3 Years In The Making Then An Unexpected Move: Arlyn’s Bedroom Reveal Is A Lesson In The Beauty Of “Unfinished” Design

I’m just going to go ahead and rip off the bandage here early: This is not your traditional room reveal. If the story of my primary bedroom design were an HBO series, it would be White Lotus and this is the first (and last) episode where I show you the ending and then build my way back to how it all happened. While there is no murder (phew!), there is a bit of heartbreak, but thankfully also plenty of joy. Buckle in, this is a long one. {For anyone here to pin photos of peach walls and yellow velvet beds, go ahead and skip down here.}

You see, this space was three years in the making—three of the most pivotal, life-altering moments of my life. A life-altering injury (that I’ve considerably improved from). A life-altering pregnancy (because all of them are). A life-altering new baby. All of that…and four days, yes DAYS, to enjoy the finished space before…::drumroll:: we had to move. 

I never designed this space with the intention of leaving it behind, but in the tricky world of Los Angeles real estate and landlord drama, we didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. During the pandemic, the ownership of our 1920s Mediterranean quadplex changed hands from the world’s greatest landlord to, well, the family who bought our building. There’s a lot I could say here but probably can’t legally (darn). But the short of it all is we were offered a lump sum of money to vacate our apartment to avoid the process of a no-fault eviction. 

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: reveal: arlyn’s bright & happy rental living room makeover

Our new landlords wanted in on our unit after buying the building (who could blame them? It’s so dreamy). The first time they came to us with this, there was a city-wide eviction moratorium, so we had the upper hand. We fought tooth and nail for a “cash for keys” offer that felt far more fair than what they were bringing to the table. They wouldn’t budge, so we walked away. I was six months pregnant at the time, and the idea of moving late in my pregnancy or with a newborn baby was nothing myself or Charles wanted to deal with without a considerable buyout sum to make it seem worth it (which we were not getting). 

We shut down the conversation of owner occupancy once and for all (we thought) and carried on with our lives. We welcomed our glorious little Evelyn last February. We settled into newborn and new parent life. We slept very little. We cried a lot (nearly as much as Evelyn!). We oohed and awwed and admired the perfect little face and hands and feet of this human we created. 

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: reveal: arlyn’s bright & happy rental living room makeover

After six or so months, the fog of post-partum started to lift and I finally started to feel like a real human again. I was ready to get back to the bedroom I embarked on designing in 2020 (it was now 2022). A week before giving birth, I put up half the gallery wall around the TV as my mother stood by nervously making sure I didn’t fall from the step ladder. I left some blank spaces for photos of the baby, because duh. Most of the furniture—except for the armoire that I chronicled here—was in place, the walls were painted, the window coverings were up, and the sconces were plugged in. I kept reporting back to Jess that the room was “almost done” while I took inventory of what remained to be done, including moving an infant out of our quarters and into her own. Our bedroom was part adult space, part nursery, which I was actually originally going to reveal. But then, like I said, I found *the* armoire, and that changed the plan. 

And then life happened and altered the plan again. This brings us to the here and now, 2023. Our landlord’s lawyer circled back in January, dropping the “bomb” of an email just as the city of Los Angeles was about to lift the moratorium. After several conversations, more tears, and a lot of frantic apartment hunting later, Charles and I decided to accept a buyout offer we weren’t 100% happy with just to gift ourselves peace of mind and some control. Sitting and waiting for an eviction notice to be taped to your door is no way to live considering we’ve never missed a rent payment and were only losing our home because the owner wanted it. Their right, yes, but so much suckage for us. 

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: arlyn’s moody dining room reveal is all about the insane power of paint

What does all of this have to do with a design blog and some pretty pictures of a bedroom, exactly? Nothing really, besides transparency and a life update of sorts for anyone who recognizes my byline. And also maybe a little lesson in that pristine photos on the internet aren’t always what they seem (this is usually the case). 

I love how my bedroom room turned out. It’s what my soul wanted before my head could get to the idea and put it down on paper. 

