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Design

How Ajai Transformed Her Parent’s Dark And Cluttered Living Room Into Their Dream Minimalist Mid-Century Glam Oasis

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As many of you are aware, earlier this year, my husband and I moved from Atlanta to Los Angeles and in with my dad and mom for seven months while being pregnant (to try and build our savings). This entailed my mother parting with her coveted “girl-cave” to make room for us. Well, fast forward to now, we have moved into our own apartment but my agreement to design, source, and furnish the living room in exchange for a free place to live remained intact, so that is what I have been doing the last several months. The plan was always to make this space an oasis for my mom, (since we took over her aforementioned “girl cave”) and to incorporate her self-proclaimed “minimalist meets mid-century glam” style she so desperately wanted.

During the design phase, my mom also mentioned she really enjoyed the mood boards I had for my own home but wanted to lean into a minimalist-glam-mid-century look (by the way, she believes she coined this style lol). One thing you should know about me is I believe the best designs are the spaces that truly reflect the people who live in them. That said, I was willing to partake in my momma’s newly created style, but as is the case for most design projects, there were a few challenges along the way when it came to achieving her desired look.

Here is what we started with:

THE CHALLENGES

Challenge #1 TOO MUCH CLUTTER

Since the stay-at-home orders began in SoCal, my mother has mentioned a desire for a more tranquil and airy space. However, her existing furniture did not provide that aesthetic. She was looking for more of a minimalist approach and she wanted less clutter. Over the years, she’s acquired quite the collection of items and furniture, and was finally ready to lighten the load.

Challenge #2 OPEN LAYOUT WASN’T FEELING COHESIVE

 One of the challenges presented by the living room was its layout and that it also acts as the dining room, and I had to keep this in mind while sourcing furniture that wouldn’t take up too much space. 

Challenge #3: FURNITURE WAS NOT UTILIZING THE SPACE WELL (AND MADE THE ROOM FEEL DARK)

My mother wanted to keep her mid-century dining set, so it was important we keep her existing table and chairs in mind. The rest of the furniture had to go, as it clashed with what my mother was looking for. The furniture my mom had before was quite large, and in my opinion, didn’t quite utilize the space well. So we went on the hunt for the right furniture that would satisfy my mom’s modern and cozy desires. 

bar cart | ice bucket

The Solutions

ADD GOLD FIXTURES THROUGHOUT TO GROUND THE SPACE

Lighting has always felt like the jewelry of a home to me and when I think of Mid-century modern glam, I think of curves and gold. To add some glamour, I partnered with Mitzi and had our local electrician install their Gold Belinda drop pendants in the dining area and their Gold Belinda sconces in the living room wall behind the sectional. In addition to incorporating “the glam,” the gold lighting matched the gold bar cart and brought further cohesiveness to the space.

SOFTEN THE ROOM WITH LIGHT AND MINIMAL FURNITURE

sofa | jute rug | throw blanket

Ever since I can remember, my mom has day-dreamed about kicking her feet up on a white ottoman (with a matching sectional) while she watches her soap operas. In an effort to create a more open layout and minimalist design, we also cleared out some of the other knick-knacks, and donated the large hutch leading into her kitchen and the dark sofa set was replaced with a white modern sectional to provide a lighter aesthetic. The existing dining set replaced the large hutch that was donated, and the space the dining set was taken from now has (in the words of my mom)  a “glammed up gold bar cart.”

GIVE THE SPACE SOME PERSONALITY 

It was important for my mother to have the space express her personality because her initial “girl cave” was taken from her. She felt like she needed a few different areas in the room that were functional, but that still felt like the spaces belonged to her. With these spaces she was looking for a place to gather with girlfriends (eventually… after gathering is allowed again), have a cocktail (or two), and catch up on her stories. 

The first section we tackled was the dining area. Did I mention my mom (like many other mommas out there) is a huge fan of the infamous shiplap wall (thanks to Chip and Jojo)? So, I went on a 5-week hunt (during the shipping crisis) for white-washed wood panels to make this dream a reality. Again, we sourced the wood materials quite some time ago and were so happy when they arrived weeks later, after several returns and exchanges (one of the wood boxes we received was filled with warped wood… a nightmare indeed). But this made us even more grateful with the outcome. This wall is cherished and has quite the story to go along with it… the perfect conversational piece. The paneled wall provides a textured feature and feels like it has been there from the beginning. The contrast of the gold lighting up against the feature wall makes the space feel modern and plush amongst its glamorous surroundings.

