Designer Kelly LaPlante shares her secrets for mixing old and new.
Interior designer and writer Kelly LaPlante lives by the mantra “green is a standard, not a style,” as she designs living spaces that focus on smart reuse and historic preservation. She shares her many ideas via her online magazine, Standard, as well as through books and television appearances. She designed this Los Angeles dining area for Robert Kwak (owner of nontoxic children’s furniture company Muu), his wife, Eunhak, and their children.
What inspired this room?
The owners have a fantastic and diverse art collection. A lot of the pieces were scattered about, and I felt like they needed a home base. Because they have young children, they wanted a dining area that felt fun and unfussy for when someone, say, throws scrambled eggs across the room. But, of course, they also wanted to be able to entertain adult friends in a chic environment.
Where did the materials come from?
The Bertoia chairs are from a neighbor’s garage sale. We found the two end chairs at a vintage store and reupholstered them in Knoll Velvet (like they used to do in the old days when things were crafted to last). The tabletop is a marble slab from the lobby of an old building in downtown L.A. that was being renovated. We found the table base at Olde Good Things, one of my favorite sources for items with great history and patina. The chandelier was in Eunhak’s mother’s house in the ’80s. We loved incorporating an ’80s touch while also adding a bit of elegance.
What are the benefits of creative reuse/using secondhand items in decorating?
In addition to the obvious eco-benefits (no new resources, diversion of old things from landfill, etc.), I am a big fan of items that have a story. Why buy new bar stools when you can get a set from the bar where you partied when you were in college?
How do you tie together vintage and modern?
That depends on the client. Some people love a vintage look; other people want to incorporate vintage but want the space to look modern. Finding the right elements and striking a balance is key. A little finessing doesn’t hurt either—cleaning up older pieces is very helpful when you want the space to be crisp and fresh.
What are your favorite tips/ideas for remodeling and redecorating this spring?
This spring we are seeing bright, saturated color, so it’s a great time to be inspired and take a risk with paint or fabric. I love Mod Green Pod—their fabrics are customizable to match any Pantone color and the minimum order is just one yard! It’s such an easy and inexpensive way to freshen up that old chair you’ve got languishing in the corner.
Tricks of the Trade
• Piece of cake. Unless you are doing a specific revival, working with vintage items is like making a layer cake. Just like you wouldn’t put a layer of jam between two other layers of jam, don’t put an Eames table between two Eames chairs. Mix eras and styles in one vignette, then repeat the mixture in other areas so the space has continuity.
• Use it or lose it. People often tell me they inherited something that’s not their style from a family member, but because they feel guilty about changing it up with a different finish or fabric, it just sits in their basement. Either sell it and use the money to buy something that is your style, or go ahead and change it up. It’s not life or death, it’s just furniture. Enjoy it.
• Mix and match. Vintage dishes are gorgeous and your local thrift shop is absolutely teeming with them. Buy a bunch of mismatched old china and then use them as your everyday dishes. If you break some, just go back to the thrift store! You never have to worry about your pattern going out of stock if you don’t have a pattern.
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