A graduate of the University of Southern California, Kennedy began her career as a hard news newspaper reporter, covering events such as the LA riots and California’s wildfires. After a few years she discovered she could combine her hidden interior design talents with journalism. In addition to her work for Better Homes and Gardens, Kennedy co-wrote New York Times bestseller “Trading Spaces: Behind the Scenes” and has written for publications such as Traditional Home, Decorating, Quick & Easy Decorating, Window & Wall Ideas, Bedroom & Bath Ideas and Do It Yourself. A native of Portland, Oregon, Kennedy recently moved from New York’s Hudson Valley to suburban Boston with her husband, two children, Great Dane, two cats, sewing machine, pile of paint decks and about 340 linear feet of books.
How would I define "whirlwind"? Designing a house for Ellen DeGeneres' super-fan (and frequent Ellen Show guest) Lisa Jarmon -- in six weeks.
Lisa and her four kids, ages 4 to 17, had their dreams come true when they were chosen by Ellen to receive a new home. What Lisa didn't know was that it would be completely furnished (down to the clothespins in the laundry room) by Wayfair. See the entire Ellen Dream Home HERE!
Sounds simple, right?
Not so simple! But, it could not have been more rewarding.
Our to-do list for those six weeks?
Create an interior design plan for Lisa's Houston, Texas, house with our producer and stylist Sandra Mohlmann (who lives in Charleston, South Carolina, while the Wayfair team is Boston-based)
Order nearly 600 carefully chosen Wayfair items to outfit the home
Install all the items throughout the home in just three days
Work with fab LA photographer Reed Davis to photograph the rooms in three days so we could share all the great ideas with you
Design, engineer, write, and upload a 153-page editorial package
Meet Lisa, her kids, her sisters, her mom, and her best friends at the big reveal
When all of the products arrived at the warehouse in Houston, the heavy lifting began. Boxes were unpacked, furniture assembled, accessories arranged. We had ordered furnishings like any customer, looking at items online then hitting the "Checkout Now" button. So I was thrilled and gratified to see the beauty and quality of our inventory in person. I also thought our product color representation online must be very accurate, because we used items from various manufacturers, and the colors all matched!
The ground crew worked their booties off moving furniture, setting tables, hanging artwork, and organizing cupboards.Above, top left: Sarah Bauer, Sandra Mohlmann, and Catie Parrish almost done putting together the family room.Above, top right: Sandra and I at Houston's wholesale flower market. Above, bottom: First floor done!
In my experience photographing homes, getting eight shots a day is standard. Not so here! There were so many clever nooks and crannies that we took about 35 shots per day. The photography team was happy when they could cross a room off the shot list.
The best part of the experience was the night of Ellen's big reveal. Before Lisa arrived we spent a couple hours with everyone who loves Lisa -- her family, best friends, members of her church, even her boss. They all said the same thing, that Lisa is a wonderful person and what you see is what you get; she is always that enthusiastic!
I saw that for myself when I walked Lisa through the home later that night (that's us, above, in her new dining room). What warmed my heart is when she said "It's like you all knew me." We put a lot of effort into personalizing the home for her family. We had done some recon with the Ellen show folks and heard Lisa had specific desires for the new home: spa-like master bedroom, TV-watching on patio, blue-and-pink scheme in the little girls' room.
Back in Boston, we quick-as-a-whistle whipped up the images and words so you all could be part of the fun. See the Ellen Dream Home HERE, and tell us what you think!