A Mega Craigslist Score and a Comparison of Refinishing Techniques

Craigslist everywhere is a hit-or-miss hodge podge, but I’m fairly certain that in Alaska it’s especially bleak.  There’s a lot of taxidermy (don’t try to tell Alaskans that stuffed dead animals don’t belong in the furniture category!), overstuffed ’80s couches, and mattresses so stained they look like crime scenes, selling for the bargain price of $150.   And yet I check it every day, sometimes several times per.  Last week that fiendish madness paid off big time when I came across this ad:

Red House West

I have been on the hunt for new nightstands and a credenza-y dresser for ages, and here they were all in one sweetheart of a package.  Obviously $550 is some serious dough, but if I were to buy just the nightstands from, say, West Elm, it would cost way north of $550 when you include shipping.  Let alone the dresser, which is crazy and beautiful, so needless to say I jumped at this.  Here’s what I ended up with:

Sales pamphlet found here.

Sales pamphlet found here.

Here’s a picture of a dresser like mine (not my actual dresser) looking fine:

Image found on pinterest.

Image found on pinterest.

When we unloaded them from the car the smell of talcum powder was dizzying.  The nightstands came complete with the crocheted doilies that topped them (though did little to protect them) for upwards of fifty years.  There was sort of a dingy, half-a-century-of-smoking-inside pall to the finish, and it was clear right away that more than just cleaning was needed.

Red House West

I decided that I would experiment with the nightstands first to see how little work I could get away with in tackling the dresser.  I chose the most damaged of the two to begin with; it had one leg that looked like a dog chewed on it, and so I decided I would have to go at the whole thing with an orbital sander to smooth it out.  The sanding only took about an hour, but my right hand was a painful claw afterward.  Here is what it looked like post sanding:

Red House West

The bottom shelf and back are a thin veneer and I was worried that they wouldn’t stand up to the orbital sander so I just lightly sanded them by hand.

After sanding I cleaned the table thoroughly and then used Danish Oil in Light Walnut to stain and finish it.

I waited about an hour, and then applied a second coat of Danish Oil.  After letting that dry for another hour (you probably don’t actually have to wait that long) I used Howard Feed-n-Wax to really make the wood sing.  And here is the result:

Red House West

It’s a pretty major difference, and let me tell you, in person the refinished version is FOXY!  I was tempted to give the second nightstand the same treatment, but one glance at the massive dresser reminded me that I owed it to my former-right-hand-now-claw to see if I could get away with a short-cut.

The second nightstand was in better shape than the first, but still pretty beat up.

Red House West

I lightly sanded it by hand, and then had a go with Katie’s beloved Restor-A-Finish in Walnut.

Red House West

The Restor-A-Finish couldn’t be easier: you just wipe-on wipe-off (while Mr. Miyagi’s voice echoes in your middle-aged ear) and call it good.  It took all of 15 minutes to do the whole nightstand and the results are pretty impressive:

Red House West

And here is the side-by-side comparison of them after they each got, to greater and lesser degrees, some TLC:

Red House West

It probably surprises exactly no one that the refinished version looks better than the restor-a-finished version, but I have to say that the restor-a-finish impressed the heck out of me.  I think for the dresser I will probably do a combination of techniques, but that’s a post for a later date.  And speaking of later dates, stay tuned for next Wednesday when I plan to share the nightstands in their final positions, including the results of my efforts at lining the drawers in velvet.

Anybody else gotten lucky with Craigslist lately?  If so, send ‘em in to Good Score via email to redhousewest@gmail.com, or on Instagram by tagging #rhwgoodscore.  Check back in with us later in the week for a Pinterest Friday round-up of rooms that make great use of a color I’ve been loving lately–pink!

Katie’s House: Paint Colors for the Living Room

We have just two weeks until our sojourn in Walla Walla ends and we’re back in our red house for good.   I’m so excited!  After consulting the mile-long to-do list, I’ve decided that the very first house project I want to tackle upon return is painting the living room.  The problem?  I’m still not sure just what paint color I want to use, though I do at least know the color family.  I think.

