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 This is an intentionally small, simple house, drawing on Bainbridge Island historical references: simple farm structures, Japanese rural dwelling influences due to that unique aspect of the island’s history, and including the warmth and connection to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 

Craftsman Homes Seminar this Saturday!

Julie will be giving a seminar this Saturday, October 6th, at 1:00 at the Wallingford Historic Homes Fair!

Craftsman Homes in the Modern Age: Craftsman homes were traditionally, and intentionally designed to create a cozy hand-made retreat; a sanctuary that would provide connection with nature and sustenance to the soul. This lecture will illuminate that original design rationale to guide you if you’re planning to remodel an existing home, or build a new Craftsman style home.

craftsman home architecture details

Close up of a craftsman home in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle.


For more information, visit

poster for wallingford historic homes fair

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


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


Bainbridge Island Farmhouse – First Sketches

Tucked away behind Manitou Beach on Bainbridge Island is a large grove that has belonged to our clients’ family for several generations. As our clients move into retirement, they’re looking to build a modest home for themselves and their family to enjoy, borrowing from the island’s rural vernacular. Bainbridge has had a deeply-rooted Japanese-American cultivation history since the 1800s, and although lessened, the tradition still exists today amid the many newcomers to the island and so we’ve begun our schematics inspired by the simple farm house.

Bainbridge House 1

Bainbridge House 2Bainbridge House 3

Humbly nestled on the sloping site, the island home will resemble many of the island’s traditional farm styles, with a gable roof and light monitor running along the length of the building. Subtle window and elevation details will allude to the spaces and forms happening on the interior, with a single bump-out at the master bathroom. Our preliminary studies above show our original intent in both form and site, and on the right you can see our cleaned up layout. The loft above will allow for a sitting area and extra guest room during the holidays. Outside, the gardens planned for around the house, in spaces between buildings, and outside key rooms will all enhance the indoor-outdoor connection.

The second driving factor in this design is to make the transition from a working home to retirement home as imperceptible as possible. This includes wide corridors and doorways, a one-floor living area, and an abundance of natural light – all aging-in-place strategies.Bainbridge House 4

Currently, the land is being cleared so that we can precisely stake out the house while both preserving the wooded feel of the site and allowing the best angle of natural light into the home and garden areas. A 40′ buffer zone is being preserved on all sides of the home to maintain the quiet, natural environment that the owners are looking for in retirement. Once the home has been situated, the septic system will go into place, and we can start moving forward with construction!


Kingston Master Plan – The Lodge House is in Construction!

CTA Design completed a two-phase master plan for a home in the woods in Kingston, on the Kitsap peninsula, a few summers back and we have just received photos of Phase 1 almost complete!Bren Elevation smallThe original design included a site plan for a two story home with finished basement, a detached 3-bay garage, and a full studio with kitchen and plumbing above. In the ensuing changes, the project split into two phases so our clients could live in the studio until they were ready to build the home. This changed our garage to a 4-bay garage for a workshop and second lavatory, while expanding the large shed dormer on the roof for better light transmittance and headroom shown in the photo below.

Main House:

Exterior 2 Exterior 3The home itself is contemporary, but influenced by the historic mountain lodges in the National Parks, such as Paradise on Mount Rainier and the WPA Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon. The double height space on the main floor, enormous stone fireplace, collar ties and exposed timber structure tie together the lodge-like feel with the contemporary steel rails, shed roofs, and expansive windows. Our clients were looking for a large master bedroom and at least two kids bedrooms with a playroom (we gave them two + two guest bedrooms in the daylight basement), not knowing how large their family would grow to be. The view is to the east so we pushed back the garage to the north property line to squeeze a generous section of view not blocked by the home for the studio deck, which then allowed us to create a spacious courtyard at the entry.
Property Clearing (2)Bren Residence (2015-07Jul) #1The steep slope and proximity to environmentally sensitive zones complicated the permitting process considerably, so our buildings were kept closer to the front yard set back, and old growth trees remained on the slope to keep it intact. The plateaued area of the site was cleared for the home and garage early 2014, and the garage work has just been completed, with an (almost) done photo above. We’re excited to see the next phase begin!

Bringing the Outside In: Making Windows Work in Residential Architecture

Home Architecture Tips: #1 in a Series of Design Tips from a Seattle Architect.

Outdoor Open dining room CTA Design Build

Fully embracing the idea of an “open corner”. Image: CTA Builds

One of the big advantages of living in the Puget Sound area is that just outside there is an awe-inspiring view of the surrounding environment. You don’t have to live on a bluff to have this experience either — just open up the walls of your home to let the outdoors in. Opening up walls, adding a light-filled addition, or even just building a new skylight can move mountains when you consider your morale and the value of your house. 

