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