Tag Archives: mid century modern

Couch Inspiration

We’ve almost wrapped up our couch project – the frame is complete (hooray!), but our dining room is buried beneath huge expanses of fabric, frayed and ripped upholstery thread, and the salt of a thousand tears.

For today I thought I’d show you some of the inspiration behind our couch. But first? A confession.

Do you remember back in September when I shared photos of this floral couch?  The couch that lost us a number of Instagram followers and was much maligned in the comments?
Red House West || Sometimes it ain't Pretty
Well, here’s the thing. I bought that couch. Yes I did.  Despite the gagging noises implicit in your feedback, I went in on a day it was 50% off and plunked down cold, hard cash.  Cameron was pretty stoked to come in the door one evening only to be hustled right back out as I said, “You know that couch that you and everyone else hated? Well I bought it and we need to pick it up before the store closes tonight.”

At the thrift store, we removed the cushions – dislodging a bounty of used tissues, pet hair, other hair (oh god) and assorted debris – and hefted that sucker into the truck. Have I mentioned that it was our anniversary and that we were leaving on a trip and had a to-do list a mile long? Wood may be the traditional fifth anniversary gift, but I commemorated ours with a large, dirty couch that, according to Instagram, conjured up images of culottes, the 1980s, and too many cats.

Red House West || Couch Inspiration

Just in case you need proof that I actually dragged that thing home

You see, dear readers, I was going to dazzle you with my incredible makeover skills.  If only the couch would have fit through our hallway, or the window we tried to cram it through, I’m very sure I would have succeeded.

The couch went back to the thrift store, and I did my best to move on. I couldn’t find anything I liked in the dimensions we needed (etched irrevocably in my brain after le soFiasco) at my usual haunts, but I saw this beauty on Anthropologie and thought, with my usual delusional confidence, pffft, we could totally make that.  And so it began.
Red House West || Couch Inspiration

I had an initial gut reaction to that Anthro couch, but when I wiped the hearts from my eyes and really looked at it, I realized it wasn’t totally practical for us.  I decided maximum lounging potential required two armrests to lean against, and more of an angle on the back.

I really loved this one by Australian designer Mark Tuckey, but decided it would be a lot of wood in a room that already has wood floors and wood trim.

Red House West || Couch Inspiration

I was drawn to the cant of these arms, but not the rigidity of the back:

This dreamy sofa by Pop & Scott has neither arms nor back, yet I almost managed to convince myself that it was perfect.



The couch we kept coming back to, and ultimately the one we based much of our design on, is this one found over on Italian flooring site Marazzi.  I loved the flare of the arms and the simplicity of the style, and figured we could up the comfort factor with deep cushions.

Red House West || Couch Inspiration

Once we had finally settled on a design for a frame, deliberations on the cushions began. I knew I wanted a single, long seat cushion with two back cushions and squishy, narrow cushions for leaning against the armrests.  Kind of like this:

I also knew I didn’t want the shape of the seat cushion to be too boxy – I wanted it to be thick and inviting, and I got downright obsessed with the way cushions are seamed and curved. Like this one, where the fabric wraps around the front with no visible seams:

One way to achieve this look is the knife edge seam (unlike a box cushion with two seams, there’s a single seam and a T-shaped edge), as seen on a lovely Pop & Scott couch:
Red House West || Couch Inspiration

Here’s an example with a more pronounced single seam that encircles the whole cushion:

There’s something very appealing about the insouciance of flanged cushions (maybe because it looks like they’ve been moved from the bedroom to the couch?), and I gave them some serious consideration.

After endless deliberation I did make a decision, and as soon as I wrestle the fabric into submission I’ll be glad to show you everything!   For now, here’s a shot of our couch sans back:

Red House West || Couch InspirationThanks for providing me with distraction (please send me some sewing mojo!) and for reading along, and have an excellent week!

*An update on the couch project is here

Katie’s House: Lamps are the New Chairs

My love of chairs has been well documented here at Red House West – from confessions of an addict, to the rescue of a small town girl with big dreams, to a late night mid-century modern recliner score at the Goodwill – I am drawn to chairs like a moth to a flame.  Perhaps you’ll be proud of me when I tell you that it’s been months (yes, months!) since a chair came home with me.

But I have a new confession, dear readers: I am now a lamp lady.

Red House West || Lamps are the New Chairs

People who follow us on Instagram might have seen this coming…

This new addiction caught me kind of unawares.  One minute I was patting myself on the back for not bringing home any more chairs and the next minute I was sitting, eyes glazed, dazzled by a thousand watts of lamp light.  Or more.

You see, much as my love of chairs is tied up with a delusion of rescue – so is my love of lamps.  I bring home the bedraggled and the broken, and give them new life.  They need me.

