Mid-Life Move to Mid-Century Modern

With their two children fully launched into careers and living in different cities, our clients decided it was time to leave their 3800sf family home and downsize their daily lives.  They wholeheartedly embraced this move, especially when they found a modest mid-century rambler in a sleepy east Bellevue neighbourhood with huge territorial views overlooking Lake Sammamish. This much smaller home was in original condition and ripe for a full remodel, offering great opportunities to uncover the structural features that would highlight its mid-century bones.

First order was to remove many of the interior walls that partitioned the house into small dark rooms, and open the living spaces up to each other and to daylight and views. In doing so, we uncovered the big old FIR beams that support the broadly sloped roof, allowing the interior to read as a large open space under a sheltering roof plane as the dominant element – a classic mid-century motif.  We also added large swaths of windows and enhanced the decks.


Our client hails from a Norwegian heritage and was interested in introducing a “Scandinavian modern” feel to the interiors, which we all agreed would be a perfect approach given that region’s great historical contributions to the modern architectural movement! This led to a very light, minimalist palette of finishes and fixtures, and whimsical pops of colour. Cabinets are all clear maple; floors, tile and countertops are all light grey or winter white. Most fun of all was the chance to design a new concrete block fireplace, introducing a very textural and cozy, yet unabashedly modern focal point!

Our clients’ biggest challenge in this project was to make tough decisions downsizing their family belongings;  ironically, including old family Scandinavian furnishings and dinnerware. The tough work done, we’re told it feels pretty good!….kind of like shedding a lot of excess weight! Praise to those architectural masters of the Mid-Century – they really knew what they were doing!


BEFORE:

New Urban Farmhouse in Wallingford – Part One


One of CTA’s ongoing projects is an addition and remodel to a Wallingford craftsman – conveniently right up the street from our office!  We’ll describe the process of this house in a mini-series: schematics, construction, and finishes including finished photos. This first blog will talk background, design intent, and schematics.

The owners are a young couple with two little (but growing!) boys and have been pushing the limits of their older Wallingford bungalow for a few years. They love their neighborhood, the density, the convenience of living so close to Lake Union, and especially the view from the highest level of their 1 1/2 story house looking over the lake and Seattle skyline to the south. With such a small lot and tight zoning restrictions, they have been focused on building up for added square footage.


They came to us wanting to add a full new second story addition, replacing the existing cramped 1/2 story seen above in the early 1900s photo on the left and recent photo on the right, but also, if possible, to add a THIRD story bonus room with access to a large roof deck. Since their lot is so small and steep, the roof is really the only space available for spacious outdoor activity.

We’ve come up with an architectural design that meets the challenge! We relocated the stairs so that they now become a 3-level light well between the main floor and spectacular roof deck, including a semi private family room on the new second floor, surrounded by the family’s bedrooms.  The main floor plan has been reorganized to allow for more open living, and with indoor/outdoor connection to small deck areas in side and rear yards.

The above sketch was a rough concept from the beginning stages of schematics. Exterior and interior design decisions in the house reinforce the notion of an “urban farmhouse”… springing from the humble cottage beginnings of the original house. Rebuilding the chicken coop in back is part of the plan!

 

Mid-Century Hawthorne Hills Addition

We’re seeing exciting progress on the Phase 2 remodel of a mid-century Seattle rambler! Phase 1 involved minor main floor plan and finish updates to create better entry flow and street appeal. The Phase 2 goal is to expand the house for the owners’ growing family and allow for a more private master suite.

After considering a new second story addition option, we instead landed on expanding the daylight basement in order to keep with the Mid-Century massing and scale of the house and provide them with just the space they needed: no more, no less. The new master bedroom suite sits under an existing family room and upper deck that floated over the rear yard. The bedroom looks out onto a newly created rear courtyard, with a glorious, old red-leaf Japanese Maple in its center that is the focal point of the entire house.


The challenge in this project has been to open the house up to the outside, connecting indoors to out, and the upper street level to lower level and rear yard. Opening up the living room using a big folding door to a new deck and stair down to the courtyard has done wonders to create a feeling of connection on both levels. We opted to move the outdoor stair down to the yard to the north side of the house via a catwalk to better engage with the Maple tree and add a boundary to the new courtyard below.

BEFORE:


The front yard has also been redesigned as a semi-public patio space, becoming a contemporary version of a front porch (see more about our idea of an outdoor “room” here). This is a very friendly neighborhood, and the owners specifically wanted to create meeting and gathering space at the street-side.

Architectural fixtures and finishes all have been selected to enhance the Mid-century Modern aesthetic of this home: open and clean kitchen & bath spaces, some fun hex tiles in the bathrooms, and Northwest fir trim throughout to add a bit of warmth to the palette overall. We’ll be posting another blog with pictures of the finished project in the next couple of weeks!
At right, see the framing and concrete work going in for the new addition under the existing family room. Below, see the 3D rendering of the new open island and kitchen, and then the kitchen under construction from the family room.


