Our Holiday Wish For You: Cozy Reading Spaces

Hi everyone!  As we mentioned on Wednesday, today will be our last post of 2014. We are both looking forward to lots of time with our families in the next two weeks, but also hoping for some quiet moments amid the chaos of the holidays. We are each deep into great novels right now (Katie is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, and Mera is reading book three of the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante). Our year-end wish for you, dear Red House West readers, is that in the coming weeks you too can find a quiet moment to cuddle up with an engrossing book, or furry creature or, better yet, both. With that in mind, we bring you this cozy roundup of beautiful reading spaces. We look forward to seeing you back here after the New Year and wish you the happiest of holiday seasons.

Which one would you most like to curl up in?

Reader Question: Bringing Color Into a Baltimore Home

Hi all, it’s Mera and Katie teaming up to answer some design questions we recently received from Heloisa, a Red House West reader.  Details about her house and photos are posted below, and we also included the first paragraph of her email because it’s basically everything we’ve ever wished someone would say about our blog and reading it put big, huge smiles on our faces:

I love your blog – and I’m not too much of a blog follower but I stumbled upon yours and got hooked. What I find different is that you both have such sophisticated, yet simple and fun decor taste. And you go for all kinds of DIY projects without necessarily knowing how to do it beforehand. To me, it always reads: ‘you can do it too!’

I’m writing to ask for some advice – any you could give – on choosing wall colors. I know this is no simple task.  I need to take action as I am sick of my monochromatic home and I was hoping perhaps you could get me started. I’m hoping with some advice I can move from talk to action… (I’ve had 12 swatches of different colors painted on my dining wall for over 4 months now…notice on picture below next to mid century hutch):

Red House West || Reader Question

I feel I have quite a few nice pieces of furniture (mostly thanks to craigslist) but it doesn’t seem like it is coming together…I’m thinking it might be the lack of paint and art on the walls that makes things look a bit dull. What do you think?

Red House West || Reader Question

I love the dark/bluish greys, loved the emerald greens I saw on your post and love wallpapers. My initial idea was a dark grey on the wall the tv will be mounted on and one light grey throughout the open space. But I do love the dark wall colors…but not sure how it will look as this space is not super luminous throughout the day. I wish more light would come through but this is the typical Baltimore row house and not many windows…so I do want to maximize the light that comes through. I also thought of painting the ceilings some kind of white to give contrast. Anyways – I’m open to suggestions, light or dark colors and am ok with taking some risks!

Red House West || Reader Question

So there it is…any ideas you could spare? I hope so!

First of all Heloisa, you have great furniture and a beautiful space!  We love all your plants and are impressed by your Craigslist prowess.  Katie is crazy for the hutch in the dining room, and Mera is ready to burgle the hand planter from the table next to the chair. Your home is lovely!

We – like you – think your space will benefit from the addition of color, art on the walls, and a few cozifications.  We’re going to take this step by step and we’ve broken our answer into four categories: Paint Colors, Gallery Wall, Over the Sofa, and Textiles.

Paint Colors

Even though we’re big fans of wallpaper and saturated color, we think painting your walls a single color all the way through will highlight the openness of the space and make it look brighter.  We’ve got some ideas for bringing in the jewel tones and patterns you love in other ways, but we’ll get to that in a bit!  We think your instinct for light gray was right on, and we really like the idea of having white trim and a white ceiling that contrasts with the delicate gray walls.  We learned from Katie’s recent foray into the sometimes harrowing world of gray paint that choosing one is no easy task, but we’ve got some suggestions for swatches to try in your space.  We would definitely recommend you look for cooler grays rather than warmer ones, which can often skew tan.

We suggest purchasing sample pots and painting them on a big piece of white paper (a poster board cut in half works great) and sticking them not just on the wall, but also on the floor to get a sense of how they work in your space.  Here are three you might want to try:

  • Katie is really happy (deliriously happy) with the Crystal Ball by Miller Paint she used in her living room.  Miller Paint is an Oregon company (and as far as we can tell doesn’t retail on the east coast), but many paint retailers will be able to find a formula and do a color match for you.

Red House West//Miller Evolution Paint

  • Crushed Ice by Sherwin Williams is light and fresh and would be worth a try:
  • Sterling by Benjamin Moore is another one that looks nice and bright:

Gallery Wall

Art is a great way to liven up a space and add accent colors and personality.  We like the art you have hanging next to the window (great mix of frame sizes and shapes!) in your living room.  We would consider moving that and expanding it, so that it is behind and around the TV.  Having art around a TV gives the eye another place to focus, and makes the TV seem less important.  Having a gallery wall that includes some vibrant art will make that wall a focal point, but without actually painting or wallpapering it a different color from the rest of the space.  Here are some examples of TV/gallery wall combos that we think look just right (you can also check out Mera’s TV/art wall here):

What to Hang Over the Couch

We wonder whether you’d be able to relocate the gorgeous credenza that is currently to the left of your couch over to the wall next to the window (where your art is hanging).  Moving it will break up that long horizontal line and make it more natural to center something over the couch.  Because we suggest you hang a gallery wall behind your TV, we think you should stick a single large piece over the couch so things don’t look too busy.

