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“Ugly Cry” Warning: Sara Gives Her Momma’s Living Room a Refresh for Mother’s Day

2020 Update – Today we’re revisiting a makeover reveal from last year, and I honestly can’t believe this was just a YEAR ago. It feels like a lifetime ago that I worked on this project with my mom. This year I don’t have quite as extravagant a Mother’s Day gift as a brand new living room makeover. But you know what? This year my mom is healthy, and I’m healthy, and right now those two things alone feel like pretty great gifts for both of us.

Happy Mother’s day weekend to all the moms, mom figures, and anyone else who fits any mom-like description. And to my mom in particular, please relive this living room makeover and be reminded of my love for you (like, honestly this project was really hard and took a lot, so I must REALLY love you).

Here’s the original post:

Mother’s day is upon us, and moms everywhere are patiently waiting their turn to, once again, have the day fall short of their most basic expectations. But not my mom, NOT THIS YEAR. This year I got it together and finally gave my mother the gift that she’s wanted most since the day I was born. Just kidding, she still hasn’t gotten a grandchild (2020 Note – LOL this is still true, SORRY MOM). But I DID give her something almost as good as a grandchild: A living room refresh that made her cry sweet tears of satisfaction.

I’m joking. Moms apparently don’t need grand gestures of living room makeovers to feel loved, and claim that the best gift of all is spending time with their kids (wild), but this was a very fun excuse to show my mom some serious appreciation and love for everything she’s ever done for me. What better way to bring two big parts of my life—my job and my family—together than to bring my work home with me? Just like I still bring my laundry home every week…

Here’s a quick background on my mom: She was born in Guatemala and immigrated to the United States when she was 10 years old. She’s known she wanted to be a teacher since she was 5, and she’s now been teaching for 33 years. That’s more years than I’ve been alive. And she’s spent all of them in either 2nd grade, 1st grade, or kindergarten. Mostly recently she’s also begun teaching the tiniest of humans in Pre-K. She’s always been a busy bee and social butterfly, so it fits that she spends her days with a class room of mini busy bees. If we’re at a party you can find her reading in the corner with a toddler or holding the nearest baby (the entire time, she doesn’t share). She’s a child whisperer, and I’m pretty sure it also makes her a literal saint.

She’s the bright, upbeat heart of our family. And I needed to give her a living room that matched.

Emily Henderson living room colorful2

My parents living room was decidedly not bright or upbeat a few months ago. They had wanted something bold and colorful and so it had been painted a deep red and gold for several years. However, most of their furniture was also dark wood and leather so the overall effect was heavy. And that didn’t really feel like my mom. Before we had even decided we were going to do “Makeover Takeover” or that I was going to get involved with any real sort of decorating, I convinced my parents to re-paint the living room White Dove by Benjamin Moore.

Emily Henderson living room colorful3

It instantly brought more light into their colonial style house, and my dad who had originally been on the fence about a white room was a convert. But even with the warm white paint (and a still yellow ceiling), my mom wasn’t convinced. She missed the color in that room. And I could tell my mom wasn’t happy with her white living room. I suggested we kick it up a few notches and makeover her entire living room. I thought she’d be thrilled. But just like with the white paint, she was hesitant. She didn’t want to lose all the pieces she loved and start over. So instead, I suggested a living room refresh. We’d change out a few key pieces she wasn’t attached to, but keep the ones she loved. And we’d work to bring in more of my parents accessories, art and photos that were living in closets and packed in boxes in the garage.

I won’t lie to you. It was a long process. It was occasionally painful. There were disagreements. There was frustration on both sides. There were several complaints about reframing art that had been framed back in 1995. But there was also a lot of time spent together, some very fun shopping trips, red wine spilled hilariously on a brand new white rug, and lots of new memories. According to Jess’ post last week, quality time really is the best gift you can give your loved ones and yourself.

Now let’s get into this room…

Before Grid 01

Originally, the layout was a bit different, with a loveseat facing the large stained glass tree window, two accent chairs facing the entryway, and the piano on the wall opposite the fireplace. This presented some walking path difficulties, but we’d just adapted over the years. We decided to change it up for the refresh and spent a whole Sunday afternoon just moving around furniture to find the best layout.

Emily Henderson living room colorful5

We settled on swapping where the accent chairs and a loveseat would go, and moving the piano to the wall nearest the entry. Now, there’s a huge walkway, and my dad doesn’t even have to lay a toe on their white rug to go through the room. And not having the back of a sofa be the first thing you see when you walk into the room made it feel just that much bigger.