This is definitely my mother’s favorite aspect of the re-designed space and may be my mother’s favorite wall in her home now. That brings me to the gold bar cart, which is a star of its own. My mom and I made a little vignette with her favorite cocktail glasses and trinkets, and she can’t get enough of it. Last (but most certainly not least) is the sectional. The goal was to make this the comfiest place in the house…

BRING IN THE COZINESS WITH TONS OF PILLOWS AND BLANKETS

My mother wanted to ensure she experienced plush serenity in the living room and the countless pillows added to the sectional provided just that. She can now plop on to the sectional with my dad to watch a movie and feel cuddled in every direction with all the fluffy pillows. Now, I know you are probably thinking “why so many pillows?” But let me reiterate that I design for the person living in the house thus, my mom. She wanted a million pillows and this made her happy, so I gave her a million pillows. This was also due in large part to the guilt I felt for taking away her girl-cave at the time (and my dad already has his own man-cave), so I really wanted to give her a space she could enjoy. After doing some spring cleaning (in the fall), swapping a few furniture items, and creating her desired spaces, my momma is happy with her new living room space and has deemed it complete (*sighs with relief*).

Now for the most fun and satisfying part – the before and after side by sides:

**Design and Photos by Ajai Guyot

Fin Mark

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KJ

So cool. Love Momma and you chillin’ on the couch with pretty smiles that’s what it’s all about 😊

Thanks so much! 🙂

Really appreciate the focus on what makes your client happy. And can I just say, that’s one good-looking grandma! I’m sure many of us aspire to that level some day 🙂

Thank you! I’ll be sure to send those compliments her way! She’ll be thrilled to hear them haha. 🙂

Erin

Stunning!!

Eva

Lovely! I want one of these, too 🙂

iLa

ah, so fresh!

This turned out so so good. Beautiful work 💫

Jeannie

I love this so much – it just goes to show what a big difference furnishings and layout can make without taking down walls or anything. I also love that you kept some of your mom’s original furniture. So pretty!

Thank you. Yes, I encouraged her to keep some of her things, she was so excited to throw everything away haha…

Eliot

This is such a tranquil space now. Looking at the before and after shots is instantly soothing.

Thank you so much. My mom is really enjoying it. Makes me so happy to know.

How lovely, I wish I could do this for my mother! Amazing how much the design choices brightened the room and make it appear larger. I think a lot of people have this identical floor plan and this is a great use of space.

Thank you, and you are right. A lot of homes in L.A. have this layout. I’ve been in a few throughout the neighborhood and have seen this.

Eleanor

This is lovely – your mom got a really good trade! Here are just some nitpicks: I think the art is hung too high above the sofa; the bar cart at the back of the sofa looks a bit off. IMHO, shiplap and pooled curtains do not go with a midcentury minimalist look. But the space looks really great!

MoMo

I think the bar cart is stationed against the wall, only getting pulled out as needed.

But I agree, beautiful room, and a great improvement. Only I might have put that lovely breakfront where the buffet is. I thought it had super style and would have added a bit of height to the room, without being overwhelming.

Hope you enjoy your new space!

Thank you! The bar cart was moved throughout photographing the space (it lives against the wall). Also, Momma really wanted shiplap, and momma gets what momma wants haha.. Thank you for reading 🙂

Holly

Would you walk into the redesigned space that she has graciously shared with you and say these things to her in person?

Let’s try and be kinder.

Sunny

Holly, she started her comment with “Lovely….” Ajai has shared her work on a blog that is widely read and comments are allowed.

The room is gracious and I agree the art is too high on the wall and an easy fix with hammer and nail.

KJ

I think the art height fits right in with standing in the room to enjoy the beauty and then sitting down on that sofa with a glass of wine without bumping your head against it. Momma loves that 🙂 Great job, Ajai!

Deborah Harron-Thomson

Love the tranformation. So bright, calmibg, sophisticated and airy. Lucky Mom/talented daughter. Great job!

P.S. Based on hanging artwork best practices and visual improvement, I would reconsider the height of the artwork, marrying it up visually then with the lighting. It would still be higher than head height at the back of the couch. I know, picky picky:)

Holly

Of course comments are allowed. What I think is forgotten in online interactions is that giving unsolicited advice comes across as rude. Now matter if you couch it in, “Lovely, but …” and then proceed to list off all the ways YOU think it should have been done differently.

Again, I go to the motto of, if she had invited us all in to view the room in person, would you say this to her face?

Rachel

I can see it maybe came across a little blunt, but I think regular readers and comment-ers all know and love the analysing and critique because we love to tinker and improve our homes.

