New MOTO Reveal: Emily Bowser’s “Refreshed For Function” Small Living Room Makeover


If you’re here today, that either means you stopped by the blog yesterday to read the “intro” to today’s post or you’re like “who’s this lady and her two cats?” To answer the new faces, I’m Emily Bowser, lead stylist at EHD and this is my living room. If you already knew that, hello again…

We’re back new and improved! No more holes. No more rain falling into my home. Time to make these rooms feel finished. I mentioned yesterday that my old furniture fit pretty well into this space which made it low on the totem pole in the matter of importance when it came to spending any “extra” cash (what’s that??). Add that to the fact that less than a year after going $80,000 over budget in renovations that I had to drop another $20,000 and then 6 months after that an ADDITIONAL $20,000 on the back house, but that’s another story for yet another post. Point is, I had bigger fish to fry. Fish that came in the form of a crumbling foundation, or foundationS in my case. Two houses. Le sigh. That said, we also spend 99% of our time in this space so of course, the stylist in me had been day-dreaming about improving upon our situation although my wallet disagreed. 

Here’s a reminder of where we started (or at least, where we left off before the real “after”):

Img 2311

These were my (not so) major issues in terms of decor:

  • Replace my 10-year-old couch that had lived through quite a few kitty fosters and had a bum leg
  • Create storage…but make it fashion. We’ve been over this but we have almost no storage other than our clothes closet and need to sneak it in wherever possible.
  • Figure out window coverings. Huge windows: YES, walking around naked: NO.
  • Get/make art for above couch that actually fills the space
  • Replace sconces on couch wall (current ones are too high for the art)
  • New rug? Clearly great minds think alike. I didn’t hate my Beni rug but I didn’t want to feel like my living room was too similar to Brady’s.
  • Maximize seating in the 56-square-foot dining space that is also a walk through to the kitchen (but more on that later today because the morning is just for the living room…come back after 11 am PT for the dining room!)

Enter: MOTO (Makeover Takeover). You all know this, but there are some serious upsides to working for Emily Henderson. One of the major ones is when you’ve spent over $200,000 renovating 1,300 square feet TOTAL, you can get a little help furnishing it through collaborations with amazing companies that appreciate the styled photos and press. I’ve talked about this before in the comments but would like to make it exceedingly clear here: I do not consider MOTO collabs “free stuff.” Here’s the breakdown: We do not work on these projects on work time. I have worked for Emily for three years and up until the day before we shot the space I was still putting finishing touches on it. In my “free time,” I am planning out, designing, sourcing, spending money so the room doesn’t literally collapse, emailing companies, finding/buying vintage items to keep the space interesting, designing, buying supplies and building DIYs, and finally styling the space to camera. This is to the benefit of Emily’s blog (which in turn pays a lot of people’s salaries) AND the companies involved. I know this is not an opportunity most people have, and I do not take any of it for granted, but it is WORK (though luckily, work I enjoy).

Big plus: In the end, I have a finished space that would have probably taken me an additional three years. Let’s get into the improvements, starting with…

One more shoutout to that show-stopping handmade pendant by The Maison Craft.

Shop the Look: Pendant | Rug via Lulu and Georgia | Sofa via Article | Long Sconces via Schoolhouse | Short Sconce | Floor Lamp via Article | Credenza | Roman Shades via Barn & Willow | Frames via Framebridge | White Blanket | Ribbed White Vase | Black & White Boxes | (Everything else either vintage or no longer available)

The Rug

In my opinion, Beni rugs are classic. They had a huge comeback in 2015 but like white subway tiles, they never really go out of style. Brady clearly agrees and look how sleek and stylish he is!! (XO Brady). My job is to create content that is new and exciting though and Brady’s gorge living room has been on the blog multiple times over the years, so even though I would not have replaced it in other circumstances, I wanted Brady’s room to be his, and mine to be mine, if that makes sense?

I gave my rug to a friend (for free, because karma) and went on a hunt for the perfect replacement. The problem was I was really happy with the graphic, light and cozy aspect of my old rug and even though I found a lot of rugs I liked, none were comparing. Enter this rug, from Lulu and Georgia. I had pinned it over a year ago, but I was concerned because it read more gray than my former rug but it was cozy and graphic. That’s 2 out of 3. “Done is better than perfect” was ringing in my ears this particular week (the week I was making myself finish my bedroom MOTO) and I pulled the trigger. I reached out to Lulu and Georgia who is always SO lovely to work with (really, I can’t say enough good things about their team) sent it out right away! So fast in fact that I was like, “Sh*T I gotta finish this room!” 

The gray wasn’t too gray at all and actually just made it even more livable. You may be surprised to hear this, but I didn’t have too much of an issue with a white carpet. However, the area where your feet sit next to the carpet was definitely darker even in our (mostly) shoe-free home (dust, etc., from the wood floors I assume) but this rug has just the right about of gray all over that you don’t notice wear at all. It also doesn’t shed nearly as much as our old rug.


