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.

 

CTA Presenting at the November “Ask An Architect” Seminar!

Dreaming about a home design project and not sure where to start?

Wondering how to make the most of your budget?

Curious about green design or how to plan for your family’s changing needs?

Julie and another colleague will be presenting this month’s ASK AN ARCHITECT on Sat morning November 18. This is a terrific information seminar geared towards home-owners who want to learn how an architect can assist and bring value to the process of designing and building a new home, addition, or remodel.  The presentation walks you through the entire process – start to finish – and helps demystify what may seem like a frightening endeavor to many!

If you, or anyone you know might be interested, please pass the word around! And if you can’t make the November date, sign up for a later one – these seminars are offered every month by volunteer architects from within our local community!

The classes will be held at the Center for Architecture & Design // 1010 Western Avenue – Saturdays from 9:00-11:00 am

Be sure to bring your “napkin sketch” to this interactive workshop. Coffee and light snacks will be provided!

Register for the seminars at the links below:

November 18 | December 9 | January 13, 2018 | February 10 | March 10 | April 14

 

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 will be a sheltering glass canopy at the front and over the rear deck.  We’ll let you know when this is 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.

 

Ask An Architect! Seminar Openings

Dreaming about a home design project and not sure where to start? Wondering how to make the most of your budget? Curious about green design or how to plan for your family’s changing needs?

Whether your project is a small remodel or new construction — or if you are just curious about the design process — AIA architects can help. Join us for an information-packed overview of the design and construction process including budget and schedule, tips for hiring the right team, and how you and your designer can work together to make the most of any project.

The classes will be held at the Center for Architecture & Design // 1010 Western Avenue – Saturdays from 9:00-11:00 am

Be sure to bring your “napkin sketch” to this interactive workshop. Coffee and light snacks will be provided!

Register for the seminars at the links below:

September 23 | October 21 | November 18 | December 9 | January 13, 2018 | February 10 | March 10 | April 14

 

Finished Photos of the Queen Anne Kitchen Remodel

One of our latest projects to finish construction is a small craftsman kitchen and patio remodel in the West Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle. Julie worked with our clients to create an inviting experience from the kitchen to the back yard while keeping up with the period aesthetics of this 1906 home.

This true craftsman home is a beautiful example of early 20th-century architecture, but also has some of the century’s design flaws. Early 1900s homes through the 1950s tended to have small closed in rooms, and even smaller kitchens. See the before photo below and it’s “after” transformation:

This remodel allowed us to open up the kitchen’s small footprint to efficiently use every square foot available. The new layout allows for open island seating, four different work counters, and a new pair of french doors to an outdoor patio. The light, bright new room welcomes family activity and lounging in the nearby eating and reading nook, and allows for an indoor-outdoor connection from the kitchen sink to the new trellis at the patio.


Our clients were thrilled with the transformation as it seamlessly matched their traditional craftsman home with a kitchen updated for a more contemporary work flow. See the project page for more information on this home here.


 

Lake House Remodel: Construction Progress – Blog #4

Following up on our last update, we’ve finished our framing inspection and are making final, minute adjustments to our HVAC, electrical, and plumbing before we can start insulation and drywall.img_5119


Insulation requires that the house be “closed in”,dscn4354 a term that means all weather proofing is installed – windows, sheathing, building wrap, siding, doors, and roofing – to achieve a water-tight interior. The HVAC, electrical, and plumbing each need their own separate inspections as well, as the batt insulation will be covering up most, if not all, of the pipes and wiring. Once all of the house’s “innards” have been inspected, there will be a flood of work from drywall to flooring to painting and cabinetry, as many of these subs can overlap each other and all of them want to finish quickly.

Below, the primed siding (yellow) is in place, and then a week later, is being painted! At right, the mechanical room is beginning to fill up with audio, HVAC, and electrical wiring.

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While we finish up the inside, we’ve made leaps and bounds on the Lake House Remodel exterior. We’ve installed all windows, all window and door trim, and replaced the siding with Hardie lap all in a hurry to prep the house for exterior paint before the temperatures here in Seattle get too cool (causing the paint to not set correctly). We lucked out with a sunny week during paint, and are crossing our fingers for another one during the next step: reroofing.

Roofing is the last step to closing-in the house, so this week CTA will be tearing off the old faux tile roofing to prep for the new Nuray metal roof.
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While we’ve been hard at work, the owner’s landscaping team has been making exciting progress – four feet of earth has been excavated out of the backyard, allowing everyone involved to finally experience the indoor-outdoor connection that has been the driving factor of this project.

The next time we have a look at the house, it will be completely drywalled and ready for interior finishes!

