Five Questions with Laura Johnson of Design 645

I had a fun and inspiring chat with my friend, Laura Johnson, this weekend about sustainable ways to redecorate your home using what you have, found treasures, and eco-friendly materials. Laura runs Design 645, an interior design studio based in Hopkinton, New Hampshire. You can see Laura’s work on Instagram and Facebook. I think I asked her about seventeen questions, but here are the top five…

How can I change my space without buying new things?

People seem to think you need a lot of money to make your home beautiful and that’s just not the case. You can make plenty of big and awesome changes without spending much money at all.

This accent wall is covered with repurposed barn wood!

The biggest change you can make in a space is the furniture layout. By moving around the furniture, you can completely change the feel of a room. When moving things around, think about where you’d like the room’s focal point to be and how your family moves through the space (this is the room’s “flow”). You can look at magazines and online for inspiration, but the most important thing is what works for your family and what you like.

Another big change you can make is painting the room a new color. This will refresh the space and make it feel new. (Check out this list of eco-friendly paints). Putting new art on the wall or rearranging the art you have can also make a big difference.

How can I decorate my walls without contributing to my carbon footprint?

For many people, artwork means framed paintings or photographs. But you can decorate your home with anything you find interesting or beautiful. Look for artwork in nature – I have a beautiful stick I found in an Arizona wash (Laura told me a “wash” is a dried river bed) that I hung over my door using antique curtain hooks – or in unexpected places – I have a cool old shovel that I found in my dad’s shop leaning in a corner near my fireplace. You can use the things you have brought back from your travels to decorate your walls too, which makes your home more personal.

These shelves were built with reclaimed wood.

Where can I find used furniture, art, and other design elements to add to my home?

We have a lot of great antique shops here in New Hampshire. Flea markets and local auctions are also great places to find beautiful furniture and decor. Craiglist and Facebook Marketplace are easy ways to find things locally as well. If you are looking online, Chairish has a great collection, as does 1stdibs. Etsy has a vintage section and Everything but the House is an online auction site.

You can also find sustainably-sourced furniture at sites like Joybird, ABC carpet, and West Elm. (Just remember to do your research and watch out for greenwashing).

Follow-up question: How do I avoid the flea market look, if that’s not my thing?

People spend a lot of time pouring over magazines and lusting after that perfect look, but furniture is expensive and constantly buying new stuff is unsustainable. Sometimes making what you already have work for you is the best method. You can tie things together using a common color or neutralize something you don’t like by adding some design elements like pillows or a coat of paint. Color is really important. For example, in my own house I have a hand-me-down rug that I never liked, but once I designed around the rug, I love the room, even the rug.

What are some green projects you’d like to share?

One of my favorites is a recent kitchen remodel using like-new cabinets from Craiglist. The homeowners got exactly what they wanted without the carbon footprint.

During the pandemic, I’ve been doing some remodeling in my own home. One project I’m particularly proud of is our new closet shelves. They are made from my daughters’ old desks, which we made from old Ikea dressers. So the dressers were reused twice! I also used old maps and homemade wallpaper glue to give my walls a personal touch.

Old barn wood is a personal favorite. I use reclaimed lumber to make unique signs and have even used it to cover the back wall of my studio. Recently we turned some old doors from our attic into barn doors by hanging them on a sliding bracket.

What if I’m not a DIY creative kind of person like you?

You can always look at Pinterest for ideas. Soothing, natural colors are really in right now because of the pandemic. Nature-inspired art and decor can help you feel more relaxed in your space.

You can also call me for a consultation. You can send me photos of your room and I will meet with you via Zoom to tell you my ideas. I can help you think of ways to make big changes without a big budget or a big ecological footprint.

Thank you so much, Laura, for taking the time to answer my questions!

– Hannah

How have you redecorated your space sustainably?

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