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!

Lake House Remodel: Finishing Touches – Blog #5

Work has come to a close at the Lake House Remodel, a project that completely transformed what once was a little 1900s cottage on the lake. Before we arrived, the house had endured additions and remodels here and there and our work to create a cohesive, contemporary home was cut out for us.

While our Builds team put the finishing touches on the home this past week, we were able to snap a few photographs to capture the last bit of hustle and bustle. We even had a few surprise visitors that made for a fun afternoon. You can see the series of blogs documenting the construction of this house here.

 


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
Lake House Remodel: Finishing Touches

Kirkland Mid Century Modern


One of our latest Mid Century Modern designs is under construction by our friends at Seattle Design Builders. This home resides in the Rose Hill neighborhood of Kirkland; a neighborhood continually blighted by huge “Hardi” houses. Our clients, who are avid modernists, wanted to bring the mid century history back to the landscape. We are excited to share photos of its construction progress!wp_20161026_002

Guiding the design at heart is a number of mid-century principals espoused by Mid-Century greats like Richard Neutra and Joseph Eichler.  Eichler’s influence is seen here in many ways: floor to ceiling glass, thin vertical wood siding both inside and out, post and beam structure that moves from inside to out, walls open above room height to a large expanse of sloped ceilings above; all adhering to his famous philosophy: “bring the outside in!”


Stay tuned for more exiting construction photos as this mid-century modern home takes shape!

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!

Behind the Scenes: Lake House Remodel – Blog #2

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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.

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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!)

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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

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

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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!


 

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