Monday, October 20, 2014

In The Seaside Cottage

I'm inviting you to my house today. There will be nothing about outfits in this post. Instead, there will be plenty photos of my home which were taken within the last two or three years (though none of them are recent). We live in a rental cottage, a cozy old little house which even though it could use some renovations, definitely is a charming little place. It's probably no more than 1000 square feet all together, not counting the garage and basement which we use for laundry facility and storage. If you like your home nicely organized, tidied up and spotlessly clean, minimalistic or decorated like it came right out of a magazine, you cannot count on me. But if you like cozy homes with character and a spontaneous spirit, and don't mind some mess along the way, then you might enjoy my little tour. I also will supply you with links to a few of my personal favorite places to shop for home decor around Puget Sound. So get comfortable, and I'll pour you a glass of red and offer you something cozy to eat like shepherd's pie tonight (same as in the photo above taken 2 years ago). Come in, friends!



The homeowner, our landlord, told us that the cottage was built in 1940s, and there are definitely a lot of traditional 1940s features in it, but I have a suspicion that the original building is earlier, some time in 1920s, and I found some proof of it too. Most probably, it was built as a tiny seaside cottage, and a decade of two later, as the owner or a new buyer had funds, they added to the original construction. I suspect that it was built by an Englishman as I find a lot of traditional English cottage features in the house like low ceilings, fireplace and built-in shelves in the living room. By the way, our landlord is also of  English heritage and his ancestors apparently were one of the first settlers who arrived in America on the Mayflower in 1620. The fact that a wonderful original solid pine door in the living room is now blocked (became a wall between the living room and bedroom, you can see it on the left of the fireplace on the photo above) is one of a few indicators that the cottage had later additions to it.

The landlord bought this cottage in early 1970s. It was the very first house he owned, and he raised his family here before they bought a bigger place just down the street in the late 1970s. Ever since then "our" cottage became a rental cottage. We moved in a little over 3 years ago. We do not do any renovations in it - you can still see many original features such as these brass switches (quite a few of them in the house). But we repainted a few walls, and in general I decorate it the way I like, and since I like variety the most, our home is very eclectic. This large mirror was purchased a few years ago on sale in a small chain furniture store (there are two of them in the Seattle area, one used to be in our town, but they moved to Renton). If I am not mistaken, the store is originally from Vancouver, Canada - Moe's. They specialize in modern, antique or antique-looking modern pieces which I love a lot. I have a few items from Moe's. I also have quite a few items from IKEA and praise them for offering very affordable pieces in various styles which can easily fit small spaces and mix well with older, vintage pieces too.

The heavy solid oak teacher/accountant desk is most probably from 1930s or so. We bought it in one of our most beloved antique malls, Tacoma Antique Center, for a better than reasonable price. We like to surround ourselves with animals, both plush and real furry ones. In the vintage glass bowl (I forgot who was the maker, but it's a well known style), you can spot a tiny part of my box collection - most of them found at antique shops or ebay.

I took a lot of these photos when my parents came to visit and stay with us for a few months two years ago. You can see that pieces of furniture move a lot in our home. I think I rearrange every two or three months - ask Justin, he probably knows better. Anyway, when my folks are here, I enjoy our family meals together. I grew up a big extended family - my Mom's family has 7 siblings, all of which have kids and grandkids by now, and my Dad's family has 3 siblings, and they also have children and grandchildren. And while my Dad's side of the family lives a few hours away up north from my parents' home in Siberia, my Mom's sisters' and brother's families live pretty close to each other, and visit a lot. I remember family gatherings since I was a kid with plenty of homemade food, some grown-up drinks for adults, free running time for kids and lots of conversation and laughter. 

All of our furniture is old - not antique, just old. I bought this couch and a matching love-seat many years ago when we bought a house with my first husband. They are getting pretty beat-up from all the moving and use, but still functional, I just cover them with blankets and throws, like Shawna does. The chair was found at a vintage shop on Vashon Island which is right across the Sound from my window, by the way.

Bagirka is posing on one of the couple of Russian Khokhloma hand painted wooden nesting tables which I found in the antique mall - like a lot of the art on my walls.

The dark red armchair on the right was found on the curb for free. These curtains (in red or gold color) are from Target, clearance rack. 

At times, I put my oak desk in front of the window, imagining that I'll write sitting there. But in reality, I rarely find myself wanting to sit at the desk - I mostly write on my laptop sitting on the sofa. The general arrangement is still the same now, but the art wall looks very different, and we changed the carpet - this one was secondhand, and though I loved the colors and design, we had to throw it away, as it came from home with dogs and we have severe allergies in the family. We lived carpetless for a while, but recently got pretty colorful rugs which I'll show you when I finish redecorating/reorganizing.

When I get bored with my idea of a writer's desk by the window overlooking Puget Sound, we move the desk to another room and since the house is small, some of the furniture just has to move back into the free space... like our oval dining table, one of the first purchases when I just moved to the US. It's solid oak, but I like to cover it with pretty table clothes. The dining table often serves a double duty as a projects/art/study/games table. And as you can see, in the dark winter months, we often use a "sun light" lamp and Christmas lights to brighten the space up.

