Chamber of Secrets Progress: Chair Painting and Light Choosing

Things are moving along in the Chamber of Secrets.  We’re almost done with the built-ins, and I’m hoping to get the painting done in the next week or so.  We’ve made a decision on the floors (more on that another time),and I’ve picked out textiles for the window seat and curtains.  I’ve also finished the update on the Herman Miller shell chair and made some progress on choosing a light fixture.

Part One: Improved techniques for painting shell chair upholstery

I wrapped up my long ago post about painting the tulip chair with the statement that I probably wouldn’t try painting upholstery again, unless it were for outdoor furniture where high sheen and an asphalt-like texture might not be such big deterrents.  Well I was driven by necessity (and a meager budget) to eat my words and give it another try, and I’m so glad I did!  I gave you a sneak peek of the updated Herman Miller chair in my last post about the Chamber of Secrets, but today I want to share some details about what made this attempt at painted upholstery so much more successful than the last one.

Here’s a photo of the chair just after I’d paid $20 for it on Craigslist.  I really love the color of the original fabric, but unfortunately I couldn’t save it.  I tried steam cleaning, many stain removal products, and lots of elbow grease, but I was only able to upgrade it from revolting to disgusting.

the fabric was about a million times worse than it looks in this photo

After a quick paint job, here’s Herman now:
Red House West||Painted Upholstery
And here’s what I used:

  • Black latex interior paint in a flat finish (I had a quart of the least expensive paint I could find color matched to Benjamin Moore Onyx)
  • One bottle of textile medium
  • A container for mixing the paint and textile medium (I followed the directions on the bottle)
  • Paint brush
  • Spray bottle filled with water

The two major differences between this project and when I painted the tulip chair were the type of paint I used and the spray bottle of water.  For the tulip chair I used acrylic paint (which is what the tutorial I followed recommended).  It’s perfectly intuitive that shiny paint will result in shiny upholstery, but I was still so disappointed with how plastic looking my chair was in the end.  Even with the flat paint I used on Herman there’s still a slightly reflective quality, but doesn’t bother me.

Red House West||Painted Upholstery

Using the spray bottle to wet the chair before I painted each coat also made a big difference.  The paint kind of soaked into the fabric rather than sitting on top of it.  I did about four coats, and sprayed a little less water each time.  After the painting was done I gave the fiberglass shell a good scrubbing with a Mr. Clean Eraser and polished up the chrome base with some Brasso.

I’m so happy with the way this chair turned out that it is completely off my to-do list.  I no longer feel the need to reupholster it, and can instead divert that money toward the tulip chair makeover fund.

The Herman Miller chair will live in the Chamber of Secrets, but I took a quick shot of the two shell chairs together looking like very beautiful fraternal twins.

Red House West||Painted Upholstery

Part Two: Choosing a light for the Chamber of Secrets

The next big task for the Chamber of Secrets is choosing an overhead light fixture.  With the addition of the built-ins, we’ll need to move the light’s location over about a foot so it’s still centered in the room.  That means a ceiling hole to patch (oh joy!  more drywall!) and I’d like to have it sorted out before painting.

Most of our downstairs light fixtures are schoolhouse shades from Schoolhouse Electric, and we’re considering doing that upstairs too.  They look nice, give good light, and are kind of undemanding visually.  Here’s a shot of the fixture in our living room:

Red House West||Chamber of Secrets: Making a Design Plan

I like them a lot, but I also like the idea of something a little more… adventurous.  In case you need a reminder, here’s the inspiration board for the Chamber of Secrets:

Red House West||Chamber of Secrets: Making a Design Plan
Red House West||Chamber of Secrets: Making a Design PlanAnd here are some of the lights we’re considering for in there.  The ceiling isn’t super high, so some of these drop fixtures would need to be shortened to make them work.