The Sofa

When Andrew and I first got married and lived in a very small apt (2009 and 2010), we were so poor that we couldn’t afford a couch and we would just sit in our bed and watch Netflix on my laptop. This was about the same time I started following Emily and began to become interested in interior design. I remember taking screenshots of furniture I liked—this was before Pinterest—and arranging it on my desktop. One of those pieces was our well-loved couch that we eventually scraped enough money together to buy from Macy’s during a sale. That couch moved three times and lived through quite a few cats, including neighbor cats that would sneak into our apartment and sleep on it. I threw out on my Insta stories that I was giving it away, with all its bumps and bruises it’s still usable for sure, and our former neighbor (who owned the three cats that liked to break in) took it! CATSSSS.


I had a hard time deciding on a new couch. Our former couch was the perfect size and scale for the room so the pickings were slim. Most of the sofas that fit perfectly also looked pretty much exactly like our old one, which seemed a little boring, especially because I wanted it to be charcoal again so in that way it was already going to be similar. I played with the idea of a color and/or pattern but ultimately didn’t find anything that I liked that worked well with our burnt orange velvet chair or the pattern already in the rug. I loved the Quadra by Article but was nervous about the high arms, particularly on the side that was closest to the theater chairs and it generally feeling heavier than what was there. For three days I made my husband live with our old sofa in the middle of the entry/walkway so I could stare at a charcoal blanket that was painter taped to the wall and benches holding it up on the side.


Luckily I was right, it worked! Let me tell you everything I love about this sofa:

1. The shape is cool and edgy JUST LIKE ME.

2. The high arms make for perfect corner leaning.

3. The wide flat back is basically a desk.

As I type this, I am sitting with my back against the arm, legs reclined on the couch, laptop on the back. It makes for VERY comfortable typing. Also, my cats like to lay behind us while we are watching Survivor and I can turn around easily and kiss their sweet little faces. The Quadra is a modular couch that comes in a few different shapes so you can reconfigure to your liking. We simply got the left and right arm module and put them together to make a normal couch shape. If I had the space, I would have loved to have the chaise module. Just FYI, it’s a firmer couch (my personal preference) and we have the “carbon gray” although it also comes in taupe.


Article also sent through the task lamp in the corner and a secret side table. This lamp has been a staple at EHD for a while now and for good reason: it’s effortlessly cool. It was the exact size and shape I needed and has a small footprint so I could fit it and their slim side table in the very small space between the couch and wall. You could write (and in fact I think we DID) a whole blog post on lighting layering. I had the sconces, the overhead pendant, 2 ambient lights and I wanted a directional one, as well. ALL THE LIGHTS FOR ME!! 

The super-secret slim side table (a name I really think Article should consider) in matte walnut is one of my favorite things because I love a multi-use piece of furniture. It fits in the smallest of places and has compartments, including an area for cords to live and if you know me you know I love hidden cords. Inside the back compartment, I have this power strip and everything, including a dimmer for the lamp, is plugged into it. DIMMERS FOR PRESIDENT.


Speaking of side tables, it’s kind of too dark to see, but my Nintendo Switch lives on the bottom right of that side table (vintage) and sometimes it’s a little aggressive for my laptop cord to reach over Andrew (MY side of the couch is clearly the Nintendo Switch side) so it’s good to have a phone charger and outlet on this side, as well. I bought these gray extra long iPhone cords and they blend in so much with the couch that we leave them out and just tuck them into the side of the couch so they don’t fall on the ground and get lost or trip someone.

The Art & Sconces

Guys. Did you notice…I have new art above my couch? I owned the frames from a Framebridge shoot I worked on with another stylist (HI Cat Dash) quite a while ago. Ever have this photo come up in your Pinterest feed:

Bowser Framebridge Style Photo

I took that triptych home and had it on my wall with those printed from a home printer basic photos for…over a year? The frames fit nicely though so I had a genius idea. GENIUS. I went back and forth on whether to admit this BUT COME ON HAVE I EVER IN THREE WHOLE BLOG POSTS HIDDEN ONE THING FROM YOU?? But really, have I? Julie, Velinda and I (YES, I’m outting the two of you, as well) may have had a litttttle bit too much wine one night and made collaborative art. As in, we each contributed to each piece in some way. We were SCREAMING because of how awesome we thought we were and you know what, I’m going to go on continuing to believe that we would have fooled ALL OF YOU. Whatever, it was a very fun night with friends that I have enjoyed working with (and enjoy getting a little tipsy and making art with even more) and now it’s mine to keep FOREVER. Or until I get sick of it…BUT WE WILL ALWAYS HAVE THIS BLOG POST.