Emily Henderson living room colorful6

That little accent table is hands down my mom’s favorite piece in this entire room. She saw it while we were shopping at Target and refused to leave it, even though I didn’t think it would work. In typical mom fashion, she proved me wrong, and she stills says “oh I love my little table” whenever she is in this room. If she could award “best daughter” to the table, I’m pretty sure it would take my place. The coffee table, on the other hand, used to be mine. It’s a vintage piece my dad refinished for me, but I didn’t have a place for it so now it’s happily living in their living room topped by a vintage painted tray, a past Christmas gift from my boyfriend Mac to my mom.

Emily Henderson living room colorful7

The wingback chairs are also new. The old ones my parents had were similar in shape but made of stocky dark wood and heavy dark leather. These wingbacks from Target are a lighter, more elegant version. But we wanted to bring some color to them so we took two pieces of Guatemalan textile my mom had and draped them down the middle, tucking their ends under the seat cushions to create a customized twist on an already pretty chair.

Emily Henderson living room colorful8

We debated what to put over the fireplace for a long time. My parents had a different piece of art there previously, but the framing on it felt dated and the colors didn’t really pop. My mom has a really large collection of embroidered textiles so we turned there for inspiration and ended up really loving this Hmong embroidery. It’s such a pretty blue, and it has little pops of bright colors all over. It felt perfect, so I got it framed and we never looked back.

Emily Henderson living room colorful9

The fireplace grate is another vintage hand-me-down, this time from Mac’s side of the family. This was in his grandfather’s home for years,  and now it’s happily found it’s way to it’s next home with my parents. It just fit with they style of their home so perfectly, it’s like it’s always been there.

Emily Henderson living room colorful10

The other new piece we got for the room is this loveseat from Article. It’s actually the smaller version of the same sofa I had in my own living room. My mom loved it so much that when it came time to pick out a new piece to go in here, there was no question what it would be. The smaller size fit perfectly, and my mom couldn’t be happier. The lighter, warmer caramel color leather is a much better tone than the dark brown loveseat that previously sat in the room.

Ligorria Tramp Moto Veronica 17 01

That’s Fish, our 19-year-old cat (we got him when I was in 5th grade!). He’s tragically reaching the end of his time, but that doesn’t stop him from hopping up and getting cozy wherever the humans are, or wherever he can find a cute throw. The pretty craftsman desk is a family heirloom from my dad’s side, and we’ve had it as long as I can remember. It’s never been used as a sitting desk, and always more of a console. In all honesty, the cat food dish usually lives under there. But the coolest part about this photo is that huge stained glass triptych of a tree, which my dad MADE. He also made the other two stained glass windows in the room. You go, dad.

Side By Side 01 01

My mom loves color. She wears some of the most colorful clothing of anybody I know. She always has a streak of electric blue or bright pink dyed into her hair. I mean, she is a Taurus after all (I have no idea what that says about her, but I’m sure at least a few of you are thinking “oh, that makes total sense”). Our house is actually known as the “fiesta house” on our block, as exemplified by the next room over. I didn’t want this room competing with that room and instead wanted it to be a bright space where the colorful accents my mom has could really pop.

Ligorria Tramp Moto Veronica 09 01

The rug was hard to pick. Everything I wanted had a fair amount of blue (a byproduct of 4 years here at EHD), and everything my mom wanted had strong oranges and reds. When we found this one from Rugs Direct, we fell in love. The light color was a risk with my dad existing, sure, but you gotta risk it for the proverbial rug biscuit. Plus, the way it made the colors it did have pop was dreamy. It felt like the perfect compromise because it had a great mix of both blues and oranges, and even spoke to the colors in the next room over.

Emily Henderson living room colorful14

The next thing we did was hang a gallery wall. I learned later that my mom had been very skeptical of this plan. She wasn’t into the idea but decided to roll with it because of motherly love. There’s a happy ending to this story though because it ended up being her favorite part of the whole room (besides that tiny side table, of course). And it’s pretty disgustingly heartwarming to see our family history up on the wall every time we walk through the living room.

Side By Side 02 01

There are photos of my dad’s parents’ wedding, a photo my grandpa took here in America to send back to my grandma, mom and uncle still living in Guatemala that reads “To the three people I love most in this world” in his handwriting on the back, a polaroid of my parents in front of their very first house back in 1987, childhood art that my brother and I made, and more. I stayed up until 2 am the morning before this shoot hanging this wall, but the happy tears my mother cried made it all worth it (and definitely knocked my brother off his “favorite child” perch for a few weeks at least).