I agree it would be socially inappropriate and very much unasked for to do so if you visited, but I agree that it’s different having this discussion on an interior design blog where this has long been the type of discussions had. I don’t think you can really compare the situations.

Michelle

This looks beautiful! I love the details and care that went into the room 🙂

Thank you so much! 🙂

Christina

Beautifully, fresh, bright, and so feminine! Love it!

Kaitlyn P

Love the change! I had to do a double take, because the room looks SO much larger now!

PK

Firstly, Ajai welcome to EHD and you are such an adorable mama! You clearly have great taste and personal style and I see that reflected in your choices.

I want to state that my commentary below is in the spirit of constructive criticism and is obviously my personal preference. Your mother is the client and is the best judge.

The after pictures are SO much better BUT I feel like the styling is probably not what I have come to expect of the EHD team.

The art hung over the sofa appears to be generic without adding too much personality to the room. The bar cart and the dining table need some additional styling to really pop.

I love ship-lap but it doesn’t go with the overall mid-century vibe of the room. I am missing some vintage/soul/ personal elements as Emily would call it.

I love the Mitzi lights but maybe would have added something larger in scale myself for more of a visual impact.

It’s still a fantastic transformation, maybe just a few final tweaks.

Alice

She said her mother loved and wanted the shiplap. That makes it a personal element. From the perspective of my own personal preference, I like the art over the sofa. Maybe it’s hung higher so people don’t accidentally lean back against it. I like a place that looks like it’s styled to be lived in rather than filled with stuff to make it pop. Having seen stylings that have made my eyes bleed on this blog, if loud, cluttered, high-impact visuals are what we’re supposed to expect, then color me relieved to see this happy space.

PK

Hi Alice,

I would have to respectfully disagree that styling on this site is loud and cluttered.

Sara’s living room, Jess’s living room, Emily’s Glendale living room and the recent living room transformation by Velinda are all muted but have color, contrast, and vintage elements which make it interesting.

Everything in Emily’s mountain house is in muted tones but it’s the mix of colors, textures and styling choices that make it pop in my opinion.

Again, Emily has a lot more resources at her disposal which Ajai might not have had access to.

Ajai is also working with her mom and obviously keeping her interests at the top of her mind.

Alice

I did not say that all stylings on this site are loud and cluttered. But you said that this transformation was not what you would expect to see, and I indicated that I’m glad to see it.

Thank you so much for your feedback! Styling vignettes is actually one of my favorite things to do, and I’d originally sourced a vintage art-piece and had it custom-framed for my mom, but when I returned back to her home, she’d replaced the piece with the one featured.

The “generic” art, along with the shiplap wall, her existing bar cart and cocktail accessories, all made her happy, so I went with it. I offered to buy her new things, but she wanted the things you see pictured, and my mother got exactly what she wanted. Thank you for reading 🙂

PK

What a thoughtful comment Ajai! Thank you for the response and looking forward to seeing more from you!

Kara

I love this transformation, and I love how you made your client happy even if every choice she made wouldn’t be your own choice, Ajai. I also love both of your dresses!

PK, in re: to the styling on this site vs what we are seeing in this post, it hit me yesterday in the tween room to young adult transition that so much of what we see in the styled after shots doesn’t actually STAY in the room, they’re just borrowed for the shoot! (Julie addresses this when she points out her own footed vase in the room. I feel like MOTOs/Emily’s own spaces may be the exception to this.) I actually prefer that Ajai didn’t do this when shooting the space because it’s so much more realistic. I for sure love and have learned so much about styling from EHD, but a mix of fantasy vs reality is much better than all fantasy in my opinion. The actual, lived in spaces like this are my personal favorite.

Molly

This is making me realize it’d be fun to see both every once in a while. I would have loved to see this shot with Ajai’s preferred styling vs the way her mom likes it and lives with it. Likewise, it’d be interesting to see some of the MOTOs etc minus all the temporary staging items…because real life!!

Crystal

I love this response. Also respect constructive criticism, but have to add my opinion that this room felt attainable to me—that I could do something similar and afford something similar. I liked that there wasn’t a one of a kind vintage art piece or something super pricey that would be hard to replicate. Different designs inspire different people and this inspired me!

Kate

What I think people are forgetting is that Emily hasn’t designed much for outside clients for years for exactly this reason; what the client wants isn’t usually what looks best on the blog.

But isn’t using shiplap in a glam room exactly a soul/personal element? And isn’t it possible that the art over the sofa has personal meaning? In other words, I feel like comments on proportions etc. make sense, but comments assuming we know what personal meaning is for someone else feel weird to me.

