Holiday Frocks

This is a bit of a one-off for Red House West, but since Katie is so ably decking the halls I figured I could weigh in on the ‘don we now our gay apparel’ part of holiday preparations. While I can most often be found sporting an off-white fleece bathrobe that I bought from Costco eight years ago, and which my mother in law has affectionately dubbed Old Velour (the tie of which I can neither confirm nor deny was used as recently as this morning to wipe Wolsey’s copious eye boogers), I like to think that I have a knack for putting together fun and classy outfits.  So please indulge me as I share three holiday occasion outfits that I would happily swap for Old Velour (at least for a few hours).

Party With Friends Outfit

I’m crazy for buffalo plaid lately, and I especially love it here with the 50’s shape skirt.  The sweater is cropped (gasp!) but assuming the skirt is high waisted enough, there wouldn’t be any actual midriff baring going on.  The shoes and deco earrings give a playful edge.

1.  Buffalo Plaid Midi Skirt
2.  Earrings
3.  Cropped Sweater
4.  Heels


Work Party Outfit

I firmly believe that there are few outfits that aren’t improved by the addition of a blazer.  I’ve been eyeballing this sequin festooned beauty for a while now.  It’s a little bit Liberachi On A Cruise, but I’m good with that.  I think it would be so fetching with this navy blue jumpsuit (although Katie says that just looking at it gives her a phantom wedgie).  It’s a little sassy but also all covered up, which I like.  With a top-knot and short red nails you’d be the belle of the office ball.

1. Earrings
2. Jumpsuit
3. Sequin Blazer
4. Navy Suede Pumps


Casual dinner party


While I dream of sequined blazers, casual get togethers are really more my jam, and I would totally rock this outfit.  The red with the burgundy is unabashedly holiday, but also unexpected.  The blouse and jewelry are perfectly prim, but the silhouette of the pants and the shoes make sure the look stays firmly out of schoolmarm territory.  I’d sport a floppy hat like this one on the way to the party.

1. Earrings
2. Blouse
3. Pants
4. Bracelet
5.  Booties

Katie and I will be taking this Friday off from the blog to spend time with our friends and family, back next Monday.  In this season of gratitude out loud let me just say how thankful I am to you kind people who read, comment on, and support this little blog of ours.  It’s a privilege, and I am deeply grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Katie’s House: Holiday Table Setting

Don’t you love it when you see something inspiring and it snowballs into a creative whirlwind?  That happened to me this weekend with this photo I saw over on the blog Making it Lovely:

Gold Leaf

The navy wall is probably what drew me in initially, and I love the way it offsets the other colors in this picture, but it’s that gold leaf sitting on the shelf that got my mental gears turning.  Let’s get closer:Gold Leaf zoomSince sharing images of our favorite holiday tables last week I’ve been thinking about creating my own, and this leaf was the perfect starting point.  I went and sifted through my crafting stash and pulled out some sheets of black poster board, a utility knife, a pencil and a cutting mat.  I used the inspiration picture as reference for drawing the leaves with a pencil, then used the utility knife to make the cut outs.

Red House West//Holiday Tablescape

Once I had six leaves cut out I put a sheet down in our carport, waited for the wind to abate, and then I gilded them with Krylon metallic spray paint in Gold Leaf.  I let the paint cure for 24 hours before bringing them inside.

Red House West//Holiday Tablescape

Red House West//Holiday TablescapeI wanted to set off the gold of the leaves with a dark tablecloth, so I purchased a canvas drop cloth from Home Depot and a bottle of RIT Dye in Navy Blue from the craft store.

Red House West//Holiday TablescapeI’ve never dyed something this big and heavy before, and it was kind of a nightmare.  I ended up needing three bottles of dye (and approximately a zillion gallons of rinse water) to get this color, and it’s still not as dark as I originally planned.  I was too afraid to put the dye straight into the washing machine even though the directions on the bottle assure me I can – any dye veterans out there who can put my mind at ease?

