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Sara’s Mom’s Living Room Is Back With A Much Needed Personal Update – Two Years Later

Sara here, and I’m back with an update on my mom’s living room. Some of you will remember the original living room makeover I gave her for Mother’s Day in 2020. But since then she’s been making it more her own. And without a shadow of a doubt, it is BETTER.

But first, let’s just start with a little reminder of where it started

The living room had dark red walls, creamy butter yellow ceilings, and lots of dark leather and wood furniture. This was the living room I grew up with, so I have a soft spot for it. But overall it felt really heavy and I didn’t think it represented my mom’s fun and bright personality.

So we painted the walls white (but left the ceiling yellow), brought in lighter furniture, and added pops of color through art and textiles. Which got us here:

I really thought I had given my mom a living room that reflected her, while also fitting neatly into the boundaries of what I considered good design.

I think there’s a lot to unpack around the idea of what the interior design industry promotes as “good” or “elevated” design, and how it’s impacted my views of interior design. Originally I started trying to sort out my thoughts here in this post, but realized REAL quick that even beginning to peel back the layers of appropriation, classicism, and ableism that need to be addressed would necessitate more than a paragraph in a living room reveal post. Not to mention how a lack of diverse racial and cultural representation has impacted interior design (and my own opinions about my mom’s design aesthetic). I still have a lot of thought organizing to do, but I’m working on that post and hoping to bring more than just my voice and views to that post as well.

For now, here’s what I’ll say about how this all culminated in a very personal way in my mom’s living room: My mom wanted to paint the ceiling blue, and I said “that would be too bright.” She wanted a fun, colorful sofa, and I said “leather will be timeless.” She wanted to include more of her Guatemalan textiles, and I told her “too many different patterns will feel chaotic.” I offered to help her refresh her living room, and instead I design-policed her, and made her space more “palatable” to my own design aesthetic. One which was largely developed in the predominately white, trend-chasing, consumer-centric echo chambers of social media and high-end editorials.

Don’t worry though. My mom immediately began making the room her own as soon as I left. So without further ado, bienvenidos to my mom’s improved living room. It’s more colorful, it’s more alive, it’s more her. And it’s so much happier.

Ok, so what’s new? We’ll my mom finally painted the ceiling blue, like she had always wanted to, and it’s amazing. I’m at a point now in my design journey where I want more color and pattern too, and I freaking love this blue ceiling. Of course, my dad doesn’t remember the name of the paint color. Classic dad.

Next, you’ll probably notice that she’s got the colorful saturated sofa of her dreams, in her absolute favorite color – yellow. This sofa is actually what kickstarted this whole second-wave makeover off. I walked into the living room one day and noticed it was…sofa-less. “Mom, what happened to your brand new sofa?” I asked.

“You’re brother needed a sofa for his apartment.” A mother’s love and generosity truly never ends.

It all worked out though because I ordered her a replacement that is 100x better for her. It’s the same exact model and size – The Sven Sofa from Article, but in the Yarrow Gold velvet. It’s bright, it’s her favorite color, and the velvet is way more cat-friendly since they don’t try and use it as a scratch pad nearly as much as they did with the leather. I’ll also point out that this brings my family’s total of these sofas to FOUR: Ours from our first apartment – which now lives in my parent’s family room, the loveseat version – which was originally in this room but now lives in my brother’s apartment, our sofa in our TV room in Pacific Blue velvet, and now this happy yellow one. When I say it’s a good sofa, I speak from experience.

My mom also had my dad move in this vintage Mexican armoire that had been living in the kitchen. Want to know a secret? It’s the family liquor cabinet. Not only does it store all my parent’s wine, spirits, and mixers, but also all the drinkware. It fits the space really nicely and adds a ton of character.

Bringing in the armoire meant she had to do something else with the writing desk that was originally on that side. She just moved it over to the other side of the windows, and again it was genius. It fits perfectly under the art I hung there, and really helps balance the bigger armoire. Plus the room actually feels cozier with more furniture in the space (rather than crowded, which would have been my argument).

She moved a bigger plant up to the mantle, added more small “things”, some pillar candles flanking the fireplace, and swapped out my quieter pillows for pattern on pattern pillows. And it’s all so, so good.

