Category Archives: Katie’s House

Ranch Rambler: Before

In my last post I shared the reasoning behind our decision to sell our pretty red house and move back into the much smaller – and decidedly less pretty – ranch house we’d been renting out.  The decision continues to feel like a good one; it’s fun to be making lots of plans, both short and long term.

It’s a little terrifying to show ‘before’ photos without any palate-cleansing ‘after’ photos to follow them up.  But this is gonna be a process, folks, and you’re going to start right here at the beginning with me.  Just you, me, and that boob light that greets you right when you walk in the front door.

Red House West || Ranch Rambler BeforeHoo boy.  Just look at that marvelous ceiling texture – so three-dimensional! so tactile!  A perfect background for the mammiferous light that presides over the entrance, threatening to squirt any interlopers.  The ultimate booby trap.
Red House West || Ranch Rambler BeforeSo welcome! Welcome to our home!  Once you’ve entered that aggressively red door (painted by yours truly), you are in a room that comprises the kitchen, dining, and living areas, and makes up most of the house’s square footage.

I have got big plans for that kitchen, but we’re tackling other projects first; taking the uncharacteristically sensible approach of settling in before creating a vortex of chaos in the middle of everything.

Red House West || Ranch Rambler Before

Though it may be hard to tell, we started the process of updating this house when we lived here before. We put in the bamboo floors and we took down a wall and some hanging cupboards that used to separate the kitchen from the rest of the room.

Red House West || Ranch Rambler Before

I don’t have any of those before before photos, so I decided a quick Photoshop rendering might be the most useful way to see what we did:

Red House West || Ranch Rambler BeforeThe wall and hanging cabinets made the kitchen feel dark and closed off, and the rest of the room feel oddly shaped; I like the beam much better.  We’ve started drawing up new island configurations that will provide a little more separation of space (mostly just easing that line of sight to the sink and fridge when you walk in the door) while still keeping the open feeling.

The high ceiling is nice, and we’re really excited to have the woodstove for this winter.

Red House West || Ranch Rambler Before

This photo is taken from the kitchen looking toward the front door.  So much brown wood!

Red House West || Ranch Rambler BeforeAnd this one is taken from next to the woodstove with the front door on the right.  The door on the far left is a coat closet, and the other one leads through the laundry room and into the garage (which we’re using as a woodshop).

Red House West || Ranch Rambler BeforeMore brown wood and popcorn ceilings down the narrow hallway, with doors that open into the bedrooms and a bathroom.
Red House West || Ranch Rambler BeforeThe two doors on the left lead to two small bedrooms – 10′ x 10′ – that are mirror images.  One will be my office, and the other will be our guest room.

Red House West || Ranch Rambler Before

The color of the paint is Composition, and Pre-Red House West Katie – who strongly felt that every room should have its own personality and color – painstakingly chose it and applied it.

The master bedroom gets lovely light.  We swapped out a window for those french doors the last time we lived here (though the curtains were left by the renters) and they open to a small deck and side yard.

Red House West || Ranch Rambler Before

Looking out of the master bedroom, closet on the right and hallway on the left.

Looking out of the master bedroom, closet on the right and hallway on the left.

Are you still with me, or have I scared you off?  In the interest of time, and in an effort to not lose all our readers in one fell swoop, I’m going to leave the bathrooms for a later post.

As I consider plans – and their associated costs – I have to frequently remind myself that it’s unlikely we’ll live in this house forever.  The goal is to live here and save money toward building a house ourselves, and to meanwhile take advantage of the easy maintenance and lower expenses to do some traveling.  We’re not sure whether we’ll ultimately sell this house or keep it as a rental, so we want to make changes that can cover both of those eventualities, while also making it a nicer place for us to live in now.

Obviously this house could use a lot of updating, and we’re dialing in on what is essential and what is not.  The kitchen will definitely get redone, but I also want to focus on some of those whole-house changes that will improve its overall quality and functionality.

The essential whole-house updates:

  • Remove popcorn ceilings
  • Replace hollow core brown doors with solid white ones
  • Replace door hardware
  • Replace rounded brown trim with more substantial white trim
  • Replace light fixtures
  • Paint walls, ceilings, trim, and doors a single color
  • Update heating/cooling system

We’ve already started making progress on some of these, including the  harrowing-but-ultimately-fruitful search for flush mount light fixtures that don’t cause “lactation” to be the first word that comes to mind when you see them.

