Alumni & Friends
Setting the Standard
When Kelly LaPlante (B.A., ’98) was 14 she ripped up the carpet in her parents’ house. “Some kids draw. Some kids paint. Some kids tear up carpet,” she says, attempting to nail down the moment she knew she wanted to be an interior designer. One thing is clear, by the time she transferred to SF State she was laser focused: she wanted a B.A. with an emphasis on interior design.
LaPlante credits Associate Professor Karen Johnson-Carroll with giving her the skills she needed to start a design business right after graduation. “She helped me to get internships and allowed me to get an education out in the field. She was really good at understanding that I [needed] an education from experience. What I got to do in school would have normally come in the first few years after graduation. That allowed me to start my own company. In hindsight it’s debatable whether it’s a good idea for a 22-year-old to start a business, but I wouldn’t change it for the world; I learned from my mistakes.”
Nearly 15 years later, whatever mistakes were made are far behind her. Now based in Austin, Texas, LaPlante is a much sought-after interior and product designer, the founder and editorial director of Standard, a design magazine and one of the country’s green design pioneers. LaPlante was designing with the environment in mind when most people didn’t even know what that meant. “Karen [Johnson-Caroll] was the first person to really talk about sustainability a long time ago when people weren’t talking about it in interior design. That really stuck in my mind,” she says.
Although eco-friendliness pervades everything she does — from creating a line of tile for Fireclay to designing an eco-lodge in the Caribbean — she doesn’t consider herself an activist. “I’m more of a maven. I’m never going to draw attention to what’s wrong. I focus on what’s right and try to drive consumers toward making those choices. I see myself as someone trying to help people make the best possible decisions because we vote with our dollars.”
Standard magazine proceeds with the same mission. “Standard is an extension of my work as a designer. We feature what we call ‘honest to goodness design.’ It’s not all perfect, but the people who are producing it are respectful to people and the planet. We don’t bang anyone over the head, but green should be the standard, hence the name.”
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