The sconces, which frame our beautiful and genius art, were another thing I needed to address. I mentioned yesterday that the ones I had were way too high for any art I put above the couch. It always bothered me but now with the new couch, it was a good three inches lower than the last couch, and I knew that would really put me over the edge. The reason they were placed where they were on the wall was to match the existing three on the other walls that were original to the house. I found these sconces on Schoolhouse and I emailed them and said, “would it be weird if I installed them upside down?” They were like, “no Emily, also, that’s kinda your job to figure out stop emailing us we are a huge company with lots of things to do.” Okay, they didn’t say that but they probably should have.

In reality, I wanted to make sure they wouldn’t think it was weird to do that to their product. I had already done the very techy thing of taking a screenshot on my phone and using the edit feature to flip it and then staring at it for 10 minutes thinking “is that weird?”…then decided it wasn’t. It actually had the exact effect I was hoping for, it brought the light visually lower without having to move the junction box, but with the circle at the top, it’s also technically still as high as the other sconces! It’s like I’m a designer guys.


The Credenza

Let’s about-face and check out the other side of the room. It took a while, but we found a credenza that was low enough to fit under our super low and large window. It’s from CB2 and I definitely bought it in the short period of time where we felt we were climbing out of financial ruin. The dream was to have two of them directly next to each other so that the second continued underneath the TV, behind the Eames-style chair. It would give a good effect with the added bonus of even more storage but ALAS, it’s not in the budget at the moment. The one we do own holds our records (record player sits on it, with Puck’s special basket—and usually him, as well—on top), part of my extensive vase collection, more Nintendo Switch gadgets, our printer and printer paper. To the side of the credenza, there’s a small basket that holds all of Daffy’s wine corks and Puck’s toys.


My $100 Craigslist Eames-style lounge chair is my unfinished pride and joy. I reupholstered this thing years and years ago (fabric look familiar? It’s the same as my DIY headboard!) but I’ve never gotten around to putting the piping on it because it seemed boring but let this be a lesson: if you don’t do the boring stuff early on, you’ll never do the boring stuff.


The TV & Eames(ish) Chair

The function of this piece is that it swivels. I never want a TV to feel front and center and until Samsung Frame prices go down, or a mysterious check arrives in the mail or an anonymous Venmo comes through or cold hard cash lands on my doorstep (I will leave my address in the comments…), I will straight up put a chair in front of my black box and call it a day. When we watch TV, the chair swivels to the side and the TV is on a crank so that we can angle it towards the couch…like this: 


My final and most important piece of furniture to talk about when it comes to function is the wanna-be sink turned entryway piece.


Dog art by my (then) 7-year-old cousin Addison of my family dog, Olivia.

The Would-Be Bathroom Cabinet (That is Now My Entry Table)

This piece of furniture I would say is the hub of our home. It’s our landing pad, everything in pockets gets thrown in the tray (think wallets, receipts, sunglasses). The top drawer is our “junk” drawer. Scissors, pens, batteries, measuring tape, box cutters, lighters, misc screws and keys that seem scary to throw out (where did they come from??) checks, stamps, etc etc. The next drawer down is where every cord that isn’t plugged into a socket already is put, along with rechargeable travel batteries. Third drawer has a divider in the middle, on the left side, I put all the mail and bills I need to deal with and paperwork I need to file, on the right are all my extra candles and incense. The bottom drawer has stationery, office/art supplies. You might have also noticed the very chic cat scratcher. It’s from Mountain Pet Products and it’s so cute and useful, I swear it’s why my furniture isn’t entirely torn to shreds.

Emilybowserdiningroomlivingroom25Side By Side Living Room B&a

And thus rounds out the living room. IT’S CURRENTLY 3:30 AM AND I COULD KEEP TALKING EXCEPT I’M DAYS LATE GETTING THIS POST TO ARLYN SO I NEED TO STOP WRITING. I do need to be up at 6 am so for you design nerds (come on, if you made it this far, you are a straight-up NERD), let’s talk more in the comments, after I shut my eyes for a sec. BRB…AND COME BACK THIS AFTERNOON FOR MY DINING ROOM. See you there.

***Photography by Sara Ligorria-Tramp, design and styling by Emily Bowser

Don’t miss other posts in this series:

Makeover Takeover: An Intro to Emily Bowser’s (Crumbling) Living & Dining Rooms | MOTO Intro: How EHD Stylist Emily Bowser Tackled Her Awkward Master Bedroom | MOTO Reveal: Emily Bowser’s Bedroom “After” is Unrecognizable from the “Before” | DIY How-To: A Step-by-Step for Making Emily B.’s Wrap-Around Velvet Headboard | MOTO Reveal: Emily Bowser’s 32-Square-Foot Bathroom is Packed With Small-Space Hacks | What It Really Costs to Buy an Income Property in LA (& Why I Thought It Was a Good Idea Even After Financial Ruin)

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