Large art can be really expensive, but a beautiful rug like this vintage Moroccan one (hung horizontally) could be a great alternative. The colors are gorgeous and this would be a great way to bring those darker tones you love – and some texture – into the room.

You could use your considerable Craigslist skills to find a big mirror, which would brighten things up by reflecting light around the room.  We think one that’s a little ornate would be an interesting contrast to your mid-century look – maybe something like this:

Or, if you’re still interested in bringing wallpaper into the space, you could frame a panel (or two or three) of your favorite pattern.  Just make sure it’s not too busy so that it doesn’t compete with the gallery wall.


Now for our favorite part, textiles!  Colorful pillows and throws will tie your space together and make it feel “done” once you have more art on the walls.  Here are a few rooms that are mostly white and grey, but that come vividly alive thanks to the addition of colorful fabrics:



Because emerald green was mentioned specifically in the question, and because it’s a color that we love too, here are a few richly hued pillows and throws that we think would look beautiful in the space (although not necessarily all together):

Emerald accents
  1. Throw blanket
  2. Splatter Paint Pillow
  3. Oil Painting Pillow
  4. Pom Pom Pillow
  5. Emerald Lumbar
  6. Kantha

Thanks so much for sending us your question Heloisa!  We hope we gave you a few new ideas and if you’re willing to share pictures of your finished space down the road, we’d love to see them!

We’ll be back on Friday for our final post of 2014 – yep, Red House West will be taking a break so we can spend the holidays with family and friends (and, you know, work on our houses).  Thanks for reading along!

Holiday DIY Gift Ideas

We always begin the holiday season with great intentions for making and giving handmade gifts to everyone on our lists, but all of a sudden it’s the middle of December and Christmas is looming. Thankfully it’s not too late, and we’ve found lots of ideas around the web that we’re inspired to try.

This dopp kit is functional and cute and the tutorial is thorough and easy to follow, even for novice sewers like us.

If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you know how much we love our pets.  Both of us would be thrilled to receive Warhol-esque portraits of our furry creatures, and equally thrilled to give them.

Panforte is a traditional Italian holiday fruit and nut cake. It’s delicious, lasts a long time, and makes a great gift.

Decorated wooden spoons would make an adorable present. Making them looks fairly straightforward, especially if you already have a wood burning tool in your DIY arsenal.

This tea and salt soak looks relaxing and beautiful, and is especially appealing in its own little hand-printed bag.

We’ve both been wanting to try this one for a while. It would be perfect as a bedside catch all, or for keys in the entryway.

And don’t forget these tutorials we’ve posted here on Red House West that make great gifts too!

DIY candles

red house west//oil portrait coasters

Red House West//Shibori Dyeing

Red House West - Block Printing Tutorial

Hope your week is off to a great start–check back in with us on Wednesday!

Ideas for Wrapping Gifts

The holidays are fully upon us, gifts ordered on Cyber Monday have arrived in the mail, and it’s time to get wrapping! Packages cleverly wrapped in recycled brown paper or beautiful pieces of fabric make presents into little works of art – and the components of the wrapping can often be gifts in their own right.

We both have ample fabric collections, and this is a great way to use some of the prettier patterns (and also a good excuse to collect them during the rest of the year).  Scarves from thrift stores are also a great, inexpensive and easy source for wrapping gifts.  Furoshiki is the Japanese art of fabric wrapping, and this chart gives some helpful tips for wrapping differently shaped objects:

Basic craft or butcher paper can be embellished with paint, yarn, greenery, or colored paper (or all of them!) and is another beautiful option:

Aren’t these cross stitch gift tags fun?  Such a cute idea.

Red House West || Gift Wrap Ideas

What’s your favorite wrapping technique? Have a great weekend everyone!