That heartbreak I mentioned in the first paragraph? That’s what I felt the day we turned over the keys. It’s also what I feel now, knowing this was just a little blip in time. C’est la vie, friends. C’est la vie. I’ll always hold a large spot in my heart for our Mid-City apartment. But we’re about a month in now at our new place further east on a tree-lined street so picturesque, I literally squeal every day on our walks with Evelyn “I CAN’T BELIEVE WE GET TO LIVE HERE.” It’s not all tragic first-episode-of-White-Lotus drama. It does have a happy ending, even if—another spoiler alert—my beloved armoire is back in the garage…

So now, 900 words into a “room reveal” post, I can finally get to the reveal part as well as all the juicy design details because I would have been living a lie without the backstory. For anyone who jumped to this portion, welcome. Let’s get into it.

The Part Where She Finally Talks About Design! 

Bed | Sheets | Linen Duvet | Linen Shams | Green Pillow Fabric | Wall Paint

My vision for the space changed and evolved over the course of the three years I was putting it together and I’m so glad it did. For anyone who knows my style, I’m drawn to the dramatic, the colorful, the personality-filled. That’s not what I actually ended up doing here. If you missed my plans shared early on (or want a refresher), you can see my post with my original mood board here, as well as the post where I explored changing courses and pulling back some of the color. (You can also see everything I wrote about this room as it came together over on my own blog here.)

for anyone not clicking through to past posts, here’s a quick reminder of my room before I got started. Just a hodgepodge of old furniture that didn’t go together and very boring, beige walls and beyond.

Originally, I was going for a rust and peach color palette, but then I saw this Lulu & Georgia bed and it was game over. We wanted to scale up to a king bed from a queen, but knew a king would feel very large in our room visually. The fact that their Zien bed was low profile (the headboard is only 43 inches off the floor) really balanced the bulk and drama of the piece. It’s such a beautiful, well-built bed. I’ve only ever had less expensive build-it-yourself type beds or DIY headboards, so a fully finished to-the-floor headboard and sturdy rails really feels like a luxury. After almost two years in and out of bed with a bad back and aching legs, a little luxury is very welcomed.

Every time I tell people who haven’t seen it IRL that my bed is mustard velvet, I can see the fear pulsing in their eyes. But friends, we don’t have to be afraid of color if it tempts you. It’s all about finding balance.  

It’s funny because I look at these images and I don’t see “color.” It reads quite neutral to me. To the point that a few months before we had to rush to photograph the room, I had the idea of adding a ribbon-like, one-inch border in a deep mulberry along the crown molding, baseboards, and in the corners. It would have brought to life the Greenwich Village boutique hotel vibe I was hoping to land. Ultimately, though, I ran out of time and energy as I juggled packing up the home we lived in for five wonderful years, an energetic toddler, and deciding to leave my full-time job as a marketing director to have more time with my daughter and try my hand at launching my own agency. I’m nothing if not a magnet for major life events happening all at once. 

Sorry Sara for the quick and dirty Photoshop job on your beautiful image to show you readers what I was going for. It’s not quite right here, obviously, but this was the idea:

Blush Lumbar Pillow Fabric | Quilt

Now that I see it, I actually prefer it the way it is, without the border. It feels a bit cage-like here, though, in some world, it could work. Alas, I’ll never know. 

You’ll notice in this photo that the lumbar pillow is different. It’s not, actually! I sewed it myself because I couldn’t seem to find a pillow that was as long as I wanted it to be for our king-size bed. Everything I found was better suited to a queen, so out came my sewing machine. In the process of finding the right fabric, I stumbled upon a more traditional block print from Spoonflower, and right before checkout, they showed me this painterly abstract graphic fabric that I also fell in love with. So, what does one do when you can’t pick between two things? Well, you pick them both, of course! Now, depending on my mood, I can flip the pillow around and get two different vibes entirely. 

I touch on this later, but to me, this setup is “unfinished” because I really wanted a vintage quilt or tapestry to hang above the bed, but something like that is not to be rushed. Living in California (i.e. earthquake territory) leaves your options for above-the-headboard decor very limited. It was something soft that wouldn’t bludgeon us or bust. It’s a good thing I didn’t find just the thing because, in our new place, our bed is up against a window. I couldn’t handle any further heartache.

