A LITTLE OVER a year ago, when Raquel Allegra decided to buy an 8,000-square-foot second home in Taos, N.M., the fashion designer was set on decorating it almost exclusively with previously owned pieces. “There’s just so much available in the world,” she said, “and they’ve had a life before they came to me, which is important to me.” So began a wide-ranging hunt: on Craigslist, on the Nextdoor app and at shops near her home in the Topanga neighborhood of Los Angeles. “I got my friends in a van and filled it up and sent it all out to Taos.”
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How did Ms. Allegra pull off a cohesive decorating scheme for a structure nearly 1,000 miles away? “All throughout the house, the walls are this really soft, almost dirty peach color,” she said. “As I was looking for things, anything that had that call-out toward peach felt like it would work in the house.” The result: a collection of pieces in harmonious browns and creams—plus contrasting greens, which “call out” more energetically to the rosy adobe walls. Here, her strategies room by room.
Ms. Allegra also seeks a balance of classic and handcrafted, she said. In the kitchen, she juxtaposed a vintage Turkish Oushak rug with handmade bowls as well as the simple cabinet door that hides the dishwasher (center). “In the spirit of what I plan to do with [the kitchen] in its next incarnation, I commissioned a talented artist and friend to carve a door,” she said. Once again, houseplants bring in green as does as a weathered, painted chair at a big, old French farmer table. When it comes to secondhand buys, said Ms. Allegra, the real value is in the large pieces, which can be very costly if purchased new.
Ms. Allegra scored the dining room’s chairs, made of “good old-fashioned pleather,” via Craigslist. The $12-a-piece seats originally outfitted a cruise ship, and their horseshoe shape jibes with the arches in the home’s thick plaster walls. Striped fabric covers the pillows, chiming the rhythm of the ceiling beams, while a bell-shaped Murano-glass pendant lamp from the L.A. outpost of Olde Good Things offsets the dark, blocky copper table. “The masculine-feminine balance is important to me,” she said, as are metaphysical properties of materials. “When I found [the table], my mind rushed with the healing properties of copper and how grounding it would feel to gather around it.”
In the main bathroom, even some of the plants are hand-me-downs, left behind by the previous owner. Ms. Allegra admitted that she incorporated greenery not only to create an almost tropical bathing experience but to tide her over until she can remodel the space. “The plants help distract me from the parts of the bathroom that await being reimagined,” she said.
Various greens pop in the main bedroom in the form of the plant’s chlorophyll, the deep-olive Chesterfield sofa, the patina of the copper coffee table in front of it (bought for $100 at an estate sale) and, of course, the chaise found at Shop NFS (short for “Not for sale”) in L.A. “It is quite literally a chaise in the shape of a big green foot, with aluminum cast feet that are also ‘feet,’ ” said Ms. Allegra. “Even the toes and toenails are stitched into the canvas upholstery.” The rest of the room relies on neutrals, though not boringly. The black and white rug is not merely striped, it’s patterned with vertiginous concentric squares.
Living in the Round
One way Ms. Allegra avoided a junk-shop look despite the plethora of vintage furnishings was by taking cues from the home’s architecture—echoing, for instance, the rounded arches of the living room with blobby, no-provenance leather seats that a friend found on Craigslist. “I’m not really a fan of interiors that take themselves too seriously,” she said. “The faded aqua of the leather felt just punk enough to play off of the elegance of the room.” Sconces, stools, a smoked-glass cocktail table and a Nelson Bubble Lamp pendant from Herman Miller carry on the circle theme, while a long, straight traditional Southwest “banco,” or bench, introduces a dramatically contrasting shape.
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