Marveling at Marthe Armitage

This post is filed under the category “We’re Inspired,” but inspired doesn’t begin to describe how we feel about Marthe Armitage, a British wallpaper designer who prints her own linocut designs by hand on a small press she bought in the 1960s.

Wallpaper has been back on the design scene for years and, while we’re often enchanted by what a beautiful pattern can do for a room, we also know how dated wallpaper looked even just 15 years ago. We think Marthe’s wallpapers have an imperishable appeal because her process and designs blur the line between decorative and fine art.

Here is an excellent video that gives you a glimpse into Marthe’s approach and the humble but forceful woman she is:

Perusing her designs, which are available through Hamilton Weston, is a feast for the eyes.  Here are some of our favorites:

Red House West || Marthe Armitage Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 7.04.32 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 7.03.07 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 7.01.01 PM

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Marthe also recently collaborated on a collection with Jo Malone, and we’re tempted by the scented drawer liners as much for the paper as for the luxurious fragrance.

Our favorite is the vases in blue; what’s your favorite from the wallpaper grande dame?

Reader Question: John’s Blank Slate Part 2

Two weeks ago we shared the first part of our answer to reader John’s question: how to furnish and decorate his blank slate condo.  John was unsure of where to begin, but knew that he likes mid century furnishings, and a cool and collected but definitively adult eclectic look (see pictures of John’s place plus his inspiration images here).  We picked out the big furnishings, and our task this week is to add in all the pretties that make a space feel special.  As a reminder, this is the layout we came up with for John’s space:

Red House West || Reader Question

Poring over John’s Pinterest images, we noticed that he is drawn to warm colors, vintage rugs, and rooms that look like they would feel good, rather than being overly decorated. Because we didn’t talk about a color palette with John, we wanted to give him two options.  This first is the brighter of the two, with hints of orange and red from the rug, plus mint, navy, camel, and gray.

Option two is a bit more muted, and feels to us to be maybe a bit more fancy.  On part 1 of this post a commenter mentioned that Butterfly chairs aren’t comfortable, so we wanted to give John another option. The leather chair in this mood board doesn’t look like the height of comfort either, but it’s visually airy and sculptural, and we think it would suit John’s space.  (There’s no coffee table in this board, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still think John should have one).
Reader Question Living Room 3

Rug || Gray Chairs || Leather Chair || Couch || Light Pillows || Tasseled Pillow || Kilim Pillow || Blanket || Floor Lamp || Side Table
In the first post we recommended that John buy a slim console table (we like the clean lines of this one) to go behind the sofa.  We don’t have dimensions for John’s home, but assuming it would all fit, we still think he should do that.  It makes looking at the back of a sofa much more pleasant, and would be a great spot for a table lamp, a few books and artful objects, and a plant.

Many of John’s Pinterest images featured gallery walls, and we think the space over his two end-to-end Ikea cabinets would be a great place for one!  Here’s the inspiration photo we shared with him in the last post:

Red House West || Reader QuestionChoosing art for someone is a tricky proposition but we came up with some options we love, and that seem like a good fit for his style:


Clockwise from top left 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

That Joan of Arc poster is from Anna Dorfman’s shop on Society 6 (nobody does self indulgence like Morrissey), and all the rest are from Etsy.  Isabella di Sclafani’s quirky portraits have been mentioned on this blog before (we both have her work in our houses); she has a ton of great options, but we’re especially fond of that blue-shirted dame in the lower right corner.

We also gave some thought to John’s dining room.  His inspiration photos feature a lot of mis-matched chairs, like this:


We think this could be a great way to bring some vintage items into his space and, since he lives in the Craigslist mecca of southern California, we recommend he do some looking there.  Since it’s pretty much our dream come true to be actually in need of chairs – rather than being in a position of having to part with a surplus – we did some vicarious shopping:

Red House West || Reader Question

1, 2, 3, 4

That rope chair on the left is a beauty, isn’t it?

So there you have it!  John’s slate is blank no more!  Thanks for reading along, and definitely send your questions our way (just use the ‘contact us’ link at the top of the page).  Have a great week!

