Mera’s House: Concealing a Household Eyesore

I have hypothyroidism, and as a consequence I tend to run cold–I’m tempted to bump the thermostat up every time I see it.  Because it’s visible from the living room, the kitchen, and the breakfast nook, that’s basically all of the time.

***As I type this I can hear my mom saying ‘have you been taking your medicine?’ with her chin tilted up so she can peer at me through her bifocals.  Yes mom, I promise.***

Red House West || Concealing Household Eyesores

I’ve seen a few examples floating around on Pinterest for covering alarm panels and other household eyesores with art, and I liked how they looked.  I worried though that covering the thermostat would interfere with its functioning.  To test it, I balanced a stretched canvas painting over the thermostat for a few days and periodically peeked behind to make sure the temperature was holding steady.  Once I was convinced that it didn’t have any effect, I decided to make it a more permanent arrangement.

I got two small flat hinges to affix to the frame.  Because I worried about splitting the wood frame, I drilled tiny pilot holes and then screwed the hinges in by hand.

Red House West || Concealing Household Eyesores

Then I screwed the hinges to the wall, and voila!  Eyesore begone!

Red House West || Concealing Household Eyesores

Red House West || Concealing Household Eyesores

This thermostat is relatively new, and the wires for the old thermostat are behind a patched hole to the right of it.  I didn’t want to drill into the patched area, so I decided to put the hinges to the left of the thermostat, even though they are more visible on that side.  You can definitely see them, but I don’t think anyone but me would ever really notice.

Red House West || Concealing Household Eyesores

Red House West || Concealing Household Eyesores

Red House West || Concealing Household Eyesores

Much better from all angles!  An added bonus is that not seeing the temperature setting all the time means I’m less apt to bump it up a few degrees when I walk by.  Except now that I think about it, it is pretty chilly in here . . . .

Do you have eyesores in your home, and if so, what tricks do you use to conceal them?

Inspiring Outdoor Spaces

Spring has definitely sprung in Oregon (have you seen Katie’s bee swarm video on Instagram?), and while Alaska lags far behind, hints of sweeter days to come are cropping up all over.  In celebration, here are some inviting and achievable outdoor spaces we’re inspired by.

Not surprisingly, all of these spaces have beautiful textiles – most of which don’t look to be of the indoor-outdoor variety.  In Alaska and Oregon we’d be shuttling these in and out daily depending on the weather, but it would be worth it!  How are you gearing up for spring in your part of the world?

Check back with us on Wednesday for a post about concealing household eyesores!

Staying the Course: Learning to Stick with a Design Plan

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you might remember that the impetus for Red House West came from the many texts, emails, and phone calls between Mera and me about our homes – sharing thrift store finds, inspiration, and seeking advice.  Even with the advent of the blog, the number of these missives has not abated.  In fact, they might even have increased.

In the last year, I have sent – and received – many texted pleas for help sent while standing guard over an item in a thrift store (too weird? Smells okay), and photos of projects we were working on (charming? Or only charming if a three year-old made it?).

Sometimes we text photos of things that are just too good not to share.  Like this enormous painting I found for Opal’s room:

amazing painting

Mera declined.

Or this exquisite and romantic porcine sculpture:


I mean, wtf?

Moving on.

About two weeks ago I sent Mera a last-minute plea for advice.  We are ending the construction stage of the Chamber of Secrets, and nearing the decor stage (can I get a hallelujah?).  Decisions need to be made and I’ve got a couple of sewing projects that it’s seriously time to get cracking on (namely the window seat cushion and the window shade).  You might remember, dear readers, a couple of weeks ago when I told you I had chosen linens for these projects.  Well… that was a wee fib.  I had found linens I liked, but I hadn’t actually bought them.  A last-minute sale at JoAnn on an alternative fabric I’d been considering prompted this email to my must trusted style adviser:

Mera! I need your help!

Remember this photo I sent you?
blue fabric for cos

The one on the bottom would be for the window seat and the top one for the curtain.  I really love the fabrics, but I haven’t been able to commit. What’s holding me back are the inspiration pics I put together for the CoS:

Red House West||Chamber of Secrets: Making a Design PlanAlso this picture, which is a major inspiration for the room:

See? All blacks and pinks and a few other things. I’m worried that the blue fabrics will throw the look I’m going for off.

Within the palette what I’m thinking of is black ticking for the window seat and then perhaps something similar to this linen roman shade made by JK [within our correspondence, Mera & I are on an initials-only basis with Jenny Komenda], but in a lighter gray or an oatmeal:


jk shade

Black and white ticking is 75% off for the next hour at JoAnn. Should I go get it?

I honestly have no idea.

Please help.



As I’ve mentioned before, the Chamber of Secrets is the first time I’ve ever put together a room from an entirely blank slate. I’ve been much more deliberate in this process than in any I’ve undertaken before, laying out a step-by-step design plan that includes a color palette and some very specific inspiration.

Red House West||Chamber of Secrets: Making a Design Plan

I really, really love the mood board I put together for the room – including this inspiration image for the window seat textiles:

After some discussion, Mera gave me the sage counsel to stick to my gut – and my original plan – and buy the ticking.  It was definitely the right choice!  Those blue fabrics are really beautiful but they would have altered the whole look, and it feels good to refocus my vision and keep heading toward the design I want.