MOM, YOU WERE RIGHT *insert angsty teen eye roll*. Let’s take a look at some satisfying before and afters:

One last detail I’d like to point out are the kitties. Fish, our family cat of 20 years sadly, but peacefully, passed away at the end of 2020. Not long after, I was taking a walk around my neighborhood and found some kittens playing in someone’s yard. The owner came out and asked if I was interested. I called my dad and he agreed that I could bring one kitten home to them. That’s Ebi up there, and she is my mom’s favorite new daughter.

My mom called me 5 minutes later and said “bring another one home too, don’t tell dad. He can’t say no once it’s here.” And so, here’s Ebi’s brother, Ika.

Mom, you’re an inspiration and have been a style icon since day one.

I’ve got one last pitch, and then I’ll wrap this post up. My mom is a kick-ass kindergarten teacher in a low-income school district here in Southern California. She’s been teaching for 35+ years in the same district and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. During the pandemic, she went above and beyond for her students. Not only did she do the required hours of Zoom teaching with them 5 days a week (which, as you can imagine with kindergartners is IMPRESSIVE), but she then did small group and one-on-one tutoring with each and every student on rotating days to ensure that each child got dedicated attention. AND she put together activity packs each week that she personally drove to each student’s home, so they could still do things like art projects and have snack time. Basically, she’s an angel. This coming school year she’ll be back in the classroom, which she’s so excited about. And any chance I get I always like to throw out a call to collect Target Gift Cards for her to use throughout the year in her classroom. If you feel so inclined, you can donate here. Every penny goes right to her classroom and students. And she cries every time I forward her a gift card from a kind stranger on the internet, which is pretty endearing.

*Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

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Evelin
2 months ago

Such a welcoming and warm room! The rug is still soo great and takes up the new ceilling color, armoire and sofa. wow! 
Cudos to your mom for just execute what her heart want and need. A women with intuitive desgn skills. 
And I totally understand your thoughts and feelings. Same here. I have to remind me to step back when I think I “help” designwise. The priviliged design filter bubble is real…

Amy
2 months ago

Your mom sounds amazing! I didn’t notice the glass tree window in the original makeover, however it really popped out to me on the second Redo. I think the armoire really helps to highlight it. Great job, Mom and Sarah! Also, wonderful post on reminding us to follow what makes us happy and not just the trends.

Rusty
2 months ago
Reply to  Sara Tramp

Your dad is talented plus!!!!!

Sonja
2 months ago
Reply to  Sara Tramp

WHAT?!?!?!?! I think I speak for everyone when I plead for more of Sara’s parents on this blog?!

Reply to  Sara Tramp

your dad made that window?!?!?!?! hoooooooowwwwwww. that is awesome. i need him at my house stat~!

Paula Carr
2 months ago
Reply to  Amy

Ha! I said exactly the same thing before I saw your comment. It’s true, right?

2 months ago

I love everything about this post. Your mom sounds amazing.
I went through a similar design evolution 3-5 years ago. I was reading/watching design content from a handful of people, and while they talked about “good design,” it was more about their design aesthetic. Once I could separate design from personal aesthetics, I started looking at rooms very differently, expanding my “inspiration” exponentially. I also started learning so much more when looking at spaces. I can’t wait to read your thoughts on it.

Karen
2 months ago

i like that she wasn’t worried she’d hurt your feelings. She just took ownership and, honestly, made subtle changes that make the room bring her more joy.

Rusty
2 months ago
Reply to  Sara Tramp

That’s wonderful, that you can discuss it and share tge real stuff.❤

HerselfInDublin
2 months ago

I loved this transformation the first time around and yes, I too love it even more now,. The Ligorria-Tramp apple clearly hasn’t fallen far from the tree, your mother has a terrific eye and I love her style. I too love colour and I think that an unpatterned sofa cries out for patterned throw cushions. I hadn’t even noticed that empty corner in the original makeover, but adding the wonderful drinks cabinet and moving the desk to the opposite side has really brought that corner to life.
Also, kudos to you for admitting that in some senses you missed the mark on the original (still beautiful) makeover by being beholden to what has become perceived as “elevated”. I think you’ve articulated very well in just a paragraph how a narrow and elitist view of what constitutes good design has led to more boring design and how opening the aperture and dismissing the snobbery is only a good thing. I’m really looking forward to your longer post about it.