For those with a view of the Sound, Cascades or Lake Union, its a clear choice to add some glazing into your life. For others without that mega-view, however, it can be harder to realize the benefits. If you have a garden you love or there’s a special focal tree outside, you can open up to let this always-changing bit of nature into your home and if you frame your bit of nature just right, you have just added an “outside room” to your house. So we say to these homeowners, go for it!

Hilltop House

Hilltop Community – Image: Docomomo-WEWA

Take, for example, the Hilltop neighborhood in south Bellevue. Many of these mid-century modern homes have no “view”, except for the beautiful gardens and greenery that surround the area. To maximize the connection between indoor and out, floor-to-ceiling windows were installed and the houses are usually at grade or even sunken several inches below to really put the dwelling into the landscape. To read more about the Hilltop Community, visit Docomomo-WEWA.

Blue Ridge Dining Room | CTA Design Builders

Frosted glass is always a consideration, as it provides even lighting and privacy from neighbors and onlookers. Image: CTA Builds

Even a basement room can benefit from opening up. A large window-well can provide an expansive feel in what could otherwise be a claustrophobic room. With a few leafy greens outside the window, you can easily add a bright modern feature to an ordinarily dark area.

Or, in cases when you’re squeezed in between neighbors and that part of your home is too dark, put some windows in and screen off your neighbor with plantings such as fast growing, well-contained bamboo. You’ll now have filtered or dappled light coming in and pleasant greenery you can look out at.When adding windows, think about what you are framing, and how you will see it when you walk though your home. Have light coming from more than one direction for balance and to reduce glare.

Besides letting the outside in, windows and doors are an important part of the ‘vocabulary’ of your home: they define the look and style of your house. You can update an older home in function, appearance, and quality of light with new banks of windows. A newer home might have larger expanses of glass, where an older home may have windows divided up by mullions. So give consideration to what they look like alongside the other windows of your home, both from inside and out, in scale, and in pattern and organization in accordance with other homes of a similar period. Simply adding or placing windows without consideration of their effect of the facade of your home is, for lack of a better word, ill-advised.

The best way to see how windows look on your home is to draw a picture of your house with all the new and old windows on it. You can simplify this process by sketching over an enlarged photograph of the house. Draw as much detail as you can and then stand back to look at the whole wall!

So, go ahead — capture that view whether it’s far away or in your backyard. Bring some nature into your home along with that oft underused light, and you will feel better for it!

A private bedroom corner, situated in nature.         Image: CTA Builds

Update on CTA’s work in Haiti

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Our Architects Without Borders project, a large campus-style secondary and trade school outside of Cabaret, Haiti, is coming to a conclusion! 

We’ve been working for over a year to provide drawings and images for the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, our client and current administer of eight other schools throughout Haiti.  These images describe a large, rural, 3,000 student campus-style secondary and trade school.  The program includes classroom buildings, science labs, and shop space, along with dormitories, a chapel, auditorium, and cafeteria.  

Community and sustainability are hallmarks of this project – fundamental ideas inherent in the campus layout that impact the landscape and building designs. 

Such a school would provide a continuous stream of graduates, bringing the benefits of an educated population into the community, affecting both the immediate area of Cabaret, and Haiti, country-wide.  It is our hope that these drawings will help the Brothers describe their vision of this community to potential partners and funders.

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The drawings show a campus arranged in identifiable and interconnected communities, drawing on historical “lakou” arrangements found in rural Haiti.  The architecture further shows buildings and a landscape utilizing sustainable design concepts.  Our project aims to revitalize the landscape; to capture and direct water with streambeds and cisterns; to provide learning and engagement opportunities to students, staff, and guests. 

Buzz is the Project Manager for the project, aided by a competent and committed team of volunteers.  CTA Design Builders is pleased to have provided meeting space and support services.

Please feel free to view the project below.  The introduction explains our goals and identifies our team members, and the following pages present the project in terms of what we have to work with, how we will do it, and what it all will look and feel like.

  Concept Package for Canado school in Caberet, Haiti

Big View House #5: Design-Build to the Finish!

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Continuing in both architect and contractor mode over these past few months, construction has been moving right along. An army of carpenters and subcontractors has plied their handiwork on the house, and we’re now finally wrapping things up. These photos were taken during the “punch list” walk-through – a thorough interior and exterior inspection with owners participating, generating a list of any and all items that need finishing or tweaking.