First up, let me give you a little tour so you know what we’re working with.  This room has great bones and a lot of potential.  It is south-facing and filled with incredible light throughout the day.  It is currently painted a soft green – that sometimes reads beige – which is in itself inoffensive, but which doesn’t work at all with our furniture and art, or with the transition into the newly blue dining room.

Red House West - Dining Room_Miller Paint3

Our house was built in 1930, and had a major remodel done in 1960.  They opened up what had previously been a number of small rooms into one large space linked by generous archways.  The room is bisected by the front door and the dining room arch (as seen in the image above, taken from the dining room) which means that though it’s visually a single room, there’s a sort of pathway in the middle where we can’t really have any furniture, so we use it more like two rooms.  Let me show you what I’m talking about:

Paint Ideas for the Living Room 6

Here we are standing by the front door and looking toward the dining room.  I’m sure it’s hard to tear your eyes from the wonder of Beatrice, so let me quickly introduce you.  I found Beatrice (so named because of the artist – Beatrice Roitmann Metrick) at an antique store and for more than a year I would drop in and visit her.  Cameron and my mom teamed up and gave her to me as a gift, and I love her.  I find Beatrice’s heavy-lidded stare serene, my father finds it homicidal, and Cameron loves the bird in the party hat.  Something for everyone.  I think both she, and the orange couch I got on Craigslist, will benefit greatly from a change of wall color.

Here’s a wider view of that part of the room.  That cat-ravaged pink chair?  Fixing it up is number two on that mile-long to-do list.

Paint Ideas for the Living Room 9

If you were to stand next to the couch and look across the room, this is what you would see.  An indoor jungle.  I consolidated most of the houseplants so our housesitter would have an easier time watering them, but I can still admit I *might* have a problem.
Paint Ideas for the Living Room 10

The little alcove where the tulip chair sits was the home’s original front porch; they moved the entrance to its current location in the 1960s.

Paint Ideas for the Living Room 4

We’re definitely still figuring out how best to use the space, but I’ll save thoughts on layout/furnishings for another post.  For now?  Paint!  I’m on the hunt for a soft white or very light gray.  It’s important that the color we choose plays nicely with Beatrice, the couch, and the orange-y fir floors.  It’s also imperative that it work with the linen curtains.  Cameron’s mom and I made them not too long after we moved in and I’ve got no interest in sewing that many hems again any time soon.

First up in the closer-to-white colors I’m considering is Seapearl by Benjamin Moore.  It’s kind of an earthy white with gray/brown (griege) undertones.


Shown against the fir floors with a swatch of fabric from the curtains


Seapearl used in a room.  Image found here.

A nice, creamy white I’ve tried out is Mascarpone, also by Benjamin Moore.  I think it’s whiter than I want for this space -and a bit on the yellow side next to the color of the floors and curtains – but it’s very pretty.



Mascarpone used in a room.  Image found here

I really loved the quality of the Miller Paint I used in the dining room, and this light gray color called Crystal Ball is a frontrunner.  Unfortunately there are no images online of this color being used in an actual space.

Crystal Ball_swatch

I’m also very interested in a couple of colors by Farrow & Ball, but there isn’t anywhere in Eugene to buy their paint and shipping expenses for a sample pot are too steep for me to pay.  There are lots of images online, though, and the colors I’m most crushing on are Cornforth White and Blackened.  It might just be worth a road trip to Portland to pick some up.


Cornforth White

Cornforth White by Farrow & Ball. Images found here.



Blackened by Farrow & Ball. Images found here.

Have you used any of these colors?  Do you have a clear favorite of the ones I’ve shown or a recommendation of your own?  Thanks for reading along – I’m so excited to paint this room and share it with you!  Make sure to check the blog on Wednesday, Mera made an enviable Craigslist score and will be sharing a couple of really great restoration methods.


