emily henderson decorating ideas

Photo: Daniel Hennessy

O enlisted designer Emily Henderson to help make the most of real estate agent Alexis Hilton's sunny L.A. apartment. Here are the top takeaways that will work in just about any home.

Break Up Your Wall

A two-tone paint job is an affordable way to update a room. Henderson suggests painting roughly two-thirds of the wall to make the ceilings feel higher (just don't line up the color break with the doorframes, she says).

Personalize Your Artwork

Buying and framing art can get expensive. For a more affordable (and meaningful) option, Henderson suggests uploading travel snapshots—Hilton's are from Italy—to Costco's website, having them blown way up ($9 will get you a 20" x 30"), and putting them in IKEA frames.

cheap decorating ideas

Photo: Daniel Hennessy

Double Your Rug

Henderson believes that furniture should all be either off the rug or on it to help the seating area seem more cohesive. She centered Hilton's neutral sisal rug between the couch and chair, then layered a smaller woven rug on top to add pattern without springing for a new 8' x 10'.

Add to Your Couch

If you don't want to buy new furniture, cover a tired couch with a vintage throw.

living room makeover

Photo: Daniel Hennessy

Banish Blah Blinds

Even if you don't need curtains to keep out light, they can make a room feel more pulled together. Henderson scored some patterned turquoise silk in a fabric store's fashion section—where, she says, you can often find more interesting prints at better prices than in the upholstery department. Then she sewed four-inch hems on the panels and hung the curtain rods six inches below the ceiling molding and a foot wider than the windows, making them look bigger.

Get Real (Plants)

An indoor tree adds life—literally—to any room, breaking up sharp lines and filling empty corners. This fiddle-leaf fig also thrives in the bright sunlight that Hilton is lucky to get all afternoon. (Visit your local nursery to determine which type of tree will thrive in your space.)

home makeovers by emily henderson

Photo: Daniel Hennessy

Declutter Your Coffee Table

Flat surfaces tend to attract magazines and plates of half-eaten food. So Henderson replaced Hilton's makeshift coffee table (a piece of wood balanced on two stools and covered with a sari) with a large aubergine ottoman. It's casual and comfortable and provides a pop of intense color—and a place to put a cup of tea (a shaggy little stool from Target, meanwhile, adds a dose of fun). Instead of Hilton's tchotchkes, Henderson went with a single statement piece, which makes the room look larger: a vase of fresh flowers on a tray. Reading material now lives in wicker baskets under the bench.

Photo: Daniel Hennessy

Let There Be Light

Henderson thinks all rooms need several sources of lighting, so she added a couple of affordable floor and desk lamps from Target.