Lay of the Land: A second chance for Pittsburgh’s lost decor
Motivated by our planet’s health and Pittsburgh’s ambitious creatives, Maggie Rapp has gradually transformed her Oakmont home into a time machine. Under the alias Lay of the Land, the Northern Pa. native started upcycling — tracking down and repurposing the lost goods of yesteryear — in 2016.
“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.”
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 — but it’s her passion for the craft that drives business.
Briefly visit Lay of the Land on Etsy, for instance, and you’ll catch a glimpse of its owner’s affinity for restoration. Among the antiques offered online are centuries-old crates, record stands, dining furniture, tins, similar housewares — but also more unconventional decor, like military-grade binoculars and a (working) vintage scale once used exclusively in a nursery.
Though she says 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” and employs everything from paint to patina to restore — not rebuild — 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. But the venture has proven 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, Rapp works independently. There’s no storefront in Lay of the Land’s immediate future, but 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, hard-working people,” she says. “I feel super lucky to live in a place so accepting and supportive of what I do.”