Emily
2 months ago

I agree with everything you said, but commenting because I just realized the gorgeous set of two color prints over the now-desk area were there in the original album red room but hard to see – you did a fabulous job reframing and displaying them! You and your mom are clearly a great team.

Jen A
2 months ago

OMG because our cat is also named Fish, and she is also 20! Possibly 21, because we rescued her so we aren’t 100% sure about her age. It’s a good luck name for a cat! :+)

I just adore the warmth in this room and welcoming vibe. It makes me want to sit down for a chat and hang out. Thanks for sharing the evolution with us and helping us be more aware/open-minded about our design influences.

please & thank you
2 months ago

This is my favorite post on this site in a long time. The room looks great.

Cathy E
2 months ago

100%. I would love more “here’s how it was designed, and here’s how it looks now that we’ve lived in it.” Rare is the room that stays the same!

K
2 months ago

I loved this post! The blue ceiling is awesome and I loved the cat content at the end. I’m looking forward to your longer post on unpacking ‘elevated’ style and everything else.

2 months ago

Your mom has a great design eye! The blue ceiling and the saffron sofa is so gorgeous also the drinks cabinet is a perfect touch. Love it!

Tara Lynch
2 months ago

Your mom is the teacher of every parent’s dream. I love her.

Karen
2 months ago

Love the mini quilt over the fireplace , and everything else. Your mom is a doll and a good human 😊

Jeannie
2 months ago

This is one of my most favorite posts! You raise so many important issues that my husband and I struggle with! While I like the look of clean white interiors on the internet, I don’t really like living in them. I can’t wait to read your post about cultural influences/lack of diversity’s impact on design aesthetics and trends.

Cathy E
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeannie

And the opposite can be true too. On the Internet I love bright rooms with high contrast, but when we created a bright family room I found that it exhausted my eyes.

Vera
2 months ago
Reply to  Cathy E

That’s funny Cathy, I’m the same!

Paula Carr
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeannie

Yeah, when my sister and I remodelled our townhouse (14-15 yrs ago — yikes), I tried to go more minimal and stripped down, but it’s gradually crept back to the colorful and detailed space that makes me happy. I can look at those white and precise spaces in magazines and like them, but I couldn’t happily live in them.

Tracy
2 months ago

Loved reading this and chuckled out loud when I read the bit about the new kittens! A colorful room with purpose and meaning too.

Carrie
2 months ago
Reply to  Sara Tramp

Because it is! 🙂

Betsy
2 months ago

Love the room so much! I too like more color in a room. I’ve tried to tone it down…white walls, white couch, white curtains, with just punches of color. Because designers have said this is the way a room should look. But to no avail. It is boring and sterile. I went from a gold/yellow wall to white walls, and now back to a not quite white with gray undertones. Much better. Still neutral, but not quite so boring. I have an amazing Guatamalan pillow with red as the main color, and yellow, and cobalt blue. It is actually a similar pattern to the one on your mom’s couch. This is my inspiration to bring it out of the closet storage. Trying to find a new sofa I think. But mine is a slipcovered sofa, so I may just find new material, and have a slip cover made. Thanks for the insipration, Sara’s mom! I’ve always been a color girl, and feel like this was the push I needed to brighten things up in my life.

Rusty
2 months ago
Reply to  Betsy

Glad you’re back into colour….vanilla is soooo boring. Hamptons….meh!

2 months ago

I love this post and room makeover so much! The new sofa is so perfect with the stained glass windows. Your mom sounds amazing. 🙂 This sentence really jumped out at me: “One which was largely developed in the predominately white, trend-chasing, consumer-centric echo chambers of social media and high-end editorials.” As covid restrictions lifted, I visited the homes of a few friends and was so inspired by the individuality of their spaces. It really made me reflect on the consumerism of trend chasing and I immediately rearranged a few things at home to make it more personal. Such a great feeling.