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

CTA’s Second Story Additions

As the market keeps getting hotter, many Seattleites are investing in their homes, and one of the biggest investments one can make in their home is a second story addition.

Typically this encompasses (and has room enough for) a master suite and an extra bedroom or two. We also like to give the the top of the stair a little breathing room to allow for a light-filled stairwell and a small nook or play area, all to make the addition seem as expansive as possible.

The Little to Big House project’s Phase 1, below, allows for our clients to convert the space above the porch into a balcony off the master when they’re ready for Phase 2.Little House to Big House 6 | CTA Design Builds | Seattle Architects Little House to Big House | CTA Design Builds | Seattle Architects

This View Ridge home, below, was only a small summer cottage until the owners decided to take advantage of it’s amazing Lake Washington views.

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The Greenwood Addition home, below, was recently finished – and at almost double the square footage!

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Beyond increasing the raw square footages, a second story addition is an especially prudent investment when you can “add” a view to your home. Many of our second story clients come to us saying, “We would have a perfect view of [downtown Seattle, Mt. Rainier, Puget Sound, etc.] if only our house were a few feet higher!” Maximizing these views and strategically creating private, natural spaces away from neighboring homes is where we set to work in the addition.

6-stair-open-to-skyMid-Century Sanctuary 2 | CTA Design BuildersShown above are “during” and after pictures of the new addition to the Mid Century Sanctuary


In the main floor, we also have to consider Little House to Big House 3 | CTA Design Builds | Seattle Architectsthe placement of a staircase to reach your new addition. It should flow seamlessly with the circulation of your downstairs, so sometimes this means reorienting a few walls. Building an addition certainly gives the exterior a new look, and so it can be a great opportunity to remodel your existing interiors, especially if you’re doing any additional construction outside of the stair.

As the addition itself can stretch a budget (think around $250-$300/sq.ft.), our clients have taken a wide stance on any additional work. In the Little to Big House (right), our clients did very little remodeling on the main floor – just a coat of paint and some trim adjustments to match the new – and in the Subtle Second Story Addition project (below), we just remodeled the kitchen on the main floor.

A Subtle Second Story | CTA Design Builders 10A Subtle Second Story | CTA Design Builders 1A Subtle Second Story | CTA Design Builders 4A Subtle Second Story | CTA Design Builders 6


Comparatively, in the Mid Century Sanctuary (below), we extensively updated the main floor interiors from the kitchen to the powder rooms to match the master suite. In this project and the projects above, the second story was an addition on homes that already had a distinctive style that was worth preserving and integrating with the new, but that’s not always the case and we’ll see one below.

1-before-exteriorMid-Century Sanctuary 1 | CTA Design Builders

 

 


Mid-Century Sanctuary 10 | CTA Design Builders


In the most extensive type of second story addition, shown below in the Big View House, there is huge opportunity for an entirely new appearance. In this remodel, the entire house came down to its bones and was built anew into a contemporary, sustainable home. This type of remodel is usually on a home that doesn’t have many qualities the owner wants to preserve or can’t easily be replicated in the new, or more frequently, is a home that the owner purchased exclusively for an extensive remodel – see our blog on Speed Design Services. The outcome of this house was a contemporary 3 1/2 story livable, functional home with open, light-filled spaces that our clients love and were able to customize to their liking.

outside-web-photoEDITReber finished photos 7

DADUs, Backyard Cottages and Small Living in Seattle: Can you DADU too?

The greater Seattle area is growing! Are you up to date on what you’re able to build in your backyard?

This “DADU” is being built to be a music studio and garage for our clients. The benefit is that, at any moment, our client can rent this out as a fully-equipped home!

We’ve had a lot of interest lately in small buildings from clients and several that we’d like to discuss. These have been garages, studios, and Detached Accessory Dwelling Units (DADUs), sometimes called backyard cottages. In each municipality and in single-family zones, there are specific rules governing these structures, as they are on the same lot as the principal structure (usually a single-family residence).

The benefit of an additional occupancy unit is three-fold: for homeowners who rent out these units to another family, it’s extra income every month. It’s also a place for elderly family members to stay and retire, as size requirements can make DADUs great for aging-in-place. And beyond rental benefits, having a DADU can significantly increase the value of your home and the investment can provide generous tax benefits depending on your personal finances (consult your tax advisor). For Seattle residents, see this guide for more info: Guide to Building a Backyard Cottage.

For DADUs, the rules cover such things as minimum lot size, lot coverage limits, impermeable surface percentage maximums, parking requirements, size and height limits, and, of course, occupancy rules. In the case of Seattle, where there is a push by the mayor and the city council to dramatically increase density, the restrictions on these structures have loosened to make it easier to grow, and we could expect that they might loosen even further.

