This is one of those dream offices. No cubicles here. No ugly ergonomic keyboards. There aren't even any of those blue recycling bins, though you know every bit of scrap paper gets recycled, because Kelly LaPlante is one of the country's most celebrated eco-conscious interior designers. For her, "green is a standard, not a style," as evidenced in her new online eco magazine, Standard. We took a trip to Los Angeles to visit the interior design studio she shares with her partner James Saavedra.
Housed in a former Spanish mission on a bustling Hollywood avenue, Kelly and James' studio is a luminous den of creativity where vintage treasures are neatly arranged among pieces from their own eco furniture line, jak.
Between a marvelous coral ceiling and serene gray floors, white walls encircle an exquisitely elegant loft-like space. The main room is divided into three separate areas. There's a sophisticated entry infused with a hint of 18th century decadence, a glamorous meeting space complete with a well-stocked bar, and the "office" space where Kelly and James' distinctive desks hold pride of place.
Here, the late-day California sun filters through voluminous gauze drapes, casting a warm glow over the designers' desks as they work into the evening. A door opens to reveal a conference room where a modern white table rests on houndstooth carpet tiles by FLOR. Complete with a Julia Child-inspired tableau of office tools, a utility table looks more like an art display than a place to print and staple. Then there's the library, where a rainbow of upholstery swatches sweeps across one wall, and a row of shelves overflows with bins of eco wallpaper, binders of recycled leather tiles, and tubs of cork.
Kelly: Tailored vintage with a hint of humor.
James: Inspired classics with a modern slant.
Kelly: In this space I am totally inspired by the light! It is just stunning and makes everything look so beautiful. The less-is-more thing really works here because of the huge windows.
James: It's the unexpected details, like a saturated coral ceiling and the sheer surprise that awaits you when you walk through the door that keeps me enamored with the stylish space that Kelly and I created.
Kelly: The coral ceiling in the reception area. It really transformed the space.
James: Definitely the coral ceiling. Ask any one — the light that reflects off of that ceiling makes everything gorgeous.
Kelly: Choosing how to divide up the space and how to best use the areas. James and I spent two hours going over all of the options before we even signed the lease!
James: Besides the three flights of stairs? I can't think of a biggest challenge. Kelly and I work so well together that any challenge is solved with a simple brainstorming session, usually over tea or a glass of wine.
What Friends Say:
Kelly: Clients and friends love to come here because it feels like an oasis in the heat of Hollywood.
James: I agree — a wonderful surprise awaits everyone who walks through our door and instantly there is a sense of ease. That calming effect is unexpected to our visitors but it is a very intentional design choice on our part. Great design always evokes your emotions instantly.
Kelly: The woman in the loft next to us who always smokes in the public areas, no matter how much we ask her to stop! We are constantly apologizing to our visitors for the horrible smoke smell in the hall.
James: Or the time the ice in our bar fridge melted and I called the landlord convinced that we had a leaky pipe! Classic.
Kelly: James realized that a mirror he had left over from one of his projects fits perfect on an old base that one of his vendors gave him. Ta-da! Bar table!!
James: The bar is really chic. I would also have to say our library is worth an honorable mention as a very wonderful and big DIY.
Kelly: Set of 11 glass shelving units that were reclaimed from an old department store. We use them everywhere and they make the library look so bright and organized but they were a bit of a splurge and moving them up here was pretty expensive too!
James: Definitely my custom raw steel desk that glimmers with a hint of gilding. The glass top is repurposed. Super chic and still a little rough around the edges.
Kelly: In a big space like this, there is plenty of room to divide areas with nothing but emptiness. A few feet of clear space between desks is like a breath of fresh air.
James: Everything looks better in white — just be sure to use white in several different textures and sheen — and be sure to incorporate a good sprinkling of interesting objects and moments throughout.
Kelly: We really got the hook-up from James' custom manufacturer, Ana. She had so many great old things that she wasn't using and we just pillaged!
James: Ana's workshop is filled with great finds it can almost be overwhelming! Always being the consummate editors, we selected clean-lined and versatile furnishings that allowed us to be flexible with our space.
Everything! Most of it is vintage or reclaimed. Only the jak pieces are new (and sustainable, of course!) and the drapery which was made locally of over-run fabric.
Furniture: jak Studio Collection (Gate Sofa, Mowry Chair and DeLeon Barrel Chair); Vintage John Sallidino table, table bases, Bertoia chairs, Bellini chairs, lamps; Antique Bergere chair
Accessories: Our personal collections
Lighting: Vintage chandeliers
Window Treatments: Made locally with over-run fabric.
Artwork: Pieces that were left over from various installations and some from our own homes.
Paint: Custom colors. No VOC paint from Benjamin Moore Natura.
Flooring: Existing (painted with Benjamin Moore Natura; FLOR tiles (on their FOURTH life!) in the conference room.
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(Images: Celeste Sunderland)