5 Ways to Create a Timeless—and Trendy—Living Room, According to Emily Henderson’s Number Two

updated Mar 19, 2020
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Emily Henderson, Sara Liggoria-Tramp, and Velinda Helen in Sara Liggoria Tramp's living room

As director of production at Emily Henderson Design, you’ve probably seen Sara Ligorria-Tramp’s handiwork and photography all over the internet before, including right here on Apartment Therapy. With guidance from Emily herself, she spent the bulk of last year thoughtfully renovating the 1921 craftsman bungalow she shares with her partner, Macauley Johnson, in keeping with the historic roots of the home.

Then came the fun part, decorating the rooms with designer Velinda Hellen, a former EHD staffer, and shooting the heck out of the place to bring you some renovating tips—and maybe just a little bit of eye candy—to inspire your own decorating and DIY efforts. You can get the full scoop over at Emily’s website, but here we have an exclusive peek into Sara’s living room and some tips from Sara herself on how to try trends while still keeping your home timeless.

Keep Permanent Details Traditional, but Feel Free to go More Modern or Trendy with Decor

When it came to picking permanent features like doors, floors, trim, and moldings, Ligorria-Tramp and Johnson stayed true to what might have been used when the house was originally built. “We used solid hardwood on the floors, a beautiful traditional style wood front door from Simpson Doors, and replaced our fireplace tile with stone from Bedrosian, cut to the same size as the original tile—a hint of modern but really honoring the historical roots of the home,” says Ligorria-Tramp.

The couple went a little more contemporary with accent furniture (think BluDot and Article), and then for that last layer of personality, which typically includes textiles and decorative accessories, they were more open to following trends. “We also incorporated a few more ‘trending’ accessories, like a shag fur pillow, giant wicker vase, and pleated lampshade,” says Ligorria-Tramp. “Trying out trends in small ways, like accent pillows, makes it an affordable experiment.” 

You Can’t Go Wrong with Traditional Finishes

“Things like brass door knobs or black drawer pulls will never go out of style,” says Ligorria-Tramp. “So when you’re picking your hardware, think long term.” If you want to take a risk, cabinet hardware is a good place to explore, since knobs and handles can be swapped out relatively easily. But door handles and outlet sockets? Not so much, as on the whole, they they tend to be pricier and spread throughout a home.

Start with a Color Palette

This one sounds simple, but taking the time to hone in on a color palette will really help you streamline the process of furniture and accessory shopping. Even if you’re not overhauling a room right now, refining your color scheme can help you edit out items that stick out, so the overall look feels more cohesive—and that’s redecorating for free, folks.

Take inspiration from a favorite piece of art hanging on your wall, a vacation photo, the great outdoors, or even a striking textile or rug you already own. “For these two rooms, the color palette was green, neutrals, hits of black, and a few tiny pops of blue,” says Ligorria-Tramp. “I was really inspired by the colors in the San Antonio mountain range right behind Pasadena. And I love a vintage oil landscape—both are colored with earthy greens, creamy neutrals, and pops of blue sky.” You can see her color palette really come to life in the sage Clad Home sofa Hellen helped select as well as the rugs.

Elevate a Big Box Piece

“The phrase ‘IKEA hack‘ is such a part of our everyday language that it should be in the dictionary,” says Ligorria-Tramp. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Shopping at big box stores is wallet-friendly, but you don’t have to settle for off the shelf pieces. To make a piece feel more like you, make a few decorative tweaks.

“For our entry space, Velinda sourced an IKEA shoe cabinet—we’re a shoes-off household now, which makes me feel very adult,” says Ligorria-Tramp. “With a quick swap of knob hardware to some leather pulls from Etsy, the cabinet has more of an elevated feel, and so many people ask us where it’s from. It also really anchors the space by the front door as an entryway.”

Keep Things Personal

Something that is personal to you will never go out of style. “Our shelves are styled with primarily personal items—not store-bought accessories,” says Ligorria-Tramp. “I collected a few family photos that felt really special to me and had them professionally framed to give them an editorial feel.” She also filled a basket with polaroids collected over the years, which is a great budget solution—and conversation starter—for a shelfie (as seen above) or a coffee table tableau. “And I put out our actual books, ceramics I’ve made, and art either collected over the years or given to us by friends,” says Ligorria-Tramp. “It makes our home feel personal, not like it’s right out of a catalogue.”  

Check out the rest of this space, including Sara’s dining room, over at Emily Henderson Design.