Lindsay
2 months ago

I love it! And Sara, I think your mom would be the first to say, don’t be too hard on yourself 🙂 To my eye, I think the room just went through a healthy style evolution. Your first makeover of the room kind of reminds me of when we all take down our all-out-holiday Christmas decorations in January, and for a while, just leave rooms very clean and bright–we go from beautiful, but maybe a bit ornate and heavy, to simple, and fresh, as a welcome breather. Then, after a few weeks of that, we start wanting a little more again–maybe a few vases of flowers and a runner back on the table. (And an awesome blue ceiling!)
All of that said, I’m very much looking forward to your next post on the biases in the design world. I think we are all suffering a bit from “Instagram-itis” What looks good on screen doesn’t always make our soul sing in real life.
I loved this post, and will definitely support your super-teacher mom!

Kate
2 months ago
Reply to  Sara Tramp

I would love to read a post exploring this if it’s something you have the interest and time to flesh out one day.

Jeanie Griswold
2 months ago

Just lovely. My 18 yo daughter wants to be a Kindergarten teacher and it makes my heart smile. She’s interning at a non-profit this summer in a low income neighborhood. She has grown as a human 💯 in just a few weeks. Thank you for sharing your mom’s story, it gives me hope the world may actually be ok with people like them out there being awesome and shining and sharing their love and light. 💛🧡❤️💚💙💜🤍🤎💝

Bailey Rummler
2 months ago

I love it so much! So much character and beautiful color!

Side note: Does your mom enjoy naming her cats after seafood? Fish, Ebi (Shrimp)…

🙂

Eve
2 months ago
Reply to  Sara Tramp

Oh I was wondering about the names. “Ika” means “fish” in the Maori (native New Zealand) language and I thought maybe it was a tribute to his predecessor. Your mum has kept the bones and fine tuned the space to perfection. I love that you didn’t take offence and instead grew as a designer from that collaboration.

OMG. okay, so I loooooooooooved this original makeover SO MUCH! it was seriously one of my fave makeovers on here. that yellow entryway is just awesome. BUT, i have to say, i love love LOVE your moms enhancements even more! i totally want to hear the convo in your head regarding “layers of appropriation, classicism, and ableism”. i find this very interesting and something i’ve only thought about here and there, but would love to see a post on it.

Rusty
2 months ago

I just knew YOU would love this, Lovely!🤗

Reply to  Rusty

you were right! 🙂

Pamela J James
2 months ago

Lesson learned? Mother truly knows best!

Kimberly
2 months ago

Your mom’s updates really made the space warmer, more interesting and distinctive. Great job, Madre!

Rebecca
2 months ago

YES THIS.
My mom is also a strong latinx teacher to a bunch of tiny humans (bilingual pre-school) and they deserve the world. As wonderful and beautiful design blogs and HGTV is, I do feel like the final vision is always just so devoid of any culture and that any kind of family lives there. Who cares what the masses are into, do what you want it look like!

kk
2 months ago

You did a great job a and your mom did a great job GORGEOUS!
Brilliant article on this issue of whiteness in design calling it AIRSPACE:
https://www.theverge.com/2016/8/3/12325104/airbnb-aesthetic-global-minimalism-startup-gentrification
And a super DEEP dive into whiteness in architecture and design : “Whiteness is the real disease. It orchestrates life and death. It is the most lethal of pandemics. Chronic whiteness is organized around a millennial fantasy about the health of a certain kind of surface, a fantasy about the background that is sustained by a continuous hidden labor and has to be repeatedly foregrounded, confronted, and defaced.”
https://www.e-flux.com/architecture/sick-architecture/360099/chronic-whiteness/

Rusty
2 months ago
Reply to  kk

Wow!! Thank you for sharing those! 👍

kk
2 months ago
Reply to  Rusty

I first read AIRSPACE in 2016, and think about it all. the. time.

Evie
2 months ago
Reply to  kk

What is the best and most respectful color palette for a caucasian home?
Should caucasians use a light/white color palette (because this suits them), or should they use color? Or would using color be appropriation of a culture that’s not theirs? (Maybe use color but tone it down – making sure not to have any items that can be traced to another country/heritage??)

April
2 months ago

I love everything she added. This room looks more dynamic, beautiful, cohesive, and happy. The blue ceiling makes the stained glass even more special. That armoire is the perfect size for that corner and also coordinates with the colors in the windows. The textiles all look great. She nailed it.

