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Reasons to Embrace Your Imperfect Home

Oct 18, 2016

by Jaime Buerger handmade and vintage goods

Emily Henson is on a mission. “I want to pull back the curtain on these perfectly staged photos of homes that you see in magazines and on social media,” says the London-based interior stylist. “Because that’s not real life.” For Henson, “real life” is a home that isn’t afraid to be a little bit messy, one that doesn’t hide the tangle of wires tucked under a desk or the stack of bills strewn on the kitchen counter. With her new book (and her blog of the same name), Life Unstyled, she’s out to show the world that real is beautiful, too.

M 254 x 216

Debi Treloar for Life Unstyled by Emily Henson, published by Ryland, Peters & Small

In Life Unstyled, Henson is turning the idea of a “perfect” home on its head by showcasing modern, eclectic spaces that put creativity over perfection. We asked the author, who has styled photo campaigns for clients ranging from IKEA to Anthropologie, why everyone should strive to make their homes a true reflection of themselves, warts and all. Here’s what she said:

1) Because your passions are important


Debi Treloar for Life Unstyled by Emily Henson, published by Ryland, Peters & Small


Debi Treloar for Life Unstyled by Emily Henson, published by Ryland, Peters & Small

“Of course we all want homes that are tidy,” says Henson, but that doesn’t mean we need to tuck away every odd and end that gives us pleasure. Maybe you’ve amassed a large collection of vintage glassware, or your children love to bring home buckets of seashells from the beach: No matter how high- or low-end the objects, if they say something about what you love and who you are, you should be proud to display them.

There is an art to it, though: “Play around and group items together so they don’t just look like a bunch of stuff sitting on your mantel,” Henson says. Try arranging them by height, scale or color, and see which scheme fits your space best. “One homeowner profiled in the book had accumulated a lot of ceramics, and instead of hiding them away in a closet, he put a free-standing glass-fronted cabinet in his kitchen. There, the dishes looked more like a statement — almost like a museum cabinet.”

2) Because a flaw can be a point of distinction, not a drawback


Debi Treloar for Life Unstyled by Emily Henson, published by Ryland, Peters & Small

Most people have some area of their home that they don’t love — a room or a piece of furniture that calls out for a new coat of paint, for example. But instead of rushing to redecorate, try to look at that peeling plaster or rickety antique chair with fresh eyes. “Old doesn’t have to mean old-fashioned,” as Henson writes in her book. Indeed, it’s the crack in the ceiling or the fading wallpaper in a foyer that writes a home’s history, giving it a character unlikely to be seen anywhere else.

3) Because creativity trumps consumption


Debi Treloar for Life Unstyled by Emily Henson, published by Ryland, Peters & Small


 Debi Treloar for Life Unstyled by Emily Henson, published by Ryland, Peters & Small

It’s easy to buy stuff, but the rewards that come from repurposing something you already have can be much greater, says Henson. “There’s nothing wrong with buying something new, but a one-of-a-kind piece that someone made for you or that you found in a junk shop — even if it’s slightly flawed — is what gives people a feeling of your personality when they walk into your home.”

For many of the homeowners profiled in Life Unstyled, outfitting their rooms with objects that felt uniquely personal came from hours spent scouring the Internet and thrift stores. “It does take time and dedication to create a personal look,” she says, “but it certainly doesn’t have to take a lot of money.”

4) Because time gives you textures that money can’t buy


Debi Treloar for Life Unstyled by Emily Henson, published by Ryland, Peters & Small


Debi Treloar for Life Unstyled by Emily Henson, published by Ryland, Peters & Small

While there’s no shortage of intentionally distressed goods on the market these days — from brand-new jeans ripped just so to artfully mismatched upholstery and pre-worn rugs — there’s also never been a trend that’s kinder to an authentically lived-in home. And you don’t have to go full shabby-chic to benefit. “It’s really all about layering, isn’t it?” says Henson, who’s drawn to spaces filled with overlapping textiles and fabrics. Now is the time to give that favorite frayed-edge curtain a second chance, warm up to that cozy throw your friend crocheted for you in college, or bust out that heavy old china cabinet you inherited from your grandma — the one with the peeling finish and tarnished drawer handles. After all, the best kind of patina is the one you don’t pay extra for.

