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 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 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.


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 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 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 

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

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

The Front Porch Lifestyle

The Britties porch 1900s

The Britties porch 1900s Photo credit

As one of the rare architectural features that is social by nature, it goes without saying that the front porch has a welcoming history. In the same realm of American culture as baseball and apple pie, the porch has been an important cultural and transitional space for both the family and the neighborhood since the 1800s.

The Britties porch 1900s Photo Credit

1909 Front porch living Photo credit

Prior to 1950, “front porch living” was a common occurrence. Open to the outdoors and inviting to neighbors and passersby, the traditional porch was an extension of the home, a room outside of a room. With shade from the sun and shelter from wet weather, it provided a place of respite and relaxation after work and through the evening. Mid-century, however, showed a marked decline in porch construction.

This new home was inspired by the stately old homes on Queen Anne in Seattle. The big wrap-around covered porch allows for seating looking out onto the street, as well as views to the Olympics out back. The stone terrace to the right of the front door provides a delightful spot for a sunny morning coffee.

We were inspired by the stately old houses on Queen Anne in Seattle as we designed this new home. The big wrap-around covered porch allows for seating looking out onto the street, as well as views to the Olympics out back. The stone terrace to the right of the front door provides a delightful spot for a sunny morning coffee.

What has tempted us away from this social feature? The disappearance of the front porch can partly be attributed to stylistic changes in building developments. In the ranch house and cape-style homes that were being built post-war, a front porch was less complementary to the facade than with previous styles such as the shingle or stick style house. Also with the advent of air conditioning and new technologies (including TV!) that provided endless entertainment, the need and time for being outside faded as people simply relocated a few feet indoors. For the time spent outdoors, spaces were allocated to the back of the house where private patios and backyards could be kept for family and socializing.

This mid-century rambler features a new front yard addition - kitchen and breakfast nook - that opens up to a south-facing front yard. The deck and front garden court has become a sunny outside room that greets the street in a neighborly way.

This mid-century rambler features a new front yard addition – kitchen and breakfast nook – that opens up to a south-facing front yard. The deck and front garden court has become a sunny outside room that greets the street in a neighborly way.

Recently, however, the front porch is beginning to reappear as a sought-after feature – in Seaside, Florida, porches were required by building code in the city as a part of the “New Urbanist” movement for community-oriented neighborhoods. In Iowa, just this past September, a civic event was held to celebrate and discuss porch design and restoration, and in Seattle, even spec homes are beginning to include modern takes on porches into their designs.

This mid-century remodel and addition is virtually a new house. Being very contemporary in style, a traditional covered porch was not appropriate, yet it’s still important to create a spacious weather-protective canopy at the front entry. Our “porch” is created by the large patio space set along the path from city sidewalk to the front door.

This mid-century remodel and addition is virtually a new house. Being very contemporary in style, a traditional covered porch was not appropriate, yet it’s still important to create a spacious weather-protective canopy at the front entry. Our “porch” is created by the large patio space set along the path from city sidewalk to the front door.

CTA Builds is interested in revitalizing “front porch living” by integrating it into contemporary style – we believe it is essential to building neighborliness in the community! In our recent “Big View” house, we designed a porch front to extend out from the entry in order to add dimension and room for activities. The owners children were as excited as we were about the new addition, eying the patio for future hop-scotch and four-square parties! Updates on its construction will be coming in the next few weeks!

As the organizer of the Iowa event, Mitch Bloomquist, says, “Everybody likes hanging out on a good porch!”

Speed Design – Buying a House in a Fast Real Estate Market

“Speed Design” – Efficiency is Key in this Fast Market

It’s a pretty crazy real estate market these days. Many older homes in the metropolitan Seattle area are getting multiple offers with escalation clauses and bidding wars once again. There are not a whole lot of houses available for sale and so when  house come on the market, it seems like everyone is interested!  Sometimes a house will come on the market on a Wednesday and “offers are accepted” the following Tuesday. This leaves buyers without much time to make decisions, and less time to really understand what they can do with their homes.  That’s where we can help — that’s where design-build can really help. As experienced Seattle architects and as skilled contractors, we can look at a potential house and put together a design and a cost pretty quickly — sometimes, right on the spot. Then our client, the buyer, will know whether it’s feasible to improve the property and how much it will cost. Good information for a buyer in a rush!

We’ve done several of the “Speed Design” concept lately

Queen Anne, Wedgwood, and Bellevue have been the most common for the Speed Design”. Potential owners were looking at houses in the $400K-$700K range and needed to know how much opening the plan and creating a new kitchen would cost, or how much a second story would cost, or how much a two story addition would cost.  We were able to brainstorm ideas at the property and rough price them.  In several of the cases, we sketched out plans and priced them so the owners could see what they were getting and how much it would cost.

