Eco-Friendly Designer Kelly LaPlante Embraces the Three R's


Kelly LaPlante's eco-friendly DIFFA installation/photo by Natalie Sojka

The design industry is not typically known for its desire to reduce, reuse and recycle. Clients who can actually afford interior designers to "do" their homes have a reputation for an "out with the old, in with the new" mentality that keeps these designers in business.

Read on to find out how sustainably-minded designer Kelly La Plante's latest show installation took that mentality and turned it on its ear
Barclay Butera, Chair of DIFFA's Los Angeles chapter, with designer Fernando Diaz/photo by Natalie Sojka
DIFFA Design: Beautiful? Yes. Eco? Not so much.

Case in point is the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS 2008 National Tour, which touched down in Los Angeles September 13th through 15th. Granted, the event has raised $12 million in past years for DIFFA, one of the largest funders of HIV/AIDS service and education programs in the U.S.

And the 11' x 11' installations, created by some of the top designers in the country with the only requirement being that the space accommodate at least 10 dinner guests, were in many cases truly breathtaking. (Especially the table by David Rockwell, in which the entire tableau—from table to seat to bulbs—was encompassed by a gigantic creamy white knit cover like a fluffy out-of-control afghan. Fondue, anyone?)


David Rockwell's knit table Installation photo by Natalie Sojka

But recycled? Reused? Not in this showroom, sister.

Enter the Eco-Friendly

Except for Kelly LaPlante, the LEED-certified interior designer and host of the Ovation Network's "Brilliant Green" show who has been encouraging clients to re-imagine their existing spaces and furnishings for more than a decade, and whose sustainable design installation at DIFFA once again proved that design can be just as eco-friendly as it is beautiful.

"There wasn't really a lot to work with 10 years ago in terms of eco materials so it was always about reusing what people already had," La Plante said at the Lexus Hybrid Living installation that she created for the DIFFA event. The design featured reclaimed tables and chairs, second-hand mirrors, tables covered in vinyl-free glass beaded wallpaper by Innovations, walls painted with non-toxic Tempra paint then draped in Manilla Hemp and Kozo by Hiromi Paper (treated with up-to-code non-toxic fire retardant), light boxes made of scrap wood by Windsor Forrest, and drought-tolerant succulent arrangements by Big Red Sun.


Big Red Sun succulents on Kelly LaPlante table/photo by Natalie Sojka
Sometimes Green Isn't Perfect.

The one brown spot? LaPlante called out the Craig's List chairs, stenciled with scraps from the Hiromi Paper, as "an example of how sometimes green isn't perfect," because the water-based spray paint she had chosen to use didn't take and at the last minute she had to use the more toxic, conventional alternative.

Keeping spray paint in mind, the installation still made for a textbook example of how to conserve resources while creating something truly beautiful, a concept that LaPlante explores in her new book ecologique.

"We want to go as green as possible every time," LaPlante added. "But every once in a while there are places where green just isn't there yet. And we use them as examples for our clients. You know, we're not Nazis about it. We're not going to shoot your head off if you're not going to go 100% green. We just want you to go as far as you can."

LaPlante recently collaborated with James Saavedra on Jak, a new sustainably-produced furniture line, to take things a bit further.

Want to know more about Kelly? Check out the Sundance swag-fest she participated in 2006, the green design forum she hosted online for the Washington Post and the ridiculously star-studded Oscar party she decorated in 2006. Busy lady!

Tags: California | Designers | Furniture | Green Building | Housing Industry | Los Angeles | Recycled Building Materials | Recycled Consumer Goods | Reusability

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