Faraway Friday Vol. 3

Welcome to volume three of our monthly feature Faraway Friday!  We are both itinerant daydreamers and when we’re not consulting each other about Craigslist yay or nays, we’re fantasizing together about a trip we want to take to [insert exotic location].  Once a month we’ll share a few of our far flung fantasy destinations with you here on the blog; thanks for joining us!

From Katie:

My dad hails from Australia but I haven’t been back in ages, so a visit to the land of strange marsupials is topping my list.  I’m dying to reconnect with family in Western Australia, but I’m also dreaming of seeing Tasmania – a place I’ve never been.  Images of the landscape are arresting, and I’d love to head out for a hike in the rugged ranges of Cradle Mountains National Park:


Even way over here in Oregon I can hear the turquoise waters of Wineglass Bay calling me.  Listen, can you hear it?  Katie, pssssst, Katie, let me wrap you in my white sand embrace. 


Finally: WOMBATS.  And also all the other unabashedly weird creatures – including Tasmanian Devils – you can’t find on any other continent.  But WOMBATS.

From Mera:

For those of you in the sweltering parts of the country it may be hard to believe, but here in Alaska it is full-on fall.  It’s suddenly dark at a reasonable hour, I’m wearing my favorite chunky fisherman sweater, and Chester made a big pot of white-bean soup this weekend.  The truth is, after our big England trip in July, I’m yearning to stay closer to home to enjoy the waning days of summer here in Alaska.

Even though I grew up here, there is so much of the State that I haven’t seen.  I’ve barely stepped foot into Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park, and I’m itching for a good camping trip.

Thanks for coming along with us on our far-flung fantasy trips!  Have a great weekend everyone, we hope to see you on Monday when Katie will be back with another post from her home-front before heading back up to Eastern Washington.

DIY Shibori Lampshade

Hi everyone! I’m back down in Eugene for a wedding this week, and I managed to (barely) squeeze in a DIY project that I’m excited to share with you.  A few years ago, Cameron’s dad gave us this lovely wooden lamp he built.  Unfortunately, the shade that was on it got smooshed in the move so it has been sitting bare-bulbed and unused for well over a year.  I’ve been keeping an eye out for a lampshade, but nothing was really speaking to me.  Well the other day I was doing what I do best – trolling Goodwill – when I saw this perfectly sized, but revoltingly stained, shade for about $2.  And an idea was born.

Lamp Shade Before

The lamp? Lovely. The shade, not so much.

Remember Mera’s post about experimenting with Shibori dyeing techniques?  I LOVED that post, and was so inspired that within five minutes of  reading it I had ordered the same dye kit she used.  I mean seriously, I could crawl into this photo and live there (but I’d like some cream in my coffee plz).  I decided a shibori lampshade was the way to go.


Photo by Mera

I found this very helpful video with instructions for recovering a lampshade in fabric on YouTube, and I’ve included some of the steps here so you can see how I did it.  The first thing I did was make a pattern for the shade.  I didn’t have any paper that was big enough, so I taped together a bunch of scratch paper.  Starting at the bottom left corner, I placed my lampshade with the seam in the middle and facing up.

making the pattern

Making the pattern 2

I then rolled the lampshade across the paper, tracing the bottom edge with my pencil.  Next, I returned the lampshade to its starting point at the bottom left of the paper and lined the shade up then set my pencil at the top of the shade and rolled it until I was back at the seam again.  The finished pattern and cut fabric looked like this:

Pattern and fabric

Because I wanted to place my dye pattern in a certain place on the shade, I cut the fabric before dyeing it.