And now I need your help!  I’ve been hunting, mostly on eBay, for trim to use on a window shade similar to the one Jenny Komenda made in the pictures above.  Here are a few possibilities (the fabric I use will probably be a little lighter in color than what’s in these photos):

1.  Floral trim in blush.Red House West || Design Decisions2. Floral trim in coral.Red House West || Design Decisions3. Multi-colored geometric trim with black and coralRed House West || Design Decisions

Thanks for your input and have a great week!

Collection or Clutter?

I’ve been thinking lately about that line between clutter and collection, and just where the distinction is drawn. I am definitely a lover of pretty things, but I struggle sometimes to display items in a way that is artful rather than messy – or at least artfully messy.  I decided to take a close look at images of vignettes I love – arrangements of items that are simultaneously beautiful, interesting and restful – to see what I can learn from them.

Well I’m definitely not a minimalist!  Looking carefully, I see that most of these displays have a cohesion of color.  Many of them contain some kind of greenery, and all of them have variation in height and texture.  Anything else you notice?  Any tips for displaying favorite items?

10 Easter Egg Dyeing Ideas

Opal spent a good portion of the weekend dyeing eggs with my mom for Easter.  Despite everything I know about my mom, I assumed that they were going to use one of those grocery store “seasonal aisle” staples: a PAAS dyeing kit.  But this is my mom we’re talking about, the woman who for years spun, dyed, and wove her own yarn, so of course they didn’t do that. Instead she boiled purple cabbage, onions, and other produce to make her own all-natural dyes.  The results were vibrant blues and purples and deep russet reds–so pretty!

Red House West || Easter Egg Decorating Ideas

Seen here with felted eggs I made a while back.

Although I’m not sure anyone can get close to my mom’s egg decorating prowess, here are ten great ideas for embellishing Easter eggs from around the web:

1.  Dye eggs and then burnish them with gold leaf, a la Martha Stewart:


2.  Cross stitched eggs.  These blow my mind.  There’s not a tutorial accompanying this image, but Design Sponge has one here.

3.  If you have young kids, you probably have temporary tattoos laying around.  Use them on Easter eggs and save yourself from having to scrub nubby remnants off your kids’ skin:

4.  This is basically the opposite of Mama Matthews’s natural dyes, but marbleizing with nail polish yields vibrant results:

5.  Anyone who frequents thrift stores knows that gaudy ties are a secondhand staple.  This dyeing technique gives dated silk ties a second life–just add vinegar!

Red House West || Easter Egg Decorating Ideas

6.  Patterned paper napkins and Mod Podge yield adorable results in this tutorial:

7.  Using electrical tape creates crisp lines in this dye resist technique:

8.  Using a stamp on a convex surface doesn’t work so well.  This tutorial solves the problem by stamping on a white paper napkin and then Mod Podging it onto the egg:

9.  These lovely eggs were created by cutting out images from vintage magazines and, again, using Mod Podge to affix them to the eggs:

10.  Simple, dye free, mess free, and cute–these graphic patterns are created with washi tape:

Happy April everyone! I hope you have a great weekend, whatever your plans may be!

Home Office Inspiration

As people who spend a considerable amount of time on our computers, we’re both trying to figure out how and where to create small, functional, and attractive work spaces in our homes.  Here are some beautiful and inspiring home offices where we would love to blog our hearts out (we’d have to bring our own computers to most of them–these spaces seem to have the necessities of actually working styled out of them):

Mera’s favorite is the first one with Dall sheep-esque chair, and Katie feels like she could write a novel and a half in the second to last one (sustained, naturally, by the cereal already on the table). Which is your favorite?

Tutorial: Slide Lampshade

One of my favorite gifts I’ve ever received, and one of my very favorite items in our house, is a lampshade that my dear friend Brandi gave me made of vintage slides. I love looking at the pictures she chose to use in my shade and making up stories about the people and places in them. This past weekend I went to visit her on the Oregon coast and she helped me make another one – and also helped me put together this tutorial for you!

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial

There are other examples of slide lamps on the internet, but I’ve never seen one like this. Brandi and her husband have experience as book binders and so the tools she uses are tools from that trade, and the result is clean-lined and very sturdy.

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial

I’ve included links to the supplies you’ll need in the list below, but Brandi said she’s been able to find all of them at her local art supply store – so that may be a better source. I’ve seen slides listed on eBay (here‘s a current auction), at yard sales, and in thrift stores. If you find yourself here in Eugene, the amazing recycled craft supply warehouse, Mecca, has a huge bin of slides for cheap. You could certainly also do this project with slides of your own – Brandi made a gorgeous one for a friend of ours using black and white slides of micrographs (picture taken through a microscope) from her PhD research.


