Photos by Kayleigh Omang
Sustainability doesn’t have to be all solar panels and high technologies. Sustainability and living in an eco-conscious home can start with being intentional about what you decorate with. The popular adage of “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” has become a part of our communal lexicon in the past decade, as we have become increasingly aware of our consumption. Some of us might have even held off on interior decor projects in an act of lessening our global footprint. However, inspired by Amanda Rydell’s colorful living quarters, we are looking further into the “Reuse” and “Recycle” parts of those famous three R’s.
One avenue to do this is to research the brands you are purchasing from. Are their employees paid fair wages? Do they use sweatshops abroad? Are the products made of sustainable materials? But a second, much more attainable way to think sustainably about your home decor is through second-hand and vintage goods, and a little bit of upcycling. Rydell is the perfect example of how you can achieve a stylish, personality-filled home with vintage and reclaimed decor.
Originally from Minneapolis, Rydell has been living in Fargo for three years now. Lately, she’s been working hard on the launch of her brick and mortar store, Handpicked Goods, a downtown shop full of vintage and vintage-inspired goodies. She has a keen eye for style, is an expert on curating and knows her way around a good thrift store.
Rydell was lucky enough that her landlord was open to her updating the rental apartment she’d been living in since her relocation to Fargo. In fact, part of her rental agreement involved her being able to make these cosmetic changes. “I think a of people think it’s expensive to be putting so much money into a rental. But at the same time, you have to come home to something you love. And for me, that was worth it,” she said.
When she first moved into the downtown studio apartment, Rydell recalls that everything was brown, from the walls to the floor to the cabinets. To create a canvas for herself to add personality to the space, she painted the walls white and updated most of the light fixtures. Adding more depth and texture to the newly white canvas, she installed white shiplap to the hallway and board and batten in the living room. Rydell noted that she loves white spaces, as it allows her the opportunity for more pops of color. In her case, these pops of color come in greens, blush pink and gold.
In the initial refreshing stages, she also painted all the cabinets white and added new, gold hardware. All the kitchen’s hardware came from a thrift store for a dollar, making the refresh both easy and inexpensive.
In the bedroom nook, she removed the original carpet and replaced it with wood tile flooring, which she purchased at the Habitat For Humanity Restore. “It’s not a big space, so those scrap materials go a long way in a smaller space,” she said. When decorating small spaces, a huge benefit is being able to take advantage of extra materials from larger projects, whose fate lands them dropped off at second-hand stores.
We are fortunate to live in a time where big-box retail stores do a lot of design work for us. Interior designers are always coming out with home decor lines, from Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia collection to Nate Burkus’ line at Target to Drew and Johnathan Scott’s Scott Living line. These curated lines are a great starting point, but to graduate to your own brand of style, mixing and matching found-pieces is a pro-move. And one that Rydell has mastered.
“You have to know your style and the things that you like to be able to mix them in with new things. I think that’s a big thing, learning how to mix new with old,” said Rydell. ” And not overdoing one side of it. Not overdoing too much vintage where it gets overwhelming. Just slowly mix in pieces and it really adds a major pop of something different and unique.” To go into the vintage search blind is to set yourself up to be overwhelmed. By following Rydell’s advice to define what styles you’re drawn to can greatly increase your chances of coming across the treasures you seek.
One element Rydell always looks for when shopping for vintage goods is art. She is particularly fond of old, completed paint-by-numbers, saying, “No one else is going to have the same look. Someone can have the same print, but no paint-by-number is the same. No one else is going to have it, that that is fun, and you save a lot of money.” For those who enjoy decorating with vintage goods, this joy of having something completely unique is well-understood.
In addition to the unique-factor, vintage artwork and decor are low-risk purchases, as they are easily interchangeable, and a good canvas can always be repainted and made into something new. Rydell also noted that she enjoys searching for knick-knacks and small accessories to change in and out with the seasons. “Look for what you personally love. Like, I love swans, so if I see a swan, I’m like ‘I have to have that!'” Her rooted love for the bird can be seen throughout, in salt and pepper shakers, ceramic figurines, vintage prints and beyond. By collecting these swans over the years, she has established quite a bevy that captures her personality.
In searching for and collecting objects she loves, she said, “You learn how to mix them in with your current decor. You just have to go and explore. Somedays you don’t find things and some days you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I found it!'” Aside from sustainability and budget-consciousness, part of the joy of vintage goods is the hunt.
Another thing to be noted about decorating with vintage is sometimes you luck out and find perfectly preserved treasures, but sometimes you have to get a little creative. Rydell is no stranger to upcycling and transforming one man’s trash into another’s treasure. Over her years of experience in the vintage sector, Rydell has developed a good eye for deciphering what can be turned into an up-to-date accent. From a monochromatic pink chair she recovered from Fargo’s Pick-Up week to the reupholstering of cushions on a mid-century wooden chair, her space is filled with upcycled projects that are uniquely her own.
“I think vintage and handmade go hand-in-hand quite a bit,” she said. “It’s learning how to make and reuse things.” She encourages people to give upcycling vintage goods it a shot, reassuring that even if it doesn’t turn out as you envisioned, at least you tried and didn’t spend a lot of money in the process.
“Not everyone has huge budgets to do huge renovations. It’s important to be able to showcase D.I.Y.,” said Rydell. Her feminine and chic living space is proof that D.I.Y. doesn’t have to look elementary. When done right and with a vision in mind, incorporation of original and refurbished vintage goods creates a completely unique and personality-filled space.
Rydell’s eclectic and playful space also allows for talking points with guests. She enjoys the opportunities for storytelling that come with decorating with vintage goods. She gets excited at the prospect of telling guests when and where she found a certain treasure, and also the steal of a price she nabbed it for. “For people who don’t do thrifting, because there are a lot who don’t, its a great conversation piece,” she said, adding that she loves educating people about the wonders that can be found at thrift or vintage shops.
In the season of spring cleaning, many of us are thinking about ways to spruce up our existing space. before you embark on replacing your plumbed toilet with a Loveable-Loo (worth looking up, if you’re not familiar) in efforts to live more “green,” consider taking some of these design tips from Rydell. Adopt these affordable and sustainable design practices into your own space and take those first steps to live eco-consciously. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that you’ll be achieving a nostalgic and fun aesthetic at the same time.