It's no surprise that eco lifestyle expert Danny Seo 's second home is a cottage in the woods. Between developing his expanding home collections, penning books, and styling the houses of celebrity pals like Kerry Washington, Danny considers this Pennsylvania cottage a refuge of sorts. Packed with enough upcycled styling ideas to make your head spin, his 1920s-era abode is the perfect place to unplug. We caught up with him to tour his woodsy retreat and discover his secrets for upcycling in style.
POPSUGAR: What made you pull the trigger on purchasing this cottage?
Danny Seo: It was quirky, quiet, and pretty. I like the idea of a small cottage home where everything has a purpose all year round. I'm not someone who needs a lot of storage, and this has pretty limited storage!
It's also near great river towns like Frenchtown, NJ; Stockton, NJ; and New Hope, PA. They have great shops, restaurants, and farmers markets. The way of living here is very idyllic and calm.
A glass lamp and a trio of glass vases creates an easy but dynamic grouping.
PS: What was the most challenging part of the decorating process?
DS: More like renovation. Limited parking made it really hard to redo the kitchen, repaint the house, and rescreen the front porch. You have to climb a flight of stairs up the hill to get to the home, which made it hard for the movers to bring heavy things like appliances and my chairs made entirely out of recycled horseshoes.
White paint gives the retro fireplace facade a fresh update.
PS: What's the story behind the object attached to the plaque?
DS: It's a leg from an old piece of furniture. Instead of doing real animal stag heads, I just screwed a leg into an unfinished wood plaque from a craft store!
PS: Do you have a favorite space in the cottage?
DS: Hands down, the screened front porch. When it rains, you can sit out there and listen to the rain coming down with a blanket and a glass of wine — it's heavenly.
PS: I love the candelabra on your porch table! Did you make that?
DS: It's a junk-store find — I got it for $10!
Another view of Danny's favorite spot in the house.
PS: Where did you shop for your decor?
DS: All over the place. The director chairs in the dining room are from Pier 1, the rugs are HomeGoods, and there are lots of unusual decor items from places like flea markets, antique stores, and auction houses. Some of the furniture came with the house — like the dining-room table — which I kept. It works!
PS: What is a typical weekend in your cottage like?
DS: There is no TV or Internet, so it's really focused on reading (although I now read books from my iPad). I usually dine at local restaurants or cook at home and sleep, sleep, sleep! I also visit the cottage when I'm on deadline for my books — there really are no distractions.
PS: What materials did you use in the kitchen?
DS: I went to Lowe's and bought everything: the KraftMaid cabinets, the GE Energy Star-rated appliances, and in-stock wood floors. It was a one-stop shop, and they designed it all in the store for me. I needed a galley-style kitchen that was efficient and had lots of surface space. There is even a washer and dryer in the back!
PS: I know you have an eye for salvaging interesting objects. Do you collect anything in particular?
DS: I'm not a collector, but I do love flea markets and go with no intention of finding anything. If it speaks to me, I don't question why — I just buy it.
PS: Any tips on how to display collections?
DS: Group items together but also make them functional. Fill old bottles with water, and poke wildflowers inside. Use vintage vases. Store things in old cigar boxes. I don't like things that are just conversation pieces. That's why even my artwork is done with chalk: I can draw on them and change it up.
Floating shelves display Danny's ever-changing collection of chalkboard art.
PS: Tell me about the plates hanging in the stairwell.
DS: These are all Goodwill plates that I stuck tape all over and spray-painted with gold paint. It's the world's easiest upcycling project, and the results are pretty fab.
PS: What is this red-and-white fabric that you framed?
DS: I took remnants of an old American flag that was torn apart and pieced it back together in frames.
Another piece of Danny's framed flag project hangs above a table with a woven water hyacinth lamp from his home line.
PS: What a cute little moose plate! Where did you find it?
DS: I made it! I stuck a moose silhouette sticker on a plate, brushed it with some porcelain glaze, and peeled off the sticker.
A beaker and a light bulb mimic the shape of a fancy carafe, only Danny uses it to corral loose change.
PS: What upcycling project in the cottage do you cherish the most?
DS: I love my recycled horseshoe chairs. When I was junk shopping in Lancaster County, PA, I saw a corner of one of the chairs peeking out from a pile of boxes and other junk. I uncovered two of them and was like, what is this? It turns out, a local Amish farmer would add one horseshoe at a time as he replaced them from his horses until two chairs were made. It took something like 10 years to make. They are one of my favorite upcycling projects, because I think they are the epitome of what upcycling is all about: making something better from what you started with.