The Most Beautiful Nightstands I’ve Ever Owned

Nightstand | Sconce | Glass Carafe | Rug

The more spaces I design, the more I’m learning about quiet beauty. I have a tendency to overdesign (and overwrite…) wanting everything to be a “moment” but now, I’m very much a fan of leaning into beautiful materials and letting them do the talking. These nightstands—the Atwater nightstand in walnut from Hedgehouse Furniture—are probably the nicest pieces of furniture in my entire home. These are heirloom quality. Handbuilt in the midwest, dovetail joinery, satiny finished solid hardwood that’s sustainably harvested. My goodness, are they stunning in person. The original size of them (28 inches wide) was a bit too large for my room, so I worked with the lovely people at Hedgehouse to scale them down a bit. I landed on a top surface of 24 inches with a full width of 25.5 inches. This customization option is something they’re known for, which is so helpful in avoiding the heart-sinking feeling of finding “the” piece only to realize the size is all wrong.

Jewelry Box | Custom Embroidered Art

Most days, the tops of our nightstands do not look like this, but I figured a 32 oz Hydroflask and Charles’ many electronics were not exactly photoshoot ready. I pulled out some books, Bowser brought over flowers, and boom, internet-worthy styling. A slight tilt of the camera on any given day and you might see that that vintage blue and white bowl I bought many years ago at a ReStore is actually full of pacifiers (#momlife). 

Because I had closets from the early 20th century (read: tiny), I keep my jewelry in this stackable box from The Container Store in my nightstand cubby. To the right of it is a brass mouse candlestick Jess bought me as a gift for the baby’s nursery. 

Before moving on from my sleeping area, I want to bring attention to these plug-in sconces from Hudson Valley Lighting. I worked with HVL for the sconces of my living room because I was so impressed with the quality of their pieces. Wall lights that aren’t hard-wired are few and far between, especially of this caliber. The unfinished brass is already patinating beautifully, and I love how the raffia wrapped around the pole strikes down the glam factor. (Fun fact: I thought that was leather when I ordered them and was surprised when they arrived…but it was a pleasant “whoops”.) 

It’s so nice to be able to reach over at night to turn off my light without having to stand up on the bed to pull down the chain of the ceiling fan. Upgrade!

A not-so-pleasant whoops was my miscalculation of rug size. I had long admired the Stripe Break rug by Sarah Sherman Samuel for Lulu & Georgia, and I finally got to use it in my bedroom. With a king bed, a 9×12 rug is really the ideal size for having enough space to the left and right. Given that there wasn’t much room between the window wall and Charles’ side of the bed, I just eyeballed it (dumb move…not professional, don’t try this at home). When I rolled out the 8×10, I immediately knew it was going to be eaten up by the large bed. This was two days before Thanksgiving, I was going away and didn’t want to be bothered with having someone move the very heavy bed and mattress to pull it out, return it and get a larger size. 

Do I regret it? Yeah, a bit. But it’s also one of those things I’ve gone blind to. 

Building The Gallery Wall

If my old dining room is any indication, it’s clear I love a gallery wall. A big top to bottom, side-to-side gallery wall. Something absolutely clutch to me, however, is that the art isn’t just pretty to look at, but has meaning. It doesn’t all have to be handed down to you by your third cousin twice removed, because yes, sometimes some things can just be eye-catching and that’s that, but in my bedroom, I opted for all-in sentimentality. 

This is the heart of this space, 100%. Starting from the bottom left, the maternity shoot Veronica (of EHD fame, of course) took in December 2021. Above that is a scroll and ink drawing Charles brought me back from China when he studied abroad in Japan. It was something he gave me “casually” before we even started dating, and I never quite found the right spot to hang it. Well, artwork from circa 2008, it’s your time to shine. The walnut frame from Framebridge really brings it to life, IMHO. 

The next spot sat empty for well over a year, as we have thousands of photos of our girl to pick from. We both loved our little bird in this shot, so up on the wall it went. The small mixed media by MaryAnn Puls was a gift from Emily when I worked there. And there, behind the kumquats I demanded Bowser bring to the shoot (very nicely) is a print entitled “Together” by Mkoby that means a lot to us. I purchased it during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. It depicts a black hand, a brown hand and a white hand all in line, with what I interpret as a rising sun. It feels positive, and hopeful to me, which is something I need to see and feel as we raise our beautiful mixed raced daughter.  

Over on top of the TV is a series of black and white photos of our Evelyn. Some of her little details like her hands and her feet (and of course her crying face because Charles and I look back now on it and chuckle. So dramatic, so cute…very much like her personality now).