Josh
2 months ago

Wow! Such a warming change. The before was a good change from the before before, but lacked personality and felt a little to West Elm catalog. The improvements from Mom took it to the next level and made it a truly custom design. WELL DONE!!!!

Dena
2 months ago

Your mom truly is an angel and this room exudes sunshine! I just love it! Yellow is my favorite color too!
I’ve been remodeling and making over my house reminding myself that no one will be pinning my living room or using my master bath, or critiquing any of it which is helping me not follow trends and do what makes me feel comfortable and happy!
I so agree we need more culture in design, there’s room for everything whether it still be white walls or total maximalism!
Your relationship with your mom reminds me of Orlando and Ormomdo! She infuses a lot of culture in her design and is fearless! Maybe we should talk more about older peoples aesthetics, like they have gone past the trend stage into mixing it with what they like because it’s for them and no one else really!!

Rusty
2 months ago
Reply to  Dena

After I painted my house yellow (Open Sesame – Dulux), the neighborhood kids named it “The Happy House”!😊

Paula Carr
2 months ago
Reply to  Rusty

I had to google that color, Rusty, and it’s a wonderful creamy yellow. Bet it looks good in your Aussie susnshine!

Reply to  Rusty

oooooh, the happy house!? i want my house to be called that! yellow really is such a happy color 🙂

Eleanor
2 months ago

I love the updates! Just shows that design is truly personal – we should all go with what makes us smile when we walk into a room. Your mom is such a great person (and you are such a great daughter). I love this quote “ “bring another one home too, don’t tell dad. He can’t say no once it’s here.”

Rusty
2 months ago

I prefer your mom’s version! Love the armoire!!!
Your mom’s room looks a lot like my house now with loads of bespoke colour, ‘cept I have white ceilings, because they’re immensely ornate plaster, so white is fine.

Ganging to see your kitcgen finished niw … bring it on!!!🤗

Rusty
2 months ago

Sara in Australia, each state has a “Teacher of the Year Award”.
If they gave that in CA, please enter your mom.
Seriously. Do it. She spunds so humble snd dedicated and loving and kind – all the things we want in teachers. She deserves BIG acknowledgement. ❤

Lori
2 months ago

LOVE THIS! The updates are so good. Your mom is amazing!

Samantha
2 months ago

Your mom is a genius! I love everything about this post and that fabulous room!

Jill
2 months ago

I think her additions were wonderful and full of personality. She sounds really amazing.

MKP
2 months ago

Love love love love LOVE it! It was nice before, but now it is nice and also warm and cozy and has more soul. So happy that you all worked on this room together and that you are bringing the issue of bias towards whiteness to the forefront and how this bias affects EVERY SINGLE aspect of our lives. It is brave of you to own your own stuff so publicly and it sparks such important dialogue. Thank you for this. And I’m sending a target gift card your way for your mom’s classroom. What an angel she is and how very lucky her students are to have her!

Christina
2 months ago

Uh oh, your mom has given me *ideas* for the 10ft ceilings in the all-white main living areas of my house!

I think a lot about appropriation in the design of my home and even with clothes. Things like “Do I like this mudcloth textile because it insinuates that I’m a world traveler?” or “Do these ripped jeans, oversized button-up look cool because they imply I have the resources for nothing but leisure time?” It’s limiting to consider these things, which of course isn’t bad, but I love the idea of EHD discussing appropriation some more to gain some clarity of opinion and make it easier to make design decisions.

I loved this post – Thanks, Sara!

Beth
2 months ago

The original design is my favorite that has ever been featured on here, and the new version is even better! I LOVE color and have had such a hard time finding images of rooms that really speak to me (yellow is also my favorite color, like your mom…and I’m a teacher too!), and this is just so colorful and bright without being overwhelming!

Jenms
2 months ago

AWWWWWWWW so great!!!

Chelsea Asermely
2 months ago

Moms are always right! Never forget it!!! Also, your mom sounds especially right about most things, and yet still initially stepped back to let you do your thing and kindly adjusted once you were finished… honestly she sounds like a perfect person! You’re very very lucky as are her students and the community

Amanda
2 months ago

Your transformation was great, but this one is so warm and friendly and personal. I love it.
I also love that this experience was one that allowed you and your mom to talk and, it sounds like, come to a realization about how aesthetic decisions can be influenced by culture and systemic oppression.