5) Because change is the only constant


 Debi Treloar for Life Unstyled by Emily Henson, published by Ryland, Peters & Small

“Some people just want to decorate and be done,” Henson says. Not her. As a stylist, she has, admittedly, amassed great piles of cool furniture, art and accessories. But that doesn’t mean she keeps all her possessions on display at once. “For me, it’s not about redecorating entirely, but about adding new things to the mix while taking out others,” says Henson, who keeps plastic bins in her basement full of bits and bobs that will make their way back up — eventually. Lifestyles change and tastes change, she says, and the best way to honor that might just be making it up as you go along.

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  • PrimCountryCurtains

    Francine from HomespunHeartofMine said 4 years ago

    What a great celebration of the "collector" decorating style!!! LOVE IT!!! Nothing like a piece that has earned its weathered look over time....a true treasure!!! :D

  • LadyLunarCat

    Irina Shapoval from LadyLunarCat said 4 years ago

    Very informative! Thank you!

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 4 years ago

    Love this article! Thanks for sharing!

  • dominna

    Katrina Dzerkale from Dominna said 4 years ago

    '' Because creativity trumps consumption '' MOST DEF!!

  • DecoUno

    DeUno from DeUno said 4 years ago

    Home like museum! :) So many details!

  • GTDesigns

    renee and gerardo from GTDesigns said 4 years ago

    Oh my gosh is this stylist's philosophy ever correct in loving and perhaps even re-loving what we have. Favorite line: "Because time gives you texture that money can't buy" - Great, informative, inspirational article -- I've felt this way for a long long time -- and now, there's some authority ; ) Super great share!! Thanks!

  • babsfsu

    Barbara Gable from CrazyLovely said 4 years ago

    Love this style!

  • DonnaRoberge

    Donna Roberge from DonnaRobergePhoto said 4 years ago

    So glad to see this article! I keep a clean home but it has never looked like the homes you see in magazines, the ones with clear tables and countertops, with no evidence at all that someone actually "lives" there. My coffee table holds everyday things, my kitchen table holds its fair share of mail and other "must have out" things. My front room has our shoes left by the door (more pairs than I'd like to admit). I keep out my favorite things that mirror my personality and have meaning for me. I don't have matched furniture but pieces I have picked up here and there along the way. The important thing is that it all works well together (in my opinion anyway). Thanks for a well written article, I enjoyed reading it and the photos are beautiful!

  • blackbirdtees

    Jody and Karl from blackbirdsupply said 4 years ago

    Love everything about this article. Thank you!

  • sandragrimsley1

    Sandra Grimsley from AntiqueDiscoveries said 4 years ago

    My husband always asks how long is that piece hanging in the living room. Collectively changing decor is something I have been doing for years. Changes moods and everything. Looking for your book on Amazon. Very good info.

  • bennaandhanna

    benna and hanna from bennaandhanna said 4 years ago

    Thank you so much! This is my style. However, you want it, there is always a unique style in each one of us. Just live your own style. My kids say, our home will never look like a picture perfect home with the perfect lay out. But our home is our home and should feel homey to anyone.:)

  • gilstrapdesigns

    Debra Gilstrap from gilstrapdesigns said 4 years ago

    I really enjoyed reading this article. This article is so true mixing things up in your home to me shows character and your individual styles it also shows that your home is lived in and not museum!

  • rellyh

    Relly from RelsFindsNapaValley said 4 years ago

    I find every piece of art shown here is interesting and beautiful.

  • frighten

    mari from frighten said 4 years ago

    Gorgeous homes, collections and photos. I'm a big believer in surrounding yourself with the things that make you happy.

  • unforgottendreams

    Unforgotten Dreams from Unforgottendreams said 4 years ago

    So cosy, love this article. Congrats!

  • TreasuredMemoryLane

    Sujata from TreasuredMemoryLane said 4 years ago

    Love the article! it is very informative. The unstyled and imperfect homes open the doors to unlimited creative ideas.

  • ArtisanSoapInVegas

    Cristy Ramos from ArtisanBathandBody said 4 years ago

    This article is excellent! Wonderful picks, I am in love with the textures and the antique look ♥

  • suemako

    Sue from SuesAkornShop said 4 years ago

    I find that kind of look very interesting and homey!

  • walnutandbirch

    Whitney Wood from WalnutAndBirch said 4 years ago

    Wow! I'm inspired. Great article and lovely photography.