Currently in Seattle, any home in Single Family 5000, 7200, and 9600-zoned lots can build a DADU or accessory structure if they meet the design prerequisites:

  • Your lot is at least 4,000 square feet
  • Min. 70′ deep and 25′ wide
  • Your total lot coverage does not exceed 1000 sq ft + 15% of your lot size (for lots less than 5000 sq ft) or 35% of your lot size (for lots over 5000 sq ft), including the main home.

All other requirements depend on the design of your DADU. See a few examples below:


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Our first example is a true DADU. The owners of this property are looking to build a quaint studio above a garage to rent out to a student or young couple. It includes a murphy bed, kitchenette, 3/4 bath, and a spacious 1-car garage with workspace in the back.

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This backyard office is a second story addition – but it’s not as simple as it seems. This home resides in a liquefaction area of Seattle and therefore requires heavy duty engineering to pass city inspection. We designed two schemes around this fact: the first includes building an exoskeleton around the existing shed to support the new second story (see the upper photos). Our second scheme rebuilds the structure anew to better account for earthquake forces (see lower photo) by “floating” the structure on a large, structurally reinforced concrete slab.

The lower floor of both plans will be split between a bathroom and kitchenette, and a fully separate gardening area. The upper floor will be a bright and airy office space for our client’s busy schedule, and will double as a guest room on occasion. The bathroom and kitchenette will allow for this to be a certified-DADU in the future!


For further reading, the Guide mentioned above is a trove of helpful information, and we highly advise you consult it when considering if you, too, can DADU!

Mid-Century Modern in Seattle: Tips on Transforming a Typical 60’s Rambler

As we have been remodeling so many Mid-Century Modern homes, we thought we’d highlight a few remodels that demonstrate our Mid-Century values. Owning a 60’s era homes usually means our client has an appreciation for the architectural features of the house; it becomes important to honor or even highlight these classic mid-century features when updating the house. 

This translates to several things when we think about design moves: exposing structural elements; creating open spaces that are light and airy; providing textural interest in materials; and connection with the landscape (inside-outside connections). Structure and materials are the two key disciplines of the period – and disciplined we must be when considering a true-to-the-period remodel.

An example of retaining values might be maintaining proper proportions and massing when redesigning a more contemporary roof, replacing a solid wall with an exposed column and beam, or emphasizing horizontal elements when designing new siding or interior trim. An important design value we stick to is subtlety. We think the architecture should speak for itself without a lot of extraneous embellishment. Click on the links for more information about each project.

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This is a whole-house interior remodel where we replaced windows and siding to refresh its mid-century exterior. We removed the 60’s masonry veneer; it had caused rot behind, and was obviously a faux-rock veneer that simply wasn’t very appealing. Keeping the deep, upper horizontal siding, we created a stepped sill-band with even deeper, heavier horizontal siding below for a more contemporary, yet still mid-century look. The heavier element at the base of the house, stained dark, helps to “seat” the house into its wooded landscape better than before.


In this whole-house remodel, the white, bright nature of the original structure had the negative effect of making the house read like a big, bright shoebox plopped down in its lovely wooded setting. We stripped off all the siding and 60’s rock veneer and replaced it with a combination of dark-stained cedar siding at lower, and panel & batten at upper areas. The intention was to reinforce the horizontal-ness of the house, and also to nestle the structure into its natural landscape by using dark, earth-like colours. Even the new windows are dark-coloured, and feature mid-century horizontal divided lights.

img20160420_11531548Yarrow Creek Rambler | CTA Design Builders 1


In the rear corner of the same house, we actually subtracted floor area!  A plain window in the corner gave way to a covered deck that wraps around the house and projects into the landscape, creating a very strong indoor/outdoor connection. The heavy timber post and beams are exposed, reinforcing the clarity of the simple yet powerful structure.

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Subtractions of walls in key locations can strengthen the contemporary feelings of openness, while maintaining the architect’s intentions. In this house, we removed walls, or parts of them, to create better daylight throughout the house. In this photo, see how we deconstructed the wall adjacent to the stairwell, leaving a structural column showing above the top of the wall.  This move helps to dematerialize the interior walls, accenting structure, creating simple planes, and increasing the sense of open daylight throughout the interior.

And as a parting note: especially for those approaching-60 year old homes needing utility remodels, we prefer to retrofit sustainability rather than adding it. Using the home’s own resources before slapping on solar panels or a “green” HVAC system is always the best solution in the long run; i.e. bumping up the R-value of a roof or switching from single to double-glazed windows. The goal is to significantly reduce energy costs, rather than inserting a new system that will just leak heat and air out of a poorly insulated home. Considering both the internal workings as well as the design and aesthetics in a home will always give the best result!