Red House West||Ceiling Light Round Up 1 Factory Satellite – Schoolhouse Electric; 2 Art Deco Light – eBay; 3 Mushroom Shade – eBay; 4 Vanadin - Ikea; 5 Striped Schoolhouse Shade – Schoolhouse Electric; 6 Alghult – Ikea

Numbers two and three are eBay listings, so no guarantee they’re still available.  Neither of them is exactly cheap ($315 and $199 respectively), but they’re both such beautiful and unique vintage options.  Although I love the Factory Satellite (number one), I’m a little concerned that some of the charm would be lost if we had to shorten the drop.  Number five is similar to what we have in the rest of the house, and I really love the added pizazz the stripes give it.  Four and Six are both Ikea options and are waaaay cheaper than the others ($39.99 each) and I think they could both work.  I’m kind of partial to number six, but I’d want to paint the chrome part of the fixture black.  I think a trip to the Portland Ikea to check them out in person just may be in our future!

Do you have a clear favorite of the ones I’ve shared?  Any other great sources for lighting I should check out?  Thanks for reading along and have a wonderful rest of your week!

Look We’re Loving: Best of Tile

When you visit our Pinterest boards, a few things quickly become clear. We love color, we love pattern, and we love – love – tile. Today we decided to share some of our favorites – whether it’s a kitchen backsplash, an accent for an inset shelf, or an entire floor, there is something undeniably chic about the way tile has been used in these rooms.

Do you have a favorite? We’re particularly enamored of the blue and yellow floor in the first image.  Happy Monday!

Katie’s House: A Bath Caddy for the Downstairs Bathroom

This project has been on my list for as long as we’ve lived in the house.  In damp mid-winter, when the days are short and my bones are cold, one of my favorite indulgences is a hot bath with a book and a glass of wine.  I’ve indulged myself plenty over the last couple of years, but the arrangement for where to rest my book and drink has been gravely unsatisfactory.  I decided to suffer no more, and after just a couple hours of messing around in the shop I had a solution that would elevate my glass, book and – indeed – the whole bathing experience: a bath caddy.

As is the norm when I tackle these kinds of projects, it was not necessarily a straightforward process.  I won’t share this as a tutorial but rather a report, so hopefully you can get some ideas and inspiration to make your own!

I knew I wanted a slatted design, and so I started by cutting some boards we already had to a length that would span the tub.  In the picture below the pinker strips are vertical grain fir and the white strips are pine.

Red House West||DIY Bath CaddyTo make the curved pieces that would fit over the edge of the tub I just made a simple template by tracing the curve onto a piece of cardboard (in the photo below left).  I started cutting it out on the bandsaw (below right), but it got pretty squirrelly so I finished the job with a handheld jigsaw.

Red House West||DIY Bath CaddyI switched my design plan midway and decided that I wanted empty space between the slats, so in the photo below the white pine slats are just there as spacers.  I used a combination of Gorilla Glue and nails to hold everything together.

Red House West||DIY Bath Caddy

After everything had dried it felt sturdy, but I wasn’t that happy with the way it looked.  Though the side view was okay, I really didn’t like the way the bottom bracers weren’t flush with the slats.

Red House West||DIY Bath Caddy

Red House West||DIY Bath Caddy

So then, with the aid of a chop saw and protective eyewear to shield us from the whizzing little cubes, Cameron and I cut small squares and glued them in place.  We chose to orient the grain of the cubes in the opposite direction so it would (hopefully) look more deliberate.  At this stage of making something I inevitably get discouraged by how shoddy things look.

Red House West||DIY Bath Caddy

But after a few passes with the orbital sander and two coats of Tried and True (one of my favorite finishes) I was much happier!

Red House West||DIY Bath Caddy

I haven’t shared this room on the blog before, and there are a few tasks I want to complete before sharing it in its entirety (I’m looking at you boob light), but the space is cute and the tub caddy has made it better.

Red House West||DIY Bath Caddy

I recently hung the round mirror over the tub and I like that it reflects this painting (titled ‘Fish Camp’) by Alaska artist Alex Combs that hangs on the opposite wall.  I subscribe to my mom’s decorating edict that every bathroom needs a naked lady.  Cameron’s dad built the bench below the painting.