The $415K house became a $650 finished house; the $650K house became a large two story 1.1M house, and the $525K house became a much more open,  larger and contemporary $850K finished family home.  As it turned out, these were better deals than the equivalent priced houses because not only were there additions, but the rest of the house house was upgraded as well.


3 Must See Homes on Seattle’s Remodeled Homes Tour

Never Miss A Change To See A Good Thing

On October 20th and 21st, 2012, the King Country Master Builders Association is hosting its annual Remodeled Homes Tour. It’s a collection of Seattle’s finest remodeled homes, and it’s the best way to get inspiration for your own home, and meet some of Seattle’s top architects and builders.

At CTA Design Builders, we appreciate homes that are not only built with exceptional quality, but also showcase thoughtful design. For those of you eager to see a selection of homes that have both.

3 Must-See Homes on Seattle’s Remodeled Homes Tour

1. Stylish, Simple, and Functional Remodel in Kirkland

With just 2 bedrooms/1 bath, this modest 1950’s tract house was just big enough for this couple to keep their life uncomplicated while stationed in-town between their many outdoor adventures. But as lovers of pared-down efficiency and its inherent design beauty, their home needed work! Capitalizing on its mid-century-modern potential, walls and fussy trims were removed; the house now breathes large with light-filled, contemporary-hip spaces and edgy details! A mere 1,336sf functions beautifully and feels spacious!

See it on the tour at: 10614 NE 112th St, Kirkland, WA 

2. Grand and Inspiring Remodel in Seattle

Built by Bristol Design and Construction, this 1960’s home was renovated to have a mid-century modern feel and flow.

At 5,200 square feet, it’s a mammoth of a house complete with a ground spa, cave, waterfalls, and koi pond.

3. Classic and Modern in West Seattle

Bellan Construction -

Bellan Construction –

Built by Bellen Construction, this complete remodel created an open floor plan with a modernist feel that includes exposed structural steel frame and amazing windows to optimize its shoreline site. Extensive new cabinetry, steel fireplace fronts, stunning new finishes and fixtures complete this remarkable remodel.



Remember, the home tour is on the 20th and 21st of October – make sure to add it to your calendar. And if you want to meet with an architect and contractor on the home tour, contact CTA Design Builders, or see more information on the Remodeled Homes Tour website.

Creating a Northwest Style of Modernism: thoughts on a Paul Hayden Kirk house.


We had the delightful privilege last weekend to visit a unique in-city Paul Kirk-designed home.  It was organized by the non-profit DOCOMOMO, who do great work in conservation and documentation of historic modern buildings.

The tour was a home in North Capitol Hill: the Henderson Residence. The original home on the property was a 1916 Tudor-style carriage house that the Henderson’s lived in for 20 years, until they commissioned Kirk to build a second, new structure on the site. Kirk’s design was a “Northwest interpretation of the original Tudor Revival structure”; it has a gable roof, centrally organized massing, and a post and beam structure.  But there the resemblance ends.

The house is a modest (about 2300 sf) but lovely modernist design with a decidedly Japanese influence, making for a distinct Northwest style of modernism. This is what interested me the most, as I’m always pursuing a deeper understanding of what makes for a uniquely Northwest style in contemporary architecture!

The exterior of the house is very simply organized – almost agricultural in form – employing natural wood siding and shingles, which give it a definite northwest feel while defining the simple forms so elegantly. Windows are arranged and detailed in a pattern resembling Japanese shoji panels – hinting at the interior to be found inside.

Inside, the house is astoundingly rich in its visual complexity. The detailing is simple: expression of wood timber connections is basic. But Kirk laid out his structure in a panelized system that springs from Japanese folk architecture, and allows for a large, open  interior space to divide itself into varying sized rooms. He even hangs a long series of shoji screen from one of the dominant structural beams, enabling great flexibity in closing or opening spaces one from another. The massive central fireplace floats in the middle of the great space, but allows vistas through and around it, again reducing a large space into more comfortably-sized areas of use.

This Japanese influence is, I think, what is so unique about Northwest Modernism. (You don’t see it anywhere else; probably because of our relative proximity to Japanese culture.)  Modernist architecture can be severe and unyielding to human needs, and doesn’t include natural materials in its palette. For this reason, I think many people steer away from modernist architecture; it’s labeled “cold” or “austere” for these reasons. The Henderson Residence, on the other hand, with its palette of heavy timbers, wood trim panel systems, and exposed structure opening up to create clerestory light wells, creates a dwelling that is rich and warm and light-filled and inviting, yet spacious and clearly organized, and very modern!  Northwest Modernism at its best!