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!

 

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 is finishing up the landscaping and fence at the front yard. Now that both front and rear steel canopies have been installed, it’s nearly 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

Surprise Inspection

While we try our best, sometimes you just aren’t prepared for an inspection, and that happened today when a mother duck and her ducklings waddled in for their examination of the site (and move in, likely) of the Lake House Remodel. Of course, all of the subcontractors stopped what they were doing to take turns speaking with the new inspectors and giving them a good pat on the head.
The verdict: They approve – although they’ve been keeping a close eye on us ever since!


You can see our blog series on the construction of the Lake House Remodel here.

Finished Photos of the Queen Anne Kitchen Remodel

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

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

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


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


 

CTA Finishes Mid-Century Modern Paul Kirk House

Mid-century home with modern updates


We recently finished an interior remodel of a Paul Hayden Kirk mid century design in Kirkland and are excited to share final pictures.

This home was built in 1957 with over 3,000 sq ft, including a fully finished daylight basement. The husband of this couple grew up in this house in a family of 3 boys, so it was quite a special project for us all, as we uncovered many wonderful memories and mementos buried in the walls!

Mid-century kitchen with modern updates

Our owners wanted to update and open up their closed-off kitchen and rework the main floor full of small bedrooms to include a mudroom, powder room, and master suite; the objective was to maintain the feel of the mid-century original, but remove partition walls and have it more open for views and entertaining.

Mid-century home with modern updates

Design strategies started with acknowledging the very clear linear form of the house with its dominant ridge beam and big roof. This led to a strongly directional floor plan; the new open kitchen aligns with the ridge beam affording views to the lake and to a new front garden. With more and larger windows throughout, the house is much more connected to the exterior… “bringing the outside in”… as was the major goal of all the great mid-century architects.

Mid-century kitchen with modern updates


The interior palette of materials is a limited assemblage of natural stone, fir cabinets and trim, and surprisingly, plastic laminate on the kitchen side of the cabinets! Our owners are true mid-century aficionados, as confirmed by their love of this mid-century classic material!


Mid-century kitchen with modern updates


Paul Kirk was a local, noteworthy architect whose designs have be awarded and praised throughout the northwest. Some of his notable buildings in Seattle include the University Unitarian Church, the Magnolia Branch of the Seattle Public Library, Meany Hall at the University of Washington, and the French Administration building at Washington State University, among the hundreds of mid century home designs his firm produced. This is our third Paul Kirk remodel project; it’s a real honour to work on these great designs. As we work on these unique projects, every house unveils new insights into the design philosophy of this inspired, revered architect!

Mid-century door knob with modern updates

 

The Secret Life of a Job Site!

Between all of the subcontractors, carpenters, architects and so on coming in and
out of a house during construction, you would think not much stays still at a job site…

At our latest walk through of the Lake House Remodel, we found quite a few details here and there that hinted at the hustle and bustle of the job, but had remained, hidden throughout construction (and will stay within the walls once it’s complete!) This is our ever growing collection of the little things – the notes, systems, and methods that help our carpenters and subcontractors do their job best.

IMG_4813IMG_4814 (above) “Right” on the money!

img_1209(above) Our carpenters Sam and Robert hard at work on the Lake House exterior.

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(above) Although it looks like a face, it’s actually the various iterations of the location of the kitchen cable light system with our lighting consultant and electrician!

IMG_4808IMG_4810IMG_4806IMG_4789 IMG_4791 IMG_4790Trellis details, Corten sill details, and siding: all examples of job site problem solving on our most convenient writing surface, and aptly named, building paper. (Here’s to you, James Hardie)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(above) “Headquarters”. This photo was taken a few weeks into framing… and (below) 6 months later, the Lake House library (HQ) has grown into an operations center with everything you could possibly need on site, buns included. Reiterating that blocking is always important!IMG_1210

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.

Larsen 1Larsen 12 Larsen 123

 


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!

Framing the Lake House Remodel – Blog #3

Deep into our construction at the Lake House Remodel, we’ve straightened and supported the house (see blog #2 – Behind the Scenes), so we can now begin to implement our design. It was extremely important to make sure the house was level before we started our next phase: framing, electrical, and plumbing. We do this because an improperly framed house, or a house that has uneven settling, can lead to terrible problems down the road when it comes to drywall, furniture and cabinet installation among other structural issues. With it cleared up, we can move onto framing.

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One of the more exciting parts of this new phase is the completion of the floor framing for our owner’s attic “creative space”. Beams and ties were needed to be put in place to jack up the roof from its current sag, so we used that as an opportunity to create a (quaint) 4th floor with a ladder and hatch for entry. We’ll be adding a couple of windows and a skylight for a breeze. The photos below are the first look into this new space!

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Framed windows at the master bathroom.

While framing the new rooms on the main and upper levels, back in the office we’re finalizing our window and door orders (when you’re ordering a 16′ door, you want to make sure your openings are plumb). We brought our Milgard specialist out to the site to adjust openings and window sizes, and found out that our spec’d sill heights were probably too low for young children. That’s the beauty of design-build; the flexibility in decision making! With windows and doors amended and ordered, we move on to refining our electrical spec with our lighting consultant and plumber who can work better with the room framing now in place. Below, you can see notes made during our lighting walk though for the electrician, and the beginnings of switch and receptacle installation.

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Cast-iron plumbing from the master bath above.

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Pendant placement at the street-level stair.

 


 

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