DIYs to Try

Hi everyone and welcome back from the long weekend!  We both took advantage of the break to get away from our computers and into the woods – it felt good to unplug and fun to do some daydreaming about the coming summer months.

It has been ages since we’ve done a round up of DIYs we’re inspired to try and, with long days and warm nights on the brain, we thought we’d share some fun outdoor-inspired tutorials from around the web.

From Katie:

There have been a lot of evenings spent around our backyard firepit recently, and we’re in dire need of some more seating.  I love this cheerful macrame update to old metal lawn chairs, and Scoops’ tutorial over on Deuce Cities Henhouse is awesomely detailed!

Red House West || DIYs to TryRed House West || DIYs to TryThese little paper lanterns are so charming!  They could definitely work for the winter holidays too, but I think they’d be perfect – perhaps with battery-powered candles – out on the picnic table for a warm summer dinner.

Red House West || DIYs to TryI can see these family-portrait-coloring-book pages being so fun for both kids and adults!  I love the thought of doing this with some awkward childhood photos, and can imagine they’d be a real hit as a party favor at a wedding or reunion too.

Red House West || DIYs to TryRed House West || DIYs to Try

From Mera:

Under my mother in law’s care, our backyard was a magical wonderland that delighted garden tour visitors.  I’m ashamed by how far it has fallen under my (lack of) care, but the beautiful weather we’ve been having has inspired me to work on making the yard special again.

I love Otomi, and this little garden table is a sweet way to bring the pattern outside.

This spray painted outdoor rug is a simple project and a good way to define an outdoor space without spending a bundle.

This table may not necessarily be a central part of backyard beautification, but it sure looks fun!

What outdoor DIY projects are on your list?

The Chamber of Secrets Reveal: Part One

Once, a very long time ago (six months, to be exact), I shared the gruesome underbelly of our house with you–the Chamber of Secrets.

chamber-of-secrets-signToday, I ask you to once again push that door open to see that the Chamber of Secrets has transformed into… well, the Chamber of Secrets (the name has stuck, but now we say it in less sepulchral tones).  Go ahead, take a peek inside.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneOkay, okay.  So it might have a been a little preemptive to call this a reveal post.  Because we haven’t finished the cabinet doors.  And the top of the shelving still needs trim.  And there’s one more trim piece to add to the floors.  But it’s hard for me to even feel that bad about misleading you because when we started this project there was this whole crappy carpet/exposed insulation/puny ceiling fan/random plywood squares/unholy mess of boxes situation.   Here, let me remind you.

from-door-2Then scrub your eyeballs with this:

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part One

It’s a trick of perspective making that post on the corner shelves look bent – in real life that thing is straight as an arrow!

I mean sure, it couldn’t really have gotten worse, but it is so, so much better.  Today I thought I’d give some details on the main elements we added to the room: the floors, the closet, and the shelving.


Our house was built in 1930, and the downstairs floors are fir. Our entire upstairs though (excluding the bathroom, thank goodness), is a patchwork of poorly-fitted industrial carpet over subfloor.  No gorgeous wood floors just waiting to be exposed here.  Our plan is to banish the carpet in the next year or two, so we needed to choose flooring that fit in our budget not just for this room, but for the entirety of the upstairs.

We knew we wanted something period-appropriate – a domestic hardwood that would feel right in our old farmhouse.  My initial thought was pine. It would definitely suit our house, and I really love the way it looks. But even though pine is notoriously soft, I was pretty surprised by how soft the sample actually was.  I mean, I could make a groove in it with just my fingernail.  Here’s a little video:

I don’t mind a little patina (shoot, our whole house is patina’d), but Cameron and I both worried that the rolling trundle bed and rolling office chair, and just general living, would leave the floor with deep grooves and scratches.  So we cast our net a little wider and eventually narrowed our choices to hickory and ash.

Samples of ash, hickory, and pine

Samples of ash, hickory, and pine

Tearing out the carpet and removing all the staples was dirty and tedious, but not difficult.  Overall the installation of the floor – we chose pre-finished wood with boards the same width as our downstairs floors – was straightforward.  Our house is sloped and canted and definitely not square, so there was some alchemy (the alchemy of measurements and swearing) required to get the job done.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part One

Cameron replacing part of the subfloor. He could be wearing those headphones to protect his ears from power tools, or maybe to block out the Scottish strains of hundreds of hours of ‘Outlander’ that played incessantly during this project. Try not to be too jealous of our sound system.

