Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

From alleyways: How 'found free' items made this Vancouver patio beautiful (PHOTOS)

A community laundry room has grown into a trading post in a friendly Vancouver building.

A beautiful Vancouver patio complete with plentiful, blossoming plants, furniture, and flooring might strike you as expensive, but a local woman says it helps to be resourceful — and to have generous neighbours. 

Artist Nicole Lau, 28, tells Vancouver Is Awesome that she originally anticipated that her patio project would take some time to complete. She moved into the West End apartment with her boyfriend after deciding they weren't really loving life in Yaletown.

When it came to picking a new place to live, Lau says part of the reason they chose their new apartment building was based on how friendly people were when they went to check it out. 

With Stanley Park and Davie Street close by, the couple has enjoyed going for daily walks during the pandemic. However, she says it also helped seeing friendly faces in the building — and enjoying its communal laundry room. 

People from the building leave various items in the laundry room, including everything from furniture to propagated spider plants to flower pots and beyond; it has been coined "The Trading Post" by some of the people who live there.

Lau bought the birdhouses at Dollarama but found many of the ceramic pots in alleys and the communal space. "They go for $60 or $70 in nurseries." She also found some beautiful fake plants that someone didn't want outside of their home.

And that fabulous wooden flooring?

From a store, wooden tiling like the ones on her patio might "go for $150 to $250," she explains. However, she found these reusable bags full of panels left in the middle of an alley. 

How can you find this stuff?

When she shared an image of her "found free" patio on Reddit, several people commented that it wasn't "possible" to find all of those incredible items in alleys. In this case, however, Lau used a combination of found items, one plant from her mom and pieces from her communal "trading post."

"I grew up very resourceful," she says. "I hardly buy new things anyway." 

Lau also notes that the sense of community in the building has encouraged her to beautify her patio space. "I've been more aware of our neighbours during this time."

One of the residents plays his trumpet downstairs and built himself a reclining bicycle from scratch, she describes. "He is also so generous...he started chopping up firewood for anyone to grab for people in the building who go camping. "

"It's just the sense of community we have; people have so much to give. I don't have to give away things on Facebook Marketplace. I can leave something there — there's always so much." 

Lau is also a visual artist and you can follow her on Instagram