Red House West||DIY Bath Caddy

Eventually we’d like to make a stained glass window for this room, but for now we’ve settled for vinyl privacy film (good from far and far from good) and a small stained glass piece that Cameron made for me many years ago.

Red House West||DIY Bath Caddy

I hope you’ll indulge me as I wander down a wee tangent – I don’t feel like I can show you the glass without explaining what it is.  It depicts one of my favorite sea critters, a sea butterfly, or Clione limacina. They’re tiny, no bigger than an inch and usually much smaller.  I’ve found them floating near docks in both Oregon and Alaska, but their range is much larger.  They’re gorgeous little creatures, propelling themselves through the water with tiny wings.

Sea butterflies are ferocious hunters that prey on another kind of winged snail.  When it’s near, sucker-covered arms like an octopus’s shoot out from between their horns to ensnare their prey, then a barbed hook scrapes the flesh from the shell.  Thank goodness they grow no bigger than an inch, right?  If you’re interested, this youtube video in a language I don’t understand at all (but with an awesomely weird soundtrack) shows them in action:

So there’s the bath caddy, a glimpse at our downstairs bathroom, and a little voyage into the weird world of marine critters.

Red House West||DIY Bath Caddy

Thanks for reading along; I hope you have a wonderful week!

Instant Bohemian: Decorating With Piano Shawls

Fringed textiles are a recurrent theme in the most boheme of bohemian spaces, especially intricately embroidered and diaphanous piano shawls.  We both love the look, and decided to collect images of spaces that put these delicate wraps through their decorating paces.

The ultimate, Jimi Hendrix in his London flat bedroom:

The perfect orange fringe to complement a mix of old and new in this kitchen:

found here

found here

We love it draped on this couch, with the fringe arranged just-so:

They’re so versatile – perfect as a window covering, bed canopy or room divider:

From Betsey Johnson's Home in Elle Decor, and found here.

From Betsey Johnson’s Home in Elle Decor, and found here.

What do you think?  A look to love or does it veer a little hippy-dippy for you?  Come back Wednesday for a post from Katie!

De-Organizing the Bookshelves: The Alphabetizer’s Elegy

Shelf styling is a big topic in the world of blogs, Pinterest, and Instagram.  I’m no stranger to #shelfies, but there are some bookshelf styling trends out there that I just can’t abide.  I can relate to remembering books by the color of the cover, so organizing by hue doesn’t bother me, but I regard other shelf-styling trends as anti-book.   Turning books page-side out or covering all the spines in plain white paper elevates form over substance and makes me cringe.  Bookshelves are for books!

I myself have always been a vehement alphabetizer.  I like my books organized by genre and then by the author’s last name.  That’s how our books have been organized in the living room since I moved in, but the visual effect was, well, just look:

Red House West || Bookshelf Styling

Red House West || Bookshelf Styling

Ooft. It hurts a little to show you this, but if you could zoom in you would see that the organization was exquisite.  After living with the shelves in this condition for years I finally admitted to myself that the well-ordered array was visually barf-rageous.  The problem is this: most of the shelves are too small to allow ordinary sized books to stand upright.  In order to organize by author’s name, I had to lay most of the books on their sides, which looks, ironically, extremely disorganized.

So, I muttered the serenity prayer to myself and decided to organize the books by . . . size.  Which basically means I decided to throw all organization out the window and put the books on the shelves where they fit.  Autobiographies mingle with novels, books of poetry sit cheek to jowl with non-fiction.

Alphabetized organization exhausted all appeals.  This book was my size guide for books that fit on the smaller shelves.

The Executioner’s Song was the biggest book that could fit on the upper shelves.  I used it as a ruler to find other books that would fit up there too.  I’ve been trying to think of something funny to say about this but keep coming up waaaay short.  This is the book against which all others are measured?  Alphabetization went before the firing squad?  You see my dilemma.