The curio cabinets contain a large part of my box collection and a collection of items hand carved by my brother (mostly boxes), too. I add some seasonal decor during holidays, especially Xmas/New Year as this is what we grew up  doing in Russia, but I am not organized enough to keep up with all the seasonal changes. I love to decorate with pumpkins and other squashes in Autumn - we eat these "decor" items as we gradually approach Spring! The owl figure is made of birch bark - I found it in a very fun gift shop/gallery in Gig Harbor - Elandan Gardens shop and nursery  (unfortunately, they closed that one, but there is still one in Port Orchard, very inspired global style home decor and jewelry). I can't remember where the candle holder is from. 

As you've noticed, we have two cats in our family. They are sisters, and have lived with us for 3 years now. We got them when they were only 6 weeks old, very active and mischievous, and one of their favorite past times around Christmas used to be climbing and spinning the Xmas tree. Therefore, only unbreakable decorations on our tree ever since we got kittens - mostly made of natural material such as wood, fabric, paper, etc. The Santa Clause was hand carved by Andrei, my brother, a few years ago, out of birch bark.

While talking about our home, I simply cannot avoid talking about the Sound, and of course I'd love to share some of the pictures of the parks which are only a couple of minutes from us. In the Summer, we often go there to see the sunset. One of the parks, Browns Point Lighthouse Park, features a historical lighthouse building which dates early 1900s, a lighthouse keeper's cottage and one of the first schools in the area. 

The other nearby park is Dash Point State Park, and we used to live just a bit north of it in a beach house - it offers a very rare (on the Puget Sound area) sandy beach, is well known for skimboarding, great hiking, mountain biking and camping in the woods. We live right in between these great parks, on a point from where, as they say, at some point in the not so distant past, you could catch a cute foot ferry.


This space, I have to say, still hasn't found its purpose. At times, I do attempt to make a dining room out of it since it's right next to kitchen. It has a closet which I use for my growing wardrobe (though I am mostly done growing it at this point and enjoy mixing and remixing what I've got) and windows on two sides. We are considering to make it more of an office/guest room for the time when my folks stay with us.

I purchased a couple of multiple photos frames and filled the wall with some of our family photos and a few older family photos of which, sadly, I don't have a lot. We used to have fresh flowers all the time in our home, but with our furry bandits it became an issue - quite a few glasses get broken here on regular basis. Notice the brass tubes on the left photo - it's the original doorbell, much like the one Charlotte talked about when she wrote about her 1940s cottage.

One of the joys of a big family is working on projects together, like sushi making (or more often for us Russian folks, dumplings/pelmeni making). Have you ever made sushi yourself? I was surprised how easy it actually is.

There is one very polite kitty waiting for sushi tasting time!

We don't always eat sushi here! And also we have been taking photos of food since waaaaaaaaay before Instagram or FB even existed... just because food is so colorful and FUN!

We had an empty space by the window in this room, and I asked my Dad to design and build something like a window seat with a storage area on the side and underneath it. Here is what he came up with.

Step 1. Designing

This is the space my Dad had to work with

Step 2. Window seat is built by my Dad and pictured by Anna with me on the background (looking out from the inside). By the way, a mattress from Anna's kid-bed fit perfectly in the space, I just covered it with pretty fabric I bought in Goodwill. On the right, you may see that my Dad made a few shelves for books, boxes etc. On the left, there are still hooks for coats and purses (such a mess right now - don't ask me please to show it!)


I know, I know! Kittens are not meant to be a part of home decor. But just as people, plants and children (all right, all right, children are also people technically, but admit it - they are such a special kind of people!), cats add so much warmth and so much liveliness to any home! I know you dog people will argue this statement - I agree dogs are very cool too (only much more work for me).

Their names are Persik (Peaches) and Bagirka (Bagheera), and there are probably no two more opposite-from-each-other creatures in the whole universe (you can read a little more about them HERE)!

They don't snuggle together anymore, since they grew up...

What did I tell you about climbing and spinning in Xmas trees? Oh I forgot to mention sleeping in them - but actually there was a lot of that going on when the cats were little.

And also discovering waste paper baskets...

And the first snow...


The kitchen has the most cheerful feel of all the rooms - it has windows on three sides and the previous tenants painted some of the cabinets in these happy 1940-1950s colors which go beautifully with the character of the cottage. Some cabinets are left untreated - solid pine with the amber plastic inserts.

The electrical samovar is hand-painted and in working condition, though we only use it as decor. I told you about the Russian traditional tea-cozy doll HERE. The tall container is also a traditional Russian thing called "туес" (TOO-iss) (from the Komi word meaning "birch bark"), and it literally means a birch bark cylindrical container, widely known to our ancestors for storing dry food and other stuff. The thermos is Japanese vintage, I would guess from 1970s judging by the design, in working condition. The owl clock was found at a great local gift shop - Fireworks.