In the end we chose hickory for its durability, price and beauty.  The variegation is a little more intense than I pictured when extrapolating out from the four-inch sample, and I admit to some serious second-guessing when the floor was about halfway in.  It’s growing on me though, and I think it’s pretty in this simple, all-white room.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneThe Closet
You may remember that the inspiration for the closet came from this old door (that we think is original) that we found in the storage room of our house.
closet-door-beforeAfter a thorough cleaning, painting, and a quick refreshing of the hardware, it was looking sweet.  But also short.  We didn’t want to hang it so the bottom was flush with the floor, because that would mean ducking down to see inside the closet.  Instead we opted to hang it high, so the baseboard forms a little step.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part One

I might be a little proud of my drywall work – those small walls represent so many hours of mudding and sanding!

I’m glad we hung it high, because it led to one of my favorite little details in the room – the door trim cut to fit the slope of the eave.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneIt’s a decent-sized closet (I’m so glad we didn’t do a cupboard like we originally planned), and inside we just put a simple shelf and a hanging bar.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneShelf design
The biggest and most complicated part of this project by far was designing and building the cabinets and shelves.  It took a lot of discussing, negotiating and idea-bouncing between Cameron and me, and I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out.  Here’s where we started (if you missed the first part of this saga and are wondering why there’s no drywall, you can read about it here):

desk-and-windowsWe’re in a much better place now!

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneWe knew (thankfully) ahead of time that if we built the shelves down in the shop they would be too big to fit up our narrow staircase, so we hauled all the tools upstairs and built them in the room.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part One

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneThen we grunted like the weightlifters we aren’t and lifted that thing into place.  The corner shelves were screwed directly into the studs  of the closet.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part One

Not the prettiest stage of the renovation.

A major consideration in the design of the shelves was how to keep everything from being too visually heavy.  This room has really lovely light and a nice view into the treetops that we didn’t want to block, and so Cameron came up with the idea of radiused shelves near the window.  We also left the edge of the corner shelves open.  I like the idea of placing some books with their spines facing out to break things up a little and keep it interesting.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part One

We’re still finishing up the trim on the top and bottom – those gaps won’t be there when we’re done.

Cameron installed an outlet in the corner, and we wrote lots of secret messages for some future inhabitant to find in the space behind where the two shelves meet.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneI was pretty adamant about having just a single support in the front, which meant adding some wedge supports near the curved ends to keep the shelves from bowing under the weight of books.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneWe built the window seat lower so that the cushion will sit flush with the top of the cabinets. I plan to pretty much live in this spot in the coming months.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part One

Oh man I could go on and on, but this post is getting pretty long so I’ll save some for next time.  I’m so excited to finish up the last few little projects so we can start moving furniture in!   Can’t wait to show you!

The Resurgence of Rattan

Maybe it’s because we’re on the cusp of summer, but lately in many of our favorite rooms we’ve noticed a surprising element–rattan.  It’s a material of contrasts: it’s sturdy but visually light, it evokes the 1970s but doesn’t look dated, and while it’s casual enough for the patio it blends seamlessly into more sophisticated interiors.

In this picture the visual spaces in the headboard allow the mural to shine through, and the dramatic shape of the bed almost becomes part of the scene as if the curls and furls are little fiddleheads emerging from the forest floor.

Red House West will be having its next blog conference in this setting, thank you very much.

This room has a tightly unified neutral pallet, but the mix of materials–wood, metal, leather, wool, and rattan–keeps it interesting.

The shape of this bench is pretty out there, but because of the unassuming material it totally works.  It could easily take center stage or, as in this picture, be a nice complement to other elements in a room (we’re both positive that given the chance we could each make this work in our living rooms).

Give us a cup of tea and the latest edition of domino and you’ll find us here:

Another great thing about rattan is that it’s affordable.  Ikea’s new NIPPRIG collection has some pieces that make Katie consider a road trip to Portland, and make Mera contemplate buying her own container ship.

Urban outfitters also has some nice options, as does Serena and Lily.


What do you think?  Are you on board with the rattan comeback?  Check back on Wednesday for the Chamber of Secrets reveal, Part 1!