I cut out two pieces of fabric and tied them in two different ways so I could decide which one I liked best (and just in case one went horribly wrong).  For the first I did an accordion pleat – similar to what Mera did in the photo above – and for the second I put dried garbanzo beans on the underside of the fabric and then wrapped a rubber band around them from the top.  From the side it looked like a bunch of little ghosties all in a line.

tying techniques for shades 2

I won’t belabor the dye instructions because Mera’s post covers it, but I will say that – though the process wasn’t complicated – I did manage to make a pretty remarkable mess.  As I was poking the fabric around in the dye bath, and inevitably getting it all over myself and everything else, I was reminded of a time in college when I called Mera in a panic because I was writing a paper at the 11th hour and my printer had broken.  She came over – she was no doubt a week ahead with all her schoolwork – and calmed me down.  She then picked up the broken – “broken” –  printer, dislodged popcorn kernels from it, and set me back to work.  This story is indicative of much of our friendship and also my life and did I mention that I was dyeing this fabric this morning?  Of course I was.  Don’t worry though folks, I didn’t learn any valuable lessons about time management because both fabrics turned out great.

tying techniques for shades

The accordion folded fabric is on the left, the garbanzo ghosts is on the right.

Choosing which one to use was HARD.  It required hemming, hawing, second guessing and soliciting opinions from Mera, my friend Kori and my mom.  There could only be one winner (though I’m tempted to find another lampshade so I can use the other fabric too).  And the winner is… pictured below :)

Once I’d washed, dried and ironed the fabric I took it and the lampshade outside.  I bought this spray adhesive at the hardware store and laid out a ground cloth to keep the fabric clean and the glue from getting everywhere.

Attaching the fabric to the shadeFollowing the directions on the can I sprayed the fabric thoroughly, paying special attention to the edges.  It was STICKY, but fortunately there was a short window before the glue set (short window – hence no pictures of this step) when I could still move the fabric around.  For next time, I will spray the adhesive in one area then move the gluey fabric to a clean spot  to actually attach it (the dyed fabric stuck to me, itself, the groundsheet and the shade, and I had to do some ridiculous contortions to get it in the right place).  Eventually, after I muttered and cursed and smoothed and fussed, it was on and pretty much wrinkle free.  I’ve put it in our bedroom, and love the way it looks against the soft gray walls.





Thanks for reading along!  Any other 11th hour types out there?  We hope you’ll check back on Friday when we’ll share our dreams of faraway places. Have a great day!

Upstairs, Downstairs: The Bedroom Debate

Fair warning, this post is exclusively about the two least decorated, completely un-styled rooms in my house.  If you’re not a big before + inspiration post person, feel free to skip this one.  But if you relish in blogger’s shame, read on as I lay mine bare before you:

As I’ve mentioned before, this house is full of pint-sized rooms and quirky angles.  I love it for that, but I wouldn’t be furious if there was also a closet big enough to contain the clothing of two adults.  As it is now, our bedroom is a bitty little thing on the second floor.  The room is bright and spare and right across the hall from Opal’s room, but there isn’t enough closet space for both my clothes and Chester’s and there’s no space to expand the current closet or add another one.  As a stopgap solution Chester keeps his clothes in the guest bedroom, which is less than ideal.  When we have guests staying with us Chester has to keep piles of his clothes on the floor in our room, which pleases no one, and if and when we have a second kid something will obviously have to change.

Luckily we have two possible options to remedy the situation, and I go back and forth about which is better.

OPTION 1:  We could make some changes to the room that is currently the guest room and claim it as our bedroom.  The room is small, but bigger than our current bedroom, and it has decent closet potential.

Red House West

Red House West

Red House West

Standing at the foot of the bed looking right.

On the opposite side of the room there’s a long eave where the closet currently is, and we could make it into a more substantial closet that could work for both of us.

I think we could build something similar to this:

Here are the pros as I see them:

1. I have a general preference for upstairs bedrooms.

2. I love the angles and tucked in nooks in this room, and I think that with a fresh coat of paint (wood paneling, I’m looking at you) and an overall freshening up it could be really sweet.

3. Under the carpet is finished fir (except in one small area that would need to be patched).  I know many people like carpet in bedrooms, but I’m a fan of hardwood with a rug.

Here’s a honey of a bedroom that makes me think the upstairs room is the right choice:

OPTION 2:  The room that we currently use as our playroom/craft room/office could become our bedroom.  Except for the living room, this is the largest room in the house.

I am judging myself so that you don't have to.