On my birthday last November, Cameron and I were cruising around a few favorite secondhand stores.  I had seen this lamp on a high shelf a few weeks previously, but hadn’t gotten a good look at it.  Its funny shape had stuck with me, though, and when I saw it was gone I asked whether it had sold.  It turned out it was broken, and the vendor had left it out by the trash heap in back.  I had it in our car before I could say happy birthday to me.

Red House West || Lamps are the New ChairsA replacement switch only cost a couple of dollars and was really easy to do.  I removed a single bolt from the bottom of the lamp, there were only two wires to connect, and I didn’t have to worry which one went with which.  Once the wires were connected, I just pushed the switch up through the top of the lamp’s base, and then I replaced the bottom.  So easy!

Red House West || Lamps are the New Chairs

Red House West || Lamps are the New ChairsAbout a month ago I found this crazy art deco lamp while out treasure hunting with my mom. She surprised me with it later, and I love it. The details are insane; that base really slays me.

Red House West || Lamps are the New Chairs

I didn’t love the shade though. It was definitely not original, and neither the proportions nor the era were quite right. I did a little hunting around on eBay to see if I could find one I liked better but everything seemed too ornate, or too era appropriate, and I realized that what I wanted (and this lamp needed) was something sleek and simple so the details could really shine. Something like this:

I think the new shade works perfectly – much like a vintage outfit can skew costume-y if it’s all from a single decade, so it is with lamps. The modern lines of this shade keep the lamp from looking like a prop for a play, and allow it to work with the other pieces in my already eclectic living room.  And most importantly, Beatrice approves.

Red House West || Lamps are the New Chairs

Red House West || Lamps are the New Chairs

Mera asked whether I intentionally framed this picture so Beatrice would have a Harry Potter-esque lightning bolt. Perhaps subconsciously – Beatrice’s magic is strong.

I recently found this ceramic mid-century lamp at a thrift store.  I don’t have a good ‘before’ picture, but believe me when I tell you that it was looking pretty rough.  I can’t say enough about the power of the Magic Eraser in the face of dingy-looking white ceramics and I used another favorite – Restor-a-Finish – to spruce up the wood part.  I’m not sure just which room this beauty will be living in, but once I figure it out it will be fun to create a shade for it.

Red House West || Lamps are the New ChairsSo there you have it!  A tale of three lamps – one rescued from the brink of death, one from a fashion faux-pas, and one from the company of too many ceramic clowns on the thrift store shelves.  What have you been dragging home lately?  I’d love to hear!

Tips for Scoring Treasures at Thrift Stores and on Craigslist

Well first of all, I’m really sorry about that unintentional peek at the first draft of this blog post which landed in the inboxes of Red House West subscribers yesterday. I’m still cringing with embarrassment, though when I called Mera to see if she thought we should fire me from Red House West, she put it in good perspective. Relative to Jennifer Lawrence, she said, my shouldn’t-be-published-on-the-internet woes were small. She’s right, as usual, and I am grateful. I heard it helps to share your gratitude, so here’s mine:

I am grateful that there were no nudie pictures of myself in the rough draft of a post about thrift stores that I accidentally published.

Forgive me? And moving on…

Predictably (though somehow I’m always surprised), I am not ready to share the dazzling living room ‘after’ shots as I’d originally planned this week. I’m not even ready to share progress shots – I mean, as scintillating as pictures of partially painted trim and primer-white walls are, I think we can all hold out for more notable progression.  Not to worry though!  The beauty of repetitive work like painting is that the mind is free to wander, and I’ve been mulling over a request that RHW reader Nina made some months ago that we share some tips for thrifting household items.

As regular Red House West readers know, I am an avid thrifter.  Our home is – with only a couple of exceptions – furnished and decorated entirely with items that we got secondhand. Though I’ve certainly made some missteps, I’ve also made some great scores. Here are things I’ve learned along the way.

10 tips for successful thrifting

1. The odds of finding really great things go way up the more time you spend looking. Check Craigslist as often as you can (especially if you’re looking for something specific) and drop into your favorite thrift stores regularly.

One of my favorite pieces of furniture in our house is the credenza that sits in our front room.  I spent months searching for it – I wanted something that would house our stereo and some records, and that would fit along a specific wall in the room.  I also wanted it to be mid-century modern with lovely legs, and it couldn’t cost much more than $100.  This was a tall order that had me compulsively checking Craigslist and haunting the local thrift stores.  As you probably know, a great find on Craigslist is more ephemeral than a desert salt pond (I once saw a Barcelona chair listed for $25 – and described on Craigslist as a ‘metal chair.’ I was the second caller so I didn’t get it, but it had only been up for a few minutes before the vultures (myself included) were circling).

Red House West//tips for successful thrifting

We found our credenza one night when we stopped at a St. Vincent de Paul on a whim.  Luckily I had the measurements of our wall with me, and so we knew this one would fit with just an inch on either side to spare.  Which brings me to my next tip:

2.   When you’re on the hunt for a specific item, keep the measurements you’re looking for with you at all times. 

I keep them on my phone along with a picture of the spot I’m planning to put the item.  Having the dimensions written on a piece of paper kept in your wallet would work just as well.