The image of the sunkissed cacti was taken by Charles at the Huntington Library here in San Marino, a place that brings us so much joy and is so otherworldly beautiful that they used it while filming the show The Good Place to represent heaven. Not too shabby. 

And finally, a gold embossed watercolor by artist Britt Ford of the island of Manhattan, where Charles and I got engaged (in Central Park, to be specific). Something so special also needed to be framed by Framebridge. Everything else is in a frame from IKEA.

Yellow Glass Vase | Bi-fold Frame | Curtains (Similar) | Curtain Rods

Before moving on, I should probably discuss this dresser. It’s a 1960s walnut piece I found on Craigslist for about $700. More than I wanted to spend, actually, but considering I had my eye on very pricey white oak pieces from brands like Room & Board and EQ3, this was a steal. I’m so glad I went in this direction rather than a new piece. It adds so much warmth and soul to the room and plays wonderfully off the (new) nightstands and the vintage armoire. Something to remember though, when buying older dressers and case goods: the drawer space is not up to snuff. I can barely fit three (large) bras and a week’s worth of underwear in one drawer. I thought this would be enough for both my and Charles’ unmentionables and whatnot…I was wrong. 

In our new home, I’m working on finding a highboy or chest of drawers to increase our clothes storage as our closets aren’t that big, and, well…the armoire is a story for later on in this post.

Bamboo Clock | Cable Management Strip Cover

Hot Tip: This is probably a very “duh” moment, but just in case, I wanted to share how easy it is to visually downplay ugly cables as a renter who can’t run wiring through their walls. I buy these stick-on raceways to house the cords of the Chromecast, Firestick, power adapter, etc. and then just paint it the same color as the wall.

It’s Time To Discuss The Armoire

We made it to the armoire talk (finally). I won’t go too deep into the backstory since I wrote a whole post about it already, but it’s so good in here. Or rather, it was good in there…for four days. Since I bought this armoire last year, it has sat in our garage, waiting for its place. Evelyn’s crib was against this wall until the weekend before this shoot. Once we broke that down and brought it to the new place, I hired a TaskRabbit to help Charles bring it upstairs. That was…not easy. This thing is BIG. It *just* fit through the hallway that led to our bedroom. People who move furniture for a living are magicians, I tell you.

The wood tone of it works so well with the vintage dresser and new nightstands. Everything is rich and warm with slightly orange (in a good way) undertones. That’s my tip for mixing woods in old and new pieces: match the undertones! That, or just go with contrast such as a blonde wood with black-stained wood. 

And while the right door doesn’t exactly stay latched without taping it, my hope was to eventually get that fixed as well as retrofit it with shelves to house my shoes, handbags, and the like. 

But the day we moved into our new home, all my dreams were shattered. The movers couldn’t get it up the stairs. It couldn’t clear the low ceiling near the landing up to the second floor. They said they could try, but they looked…very doubtful. We had already been working for 10 hours at that point and I had no fight left in me. “Just put it in the garage, I guess,” I said to them, as deflated as a balloon two weeks after buying it. Sad. Stretched. Flat. It felt like I lost a piece of my soul when I uttered that sentence. A few tears rolled down my cheeks.

There’s a wall in my current bedroom that’s begging for that armoire. It’s like a missed connection. “Me: Empty wall in need of love. You: Robust armoire I crossed paths with on Facebook Marketplace.” Charles and I aren’t giving up hope. There’s a chance we might be able to take the thing apart, bring it up piece by piece, and put it back together. The question is…is it worth all of that? OF COURSE IT’S WORTH THAT, WHY DID YOU EVEN ASK?!?

Velvet Glider | Side Table | Pillow Fabric | Throw | Mirror (similar)

Obviously, I’m dramatizing this all quite a bit. We are happy, healthy, fortunate people. This is not an actual tragedy, just a design tragedy. The 400 days or so I got to spend in this very Living Spaces glider holding my daughter reminds me of that, of course. Plus, I can always go down into the garage and visit my armoire. Pet it, rub it, say hello. Make sure it’s doing okay. We won’t live here forever, so…until then…we wait. 