Emily Henderson living room colorful16

Another aspect of the room my mom had been pretty skeptical about when I first mentioned it was bringing a tree into the room. Emily’s been preaching the “indoor tree as living sculpture” mantra for years now and I am fully indoctrinated. My mom, on the other hand, hadn’t yet experienced it. But now she too has sipped from the sweet alluring punch bowl that is “indoor tree” and seen the light. My mom also has a serious green thumb so I knew that putting this friend in here wouldn’t be signing his death warrant. If he needs sun twice a week, you can be sure my mom is going to move that little guy out to her patio and let him tan.

1Emily Henderson living room colorful17

The most important aspect of this whole room was making sure that it still felt like my parents. That it still retained their personality and touches. This was a chance to showcase all the beautiful things they’ve collected over their life together (like those bird textiles that we re-framed), and the pieces of my mom’s Guatemalan heritage that literally color so much of her life (see the Guatemalan textile pillow on the couch).

Side By Side 03 01

Getting to display all my dad’s old books, some of them from his dad’s childhood, and showcasing all the various crafts and art he’s collected from years of traveling as a camera operator all over the world, brought his personality into the room, too. It wasn’t just my mom, but a mix of both of them that made the room feel like home even with a fresh coat of paint and some new furniture. Everything still feels personal.

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LOOK AT HOW HAPPY THAT MAMA IS. That is pure, unadulterated, mom JOY (that’s also my brother who was forced into a clean shirt for this photo). So happy Mother’s Day to you, mom. You make everyone’s lives better everyday and deserve this happy room more than anyone else I know.

If you’re into any of this bright and happy look, check out the “Get The Look” board below. My mom has pretty good taste.

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1. Yellow Oversize Chambray Pillow | 2. Blue Lumbar Pillow | 3. Striped Reversible Throw Pillow | 4. Red Stoneware Block Print Vase | 5. Leather Sofa | 6. Rug (currently unavailable through Rugs Direct, but here’s something similar) | 7. Candlestick Trio | 8. Gradvis Grey | 9. Water Hyacinth Beaded Woven Basket | 10. Tonsatta | 11. Blue Stoneware Block Print Vase | 12. 16×20 Wood Frame | 13. Wingback Chair | 14. Side Table | 15. Cactus Trio | 16. 5″x7″ Blue Stoneware Frame | 17. White Single Picture Matted Frame | 18. Gradvis Pink | 19. Wood Bud Vase | 20. Brass Tray | 21. Linen Textured Ceramic Small Lamp | 22. Stenbar | 23. Bench | 24. Dark Teal Ceramic Frame | 25. Blue Stoneware Textured Planter | 26. Brass Frame | 27. Hovsta Square | 28. Dalskarr Wood Frame | 29. White Ribba Frame | 30. Tall Blue Stoneware Block Print Vase | 31. Papaja | 32. Blue and White Decorative Block Print Canister | 33. Mint Green Ceramic Frame | 34. Sondrum | 35. Hovsta Light Wood

***photography and design by Sara Ligorria-Tramp for EHD

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4 years ago

Actually, it’s great. To be honest, I would love a gift like that as a mother.
You’ve made the room shine naturally. It’s very impressive, it’s like starting a life again.
I couldn’t give you a gift as big as you, but I did take the same kind of corner cushions as you, and also the olive oil soaps in nostalgic boxes.
Since I don’t have much time, I’ve bought it on a website that I’ve shopped oftenly and liked very much.

I hope mommy likes it.
Happy Mother’s Day….

4 years ago

Love how the room turned out so much! I still don’t know what to give to my Mom, she doesn’t want me to buy expensive things, and because I don’t live with my parents so I don’t know what they need… Gotta take a look at your picks.

4 years ago


Loveley of
4 years ago

this is gorgeous! and that tree window….is…AMAZING! your dad is so talented! i love all the bright colors your mom loves and has in her things. such a great post 🙂

4 years ago


Sonia Quinones
4 years ago

There’s so much to love about this room. And I love the rug you selected so much that I’m going to show it to *my* mom to see if she’d let me get it for her!

I was wondering about the throw that’s over the arm of the sofa. It looks like it has the perfect combination of colors, but it’s not on your product list. Did your mom already own it? Do you know where it’s from?

4 years ago
Reply to  Sonia Quinones

I want to know about the throw as well!