We enjoy eating out on the little covered porch in Summer, by the picnic table my Dad made two years ago,

I am not much of a gardener lately, though I did a lot of container gardening when we lived in a beach house a few years ago, but that's a whole different story. We have a very small and shady garden space, and our attempt to grow tomatoes failed because of the lack of sun. (You can see the raised bed my parents built from rescued wood in the back.) But I still have many containers and dream of giving my container garden a rebirth one day.

Cats never fail to find a cozy space for their unofficial apartments around the house. 

Lots of dishes are secondhand finds in this house.

There is a beautiful Dutch door to the right of the microwave - I don't know why I don't have a photo of it, as it's one of the best features of this cottage. You can see that all the cabinets are original built-ins from the 1940s, and even the red surface of the counters is kept untouched.

 We made this little improvised grill (fire pit) after reading about them on a Russian blog. Simple, but effective.

But what really makes a house a home... are the people who live in it. All sorts of wonderful things happen and surround you then. One day you may hear a doorbell ringing, you get up and open the front door, and there is a Snowman greeting you! A very little one since there is usually not a lot of snow here on the shores of Puget Sound... but still it's a real Snowman with a happy smile, and a real carrot nose, made by your wonderful and very real kid.  

In the evenings though, when you hear a doorbell, it's most probably not a Snowman, but one the people who live in this home, like Justin coming back from work, always with a smile, no matter how tired he is...

Or Natasha (I'll be honest, not always with a smile), who not only snuggles with cats on the couch, but also tells you this and many other short and looooooong stories... none of them exceeded War and Peace though, phew!


  1. Спасибо за взгляд в твой привлекательный уютний домик, так много красивых бещей там и симпатичных людей и котят...
    Радость для меня утром читатъ твой маленький рассказ, моя дорогая :-)

  2. I´M IN LOVE WITH YOUR HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    and this surprises me not - knowing you a bit for a little while i was imagining your home like that. ok. - cats in the new-years-tree i did not expect :-)
    you´r wonderful! no wonder that justin smiles when he´s coming home!!!!!
    hug you, love!!!!

  3. These pictures are precious! And what a lovely view from your front room. I love a small cozy home. The upstairs of our house is smaller than yours but we do just fine and prefer it that way. I don't think I'd feel comfortable in a big house. Too much air around me! Our son dwells in the basement except for our laundry facility too.
    This kind of post is so great. I can feel a bit of your life and see the things and people that are important to you. And you have a real fireplace! I can hear it crackle and smell the flames. ;) We had to fill our fireplace with a gas insert because for 9 years it was our only source of heat.

  4. That last photo of you with your kitties is precious! Thanks for the tour! Your home conveys comfort in every room and I dig your eclectic style. Those Russian nesting tables are beautiful and so is your family! How special to have you folks over I remember you telling me how long the journey is. I think your home should reflect who you are and I think yours does!

  5. Your home is perfect, homely, cosy, stylish and gives a wonderful indication of the characters who share it. I love it!
    Bagirka and Peaches are just like our Polly Piglet and Ginger Alan, they are adorable, especially snuggled next to their Mum on the sofa. xxxx

  6. How cool to see these photos of such a warm cozy place..throughout the seasons.

    My favourite is the sunset and the last shot of you with the kittens. Priceless.


  7. We also live in a older home with lots of character and charm. The home still has the original glass door knobs on each door. I love it, as I do your home. It's so quaint and charming. It would make me want to create. Only creative people can love and appreciate these types of homes. We see them for what they truly are...lovely. By the way, the view outside your desk is breathtaking.

  8. I have loved this tour around your home, Natalia. It represents you and Justin perfectly, I think - warm, inviting, cosy, colourful, where treasured objects have pride of place, and history and family are valued highly. And I imagine that you are wonderful hosts when anyone comes to visit! So many gorgeous details and images, I need to go back and have another look! Of course, it is a joy to see those two pretty kitties - I had a cat who looked just like Bagirka, love that pic of her waiting to pounce on the sushi! Kittens and Christmas trees - tell me about it!
    Your house really feels like a loving home. I think you create that wherever you go, my dear, including this blog, and it's a wonderful gift. xxxx

  9. Thank you for giving us this tour of your home, it is so full of character and the love inside those walls shines through. Lovely to see photos of your family, including those oh so cute kittens. Who wants a Home Beautiful home when you can create one with so much more, one that tells a story of those living there.

  10. Thank you for the tour. I have a feeling that I know you better now: как будто на самом деле побывала в гостях. Спасибо за рассказ! Очень уютно у тебя!

  11. This looks like a home I would feel comfortable in. Like you I am messy sometimes, and not magazine worthy. We also move furniture around. When I met Bushy he was doing it too, so knew we would be destined to move for the rest of our days! Love your mischievous cats! xo JJ

  12. I love your home! It is so beautiful so much heart in it. It looks so cozy and inviting. I love all the little details. To me it is a perfect home.
    Persik and Bagirka look so cute:))))

  13. What a wonderful house - and the view over the Sound is so beautiful!