  • redbirdsstudio

    Kathleen Spencer from redbirdsstudio said 4 years ago

    Beautiful! I have lots of old things, that I enjoy and decorate with. However, I have a bit of guilt about doing so because my adult children urge me to par down or get new. Now I understand why I get so much comfort from my old pieces and they are definitely here to stay!

  • Kashuen

    Kashuen Collectibles from Kashuen said 4 years ago

    I never thought in that way: Because time gives you textures that money can’t buy. But it's true. I wish I know how to turn my 70's home into something unique.

  • theYarnKitchen

    Stella Melgrati from theYarnKitchen said 4 years ago

    beautiful and inspiring! <3

  • Pysar

    Yuri Pysar from Pysar said 4 years ago

    love this approach to styling home. Home that bears memories and emotions has its own very significant voice. Thank you for great reading.

  • StyleGraphicDesign

    Maria from StyleGraphicDesign said 4 years ago

    Great style!!

  • AuroraLupetti

    Aurora Lupetti from DesignFeminine said 4 years ago

    Wonderful! When I carried swatches around and matched everything, I couldn't figure out what was wrong, and why I wasn't happy with my decor. One day a bolt out of the blue hit me. Boring, boring, boring! Now I have raku and murano, orchids and cacti, assemblage art and oil paintings, and everything gets changed around for the seasons and mood, and just because. Thanks for the inspiration and affirmation!

  • dollybirddesign

    Katie Johansson from dollybirddesign said 4 years ago

    Love this article. All points to keys of a good home!

  • lewis2131

    Rebeca from SecretDiamonds said 4 years ago

    Love it!

  • foundamental

    Lynn from FOUNDAMENTAL said 4 years ago

    intuitive work! great article!

  • mrsakarn

    cindy Q. from mrsakarn said 4 years ago

    I love this blog!!! Thank you so much for sharing, and thank you for making me feel really good about how I decorate my house. Blessings, CQ

  • loribethclark4

    Loribeth from MomentsOfArt said 4 years ago

    She is embracing a philosophy that I've subscribed to for years. I've always thought the perfect homes and rooms in magazines look contrived. You know, the ones that hide the TV remote, because it isn't pretty...or the the ones that have perfectly curated coffee tables. Who lives like that? That doesn't feel warm and inviting. That doesn't say welcome home. That says, don't touch anything because you'll ruin the look. I don't live like that and the design pictures I share on my blog have coffee cup I'm drinking from that day in them, the remote is on the end table next to my husband's chair. The rooms are still beautiful, but no one is afraid to sit down and be comfortable.

  • caramelapplebooks

    Niki from CaramelAppleBooks said 4 years ago

    This is a wonderful article. The words are so inspiring and the pictures are very artistic. It adds true meaning to the home. Love it. :)

  • aislinglacey

    Aisling Lacey from HappyTrinketsAndBits said 4 years ago

    Such a great read! I will have to get your book soon :D

  • ClickPaperCo

    Amy from ClickPaperCo said 4 years ago

    Yay, my house is finally in style! I have so many things that belonged to my grandmother, mid-century mod chairs and matching side tables, an eccentric lamp, a sideboard, vintage sewing machines, a copper wall sculpture. These are things that other family members might have tossed into the bin. But they are scattered around my house in some decorative or functional way keeping her memory alive. They are some of my most cherished belongings.

  • nursechic72

    Rebekah from pixiestrinkets said 4 years ago

    Great article!! Definitely checking out the book. I have a very eclectic home that is constantly in some stage of renovation and several collections of odds and ends. Now I feel a little more comfortable knowing my home conveys more of who I am and not just some cookie cutter design like something from a magazine.

  • jamiespinello

    jamiespinello from JamieSpinello said 4 years ago

    Beautiful photos! This is an article I can get behind. I am a firm believer in surrounding one's self with inspirations and personal effects that trigger pleasant memories and not executing a room design to the tune of a template or trend styled unlivable room found in a overly edited editorial shoot.

  • ongoodroads

    Ana R. from ongoodroads said 4 years ago

    Everyone is unique. Make your place you. Great compilation!

  • lambater

    Greg and Mary from LightingAlchemy said 4 years ago

    Amazing article! We love it! Thank you!!!

