How to Decorate with Secondhand Finds

L.A. designer Kelly LaPlante shows how to give salvaged materials stylish new purpose

Jess Chamberlain
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Leveraging your assets

For Kelly LaPlante, a leading Los Angeles-based interior designer, author, television host, and mother, green design isn't just about choosing fabrics and furniture made from sustainable materials. She prefers to help her clients find new use―and often unexpected new love―for things they already own. "There's nothing more green than keeping what you have," she says. Her own Venice loft is proof that hand-me-downs and thrift-store finds can rise to stylish new purpose.

Design: Kelly LaPlante Organic Interior Design, Venice, CA ().

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The dining table was brown and had belonged to a client. “They were going to throw it away,” says LaPlante, who saw potential in its curves.

After being revived with a punch of bold red low-VOC paint (try shiny-finish Sophia by Bungaloo, ), it’s the star of her dining area.

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Rather than adding new floor covering, LaPlante stripped decades of paint from her loft's concrete floor. "The patina that had developed from all those years is beautiful," she says. "We just had the floor buffed and called it a day."

Strategically placed area rugs keep rooms cozy.

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LaPlante's partner Mike Rader relaxes on a used sofa in the living area. She paid just $200 for it, had the cushions steam-cleaned (about $30), and repainted the trim a glossy white.

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LaPlante often rethinks definition to find the perfect fit for objects. Here, she uses an outdoor garden stool as an indoor side table.

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LaPlante sits atop a thrifted chaise that she upgraded with 6 yards of eco-friendly velvet fabric (Knoll Velvet #K784, $122 per yard; 866/565-5858). The legs were also freshly painted to match the sofa’s.

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Rather than filling her shelves with books, LaPlante left room for shapely objects and empty space to create a pretty display. "I first visually balance the case as a whole," she says. "Then I arrange the contents of each shelf."

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Kelly encourages making your own eclectic dish set with mismatched cups and plates―with styles from all different time periods―from secondhand stores.

"They don't have to go together, they just have to look interesting together," she says.

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Buying vintage is always LaPlante's first choice, but when there's something she can't find secondhand, she turns to Craigslist (which is where she found these good-as-new stools being sold by a guy who'd decided he didn't want them). "At the very least you're reusing what someone else no longer wants, rather than buying new," says Kelly.

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The dining space (shown here, below the master bedroom) doubles as a home office for the couple.

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"Junk store art" from local thrift stores and "good art" by up and coming local artists is combined along the walls of the loft's landing.

"The combination looks surprisingly great together," LaPlante says. "The fashion in which we hung these―all at the same centered level―holds the look together, gallery-style."

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The headboard of the couple's bed is a cast-off footboard from a tall client who preferred to stretch out while sleeping. "I call this double reuse," she says, since it was already from an antique bed frame.

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Potted plants serve double-duty here as a privacy screen from neighbors (while still allowing a city view) and as natural air-filters.

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Kelly ditched the old florescent lighting in her bathroom and rigged an antique chandelier to work with the existing system.

"I wanted to glam it up a bit," she says. "It's an easy way to make an ugly bathroom pretty without renovating. And those little bulbs don't use much electricity, and make everything glow."

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