Lay of the Land: A second chance for Pittsburgh’s forgotten furnishings
July 1, 2017
Motivated by our planet’s health and Pittsburgh’s creatives, Maggie Rapp has gradually transformed her Oakmont home into an antique workshop. Under the alias Lay of the Land, the Northern Pennsylvania native began upcycling — tracking down and repurposing the lost goods of yesteryear — in 2016.
“I want to prevent forgotten furniture and decor from heading to landfills,” she says. “We are a world of consumers … over-consumers, actually. So many things are used for a short time and then disposed of. If we all used a little less or reused the things we already have, it would have such a positive impact on our planet.”
Art history classes — and a self-taught understanding of furniture styles, designers, and art forms — prepared Rapp for the more technical aspects of upcycling, like estimating where and when a piece originated, for instance. But it’s her passion for the craft that drives business.
Even a brief visit to Lay of the Land’s Etsy shop will give you a glimpse of its founder’s affinity for restoration. Among the antiques offered online are centuries-old crates, record stands, dining furniture, tins, and similar housewares; but also slightly unconventional decor, including military-grade binoculars and a (working) vintage scale once used in a nursery.
Rapp says the best furniture hails from the midcentury modern movement, an era of “clean lines, color, abstract pattern, and light,” but her findings aren’t limited to one period. She describes her collection as “eclectic” and uses everything from paint to patina in restoring — not rebuilding — artifacts.
The undertaking isn’t glamorous, by any means. Rapp acquires most of her inventory by sifting through “old basements, barns, the side of the road, abandoned houses, thrift stores, and estate sales.” Her routine work attire requires boots, gloves, and a headlamp. Still, the venture has proven wholly rewarding: “This is my favorite part of what I do. I find the best stuff when I’m digging under piles of junk.”
Not including her shop-dog, Whiskey, Rapp works independently. Though she doesn’t have immediate plans for a Lay of the Land storefront, Pittsburghers will be able to browse her latest finds in upcoming vintage fairs around the city.
“I love the vast reach of being an online business, but Pittsburgh is full of open-minded, hardworking people,” she says. “I feel super lucky to live in a place so accepting and supportive of what I do.”