  • beachbabyblues

    Susan Wagner from beachbabyblues said 4 years ago

    " gives people a feeling of your personality when they walk into your home " YES and thank you !! ~ I find that have always decorated this way ~ fun, quirky, sometimes bold but with touches that are soft and relaxed ~ Various collections here and there , mostly sea related ,plenty of vintage and distressed goodies ~ ever changing layers Its just who I am ~ and after all ~ Home is where I get to be ME ,with no need to impress anyone Great article ~ Excited to get a copy of this book !!

  • bedouin

    Nicole from KarmaCodeOne said 4 years ago

    Oh these are all so cool ~ Individuality rocks !

  • deardearArt

    deardear from deardearArt said 4 years ago

    Love this~~ thank you

  • JewelMeShop

    Georgia from JewelMeShop said 4 years ago

    ''real is beautiful, too.'' How true!

  • papillon975

    Rita Perotti from ArtGallery345 said 4 years ago

    Che bello! :)

  • DivineOrders

    DivineOrders from DivineOrders said 4 years ago

    GLORIOUS! Hooray for vintage, shabby and well-worn textures and treasures! Collect what you love and display it in your life. Live with the things that make your heart sing. - Peace.

  • teerasakborkam

    Teerasak Borkam from TribalAndHarem said 4 years ago


  • WetDesert

    MJ Toops from WetDesertVintage said 4 years ago

    I've recently changed my "inspiration for home" pictures to be exclusively shots from friends actual homes and backyards. Embracing the beauty of realness and not styled stock-art perfection.

  • Gem2thei

    Helen from Gem2theiVintage said 4 years ago

    Love these so much I just had to pin them.

  • SouvenirAndSalvage

    Mary Jo and Rachael from SouvenirAndSalvage said 4 years ago

    Gorgeous photography and styled rooms. As that saying goes "A clean house is a sign of a wasted life", this highlights the more relate-able side of that argument, which is picture perfect decor often leaves no room for living or enjoying the experience. While it's true that many lovely objects can be purchased to bring beauty to a room, it's the found, created, gifted and time worn objects that give honest life to a home. This bohemian way of developing a space is one that feels more comfortable and obtainable for everyone.

  • janazjunque

    Jana Davies from janazjunque said 4 years ago


  • creativelycc3

    Carrie Cronkite from CCsSoapinaPouch said 4 years ago

    Wow, I will look at the flaws in my home with new eyes - thanks to you. Now I will work with some of the worn areas in my home, instead of against them! Loved reading this! You have inspired me!

  • allwood1

    allwood1 from AllWoodToo said 4 years ago

    Love this collection...Thanks so much for sharing!

  • themilkmadejam

    Miss B from HeyThatsMyJam said 4 years ago

    Love this room! Very Unique and I love the laid back vibe

  • secondstudio

    Second Studio from secondstudio said 4 years ago

    Great feature - congrats !!

  • jayryu1

    Jay Ryu from fdsfdffdsfsdfdsf said 4 years ago


  • lundyscatch

    Marci from 303FaceBodyDenver said 4 years ago

    Love this! I have a loft downtown and realize that its such an amazing space to be creative and showcase my creativity, as well as its perfectly imperfect look.

  • TropicalGarden

    TropicalGarden from TropicalGarden said 4 years ago

    Great article, thanks for sharing! Imperfection makes life more real and personal, regardless of style.

  • emaxtees

    emaxtees from EmaxTees said 4 years ago

    So nice vintage style :) Amazing job!

  • mudyomthai

    Sudarat Sungkaew from mudyomthai said 4 years ago

    Item so cute สวยมากกกก

  • tanworkshop

    Karuna Chatwongwan from TanStudioShop said 4 years ago

    Love this !!!!

  • GracefulAntiquesVtg

    Graceful Antiques from GracefulAntiquesVtg said 4 years ago

    Finally. Thank you for writing this. So true. I hate cookie cutter decorating. Showing the personality of the owners of homes with kitsch and personal treasures is so important. A little vintage or a lot thrown in helps also. That midcentury modern chair is fab.

  • AprelskayDesign

    Tanya from TanyaToys said 4 years ago

    Great style!!