A Studio-Guesthouse in the Oregon Woods

I recently (with a lot of urging and support from Mera) applied for a position writing house tours for the venerable blog Design*Sponge, and the final stage of the hiring process is to write a house tour of a place that has never been shared on the internet before.  The timeline for this submission was short – I found out I was a finalist just over a week ago – but luckily I have family nearby who were willing to let me invade their beautiful space to take photos!

Since D*S is interested in getting a sense of my writer’s voice, and presumably I’d be writing tours of homes belonging to people I’m not related to, I’ve opted to replace “mom and stepdad” with Susan and Terry. I’ve also omitted our names, but Red House West readers just might recognize a certain thriftstore-loving daughter and a handy son-in-law.

A Studio-Guesthouse in the Oregon Woods

Terry, a chemical engineer, published poet, and erstwhile ceramicist, and Susan, a retired teacher and writer, live on the banks of the McKenzie River in the deep green Oregon woods.  For more than a decade Terry used a moldy, damp cabin on the back of their property as his company’s home base.  When conditions in the decrepit cabin became truly untenable (picture a sodden structure cowering beneath a tarp during the onslaught of Oregon’s winter rain), he and Susan employed the help of local architects and craftspeople to build a space to serve not only as an office but also – to the great delight of their six grown children and eight grandchildren – as a guesthouse.

Guest House-Studio_11

The height of the windows was designed to frame Eagle Rock, a tall monolith on the river’s opposite bank.  A library ladder provides access to both a sleeping loft and the upper shelves, which house a mix of Terry’s own ceramics – made with a chemist’s delight at the alchemy of glaze – and art collected both locally and abroad.  The thrifted stools make for a comfortable work perch at the computer.

Guest House-Studio_1

Tongue and groove fir subfloor with beveled edges was an economical and durable choice that melds well with the mix of modern and rustic elements.  The vintage Ekornes chair was a gift from longtime friends; their daughter brought the wool throw back from Ireland.

Guest House-Studio_2The bedroom was originally conceived as a ceramics studio, but sleeping space for the clamoring hordes of children won out.  For now, anyway.

Guest House-Studio_3Glass-paned french doors open into the cozy bedroom.  Susan chose the golden paint so it would be a warm, sunny hug during the sometimes bleak Oregon winters.

Guest House-Studio_4The quilt was made by Susan’s grandmother, the 18th century chair was given to her by her mother, and the bed was built by their son-in-law.

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The color scheme of the bathroom is deliberately simple to highlight the abundant green outside the windows.  Susan and her daughter found the industrial sewing machine base amidst the rubble of a nearby antique shop and Mike, a local craftsman, fashioned the top.  The mirror is from a thrift store and the sconces are from Schoolhouse Electric.

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The Talavera sink, purchased on eBay, lends a spot of color to an otherwise neutral space.

into bedroom 7

The electric candles were originally placed in the window as a holiday decoration, but now provide a welcoming beacon year-round.

Guest House-Studio_7Terry and Susan plan to add plush rugs and maybe bean bags to the loft, but it’s already a favorite place for the older grandkids to roll out sleeping bags and stay the night.Guest House-Studio_8An eagle’s eye view from the loft shows the small kitchenette and a wood stove perched atop smooth grey slate.

Guest House-Studio_9A view of Eagle Rock.

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A portrait from six year-old granddaughter Sadie, and what Terry loves most about his space (itemized in true scientist fashion):

a.) The view of Eagle Rock is like stepping into a spaceship ready for liftoff.

b.) The ladder is my own steps straight to heaven complete with books and art.

c.) It’s the place to camp out (in) with three granddaughters!

Guest House-Studio_12Floor plan of the roughly 700 square foot space:


Isn’t it a cool space? Cameron and I fantasize about using the plans to build our own place just like it. A slightly bigger kitchen, and I think it’s a perfect size for two.

Also! I know we’re in the midst of decorating John’s blank slate, and don’t worry! Mera and I will be back with textiles and art for his space next week; we’re really excited to show you what we’ve come up with!