Emily Henderson's Top Design Tips for Renters

emily henderson new book

The Spruce / Illustration by Amy Sheehan / Photos from New Design Rules by Emily Henderson with Jessica Cumberbatch-Anderson © 2022 by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

It's well known that design guru Emily Henderson is chock full of useful tips for those who wish to add more oomph to their home. After all, Henderson's own spaces are impeccably designed, boasting plenty of bright colors, clever DIYs, and family-friendly touches—what more could one want? If you can't get enough of Henderson's home advice, you're in luck—in addition to sharing decorating and lifestyle-related tips each day on Style By Emily Henderson, the creative has a new book out this month.

You may have already read Henderson's first book, Styled (which, you guessed it, is filled with tons of fantastic styling secrets!), but her latest book, The New Design Rules: How to Decorate and Renovate, from Start to Finish, is all about home renovation and makeover projects both large and small.

new design rules

New Design Rules by Emily Henderson with Jessica Cumberbatch-Anderson © 2022 by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

"The book was born out of my own frustration with the renovation and remodeling process," Henderson tells The Spruce. "I was doing two renovations ... and just wished there was some sort of guidebook or some singular source that I could reference for the process, so that when I was in the thick of it and frustrated I could have something to refer to that would help me make design decisions that I wouldn't regret." The first half of the book focuses on learning the language of the renovation process—exploring topics such as the anatomy of the fireplace and the difference between window treatment options, Henderson explains. In true Henderson fashion, the guide is anything but textbook-like, though—it features tons of beautiful photos from 29 different homes all across the country.

Henderson draws on many anecdotes from her own renovation experience in order to help her audience make well-informed design decisions as they tackle their own spaces. In the second half of the book, she encourages readers to break a few rules to invite personality and creativity into the home. "If you make the most practical decision every single time for every single choice and surface, you might end up with a house that doesn't actually look like you and maybe looks like everybody else's," she explains.

As her new book proves, Henderson doesn't just have advice for those looking to make major upgrades to their spaces. She also has plenty of suggestions for anyone looking to make a temporary living arrangement feel more like home—including renters. We asked Henderson to share her top tips for renters looking to zhuzh up their spaces, Emily-style.

emily henderson kitchen

New Design Rules by Emily Henderson with Jessica Cumberbatch-Anderson © 2022 by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Understand the Significance of Your Environment

"Your environment affects your emotions so much," Henderson states. "Sometimes putting in just the bare minimum of paint and changing out the hardware and updating the light fixtures and plumbing can really make a huge difference." Plus, Henderson adds, you're showing your home that you love it—"and that makes you feel all the more proud and happy to be in it." After all, "just being in a home that you love ... that looks like you is just a huge dopamine boost."

Get Creative With a Space's Existing Configuration

Of course, living in a rental may not be conducive to undertaking a full-on kitchen remodel, for example. That said, there are smaller hacks one can do to make an existing space look a bit more customized. Henderson shares that Jess Bunge, the editorial director for Style by Emily Henderson, made major upgrades to her own rental kitchen, which is featured in the upcoming book. First, Bunge took off the fronts of her cabinetry. "It looks almost like floating bookshelves," Henderson shares. Bunge also added DIY butcher block atop of her existing counters and created a built-in dining nook using plywood from the hardware store. "It was incredible," Henderson says.

emily henderson new design rules

New Design Rules by Emily Henderson with Jessica Cumberbatch-Anderson © 2022 by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Style and Restyle

Moving around accessories and plants within one's home is a frugal way to add new flavor to a rental space. "You don't have to set it and forget it," Henderson says of accent pieces. "It brings me a lot of happiness and joy just to play around... it's a source of creativity." And don't be afraid to opt for simpler furniture—you can take things to the next level with the right accessories. Thrifting is also an excellent way to find new pieces for the home and is an activity Henderson greatly enjoys taking part in herself.

"Reprinted from New Design Rules” Copyright © 2022 Emily Henderson with Jessica Cumberbatch-Anderson. Photographs copyright © 2022 by Sara Ligorria-Tramp. Produced and styled by Velinda Hellen. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House