Lindsay Sterling
2 months ago

I really love this. Her aesthetic choices make the (already beautiful) room stand out. In a sea of sameness from my algorithm-curated instagram feed, this really stands out in a way we all need right now. More color, more life, more soul, please!

2 months ago

Wow wow wow, eye candy! A lovely, colorful and soulful update to an already beautiful design. 💖

Jenny
2 months ago

This room makes me so happy! Yellow is my favorite color too 🙂 I love that bird art over the desk–may I ask where your mom found it?

Paula Carr
2 months ago
Reply to  Jenny

I’m not Sara, but there are two birds — one on the desk and one in the built-ins to the left of the desk. However, both appear to be Oaxacan carved and painted sculptures. I have several pieces, and they’re usually all unique pieces by individual artists. But google Oaxacan painted animals, and you’ll find tons of resources online.

MJ
2 months ago

The most striking thing about this update is how much more LIVED-IN this room feels!! Too often I feel like the rooms I see in shoots and catalogues are designed for the camera, not for the residents. So much of your mom and your family’s personality just leaps off the page now, and it makes me so happy to see. Truly all the changes are beautiful and wonderful additions, big applause to your mom (and to you on your design journey!)

Cici Haus
2 months ago

The ceiling color was definitely the right call and I LOVE the yellow couch! But, I will say, painting the walls white was the best change because now my eye focuses on that amazing stained glass that you barely noticed before. The best artwork!

Cathy E
2 months ago

I loved everything about this post! Especially your relationship with your awesome mom. All of us have so much to learn about including our true selves in our design.

Melissa
2 months ago

Hello and thank you for this beautiful post!!!! I have to say how much I love the feel and personality of your mom’s version — it is alive and vibrant and welcoming and artistic! Also, I really am moved by this post — I have a lot of love for many things that don’t fit the current design trends and this post humbly and beautifully affirmed that our own personal style can be even better than copying what we know everyone is saying is good design. I’m so happy for you and your mom, for sharing what you have learned and helping us feel good about living what we love too! Great, super-duper, wonderful, fantastic job!

Chelsea
2 months ago

Sara, I love this room and the updates your mom has made. It’s also interesting to read your thoughts on how the design industry labels certain things as “good” and others as “bad.” I live in New Mexico and love the blended elements of Native, Spanish-colonial, Mexican, and American design here. Come check out Albuquerque (where I live) and nearby Santa Fe for inspiration!

I’d also highly recommend visiting El Paso, Texas. In the past 5-10 years they’ve really had some incredible design there that so well reflects the Mexican-American culture. There are really interesting modern-designed restaurants, hotels, etc., but they incorporate beautiful, bright Mexican and border artwork, patterns, tile work, and more. It’s a beautiful border city with a vibrant downtown and incredible culture. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t consider taking the time to visit, but it is well worth a trip! I lived near El Paso for a few years and now my parents live there and I really enjoy visiting!

2 months ago

I remember someone saying maybe a decade ago in the blogosphere that aesthetics aren’t ethics. Maybe not, but they *are* social signifiers and cultural touchstones, and I’d argue that judging aesthetics without considering culture, as we all do and you are so good about acknowledging here, is not so ethical. Consider the word, “gaudy,” for example. So much not-so-pretty cultural weight to it. Kudos to you for this post and your mama for her glorious style.

Paula Carr
2 months ago

Your mom is my hero! And I adore her decorating taste. So much better in this iteration! That sofa is stylish and comfy looking, and it looks better with the patterned pillows. I barely even notice the stained glass tree window until that Mexican cabinet was moved next to it. Just perfect. The ceiling is better in blue, too! Oh, the kitties are very cute, too.

Kate
2 months ago

I love this so, so much! Thank you so much for expressing these ideas here, in your paragraph that begins with “I think there’s a lot to unpack,” & in your post “Evolution of A Design Aesthetic.” So well expressed–& you speak for so many who haven’t felt represented, who felt this way but had trouble expressing it, or who had their eyes opened by these viewpoints. We’re looking forward to your future related posts! And thank you for sharing your parents’ home with us! If they’re open to it, we’d love to see other rooms & what inspired their design choices!

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