Once I’d cleaned up the tidal wave of blue, I assembled my tableware – glasses, plates, and flatware – all of which was gifted, thrifted or borrowed.  I made the candles in blue and yellow goblets from the thrift store using the teacup candle tutorial but, since I don’t like perfumes mingling with my food, I left out the fragrance.

Red House West//Holiday Tablescape

I really love the nubby, organic texture of the dropcloth – Mera thinks it looks like handmade paper.

I’m not a fan of tall centerpieces – nothing stifles a dinner conversation quite like having to peer through a a decorative hedge  – so I kept it low and pretty simple.  I love the story of Persephone and pomegranates, and at this time of year I start to really need the promise that from these dark nights we’ll emerge back into the light.  I cut a couple pomegranates in half and set them out along with two ceramic ones my mom brought back from Crete.

Red House West//Holiday Tablescape

Red House West//Holiday Tablescape

I’m not sure just what the greens I used are, but if you hear any stories about a lady purloining berried greenery from the edge of the grocery store parking lot, they ain’t true.

Red House West//Holiday Tablescape

Red House West//Holiday Tablescape

Red House West//Holiday Tablescape

Making these leaves was really fun, and I think they’d look beautiful hanging in front of the window as decoration too.  If you’re feeling real fancy, you could even make little ones to use as place cards.
And in case you missed it, Julia over at Cuckoo 4 Design did a feature last week on Mera and her glorious herd of creatures – definitely go check it out.  If you’re one of our new readers who found their way over from there, welcome!  Check back in on Wednesday for a fun post from Mera about holiday attire!

Thanksgiving Table Top Ideas

Well folks, the imminence of the holidays can no longer be denied.  We’re both looking forward to festive dinners with friends and family in the coming weeks, and today we’ve rounded up our favorite holiday table settings from around the web.  We’re both drawn to settings that are unfussy, a little quirky, and that have a bit of sparkle.

Debra Szidon’s mix of gilded leaves, pink dishes and gold flatware is pretty much perfection.  And that textile?  YES PLEASE.

This centerpiece of green leaves, persimmons, magenta flowers and white candles is simple and pretty.

This one’s pretty fancy, but the addition of succulents, artichokes and brown glass bud vases adds nice texture and interest.

We love the eucalyptus leaves and be-pom pommed indigo runner!  This is elegant, but perfectly unfussy.

We also love the idea of using a plaid wool blanket as a table cloth.  A striped Hudson Bay blanket would look great too!

Combine the ideas in the next two photos and you would have a magical holiday table:

Justina Blakeney always gets it right, and the mixed patterns (made of scarves and wallpaper!) on her tables are the perfect backdrop for colored glassware, quirky vases and the little brass animals perched at each setting.

Are any of you hosting Thanksgiving this year?  What are your favorite elements for a festive table?  Have a wonderful weekend!

A Quick Visit to Halibut Cove and More Cabin Plans

Things are moving along with our cabin plans (if you missed it, you can read the where, when, and why of our future cabin here).  We are working with an architect–the same person who did our kitchen remodel–and this weekend he and I made a quick trip down to Halibut Cove to look at the property and start talking brass tacks.

We flew from Anchorage to Homer in the morning, and were treated to a beautiful neon sunrise from the air.

Red House West||More Cabin Plans

I skippered the ferry that runs between Homer and Halibut Cove for many years so I know the summer moods of Kachemak Bay well, but the winter is a different story.  I was relieved that it was a calm morning, and our crossing was quick and easy.


It was really fun to see birds that inhabit the bay in the winter but not the summer, including one I’d never seen before, a Long Tailed Duck (formerly known as an Oldsquaw).  There had been a big storm a few days earlier, and when we got to the beach there were about a million jellyfish washed up in the tide line.  We also found this big prehistoric looking skate:

Red House West||More Cabin Plans

But the best part by far was walking around the property and starting to talk details.  We paced things out, looked at trees we hope to keep and those that will have to come down, and talked about framing the view in different directions.


The bark of this poor tree has been stripped by a bear.

Rosehips and a view.