  • Slides (for an 8″ x 8″ lampshade like mine you’ll need 64 slides)
  • Light box (you can do this project without one, but it’s much easier with one)
  • Vellum (enough for four 7 1/2″ x 7 1/2″ pieces)
  • Archival double-sided tape
  • Book binding tape (we used a white 5/8″ linen tape and a 1″ thick black satin tape)
  • Utility knife
  • Straight edge
  • Cutting mat
  • Carpenter’s Square (optional, but helpful)
  • Scissors (tiny ones work best)
  • Bone knife
  • Lamp frame – You could get one from a thrift store and disassemble it, or we used a square 8″ x 8″ frame that Brandi bought here

1.) Choose your slides.  Brandi told me this would be the hardest part, and she was right!  She hauled out a big Rubbermaid packed with slides for me to rummage through.  It was daunting but so fun; I could have spent hours looking at pictures and imagining all those different lives.

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial

I chose slides mostly from the 1950s, 60s and 70s of travels, animals, and – of course – interiors.  My criteria was really just that it be a picture that made want to know its story.

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial

2.) Once you’ve selected your 64 slides, arrange 16 of them in a 4×4 grid.  The only rule is not to have vertical images in the corners (you can see I put the vertical photo in the second row down).

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial

3.) Line up your first two columns of slides on your cutting mat.  They should be oriented with the image right-side-up but with the side of the slide you want on the outside of your shade to be face down.  Which side faces out is entirely up to you – I like to see the hand-written captions some people put on their slides so I made sure to face them down on this step.

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial

4.) Cut strips of the 5/8″ white linen tape to connect the first two columns.  The strips should be about 7 1/2″ long – just so they don’t go all the way to the edge of the slides.  This doesn’t need to be exact and it doesn’t need to be totally pretty since this is the inside of your shade.  Connect the third and fourth columns in the same way.

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial

5.)  Burnish!  Brandi kept hollering at me to burnish (rub the tape with the bone knife).  It’s the secret to a neat, tidy and sturdy shade.  Don’t be shy about putting some serious pressure on the bone knife; you want that tape to stick.

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial

6.) Repeat steps 2-5 to make the remaining three sides of your shade.  Don’t forget to double check that the slides are oriented correctly and don’t forget to BURNISH!

7.) When you’ve completed step 6 you will have four separate panels.  Using the same taping method described above, connect them into one long sheet.

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial

8.)  Use your straight edge and utility knife to cut four sheets of vellum then set them aside.  Each side of your lamp shade is 8″x 8″ and you want the vellum to be just a little smaller, but still cover the photo part of the slides – so each sheet of vellum will be about 7 1/2 inches square.  The vellum acts as a diffuser so the lamp gives off a gentle glow, and so you’re able to look at a slide when the light is on without burning your retinas.  Brandi is smart.

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial

9.) You will use the double-sided archival tape to attach the vellum.  Make sure you’re attaching it to the wrong side of the slides (the side that will be inside your lampshade).  Cut tape strips the same length as the linen tape (about 7 1/2″) and put them on top of your taped seams.  BURNISH!  Then peel off the backing.  Place one sheet of vellum shiny side down and… BURNISH!

This photo shows three seams with double-sided tape, but in step 9 you want to do four.

This photo shows three seams with double-sided tape, but in step 9 you want to do four.

10.) Repeat step 9 until all four sheets of vellum are attached.  The reason you do them separately is so the shade will fold into a square more easily – if it were a single sheet of vellum it would be hard to get those crisp corners.

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial11.) Use a piece of the 5/8″ white linen tape to connect the final seam to make your lampshade a square shape.  This was easily done with two people, but Brandi said it’s a little tricky with only one.

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial12.) Place the top ring of the frame inside your shade.  You want it flush with the top of your slides.  Binder clips can be handy for holding the ring in place.

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial13.) Place linen tape lengthwise around the top of your slides then fold it over the wire ring and stick it to the inside of the shade.  Then… BURNISH!  Seriously, it is really, really important that you burnish the heck out of the tape.  Use the pointy end of the bone knife to really get that edge along the wire ring and in the corners.  It’s helpful to use your little scissors to cut a strip in the tape so it can go around the crosspieces of the frame and fold into the corners.

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial14.) Flip the shade over and repeat the same process as in step 13 with the bottom ring.

15.) Optional: Cover the white tape with the black satin tape (I liked the contrast of the black, but leaving just the white looks nice too).

16.) Burnish.  Use your bone knife to run over every taped seam.  BURNISH!

A couple last thoughts:

The color of the slides will fade over time.  The more you keep it out of direct sunlight, the longer the colors will last (the images don’t disappear, they just turn to shades of blue).

If you don’t like the writing on the slides, or if you’d just prefer a more uniform look, you can color them in with paint pens.  I saw some Brandi colored and it looked pretty sharp.  As I said before, I personally like the handwritten notes people put on the slides and I don’t mind the variation in color and markings.

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial

Red House West||Slide Lamp Tutorial

We were wearing jammies while making the lamps and I didn’t get a photo of Brandi, but it feels wrong to share this project without including one – so here’s a photobooth pic of her at our wedding:

Brandi wants YOU to burnish that lampshade.


Huge thanks to her for developing (ha!) this project and for being willing to share it here on Red House West!  Please ask any questions you may have in the comments!