Sonia Quinones
4 years ago
Reply to  Kd

Thank you so much for sharing the link!

4 years ago

Those stained glass windows are such a treasure, as I’m sure your father is! This room is all the heart eyes!

4 years ago

This is gorgeous!

4 years ago

It maintained so much personality! Love how colorful yet put together it feels.

4 years ago

Wow, what a gorgeous room! It looks exactly like the kind of vibe that I would like to achieve in my own home: personal items displayed in a meaningful and coherent way! I also LOVE that the ceiling remained yellow! What a fun and unexpected pop of color! 🙂

Stefanie S
4 years ago
Reply to  Sara Tramp

I would love to see a light sky blue on the ceiling like that in the stain glass windows on the fireplace wall and in the rug. It would be a fun pop of color! I never thought I’d say that, I’m always a fan of pure white ceilings too.

4 years ago

It looks so amazing!! You killed it, seriously. Love all the color and handmade touches. I think you have embodied what it means to have a house decor that really reflects the people who lives there and what is important to THEM. And showing us how that is done, is really what is probably most meaningful to your readers as we can apply these ideas to our own situations. Great job, now I want to see that bright yellow room next door, please….

4 years ago
Reply to  Sara Tramp

Yes, please do more! This room is so special and heartfelt. I adore it. Thanks to your parents for opening up their home to us.

Kate P
4 years ago
Reply to  Sara Tramp

YES, YES, YES! Please refresh other parts of your parents’ house for the blog! The whole house, please!!
This is just so wonderful, joyful, relatable, inspiring, & practical. It is so helpful to see how you used, incorporated, & refreshed what was already there, what’s been acquired over time, & what represents/celebrates family history–which is what most of us hope to be doing in our own or in our loved ones’ homes.
I LOVE this!

4 years ago
Reply to  Amy

Definitely more! Loving the bold colors and cultural nods!

4 years ago
Reply to  Amy

Exaaaaaactly what Amy said !!! And yes yes yes to refreshing other rooms while maintaining the soul of this home <3

4 years ago

The room is gorgeous! I didn’t even notice the stained glass windows when it was so dark. I love that the tree window is now a focal point. Your father is a fantastic artist. And you really capture the soul of your mother in your description of her. We’re so lucky to have such a nurturing woman in the world, taking care of our children.

4 years ago

This is such a HAPPY room!! You can just feel the love emanating from it. Love that rug! Love your mom’s joy with the two of you! Fish is awesome – I wanna snuggle with him.

4 years ago

Best room makeover!!! Love that theirs a sprinkle of vintage, new, Target, personal items, etc. It feels SO relatable! Amazing job!!

4 years ago

This room is beautiful but the rug is discontinued and thus I’m heart broken. I love seeing rooms like this that feel approachable, unique and personal and affordable. Great job!

4 years ago
Reply to  Sara Tramp

I will look forward to hearing about the rug and any other options. I love it and have been searching for something just like it!

4 years ago
Reply to  Sara Tramp

The room is beautiful, but I must have that rug! Do you know what it was called?

Sonia Quinones
4 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Hey guys, I found the rug on sale via Home Depot!

Went looking for it the minute my mom said she liked it and nearly had a heart attack when the link via Rugs Direct said it was discontinued this afternoon. (It was just fine this morning so I was very disappointed.) But hey, Home Depot to the rescue!

Here’s the link:

4 years ago

What a wonderful gift! You did such a great job, the white room really lets everything else shine. Especially the stained glass windows, which I didn’t even notice in the first shots of the room. Your father is very talented, and your mother has wonderful taste. How lucky for you to have two talented and creative parents!

4 years ago

I love it! This is so warm, fun, personal and beautiful! And that framed embroidered art above the fireplace is perfect! Would love a roundup of new or vintage embroidered art like that, including how to frame it nicely like you did.

Danielle Buckley
4 years ago

Do you by any chance know the brand of the rug? It says it’s discontinued and I’d love to find a similar one. This room is stunning!

4 years ago

WOW, it looks amazing! My favorite part is how you incorporated all their existing art in. PS the cat is adorable 🙂

4 years ago

This is amazing! I love how personal and thought out it is. And your mom sounds awesome 🙂

4 years ago

this is absolutely gorgeous! I love that it still has touches of your mom all over and it still feel so much fun!

4 years ago

This made my heart sing. I clearly don’t know your parents, but I think you did such an amazing job making it feel like them — a refresh in the truest sense of the word. Happy Mother’s Day to your firecracker of a mom who I kind of wish would adopt me just from reading this post.

