Interior Motive

Lei ChicIt's late. You're sprawled in front of the TV, channel surfing until something on HGTV catches your eye. Four designers raid a candy store, then transform bare white rooms into dreamy works of confection.


If only you could get one of those designers to salvage your slightly-less-cool cell block white room with Wal-Mart picnic table and floral couch your Mom no longer wanted.

Lei ChicOh wait, you can. Meet Melissa Rivera-Torres, a Honolulu-based designer competing in tonight's episode of "The White Room Challenge" on HGTV. The Rhode Island School of Design graduate is known for her industrial design – she's the genius behind I AM.'s urban retail space on Kapiolani Blvd., and helped create Hifi's Coop at Ward Warehouse.

Her secret? Repurposing industrial objects into unique design elements, like a shipping container dog house or skateboard magazine rack. Here, she shares a few inspirational ways to refresh a room with unexpected edge.

Lei ChicIndustrial ladders. Inexpensive, durable and made to hold a lot of weight, ladders can be used vertically as a frame or horizontally as a floating shelf or hanging rack. Rivera-Torres welds them together to create storage units with adjustable plexiglass inserts.

Boat fenders. Designed to protect hulls while docking, these inflatable guys also make surprisingly comfortable cushions. Rivera-Torres uses fitted brackets to keep them in place. Bonus: their heavy-duty marine-grade vinyl is easy to wipe clean.

Boat cleats. Rivera-Torres used concrete screws to anchor them to the ground as the base of her shelving units. But they also make great drawer handles and, when attached to the wall, perfect hooks for bags, hats and scarves.

"The White Room Challenge" airs tonight at 9 p.m. and again at midnight on HGTV. Select pieces by Rivera-Torres are available at Fishcake, 307C Kamani St., (808) 593-1231. To order custom furniture or set up a design consultation, visit Unleash Studio's Web site and Facebook page. Photo courtesy: John Hook.