Rosehips and a view

Our architect is the master of small comfortable spaces where every detail is thought out (like our breakfast nook) and we’re so excited that he has agreed to design our cabin.  He’s a true artist: at one point while walking around the property he declared that he “needed to be silent for an hour, maybe two.”

I am still feverishly collecting images in an attempt to illustrate what I hope our cabin will be like.  Here’s what I’m picturing, and you can see other images I’ve collected in this previous post.

Red House West||More Cabin Plans

Being in Halibut Cove this weekend made me feel like our cabin is really going to happen!  I’m so thrilled, and I’ll be sure to share more details with you here as our dreams turn into more concrete plans.  Thanks for reading, and check back in with us on Friday!

DIY Vintage Teacup Candles

Red House West//DIY Vintage Teacup Candles

A combination of cold weather and the coming holidays has me crafting like a madwoman.  This last week I decided to try my hand at candle making and, because I will never forgo an opportunity to do a little thrifting, I decided to make them in little vintage cups and bowls.

I’m always drawn to the shelves of delicate teacups at thrift stores, but I usually refrain from buying them.  I try to keep knick knacks to a minimum, but now that they have a function?  You can’t hold me back.  I gave myself a $2 limit for each cup and spent about a month assembling a little collection.

I love candles, but I’m pretty picky about my candle scents – a traumatic visit to Yankee Candle when I lived in Massachusetts left me with seared nasal passages, a wicked headache and a lifelong aversion to the smell of “spiced apple.”  For this project I used the sharp, clean scents I love: bergamot, lavender and rosemary.

I bought all my supplies at an amazing local store called Glorybee (they also have a great online store where you can buy all the supplies I used).  I made 18 candles and the final cost break down was just over $2/candle, which ain’t bad.


  • Teacups or small bowls
  • Pot with pour spout or metal pitcher
  • Larger pot to use as double boiler
  • Soy container wax – $29 for a 10 pound bag.  I used just under five pounds to make my candles.
  • Wick rope*
  • Wick tabs
  • Thermometer
  • Scale
  • Essential oil (your choice!)
  • Clothespins
  • Glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Baking pans to use as water baths – having the cups closer in temperature to the wax helps keep the candles from getting craters and cracks

* The kind of wick you use varies with the type of wax and size of container.  This size is for this project specifically.

Step One: The first order of business is assembling the vintage containers for your candles.  At last!  An excuse to comb thrift stores for pretty little things!  Before you begin making your candles, make sure the containers are clean and dry.

Red House West//DIY Vintage Teacup Candles

Step Two:  Cut lengths of wick – mine were roughly five inches – and use your hot glue gun to affix them to the wick tabs.  You’ll be trimming the wicks later so they don’t need to be uniform in length, but they do need to be long enough to clear the top of your cup by an inch or two.

Red House West//DIY Vintage Teacup Candes

Step Three:  Glue wicks into the center of the bottom of your cups.  When the glue is dry, lay a clothespin across the top of each cup and use it to keep the wick centered and straight.  Arrange the cups in the baking dishes or whatever you are using as a water bath.

Red House West//DIY Vintage Teacup Candes

The cups on the left have the wicks glued to the bottom; in the cups on the right I’ve used clothespins to keep the wicks straight.

Step Four:  Measure out your wax.  My pouring pot held about one and a half pounds of wax.  I had to do three batches to fill all my containers.

Red House West//DIY Vintage Teacup Candes

Step Five:  Put your pot of wax into your simmering double boiler and stir as it melts.

Red House West//DIY Vintage Teacup Candes

Step Six:  Use your thermometer to measure the temperature.  Heat the wax to 180 degrees then remove from heat and cool to 140 degrees.  While the wax is cooling, heat water and add it to the pans you’re using as water baths.

Red House West//DIY Vintage Teacup Candles

Step Seven:  When the wax is 140 degrees, stir in your essential oil.  I added about half an ounce of essential oil for each pound of wax.  Carefully and slowly pour wax into your containers.

Red House West//DIY Vintage Teacup Candes

The wax will become cloudy as it hardens.  In the photo below, the two yellower candles in the upper right were from the second batch I made so the wax was still translucent.  The other candles had been poured about half an hour before, and the wax had already become white and opaque.

