry Bunk Curtain Side By Side 1

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To maximize function, we repurposed (and dual-purposed) Emily’s chest of drawers by throwing a on top, creating both a changing table and dresser. Oh, and note the under bed storage! This 100-square-foot room now comfortably (and more privately) sleeps three (with a ) and more storage and space. And Emily threw in noise-blocking headphones for Big Brother to use when Little Brother cries.

Flash Makeover 10

| | Art: | | (Circles) | | |

The gallery wall from livens up the space and pulls together a color scheme of their combined favorite colors, green and blue. And hold onto your “how to do a gallery wall” questions, because we’ve got tips on that and more art pairing coming tomorrow in a special post.

On the other side of the wall is the shared girls’ room, and though they had their own beds, it was far from cheerful. These two girls had such vibrant personalities, and we wanted their bedroom to match that. In fact, their brother teased that they lived in a “prison cell” (brothers…). And these are girls who love pink, purple and glitter. Remember it looked like this… lacking anything shiny, bright or happy.

Before Girls Bedroom

But after:

Flash Makeover 18

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Flash Makeover 19

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Several key pieces came from Elliot’s former nursery and the books and craft supplies came courtesy of you readers (THANK YOU!). The bunk/new fan was the same functional solution as the other bedroom, but what makes this room SO fun, undoubtedly, is the art we sourced through . The is from Minted and is a temporary, sticker solution so great for a rental.

2x2 Grid 2500 Pixels Horizontal Copy

Each lady now has a space just for her, with some shared room to play AND access to all of the room’s storage (one of the beds was blocking the closet). Toss in shiny pom-poms, a dose of sparkly lights and pink fringe and faux fur, and you’ve got a room that “glitters” (without the embedding torture of actual glitter. Oy!)  

Artfully And Makeover 02

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Okay, now onto the shared spaces, where we had to check off another priority:

Priority #2: Bring “life” and color into a shared space + create a place for the family to eat every night together.

Here it is when we arrived:

Flash Makeover Ashley Landry Before Side By Side 1

They weren’t even using this space because there wasn’t even a chair to sit in. But we changed that…

Flash Makeover 16

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Flash Makeover 15

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The family’s favorite colors and Emily’s were in sync (reminder: blue and green) and we got to bring a ton of fresh color and “life” from our own inventory to this little living room (longtime readers, spot the repurposed pieces?). And here, we found a perfect home for Emily’s turquoise-eucalyptus-jade-ish (??) . Whatever color that is, it’s SO soft and deep; the size of a twin bed actually, which means extra bed options for the growing family.

Since it’s a house full of students, a desk or homework space would be ideal, but unfortunately, there was just no room. Not-so-secretly, I love small spaces. So many creative solutions and cleverly designed products to uncover under such limitations. And one thing any truly small space needs is a lift top . Storage (priority #3!)? Check. But look, an instant desk! No excuses for not doing homework now. Sorry, kids.

Flash Makeover 17

With a mission to find a new home for some of the great pieces we had just sitting in inventory, we hoped to reuse the tulip-esque table we used in our basement turned office reveal, but quickly realized in the design process it would’ve “eaten” the entire kitchen (kitchen pun). But we had to bring this family around a TABLE, considering dinner together was a nightly tradition. This became a perfect solution thanks to a low profile (it’s just long/wide enough to seat four)… it’s more counter space (counter height!) and storage (shelving).

Artfully And Makeover 01

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With it, the 95-square-foot space became an eat-in kitchen, anchored by a large, cheerful piece from Artfully Walls.

We WANT so badly to share the reveal moment with all of you as we usually do, but we’re keeping this family safe by keeping them secret, so you’re going to have to tap into your imaginations just a bit…

The family returned home around 5 pm on our second day of install (we had put them in a hotel overnight to keep the whole thing a surprise). We hadn’t really met the kids until the reveal. From past Flash Makeover experience, we expected them to show up cautious of a small crew of strangers in their home, but the little ladies showed up dancing, so eager to get a peek of their new rooms. The teenager played it cool as any teenager would do…until the surprise was revealed. Once inside, dancing became singing, with songs featuring catchy lyrics like, “Kitchen looks goooo-oood, kitchen looks goo-oo-ood”. No tears this time, all bouncing, “ooOOoo-ing” and climbing on new beds. So much joy and “life”! When we left, they were touring every room for a third time, seeing new things with each revisit as the initial shock wore off.

