Seattle Architect starts “The BIG VIEW House”

The “CTA Builds” division of our design-build company recently started construction on a very large remodel and second story addition here in Seattle. The owners are a young family that purchased this small, 1950s home in a neighborhood overlooking Lake Washington. Wanting much more space, and to maximize the full potential of a thrilling 180 degree view, we’re adding a full second story and roof deck, along with a complete remodel of the existing structure. It’s going to be quite the architectural transformation!

Join us for a week-by-week report on the process of designing and building a virtually new home! It’s a perfect example of an architect led design build project. We’ll be posting regular blogs on the architectural process, from preliminary concepts, through design development, materials selections, and permitting. We’ll also post reports from the field as the carpenters build the house and its form takes shape. Last week we watched the Blue Angels scream over the lake from the newly framed deck!

But let me back track a bit in order to give you an idea of the backbone of the process – the design.

Here’s the existing house:

CTA Before

The owners approached us for help in advising on the potential of the house prior to purchasing (see our blog on Speed Design services). We came up with a very quick set of floor plans and sketches, along with preliminary pricing that enabled them to make the decision to purchase the property with the confidence that a remodel and addition would be feasible.CTA Proposed Drwg1CTA Proposed Drwg2



Once the owners gained possession of the property, we went to work in earnest: gathering information and images from owners Jim & Jenny, refining the floor plans, and developing the exterior forms. This was to be an open-style, family-friendly, contemporary home: low maintenance, high livability, and big on the big view of Lake Washington!

CTA Model 1

The above images are all showing the street side of the house, but the real view side is from the back.

CTA Model 2Since the site is sloping, this view of the house shows the daylight basement, with main floor and deck above. The little shed roof area on this floor is where the new kitchen sits. The next floor up is the bedroom floor – no decks here, but windows everywhere on this side.  The interior stair goes up yet another floor to a large rooftop deck. We are imagining fun family sleep-outs on warm summer nights!

Notice the new detached garage here along the alley; the perfect location for an array of solar panels on its south-facing roof!

Stay tuned for next week’s blog; we’ll show you what the framing is looking like as the roof is just about to be built!

Here are links to all of the blogs in this series:

Big View House #1: Scope and Potential
Big View House #2: Schematics and Modeling
Big View House #3: Permitting
Big View House #4: Construction
Big View House #5: Finishing Touches

Speed Design – Buying a House in a Fast Real Estate Market

“Speed Design” – Efficiency is Key in this Fast Market

It’s a pretty crazy real estate market these days. Many older homes in the metropolitan Seattle area are getting multiple offers with escalation clauses and bidding wars once again. There are not a whole lot of houses available for sale and so when  house come on the market, it seems like everyone is interested!  Sometimes a house will come on the market on a Wednesday and “offers are accepted” the following Tuesday. This leaves buyers without much time to make decisions, and less time to really understand what they can do with their homes.  That’s where we can help — that’s where design-build can really help. As experienced Seattle architects and as skilled contractors, we can look at a potential house and put together a design and a cost pretty quickly — sometimes, right on the spot. Then our client, the buyer, will know whether it’s feasible to improve the property and how much it will cost. Good information for a buyer in a rush!

We’ve done several of the “Speed Design” concept lately

Queen Anne, Wedgwood, and Bellevue have been the most common for the Speed Design”. Potential owners were looking at houses in the $400K-$700K range and needed to know how much opening the plan and creating a new kitchen would cost, or how much a second story would cost, or how much a two story addition would cost.  We were able to brainstorm ideas at the property and rough price them.  In several of the cases, we sketched out plans and priced them so the owners could see what they were getting and how much it would cost.

The $415K house became a $650 finished house; the $650K house became a large two story 1.1M house, and the $525K house became a much more open,  larger and contemporary $850K finished family home.  As it turned out, these were better deals than the equivalent priced houses because not only were there additions, but the rest of the house house was upgraded as well.


Before Architecture can help

Architects Without Borders: Before Architecture Can Help

We’re Seattle architects working on a new school project in Haiti, in a particularly underserved community. As part of the Architects Without Borders team, we itch to get started designing, but we realize that we live such a different life here we must know what it’s like living there, to work there, to go to school there.  We don’t want to design a school for North America and plop it down in the middle of a different and unaccepting world.  So as we learn, we begin to see that we have to back up, way up, to the point where the basics are not what we’re used to, they are survival:  we have to understand such things as where the CLEAN water is going to come from, what to do with human wastes, how we can provide electrical power, how and by whom the school would get built, etc.  As idealists, we think of municipal services providing water, not digging a well on site, away from contaminants; we think about composting toilets, but we have never cleaned one; we think of photovoltaic electric not realizing how much cheaper a generator and some gasoline is; we think the community will pitch in with their sweat equity, but we’re not working earning $7-12/day and having to decide whether to feed our family or build a school… First things first, and as we solve these problems, we’ll move on to designing a school.

Here is a great article about our experience: Haiti Rebuilding Effort – AWB