These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things!

What’s on your wish list this year?


After schematics are fairly solidified (and sometimes even before!), homeowners should begin to look at what they want to put into their new home or remodel in terms of appliances, tile, stone, lighting, plumbing fixtures, and accessories like towel bars and cabinet pulls – all of which go into a “spec”, or specification, document. Depending on the homeowner, finding all of these in a matter of months can be anything from a dream shopping trip to a daunting task. For everyone’s sake, we thought we would compile a list of our top five favorite places to go in each category to help owners fill out their spec.

To start with though, if you haven’t already, visit Houzz.com to browse and collect in your own folders images of any kind of style or feature or detail that you can imagine. Houzz offers millions of home images that will kick your imagination into high gear. And in many cases, you can find the source of a product (like a fixture or tile) right next to the image.

For almost any of the specifications listed below, we recommend looking at HomeClick.com to get a great overview of the range of products in any one category. They have a terrific search menu, for example:
homeclck for seattle remodel

Once you find two or three products that your like in any one category, go to their individual manufacturers website to get more information on that product and perhaps see other similar options. Starting your searches at HomeClick can enable you to very quickly narrow down the huge range of products out there! Often our clients make their selections via online search and don’t feel the need to see the product in person as it’s sometimes hard to find your item in the local showrooms.

Appliances

If there’s a kitchen in your remodel, you’ll need to Appliances for seattle remodelselect your appliances fairly early on so that your designer knows the size and can continue planning the cabinet layout accordingly. Look online to get a sense of what you want, then head to a local appliance store to get good, reliable professional advice. In the Seattle area, we recommend:

Plumbing Fixtures

Key items to add to the Plumbing section of the specPlumbing Faucet for seattle remodel include your sinks and faucets, tubs and filler faucets, shower systems and toilets depending on what you will be adding. We tell our clients to start online, then visit a showroom if necessary. A few of our client’s frequently visited are:

Surfaces

Surfaces include most applications to floors and stone samples for seattle remodelwalls including hardwood floors, tile back splashes, granite counter tops, marble wall tile, and so on. This category tends to be harder to pin down simply because of the large selection – it’s hard to choose! Everything from glazed ceramic tiles, to water-jet mosaic patterns, to large stone slabs are available and the choice in between is vast. Start by getting inspiration from Houzz searches, or your clipping files. Then visit the showrooms to see the range of what’s out there. Seattle showrooms can loan you samples to take back to your architect or designer.

Lighting 

Lighting has a huge effect on how we inhabit and moveLight fixture for seattle remodel about our homes. Recessed cans, pendants, sconces and many more all have unique functions that effect how we perceive a space, whether it is highlighting (bathroom), guiding (hallway/entry), or featuring (kitchen). Your architect will draft a lighting plan before you start your search so you’ll know what kinds of fixtures to search out. To learn more about color temperature, bulb type, and new products on the market, you can always visit Seattle’s LDL or just ask a store consultant. Start with an online overview with Lighting Direct, Wayfair, and Lightology, then check out:

Hardware and Accessories

Everything else! These include door and cabinet pulls, towel bars, etc.

As you collect samples and gather cut sheets (photos of the products), bring them to your designer to assemble a sample board. That way you can see how all these finishes, fixtures, colors, etc. can work together to achieve the overall look and certainty you’re going for in your remodel. Have fun!

The Bainbridge Farmhouse: Completion!

 

modern farmhouse

 

Fulfilling a lifelong dream of building a home on their family’s land, our clients have recently moved in to their new home in the woods, surrounded by tall firs, fern glades and birdsong. This is an intentionally small, simple house, drawing on Bainbridge Island historical references: simple farm structures, Japanese rural dwelling influences due to that unique aspect of the island’s history, and including the warmth and connection to nature that Craftsman architectural elements can offer.

 

country livingFront entryway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that they are retired, this home is a “down-size”. With only 2200sf, all living spaces are open and connected. On the main floor is a master suite as well as an additional bedroom and bath to accommodate visitors. A second floor loft doubles as a quilting workspace and future grandchildren’s sleeping loft. Generous attention has been paid to storage and mudroom spaces due to the reality of country living! The house has been designed so that the owners can “age in place” with wide corridors and doorways, a one-floor living area, and an abundance of natural light.

