Archive for the 'Project stories' Category

Under Construction – West Seattle

What started as a 80’s tall & skinny box in West Seattle, looking like this…


…is still in construction and already looks amazing.

In progress...

Yes, that is the same view in both photos. The old front didn’t look like a front. The doors you see in the before photo were not even the front doors (the front door was around the side of the house – confusing for visitors!).

In the re-design, the house now has a facade with eye-catching curb appeal. The seldom-used 3rd floor deck has been enclosed and is sure to become a favorite hangout spot. The view is amazing, and the new indoor space is flooded with light even on a rainy day, thanks to an oversized skylight.

DLH, Inc. is the builder for this project, and their team is doing a fabulous job.


Frelo – Before & After



The Beginning

Some homes are ideal candidates for tear-down or whole house renovations. This home had a significant amount of maintenance due, in addition to primary spaces in need of updating (kitchen and bathrooms).

The Big Idea

Originally, the homeowners planned only to remodel the kitchen and bathroom and replace the furnace and roof.

One of my initial design concepts explored the possibility of opening the kitchen to the family room (by removing a large fireplace and re-orienting the kitchen work areas toward the view).  This completely changed the feel of the house, and the owners’ feelings about the house.

Inspired to transform this house into their dream live/work environment, the project became a “near” tear-down (one wall and the slab-on-grade remained). An entirely new, modern, energy-efficient home now stands in its place.

Home Sweet Home-Office

One of the criteria for combining home with work was to create an acoustically separate area where the sounds of home-life would not distract from work. The door to this space is fitted with an acoustic door bottom and perimter gasket by Pemko.  The office walls are double-framed with offset studs in a “floating” installation.

Acoustic home office door

Winter Cheer (and eco-mindfulness)

Emphasis was placed on high quality systems, including radiant hydronic heat, commercial grade metal roofing, and rainscreen cladding. The southern exposure boasts large windows, both to capture all the mood-lifting sun possible during the rainy Seattle winter and to allow passive heating of the hydronic tubing in the floor.

Queen Anne 1 – Before & After

Kitchen Challenge: Design a comfortable kitchen for a family of five within an existing narrow maze of circulation.

Kitchen Solution: A functional arrangement of appliances and ample workspace – all found within the existing walls – by simply eliminating one door.

Kitchen, before

Kitchen, after

Dining Room Challenge: Revive the original charm and warmth of this historic Craftsman interior.

Dining Room Solution: The paint was stripped from the original millwork, and the perfect period-appropriate paint color was chosen for the plaster.

Dining Room, before

Dining Room, after


Lake Washington – Before & After





The idea of a grand front porch addition was inspired by the homeowner’s travels to the South as a possible solution to two problems:  too much sun (which meant blinds closed and view obscured), and not enough room for party guests when entertaining.

The design drew upon the Colonial Revival “vocabulary” of this home and others of the same era.  The extra-deep cover acts as shelter, making it possible to enjoy being outdoors when warm but rainy (which describes a good portion of the year here), while providing shade for the interior living spaces without blocking the view.

Magnolia – Before & After



Adding a second story over part of this 50’s rambler captured the view while adding a master suite and extra bedroom and bathroom.

Prairie style proportions were used as a complement to the existing roof slope and overhangs, reducing the perception of height from the curb.  All windows were replaced, as well as the siding above the brick veneer.

The addition was designed to bridge the existing house, creating a front entry foyer on the main level where the stairs are housed without using any of the existing living space.  The second story, above, also creates a welcoming, covered porch.

New foyer with stairs to second story addition

New foyer with stairs to second story addition

Tejon – Before & After

When my client purchased this house, it was hardly apparent that this was originally a “stick style” home. The previous owner’s remodel was an attempt to convert the style to “Swiss chalet”.

Located within a historic preservation overlay district, an additional design review prior was required prior to permit approval. This zoning designation mandated that changes be “in keeping with” the character of the historic neighborhood, not necessarily an exact historic replica.

The siding was completely removed and replaced with cedar shingles, and a new front porch and rear porch were designed and constructed.  The size, spacing, and moulding profiles for each element were detailed very carefully, recollecting the original stick-style vocabulary.

Before, as a "Swiss Chalet"

Before, as a "Swiss Chalet"

After, with Stick Style features

After, with Stick Style features

A flight of side stairs is tucked behind a low shingle wall to provide easy access for the owner from his car, parked on permeable paver tire strips rather than a concrete drive. The mail carrier gave a special “thank you” to us for those steps, which are also a convenient shortcut on his walking route from the neighbor’s porch.


A flight of steps is tucked behind a low wall next to the front door.

When Neighbors Disapprove – 6 Tips for Success

1- Know your property.

For the majority of projects that involve a structural change, whether “up” or “out”, a full survey by a licensed surveyor is a “must-have”.  In Seattle, the fee to have a property surveyed averages between $2,500 and $3,000 for a typical urban residential lot and up to $5,000 for larger or more complex lots, depending on factors such as the distance to nearest recorded monuments, the presence of environmentally critical areas (steep slope, known landslides, etc.), and the quantity and complexity of the existing improvements.

For more information about obtaining a survey, including a list of required information and additional items that can save you time and money to have recorded simultaneously, Tips for Getting the Best Survey the First Time.

2- Be a good neighbor.

The golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” holds true.  If you have been opinionated and difficult in the past about your neighbor’s projects, they are more likely to act the same when it is your turn.  If you’ve had troubles in the past, it is a good idea to try to repair relationships in earnest long before you begin the design process.

3- Communicate.

If you plan to change the appearance of the exterior of your home in any significant way (including paint color), it makes sense to let your neighbors know your plans.  You are not (necessarily) asking for permission, rather letting them know what kind of disruption to anticipate and how they should handle any issues that arise, such as blocked access, property damage, etc.

4- Know your rights.

Sometimes, questions arise which are difficult to answer with certainty.  If your property has easements, encroachments, or other complexities involving property lines, it would be wise to do some research.  This may be in the form of a feasibility study, a binding meeting with the relevant parties at your land use department, and/or legal advice from an attorney who specializes in residential real estate law.  As an architect, I advise my clients when such additional measures are appropriate.  It is less expensive to secure your footing in the beginning than it is to fight your way through a dispute when you are in construction.

5- Have an alternate plan.

One of my former clients planned to add a porte cochere, a historic type of carport, onto the side of his house.  His property was located in a historic preservation overlay district, where many of the neighborhood homes had this feature.  There was plenty of room on his property, and the structure was permissible under the current zoning code without requiring a variance.  However, due to the overlay district, design approval was required from a separate committee, prior to permit approval.  When we presented the design for consideration, the neighbors attended the meeting to lobby against the porte cochere – not because they didn’t like the idea or design, but because they didn’t like my client!

In the end, we did not get approval for the covered carport, but we did accomplish the goal of providing off-street parking by capitalizing on the fact that the committee did not have purview of driveways, curb cuts, or fences.  Our “Plan B” was to install tire strips and a parking pad made of permeable pavers.  The homeowner now parks where he had originally hoped, and walks up a set of side stairs directly onto his porch, getting out of the rain quickly.  When there is no car parked in the driveway, the permeable pavers look like a grass lawn.


Parking beside the porch steps was a viable alternative to a porte cochere.

6- Offer up something.

When all else fails, offer up something.  In the past, I’ve known clients to share or carry the expenses on things such as tree removal or pruning, new fences, landscaping, privacy screens, sewer repair, and burying overhead cables.  All of these things cost money, but they are often items which were desired – or would soon have been required.

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