Red House West//DIY Vintage Teacup Candes

Step Eight: Let the candles sit for 24 hours, then trim the wicks to about 1/8 inch in length.

And you’re done!  Now package them up to give as gifts and place a few around your house to make it smell (and look) glorious!

Red House West//DIY Vintage Teacup Candes

Red House West//DIY Vintage Teacup Candes

Red House West//DIY Vintage Teacup Candes

This project took me most of a morning, though much of that time was spent assembling supplies and waiting for the wax to cool.  Overall it was a straightforward process and I will definitely do it again.  Please let me know if you have any questions!  Come back on Wednesday for a post from Mera!

Etsy Finds Friday!

We both love finding inspiration and unique treasures on Etsy, so once a month or so we share round-ups of some of our favorite Etsy items and sellers so you can see them too.  Thanks for joining us!

From Katie:

The colors of these ceramics made by Redraven studios are so perfect.  Not sure I’m refined enough to eat from dinnerware decorated with real gold, but I’d certainly like to give it a go.

Canyon plate

Canyon mugAnother Etsy store selling handmade ceramics I love is Clay Bungalow.  The hand-etched folk art designs are delightfully whimsical.    I’m particularly enamored of this vase and plate:

Clay Bungalow

clay bungalow plate

From Mera:

I love Lucile Prache’s food watercolors–they remind me of my mother-in-law’s paintings, and also of my grandmother’s kitchen:

Red House West||Etsy Finds


Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 7.44.57 PM

Despite its firm hold on the interior design world, I am still a wallpaper weeny.  It’s just so permanent, bold and expensive!  Kate Zaremba’s removable wallpapers put my commitment-phobe fears to rest, and I love her hand-drawn designs:

Red House West||Etsy Finds


Thanks for checking out our Etsy finds–have a great weekend everybody!

7 Tips for Buying Rugs on eBay

If you’re like me and love the warmth and texture that rugs give to a room, this post is for you.

I used to scour antique stores, estate sales, and craigslist for rugs, but no more!  After discovering the universe of rugs on eBay I stopped looking anywhere else.  You can find pretty much anything you could dream up– I am typically partial to Persian rugs, but I’ve been known to fall head over heels for kilims, and lately I’ve been lusting after dark floral Bessarabian rugs–and the prices are cheaper than what I’ve seen in stores.  I’ve bought quite a few rugs on eBay now, and I thought I’d share the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

Red House West||Buying Rugs on eBay

1. Don’t Get Caught up in the Chase

It’s happened to me many times: I’m blithely perusing rugs on eBay when suddenly I come across the blue-hued Persian of my dreams. I’m in love, it’s meant to be, the universe ordained our union! I know it’s perfect and I want it so badly that it makes my bones ache.

HALT! Unless the listing is about to end, cool your jets and add it to your “watch” list. After letting it sit for a day or two you might find it’s not the dazzling woolen fifth-wall solution you’d dreamed of after all.  The moral: Don’t move too quickly. Despite eBay’s attempts to convince you otherwise, there actually aren’t millions of people around the globe fawning over the same rug. No matter how great a deal it is, it’s still a big purchase and you want to get it right. So add it to your watch list and think about if for a few days. If you have a laptop or iPad look at the listing in the room where you think the rug will go. Is it the right color?  Will it be too busy, too dark, or too precious for the space? And, if the worst happens and someone buys it, guess what? There are thousands of other gloriously beautiful rugs on eBay just waiting for you to discover them.

2.  Read Every Word of the Listing

This may seem obvious, but some listings are really wordy, and there may be a reason for that. Take for example this insanely gorgeous peach and blue rarity:

Red House West||Rugs Buying on Ebay

Those colors!  That price!  But uh oh, look at the seller notes.  “Some odor” is not a good sign, but for this beauty I might be willing to accept some mustiness.  Keep on reading and you learn two things.  First, this is the world’s most honest rug merchant.  And second?

Red House West||Buying Rugs on Ebay

Do they mean old dog urine as opposed to puppy urine?  Or dog urine that has been on the rug for a long time?  Either way, I’ll pass.