Except for landscaping to be installed, the exterior is complete. With the addition of plantings, the front porch and “outdoor living room” will be a welcoming addition to the home!  The stained cedar siding offers a preview of the warm undertones inside with the wood paneling throughout the house. All windows are framed in cedar for a pop of color to complement the blue paint.

Reber 004 compressedReber 018 compressedReber 027 compressedAs we noted in our previous blog, Fire Works Forge completed three sets of interior stairs and one for the exterior of our Big View House, all with custom rail and tread design. The central circulation column allows the house to be naturally lit and keeps it well ventilated, but it also becomes a focal point that the household revolves around, connecting public areas on every level.
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Our subcontractors have been busy: all cabinets have gone in, hardwood flooring, countertops and tile have been installed, grouted and sealed, and finishing touches on all of the hardware are being completed. In the kitchen, the long breakfast bar is offset by a glass tile backsplash just above the sink, and the same tile continues all the way up the appliance wall. Similar tiles and stone selections are to be found in the bathrooms. Our owner has been very enthusiastic in selecting materials, finishes and paint colors throughout this process; she’s had a ton of fun with this, and we’re all impressed with how her selections provide continuity and a sense of elegant order throughout the home. It’s been a very rewarding collaborative experience for all!

View from the Family room to Kitchen

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Bringing back one of our renderings from the schematic design phase, it is always fun to compare the design to the actual outcome and it’s great to see such similarity. As architects leading the design-build process, there are endless opportunities during construction to inform how a detail is executed, ensuring that the finished product is exactly what we’re all expecting.

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Above is a site sketch working out a stair tread detail, next to the actual result. No weld marks on this handrail either!

The owners have recently moved in and are just beginning to reorganize their belongings so we’re looking forward to seeing a lot more furnishings, photos, coats and shoes, and everything that makes a house a home in the next few weeks. We’re always lucky to have such great clients to work with, enabling such a beautiful end result.  Watch for “finished” photos of this home in the months ahead, and for our next project to come to the CTA blog!

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

Big View House #3: Navigating Permits and Breaking Ground!

With our permits approved, we have started to dig at the Big View House site!

garage excavation

View from the south side of the site with excavators digging out the backyard for the garage.

We’ve started construction on the Big View House, but there was an intensive design process entailed in getting to this point.  Here’s a brief overview of the sequencing of efforts required to put this residential remodel project together.

Once we have a good sense of the design, structural requirements, and have pinned down the plan layout for this new project (see earlier Big View House blogs), we put together a basic set of sheets (some refer to these drawings as the “blueprints”) to submit to the city for a building permit. Typically, this involves a 16-week review time from the initial application to final comments and permit approval. In recent years, Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has been requiring more and more documentation for a building permit, including procedures for site water management, construction waste and recycling, and even payments for curb cuts — a much more cumbersome process even from five years ago. For the Big View house remodel, what would have only entailed 6-7 sheets to submit a few years ago, now required 35 sheets! From the city’s perspective, structure, safety and site management are the predominant factors in passing go; navigating the process efficiently requires good working knowledge of the Seattle building code….hiring a Seattle architect is highly recommended!

happy architect!

Sarah, happy at work with the Big View house construction set!

While the application is in the review process, we then dive into the miscellaneous construction details and interior design.  This work on the project continues to move along so that by the time the permit is approved, we are ready to break ground. These few weeks are also spent hammering out the finishes, materials, and fixtures (plumbing, electrical etc) as we assemble all this data into a specification document.

Once we have all these decisions finalized and documented, we embark on the costing effort.  As a Seattle design-build company, we have years of experience estimating the time and materials required in building projects of varying size and scope. We have relationships with our longtime vendors, and subcontractors that we depend on to provide reliable pricing and excellent services. Once this costing effort is complete and complied into our final bid, we review it line-by-line with our client.  Often this process includes a bit of “value-engineering”….adjusting scope and costs to meet their budget goals. Once this budget is finalized, we pin down the construction timeline which in this case, for a large remodel, is approximately ten months.

interior demo 2

The interior demolition work is well underway!

The next step after receiving the permit is demo! Of the original Big View house, only the basement walls and some elements of the main floor will remain intact. The owners had never moved in, so we could be very aggressive with construction work. The excitement really began, however, when we started to excavate at the lower part of the site slope for the garage and our trench completely filled with water! We had to scramble a remediation team together with a geotech to install both temporary 24-hour water pumps for the project and a permanent one for the home. It was nothing we could have expected and just another day on the job for our construction team – there’s always excitement happening somewhere! Currently, the project is moving into the finishing stages of the remodel and we’ll have updates on the interiors coming soon – see our newest update here!

thumbs up for the excavator!

The owner’s son is ready to get to work, giving the thumbs up to the excavator!

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