Author Archives: Katie

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.

Guest House-Studio_5.1

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.

Guest House-Studio_6

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.

Guest House-Studio_10

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!

Feathering My Nest: a DIY Disaster

In the nearly two years we’ve been writing this blog I’ve made my share of mistakes (or, in the parlance of politicians, mistakes were made). Remember when I painted our whole living room the babiest of blues? That was bad. Do you know what’s worse?  The time (last weekend) when I tried to DIY down-wrapped couch cushions and ended up choking on a trillion feathers and my own abject failure.

It’s as if I’ve become so accustomed to the ‘oh shit’ feeling that occurs at some stage of every DIY project that I’m completely desensitized to the real fear of something going horribly awry.  For instance, seems like I should have seen the hell I was about to unleash upon my home right about here:

feather mayhem

While I might have had a premonition (and a fit of sneezing from the downy fluff that was already air born), I didn’t let it stop me.  Heck no.  I didn’t stop until my house looked like a site of carnage and I could no longer see a path forward (literally or figuratively).


This is what it sounds like when doves cry.  RIP Prince.

It was at that point I wiped the tears of frustration from my eyes, tried to look on the bright side (at least I wasn’t covered in tar), and gave Mera a DIY 9-1-1 call.

With Mera’s help a plan was hatched (*cough*), and with Cameron’s help our house no longer looks like a torpedoed aviary (though Fat Bunny just sauntered into the room looking like he’d been wrestling a chicken, so it might take a while before all remnants of this disaster are erased).  I fully expect to show you a finished couch in my next post, but because I don’t want to end on a down note in this post (omigod, I am killing it), I thought I’d share a couple projects we recently completed around here that didn’t make me cry.

When we first moved in, the well was housed in a dilapidated eyesore of a tin shed that was a popular clubhouse for neighborhood cats (and they liberally marked it as such). Here it is the autumn we moved in:

tin shed 2

And here is today’s much more unified palette:

back yard

Before (with a Tiny Tiger photo bomb):

tin shed 1

And now.  We hooked a sink up to the well as a veggie washing/canning station, and I used Ardex Feather Finish (the same stuff I used on our laundry room backsplash and the pedestal table) to coat the counters. At some point I might tile the recessed area behind the sink.

sink in pump house

Another thing that’s not making me cry is the pink room. This was the guest room until we finished the Chamber of Secrets and then it became a sort of catch-all/junk room. When we recently tackled the upstairs, we did a major purge of stuff and put in new wood floors.  For now it’s the place I go to pretend I’m Marie Kondo and marvel at the four objects that are sparking joy.

pink roompink room 2

I’m looking forward to wrapping up the couch project, and I’m excited to share it with you next time (barring further disaster).  Thanks for reading along!

Katie’s House: An Upstairs Update

We’ve been putting every spare moment to work around here lately –  painting, nailing, sawing, and caulking.  We are walking a perilous line between house project elation and house project burnout, but the satisfaction I get from seeing all the changes is worth it.  In my last post I showed you some progress we’d made in our upstairs:

hallway progress
The fresh white walls and new subfloor were already a big upgrade from the dirty carpet and urine-hued walls, but we’ve made a lot of progress since then.  Here’s where we’re at now:

Red House West||Charcoal Stairs

I’m so excited!  (And also sore and a little tired).  Look at the way the floor just keeps going into the Chamber!  It’s like it’s all part of the same house or something!

Red House West||Charcoal Stairs

The closed door leads to our bedroom – which is not yet part of the same house, alas.

While I never once considered that the slate floor of the bathroom would relate nicely to the charcoal of the stairs, I’m glad it does!

Red House West||Charcoal Stairs

Sorry the photos aren’t great (low light has been the name of the game around Eugene lately).

We’ve still got some trim work to finish up, but it feels like the lion’s share of the work is done.  Painting the stairs didn’t end up being too hard, though it did require a fair amount of pre-planning.  Pro-tip: make sure to put the lid of the paint can at the bottom of the stairs, so when you’ve painted yourself down there you have it.

Red House West||Charcoal Stairs

To prep the stairs, I hand scraped and sanded them to get the overspray from the wall texture off, then I filled the most egregious (splinter-edged) holes with wood filler. The stairs are old and worn-in and I don’t mind that, so I didn’t fuss about filling everything.

To paint, I started at the top 🙂 and had with me a dustpan and broom, a damp cloth, and a microfiber cloth.  I made sure each step was clean as can be before painting.  Because the stairs are a mix of plywood and hardwood, some of it painted, I did a coat of dark-tinted primer first.  I had floor and porch paint color-matched with Benjamin Moore’s ‘Raccoon Fur,’ which is the prettiest shade of charcoal with some blue-green undertones.

Red House West||Charcoal Stairs

Don’t worry about those paint splatters near the wall; they’ll be covered by trim soon enough!

You might remember that I was worried about keeping Fat Bunny at bay, but it ended up being simple.  I just painted down to the lower landing and shut the door, then waited until he’d entered his daily 10-hour torpor to do the bottom few steps.

Red House West||Charcoal Stairs
I’m so happy with the way it looks! There’s a fair amount of finish work still to do, but I dare say we’re well on our way to the British farmhouse aesthetic that I aspire to.
Red House West || Stairs

Red House West||Charcoal Stairs

Thanks for reading!  Have a great week!