Gigi

I understand what Alice said. Ajai said over and over that these were her mother’s wishes and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much “constructive criticism” of a guest designer before. I didn’t realize we had so many professional interior designers among EHD readers. We would all do something personally different if it were our design. I’ve even said so about Emily’s designs, for example, the controversial canopy above the kids beds in the mountain house. “I feel like the styling is not what I have come to expect of the EHD team”?! Let’s unpack that statement what does that even mean? She is a GUEST designer. I’m outdone today. I really am. Ajai took the high road responding to you because that comment was unnecessary. She responded in the manner that you should have approached her in the first place.

PK

Gigi-let me clarify. The styling was not what I have come to expect of designers featured on EHD. That is not a comment on Ajai’s talent or choices; it is less styled than I expected. Velinda, Julie, Orlando, Aryln are all guest designers/contributors now as well and Emily and team regularly post other home tours as well and I have seen plenty of constructive feedback on their posts. Again, I understand the home tours are likely of designers themselves and tend to be aspirational while this is for a family member who you want to be happy and thrilled with the result. I appreciate Ajai’s comment on why she made design choices for her mom and how we had to pivot based on her mother’s feedback. I absolutely loved her bedroom design and you will see that most of the EHD readers enjoyed that as well. I genuinely loved so many things about this make-over and the changes; especially when we look at the before photos are startling. I have appreciated the dialogue, discussions, how one would make tweaks and the iterative design aspects on this blog a lot. I do NOT appreciate the commentary that all constructive feedback is… Read more »

Hillary

Funny how you think “constructive criticism” is so welcome and helpful until someone constructively criticizes your own rude comments. Then all of a sudden you’re upset. Weird how that works, huh?

PK

Haha-I am not upset at all Hillary. I was clarifying my comment, more for Ajai’s sake because I think she is lovely and didn’t want her to interpret my comments as a knock on her talent.

You are most certainly welcome to provide any feedback on my comments and I welcome you might not share the same feedback. As I said it’s art and it’s open to interpretations.

Have a lovely day!

Alice

Nobody used the word, “trolling.” “I feel like the styling is probably not what I have come to expect of the EHD team,” goes beyond “constructive criticism” into appearing that you don’t think this post is good enough for this blog because of a few things you would do differently. You can say that the picture seems pretty high off the sofa without the harsh generalities.

Isabelle

I’ll chime in, speaking from the point of view of a professional. You are right – design IS supposed to make people happy. It’s an art form, but it’s not a painting in a museum. This is room designed for Ajai’s family, and if they love it, it is a success, full stop. I have also done work for my family, and sometimes they want things I wouldn’t pick for myself. I pick my battles and approach it with the understanding that I am designing for the person who is going to live their life in this space. I cannot fathom suggesting that Ajai should replace something her mother loves just because it won’t feel “on brand” for this blog.

io

This is the best thing I have seen on this site in ages. It’s just perfect for the “client,” and looks great on its own too. It makes me want to watch soap operas!

Thank you so much 🙂

Big WOW! Who wouldn’t want to curl up on that sofa and take in the mid-century modern glam? Lovely indeed. Thanks for the pic of you and your very glamourous mom!

Thank you! My mother is really loving that sectional! 🙂

Karen Sunday

Gorgeous!!!! so bright great job!!!

Lucy

What a transformation! Your mom must be so happy. A lovely space for cuddling her new grandbaby.

Rebecca Joseph

This is a beautiful makeover but I am dying to know if you kept that crystal urn – that screams mid century glam to me, speaking as someone whose grandparents house was OG midcentury gkam 😀

She did keep it! it’s in the kitchen now. She had all the grand-babies come over after the photoshoot and wanted to put it in a safe place. 🙂

Jessica

And by “mom” you mean “older sister” right?!

What a transformation! I bet her friends can’t wait to get invited over for cocktails (post-pandemic)

Ha ha she’ll love hearing this! Thank you for your kind words 🙂

Whitney

It’s so pretty! I would love to get my mom to do something like this. The clutter in her living room is such a heavy weight, but I don’t even think she knows it! How can I convince her???

Lane

I like the soft look and minimal styling. I’d probably add a bit of contrast, but it’s a personal preference.

Tracy Clarke

You did a fantastic job with this room and I love everything you chose, however, in my humble opinion the art over the couch is hung too high. If it doesn’t work to lower it because of the sconces I might try a gallery wall or a different piece of big art which is deeper in scale. Great choices though!!!