A huge shout-out to our contractor on this project: Mark Boyns of True North Construction has been a real pleasure to work with and we hope to be on a team with him again soon. Stay tuned for finished pictures of our latest Mid Century Modern remodel, coming soon!

Contemporary Washington Cabin

We’re very excited to see construction start on our latest vacation home! This family retreat sits high on a bluff looking over mountains, vast orchards and vineyards in every direction.



Our architectural design takes advantage of unobstructed southern exposure, which also provides the best view of the austere scenery. Huge folding glass doors connect the great rooms (living areas, dining and kitchen) to the views and outdoors, flanked by a bedroom wing on one side, and garage and studio on the other. This configuration creates an outdoor patio space that is sheltered from frequent strong winds, framing the spectacular views. In such a vast landscape that sees extreme weather variance, we felt the architecture of this house should be low and close to the ground, incorporating elements that withstand high winds, beating sun, and heavy snows. Materials are simple and natural, allowing the structure to blend into its surroundings: stained wood, concrete, glass, and metal roof.

 

The house is a contemporary wood-frame structure with a very dominant roof element made of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs). These are prefabricated, insulated panels that are trucked in and craned up onto the roof framing, enabling the roof to be completed in a very short time.  The panels allow for large overhangs, desirable for shading of sun in this hot, dry summer climate.


Public spaces in the home have a high roof, allowing for maximum light; the bedroom wing has a lower roof, creating spaces that are more private and intimate in feeling. Below, you can see the glu-lam joists, with their protective covers almost completely removed.



A local contractor is building this project; stay tuned on progress with us as he sends us photos with progress updates!

Capitol Hill Contemporary

CTA is just about done with a major remodel and addition to a humble 1900s Queen Anne-style home in the Central District. The long-time owners were ready for their house to match their upbeat lifestyle while also come up-to-speed with energy codes and to reinforce its structure so that this centenarian will keep functioning for the next 100 years. The complete transformation brings in an abundance of natural light, bright and classic materials, and a touch of steel for a clean, contemporary feel to this historic home. The last remaining work is finishing up the landscaping and fence at the front yard. Now that both front and rear steel canopies have been installed, it’s nearly complete! 


The original home is considered a Queen-Anne “Free” style house, which is a cousin to the Queen Anne Spindle style known for its elaborate detailing. The QA Free is more modest, characterized by a long, covered entry porch, quaint entry vestibule, and multiple small rooms that are closed off from one another to allow for receiving guests while private areas of the house are kept out of sight. We took these elements and developed a plan to retain the historic features of the house that the clients loved, while updating others with a contemporary twist. See below for a “before” picture of the house for comparison.

The first measures taken in this remodel were to intervene in the deteriorating structural system: the house was essentially a rhomboid – in other words, a parallelogram on all sides – leaning in two directions and being pulled downward by the obsolete chimney. We ratcheted the house to be plumb and square, installed hold downs and shear walls for permanent stability, and tied the rest of the house to the foundation. Other upgrades included tearing down many of the first floor walls for an open-concept living space and replacing them with steel I-beams running the length of the house. The front porch roof was also removed in the process due to its poor state of disrepair.

Next came energy upgrades; we replaced all windows with code compliant insulated glass, installed roof, floor, and wall insulation where needed and where there was none, and installed a new mini-split HVAC system designed for the new heating load (far lower than the original due to the new insulation). Worth a whole topic in itself, the building envelope was completely intact from the original construction, meaning the house did not have any structural sheathing or bracing, and the budget didn’t allow for residing AND re-sheathing the home. For those ArchiNerds out there, the wall section was a solid T&G ship lap siding in perfect condition, attached to studs, with gypsum attached at the interior – that’s it! This was an issue in itself, and became quite a detailing challenge when it came time to install the new windows. The end result included installing specialized building wrap on the INSIDE of the siding to protect against air and water infiltration, with new insulation and drywall throughout.

Our design intent was to transform this turn of the century home into a bright, contemporary entertaining space. We installed wide doors at the front and rear of the house that opens up their new deck to their double depth backyard and their front porch to their enclosed garden. The historic covered porch has been reimagined with the glass canopy at the front and rear to allow for indoor-outdoor entertaining in any weather. A two-story rear addition added room for a full master suite with a walk-in closet and deck off the master bedroom, along with a guest room and den in the existing upper floor. Care was taken to preserve the historic elements of the interior: baseboard and trim were given generous widths to match the existing style, the original fir floors were refinished upstairs and down, and the original staircase and newel post were refinished to call out the real history of the home. Historic elements were contrasted with new to create a wonderful contemporary space with a sincere acknowledgement of its unique past.

We look forward to taking a couple more photos once the owners have had a chance to settle in, and once the entry canopies are in place, so we can truly show off this contemporary transformation!