Emilyhendersonteam

Flash Makeover execution days are the best days of our work-lives. This time, nearly the whole team got involved (though Sara and Bowser were on another shoot this day and Arlyn popped in not soon after this photo was taken). THANK YOU, Team. The “flash” part of the Flash Makeover was 100% possible because of your hanging and hammering.

If you guys want to contribute to the next flash makeover (and help support the lovely people of Pen and Napkin and the general overhead costs of running a non-profit) you can head to —typically 80% goes to the makeover and 20% goes to Pen and Napkin but EHD is foregoing any help with the budget and 100% will go towards Pen and Napkin and the next family. 

Img 8328

These projects are so important to us for many reasons, but mostly because they’ve taught us that when a person/family transitions into an empty home, they are more likely to return to homelessness. But with furniture, the Pen + Napkin team has seen a 100% success rate of ending the homeless experience. We believe in them and these families. Help us support them, if you can. Thank you, Catie (pictured above with Emily) and Corey (her husband) for this amazing thing you do.

Also if you are an interior designer (or enthusiast), you can sign up to help a family and raise the funds to support it. Learn more .

***photography by Sara Ligorria-Tramp, creative direction by Emily (Henderson), design and styling by Velinda Hellen with styling support from Emily (Bowser)

  1. I am speechless, this is incredible. The story, the family,.the design…amazing. Beyond words.

    And THIS is what that couch was made for!!

  2. Wow! What an amazing space you created. So happy for this family.

  3. These flash makeovers for families make me so, so happy. I love that you’re using your time, talents, and resources to lift others up. Way to go EHD!! Plus, the tips for how to furnish small spaces are super helpful.

  4. This is amazing. Especially the bedroom for the mom and 2 sons. If you tell me is a 13 year old boy’s room, I believe you. If you tell me is a nursery, I believe you. If you tell me is a grown up room, I believe you. It has things for everyone!!!

    GREAT JOB!

    1. Is there a non profit that helps families like this in the Midwest Kansas City area. I would like to support something like that in my local area.

  5. My favorite post ever. I love the ingenuity and care that is so evident in the design! Xo also- Where is that sofa from?

    1. I couldn’t agree more. You can see the love put into every detail. The EHD and pen+napkin team worked magic. So so good and such a wonderful way to welcome this family into their new life.

    2. Its custom made from CLAD home. Emily talks about it a bit in some playroom updates. http://youxi988.info/blog/play-room-update-tv-choice

    3. Thank you, Lindsey! These are our favorite projects to do.

  6. I love, love, love this post!!!

  7. Love love love!!! Can you link the sofa?

    You guys are the best

    1. It’s custom from CLAD Home. Emily mentioned it a few times in playroom updates. http://youxi988.info/blog/play-room-update-tv-choice

      1. This one from Anthro is really similar:

      2. THANK YOU!! I also love that you answer comments… 🙂

  8. This was a really great post! I love when you do these Feel Good Flash Makeovers. and, every room looks wonderful!

  9. These posts are SO MY FAVORITE! Thank you EHD team for doing these makeovers!

  10. This is seriously STUNNING. I can’t believe that’s the same apartment.
    Question – In the first Mama bedroom pic, it looks like there’s a mirrored closet door that I don’t see in the afters.
    Did you swap out for a different door? Trying to figure out room configuration in my head.

    Amazing job as always, this blog seriously makes my mornings 🙂

    1. that is the girls room.

  11. I LOVE these posts! So glad you’ve found such a great way to give back!

  12. This looks amazing!!! I think this will go a long way to lifting their spirits, the space is now so functional, yet happy. Also, where are those curtains in the living room from? Did you make these?

  13. Could you share the source for the living room rug and the throw pillows on the couch? I love the whole vibe–and what incredible gift you’ve given to such a resilient family.

    1. Unfortunately, everything that isn’t credited is old and no longer available. Since the team pulled from existing stock of Emily’s prop closet, some of it is vintage, some of it is old Target, other things are items not sold online, etc. (The rug in particular was sold at Target about a year ago and we looked and it’s no longer available. Sorry!)

    2. I was wondering about the rug, too. It looks like a cousin of West Elm’s Pixel rug that’s available now.

    3. Wait?! Isn’t this the rug?

  14. Great job! Loving the living room space. What size is the rug and where can I find it?

    1. Hi Heather. The rug is 7×10′ and is actually something we pulled from Emily’s, so Target isn’t selling it anymore.

  15. Level 10 so beautiful on all fronts. I’m so glad this family has such a wonderful space to call home. You guys killed it.

