Behind The Scenes, Interiors, Travel

2017 Review – Life Unstyled goes global

According to an Instagram post I made last year, 2017 was to be the year of spoiling myself and not giving a f**k. See photo above for evidence. Flowers for me from me. Scrolling – more like wading, it took hours – through my photos of 2017, I think I did a pretty good job!

Sometimes I can be very bad at remembering things. As soon as I’m done with something –  a book, a film, a work project, a holiday – I tend to move on and not think much about it again. I’m onto the next thing, always looking forward rather than backward. It’s a great way to move on from the bad stuff, but not so great if you want to remember the good stuff! So I thought it would be a useful exercise to review 2017 to refresh my memory.

2016 was the worst year of my life, having split up with my husband of seventeen years, so I knew it had to get better. And it did. A lot of fantastic things happened. Although I’m still not totally back on my feet, I’ve come a long way and 2017 was quite a year for Life Unstyled. The phrase “throw yourself into your work” comes to mind…

It turns out 2017 was all about embracing life once again: spending time with my children, friends, and family; rediscovering what brings me joy; and a ridiculous amount of travel, both for work and pleasure. Starting right away with South Africa…


I continued art directing all of Primark’s homeware campaigns, this time on a beach in South Africa! I’d always wanted to visit and it was just so beautiful.

I also spotted some of my Primark styling in their stores. Always a thrill to see the finished product. (Photography by Jon Day).


A few weeks later we were off to Mexico, again shooting a Primark homeware campaign, this time with my friend Dan Duchars taking the photos. We felt unbelievably lucky to travel to Tulum for this shoot. I’ve never seen such beautiful beaches in all my life.


Spotted in store! Our Cape Town Primark shoot. I took my mum to see this and she was very proud.

I also did some styling for a lovely client, homeware brand Graham & Green, shot by Mel Yates. They are a pleasure to work with, a family run business who really care about where their products come from. I always have to restrain myself from shopping on the shoots! It’s very much my style and I want it all.

And more for the Mothercare catalogue. This set was fun. I got to style Jools Oliver’s (Yes Jamie’s lovely wife) 1970’s inspired Little Bird collection. So fun sourcing vintage toys, books and furniture to complement her range.

And I took Ella, my almost eighteen year old to visit Liverpool University. I’m so not ready for her to leave me!


I started planning a huge (HUGE!) event I was asked to do in Taiwan in May. First up – design a large room to represent each of my three books. See below my preliminary doodle that my Taiwanese team had to decipher!

I tried to spend more time with my children (This was Tate Modern’s orange carpeted and highly Instagrammable wall). Slightly blurry picture taken by my mum.

And…I worked on my sketching. I have so many  ideas in my head and I’m working on how to express them on the page. With Spring in the air, I drew ice-cream cones! (See how I use sketching for work here).


It was all about Taiwan. After months of planning, I spent a week in Taipei where I met the President (!!), I gave talks to a huge audience at a big interior design convention, I did book signings and meet and greets, and I hosted four days of workshops on styling, mood boards, and design. And um….I saw my face plastered all over the city, including on their underground trains! Surreal. (Click here to see my post about the trip).

My lovely girl also turned eighteen. Not sure how that happened…


I spent a lot of time laying on my sofa and at the park (it was gloriously sunny) recovering from the insanity that was Taipei! I’ve never worked so hard in my life and I was utterly burnt out.

Then I headed to Berlin for an IKEA magazine shoot with a team with whom I’ve become good friends. Such a cool city. History, culture…graffitti.


I took a short trip to Fuerteventura with a couple of old college girlfriends and we did next to nothing. Cycled to the beach, drank wine, ate food, read books, and tried to avert our eyes from the naked Germans on the beach (It’s never the ones you want to see naked is it?!)

Another quick trip, this time to Scotland for an IKEA Lagom magazine shoot, where I styled a garden shed! Oh the glamour!


I took another short break with the kids and some friends from LA (I told you this year was all about travel!) We went to Osea Island, a tiny remote and rural island just off the coast of Essex, where we did more of nothing. Foraged for berries and made them into pies, picked oysters and samphire from the sand (I taught Ella how to shuck her first oyster), played board games, rode bikes. It was magical.

And I met someone. Lorenzo, my sweet, tattooed, food loving Italian. He cooks for me. What more can I say?


More Mothercare shoots. I loved this one, with the crazy cactus wallpaper I found by Dutch brand Studio Onszelf 

And a secret event I styled for Disney. There were balloons…

I did a fun collaboration with Hillarys, chosen as one of four designers to style a room our own way. Inspired by my first book, I went with a Modern Rustic vibe. (See more here).


My super stylish mum came to visit from LA. She’s got to be the coolest nana in her neighbourhood, an elegant, silver-haired Brit driving in the LA hills in a bright blue open top Jeep!

I made good on my promise to see more shows. This one was brilliant – INK at the Duke of York’s theatre in the West End. Incredible set design by Bunny Christie.


Remember that IKEA shoot in Berlin back in June? Well our story made it to the cover!

Image of Ikea Live magazine cover styled by Emily Henson

I also went with Lorenzo to Rome for a long weekend where we ate and walked and ate and walked… And I gaped at and took photos of every side street I came across. The buildings! The ivy! The graffiti! The Vespas! The ruins! The pasta! Unreal.



I finished the year with a Christmas styling workshop for Anthropologie, where I talked through the different ways to decorate your tree and we made sweet glittery tree decorations. I also styled a how-to for their blog, so readers could make their own.

And I got to see another of my shoots make it to the cover. Always so exciting!! Remember the quick trip to Glasgow where I styled a shed? It was for IKEA’s newest magazine Live LAGOM, all about making small changes to a more sustainable life. See the story here or pick up a copy in your IKEA store.

IKEA Lagom cover styled by Emily Henson

It was an exciting year for sure, but don’t be fooled. It wasn’t all sunshine and beaches (although there was an awful lot of that I’ll admit!)  What you don’t see here are the sad days, the bad days, the days when I had to figure out my new single life, had to tell my kids they were to live between two homes, had to support my kids on my own. There were health scares – me, various family members. There were days when I couldn’t stop crying and didn’t want to get out of bed (sometimes I just didn’t get out of bed).

But the overarching theme was hope and renewal. With every new year we get to try again to create the life we always dreamed of. Wherever you are in your life, I wish you the very best for 2018 – health, happiness, love, prosperity, and whatever brings you joy.

Thanks so much for reading.








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