Design Definitions: Toran

One of the questions we are frequently asked here at RHW is where the curtain in Opal’s room came from. Today we thought we would share what the textile is, and also give the inside scoop on where to look for one of your own!

The textile is called a toran.  The word is from Sanskrit, and means a sacred gateway. Decorative torans range in size from quite large – ones made to span wide entryways – to smaller torans designed to adorn a narrow door or window.

Red House West || Torans

At over 70 inches, Opal’s toran is on the larger side.

Torans are versatile pieces – they work well as a way to add color to achromatic rooms, but are also at home in bright, eclectic spaces.  This room is restrained and antique-y, and the toran adds just a hint of playfulness.

The pinks and maroons of this toran make this wee kitchen space particularly inviting, even if it is just to practice the sacred art of washing dishes.


The colorful toran hung over the bed makes this simple room a gateway to beautiful dreams.

The deep burgundies of the toran framing this window seat work beautifully with all the indigo textiles in this lovely room.

We love the way this toran spans the work area (a gateway to writing and reading of other worlds!) in this eclectic space.

When looking for a toran of your own on eBay or Etsy, we suggest also using the search terms ’embroidered valance’ or ‘Indian valance.’  Here are some lovely ones we found that are currently for sale:

Would you hang a toran in your home, or are they too over the top for you?  We love to hear your thoughts!

Design*Sponge Essay Contest–Voting is Now Open!

As I mentioned in my post on Wednesday, our very own Katie Bennett is a finalist in the Design*Sponge essay contest!  All of the finalists’ essays have now been posted, and it’s time to vote for the winner.  I’ve loved reading the essays all week and seeing the differences and similarities in the ways that people define home (as it turns out moms are really important).  These are talented writers sharing intimate portraits of their homes and families, and I’ve enjoyed them all.  That said, Katie’s essay gets my vote, and not just because she’s my best bud.

Red House West || Design Sponge Essay Contest

What I love about Katie’s essay is that it is both tightly drawn and expansive.  Her submission spans her entire childhood and adult years, and encompasses no fewer than eight homes, all in the space of six paragraphs.  The essay is intensely personal and revealing, but also completely relatable.  As it is here on RHW, her writing is funny, poignant, and even poetic, but also refreshingly straightforward.

In case you are wondering, Katie did not ask me to write this, and I’m sure she’s red in the face and cringing as she reads it.  But just this once I’m adopting the mantra of the patriarch of Halibut Cove: Act First, Apologize Later.

To read all of the essays and vote, click here.  Voting continues through Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. EST.

Sorry, not sorry, Katie!

Mera’s House: Updates in Opal’s Bedroom

IMPORTANT NOTE:  In case you missed it, my beloved, esteemed, dazzling, exceptional co-blogger Katie B. is a finalist in the Design*Sponge essay contest!  The winner will be chosen by popular vote, set to begin on Friday.  All of the essays posted so far have been great reads, but if you ask me Katie’s is head and shoulders above the rest. THAT’S MY FRIEND!

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Neither Chester nor I speak a second language or play an instrument, and we’re not particularly artistic, either.  Basically we are boring parents whose idea of a good time involves eating oatmeal every morning and every evening watching 45 minutes of PBS programming while wearing non-constricting clothing (if you haven’t seen Poldark you haven’t lived!).  Luckily for Opal our extended family more than fills in the dull and uncultured spaces (chasms?) left by us.  We’re hoping that she will pick up some musicality from her trumpet-playing grandpa, a love of languages from her aunt from Thailand or her uncle from Serbia, and a creative inclination from her two artist grandmas.  Cuz lawd knows she ain’t gettin’ it from us.

Chester’s mom Katy is a painter (who has her own blog which you should definitely be reading).  She sends Opal the sweetest watercolor postcards, and we’ve amassed quite a collection.  I have been trying to figure out how to display them for a long time, with an eye toward this blank wall in Opal’s room:

Red House West || Updates in Opal's Room

I thought about framing the postcards and hanging them here, but I was reluctant because framing would conceal the little notes on the back.  The notes are so loving and totally magical to Opal — one of them has a small envelope taped to it that contains a little tuft of bunny fur that Granny Katy found in her garden.  So I really wanted Opal to be able to look at both sides of the cards and interact with them and, eventually, read them.

The solution I came up with is inelegant, but it achieves the objectives of displaying the original artwork while not hiding the messages on the back: I velcroed them to the wall.

Red House West || Updates in Opal's Room

Because they are not framed, and because they are meant to be moved around and enjoyed by a three year old, I wanted to make sure the velcro pieces were evenly placed so that the arrangement would be as tidy as possible.  I arranged the postcards on the floor and figured out the outer dimensions, and then drew a grid on the wall in pencil.  I found the center of each box in the grid and put a half inch square of velcro there, and on the center of each postcard.

Red House West || Updates in Opal's Room

You can just barely see the grid lines in the photo on the right. Erasing them took longer than all the other steps in this project combined.

I really like the way it turned out; it makes the room feel more complete and, best of all, very personal.

Red House West || Updates in Opal's Room

Red House West || Updates in Opal's Room

Opal and Chester went for a hike while I was putting this together.  She came home exhausted, with her pants on sideways and covered in chocolate milk and dirt, but here is a video of the first time she saw the postcards on the wall:

I’m with Opal, I like all of them, but here are a few of my favorites close up:

Red House West || Updates in Opal's Room

Red House West || Updates in Opal's Room

Red House West || Updates in Opal's Room

And here is Cromwell, happily bathing in the sunshine and demonstrating that the artist’s rendition is kind.

Red House West || Updates in Opal's Room

We also recently converted Opal’s crib to a toddler bed.  I never thought she’d sleep for so long in her crib, but she did, happily and without incident.  Then on a recent day she declared that she was going to sleep on the floor because her baby brother (who is imaginary) was asleep in the crib.  We pulled the mattress out and put it on the floor, and there she slept for the next few nights until we finally took the hint and got the toddler bed conversion kit out of the basement.

Red House West || Updates in Opal's Room

Red House West || Updates in Opal's Room

So that’s the latest in Opal’s room.  Thanks to you for reading along, and a huge thanks and much love to Granny Katy for sending Opal such beautiful original art in postcard form, and for letting me share it here.

Oh, and if you’re a RHW subscriber don’t be alarmed if you receive an extra email from us this week.  It’s just me, reminding you to VOTE 4 K80 in the Design*Sponge essay contest!