Love Your Space: An Interview with Designer Lelia Tran

Interior Designer Portrait Session

Well, happy 2018 everyone!  I love kicking off this new year with some inspo from my dear friend Lelia.  We met about a decade ago working on a TV show.  In the months that passed we became fast friends bonding over color coordinated files and a love of coffee breaks. In the years that would follow we found that we had much more in common, a love of spaces, food, travel, and of course wine.  Lelia launched her new interior design business last year, Ulivo Design and it has been really incredible to watch her tackle the challenges of entrepreneurship.  We recently met up at Lady Yum over in Kirkland to do some new photos for her business and we were treated to a perfect afternoon of macarons and champagne. I thought it might be nice to pick Lelia's brain about what inspires her, how she approaches spaces, and what keeps her energized creatively. 

Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session

1. How did you know you needed to branch out on your own and begin an interior design business?

After nearly 15 years as a TV/video/content producer and working my tail off day in and day out, I got tired of feeling unvalued and unfulfilled in my work. I was yearning for change... to do something more meaningful, to make a difference or at least bring joy/positivity into someone's life. I really took to heart that life is too short to not do what you love. But what was that for me?? I had no idea... I felt so lost. After about two years of soul searching + trying to figure out what to do next with my life, a first-ever home renovation project ignited my new passion for home interior decorating. My husband had come across a newly listed townhome that was hard to pass up. I agreed to buy it on the condition that we renovate + update it to make it our own. Figuring out the finishes, the paint colors, the flooring, etc and working with a contractor (for the very first time) - all of it was challenging but I was hooked! (Looking back though, I guess I've always had a knack for prettying up spaces whether it was putting up artwork to camouflage my concrete college dorm room or wallpapering dingy walls of a tiny storage closet-turned-office.) Inspired by my home renovation project, my obsession with the hit show Fixer Upper + encouragement from an architect friend, I took a leap of faith + decided to start my own home interior styling business. I haven't looked back since.

Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session

2. Why do you think places and spaces matter so much to us as humans?

We all have places + spaces that we call home... that inspire us... that we dream about... that we cherish or yearn to visit. Practically every part of our daily lives is intertwined with our surroundings, whether it be our home, our workplace, a neighborhood restaurant, or even a quaint shop we pass by everyday. Oftentimes, places become part of our fondest (and sometimes our toughest) personal memories... they tell our story. For example, Italy holds a special place in my heart because it's where I traveled alone for the first time, it's where I got married, it's where my husband and I call home a few months out of the year. The different towns and regions I've come to know + love in Italy are a part of my personal story.

Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session

3. You and your husband have somewhat recently made a second home in Italy. Can you describe the town you've settled in, and why you love it?

It's been our dream to have a house in Italy one day... well that one day ended up arriving two years ago -- way sooner than we ever anticipated thanks to good timing + a good opportunity that presented itself. After scouting nearly 60 properties all over Italy in 15 days, we ended up choosing a lovely 19th century townhome in a medieval village called Ficulle which is located in the Italian region of Umbria (a lesser known but just as beautiful of a region as Tuscany). It is the perfect midway point between Rome + Florence. We fell in love with Ficulle for its quaint, medieval charm and the local, small town feel. It was important for us to be in a (non-touristy) town where we could assimilate with the locals and experience the authentic Italian culture. Because Ficulle is located at higher elevation on a hillside, the views overlooking the green valleys are breathtaking. I love waking up in the early mornings and opening up the windows + shutters to the sight of the sun rising over the hills and the sounds of birds, roosters and old men gossiping outside a nearby bar. We can't walk out our front door without someone saying "ciao" (hi) and "come stai?" (how are you?)... I love that! In the beginning it took awhile for the locals to warm up to us but after getting to know us and seeing our efforts in wanting to be a part of the community, many have embraced us and become dear friends. We feel at home every time we come back. BTW, did I mention a fabulous family-owned winery is only 5 minutes down the road from our house?! Let's just say our home is always fully stocked with delicious wine. :)

Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session

4. We spend a lot of time talking about our shared love of spaces and food and how they can take something to the next level in terms of experience. What are some of your favorite Seattle spots (yes, the east side counts!)?

Oh boy, since I'm more of a homebody these days, I feel so out of the loop with all the great restaurants + shops that have popped up in Seattle. But when I do go out, my go-to spots are: Mamma Melina - a modern chic Italian restaurant with a fantastic happy hour that's hard to beat Le Caviste - a beautiful French-style wine bar that reminds me of the ones in Paris; their selections of French wine + charcuterie board offerings are delish Black Bottle - a modern industrial gastrotavern that offers an eclectic menu of great dishes to be enjoyed in a communal setting Little Brother - I love the rustic modern, airy vibe of this new neighborhood restaurant on the Eastside; it's a place where you can hang out for a cappuccino + pastries or enjoy a nice lunch/dinner with friends

Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session

5. If someone were starting to think about how they could re-think a room, what tips would you tell them to get started? At what point should they consider an interior designer to help them bring their vision to life?

If you're thinking about re-decorating or changing a room but don't know where to start, I would first suggest listing out what you like about the room and what you don't like about the room. Also ask yourself how you want to use the room - what is your intended purpose for the room. Knowing this will help provide a roadmap for your room re-design. Then go on Pinterest and/or Houzz and pin images of spaces that you are drawn to. You can also cut out pictures from home decor magazines that inspire you. The collection of these pins + pictures will serve as your inspiration/mood board and help jumpstart ideas for room layout, color palette, furniture, etc. If you're still feeling stuck or overwhelmed with a mish-mash of ideas, this is where an interior designer or stylist can come in with his/her expertise + curate those ideas into a cohesive room design that reflects you. If you're looking to renovate or remodel your space but don't have the time or desire to do it on your own, an interior designer or stylist can come in + take care of all the details -- managing the project from start to finish.

Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session

6. Where can people find you?

People can learn more about me + check out my latest decor projects at www.ulivohomedesign.com (my blog will live on this site too once I can sit my booty down long enough + start writing). You can also find me on: Instagram: @ulivohome_design Facebook: UlivoHomeDesign

Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session
Interior Designer Portrait Session

Danielle Elliott

Seattle, WA, USA

I'm a photographer, brand strategist, and creative living in Seattle. I'm a travel enthusiast with a passion for storytelling and digging into as many creative endeavors as I can.