Creating a Craftsman Home in a Modern Age – Part 2

In our first article in this series, we offered a brief history of how Craftsman or Bungalow style architecture came into such popularity in the late 1800’s Industrial Age. Here in Seattle, as elsewhere, we continue to witness how this unique, nature-influenced style never seems to grow old or dated; there’s an inherent timeless appeal to these structures, and this appreciation is gaining popularity again as our daily lives grow ever more technology-filled .

In this article, we’ll dig into the specific architectural elements of Craftsman and Bungalow styles, focusing on exterior elements and explaining the reasoning behind these features. If you’re planning to build a new Craftsman style house, or remodel an existing, it’s critical to really understand the Craftsman philosophy and let it guide your design; if not, you risk missing the mark. As architects, we take this challenge very seriously and work hard to incorporate the essential elements into our Craftsman projects, staying true to the intention behind the style.


As I mentioned in Part 1, Craftsman style was born out of discontent with an alienating modern world; it was a resurrection of the long-held values of handcraftsmanship in reaction to the dehumanizing effect of factory life and industrial labor. The design of homes focused on creating cozy retreats nestled into natural landscapes, welcoming you into a restive sanctuary, rich with natural materials and beautiful details, fixtures and furnishings.

To begin with, the most prominent element of a Craftsman home is the roof. Without fail, every traditional Craftsman home has a prominent low pitch roof with exaggerated overhangs!  The low-angle pitch is key. Look at contemporary spec houses that purport to be Craftsman style: most have steeper roof pitches with perky dormers, and just don’t have a true craftsman look about them. Most historic old dwellings had a single floor with a low slung roof form, as the entire philosophy emphasized simplicity over indulgence. This home style was very popular (and affordable!) among working class folk, so homes tended to be modest in scale.

Wealthier homes often had 2 floors, but the architect worked to keep the upper roofs as low as possible, using lower shed roofs below to minimize the impact of a 2-story wall; the whole intention being to keep the house looking like it snuggles into the landscape, versus sitting perched up on top of the ground.

To illustrate how these architectural elements can inform new construction, see our current Craftsman projects below.


In the left photo above, see our owner’s existing 1913 Craftsman home – a single story house with some lovely Craftsman features, especially the covered porch with chunky, detailed posts. We are adding a second story addition (right image), so in an effort to keep the house from becoming too massive with its new second floor, we’ve stepped the upper wall back from the front of the house, and keeping the two lower existing roofs intact so that the broad low-pitch roof forms step up and back from the street. Note the big overhangs, brackets, divided light windows, continuation of original siding patterns.

Also on our boards and under construction: a totally new 2-story, Craftsman-inspired home. Although large, note the roof with large overhangs and Craftsman-detailed brackets at roofs and bump-out bay window. Also included is a big covered porch, and adjacent overhanging second floor with corbel details to break up the mass of the wall.


Below is a photo of a classic old, 2-story Greene & Greene home in Pasadena CA. Note all the roof forms stepping up to camouflage the height of the structure, enabling it to seem nestled into the landscape.

Ground forms and site-work also work to strengthen this effect; rockeries stepping up to the house, stepped patios, mounded planting beds all create a naturalistic landscape out of which the house seems to emerge. In the photo below, even the chimney is built out of the same rocks that form the entry terrace walls, as if the landscape is within the house itself!

Other attributes of Craftsman exteriors include wood siding that offers textural interest: shakes or narrow horizontal boards, or a combination of types. Often the overhang “tails” are exposed (see above photo) to add textural interest. Wooden roof brackets are common and add visual interest.  Almost all Craftsman homes have front porches that are usually covered by big roof overhangs, enhancing a feeling of indoor/outdoor connectedness. Colours are usually earthy and natural hues.

Windows always include divided lights in some repetitive pattern – stained glass in key areas is common.

The Tiffany studios were in their heyday during the time Greene & Greene homes were being built in California; the Gamble House has extraordinary examples of this:

As you can begin to understand, common to all these features is an emphasis on the natural world: natural, local materials, low, earth-bound architectural forms, colours taken from the landscape, strong connection between inside & outside; all this comes together to help the dwelling feel as if it’s connected to the earth in a timeless fashion.

Next up: Part 3 will focus on how Craftsman INTERIORS achieve this same goal: home design that provides connection with nature and sustenance to the soul. That’s an architecture that suits any era!

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!

 

Using Houzz to Your Advantage: Make Sense of Your Inspirational Images

Embarking on a remodel or new house effort is an incredibly exciting experience! Getting started usually begins with visual images, and with the barrage of photographs everywhere around us, collecting images has never been easier – so much so that it can be overwhelming!

As architects, it’s our top priority to collect images from our clients that convey their style preferences and personal leanings regarding qualities of interior and exterior spaces. These images guide us continually through our design process. If they haven’t already, we suggest our clients visit www.houzz.com  or www.pinterest.com and start assembling files of photos: exteriors, garden spaces, kitchens, bathrooms, living spaces…any photo that captures something that resonates and may be relevant to the project ahead. Its then our job to analyze these images and understand how best they can inform our design work.