  16. What a wonderful gift to this family in need. Such a meaningful use of your talents!

  17. Mama Bear sounds like an incredibly deserving and resilient woman. Wishing her every happiness in her new start and in her new home!

    1. She really is! Thank you for the well-wishes, Sarah!

  18. Love this post!!

  19. This is just a ray of light. Thank you.

  20. Love hearing about this and so glad you guys are involved in this kind of community assist. I wish that family the very best as they move forward.

    I’m assuming the new dressers and the bookcase are screwed into the walls? Not just because of the whole California earthquake thing, but for the tip over risk with a soon to be crawling, climbing, baby.

    Thanks for spreading joy and inspiration of ways to help!

  21. My favorite one yet! Are those the curtains from Charlie’s room? Love love the colors in the living room. And that you do these makeovers!

    1. Yes they are!

  22. Amazing in every way! ❤️

  23. Really lovely work all around. What a nice thing to read today!

  24. God bless that beautiful deserving family! As well as the whole EHD and Pen + Napkin group!!! Love these posts. Thank you for inspiring us!

  25. Such a beautiful job! I actually like this house more than some of your other projects with more time and budget. It is just perfect for this family. And I really love Emily’s old playroom sofa – it is the perfect blend of class and comfort. You’ve brought happiness to a family that could really use it. Thank you!

  26. This makeover made me tear up. Thank you for doing something so wonderful with your platform. And I absolutely LOVE the design — so colorful and homey-feeling. I live for these posts!

  27. This is truly the most amazing thing I’ve read on your blog and I don’t say that lightly because I’m obsessed with everything you blog! This is spectacular and brought tears to my eyes!

  28. Emily and team,

    This act of kindness and generosity is a true testament to the kind of people you are. It is so beyond fabulous that it literally brings tears to my eyes.

    1. thank you thank you thank you. believe me that no one feels more lucky to be able to do this than us. xx

      1. THIS is the show that is missing from HGTV. Feel Good Flash Makeovers. I’d watch.

  29. This is awesome! Where can we donate?

    1. Here is a link to our page:

  30. Please please please airbrush out identifying markers on the building – those numbers are distinctive and too easy for a persistent abuser to track down.

    What a fantastic organization and I applaud them and your work in transitioning this family into a new chapter in their lives.

  31. You and your team are wonderful! This is such a beautiful gift.

  32. Love this soooooooo much. (Is there a link to the sofa somewhere? I’m not seeing it.)

  33. where is the consolve/table (?) the TV is on from?

  34. …love what you did for this family and I would be very happy to live in this environment if the size were tripled. I know you got the furniture from your reserves but with a family of five in such a small space using light colors as on the sofa and rug is inviting stains very early on in the life of the furniture. I can’t even trust myself on a light-colored sofa with a cup of tea. It is the same sort of thing as when Nate Berkus had his TV show and used sisal rugs for family living rooms. Gorgeous though they are they cannot be cleaned and are hard on the feet without wearing shoes.

    1. Hey Bo, they are both pretty stain resistant and the rug certainly hides stains! thank you!

  35. This makeover literally makes me teary. You made such a beautiful space for this family, and I can’t help but believe the ripples of this act of kindness will change their lives. Thank you for using your gifts and talents so generously!

  36. LOVE this post and makeover. You did such a wonderful thing for this family and this home.

    I would love to hear about how I can find organizations that do similar projects in my community, so I could donate items or even time directly to them.

    1. I’m not sure where you’re located, but I’ve also worked with a company called Dwell With Dignity (based in Dallas, but also does work in Atlanta and, at one point, Florida):

      That might not be at all helpful to you based on where you live, but all that to say these amazing, selfless services exist across the country! I’m not sure what you Google besides “volunteer interior design services” then going down that rabbit hole to see what comes up. Good luck!

  37. Heartwarming story.

  38. Absolutely beautiful. What a great way to start a new life.

  39. A lot of thought went into meeting this family’s need for a real home. Love the clever solutions. I now believe the EHD team can quite possibly fly…

    1. Hahaha. Thanks for making me laugh and for the kind words, Patricia!

  40. Where did the living room curtains come from?

    1. They were from Charlie’s bedroom, which were custom from Calico (more info here: http://youxi988.info/blog/charlies-big-boy-room-reveal)

  41. This made my cry the happy tears. Thank you for doing this.

  42. This is so inspiring! Love that you’re helping Pen + Napkin with this important work… and repurposing old pieces in the process!!!