DIY Concrete Pedestal Table

Ever since I found my tulip chair and read that Eero Saarinen designed his pedestal collection as a remedy for the “slum of legs” he observed under tables and chairs, I’ve looked at my house a little differently.  When I started searching for a table to place between the two chairs in our living room I knew I had to choose one that could revolt against the legginess, the slumminess, rampant in the room. Red House West//DIY Concrete Pedestal Table The search was harder than I expected, despite the fact that I scoured thrift stores with the single-minded ferocity of a honey badger.  The prolonged search did give me ample time to imagine exactly what I wanted (not always a good thing when you’re hunting among people’s cast-offs), and it looked something like this:

After months of fruitless hunting I decided to manifest my own un-slummy destiny out of a trash can from our laundry room, a rickety $5 Craigslist table, and a generous helping of Ardex Feather Finish (left over from the backsplash). Red House West//DIY Concrete Pedestal Table But let’s back up a little bit.  Here is what I started with – the ‘before,’ if you will: Red House West//DIY Concrete Pedestal Table I unscrewed the legs from the table and removed the brackets.  Cameron and I measured to the center of the table top then used a compass to mark where to affix the trash can.

Just to be clear: those are Cameron's man hands, not mine.

Just to be clear: those are Cameron’s man hands, not mine.

After screwing the trash can into the table top, Cam cut a plywood disc that fit snugly inside the opening of the trash can.  We did this to prevent the plastic from flexing and potentially shearing off the concrete.  I drilled holes then screwed the sides of the trash can into the wood disc.

Red House West//DIY Concrete Pedestal Table

This, alas, is me. Providing evidence of why I blog about my house and not fashion.

Once everything was attached I used the orbital sander to rough up the plastic and wood so the concrete would have something to grab on to, then I put down a tarp in our living room, mixed up some Ardex Feather Finish, and used a putty knife to coat the base of the table. Red House West//DIY Concrete Pedestal TableWorking on a rounded, vertical surface was a new challenge.  I was way too heavy handed with my application of the first coat, which made the texture uneven – even after it dried and I gave it a vigorous sanding.  After wiping it clean, I put a second coat on, let it dry, then sanded again (the making of this table stretched over a couple of days).  Then I flipped it over and used a scraper to smooth out the chunks that were clinging to the edge. Red House West//DIY Concrete Pedestal Table Red House West//DIY Concrete Pedestal TableI then put a dollop of Ardex on the top and – with much more ease than with the base – gave it two coats (again, with dry time and sanding in between).  Getting a clean finish on the rounded edge was challenging, but I found that smoothing it with my finger while it was still damp helped. Red House West//DIY Concrete Pedestal Table When everything was dry I gave it a final sanding, wiped it clean, then applied a coat of Minwax Polyacrylic as a sealant.  And here she is, my lovely little uniped: Red House West//DIY Concrete Pedestal Table Red House West//DIY Concrete Pedestal Table Red House West//DIY Concrete Pedestal Table Red House West//DIY Concrete Pedestal Table While it’s not exactly family heirloom quality (being made from a plastic trash can and all), I’m happy with how this table turned out.  It’s sturdy, fits the space perfectly and only cost me $5.  And in case you were wondering what Dean’s contribution was, here are some outtakes from photographing the table.  He’s such a helper! Red House West//DIY Concrete Pedestal Table Red House West//DIY Concrete Pedestal TableHave a great day!

Tiny Caravan Tour

We spent Thanksgiving this year with my in-laws in Port Townsend, Washington.  We go every year, and this year we woke up to a cozy and rare layer of snow.  My in-laws live in a sweetheart of a house on a bluff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The views are big (Chester and I got married in their yard) but the house is a jewel box, perfect for two. In order to create more space for visitors, they had a friend build what has come to be known in the family as The Buffalito.

Red House West||Tiny Caravan Red House West||Tiny Caravan

The Buffalito is on wheels, built on an old truck chassis actually. Theoretically it can be towed, but it’s been comfortably sited in a little meadow along the gravel drive to the main house for several years. It’s built with all green materials.  Everything that could be sourced from recycled materials was, they didn’t use any urethane, and the interior paint is all milk paint.
Red House West||Tiny Caravan Tour

Red House West||Tiny Caravan TourInside is cozy with braided rugs and lots of pillows and quilts. The full size bed has a nice view into the meadow where deer are frequent visitors (on this trip there was a family of three we saw a lot–recognizable by one darker-furred fawn).
Red House West||Tiny Caravan Tour

Bookshelves and a small table make it a comfortable place to read a book or write a letter (or blog post) with a cup of tea.  There isn’t any need for a kitchen in its current occupation, but it wouldn’t be too hard to convert the bookshelves into a little galley with a sink and small refrigerator if one actually wanted to take this baby on the road.
Red House West||Tiny Caravan Tour

Red House West||Tiny Caravan Tour

Photo by Katy Gilmore

This tiny caravan is a dear space for guests, and could also make a nice office or studio space. Thanks for coming along for the tour–have a great week!

Faraway Friday Vol. 5