Alysia's Treehouse by the Lake

Alysia's Treehouse by the Lake

Gregory Han
Nov 13, 2009

Name: Alysia Cotter
Location: Silver Lake, California
Size: 900 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year

How many of us can decorate a whole apartment without buying anything new? That's exactly what Alysia set out to do when she moved to Silver Lake a year ago, challenging herself to appoint her modest, but light-filled 100 year old apartment completely with vintage or used finds. Starting anew, she decorated her home with elements brimming with history, texture and character, creating a space one part Los Angeles tree house and another part Parisian flea market, filled with art, books, a prized vintage camera collection and various collectibles that give the space a joie de vivre vibrancy…

AT Survey:

My/Our style: Vintage Parisian Industrial

Inspiration: I was inspired by the book, The Recycled Home by Sally Bailey: This book inspired the mission to decorate a whole apartment without buying one new item. just got tired of all the stuff in the world, all the stuff I owned, all the stuff in stores, etc.. There's just STUFF everywhere. I walked into a 99 Cents Store the other day and I said to my friend Deb, "Look there are 2 aisles of air freshener. What's going to happen to all that when nobody wants it for 99 cents? Where's it going to go? That stuff doesn't biodegrade!"

If we don't start doing something about this we are going to drown in our own stuff. Literally! Pretty soon the world will just be a bunch of stuff with no meaning. It's simply not necessary. Also, quite honestly, the vintage finds are made better, more interesting and will last a lifetime. I will never have to replace them. That is money well spent!

Favorite Element: My view of the lake [Silver Lake Reservoir] from all three front rooms. I can walk out my front door, down the street and around the Reservoir. You can't beat that. I also have the most amazing light from tons of windows. I have 360 degrees of windows that I am really grateful for. It makes the place feel very natural and bright. It feels like a tree house.

Biggest Challenge: Sticking to the rules I made:
1.) No mass produced items that have never been owned by anyone else (i.e. West Elm, Pottery Barn, etc.) unless they have been used by someone else (i.e. found on Craigslist), with the exception of 2 rugs and a refrigerator.

2.) The Budget: $0 dollars. Do this without spending anything. My budget came from selling all my old furniture on Craigslist and this became my new budget, which came out to about $1,500. Except for items I already owned like my dining room chairs, couch, etc. If I wanted something I had to sell something I already had, trade something or find something for free. It was awesome and I met the most amazing people and was forced to be really creative which I love.

Now almost everything I own has a story and a sense of history. Also, all my old stuff has gone on to have meaning in someone else's life. It's great to give stuff to Goodwill or a charity but it's also really nice to meet the person who is going to be using your stuff and have that personal connection. For instance I know that my old dresser went to a lovely young couple that is expecting their first child. They were on a budget and had very little space so it was going to double as a changing table.
Talk about giving something new purpose!

What Friends Say: They love it. They call it "a little piece of paradise". I have friends who come from out of town just to get away and have a little vacation. That feels really good.

Biggest Embarrassment: It's a 100 year old apartment and there are a few floorboards that are missing or broken. I use a lot of rugs. Sometimes I'm afraid I'm going to fall through but I love it. It's what gives it charm.

Proudest DIY: Re-covering the bench/coffee table using a coffee sack from a local roaster that normally would have ended up in the trash. I just love how it came out.

Biggest Indulgence: Printing my photography on 4x6 canvas.

Best advice: One of my best friends always says just when you think you have it right take something away. He has a great eye for design. I think I still have a lot to do when it comes to that though! There is a flip side to the whole used/vintage mentality that can make you afraid to give stuff up because it may be "useful". So the rule I stick by is USE IT OR LOSE IT! If you keep only what is functional in your life you will be more efficient and fulfilled. I think overall you will just be happier. You can think about what you want to do instead of why do I have that! If things have a purpose than they will fit easily into your life. Once something stops serving a purpose in your life give it to someone else who can give it a purpose.

Dream source: A real Parisian flea market and TINI (This Is Not Ikea) on Fairfax. I just adore Alexis and his store is so amazing. I love going in there to just wander and browse. It's like a toy store for adults.


Appliances: Whirlpool refrigerator from Lowes


  • Blue couch is from Crate and Barrel (called the Audrey Couch, it's environmentally made)
  • White couch is also from Crate and Barrel (from a friend).
  • Book tower from West Elm.
  • Dining Chairs from Anthropologie.
  • Dresser in bedroom is from Costplus that I repainted and added butterfly drawer pulls from Anthropologie.
  • Everything else is from TINI - desk, coffee tables, dining room table, bookshelf used as shoe shelf, bathroom cabinet and mirror, side tables in bedroom, etc.


  • TINI (This Is Not Ikea) - toolboxes, red and white striped tripod, fan, red jersey company grain box/ mail holder.
  • Horse lamp on desk from Turquoise, Vanessa De Vargas has a great eye for design and her website is amazing.
  • Believe sign in bedroom from Little Brown House on Etsy.
  • Butterfly Lampshade in Living Room is from Anthropologie, the Eiffel Tower base is from Target.
  • Metal magazine holders are from CB2 as is the white standing mirror.
  • Little Graffiti Lamp on bedside table is from my very talented friend Donna Jo Brady. Her lamps are stunning.


  • Amsterdam Modern - both ceiling lamps are from there and the bedside lamps. It's a great place in Van Nuys to walk around and find amazing finds.
  • Big Blue Lamp in bedroom is from West Elm

Window Treatments: The iron rods are from Crate and Barrel, the drapes and window coverings are from IKEA.

Beds: Westin Heavenly Bed

Paint: Environmental non-VOC white paint, don't know the name.

Flooring: 100-year-old wood floors

Rugs and Carpets:Rug in living room is a Sea Grass rug from, the dining room rug is from Cost Plus, the hallway rug is from IKEA and the bathroom rug is from West Elm.

Tiles and Stone: Bathroom backsplash are handmade tiles from my urban photography series.

Hardware: Original to the house.

Artwork: From my website.

(Thanks, Alysia!)

Photos by Gregory Han

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