the smell of my desperation has become a stench


Back in 2010 when I was working with HGTV (don’t get me started, don’t get me started, don’t get me started) part of my role involved writing recaps of Design Star, an interior design competition that eliminates one person every week by blindfolding the loser and shoving him/her into traffic on the 405. True story.

That season a designer named Emily Henderson won the whole damn thing (although she was an inch’s worth of painter’s tape away from getting kicked off on the very first episode), and I’d been secretly rooting for her the entire time. I couldn’t reveal that as a recapper, and Imma let you in on a little secret: I hated writing recaps. Have you ever bitten off a huge chunk of aluminum foil and chewed it like a piece of gum, you know, just for shits and giggles? Samesies.

I would meet Emily in person less than two years later at ALT Summit, and over cocktails one night we swapped stories about our Mormon upbringing. I think we spent a good half hour reciting entire verses to the songs on the soundtrack to Saturday’s Warrior. Per Wikipedia: “The musical explores the Mormon doctrines of pre-existence, foreordination, and eternal marriage. It depicts abortion and birth control as being contrary to the divine plan of salvation.” Yep! I’m not sure it addresses the whole “you get your own planet when you die” piece of doctrine. I grew up wanting to populate Pluto when I got assigned a plot in the solar system.

Here’s the thing, and sorry, Emily, to hijack this post I wanted to write about you and your fabulous book, but the numbers are staggering when you look at how many people become atheists when they leave the Mormon church. We don’t go join the local Episcopal congregation, nope, because those folks sure as hell aren’t handing out planets!

Can your religion top that? If so, I’ll consider reading a pamphlet about your Jesus.

Emily and I also discussed children that night. She and her husband had yet to “start a family”—can I just say how much I hate that categorization? You don’t have to have kids to be a family. You don’t even have to be married. “Family” encompasses so many varying relationships and shapes and arrangements that it’s insulting to reduce it to “two people deciding to have children together.” Oh, did dooce just get serious? I did. COUNT YOUR GODDAMN BLESSINGS that I didn’t bring up my ascetic diet.

I’m pretty sure I told her with some authority and expertise on the matter that she really needed to consider a few things before jumping into this swamp. Things like, make sure you like children. You guys. Holy shit, puberty. Like, the things that are happening with my ALMOST 12-YEAR-OLD SHUT UP NO WAY SHE IS THAT OLD PARK IT RIGHT THERE HUSH YOUR FACE have me going, wait wait wait. I signed up to have babies. I did not sign up to watch/comfort/guide/endure a tween morphing into an alien. A very emotional alien. At times it’s like I’m watching someone taking a rusty pair of pliers and yanking out their own toenails. Puberty is fucked up.

Emily now has two children (they started a family!) so I guess she likes kids. Too late to send them back, although, when you think about it, if you abandoned them on the curb they’d likely learn to forage and survive. She had her second child, a daughter named Elliot, just as she was releasing her new book Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves.


I want to live inside every single page of this thing. No one can style the top of a dresser or a nightstand or credenza or dark corner of the living room like this woman. No one. And I think it all comes down to her understanding of texture, because while everything is perfectly positioned and spaced just so, it always looks lived in. Her spaces have stories to tell.

Around the time her book launched she reached out and asked me if I’d like to take her Home Style Quiz so she could put together an inspiration board. It included prompts like, “The first thing you do when you get home from work is…” And, “Which Kardashian would you drown first?” I jumped at the chance because I’ve been pulling together my home office and rearranging things around the whole house. And my god, Emily is really good at what she does. How good? She can style a space as magnificently as Pavarotti could sing “Che gelida manina.” That good. And, yes, I DID just break out a reference to an Italian opera because I need to put this useless degree from BYU to work somewhere.

It turns out that my style is what she refers to as “contemporary”—it should surprise every single one of you that I took that quiz and it didn’t come back with the result of, “Please go take a shower.”



1. Askew Vase $19.95 |2. Bennie Low Vase $19.95 (similar) |3. Wool Wrap Pouf $129 |4. Modern Half Moon Chairs |5. Flashlight Table Lamp $127.99 |6. Silo Side Table $179 |7. Prim Pillow $34.95 |8. Cozy Texture Throw $59 |9. Abstract Art |10. Sunflower Cube Floor Lamp $257 |11. Luster Velvet Pillow Cover $34 |12. Faux Fur Lumbar Pillow $34.99 |13. Marco Sofa $1,299 |14. Peekaboo Acrylic Coffee Table $279 |15. Beni Neutral Rug $499 |16. Array White Bookcase $189

Thank you, Em. I am still so glad you didn’t get kicked off that first episode.