  43. Thanks for taking care of people!!

  44. What a wonderful gift for that family. You & your team worked so hard & accomplished so much in one day. Such a kind thing to do. Bravo.

  45. What a loving thing to do for Mama Bear and her children. Thank you.

    Is there a way to contribute to Mama Bear? Diapers, baby clothes, food delivery? I would love to help her.

    I love the design, but have one thought for you – the kitchen bar looks cool, but it is not a lot of space for this big family. I would have turned the refrigerator to face the other way and then put a table running from the side of the refrigerator to the far edge of the kitchen. Definitely a table with leaves in it, or dropleaf, to create more space for cooking, eating, homework, and pulling the baby up to the table in a high chair so that he/she can join in the family dinner. Both of my grandmothers had small 5×2.5 tables in their kitchen, which expanded when necessary. They cooked at the table -kneading bread, pulling out the mixer to make cake batter, and sitting at the table to prep foods for cooking. Both tables were placed with the short side against a window, so they had natural lighting. And both women had rocking chairs in their kitchens where they could sit with a bowl in their laps to shell peas, pick over beans, etc. I’m getting nostalgic here, but I do think that a kitchen table would have been more useful for Mama Bear and her kids. But then I always prefer a kitchen table to a counter height island or bar.

  46. Emily, Velinda and crew- I’ve loyally read your blog since almost the beginning and in my previous life in LA, I worked with homeless families. The nonprofit I worked for ran shelters but also transitioned families into permanent housing, which was my favorite job of all. It takes very little imagination for me to picture their “before.” My agency had a tight budget to equip homes with very, very basic items (often donated and always hodge-podge). The overwhelming nature of having a beautiful, safe home of your own— after living through your own hell and escaping— well, it can’t be described. It touches a special part of my heart to see my favorite designer doing work that is so deeply rooted in my soul.
    Also— I have always adored that sofa of Emily’s and wished she’d find a perfect place for it. I can’t imagine anywhere better!
    You guys are wonderful! Wishing Mama Bear and her sweet kiddos the very best <3

  47. For latest news you have to go to see world wide web and on world-wide-web I found this web page as a best web site for most recent updates.

  48. It’s such a joy to see you use your talents to help others! I always love your design, but it’s even better when it’s for such a good purpose. Love these flash makeover posts!

  49. Love it! Thank you for sharing! I like watching makeover post so much!

  50. I listened to the same podcast!! And I immediately started looking up ways to get involved in my city. You guys did an amazing job!!! Everything about this space is beautiful!!!

  51. Guys, this is the best work that you do. I’m moved to tears. I would like to donate directly to this mama and her family. Is there a way to do that through Pen & Napkin?

  52. This is BEAUTIFUL! These makeovers are my favorite.

  53. Wow! So inspiring. Love this. Great work team EHD.

  54. I have read this article so many times and each time I have had different reactions, I smiled, I giggled, and this time I totally cried.

    It was this part that I can’t shake…
    “We got this “call” (literally and spiritually) right after I listened to a podcast about how obsessed we are about having “enough.” “Scarcity” the hot button word is a larger fear that people will never have enough.”

    This is what it’s about Em, we love you and thank you for saying yes to one of our familes. She is so grateful and I have so many messages from her saying so…you did it, you genuinely changed her and her kids life forever. They will never forget what EHD × Pen + Napkin did for them, when it mattered the most. I will send you news when I have word about the baby…love you guys! Thank you again!!!!! + Catie

  55. One of my fave EHD posts of all time! There aren’t enough adjectives for you folks. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, through and through and through. (Fellow Canadians might get a musical kick out of that one :))

    Much love and admiration from Toronto!

  56. I knew I followed this blog for a good reason! This is all so lovely. Thank you for posting.

  57. The generosity and kindness of Emily and her team exceed their combined design acumen. Thank you for involving the wider community in your good works. The ripple effect will be seen.

  58. Love the living room curtains! Can you tell where they’re from??

  59. This post showed such an amazing makeover! You just gave this family a true gift of hope! I can’t imagine how much joy it brought all of them, especially after leaving their previous living situations! God bless all of you!

  60. wait…. where’s this compact fan? looking for a good one for the same reason (bunk bed decapitation)

  61. Could you share the info on the podcast Emily referenced? I would love to listen to it.

    Beautiful job and great small space solutions.

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