3.  Look Closely at the Units of Measurement

When buying from international sellers make sure you know what unit of measurement they are using. I am hopeless when it comes to the metric system and can only visualize in feet (no, not even inches), so I use an online calculator like this one to get a mental picture of the size.  Then, duh, measure the space where you want the rug to go.  Unlike shopping for contemporary rugs that are either 3×5, 5×8, or 8×10, hand woven antique rugs are often irregular sizes, so make sure it will fit just right before you buy.

4.  When Figuring Out Whether a Rug is a Good Price, Include Shipping in the Total

I’ve had the best luck buying from international sellers. Domestic prices tend to be higher, and I’ve gotten better deals buying rugs directly from Turkey and Romania.  The best part is that, especially for those of us in Alaska or Hawaii, international sellers typically charge less in shipping (ironic, I know).

Remember this rug from my first round of playroom plans?  This insanely gorgeous creature is 8 1/4 feet x 5 feet, and I’m sure it’s HEAVY.  If you paid for shipping it would easily cost upwards of $100, and this seller is offering it for free.  That is a really really good deal.

Red House West||Buying Rugs on Ebay

Domestic sellers often offer “free shipping” . . . except to Alaska and Hawaii.  Here’s an example of a rug being sold by someone in the U.S.  The price is okay, and it says free shipping!  But look closer:

Red House West||Buying Rugs on Ebay

See that little “see details” link?  Click on it and here’s what you learn:

Red House West||Buying Rugs on Ebay

Wah wah.  I have contacted sellers for shipping quotes and still made the purchase, but not before recalculating the total cost to make sure the cost of the rug + shipping is a price I would happily pay for the rug if I found it in a store.

5.  Spelling Variations are Your Friend

I once got a pair of beautiful “Morroccan” pillows for $10.  I can neither confirm nor deny that I stumbled upon them because I misspelled Moroccan.  Lessons were learned, both in spelling and in effective eBay searching.

Particularly with international sellers, you should search iterations of common words (one at a time) to find hidden gems.  For example, lots of sellers in Turkey list “kelims” and “cecims.”  If you find a listing with a misspelling or a less well known variation of the word, you’re more likely to get a great deal.

A savvy seller prepared to catch any spelling variation.

A savvy seller prepared to catch any spelling variation.

6.  Cast a Wide Net

If you’re willing to search through thousands of listings, it’s pretty likely that you’ll find the perfect rug for your space.  I haven’t had much luck narrowing search results by using terms related to color or size.  Most of the international listings provide only general descriptions and while they include a lot of pictures, they don’t say anything about color, so that wouldn’t show up in the search.  Words I commonly search when rug hunting include: “oushak,” “persian,” “kilim,” “bessarabian,” “boucherouite,” “anatolian,” and “cicim”.  You can use the eBay search functions to filter by general size, and you can order the listings by price so that you don’t bother looking at the ones that are out of your price range.

7.  Use the “Make Offer” Button

Most listings have several purchase options: bidding, buy it now, or make offer.  On eBay you can make up to three offers to a seller to purchase an item for less than the “buy it now” price. It’s good to remember there’s a person on the other side of this transaction and you don’t want to insult them with a super low-ball offer, but if the seller has chosen to include the “Make Offer” option on the listing, you can pretty much bet that they’d be willing to accept, say, 10% less than the buy it now price.

Red House West||Buying Rugs on Ebay

This seller would likely accept an offer of $470–$500 (eBay will show you the GBP to U.S. dollar conversion).

When you enter your offer it gives you the option of leaving a note for the seller, and I usually say something like “Thank you so much for listing this beautiful heirloom.  It’s just what I’ve been looking for and I hope you will consider my offer.  I look forward to hearing from you!”  It just makes the transaction a little more personal, and I like to think that sellers are more inclined to accept the offers of people who appreciate what they are selling.

So there you have it, my 7 tips for finding a beautiful rug for a super price on eBay!  Anyone else have success buying rugs on eBay or elsewhere lately?  Any tips to add to the list?