 

beautiful dining room

 

New kitchen design

 

modern farmhouse loft

 

covered porch modern farmhouse

 

We have been sharing the progress of this project on our blog since the very beginning, from the initial sketches to the early construction as well as a later look at construction nearing completion. We invite you to take a look back and learn more about the project and the process!

bainbridge island farm house architecture | CTA Design Builds | Seattle Architects 

CTA Presenting at the Monthly “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 the ASK AN ARCHITECT seminar on Saturday morning, September 22nd. Whether your project is a small remodel or new construction — or if you are just curious about the design process — this is a terrific seminar geared towards home-owners who want to learn how an architect can assist. 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. If you can’t make it this time, there are several other seminars happening every month through the fall, offered by volunteer architects from our local community!

If you, or anyone you know might be interested, please pass the word around!

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 22 | October 27

 

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:

Creating a Craftsman Home in a Modern Age – Part 3: Craftsman Interiors

As we’ve described in our first two installments in this Craftsman series, Bungalow home design here in the US was heavily influenced by the Arts & Crafts movement, and led to a unique American architectural style known for modest but lovely homes. The architecture focused on a functional arrangement of spaces with windows, built-in furniture and trim details that reinforced the goal of integrating beauty, practicality, warmth and comfort. Hand-craftsmanship was key; houses boasted a rich palette of woods, tile, pottery, stained glass and textiles.

In this blog, we’ll cover the major interior elements of traditional Craftsman homes, and offer advice on how these same elements may be interpreted in a more contemporary manner today.

Traditional Craftsman homes typically had floor plans with rooms that were open and flowed one into the next. A living room might have a “cased opening” (wide door opening with trim around it, but no door) which opened into the dining area, making these smallish rooms feel larger and more spacious. The focus of these living spaces was usually the fireplace – designed to be the main focal point in the house. Often an “inglenook” was designed around the fireplace: built-in seats and bookcases, along with a textured brick or tile surround and prominent wood mantel, ensured maximum visibility and impact for the “home and hearth” of the house, inviting one to snuggle up and retreat from the world!

In the two photos below, see how we designed fireplaces in two very different homes: one is an island cabin featuring lots of bookcases, nook window seat, and a mantle alcove to achieve that same cozy quality. The second photo is from our Daring Downsize, a recent remodel of more contemporary home but it still uses the same technique of built-in bench nook and wood paneling to impart a warm intimate space close-in to the fireplace.



Wood was always a key material throughout these old Craftsman homes, seen left in the Island Cabin. Paneling or wainscoting with plate rails on top was a common means for display of knick-knacks, floors were usually oak and often featured decorative ribbon details around the perimeter of rooms, and ceilings were often low and featured coffers to demarcate different spaces. As a result, these homes were rather dark and poorly lit, as you can see in this next photo. Today’s homeowners often want a lighter and airier feel to their interiors, which can pose a challenge to the Craftsman purist!


See this next photo of our Queen Anne Four Square where our clients wanted a lighter touch within their craftsman home. We incorporated classic Craftsman elements but used a mix of painted and natural wood to create a cozy but more light-filled space.

Here, living/dining/family rooms are all open to each other via cased openings or partial height walls, with ceiling coffers to demarcate spaces. Note built-in bookcases and small upper windows flanking the fireplace (just to the left of the picture frame), and dark ribboning in flooring perimeter.

CTA Design Builds | Queen Anne Four Square Redux 3

The adjacent kitchen (next photo) transitions to fir cabinetry within these same painted spaces.

Traditional Craftsman kitchens were small and simple, not having all the appliances we now enjoy. But they did feature windows for better lighting, built-in cabinets, and usually a subway tile backsplash! Below is the kitchen in Greene & Greene’s beloved Gamble House in Pasadena. More modest homes often featured built-in seating for dining nooks.


Our Island Cabin kitchen features a corner window seat and dining nook. Note the very simple fir Craftsman cabinetry, including Craftsman style brackets at the counter overhang.

And below are a few other photos of our recent Craftsman projects, to demonstrate how these same principals can be incorporated into various other spaces within a modern home.


Note the built-in oak dresser, and classic Craftsman-style window & door trim on the Craftsman Charmer.

A couple of bathrooms: natural materials, simple fir cabinetry, built-ins & paneling! Dark bronze hardware & fixtures is often our finish of choice. Seen here are the Island Cabin and River Run residences.


Built-in details on the Island Cabin help create scale and coziness, and impart a lovely hand-crafted patina to a home.


And last: a mudroom to manage all of life’s stuff!

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.

updated craftsman bungalow


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.