  • Amy Carter

    2016/01/26 at 2:52 pm

    We love Emily! We loved her on Design Star and went to the finale viewing party and she won! And then we applied to be on her own show and got it and OMG we are so lucky. She did our living room and dining area and it’s awesome.

  • Karen Walrond

    2016/01/26 at 3:29 pm

    I know a few Episcopal priests. I’ll see if they can get on that whole get-you-a-planet thing.

    Because I’m a GOOD FRIEND.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2016/01/26 at 3:51 pm

    Okay, so I know of ONE Episcopal congregation I would join.

  • Carla DeLauder

    2016/01/26 at 8:44 pm

    Everyone’s “styling” these days ends up looking like everyone else’s. It’s not that tricky.

    Stack of books (the spines MUST match and be perfectly aligned, except for the top one; angle slightly as if it was just picked up and read); a large metal letter, for your first name if you’re single or your last name if you’re married and share the same name (skip the letter if your last name is hyphenated and display a wedding photo instead, the one with you and your beloved on an antique velvet couch in the middle of a forest); a jade plant for good luck and to encourage wealth (it’s going to die, so don’t bother repotting, but do put it inside something pretty, preferably with a chevron design); a glass jar with mustaches on sticks (blame Etsy for this trend); and an exotic wood jewelry box from Pier One (because no one ever travels to these countries where they’re made, so just pretend you did).

  • lindsay

    2016/01/27 at 3:40 am

    I went to high school with Emily, and she was the roommate of a dear friend in college. She’s had the gift since day one. I love that you two have a connection. The raw talent that must collide with both of you in one room??? Jelly. You are both rockstars!

  • Chryste K.

    2016/01/27 at 6:14 am

    So my daily dose of dooce got me thinking about the mess I call my “home”. To style, or not to style?

    Well, I suppose I could give it a bash. HA. HA HA HA. I DON’T [OWN] MONEY. Everything is so expensive and all. Can’t anyone write a book about how to “style” your home on a -cough- budget? Now THAT would be a bestseller. Truth.

  • Emilyenchantinglyemily

    2016/01/27 at 7:23 am

    You are hilarious and I love reading your posts. I want to take this style quiz, so I’m going to have to look this Emily person up.
    I want my own planet. Where do I sign up? 😉

  • Lauren3

    2016/01/27 at 8:41 am

    HAHA alright so you clearly said “don’t get me started,” but omg those HGTV posts really brought out the nutters. So many wadded panties over some fucking blog posts, it was so weeeeeeird.

  • Jana Griffis

    2016/01/27 at 10:05 am

    I can’t help but stay focused on the religion part of this post because it’s so true. Seriously, the “church” in general, no matter the subject/god/belief, churns out more atheists than atheists themselves do from their own vaginas. My husband & I “left the church” and then “god” together several years ago & i’m still in the stage where I have to resist the urge to laugh at my mother as she tells me that “God” will help me lose weight. GOD MADE ME FAT, MOM! duh.

  • Jana Griffis

    2016/01/27 at 10:06 am

    Also, the person below me has a lot of pent up frustration towards the tops of dressers & shelves. Go home Carla. Drink some wine.

  • REK981

    2016/01/27 at 11:26 am

    Puberty really is fucked up (said from the Mom of another tween girl).

  • Erin Gill

    2016/01/28 at 1:37 am

    That’s a really good idea! Someone should do that. (Not me, I suck.)

  • Erin Gill

    2016/01/28 at 1:37 am

    Yeah, but they might give you Uranus…

  • Erin Gill

    2016/01/28 at 1:38 am

    “You don’t have to have kids to be a family. You don’t even have to be married. “Family” encompasses so many varying relationships and shapes and arrangements that it’s insulting to reduce it to “two people deciding to have children together.”


  • Ele

    2016/01/28 at 8:55 am

    I think Carla is very smart.

  • microsoftstorepromocode

    2016/01/29 at 2:29 am

    Also, the person below me has a lot of pent up frustration towards the tops of dressers & shelves.

  • Joy

    2016/01/29 at 11:10 am

    I follow Emily on Instagram (love her style and humor) and had no idea she was on Design Star. I have a love/hate relationship with HGTV. Sorry I missed that season.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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