The Bainbridge Farmhouse: Closed In and Making Progress!

Our last post on the Bainbridge Island Farmhouse left off with construction steaming ahead; the framing was up and roof was being installed. Our most recent site visit showed the exterior being sided, trimmed, and painted, while a flurry of work was still being completed on the interior.

Front of Bainbridge IslandHouse


With the house fully closed in, work is progressing quickly on the interior; the next few photos show the sheetrock going up against the fir windows and then being mudded, trimmed, and painted. The next step is flooring, cabinets, tile and other finishes before it’s completely move-in ready, which is scheduled for later this fall.

For a look at the design behind this house, check out First Sketches, an early look at the design, orientation, and site planning of this charming aging-in-place home.

The floor plan of this home is designed such that all activities can be accomplished on the main level for easy access in and out to the driveway and accessibility throughout the house. A loft running the length of the building brings light into the public areas of the house and provides room for the owner’s quilting hobbies and beds for her grandchildren and extended family.

View from loft to double height dining roomThis view looks from the loft towards the double height family room below.

Double height space from belowHere, we’re standing in the kitchen looking up at the same large south-facing window that will bring in light throughout the day.

Bainbridge Dining Room from KitchenAnother view from the kitchen is looking south west towards the dining room, where the wide bank of corner windows will catch the evening light until sunset.

 

Lake House Remodel: Finishing Touches – Blog #5

Work has come to a close at the Lake House Remodel, a project that completely transformed what once was a little 1900s cottage on the lake. Before we arrived, the house had endured additions and remodels here and there and our work to create a cohesive, contemporary home was cut out for us.

While our Builds team put the finishing touches on the home this past week, we were able to snap a few photographs to capture the last bit of hustle and bustle. We even had a few surprise visitors that made for a fun afternoon. You can see the series of blogs documenting the construction of this house here.

 


Blogs in this series:
Design Behind the Lake House Remodel
Behind the Scenes: Lake House Remodel
Framing the Lake House Remodel
Lake House Remodel: Construction Progress
Lake House Remodel: Finishing Touches

Surprise Inspection

While we try our best, sometimes you just aren’t prepared for an inspection, and that happened today when a mother duck and her ducklings waddled in for their examination of the site (and move in, likely) of the Lake House Remodel. Of course, all of the subcontractors stopped what they were doing to take turns speaking with the new inspectors and giving them a good pat on the head.
The verdict: They approve – although they’ve been keeping a close eye on us ever since!


You can see our blog series on the construction of the Lake House Remodel here.

The Bainbridge Farmhouse: Construction Photos

Our last post on the Bainbridge Island House was an early look at our ideas for the farm house-inspired home. Just under a year later, we have our first pictures of the house in construction! To recap the schematic intent, the home was carefully designed to have a strong indoor-outdoor connection to the Island’s lush greenery and fauna, including it’s particular situation on the site to collect the most natural light. The home will be a permanent residence for two active retirees and was designed as such; we allowed for wide corridors and doorways, a one-floor living area, and an abundance of natural light – all imperceptible aging-in-place strategies.


The photo montages below show the foundation, simple form, and prominent roof taking shape – ideas borrowed from the Island’s rural vernacular. The project finally broke ground in October after a few months delay, and has been moving along quickly ever since! The very patient John Viele of Craftsman Building Fine Homes is the builder for the project and has been wonderful to work with throughout the project – his Bainbridge Island project history is quite impressive!

This first set of photos shows the first day of digging for the foundation footings, the framing of the formwork, reinforcing, stem wall formwork, and finally the finished foundation walls. Once the concrete has cured, the floor joists can go up and it’s all framing from then on out.

This next montage shows the construction from a new angle – walls are up and the roof begins to take shape. From the large glue-lam beams being put into place to the stick-framed roof, plywood sheathing and building wrap, you can see how over the course of a few weeks the project can quickly move along. The last photo even shows windows in place! Once all windows are installed and the roofing goes on, the house will be “closed-in”, a term meaning the house is now weather-proof and interior finishing can start to take place. We’re looking forward to the next set of construction photos!

Kirkland Mid Century Modern


One of our latest Mid Century Modern designs is under construction by our friends at Seattle Design Builders. This home resides in the Rose Hill neighborhood of Kirkland; a neighborhood continually blighted by huge “Hardi” houses. Our clients, who are avid modernists, wanted to bring the mid century history back to the landscape. We are excited to share photos of its construction progress!wp_20161026_002

Guiding the design at heart is a number of mid-century principals espoused by Mid-Century greats like Richard Neutra and Joseph Eichler.  Eichler’s influence is seen here in many ways: floor to ceiling glass, thin vertical wood siding both inside and out, post and beam structure that moves from inside to out, walls open above room height to a large expanse of sloped ceilings above; all adhering to his famous philosophy: “bring the outside in!”


Stay tuned for more exiting construction photos as this mid-century modern home takes shape!