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 This is an intentionally small, simple house, drawing on Bainbridge Island historical references: simple farm structures, Japanese rural dwelling influences due to that unique aspect of the island’s history, and including the warmth and connection to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

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!

Behind the Scenes: Lake House Remodel – Blog #2


CTA Design Builders is in the midst of a 3-story home remodel on Lake Washington belonging to a wonderful family with four kids. The home was originally built in Kirkland and was transported by barge to it’s current location by it’s previous owner, who also added a large addition. This would be an example of what we call “mismodeling”, and we began our work undoing the stylistic changes made to the home, and surgically demo-ing the rest.


Our carpenters are cutting out the existing living room floor for our double-height dining area!

Usually in the case of a remodel, we have good bones to work from, but in this case, and likely due to its transportation and settling, walls were not plumb, floors were not level, foundations were leaking and ceilings everywhere were scribed to the uneven floors. In the photos to come, you’ll see where we have new joists, beams, and studs (not just the carpenters!) in combination with the existing structure.

At this point we bring up the question, is it better to remodel, or tear down and rebuild the house anew? Well, in Seattle and many other shoreline locations, all buildings have a required setback from the water’s edge for environmental reasons. If we were to build new, this home would be relegated to the depth of a driveway; if we keep our existing footprint, we are free to build up from it. In this property’s case, the best choice was to remodel. We saved all of the strong bones in the house, and selectively replaced joists, beams, and columns with better structural supports. (You should have seen our team move four I-beams down to the lake level – a total of 4,000 lbs of steel!)


The lake level has a beautiful dark concrete floor hiding under a layer of protective plywood. This view is looking through the dining room into the future kitchen.

Sounds like a lot of extra work, right? We wholeheartedly believe that the infrastructure of the house is just as important as livability when the job is complete. A plumb and true house is a happy house! Once our adjustments are complete, we will begin to work on the real design of this Seattle home…



Blogs in this series:
Design Behind the Lake House Remodel
Behind the Scenes: Lake House Remodel
Framing the Lake House Remodel
Lake House: Construction Progress

How to Choose Color for your Home Remodel

Home Architecture Tips: #3 in a Series of Design Tips from a Seattle Architect

During a remodel, choosing colors is usually quite a differentrpaint_chip_ombre_goldwhiteFFB400_shop_preview experience than when simply decorating, or designing. Instead of focusing on a wall color from the start, we usually get pins, clippings, and general ideas to pull from which helps us narrow a palette to what makes our client feel comfortable (in their home). Usually the big decision starts out as a time of terror for our clients, but they soon realize that color is an opportunity for creativity and self-expression – in fact, one of the most fun parts of our interior design work is when the time comes to select the paint!

So how do you start? We suggest several criteria to consider when putting together your palette.

  • First, think about how you feel comfortableCTA Design Builds | Queen Anne Four Square Redux 6 in your home. Color has a direct affect on how you feel; it can promote calm and peace, boisterous laughter and rowdiness, restraint and orderliness, and on and on. If you want a dining room where your guests laugh a lot, stay late, and enjoy telling stories over good wine, you might lean towards brighter, bolder colors that vibrate with each other – think happy colors!
  • Now think for whom, where, and the spatial composition you are designing for: bright colors for kids, bright neutrals for elderly, warm darks for large rooms to feel cozy, bright lights for small rooms to feel expansive. Also ask yourself if there is a feature piece in the room that could use an accent wall, whether a piece of artwork, TV, or other focal point. Accent colors are great for adding interest to relatively featureless rooms as well as adding a contemporary edge.
  • How will each of your rooms be lit? Natural, spot, diffuse lighting? Depending on the temperature of the light (natural light is cool, incandescent is warm), your colors may look different on the wall than in the paint store (always swatch!) so keep that in consideration when choosing a hue. Finishes also are affected by  light; while semi-gloss or eggshell is common because it can hide imperfections, other finishes can actually enhance a space. For example, gloss finishes highlight architectural features like trim or a ceiling medallion by drawing attention to them, and the more reflective a ceiling is, the more expansive it will feel.
  • Note which rooms are visible to each other. All the colors in the house must work together, whether they are in the same rooms or not; this creates the continuity within a home that is so important. Generally, neutrals for hallways and circulation spaces are a great choice, as they will blend and complement colors of adjacent living spaces. In a recent project, instead of using different hues for the wall colors, we used three tones of the same light grey throughout the house depending on the amount of light each room received. For the darker rooms we used a lighter tone and vice versa to achieve a seamless effect, as if all of the rooms had been painted the same color.
  • Think about special objects you own and love. If you have Big-Wheelan area rug you want to showcase, pick a few colors and pull your palette from it. Just recently, we had a client with beautiful ceramic tiles from her trip to Turkey. We featured these in her kitchen backsplash and used its colors to accent other areas of the house for a cohesive palette.

With all of this in mind… Here are our 4 things NOT to do when painting and building your palette.

  • Don’t be afraid of color! DSCN3789While neutrals are great, bold is in style. Opt for a bold, contemporary pop of color.
  • Don’t overwhelm your space. Too much intense color can overwhelm a space. If you have several bold colors, choose one focal color and several softer hues.
  • Don’t let your space fall short. Liven up your walls and if you’re painting an accent wall, make sure it is doing enough for your space to warrant the pop of color.
  • Don’t avoid the time to prime your walls (and clean them if necessary). You are not only avoiding more work (and money) down the road by doing it before hand, you’re also taking care of your walls!

One last tip for color: as Seattle architects, we are very aware of the grey, diffuse quality of light. Let your interior colors be a critical tool in warming up an otherwise cool natural light, especially in your tone. For example, using a warmer white as opposed to a white with hints of grey or blue. Exercise caution in using dark, saturated colors throughout your home as they can feel oppressive quite quickly. Happy painting!

The Importance of Thoughtful Interior Design

The Importance of Thoughtful Interior Design

As observers and creators of our built-environment we get truly excited when all the pieces come together to create a harmonious space from outside to in. So, what is it about these spaces that make them work? Thoughtful Interior Design is not unlike a mathematical equation, where A+I = great space, where A is the Architecture and I is the Interior Design. Good Interior Design is a deep understanding of how to select and use materials, finishes, textures, color, light and more! Too often, when it comes to interior design these elements fall short and the whole building suffers. Whether building a new home or remodel, doing a room refresh or building out a retail/restaurant space, utilizing the knowledge and resources of both an architect and interior designer can make the difference between a good project and a GREAT project! Take a look at some of these examples of interior spaces and detailing we have been working on at CTA, incorporating holistically the architecture, interior design and contracting. It’s the intimate knowledge of how all the many pieces come together, including the numerous interior pieces that really make the project a success! Cabinetry, built ins, trim details, tile selections, paint & stain colors, flooring patterns and selections, counter top materials, plumbing & lighting fixtures, etc. all have to be considered just as much as you consider the floor plan of your space.