Sue Waldron Designs: Finding Beauty In The Discarded

I’m constantly torn between my desire to have a house that looks like it’s been designed by Fixer Upper’s Joanna Gaines and my unwillingness to spend money on anything that isn’t essential to my survival. Certainly, my condition isn’t unique to me—who hasn’t watched the show, dismayed because they can’t afford a shiplap accent wall or crown molding? But when I walked into interior designer Sue Waldron’s home in Wilton, my dilemma seemed to fly right out her blue-paneled, sliding barn door and into oblivion. I realized that you don’t need a fortune to get that whitewashed-farmhouse look that’s slowly consuming HGTV viewers’ properties across the land. Waldron’s home is proof.

Waldron runs her own interior design and furniture upcycling business—Sue Waldron Designs—out of her home, and is its lone employee. Her motto is “Thrifted, gifted and found” because, well, that’s how she gets most of her decor. The beautiful white-and-gold buffet in her three-season room? Picked up from the side of the road. The chandelier hanging in her bedroom? Bought at a Facebook garage sale. The patterned textile hanging in an oversized frame in her living room? A $3 scarf from Old Navy. The centerpiece of her kitchen table? A toolbox she found at a yard sale and hand-painted. Her mantel? Rescued from a burn pile. And the two wicker lamps in the living room? From her neighbor’s garbage can. “Nobody’s trash is safe,” Waldron says, as she walks by her father’s discarded vintage card catalogue cabinet, where two leafy plants grow out of open drawers.

Furniture upcycler Sue Waldron in her Wilton home. (Lawrence White)

Though Waldron has been designing her whole life—as a toddler, her mother would wake up to find that she’d moved her crib to a different spot in her room—she didn’t decide to pursue it, professionally, until three years ago. A friend-of-a-friend visited her home and was so impressed by what she saw that she asked Waldron to renovate a room in her own house. That single project ballooned into a yearlong gig, with Waldron redesigning most of the client’s house.

Waldron is also entirely self-taught: “I didn’t go to school for design,” she says. “I’d say it was a hobby, but now it’s kind of my life. It’s what I do. If I’m not helping other people do it, then I’m always doing it here. It’s 24/7.” Though she does design rooms—or entire floors—for clients, more often, Waldron’s focus is on upcycling furniture. The day I stopped by, she was in her kitchen, putting a newly painted, sage-green floor lamp out to dry. “My absolute favorite thing is to use what the owner already has and give it new life,” Waldron says, happily. “I love the end result and I love when people are so excited when I finish a piece.”

I’ve been looking for an ottoman for my apartment for a while now, but haven’t been able to pull the trigger. After seeing Waldron’s home, I have officially moved my search from Amazon to the side of the road. An elegant road, but a road nonetheless.

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