  • DelilahsAttic

    Madeleine Keller from ThoseGoodVibrations said 4 years ago

    An interesting idea - I think that there is also some merit behind the rather uninentional decoration of households - things placed somewhere without necessarily attempting to adhere to a specific aesthetic

  • marisam4

    Marisa M. from FeltInMyHeart said 4 years ago

    Great article! I've always happily considered our home clean but 'lived in'. I couldn't imagine having to keep a magazine-perfect house. Our home is filled with kids' art from over the years, piles of books, sentimental objects, and an ever-changing bit of clutter from whatever project one of us is currently working on, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

  • kristinamariaaa

    kristinamariaaa said 4 years ago

    I love the idea of this, but the photos definitely look 100% like a curated staged magazine home hahaha.

  • Anna25K

    Anna25K from ShineFotoprints said 4 years ago

    how on the dump, too gloomy and it is difficult remove dust

  • EarthsTrove

    Not Made In China Finds from NotMadeInChinaFinds said 4 years ago

    So glad to see someone tackle this crazy style of staging home to look like museums, removing the warmth and human touches that makes houses homes. Life is imperfect, my home is filled with thing found, from different era that capture a bit of history, and are selected because i fall in love them can see the beauty in their design age and most of all they have stood the test of time. I am partial to vintage goods, especially American made products, they reflect for me a time when life was simpler and possibilities seemed infinite. Thank you for this inspiring post.

  • mariastanton2

    Maria Stanton from WestoverFleaMarket said 4 years ago

    Super article, I love your unstyle. Life is not meant to be perfect - we are so much more interesting when we show our personalities in our living spaces. At Westover Flea Market, I try to find "bits and bobs" that I think are interesting and will appeal to my customers personalities and layer texture and creativity in their spaces

  • schnauzerstuff

    schnauzeradict said 4 years ago

    wow I LOVE THIS

  • Foxberryhill

    juliana from FoxberryHill said 4 years ago

    Life is too short to worry about perfection. Imperfect but tidy is a happy place to come home to ! Thank you for a very good read.

  • DebbieCalif

    Debbie Booth from RibbonwoodCottage said 4 years ago

    I agree, we all need to have homes that represent us- not people we will never meet, with styles that don't fit us.

  • CGordonwatercolors

    Cynthia Gordon from CGordonwatercolors said 4 years ago

    One's place should be filled with loveable, adorable and treasured collection of things - they are what fuels us to golden heights of creativity!

  • baguitron

    Brooke Hunerwadel from TheWaterBrooke said 4 years ago

    Everyone's home should speak to who you are. You are an individual your home should be too. Love this!

  • furryalpaca

    Pat Tern from AwesomeAlpacas said 4 years ago

    Very cool! So much character

  • anush1010

    Anna from MiaDivaLingerie said 4 years ago

    Always been a big fan of boho design and craftfully " clattered" space.

  • 1StopSteampunkShoppe

    One Stop Steampunk Shoppe from OneStopSteamShoppe said 4 years ago

    Great feature! Thank you

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 4 years ago

    Love the article!

  • gabrielashendorf

    Gabriel from TuxedoCatCurations said 2 years ago

    This! If I didn't embrace a little organized chaos in my home, I'd never stop cleaning.

  • marysworkshop

    Mary Wolf from marysworkshop said 2 years ago

    Love this article that celebrates real life lived out in homes everywhere. Thanks, Emily, for letting the world know it's okay to embrace the worn, imperfect, handmade, and lovingly collected items that add character and our personal style to the places we call home.

  • tokfeyvf

    Petr from PetrArtStore said 2 years ago

    He he... It's my house on the photos?! XD

  • nx4tzvng

    Tommie Moyers from WreathsonDogwood said 1 year ago

    I loved the post "Life Unstyled". I had to chuckle at the points because I felt they were looking over my shoulder as they walked through my home. I guess you would say my style is eclectic or I think I will use unstyled from now on. It was reassuring to find I'm not crazy when it comes to decorating my home. I will save this post so I can refer to it often. Thanks!

  • seruva14

    Carolynne DeLisle from NonnasNuttyKrafts said 1 year ago

    I love some of the simple designs that were shown. Less is more depending on the space and colors you use.

  • frednphil

    Carrie Wood from MoreLoveMama said 149 days ago

    In this year of pandemic, this article really hits home. We did a lot of rearranging and repurposing instead of spending. There are 8 of us in a small house so every last corner is filled our signature!

  • wapsy2bf1u9irbbt

    laiche said 89 days ago

    Great style!!

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