4 years ago

Gorgeous! And the stained glass windows are stars!!!
But dang girl, whatcha going to do for Father’s Day now?????

Jordan G
4 years ago

Sara, you did a wonderful job! I love how much it reflects their personalities.

Can you share where the throw on the sofa is from? Love it!

Laetitia PONS
4 years ago

Gorgeaous !!

Barbara Snyder
4 years ago

Sara, best post ever! I love everything about that room!

4 years ago

This might be my favorite makeover yet (or tied with the Fig House 🙂 )! It looks editorial while maintaining a casual, livable and personal vibe…LOVE. And that it’s for your mom and dad makes it even more special. Great job!

4 years ago

incredibly beautiful job and the family love shines through! This is designing at the highest level…working with the people who live in the home to reflect their lifestyle, colors, personality, and collections. Nothing cookie-cutter here. The way you transformed the Target chairs with the Guatemalan textiles was genius. And the refresh definitely highlights your dad’s stained glass artistry which makes this home SING! Thanks so much for sharing.

4 years ago

Oh, this is so great.

4 years ago

This post is so wonderful! I am really impressed at what you accomplished and the balance between their well loved items and a beautiful styled room. Congrats!

4 years ago

Stunning! This is what I want, and I never knew it! I too am very attached to my lovely things, but dont know how to arrange/design them best. What a wonderful gift to mother.

Julie P
4 years ago

Ok that tree window is INCREDIBLE. And the whole space is so amazing. Just what I love – work with what you’ve got – Unfortunately the rug is discontinued. Did you have any similar ones to recommend?

4 years ago

THIS!!! is a room makeover that hasn’t lost the personality of the family that lives there, you’ve let it shine in the best spots. What a wonderful job you did for your mom! You are a good girl (lol, I love when old people say that to me).
p.s. I was reeeealllly hoping for a peek of the room nextdoor!

4 years ago

Oh, I’m in awe!! Such loving attention to detail! Such beautiful colors!! Such thoughtful choices! What a wonderful gift of time and love to give to your mom! WOW!!

4 years ago

ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. Thanks for sharing! I love the art so much — and those beautiful windows.

4 years ago

This is one of my favorite makeovers ever! I’m always afraid of bright pops of color, but you made it look effortless, seamless, and gorgeous! Wow. Love everything about it!.

4 years ago

LOVE. Any special tips for framing textiles? My dad gave me (okay, I took it) a South American textile he received as a gift decades ago and I want to frame it but don’t know where to start. It’s a similar size as the one you put over the fire place. 🙂

4 years ago

room makeovers are one of my favorite posts. however, is it possible to either match the editing done to the after photos to the before photos? Or, include at least one unedited after photo?

4 years ago

I love this refresh so much!!! It’s so colorful and full of personality, but it feels much lighter than the “before” photos. Great job!

4 years ago

Can I just say that I love this type of post? I love seeing a real room get a makeover and the work that goes into adapting to things that people already own to make it really “theirs”. It came out so happy!

4 years ago

Love it!

4 years ago

really nice job. and your mother is right, that table is perfect.

Amy E Jones
4 years ago

Excellent work! Wow! I thought ‘how is she going to make everything work?’ And you guys did it! So inspiring.

4 years ago

You did a great job! I love how every piece of theirs now is highlighted and truly shines. The windows now really are the super star. I love that you got them to paint the walls white and then add in colors! I love that rug, I also have a thing for oranges. 🙂 Where is that throw on the loveseat from?

Tara Ilsley
4 years ago

you should marry mac. that is all.

4 years ago

Much more beautiful before. A colonial home turned into modern seaside. No.

4 years ago

Very beautiful makeover, I love all the colorful accents and the wood, which comes out so well with the warm white walls. My favorites though are those stained glass windows, and the orange doorframes that peek out from the background.

4 years ago

This room is so refreshing on the eyes! It’s so inviting. There’s new things in it yet it doesn’t feel like you can just go buy this living room.

Katherine L Cunningham
4 years ago

So well written – lots of humor and warmth in this post! Great job, Sara.

4 years ago

So fabulous! I absolutely love how you created a space for the textiles and stained glass to shine. Really nicely done. That rug is perfect. And I know what you mean about wanting your dad to have space to walk around it. (My husband won’t take his shoes off for anything—Ugh!) A good designer figures out how to design a room around the way people actually live. BRAVA!