At 33, Emily Henderson has built up a stellar reputation — not to mention devoted following — as an interior design guru who makes decorating your home stylishly feel super-approachable rather than something that takes tons of money, time and expertise. As the host of HGTV show “Secrets from a Stylist” and proprietress of her own blog, Style by Emily Henderson, luckily Henderson gives fans plenty of places to find her tips and inspiration.
As a wife and mom of two, Henderson’s also got plenty going on besides her styling career. We asked her about her fitness routine (she’s working on it!), favorite date-night activity and the three things you should never spend a ton of money on in your home. Check out her secrets below.
SK: What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Emily Henderson: Pour a cup of coffee — with a baby and a toddler, neither of whom can guarantee they’ll sleep through the night, I’m literally desperate every morning. But the effects are immediate and all of a sudden, I’m back!
SK: What’s your go-to healthy breakfast?
EH: Most days, I make a smoothie with kale, spinach, frozen berries and vegan protein powder.
SK: What’s your favorite healthy snack? What about snacks you make for your kids?
EH: We aren’t as fussy or “Martha” as you may think. We all snack the same — nuts, fruit, string cheese. I always mean to prepare some cute turkey and cheese wraps, but ultimately, we all just love almonds and berries.
SK: Do you have any dinner recipes that the whole family loves?
EH: We get Munchery delivered three nights a week, which is family-friendly and affordable meal delivery. But when I’m cooking, it’s usually tacos, chili or pasta. There are no secret family recipes here, and I rarely prepare a noteworthy meal.
SK: Can you describe your workout routine? Does it change seasonally?
EH: Right now it’s bad, and I’ve got to get back into it. Typically, it’s either with a trainer or power yoga. Right now, though, it’s just chasing after two kids and schlepping around bags of decor accessories.
SK: Do you meditate, journal or have any other sort of emotional wellness routine?
EH: The blog is definitely a journal for me, and while I often don’t publish my more personal posts, writing them and emailing them to myself — which I then save and compile — is always super-cathartic.
SK: How do you balance alone time for yourself and time with your family?
EH: There is no balance or even a juggle. I focus on surviving most of the time and laughing through the stress. Brian and I have the intention of going on dates once a week, and we probably manage every other week. Quality time with the kids happens most nights, but as most moms of two littles know, there is virtually no personal or alone time and while that takes a toll on you, time with kids and husband often trumps alone time.
SK: What’s your favorite date-night activity?
EH: I love a long dinner where we can really catch up and talk about things other than just the kids. Brian and I also work a lot together, so we make sure to connect on things outside of work and kids so we feel like real people.
SK: Do you have any favorite entertaining tips?
EH: God, I really feel like I’m not giving anybody any real tips here, but I tend to make huge vats of chili or a big lasagna. I am incapable of entertaining while cooking, so everything has to be done beforehand.
SK: What’s your easy fix when you’re craving a quick decor change?
EH: I rearrange furniture almost daily and I play with pillows, throws and art all the time. I kinda have to for my job, which is to create content for the blog. Another thing you can do is change up the scent of a room to help freshen it up. Air Wick just released a Bullet auto spray that’s perfect for those of you who can’t light candles or have too much on your schedule to even think about constantly refreshing the house. It delivers continuous bursts of fragrance, so it takes the brainwork out of it while being really simple design-wise, so you get set it and get back to your life. Sometimes it’s the little things that can help you feel like you have your life together.
SK: What are three home items that are worth spending more money on?
EH: It’s not three particular things — it’s the conversation or statement pieces. There are so many great, affordable big-box retailers that make major pieces of furniture, so if you’re on a budget, don’t splurge on a $5,000 sofa. Instead, buy a special piece of art, a unique rug or a statement piece that makes people gasp when they see it — in a good way, of course.
SK: What are three things people shouldn’t spend money on for their homes?
EH: Throw pillows, bedding and lighting. These are the things you can go to places like Target and purchase so easily. Sure, you can spend $500 on a duvet, but that’s not where my money is going, nor would I recommend you spend it that way!
SK: What’s your best tip to working moms for having a healthy work-life balance?
EH: I have no idea and I’d love the answer. Mostly, I’d say to outsource what you aren’t doing well yourself (for me, that’s cooking and help around the house) and then order a lot online so you aren’t running around on the weekends doing errands instead of spending time with kids.
SK: What was your biggest surprise when you became a mom?
EH: When I had my first kid, I was shocked and surprised by how much fun it was and how we thoroughly enjoyed it. When we added another baby, it was like, “Oh, this is what extreme exhaustion feels like.” Now that they’re getting old enough to play with each other it’s pure magic amid the mayhem.
SK: What would you say is your biggest day-to-day challenge as a mom?
EH: It’s challenging to stay present and focus on my kids when I’m with them. My work is all-consuming and I have to shut it off from 5 to 8 p.m., but that can be difficult when I’m getting a million text messages about the next day’s post or meetings. My staff knows that this is my family time, but they also have a lot on their plate and need answers. I find myself zoning out at the dinner table or while bathing my kids, thinking about a presentation, article or even whether or not I should put navy or black lampshades on our nightstand. So yes, staying present with my kids is a challenge and something I work on daily.
SK: Do you have a strong female community in your life?
EH: Yes, or I would die. I have two extremely close friends in LA who come over with their toddlers often and they play while we commiserate. We go on vacation together and it’s pretty much ideal. My three best friends in Portland are also working moms who are the main financial supporters of their family with two small kids. When we get together on our own, sans kids, we exchange advice, horror stories and encouragement. Since my kids are the youngest, they make me feel better by saying things like, “It only gets easier,” which really helps.
SK: Any tips for how to stay sane in the current political climate?
EH: I focus on the positive and what I can do to help those in my community. We’re doing a ton of pro-bono projects this year — refugee families, mostly — and we’ll be posting about them on the blog with the intent of encouraging others to use their talents and skills to make change in their community, not just rant on Facebook.
SK: As your kids grow up, how do you see your career and lifestyle changing?
EH: I don’t have a five-year plan, nor do I try to predict too much. Our kids are our first priority and our focus will be to make sure they’re thriving at any age in every environment. I think I’ll always be the same parent — good at some things and working on others, but loving obsessively along the way.