I am judging myself so you don’t have to.

This room already has a decent closet, and there’s space between the walls where the closet could be expanded to a walk-in or a second closet could be added.

The sad truth about this room is that we really don’t use it very much.  Chester ends up working on his laptop in the breakfast nook, and I typically work at the desk in the upstairs guest room (see the second picture in this post if you want to know where the RHW magic happens!).  It’s a great room, but without a well-defined purpose or any sort of design, it ends up being a dumping ground.

The pros of converting this room into our bedroom are:

1.  It’s the only room where we could fit a king bed.  Chester and I are both all shoulders, so a king bed is VERY appealing.

2.  This room has a nice view out into the backyard, which is lush and beautiful thanks to years of tender care by my mother-in-law and in spite of several years of utter neglect by me.

3.  Right now while Opal is still little it’s nice to be close to her, but as she gets older some distance might be welcome.

4.  There is one bathroom upstairs, and one downstairs.  If we stay upstairs we will be sharing with Opal, hypothetical future human, and any guests we may have.  If we’re downstairs we would pretty much be the only ones using this bathroom.  It wouldn’t be like having a “master bath” where you can leave your unmentionables strewn about, but it would probably be an improvement over sharing with a teenager(s).

5. If we go with the downstairs option and turn the upstairs bedroom into the office it will require very few changes to either room.  If we choose the upstairs option we have to devote that whole eave to becoming a closet, which means that if we decide later that we’d rather use that room as an office we will have put a lot of time and effort into building a closet that we no longer want or need.

Here are a few generously sized bedrooms that make me lean toward the downstairs option:

Image Source (via Bohemian Vintage)

Image Source (via Bohemian Vintage)


From Elle Decor U.K. and found here.

Red House West

From Domino.

So dear readers, I put the question to you:  Which should we choose?

Thanks for reading, and for casting your vote!  Katie’s back on Wednesday with a post from her red house.  Have a great week everyone!

DIY Friday Vol. 4

Hey everybody, and welcome to the fourth installment of our DIY Friday series!  One Friday a month we do a roundup of DIY projects from around the web that we’re dying to try.  You can check out previous DIY Friday posts, as well as some of our own DIY ventures, here.  Now for this month’s inspiration!

From Katie:

This month I’ve got lamps on the brain, and there are a couple tutorials I’m itching to try.   These pendant lamps using plastic bottles and concrete look amazing!  Would they be crazy heavy?  Would the concentrated beam of light make you feel like you were being interrogated?  Who knows!  It’s an experiment I’m willing to try.  The full tutorial can be found over on BRIT + CO.


Another inexpensive and appealing light project is this string globe chandelier found here.  It looks straightforward (as all DIY projects do until I’m actually doing them), and I’m envisioning it on a slightly smaller scale and made with black string.

String light_keepsonringing

String light_keepsonringing2

From Mera:

Katie’s got me all aflutter about decorative plates lately, so I’ve been looking for a fun DIY.  I love the looks of these: creepy-crawly + granny is a straight path to my heart (if only they were usable!).

A few years ago my mom gave me her MASSIVE fabric collection, and since then I’ve made quite a few additions of my own. I have some real treasures, but it’s all piled inartfully in a closet, and I’d like to display some of the prettier pieces in the craft/play room (stay tuned for more on the future of this room on Monday!). I’ve been looking for an old wooden ladder like this for a while now:

You’d think there’d be one on every corner with a free sign, but no, at least not in this town.  Time to DIY it, and really, how hard could it be (she says blithely).  These look like good instructions:

From The Design Confidential, and available here.

From The Design Confidential, and available here.

How about you?  Any DIY projects you’re planning to tackle?  Thanks for joining us and have a great weekend everyone!

Off-The-Grid Cabin Tour: A Visit With My Friend Steve

I sometimes think that kids and dogs can sense an essential truth about people before adults have time to shake hands. My dogs, and especially my daughter, are crazy for my friend Steve Chopp, and I’m convinced it’s because they can see the kind and gentle nature that I think of as his defining characteristic.