Despite having essentially no organizing principle, taking all of the books down, removing ancient boarding passes from their pages, and blowing dust from their covers, helped me to reacquaint myself with what lives on these shelves.  The other upside is that the shelves look a lot better too:

Red House West || Organizing the Book Shelves

Opal’s books occupy the bottom shelf and are definitely the most frequently paged through tomes we have.

Red House West || Organizing the Bookshelves

I prefer a tighter arrangement of books (another pet peeve is shelves that have a high stuff:book ratio). I wanted it to look pleasing but not too perfect; shelves that include well-loved books, a few treasured objects, and invite frequent perusal.
Red House West || Organizing the Bookshelves

Red House West || Organizing the Bookshelves

My husband’s birth announcement. I love that the other notable events of the day include stag mountain oysters at the VFW, and a chili dog special at the A&W “Island of Refreshment.”

Here are the shelves on the other side of the entrance to the living room:

Red House West || Organizing the Bookshelves

I also painted the speaker wire white, and relocated Opal’s little table to the playroom.

And here are a few pulled back shots (with a bonus view of Cora’s Spy vs. Spy pointy face).

Red House West || Organizing the Bookshelves

Red House West || Organizing the Bookshelves

The day after I finished revamping the shelves our carbon monoxide detector malfunctioned, which resulted in the fire department coming out. One of the firefighters commented to Chester that our house is “really clean and organized.”  At least emergency responders battling the silent killer are fooled!

In all seriousness, I’m really pleased with the shelves.  I feel like despite being not organized, they are organized in the sense that I know where everything is again, and they are a lot nicer to look at!

Thanks for reading along everyone, Katie will be back next week with a new post!

Etsy Finds!

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:

I’ve had my eye on these mixed media pieces by Hollie Chastain for a long time.  I love the vintage palette and the energy of her work.

craterlakeIdHolly Chastain1

Another mixed media artist I love is Kari Herer.  Her combination of simple line drawings with photography of pastel-hued florals makes for such sweet and interesting images.




From Mera:

I’m completely enchanted by the ceramics of Clay Opera.  I love the whimsical shapes and fairy tale faces:

Red House West || Etsy Finds

Red House West || Etsy Finds

Red House West || Etsy Finds

I’ve been experimenting with paper cutting lately and it’s given me a new appreciation for the art.  Annabella67’s work is quirky and intricate, and I’m a big fan.

Red House West || Etsy Finds

Red House West || Etsy Finds

Red House West || Etsy Finds

Have a great week everyone!

Heartfelt Felted Hearts and Other DIY Valentine’s Day Gifts

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and I thought it would be fun to share a very straightforward tutorial for creating felted hearts.  These simple felted hearts take about 5 minutes to make, and can be used in lots of different ways.  They would make a sweet card, either glued or stitched on, or they could be felted directly onto a wool sweater or favorite blanket, or used to adorn a gift.

I originally made these based on this tutorial from Design Sponge.  Here’s what you’ll need:

Red House West || DIY Valentine's Day

-wool roving, like this

-felting mat or piece of thick foam (I used an old memory foam pillow)

-felting needle (JoAnn and Michaels both carry these)

-heart-shaped cookie cutter

-an old sweater, blanket, or scraps of wool if you are going to felt onto something, rather than making separate hearts

Take a small piece of the wool roving and place it in your cookie cutter.  It should be a thin layer, and you can always add more layers later if it looks patchy.

Red House West || DIY Valentine's Day

Then stab the wool over and over with your felting needle.  Be sure to coax fibers to the edges of the cookie cutter with the needle to form the outline of the heart.

Red House West || DIY Valentine's Day

Once you’ve filled the cookie cutter shape completely, you can remove it and keep stabbing the felt.  If you’re making separate hearts (rather than felting onto a blanket or sweater) you’ll need to peel them off of the foam.  And there you have it, heartfelt felted hearts!

Red House West || DIY Valentine's Day

Red House West || DIY Valentine's Day

Red House West || DIY Valentine's Day

Red House West || DIY Valentine's Day

If felted hearts aren’t your thing, here are a few other sweet love-themed DIY ideas from around the web:

Thanks for reading along, have a great rest of the week everyone!