Can’t wait to share!  Any other thoughts on essential upgrades for bringing a house like this into the new century?

– Oh, and in case you were wondering about the title of this post: In reading our insurance policy, we noticed that this house is referred to as the Ranch Rambler and, since I’ve been trying to come up with a name (thanks for your help in the comments of the last post!), I thought I’d take it for a spin.  What do you think?

Why we Decided to Sell our Red House

Yep, we’ve sold our house. And even though I loved that house (and who really knows that better than all of you who read this blog), it was a very carefully thought-out decision, and one I’m really happy about.

First things first: Don’t worry! We’ll still be blogging, and we’ll still be Red House West! RHW is more than a house color, it’s a design ethos (said with a clenched fist to the heart).
Second things second: This is a text-heavy post, without many photos. If that’s not your bag, come back next week for more regular content! But if you want a glimpse into one person’s process for making a big decision… read on.

A number of months ago Cameron and I held a summit; it took place on the Oregon Coast, and we were the only two delegates present. The purpose of the summit was to check in about our lives: do we like our jobs? Are we happy living in Eugene? Are our goals the same as they were when we married, or have they changed? Are the things we’re doing each day helping us meet those goals?

With big questions like that, it’s easy to talk in circles, so we used the book ‘Smart Choices, a Practical Guide to Making Better Life Decisions’ to help us sketch out an agenda. The book is exhaustive in its methods for decision-making, so we just pulled out three major pieces:

1.) Identify your problem statement
My problem statement: I don’t want to live an ordinary life. That’s might sound a little silly and a little vague, but what I mean is that I want to be able to afford to take interesting jobs that don’t pay much, or to drop everything (except Cameron) to move for an interesting opportunity or an experience.

Cameron’s problem statement: I want time to be creative and to make things. I don’t just want to work all day then do house maintenance.

2.) List your objectives

This was a really fun process! It is basically just a huge brainstorm of all the things we each want, without having to worry about logistics or whether they’re even possible or not. Our lists were long, but some of my objectives were traveling and writing more, and some of our mutual objectives were building our own house, living more simply, and making time and space for creativity.

3.) Identify alternatives

The idea is to come up with lots of different alternatives and then to map them against your problem statement and objectives to see how most of your goals/desires/needs can be met. We came up with lots of ideas (one was to bail on everything and live in a van!), but for us the main alternatives really came down to houses. Way back in 2001, while I was doing everything I could to avoid responsibility, Cameron was doing the opposite – buying a house.  We lived there together before buying the red house and then rented it out.  It’s actually been mentioned once already here on RHW; in my very first blog post ever, I described how we’d done some work on our previous home but felt like we were ‘polishing a turd.’

A glowing description of the house we now live in, right?

When we looked at that list of things we really want – to travel, to eventually build our own house – this was the really clear choice. I’ve never made a decision using anything but my gut before, and this process made it so clear! I definitely feel some longing for the loveliness of the red house, but all I have to do is think about all those objectives and that longing feels more like sweet nostalgia than like loss.

Living here (I need to stop calling it the turd, so it will be called the Ranch House until I (or you) think of something better) gives us more options in terms of paid work vs. creative pursuits and allows us to save towards building our own place. It’s quite a bit smaller than the red house, with a much smaller yard. It’s very easy to rent out, and very easy to maintain. We’re making plans for a big, extended trip abroad this fall. If you read my essay on Design Sponge, you know I’m a nomadic homebody, and this place gives me the chance to inhabit both of those worlds.

What does this mean for the blog? Lots of exciting possibility and so many projects! With the exception of the Chamber of Secrets, much of the work we did on the red house was decorating, not renovating. The bones of that house, with its plaster walls and charm-for-days, didn’t require a total overhaul. This house? It’s a 1978 ranch house and, well, it needs some work. Popcorn ceilings, builder grade everything, a super dated kitchen, and so much dark brown woodwork. Oy. It feels fun, though, to look at it through the lens of all the design knowledge I’ve gained while writing this blog. I have got some ideas.  And also some wallpaper.  But more on that another time.

In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing ‘before’ photos, even though they document some appalling decor choices made by Past Katie (super dark high-gloss paint on heavily textured walls? It’s a DON’T).  I can’t wait to work through our plans with you here on the blog!

the boys

Did you know cat pheromone diffusers are a thing? Ones that plug into your wall like a Glade air freshener? I didn’t either before this move, but they’re a life saver.

Thanks for reading along! How do you go about making big life changes?  I’d love to hear!

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!