Rusty

Light, airy and fresh. I think itsn8ce you gave your Mom what she asked for, even a gazillion cushions! 🙂

The placement of the bar cart is unusual coz it seems to be lonely sitting behind the sofa.

All good vibes for the arrival of your bub. xx

Marie

It’s gorgeous…well done! And I love your mom’s mid-century dining set!

Megan

How do i get the old couch!! And that dining set IS amazing though. Beautiful new room

Lauren

Daaaaang this is amazing!

Dana

Furniture layout is my Achille’s heel so I love to see how you reoriented the sitting area and dining space. The room has great flow!

Sarah

This is beautiful. I love it when you use some of the homeowners original pieces (bar cart and table), alongside the new items! Do you mind telling us where you got the curtains, please?

emily jane

Beautiful -the space, you aaand your Mom! Looking forward to more of/from (?) YOU here : )

Brigitte

Beautifully serene 🙂

Katie J.

Love it – and so approachable. I feel like I could do this, over a weekend…(HA!)

Jenms

I want to hear what has happened to the “girl-cave” now that you’ve moved out of it! Is it back the way it was before you moved in, or are you re-designing that for her too?

Lacey

I LOVE what you did to the space – and how much the original furniture pops now in the “new space.” Before the table and chairs seemed to blend in, but now their style is so clear.
I also love the more muted styling – Thank you for showing us what your client wanted and how you delivered it so well.

Laura

Your mother has wonderful style and a talented child. These rooms are beautiful. I look forward to seeing your style in your new apartment.

emily jane

Ajai -The Space Whisperer : ) Now I want to reconsider every room in my home to see if there is an ultimately simple yet devilishly transformative interpretation of the space!

Nora Vassar

Mind Blown!!!!! What an unbelievable transformation. I know it’s the same room but I could easily be convinced that it isn’t too. WOW!

Kristin

What a lovely space you’re created for your mom. I’d love to hear more about the art height (and see the piece you originally chose ;-). To me, the picture over the sofa looks awfully high, and certainly higher than recommended elsewhere on this site. Were there reasons that this made sense for the space, though? So often the recommended “ideal” isn’t possible, and it’s super helpful to hear the reasons that a design deviates from it.

Your mom might LOVE searching for “Hollywood Regency” on eBay;).

Gigi

First, Ajai this room is instantly refreshing and I love the after. And second, welcome to the EHD family. As you can tell by some of the comments, it can be a tough crowd at times. I often say Emily has to have thick skin.

Sara Nelson

Amazing job! I love your style and you and your Momma are too gorgeous!

Gigi

Also, I love the vignette on the console table.

Patricia

What a wonderful thing to do for your Momma! I wouldn’t have pictured shiplap with mid century glam, but that’s what makes it uniquely hers. It works.

KD

I love that you made sure your client/Mom had her Must-Haves. And what a style’n Grandma your Mom will be!

Elise

Gorgeous! Wow, the room is so beautiful, and exactly my style. I love a minimalist look, and my husband loves mid-century modern – this is a wonderful combination of both. Your mom is very lucky. The room looks so much bigger and brighter. Great job, Ajai.

Vicki Williams

Wow! Beautiful room! Great job! Gorgeous Mother who could be your sister. What a lot of back and forth comments. My take on some of them: (I am a seasoned Interior Designer if the gives me any creds. ) The juxtaposition of the shiplap against glam but quiet draperies, (I’ll bet they are linen, great choice) add interest and look thought out and intentional in a great way. Architectural details of any kind always upgrade the space and work…IMHO, and that wall seriously works in this space! The Art hanging higher is really interesting and something that is usually the FIRST thing I notice in a room and want to rehang. Not this time! I had to go back and look at the wall to know what they were talking about. To me that says in this instance it looks just perfect because as I said that is usually my very first “niggle” to my particular design senses when I come into a new room. I love the textures, the pillows the gold, all of it. In fact this is very different to how I often design a room so there are a lot of wonderful take-aways for me. Thanks… Read more »

Just lovely, Ajai. What a gift to your mom and to us here – thank you for sharing! I hope you’re taking in all the goodness in the comments and letting the snarky ones go (it’s about them, not you). Can’t wait to see lots more of you in this space!

Mariangela

So serene! Love this transformation. Sweet photo of mother and daughter.

I want to hear about the busts on the credenza (beside the plant). Are they antique?

Lori E.

What a wonderful “exchange” between you and your mama. And you truly gave her exactly what she dreamed of, what a true gift. The new space looks so lovely and welcoming, I’m sure everyone will enjoy it.

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