3. On Craigslist, synonyms are key!  One person’s footstool is another person’s ottoman.  Cast a wide net and vary your search terms – also be creative with spelling.

I didn’t end up finding the credenza on Craigslist, but I did figure out a few tricks that helped me find some contenders.  Synonyms are key, so I would search for dresser, buffet, hutch, credenza, sideboard and even shelving.  Consider that your dream item might be listed but misspelled, so be creative with your spelling (Mera found a really beautiful ‘dressor’ one time) when searching too.  I also searched the terms ‘mid-century’ and ‘mid-century modern.’

4.  Find items posted by regular sellers on Craigslist by searching their name, phone number or neighborhood.

Another thing the Great Credenza Hunt taught me about Craigslist is that – in Eugene at least – there are people who regularly sell the contents of storage units, or who are pickers who search for items to sell on Craigslist (I found my dining room chairs by specifically searching for listings by a guy who sold a lot of mid-century modern items).

5. Be realistic about your repair abilities/the cost of having a piece professionally done.  If you can’t afford to have it redone right away, make sure to ask yourself: Can you live with it as it is until you can?

My early forays into thrifting were characterized by a robust optimism that bordered on delusion.  There was nothing I could not fix! And so many of the things I dragged home had revolting, smelly upholstery or featured badly chipped veneer or unsalvageable finishes.  This couch is a case in point:

Blue flowered couch

I still love the lines of this couch, but it smelled like the territory of 100 feral cats.  It was free in the last hours of a yard sale so I dragged it home, thinking blithe thoughts of reupholstery. Never mind that this sofa would cost at least $1000 to have redone, or that by the time I learned to do it myself, it would have been living in the carport for years – a target for the territorial markings of at least another 100 cats. Since then, I’ve often referred to Emily Henderson’s guide for ballpark costs of upholstering vintage furniture before bringing home something that will need to be dealt with professionally.

6. [Chanted in my best cheerleader voice] B-E-A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E BE AGGRESSIVE BE BE AGGRESSIVEIf you see something you like, hold on to it until you’ve made up your mind!  Think you might love a chair?  Sit in it with your hand on the tag until you’ve made up your mind!  Thrifting is a ruthless business, and nice folks finish empty handed.

I’ve been burned badly twice by my fellow treasure hunters.  Just last month, a local thrift store had a huge rack of recently donated upholstery fabric in the middle of the store.  I found a roll of unusually vibrant fabric that I thought might work for a project, but as I was standing there trying to visualize it on a chair, I noticed an elderly woman was standing behind me with her shopping cart almost pressed against my back.  The aisles were narrow and I moved out of the way so she could get by me.  Which she did, grabbing the roll I’d had my hands on moments ago and putting it in her cart.  True story.

A similar thing happened while I dithered over a chair that looked much like the one in this image:

Why in the world was I dithering!  It was adorably yellow and only $15!  I’m still kicking myself!  Of course if I’d followed my next tip, I could have saved myself the heartache:

7. If there’s an item you love but you’re not sure you need it, put it on hold so you have time to think it through.

Most thrift stores will hold items for at least a couple hours and many will hold them until the end of the day.  If you’re vacillating on something, put it on hold so you can take a breath and think it through.  That’s how I got this lamp, and I love this lamp like Mera’s chubby cat Wolsey loves kitty treats. So much.

Red House West//tips for thrifting

8. Check the item you’re considering for smells, structural defects and other problems.  Even if the seller is watching you.

This one seems like a no-brainer, but it can be hard to take a big ol’ whiff of a piece of furniture while the person who’s selling it is watching.  You are NOT casting aspersions on their character by making sure all the drawers of the dresser they’re selling open.  Trust me, you don’t want to get home with a rug you were too embarrassed to smell that you then have to try and offload on Craigslist but – because you know it’s smelly – you feel compelled to tell all prospective buyers about it.  Which means it takes a pretty long time to sell.

9. For each item you bring home, let another item go (even if it causes you physical and emotional pain)

When we moved into our house two years ago, we really needed furniture.  That’s no longer the case, and I’ve recently implemented a rule of ‘one thing in one thing out.’  Do you guys remember my little confession and this photo?

Red House West//tips for thrifting

Well, there’s a moratorium on chair adoption unless I let one of these little honeys go. I know, it hurts me too.

10. If you have an eye on something in a consignment shop but think the price is too high, make an offer at the end of the month. Sellers are more likely to accept offers when they’ll be seeing a check in the next day or two, rather than weeks later.

The owner of a consignment store shared this tip with me recently when I went in to visit a piece of art that I really like but can’t afford.

What do you think, are any of these tips new to you?  What would you add to this list?