Lay of the Land: A Second Chance for Pittsburgh’s Forgotten Decor
Motivated in equal parts by the health of our planet and the contagious ambition of Pittsburgh’s creatives, Maggie Rapp has gradually transformed her Oakmont home into a time machine. Since 2016, under the alias Lay of the Land, the Northern Pa. native has devoted her time to tracking down and repurposing the lost goods of yesteryear — a process better known as upcycling.
“I want to prevent forgotten furniture and decor from heading to landfills,” says Rapp. “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.”
A bout of art history classes and a self-taught knowledge of furniture styles, designers, and art forms prepared Rapp for the more technical aspects of upcycling — estimating where and when a piece originated, for example — but it’s her passion and talent for the craft that truly drives her business.
Briefly glance at Lay of the Land’s Etsy shop, after all, and you’ll catch a glimpse of its owner’s affinity for restoration. Among the antiques: centuries-old crates, record stands, chairs, tables, tins, silverware, and similar housewares — but also more unconventional decor, like military-grade binoculars and a (working) vintage scale once used to weigh infants in a nursery.
Though she believes the best furniture hails from the mid-century modern movement — an era of “clean lines, color, abstract pattern, and light” — Rapp’s findings aren’t limited to one period. She describes her collection as “eclectic,” noting that her signature style is a work in progress. For now, she employs everything from paint to patina to give her pieces a “new” feel without compromising their historical roots.
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,” and her routine work attire requires boots, gloves, and a headlamp. But the venture has proved to be wholly rewarding. “This is my favorite part of what I do,” she says. “I find the best stuff when I’m digging under piles of junk.”
Not including her shop-dog, Whiskey, this artist works independently and manages the entirety of her Etsy sales, both local and international. While there’s no storefront in Lay of the Land’s immediate future, Pittsburghers will be able to visit the shop at upcoming vintage fairs around the city.
“I love the vast reach of being an online business,” she says. “But Pittsburgh is full of open-minded, hard-working people. I feel super-lucky to live in a place [that’s] so accepting and supportive of what I do.”
And that’s the thing. Buying recycled goods or reducing your own waste may only have a blip of an impact globally. Locally, though, know that it makes all the difference.
→ You can shop Lay of the Land on Etsy 24/7.
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