A few quick notes on the rest of the items above: The paint color was a journey (I chronicled it here) but I eventually picked English Scone by Dunn-Edwards. It’s a bit pinker than I was going for but I grew to love its warm, rosy glow. This is a great side table from Target. It’s gone in and out of stock numerous times in the past two years and for good reason. The floral fabric pillow was something I thought the room needed to give it a touch of English charm (I sewed this one, too). And the curtains I found for a total steal on Nordstrom Rack online. Sadly, they do not have them or anything similar anymore but don’t forget to check stores like that for curtains. These are lined Belgian linen and if my memory serves me correctly, I paid $25 a panel for them…possibly less. It’s been a while. 

A Much-Needed Good Night’s Rest

Mattress | Mattress Topper

Before finishing up (I can feel the wrap music starting to play here for me…sorry Academy, I have a lot to say), I want to briefly chat about my mattress. Going from a queen to a king bed meant a new mattress. Prior to this, we had a very cushy and pillowy memory foam mattress. I loved it. It slept like a literal dream. That is until I severely injured my back and legs and I wasn’t getting the support I needed. Every morning, I woke up worse. Tossing and turning felt like a marathon. I hunted for a firmer mattress that still had high ratings for comfort, and I couldn’t avoid the Avocado brand. It had top marks from nearly every website I researched, including Consumer Reports. We tested their full line at their Santa Monica store and had a Goldilocks moment with their Avocado Green Mattress and a separate latex topper.

As expecting parents, we loved that it was certified organic, and made without flame retardants or other icky chemicals. They offer a wool version (the one we have) and a vegan option, as well. It is a firmer mattress than I’ve ever slept on, so it took a week or two to get used to it but now we love it. I can get out of bed without feeling like my legs are made of lead.

The Details Make The Whole (& Home)

At the end of the shoot, while we were all gathered on my sofa finishing up lunch and gabbing like old times, I asked Sara if she could go back in and shoot some little details. In my eye, the design of my room is not a “showstopper” in that everything is a big statement. Sure, there’s a mustard velvet bed and fleshy pink walls and a large and in charge wood armoire, but it all still feels quiet. Peaceful. Simple. The small moments fill the space with whispers of mine and Charles’ life.

There’s the glass tray on my bedside table I bought from Erik (also of EHD fame, of course) when he was selling some of his own treasures (same with the marble egg bookends!), left out front of my home in a “contactless” delivery he made because #covid.

There’s the paper crane card pinned above Charles’ nightstand I gave him when I told him we were going to be parents. Inside, a whole story is written about how much paper cranes mean to me, and the hope they represent. 

This peacock mirror isn’t necessarily my style anymore, but I could never part with it as it represents a time in my life when a huge splurge financially was a $200 piece I had been eyeing for a year or two. I had just begun my journey in the design world, and the peacock mirror was the utmost of sophistication and taste, so when I saw this one on mega clearance at Pier1 Imports, I had to find a way to make it mine. 

And of course, our Evelyn. Photos snapped by Charles of our girl. Photos filled with so much love I’m teary-eyed just typing this sentence. 

my sweet, funny girl! it’s such a treat having her in my life.

I know this space—and our new home–will evolve over time. New things will be added, other things might shift to different spaces (or maybe even different owners). To me, a personal space is never truly finished. A room that breathes in and out, molds to where you are in life…that’s my version of beautiful. I look back onto this bedroom we left behind with a full heart. Memories of the last few years flashing in my mind (the good and the bad), dotted with paint color decisions, sleepless nights holding a tiny baby, and knee-jerk “GOTTA HAVE THIS NOW!” second-hand purchases off Facebook Marketplace (Charles is such a trooper, I tell ya). 

I’ll miss it. Dearly. But I’m excited for what’s next for us, and for me. New home. New room. New neighborhood. New career. You’ll be hearing far more from me around here in the coming weeks and months as I’ve signed on to be a regular contributor.

Until you hear from me again (probably next week!), I’ll leave you here. Enough words written to fill the script of the entire next season of White Lotus. If you made it down to the bottom, thanks for sticking with me. If you didn’t, well…you’re not here to read this anyway but I appreciate you for stopping by (if only half-assedly…we’re busy, I get it). If I left anything out, feel free to ask away in the comments. I’ll be there hanging out with you. 🙂 

Onward and upward, friends. 

*Design by Arlyn Hernandez (me!)
**Styling by Emily Bowser
***Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp 

The post 3 Years In The Making Then An Unexpected Move: Arlyn’s Bedroom Reveal Is A Lesson In The Beauty Of “Unfinished” Design appeared first on Emily Henderson.

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