Steve lives in Halibut Cove, Alaska, where my parents have a summer cabin. In the years that I spent summers there running the small local ferry, Steve and I were co-presidents of HCRC – the Halibut Cove Running Club. We were also HCRC’s only members, and even though we only ran together a few times per summer, we tied for many awards.  Ever the civil servant, Steve has also appointed himself Director of Homeland Security for Halibut Cove, and alerts residents when the threat level goes from Classic Navy to Burnt Umber.

Fireweed blooming along the path to Steve's.

Fireweed blooming along the path to Steve’s.

When I asked Steve if I could do a cabin tour for the blog he shrugged, “sure.”  I told him don’t worry about cleaning up or anything, which in blogger speak means remove 90% of your personal belongings from sight and clean until your fingers are bloody nubbins and then put out a bowl of cherries with a few scattered on the counter (don’t let your finger stumps bleed on them!).  Steve promised he wouldn’t fret about it, and when my sister and I hiked up to his cabin the next day I was glad for reconfirmation that he is a man true to his word. Red House West | Cabin Tour Steve built his home mostly out of salvaged and scrap materials.  The house is one room – only about 500 square feet – but everywhere you look there are small, deliberate details.  The best part is that every tiny, beautiful detail you discover comes with a story, and Steve is a great storyteller.

Cabin tour | Red House West

A tree grows through the porch, in the company of tentacle-like metal rods.

The house is completely off-the-grid.  Perched on a high cliff, it gets pretty battered by wind especially in winter but the materials Steve chose make for virtually maintenance-free living.

Photo courtesy of Steve Chopp.

The cabin as seen from Kachemak Bay.  Photo courtesy of Steve Chopp.

Cabin Tour || Red House West

Cabin Tour || Red House West

The entryway

The entryway

Steve made these cabinets out of salvaged wood.  I've never seen anything like them, and my photo does not do them justice.

Steve made these cabinets out of salvaged wood. I’ve never seen anything like them elsewhere:  my photo does not do them justice.

Looking through an open cabinet door to the rest of the cabin.  That's my sister in the corner, exploring a collection.

Looking through an open cabinet door to the rest of the cabin. That’s my sister in the corner, exploring a collection.

Steve is pure artist.  He’s never read Red House West (though he promises he will now) and decorating and styling aren’t his bag.  His materials are things that he has found and collected, mostly on the rocky tidal swept beaches near his home.  He’ll collect, for example, sea-bleached vertebrae of various animals for years, keeping them in a cardboard box in his living room, while loose ideas for sculptures or light fixtures solidify in his mind. Red House West || Cabin Tour

Steve salvaged these lights from an old cannery.

Steve salvaged these lights from an old cannery.

Ceiling detail.  Photo courtesy of Steve Chopp.

Ceiling detail. Photo courtesy of Steve Chopp.

Steve was a commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay for years, and during down time he would go ashore to sandy beaches where he would take his shoes off and feel for Japanese glass fishing floats buried under the sand.  He’s given away a lot of his collection, but he’s also turned some into sculptures for his own home. Cabin Tour || Red House West

Steve fished in Bristol Bay for years, and during down time he would go ashore, take of his shoes, and feel for Japanese floats under the sand.  He made this sculpture from his collection.

Red House West || Cabin Tour This art above the cabinet (which Steve also made) is clam shells that he sanded down into squares and rectangles and then glued directly to the wall. The effect in person is subtle but stunning. Red House West || Cabin Tour

Detail from the clam shell sculpture in the setting sun.  Photo courtesy of Steve Chopp.

Detail from the clam shell sculpture in the setting sun. Photo courtesy of Steve Chopp.

And then of course there’s the view, which my photos really didn’t capture. Cabin Tour || Red House West

Red House West|| Cabin Tour Huge thanks to Steve for letting me share his amazing home here on Red House West, and thanks to you for reading along!  Check back in on Friday for our monthly DIY roundup!