Collecting these ideas of colors, styles and materials into one place can be a lot of fun and being able to look at all of your inspirations in one place is actually a great way to see what you like and what might go together. At this point, your inspiration board may be a wildly diverse collection that looks something like this:


Frequently, it’s at this stage or even earlier that clients come to us for design advice and services and while it helps us to understand your likes and dislikes, we just can’t put every idea into one house. Creating a cohesive aesthetic throughout the entire house is what we specialize in, and it makes a big difference. A house made with all of the styles, colors and materials from the pictures above would would be very difficult to tie together and it would be even harder to make it feel right.

See the next set of images. These images were collected by a client during her bathroom remodel, and pared back after a few iterations of “cleansing” her inspiration palette. After looking at her broad selection of images, we were able to pick out several that fit together, and found that certain textures, colors, and materials were consistent with her personal style and her mid-century modern home. This smaller set of images helped inform us as we selected tiles, counters, cabinet materials;  they also provided clues for smaller details that helped create continuity throughout other areas in the house.


While not all inspiration palettes will look as similar as this set above, going through your own images with a fine-toothed comb will help to alleviate design questions later on. Ask yourself,

-“Does this really match the style and time period of my home?”
-“Is this a look that I can live with, and that will stand the test of time?”
-“Do my colors (generally) go together?”
-“Will a kitchen like this be in keeping with the other areas of my house that I’m not remodeling?”

If you answered “YES” to most of these, then keep it in your image selection. If it can’t pass the question test, then put it aside for another time and allow yourself to narrow your selections (you’ll thank yourself later!).

One way to self edit your inspiration board is to add descriptions to your photos, or what you like about each photo, and find consistencies. As an example, see the first set of images. Notice similar words like “open, airy, white, clean, contemporary”: most of these photos could work well together. Now look for “warm, cozy, traditional” or “colorful, fun, eclectic”. Your images will be easier to separate into groups (and to narrow down) after you’ve been a bit honest about what draws you to the image.

It’s also very helpful for us as we’re looking through your images to know what aspect of the photo appealed to you. Is it the overall quality of light in the room?…or something much more specific, like the layout or style of a kitchen, or the type of window trim?! When you’re not at our side to point out what you like about an image, your images and descriptions will guide our design efforts.

It’s our belief that the more information you can supply us with as we embark on this exciting process of designing your home, the more it will be a reflection of YOU!

 

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!

South Seattle Shipping Container Office

 

Two shipping containers are getting a new life in Georgetown – as a backyard office for our busy client!

This project has been a long time coming, but it didn’t originally start out as a container structure. We first studied it as a garage remodel, but seismically unstable soil conditions prevented following through on this approach. We needed something that was intrinsically sound.


This project is driven by material reuse, living small, and building green. There exists a backyard garage/shed original to the 1928 house that the “remodel” scheme originally looked at building over with a timber “exo-skeleton”, and a “new” scheme replaced it entirely. But we needed to find a more economical, resourceful, geotechnically-stable, and environmentally-friendly option, and shipping containers hit the mark! Without the need for siding, roofing, or structure, this project saves three large budget numbers right off the bat; it even comes with flooring if you purchase a container in decent condition. We chose “one-trip” containers for this project so they weren’t new off the shelf, but haven’t been damaged by countless trips across the sea.


Having justified our choice of “material”, the most difficult part of the project began: research. Shipping container building isn’t taught in a classroom or in a textbook, and it is still scarcely available online. We relied on the help of a few local experts to get us started. Cantilevering the containers turned out to be much simpler than we anticipated; we were presented with only a few sheets of engineering plans and a handful of details for the entire project. The shipping container supplier will complete all steel modifications on site, i.e. window openings, steel strengthening, etc. before the containers are delivered, and the interiors can even be pre-fabricated so that once on site, only assembly is required!

A particular aspect of this property did indeed make the planning more difficult, yet provided its own solution. Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood is entirely within a liquefaction zone, meaning that during a seismic event the ground will liquefy and structures can be seriously compromised (Think: cars and homes halfway submerged in the ground after the soils re-solidify). All parties, including the city, wanted to make sure that life safety was guaranteed. The structural and geotechnical engineers designed a 18″ thick concrete mat slab that will effectively allow the structure to float relatively intact during any seismic activity. The fact that the shipping containers might once again “float” was not lost on us!


Complete with a green roof, this backyard office will be a respite away from the working world, while also fitting in with the industrial aesthetics of the Georgetown neighborhood. In the lower container, a side door leads to a bathroom with a shower and a kitchenette with a view of the green urban jungle that our owner meticulously maintains in his backyard! The south side of the container will be an unheated storage space accessed by using the actual container doors. The upper container is accessed by an exterior stair and small deck. From the deck you can either climb to the upper roof deck to tend the gardens or enter the upper container: a full-length office space, surrounded by warm-toned birch ply walls.

Not surprisingly, not every project has the need, desire, or property available to build a 2-story cantilevered shipping container in their backyard; we’re quite excited to see the final product! Stay tuned for photos as the project takes shape in the real world. Construction is expected to start February 2018.

 

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.